Search and Rescue
Galatians 4:1-7: The big idea-we were all in slavery, Jesus came to rescue us.
Both the words in the book, and the visual scenes in the movie, have etched indelibly into my mind the Roman battleship slave in the oars, Judah Ben-Hur rescuing the flotilla captain in the climatic closing scenes of the ocean battle. From the valleys between the trash covered sea, the rescued captain wanted to take his own life; Judah restrained him, and when rescued, found he was a hero of a great sea victory. This exalted Roman adopted Judah Ben-Hur, making him a Roman citizen and the inheritor of the estate. At this point, Judah Ben-Hur regains his status as a leader of his people. Itâ€™s and old, old story that New Mexico Territorial governor, Lew Wallace, penned.
In fact, it goes back to the beginning of human history. We have no clue how long after God breathed life into Adam and then Eve; the story broke, but sin entered into their and our world and Godâ€™s human experiment became a perpetual motion machine gone berserk. In the words of Romans six, mankind became the slaves of sin, they were willfully yielding themselves to sin, and were bound in the deep dark dungeon of slavery.
As you scope out cultural anthropology and world history, mankind has been in a downward spiral ever since. Oh, there are glimpses of hope as the sun breaks through the clouds of human evil, but the clouds swiftly overcome even the brightest glimpses. Paul concludes in Galatians four that children of the king, and ragamuffins on the back alley, were all slaves of sin to the basic principles of this world. God was watching, and a gigantic cosmic hour glass was draining its sand to the bottom duodrent; time for a search and rescue mission was at hand.
Verse 4, 5: â€œBut when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.â€
There is really only one story to be told at the time we remember the birth of Jesus in the stable in Bethlehem, and that story is incomplete if it does not include the cross at the end of the thirty-three years and with the open tomb. God that lives in timelessness had set a giant hourglass in motion by turning it over. The term in Greek, â€œFullness of Time,â€ as often this passage is translated, means all the sand has ran out. We get our expression â€œtime has run outâ€ from the hour glass; time is up!
It was time for God to orchestrate a virgin birth, a trip to Bethlehem, a crowded Inn, room in a stable with a ready manger, a special star, and financiers of escape from the evil Herod. It was all arranged, and the angel choir was on standby. Suddenly, the cries in the middle of whatever night that it was from the stable in bread town, just down the lane from where King David had lived, triggered a star, an angel announcement and choir, and a warm salt bath and wrapping a newborn in swaddling clothes. Godâ€™s search and rescue mission for the billions held in slavery was on its way. The world would never be the same again.
Soon the carpenter found work, and they moved into a simple dwelling and Jesus was a toddler, much like our own Eli that is running everywhere. From across the Fertile Crescent appeared visitors regal and royal. Call them Magi, wise men, or religious zealots, it makes no difference. Their mode of travel, dress, language, and demeanor was a stark contrast to the simple shepherd, carpenter, and farmerâ€™s dress of the Bethlehem hills. They came to the house where the small boy lived with Mary and Joseph and worshipped the king.
When one views the prophecy of God, attempting to put the mind and timing of God into human thought and language, it is like traveling across the prairies of eastern Colorado as on the horizon the gigantic peaks of the Front Range of the Rockies come into view. The peaks of the mountain on the western sky pop up in view almost as if they were butted one against the other. Yet in truth, there are valleys, canyons and prairies between those peaks. It is impossible from the distance to tell how far apart the mountain peaks are. It is that way with prophecy. In a single sentence in the Old Testament God predicts events thousands of years apart. The wise men came to â€œworship the one born King of the Jewsâ€ (Matthew 2:2). The whole mindset of people that had come in contact with the Jewish culture, and their prophecy and the prophecy that God had shared with others; Jesus was coming to be a king. Even the Apostles, up until the last minutes Jesus was on this earth in a bodily form, were expecting a reigning Messiah on the throne of David. Listen in on the conversation as they were walking up the hillside of Olivet, â€œLord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom of Israel?â€ (Acts 1:6). He basically told them that when the kingdom was to come was none of their business, but just as he was sent on a search and rescue mission this time, so now he is sending them on a search and rescue mission to make disciple of every nation clear to the ends of the earth. After fifty years of studying the kingship of Christ and the kingâ€™s reign on earth, I am convinced it will come, but for now, as Christ himself, we are on a search and rescue mission here in the midst of Satanâ€™s kingdom. We are aliens, strangers, and we have our hands full with the current assignment.
Now as to Godâ€™s search and rescue strategy, while in all other religions man is seeking to become as the gods or to become gods, in Christianity, God became a man. A famous plastic surgeon tells of the strangest request of his entire practice. A woman came seeking to have her face disfigured. In shock he sat down to visit with her before he refused her request. The story brought tears to her eyes; her husband was a good man and brave. His parents had lived across the street from them, and their house caught on fire. The husband phoned 911 and ran to rescue his mom and dad. The house exploded in flames, and the man was burned very badly, and even so failed to get his parents to safety before they burned to death. Broken- hearted the man felt his scars from the fire were punishment from God for failing to rescue his parents. He became a recluse, not even allowing his wife in his room. She would bring him food and clean clothes, and he would allow her to hand them through the door; she was not allowed into his new world of scars and pain. The wife had tried to talk him into going for surgery; he refused as he nursed his feelings of failure. Then one day she left her work early and visited the famous plastic surgeon seeking to have her face scarred and distorted, thinking if she was scarred as badly as her husband, he might let her back into his world. The doctor understood the deep hurt that had driven the woman to these desperate efforts, but wisely refused, and she left in tears. Thinking about this, the surgeon took the address from the file and went to the house, and the wife was asked to take him to the room where the scarred husband was â€œholedâ€ up.
