Who doesn’t love a good fairy tale ending?!
You can always count on a “rescue” of some kind to leave you feeling satisfied. The victim gets the ultimate last-minute save, while the villain is met with the justice they deserve.Vindication is had and we are left feeling affirmed, with a story that has turned out just like we wanted.
Yet how old are we before we figure out that fairy tale endings are few and far between? When does it begin to sink in that there are many ways that a story can end?
What Scripture Tells Us
Luke 1:67-75 gives a perfect example of how an expected rescue did not exactly turn out like anticipated. Zechariah’s son, John the Baptist, has just been born and he begins to prophesy over this eternally significant event and how it relates to the coming Messiah.
His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us— to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
In this passage, Zechariah is speaking of Jesus Christ specifically. All throughout the Old Testament, the Jewish people had been repeatedly ruled or attacked by enemy nations. However, this was largely due to their disobedience in regard to their covenant relationship with the Lord.
Because of their frequent state of oppression, the topic of salvation or rescue would have been front and center in their minds. Anyone suffering at the hands of another usually has recurring daydreams of how deliverance may come, or when it would come.
So for Zechariah to prophesy about an upcoming salvation/rescue, this would have thrilled their hearts! At this particular time, they were once again dominated by a ruling government, the Romans.
But having the benefit of hindsight, we know the specifics of this prophesied salvation that was coming through Jesus Christ (at least concerning His first appearing). They may have thought He was coming first and foremost to deliver them from the dominion of others. When in fact, He was coming to deliver them from the dominion of sin, from what reigned in their OWN hearts.
In essence, Jesus was coming to save them from THEMSELVES!
Many of the Jews, especially the Jewish religious leaders, felt offended by this direction the Messiah would eventually take for His ministry. Granted, the second coming of Christ focuses more on the deliverance from enemies and from the oppression of others. But His first appearing on earth serves to rescue sinners with the good news of the Gospel as often cited by John 3:16,
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
and Galatians 1:4,
[…] who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father […]
Well, this wasn’t exactly what THEY had in mind for a rescue. They weren’t the problem, the Romans were! Why was He honing in on their personal issues when the Romans were the larger problem?
And there my friends is the rub…
I don’t know about you, but I know exactly how this feels!
What I Needed
Our family was going through two particular trials that each last several years. These trials were at the hands of other people. Kyle and I had no way of solving the problems or hastening their conclusion. To complicate matters, two of our children were involved.
We needed God to do a mighty work in each of these children, but for whatever reason, it just wasn’t happening. Kyle and I felt helpless, not to mention frustrated. These were desperate and dangerous times where we worried ourselves to the point of exhaustion.
Through 3 plus years, I was beside myself more than I care to remember. I kept pleading with God to intervene in each of these boy’s lives… but day after day turned into month after month and year after year. God did not take control of them (or so it appeared). He did not change their behavior or choices either. Do you want to know what He did?
He changed ME!
I remember realizing the moment when it finally occurred to me- if He solves each son’s problems first, then I won’t change. God had a purpose in delaying the freedom from the turmoil we were experiencing. He wanted to address the issues I had inwardly that were making my trial harder than it needed to be.
God was refining me in the process, as I lived under the control of an oppressive problem. He taught me where my sin was making it difficult to persevere through these breaking points we were experiencing as a family. The longer the problems lasted, the harder I dug into the fact that if my sons would just do what they needed to do, or stop doing what they needed to stop, then all our troubles would be resolved.
What I didn’t realize was that I WAS PART OF THE PROBLEM.
Yes, each son was at fault. But how I operated as their parent made my experience of it all worse than it had to be. God wanted to show me where I could change, so that I was able to personally live an overcoming life, apart from the choices or behaviors of those I loved.
I wanted the rescue from the choices of others when God wanted to rescue me from the control of my own choices.
Why I’m Grateful
That was a humbling process to go through, but I’ll tell you what, it was a better freedom!
And God knows that! He doesn’t want us to live tossed about by the waves of turmoil in this life. Jesus came to set us free from the control of trouble in this world, but the wonderful work of peace needs to begin in our own hearts first! John 16:33 explains it well.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
We mistakenly think the work is achieved from the outside in, as in solve the external problem and we will feel peace. But actually, it is achieved from the inside out. Jesus teaches us how to abide in Him and experience peace within, despite what is happening on the outside. This is so much better!
The goal is not to focus our energy on controlling other people or circumstances, but to change what can be transformed in us to be more like Him!
In the end, the rescue I had in mind wasn’t what I needed most. If I had had it my way, I would still be the same–vulnerable to bad choices and therefore, the dominion of others. Through God’s way, I was freed from the control of others and aware of what I CAN control.
I wanted the rescue from “them,” but what I was really in need of was a rescue from me.
Now I understand, this was the better rescue after all!