DAVID KNEW HIS ENEMIES weren’t gnashing their teeth at him by accident; they were attacking him because of his righteousness. ‘The wicked bend their bows,’ he noted; ‘they set their arrows against the strings to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart’ (Psalm 11:2; see also Psalm 31:18; 35:20-21; 37:12,32). What David may not have known is that behind all his enemies was the one evil overlord—a dazzling but malevolent spirit referred to in Scripture as ‘the devil,’ or ‘Satan’ (a name that means ‘adversary’). Satan is indeed our adversary: he is a murderer and a liar (John 8:44) who ‘prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour’ (1 Peter 5:8). All the enemies of God’s people are in the service of this one evil antagonist. He and they have the same objective: to bring down the righteous so as to malign the name of God and destroy his kingdom.
If you and I live righteously—if we love God and neighbour and hold fast to our testimony about Jesus—then we, like David, are sure to be hunted (Revelation 12:10,17; see also Matthew 5:11-12; 24:9; Mark 10:29-30; Luke 21:12-13; John 15:20). Sometimes, Satan will attack us through human agents: people who love the darkness and hate the light. When they see our light shining, they will try very hard to snuff it out so that it cannot expose their evil deeds (John 3:20). At other times, Satan will attack us directly by tempting us in our areas of personal weakness (1 Corinthians 7:5). If he can incite us to do wrong or distract us from doing right, he will have a basis for accusing us before God. His goal is to prove you and me guilty of sin, so cutting us off from our Life Source1 and rendering us ineffective (John 15:5). Satan is our great nemesis, the enemy from which we most desperately need God to rescue and protect us.
But our salvation from Satan’s grasp is no simple matter: there is something amiss with our humanity that makes us open to his evil promptings. In biblical language, our ‘flesh’ (Romans 7:5; 8:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 2:3; 2 Peter 2:10,18-19; 1 John 2:16; Jude 23; see also Romans 8:13; 13:14; Galatians 5:16-17,24; 6:8; Colossians 2:13) (not just our body but our soul too) is corrupted. Our hearts and minds are the asylum of selfish desires, conceited attitudes, self-righteous opinions and murderous sentiments; our mouths can be fountains of deceit, spite and vulgarity; our hands and feet pursue our own interests at the expense of our neighbour—and all with presumed impunity. In our natural selves, we are sinners. Sin lives in us, and sin comes out of us—out of each of us. The result is a universal culture of sin that the Bible calls ‘the world’ (John 1:10,29; 7:7; 14:17; 15:18-19; James 1:27; 4:4; 2 Peter 1:4; 2:20; 1 John 2:15-17; see also Matthew 18:7; John 16:8,33; 17:14,16,25; Romans 5:12-13; 1 Corinthians 1:20-21; 2:12; 7:31; 2 Corinthians 5:19; 10:3-4; 11:18; Galatians 4:3; 6:14; Colossians 2:20; Hebrews 11:7; 1 John 3:1,13; 4:1,3-5; 5:4-5; 2 John 1:7). It encompasses the whole of creation, pervading even the atmosphere we breathe. We inhale the putrid air of the world deeply into our lungs and then breathe it out for others to breathe in. Satan—‘the ruler of the kingdom of the air’ (Ephesians 2:2)—doesn’t have to work very hard to have his way with us. Whenever we allow him or his worldly empire to dig their spurs into our side, the sin that was crouching at our door jumps up and has us for lunch (Genesis 4:7).
Do you and I require the life-giving action of a mighty Saviour in our lives? Do we need to be saved and safeguarded from the sins of our flesh, from the ungodly influence of the world, and from the evil schemes of the devil and his cohorts?
DO WE EVER!
Son of David
God's persistent saving of the Israelites from their enemies in times of old was, we now know, just a hint of the salvation—indeed, the Saviour—that He intended for all humanity (including you and me). Here’s the Good News: Our Saviour has come! God’s saving presence and activity is no relic of the past. In more recent times, He has come to live among us and has acted personally to save us from evil. Even better, He has provided a way for us to be eternally reunited with Himself, the Wellspring of Life. We have been set free from Satan’s evil clutches forever.
When God saved the Israelites from cruel Egyptian slavery, He was giving them a sneak peak at what He would do for the whole human race. Just prior to setting them free, He told them to slaughter an unblemished lamb as a sacrifice for their sins and daub its blood on the doorframes of their houses. Then He went through the land, killing every firstborn Egyptian male—His righteous judgement for their sins—but passing over every household protected by the lamb’s blood (Exodus 12:1-13) (the basis of the Jewish Passover festival, still celebrated today). Soon, the Israelites were marching out of the idolatrous land where they had been enslaved for four hundred years. No more hard labour under the slavedriver’s whip. They had been saved.