He gently knocked on the door, calling out that he could help; there was no response. The doctor continued to knock and offer help. The scarred man could afford the surgery, but the surgeon offered the operations for free, still no response. Finally, in tears, the doctor told through the closed door the request from the manâ€™s wife that prompted his visit to the closed door. Slowly, as the doctorâ€™s tears fell, the door was opened a crack at first, then all the way as the scarred man opened his life because of one that loved him, going on a search and rescue mission by wanting to become like him. God, born of a woman, born under the law, to seek and save those scarred by sin that were under the law. Listen to Paul describe it.
Again: â€œTo redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.â€
When Jesus the Christ rescued us from sin, he purchased us from the slave market of sin described by Paul in first Corinthians six-twenty, â€œYou are not your own, you were bought with a price.â€ Just as Hosea bought back Gomer, as Potifar bought Joseph, you and I were standing on the slave auction block, and were being sold from one sin addiction to another as a slave of sin, and God intervened in His search and rescue mission and bought us back with the precious blood of Christ (I Peter 1:17-23).
Miracle of miracles, when God bought us back after the search and rescue mission after finding us on the auction block of sin, he did not take us into his home as slaves or servants, but adopted us as sons and daughters. Before the foundations of the earth, God predetermined all those that he rescued, and responded by accepting the offer of being rescued; would be adopted into His family as sons and daughters. Hear Paul again as he writes to the Ephesians, â€œIn Love He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Christ Jesus, in accordance with His pleasure and willâ€”to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. In him we have redemption (we were bought back, redeemed) through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of Godâ€™s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understandingâ€ (Ephesians 1:5-8).
We often think of adoptions as going to China or Eastern Europe and bringing home a baby no one really wanted. The original meaning of the
Greek word for adoption was â€œadult redemptionâ€. Go back with me to Ben- Hur, Judah was an adult slave in the oar galley of a Roman fighting ship. As they went into the worst of the conflict, the padlock holding the chains tight was unexpectedly unlocked, and salvation from the sea happened for Ben-Hur and for the shipâ€™s master commander. This lead to the adult adoption of Ben-Hur. He was no longer a slave chained, but rode in the victory parade with his now adopted father in Rome. There comes an obligation with adoption.
Verse 6, 7: â€œBecause you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His
Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, â€˜Abba, Father.â€™ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, God has made you also an heir.â€
After several years of fighting with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, we were in court adopting Bryan Begay, our Navajo son. The gavel came down, it was a done deal, and Judge â€œSmiling Jackâ€ leaned across the bench and looked Donnie in the eye: â€œSon, I have reviewed your history, and the Pinney family history;â€ he then addressed him with the name his brother Dean immortalized in poetry, â€œRunning Deer, I want you to know you have become a part of a family of value; live up to your new name!â€ As God is welcoming us into his family as adopted sons and daughters, the judge of the ages is saying, â€œYouâ€™re now my masterpieces, my children by the right of purchase, and by the right of adopting, you are now called by the family name, Christian; live up to the name!â€ How dare us ever to be ashamed to be called by that name!
There is a wonderful thing that happens at adoption; weâ€™re bought into a very warm and familiar relationship with the father. The Aramaic, â€˜Abba Fathe,râ€™ is in essence, â€˜daddy dear.â€™ I have a lot of titles, and people call me lots of different names, but when one of my boys or girls calls me â€˜daddyâ€™ it is very special. There have been times of real joy that I have heard, â€œdaddy look!â€ and times of fear or great sorrow, one of my children have crawled into my lap, snuggled under my neck, and sobbed, â€œDaddy.â€ Now, nowhere else in all of the literature of religiosity have I found a god of any kind or nature that invites his followers into his lap, to curl up under his neck and call the god â€˜daddy.â€™ But our God Jehovah does. Here is the rest of the story; we are now heirs in the family business and are commissioned to continue the search and rescue mission till the Father calls it off. Here is how that works. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that God has preordained works for us to do; in Matthew 28 we are told to go into all the world to make disciples and bring them new birth, so they too can be adopted and brought into the family business, an unending process of replicating ourselves to expand the search and rescue operation to the 6.5 billion in our world today.
I like warm and fuzzy Christmas stories that ring true to a manger in Bethlehem. I am not really impressed with silver bells, green trimmings, and bright lights that flash pretty colors into the darkness of December near as much as with Jesus being lived out in the lives of His search and rescue teams. Mary is a high profile business woman in Dallas; she was on a short term mission trip in Guatemala last summer and fell in love with Jessica, one of 22 kids that live in a family compound hidden back in the hills. Many of the kids are in Morning Glory School on scholarships, and the family ekes out a living making firecrackers. Mary not only adopted Jessica for schooling, she adopted the whole family for Christmas. She gathered the youth at Valley View Christian, and had five large cases of toys for Guatemala. Mary flew Tabi to Dallas a couple weekends ago to take them. Lori and Tabi planned a party, Queno provided transportation, and 22 kids, and their adults, sat in Loriâ€™s front room in the lights of their very first Christmas tree opening dozens of gifts, eating cake and drinking rice drink. First gifts, first party, first Christmas tree, and my little great granddaughter, Megan, was busy as a three-year-old could be, showing a little boy how to do an etch and sketch. The search and rescue continues until he comes back as king.