Meditations on ‘Focusing Faith’ : 32. Faith leads to deliverance
Heb 11:33,34 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies
How easy to disdain a few words. I mean, what significance could “and escaped the edge of the sword” have? What does it mean? The ‘edge of the sword’ has got to refer to death by violence in battle. Daniel and his three friends, who we have recently considered, escaped death by punishment, unwarranted punishment certainly, but nevertheless, death by punishment. We might pause and reflect for a moment that that is at the starting point of all our faith – faith that starts with God, faith that realises we are sinners, and faith that receives a Saviour who delivers us from punishment for our Sin and instead makes us part of God’s family, to be with Him for eternity. Yes, all of that comes by faith and that is, if you like, the starting point for our life of faith. But then we have to confront one who is referred to as a Destroyer who has been given permission to discipline those who disobey God – not eternal destruction (that is covered in the previous description) but temporary discipline. Satan would want to destroy but God says “Thus far and no further”. There is an aspect of God’s discipline, I believe, that is just about us living in this Fallen World and having to cope with the mishaps that come our way. The lesson He is always trying to teach us is, “Rely on Me, be strong in Me.”
It is a lesson in faith that was behind so much activity we see in the Old Testament when we look at those who “escaped the edge of the sword”. The first one who comes to mind is David before he became king and was being pursued by Saul. There were various occasions when David ‘escaped the edge of the sword’. The first was when the Ziphites offered to show Saul where David was hiding in the wilderness (1 Sam 23:19,20) and we find, “As Saul and his forces were closing in on David and his men to capture them, a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Come quickly! The Philistines are raiding the land.” Then Saul broke off his pursuit of David and went to meet the Philistines.” (1 Sam 23:26-28) There was no mention of the Lord there but it appears rather a large coincidence that Saul gets called away at that point. In 1 Sam 24 we see another similar situation and then in 26:1 the Ziphites come to Saul again but a second time David spares Sail’s life. Again and again Saul chases David and again and again he eludes him. You need to read David’s psalms to realise he attributes his deliverance to the Lord. He is a man of faith as we have already seen in an earlier study.
The second person who comes to mind is Elijah who flees from Jezebel in 1 Kings 19 because she threatens his life (v.1,2). He flees a day’s journey into the desert where an angel comes and provides for him: “All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.” (v.5-8) This is clearly the Lord looking after him and at Horeb he encounters the Lord and is given new tasks.
The third person is Elisha who is also being pursued by the enemy as seen in 2 Kings 6 and they follow him to the city of Dothan where he is staying. When his servant goes up on the walls of the city in the morning he sees “an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city.” (v.15) and is terrified. Elisha understands a different reality: “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (v.16,17). He then moves with prophetic anointing to deal with the ‘natural army’ out there with ‘spiritual’ means. Another man of faith delivered from the edge of the sword.
For us, Jesus taught us to pray, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Mt 6:13) That, I suggest, will be as big as our faith allows it to be. We are also to remember that “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 Jn 4:4) You and I are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the presence of God Himself. It is good to sometimes remember the Old Testament promises as well, such as, “He will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you– the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” (Psa 121:3-8) As we trust in Him, as we pray for protection, as we receive His grace to live wisely, we too may know that He will deliver us from destructive powers and circumstances and IF (as Shadrach and friends would have said) He deems it otherwise, then it is simply because either a) He sees a learning situation here for you or b) He wants you with Him in heaven for some purpose, but MOSTLY we may trust in those words and we too can know that He is a God who interacts with His people of faith to deliver from the edge of the sword (or any other violent situation confronting us). Hallelujah! If you’ve never done it before, may I recommend learning that Psalm 121 and declaring the truth of it daily.