Redeeming the Rescuer

At this time Moses was born; he was beautiful in God’s sight. And he was brought up for three months in his father’s house, and when he was exposed, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son.

Acts 7:20-21

Have you ever known someone whose life was saved by a heroic act? If so, perhaps you’ve noticed that when we think of rescue, it is usually from death. But have you considered that God rescues us through death?

Stephen was on trial for his life. Because the stakes were so high, he preached a sermon for the Sanhedrin using heroic examples from the history of redemption. Beginning with Abraham and Joseph, Stephen expounded just how often God’s agents were resisted and rejected by those they were sent to rescue. Sometimes even redeemers must be redeemed.

Moses was royally redeemed. Moses was born under a death sentence (Exodus 1:22-2:4). When he was only three months old, his mother chose a very unusual vehicle of escape—a coffin. The word Moses used for “basket” (tebah) in Exodus 2 is the same word he used for “ark” in Genesis 6. Aside from their propensity for floatation, there seems to be little similarity between Noah’s ark and Moses’ basket. However, the word tebah may also be translated “coffin” or “sarcophagus” and as we explore those concepts, the meaning of tebah becomes clearer. For Egyptians, the sarcophagus was not the final resting place of one’s body, but rather a vehicle for safe passage into the Land of the Two Fields. This fact explains why so many sarcophagi were loaded with treasures to accompany the Pharaohs to the afterlife. A sarcophagus was an outward manifestation of a person’s faith. By faith, Noah built an ark which carried him safely through God’s judgment and death to a new life. Similarly, Moses’ basket carried him securely through Pharaoh’s judgment and death sentence to a new life in Pharaoh’s own house! In both cases, God did not simply rescue them from death, but through it.

Moses was a redeemed rescuer. God “bought back” Moses from death and in so doing, previewed what He would do for the people of Israel. In the same way that Moses was under Pharaoh’s death sentence, so also were the Hebrews under God’s death sentence in the Passover along with all the Egyptians. But by the blood of a lamb, God redeemed or “bought back” His people. In a very real sense, they were rescued through death, not simply from death.

Like Moses, Stephen was “mighty in words and deeds” (Acts 6:8, 7:22). He pointed to Moses so he could preach Jesus. And they hated him for it.

Don’t you hate having to be rescued?

Robert J. Thomas was a hated rescuer. In 1865, the Welsh missionary to China developed a burning passion for bringing the Gospel to the unreached people of Korea. In China, he boarded the USS Sherman and set sail for Pyongyang. As the ship made its way up the Taedong River, it was attacked by military forces under the command of the provincial governor and set on fire. As the sailors swam to shore, they were killed by soldiers waiting on the beach. Robert jumped from the burning vessel with nothing in his arms but Bibles. He struggled against his attackers, water, and burning fragments of the ship to make it to safely to shore with a single Bible. Because he spoke no Korean and was completely exhausted, Robert crawled out of the water to the nearest soldier he could find, rose to his knees and without a word held out his Bible as if pleading for his life. Without mercy, the soldier clubbed Robert to death on the spot. Haunted by Robert’s peaceful countenance, the soldier was curious about the Bible, so he took it home and used its pages to wallpaper his house. Neighbors and family came over just to read the words of the curious book and God used their curiosity to save them and plant a church. One of the soldiers’ nephews even became a pastor. Today nearly 40% of South Koreans are Christian. God redeemed them through the death of a missionary with a Bible.

God saves all His children through the death of His son.

Have you passed through death into life? Have you been rescued?

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