The lamb of the Passover was an advance picture of David’s most famous descendant—the ultimate godsend, Jesus Christ. At the command of God His Father, Jesus came willingly to earth and paved the way for all of us to be saved from our enslavement to sin. First He taught us about God’s kingdom and lived a sinless life; then He went to the cross as an unblemished sacrificial offering for the world’s transgressions—‘our Passover lamb’ (1 Corinthians 5:7). He took God’s lethal judgement for our sins upon Himself so that it would ‘pass over’ us. When He committed His spirit into the hands of His Father,2 He paid the whole penalty for our salvation, leaving nothing for us to pay (John 19:30). He had killed off our corrupted flesh (Romans 6:6; Colossians 2:20; see also Romans 6:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:14; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 3:3; 2 Timothy 2:11), overcome the world (John 16:33; 1 John 5:4-5), condemned our chief enemy, Satan (John 16:11; see also Ezekiel 28:18-19; Revelation 19:20; 20:2-3,10), and reconciled all believers across nations and ages back to God (Romans 5:10-11; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Ephesians 2:16,18; Colossians 1:20-22).
Not a bad day’s work, wouldn’t you say?
But Jesus’ work wasn’t finished yet. Two days later, He rose from the grave (Matthew 28:1-7; Mark 16:1-7; Luke 24:1-7) to embrace everlasting life; and around forty days after that, He ascended into the sanctuary of heaven (Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51; Acts 1:2,9). In both of these events, He represented you and me to God. His resurrection to eternal life was a guarantee of our future resurrection to eternal life (Luke 20:35-38; John 5:28-29; 6:39-40,44,54; 11:25; Acts 26:23; Romans 6:5; 8:29; 1 Corinthians 15:12-23,29; Ephesians 2:6), and His entry into heaven was a sign that all who believe in Him are with Him now in the intimate and holy presence of the Father.3 On an appointed day, Jesus will come back in glory (Daniel 7:13; Matthew 24:30; 26:64; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; Revelation 1:7; 3:11; 22:7,12,20) to a renewed earth (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; Matthew 19:28; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1-5), where He will inaugurate His heavenly kingdom and live among us forever. ‘Come,’ He will say to us, ‘you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world’ (Matthew 25:34).
Praise and thanksgiving
Jesus’ Hebrew name, yēshūa‘, means ‘the LORD is salvation.’ It is a name that He has lived up to: He has shown us that God Himself is our salvation. Before Jesus came to be with us, we were immersed in sin and selfishness and fated for death—‘without hope and without God in the world’ (Ephesians 2:12). But then God reached down from heaven and saved us, not only from our sins but also from those who persecute us because of the righteousness that He gives us. If we trust in Jesus as our Saviour from everything unholy, God’s loving presence will always be our safe Refuge.
David didn’t know God’s salvation as we do, but he knew it well enough to pen words that we can pray as our own:
Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the LORD does not count against them (Psalm 32:1-2). … I will exalt You, LORD, for You lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. LORD my God, I called to You for help, and You healed me. You, LORD, brought me up from the realm of the dead; You spared me from going down to the pit (Psalm 30:1-3). … Praise be to the LORD, for He has heard my cry for mercy. The LORD is my Strength and my Shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him (Psalm 28:6-7). … I am under vows to You, my God; I will present my thank offerings to You. For You have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life (Psalm 56:12-13).
Signed, sealed, delivered?
Jesus’ saving work on the cross is fully accomplished. The death He died, He died ‘once for all’ (Romans 6:10; Hebrews 7:27; 9:12,26; 10:2,10), and the life He now lives as our representative in heaven is not subject to death. If we rely on Jesus Christ as our Saviour from sin, the benefits of His atoning death are ours today, and we are destined to share eternally in His never-ending life. He has absorbed God’s judgement for our sins (past, present, future) as if they were His sins, so rescuing us from destruction. Our guilt has been paid for, our shame has been borne unto death, and our estrangement from God has been healed. In their place is Jesus Himself, our eternal Saviour—the One who died and rose again to bring us back to God. Satan and his cronies have nothing to pin on us, even though we sin. If we keep hold of our faith in Jesus, our salvation is guaranteed (Joel 2:32; Mark 16:16; John 5:24; 10:9; Acts 2:21; 16:31; Romans 10:9,13).
Surely, then, there is no more saving work to be accomplished in our lives… right?
But that we shall explore another day.
- Scripture portrays God as the one and only Life Source of all humanity. The apostle John writes, ‘In Him [the Word = Jesus Christ = God] was life, and that life was the light of all mankind’ (John 1:4; see also John 1:1). This is supported by the image of God breathing into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life—an act that made Adam into a living being (Genesis 2:7).
- Just before Jesus died, He called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit’ (Luke 23:46). He was quoting from one of the many prayers of salvation penned by His forebear David:
In You, LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in Your righteousness. Turn Your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my Rock of refuge, a strong Fortress to save me. Since You are my Rock and my Fortress, for the sake of Your Name lead and guide me. Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for You are my Refuge. Into Your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, LORD, my faithful God. (Psalm 31:1-5)
- The apostle Paul saw Christ’s ascension as hugely significant for all believers. ‘God raised us up with Christ,’ he declared, ‘and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus’ (Ephesians 2:6). Another New Testament author remarked that ‘we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven’ (Hebrews 4:14). In the Old Testament, a high priest was always a human being who represented God’s people to God. Since our high priest is now in heaven, we can be certain that, in a profound but very real sense, we are in heaven too.