|Deliverance from bondage|
Deliverance from bondage
by Andrew Lansdown
ANZAC Day recently offered us an opportunity to reflect on the wars that our nation has participated in. One war that deserves to be remembered is the first war that America and its allies (including Australia) fought against Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Bagdad.
On 2 August 1990, Iraq invaded the small Arab nation of Kuwait. The international community responded by placing a trade embargo on Iraq, and issued ultimatums through the United Nations for Iraq to withdraw. Iraq ignored all economic and diplomatic pressure, took hundreds of innocent Westerners hostage, and dug its troops in to the occupied territory.
On 17 January 1991, after five months of diplomacy and blockade, a coalition of 38 nations, led by the United States of America, went to war with Iraq. Their aim was to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi occupation and to destroy Iraq’s military power for the future safety of the gulf region.
The monstrous intentions of the Iraqis, and in particular of their national leader, Saddam Hussein, became increasingly evident as the war progressed. They launched dozens of Soviet-made Scud missiles at residential areas in Israel, a neutral country. They opened the spigots of Kuwait’s main supertanker-loading pier to pour millions of litres of crude oil into the seas of the Persian Gulf. They set fire to 600 oil wells throughout Kuwait. They destroyed hotels and government buildings at random, and looted everything of value.
However, it was not until the war was won, some 43 days after it began, that the true horror of the Iraqi occupation became known. Torture was a common practice. The Iraqis tore off the fingernails of Kuwaitis who displayed pictures of their emir. They drilled holes in the kneecaps of resistance suspects—or inflated their intestines with air or cut off their ears or gouged out their eyes—before murdering them. Early in the occupation, “the Iraqis killed so many young men … that the bodies were taken to a skating rink for short-term preservation” (The Bulletin/Newsweek, 12 March 1991).And they raped and humiliated Kuwaiti women at will.
In the light of these horrors, it is little wonder that the Kuwaitis could barely contain their joy when the allies recaptured KuwaitCity and delivered them from Iraqi occupation. They came out in their thousands to kiss American soldiers and to sing
And well they might. For America had proven to be a mighty deliverer. The Iraqis had brought them into bondage, but the Americans had set them free.
The Americans and their allies liberated Kuwait and thereby saved many lives. And yet the deliverance, for all its goodness and greatness, was only temporary. For, thanks to mankind’s mortality, every one of those Kuwaitis who rejoiced to be free is someday going to die. Ultimately, not one will survive. The Americans, alas, simply delayed their deaths.
Death is one of the great enemies of the human race. The Bible teaches that men and women were never meant to die. Death entered the world because the first man and woman disobeyed God and mankind has been in bondage to it ever since. In fact, we are in bondage not only to death itself but also to the fear of death. The horror of our impending death robs our lives of joy and meaning. We are in bondage to both the fear and the effect of death. And no human person or power can deliver us.
But God can deliver us.
The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, became a man, fully sharing our humanity, so that he might “deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage” (Hebrews 2:15). Jesus Christ came to earth to be our Deliverer.
To deliver us from both the power and the horror of death, the Lord Jesus had to destroy two terrible enemies. The first is Satan, or the devil.
The Bible tells us that Satan “has the power of death” (Hebrews 2:14). Satan cannot give or sustain life, he can only dispense death. This does not mean that Satan controls the moment when a person will die. Rather, it means that by being in bondage to Satan, a person is bound to die. Jesus Christ came to “destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil”. Because of Jesus, Satan is now a defeated enemy. He fights on (as Saddam Hussein did for a time), maliciously inflicting as much damage as he can; but he knows that the war is futile and must end in his utter destruction. By defeating Satan, the Lord Jesus has opened the way for our deliverance from the power and fear of death.
The second enemy that the Lord Jesus had to destroy in order to deliver us from death is sin. The Bible claims that “The sting of death is sin” (1 Corinthians 15:56). In other words, death gets its power from sin. If our natures and actions were not sinful, we would not die. Sin is the thing that enables death to hurt us. It is death’s sting. But the Lord Jesus came to pull that sting. He paid the penalty for our sins so that we might be forgiven and set free. He “put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26).
Christ is our Deliver, and yet his deliverance is not automatically bestowed on us. Salvation is for all, but not all are or will be saved. For there is a condition that must be met before salvation can be enjoyed.
The Kuwaitis could do nothing to deliver themselves. Their enemy was too powerful. And yet, once their enemy had been defeated without any help from themselves, they could do—and indeed had to do—one thing. They had to welcome their deliverers, and thereby receive the deliverance they offered. If the Kuwaitis had turned against the Americans and said, “Go away, we prefer the Iraqis,” they would have remained in bondage.
Similarly, we are powerless to deliver ourselves from the bondage of death that Satan and sin have brought upon us. But thank God, Jesus has the power we lack and has done for us what we could not do for ourselves. He died to pay for our sins and rose to put us right with God (Romans 4:25). Nothing else needs to be done. We must simply receive by faith the deliverance that he has won. Just as the Kuwaitis welcomed the Americans, we must welcome the Lord Jesus. We must embrace him and sing his praises.
When we trust in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour we are delivered from the fear and power of death. We will still die physically, but we know that beyond temporal death is eternal life. Death is the doorway that opens to our Saviour, in whose presence there is fullness of joy, and in whose right hand are pleasures for evermore (Psalm 16:11).