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The Bible speaks of God as Savior—i.e., a deliverer and helper in times of trouble. We look to God to save us from something. The Book affirms the expectation, even as Sept. 11 comes to mind. God saved Jacob’s family in famine, protected the nation from ten plagues in Egypt, then from Pharaoh’s pursuing army at the Red Sea. In the wilderness, God’s manna saved them from hunger; Moses struck the rock and water flowed, saving them from thirst.
The Law, given before their wandering, provided a regulation of life, in part, to guide their actions away from wrongdoing against themselves and others, but principally to set forth God’s standard of right conduct. Adherence to the Law was meant to save them from God’s judgment of sin and, on a human level, to prevent the chaos of a dysfunctional society.
In the times of Joshua and the judges, God delivered the people countless times from warring enemies and oppressors. When the young shepherd David assures Saul, Israel’s first king, that he will be able to meet the giant in one-man combat, he doesn’t brag about his own prowess but says: “Your servant has killed both lion and bear and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defiled the armies of the living God . . .. The LORD, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, he will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Sam 17: 36-37 ~NKJV and all). To Goliath’s threat, David replies: “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel” (1 Sam 17: 45-46). David, of all Israel’s kings, would be most remembered.
The Hebrew Bible includes the stories of individuals God saved in times of trouble, as well as the rescue accounts of Israel’s history. In the psalms, David’s cries for help become an outpouring of gratitude when deliverance comes—sometimes immediately, it seems.
Job’s troubles seem measureless, but they are all reversed: “And the LORD restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends” (Job 42: 10a). But you can’t replace children! Job’s seven children who died are not restored. His flocks and herds are doubled, his children seem not to be. But Job’s later sons and daughters (another seven) point toward the certainty of eternal life revealed in the New Testament. The children who died earlier (Job 1:18-19) are safe with God, and these seven, born to Job later, double his total number of children also (Job 1: 2; 42:13). “Indeed, the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before” (Job 42: 10b).
God saved Ruth and Naomi—two widows (one young, one old)—from poverty and desperation when they returned, bereaved, to Judah from Moab. Boaz, their kinsman redeemer, an Old Testament foreshadowing of Jesus Christ, reverses their hard situation.
Esther’s exposing the wicked plans Haman to the king saved all the Jews living in Babylon during the reign of Ahasuerus. Though God is not specifically credited with this deliverance in the Book of Esther, we see his hand. He has earlier told the Jews’ ancestor, Abraham: “I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse, and in you all the families of earth will be blessed” (Gen 12: 3). God is known in the Hebrew Bible as “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” their forebears, and even when he allows enemies to exercise disciplinary punishment for their apostasy (Judges 3:7, 12; 6: 1), God always acts on behalf of the Jews. In Christ, we are also his chosen. We can expect his help and deliverance.
Jesus Christ is our Savior. As the saved of God, we find ourselves, with his ancient people, with a Helper in the hardships of this life. But our final and ultimate hope is in the cross, in our salvation from sin by the forgiveness he himself willingly gained for us. The anger and judgment of a righteous God, offended by the sin we all commit, will not demand our death; his Son, who did not sin, took that death for us. Paul declares: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 6: 23).