Imitating God Our Rescuer

By Kenneth Way Sep. 18, 2011 8:58 p.m. Biblical Exposition, Church Life, Ethics, Evangelism, Ministry and Leadership, Missions, New Testament, Old Testament, Spiritual Formation, Theology

It’s a simple concept:  God is our Rescuer, and we are to be imitators of God (Eph 5:1).  Therefore, we should be rescuers of others.  

God is the Rescuer par excellence.  This revelation is presently impacting me as I am doing research on the book of Judges.  I have come to realize that the heroic acts in the book of Judges are not actually accomplished by any one of the human so-called “judges,” but that the only true hero in the book is the Divine Judge who rescues Israel time and time again (e.g., Judg 1:2, 4; 2:16, 18; 3:9-10, 15, 28; 4:14-15; 6:36-37; 7:7, 9, 15, 22; 10:12-14; 11:9, 32; 12:3; 15:18).  Furthermore, God’s acts of rescue in Judges are never earned by the beneficiaries.  That is, God’s heroic deliverances are always based on grace alone (see Judg 2:18; 3:9; cf., Eph 2:8-9).

But this message (of God as Rescuer of his people) is not unique to the book of Judges.  In fact, it is virtually everywhere one looks in Scripture!  I would dare say that rescue may be one of the greatest themes—if it is not the greatest theme!—in Scripture. 

A sampling of references should suffice: “Rescue belongs to the LORD” (Ps 3:8); “God is our rescue…Our God is a God of rescue” (Ps 68:19-20); “the LORD is our Judge…he will rescue us” (Isa 33:22); “I am the LORD…your Rescuer” (Isa 43:3); “besides me there is no Rescuer” (Isa 43:11; Hos 13:4). 

Or how about these: “you shall call his name Jesus, for he will rescue his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21); “unto you is born…a Rescuer, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11); “the Son of Man came to seek and to rescue the lost” (Luke 19:10); and “there is rescue in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be rescued” (Acts 4:12).

This list could go on and on but I think the idea is clear enough.  I have intentionally opted to translate words for “save/savior/salvation” with the words “rescue/rescuer.”  I prefer to do so because the term “salvation” is almost exclusively now used in Christian parlance with the technical, narrow sense denoting God’s soteriological work on our behalf.  Therefore, modern religious people rarely speak of salvation (or the act of “saving”) as a character trait or virtue that Christians should model.  This situation seems problematic to me, and perhaps it can help to simply modify our word choice when we speak of this matter (and shift from “save” to “rescue”).

The bottom line here is that Christians are all called to be like God (Eph 5:1); that is, to model His characteristics.  And since God is the consummate Rescuer, our lives should also be characterized by acts of rescue.  It should be added at this point that acts of rescue are selfless acts.  Rescue is centered on others and their needs, and it requires self-sacrifice (see Eph 5:2).  Such virtue is basic to both the Torah of Yahweh and the Gospel of Jesus (not surprising, since Jesus is Yahweh!).  Rescue should therefore be the modus operandi for all Christians; it should be normative behavior in churches everywhere.   

So what does this look like today?  The first step is to identify those who need to be rescued.  The next step is to personally engage in a rescue operation, or perhaps in more than one of them.  Rescue can take many forms.  Of course, non-believers are people who need to be rescued from their sin, and all Christians can engage in evangelism and missions.  We can also try to identify minorities, outsiders or oppressed people so that we can engage in the ministry of listening, inclusion, befriending and loving.   We can identify those who are homeless and we can offer them shelter, food or other assistance.  We can identify children who need rescuing (like orphans or even children of single parents) and offer them adoption, foster care or other forms of surrogate parenting.  We can also target the unborn so that we not only take pro-life political measures but also take measures to actually help unwed mothers.  And the unborn are now not only defined as “fetuses,” but also as fertilized frozen embryos (see S. Rae and J. Riley, Outside the Womb).  Some of us may even be called to adopt these embryos and to carry them to term. 

These are just a few examples of how one can get engaged in God’s rescue program.  Obviously, none of us can do all these things, but all of us can do something.  And that’s where the Holy Spirit enters the equation by guiding and convicting us.  Let’s seek the Lord and pray about exactly how He wants us to model rescue today.     

Tag: Judges

Comments

  • Eddie J Sep. 19, 2011 at 1:02 PM

    This comparison seems forced. God's saving work is completely different from evangelism. God's deliverance from sin is very different from mercy ministry. The word salvation includes the entire Ordo Salutis, which is why we don't use it as a character trait.

    Would it not be better to simply say that God is love (1 John 4:8)? And that loving God is obeying His commands (John 14:15, 23)? And that loving our neighbor and loving God fulfills the Law (Mark 12:28-31)?

  • Jean Way Koenig Sep. 19, 2011 at 1:33 PM

    Yes, God is the Ultimate Rescuer! Eddie, it seems to me that rescuing from sin (evangelism) enables, empowers, and convicts us as believers to rescue in so many other ways (abortion, adoption, helping the homeless, etc.)

    Interesting too that the verb "salvar" in Spanish also means "to rescue."

  • Ed Morsey Sep. 20, 2011 at 9:56 AM

    This seems to resonate with men and boys -- the deep desire to be a hero who rescues. Literature is chock full of examples too. Does this attribute of God resonate with women in the same way? If not, is there another attribute of God that more resonates with them?

  • Ken Berding Sep. 20, 2011 at 5:14 PM

    Thanks, Ken, for your reflections on this biblical theme. I've been thinking a lot about the role of rescuers in history since reading David Gushee's book, Righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust, this past summer (a book I know you also read). I really appreciate your commitment to thinking through this theme biblically. The thoughts you've written here are insightful and helpful.

  • Kenneth Way Sep. 21, 2011 at 8:52 AM

    Yes, Ken, it was Gushee's book that sparked this study for me. I recommend "The Righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust" to every human being, and especially to Christians.

  • Tolar Cohen Sep. 21, 2011 at 12:41 PM

    I'm sorry, Mr Way, but you're terribly mistaken as to who God saves/rescues. He only saves/rescues those who believe in His Son, Yeshua. We are to become like Yeshua (in fact, our doing so is preordained!), yes, but you err if you think He will have us save everyone, even the unbelievers (unbelievers can't sin because you can only break the Law of God if they apply to you and they only apply to those whom He has chosen to be in His family, under His lordship). Christians are to help only those who believe the Gospel of Christ when it's presented to them. Christ said, "Who is not for me is against me". He couldn't have been clearer. Why do you think He wants us to help/save/rescue those who hate Him?

  • ken way Sep. 24, 2011 at 4:13 PM

    I just wanted to get the word out about a wonderful way to participate in RESCUING orphaned and vulnerable children in Kenya. Check of the "ByGrace Children's Home" (at bygracetrust.org) and sponsor a child or donate to the water project.

  • Mike Yancy Jan. 11, 2012 at 11:52 AM

    Thanks Ken for that insightful and helpful commentary on God being our Rescuer. I also appreciated hour recommendation on the book Thinking in Circles (Yale, 2007) by Mary Douglas. I have been intrigued by the fact that you teach hermeneutics, and I’ve thought that something to read on that subject might be helpful for me.

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