On July 7, 1997 my neighbor shared the Good News of salvation with my 10 year old heart. It was in her living room that the Holy Spirit regenerated my soul and I received saving faith that was predestined for me before the foundations of the world were laid (Ephesians 1). I was changed. A desperate little girl, who longed and yearned for love and affection, had the attention of the Creator of the universe. I told everybody. My neighbors, my friends, my family members. I wanted everyone to become a Christ follower, and to know the way to Heaven. However, in my child-like faith, I did not understand the deep theological truths of Scripture. Concepts like deliverance, for example. In my worldview I knew I needed to be forgiven for my sin, past, present, and future, and that Christ offered that to me so that I could live with Him for all eternity. I believed and confessed and repented. But, little did I know that the summer that Christ rescued, redeemed, and delivered me from the sting of death and eternal separation from Him, Rich Mullins was writing songs 9 days before his death in an abandoned church that would transform Contemporary Christian Music for decades post death. And side note: we both attended Cincinnati Christian University, only decades apart. His song “My Deliverer” (1997) met me this summer when deliverance seemed to be for the admirable. Those who needed deliverance from grief over a loved one passing, or receiving the news from cancer. Deliverance was for someone who needed to be rescued from something that happened TO them. Not, something they had done. For example, the children of Israel needed to be delivered from the slavery of the Egyptians. God sent Moses, the deliverer, who was to be a Christ-type picture of our future Savior, Jesus.
When God works deliverance, the greatest difficulties that lie in the way will be made nothing of; so was true for Christ overcoming death and the grave as He burst out of the tomb that held Him.
To deliver means to “hand over to the proper recipient.” If you keep up with this blog of mine, you will have read that a few months ago we were delivered a letter of denial for an adoption that we had been pursuing. We were handed a letter, addressed to the proper recipient: us. Deliverance, in my mind, has always been a concept that was for those who needed God to move in situations for which they were suffering for the good of their faith, not deliverance from themselves, their choices, their sin. As I have been wrestling with what to do with grief, affliction, and God’s discipline over sin in my life, the Holy Spirit has been breathing new life into the soil of my soul. When death takes place in creation, the thing that was once alive becomes part of the earth. Whether through decomposing, and thus returning to the dust from which it came, or by becoming food for vultures, scavengers, and wild creatures that feed on the dead. I guess Mufasa was right, the Circle of Life (*cue the music from the opening scene of the Lion King*).
It was always the Father’s plan to send Christ for the salvation of souls (1 Peter 1:20), even before He created the humans that would one day rebel against Him. It was always the Father’s plan to send the Deliverer. The Triune God displays His character in the distinct persons of the Godhead, and loves His character. “Jehovah Mephalti”- God my Deliverer, Psalm 18:2. Not only does God love His character, but He loves to display His character. We see this in Psalm 106:43 when the Psalmist recounts how God the Deliverer brought the children of Israel out of slavery, but they continued to rebel. PURPOSEFULLY. But here the Psalmist recounts that
“Many times he delivered them… but they were brought low through their iniquity. Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. For their sake He remembered His covenant, and relented, according to the abundance of His steadfast love.” (emphasis mine).
These Israelites are no different than me. Recently, I’ve been brought low through my iniquity- my purposeful rebellion that spurned the Words of the Lord. However, we are not in Heaven yet where there is no more sin. I still sin. Wickedly, purposefully, rebelliously, heinously sin. But God loves His Jehovah Mephalti character…. So much so that many times he delivers me. His mercy in delivering me over and over again produces a love for Him that will, slowly over time, sanctify me (make me more like Christ in obedience to the Father), and when I gaze upon that mercy, that kindness, that delivering power, I can rest secure that my Father loves me. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be sorely afflicted because of my sin.
In the next chapter of Psalms, 107, the Psalmist is once again giving the emphatic command to rejoice in God’s deliverance and redemption! In this chapter we have 4 accounts of God’s chosen and redeemed who needed rescuing from their self-inflicted demise. Here are their accounts:
- The first was of those who wandered away from Him in desert wastes (vs 1-9). In their wandering they were hungry and thirsty. Their souls wasted within them. They chose to wander away from God, but He knows those who are His. He knows where they are and where to find them. Scripture says that in their trouble they CRIED TO THE LORD, and He delivered them. They repented, they cried for help to their Father who was able to deliver them. Although there were no roads, He led them in a “straight way” and placed them in a city where God wanted them. He satisfied every longing, and filled their souls with good things.
- Verses 10-16 God has pity and deliverance even for those who are the redeemed, chosen children of God sitting in the darkness of a self-inflicted prison. These are prisoners who were not wrongly accused and made to be imprisoned for good they had done. These are prisoners who had rebelled against the Word of God. Those that cannot be counselled by God’s Word, or taught and obey, they cannot be helped. They were afflicted to the point that they wanted to die. When we rebel against God’s Word, even as a believer, the temptation to take your own life is a reality that we will face now in this life. However, if you are not a Christ follower, it will be a longing for death in hell when death will never come, but eternal torment prevail. Here’s the grace we see for the believer: He will bow your heart down with hard labor with no one to help you. All you can do is cry out to God in your turmoil and He WILL deliver you. Not only that, but He delivers us from the darkness and the shadow of death that once covered you. He will burst your bonds and shackles of imprisonment off, and He will shatter the prison doors of your self-inflicted cell. Nothing is too hard for my God. When God works deliverance, the greatest difficulties that lie in the way will be made nothing of; so was true for Christ overcoming death and the grave as He burst out of the tomb that held Him.
- The person in verses 17-22 is the redeemed and child of God who chose sinful ways and because of their sin suffered bodily affliction and sickness. Now, I am not saying that all sickness and bodily affliction is because of sin. But, we see especially how unrepentant sin causes great sickness (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Unexplained avoidance to food, and nearing the gates of death are the symptoms. However, once again this person cried out to the LORD and he delivered them from their distress. He gives them His Word to HEAL them. God’s word HEALS our bodily sickness when we receive it with humility and meekness and a contrite heart. He removes our griefs, and prevents our fears from overtaking us. He does it through His Word. Christ Himself spoke healing words: be clean, be healed, be made whole, the work is done. He delivers us out of destruction so that we will not be destroyed or distressed by fear or the fear of being destroyed. He is gracious… He deliverers.
- Lastly, is the one who is in a storm on the sea (verses 23-32). The sea and the tempest is a metaphor in Scripture for hardships, whether by our own doing like Jonah, or like the disciples who were in unbelief that even the winds and waves obeyed Him. The sea is a passage way from our sinful desires to dry land where we can find refuge from the storm, Christ. Here these men were courageous in themselves. They believed they could save themselves from the raging seas that were over taking them. Scripture says that they were “at their wits end” trying to figure out how to make the storm stop. They exhausted themselves with trying to figure out how to make this storm stop. When they finally cried out, He delivered them. He made the storm be still, and the seas and the waves were hushed. How gracious is our God… Our deliverer who delivers many times. In many ways.
Which one are you right now? Over the past 2 1/2 months, I can empathize with each. I’ve been the one who wandered from God, I’ve imprisoned myself to shackles of slavery to sin, I’ve lost 12 pounds because I haven’t been able to eat because of my iniquity, I’ve been the man on the ship at my wits end trying to stop the storm that I created. I’ve needed a deliverer. God loves to be the Deliverer. God loves this character trait of Himself. He loves to display it. May each season of deliverance I am brought out of result in thankfulness to the Lord for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works for His children. May those I come into contact with hear of His gracious deliverance and may they worship and praise Him with me for all eternity! Just like Rich Mullins sings in his beautifully crafted song, I sing “My Deliverer is Coming!” Christ handed over Himself to the proper recipient, me, for my deliverance. Hallelujah!
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