The Rescue – Worship @ Home Sunday, 07 March 2021

(c) FreeBibleImages.org

The Salvation Army, Prestonpans Corps
Major Steven Turner,
from an idea by Chris Howlett

Song: Praise, my soul, the king of Heaven

Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven,
To his feet thy tribute bring;
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
Who like thee his praise should sing?
Praise Him!
Praise the everlasting King.

Praise him for this grace and favour
To our fathers in distress;
Praise him still the same as ever,
Slow to chide and swift to bless;
Praise him!
Glorious in his faithfulness.

Father-like he tends and spares us;
Well our feeble frame he knows,
In his hands he gently bears us,
Rescues us from all our foes.
Praise him!
Widely as his mercy flows.

Angels in the heights adore him,
Ye behold him face to face;
Sun and moon bow down before him:
Dwellers all in time and space,
Praise him!
Praise with us the God of grace.

Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847)

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever. Amen

Bible Reading

14 At the time when Amraphel was king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Kedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goyim, these kings went to war against Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboyim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). All these latter kings joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Dead Sea Valley). For twelve years they had been subject to Kedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.

In the fourteenth year, Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him went out and defeated the Rephaites in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzites in Ham, the Emites in Shaveh Kiriathaim and the Horites in the hill country of Seir, as far as El Paran near the desert. Then they turned back and went to En Mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and they conquered the whole territory of the Amalekites, as well as the Amorites who were living in Hazezon Tamar.

Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboyim and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) marched out and drew up their battle lines in the Valley of Siddim against Kedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goyim, Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar – four kings against five. 10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of tar pits, and when the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some of the men fell into them and the rest fled to the hills. 11 The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food; then they went away. 12 They also carried off Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom.

13 A man who had escaped came and reported this to Abram the Hebrew. Now Abram was living near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite, a brother of Eshkol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram. 14 When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. 16 He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.

Genesis 14:1-16 (NIVUK)

Song: My Jesus, my Saviour

MY JESUS, MY SAVIOUR,
Lord, there is none like You.
All of my days I want to praise
The wonders of Your mighty love.
My comfort, my shelter,
Tower of refuge and strength,
Let every breath, all that I am,
Never cease to worship You.

Shout to the Lord all the earth, let us sing
Power and majesty, praise to the King.
Mountains bow down
And the seas will roar
At the sound of Your name.
I sing for joy at the work of Your hands.
Forever I’ll love You, forever I’ll stand.
Nothing compares to the
Promise I have in You.

Darlene Zschech.
© 1993 Darlene Zschech/Hillsongs
Australia/Kingsway’s Thankyou Music.

Introduction

Dr Wassell ©nederlandsekrijgsmacht.nl

Born on July 4, 1884, in Little Rock, Arkansas, and graduating in medicine from the University of Arkansas in 1909, Corydon M. Wassell worked for twelve years as a missionary in a hospital in Wuchang, China before joining the U.S. Navy. In December 1941, Dr. Wassell was ordered to Java where he began treating the wounded sailors from the USS Marblehead and USS Houston.

When the Japanese invaded, all US personnel were ordered to be evacuated, but only walking wounded would be taken. Ignoring these instructions, Dr Wassell managed to transport twelve badly wounded men to the coast, all the while keeping just ahead of the Japanese forces. There they boarded the M.S. Janssens, which eventually brought them to the harbour of Fremantle, Australia. Dr Wassell was awarded the Navy Cross for his courage and devotion.[1]

In our Lent series, we have been considering God’s covenant love and how that leads to redemption for his people. Hosea highlighted God’s promise that he would never give up on his people, no matter what they did. Jesus’ parable showed the extravagance of God’s love for the returning sinner.

But how far would God, our patriarch (great Father), go to rescue one of his own? Perhaps the story of Abram and Lot might help us consider this question.

Back story

God had called Abram many years earlier to leave his home in the city of Ur:

‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

‘I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.’

Genesis 12:1-2

They stopped for a while in northern Mesopotamia. When Abram’s father Terah died, Abram set off with his nephew Lot, eventually settling in Canaan. As the two men prospered, there was not enough grazing land for all their flocks.

Abram and Lot separated. Lot chose the fertile ground of the Jordan valley, eventually settling in Sodom, while Abram stayed in the hill country, where he continued to prosper, and God reinforced the promise he had made earlier (see Genesis 13).

Politics

At the time of our story, several kings of nations to the north and east of Canaan had banded together to terrorise the region, subduing and taxing the cities in the Jordan valley. Eventually, the southern kings had had enough. As another series of raids begins, the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah gather their allies and head north to challenge their oppressors. Sodom, Gomorrah and the other towns were in an area that has since been flooded by the Dead Sea. The battle takes place in the valley of Siddim, near the northern end of the Dead Sea.

The rebellion is unsuccessful, and the defenders are pursued south right past their homes, until they are all killed or have hidden in the hill country. All the goods and people from Sodom, Gomorrah and nearby towns are taken by the invaders. Not content with their spoils, the northern kings cross the valley below the Dead Sea and start plundering towns on the west side on their way home.

The Rescue

Abram and his friends Mamre, Eshkol and Aner, had been very careful to remain neutral, not siding with Kedorlaomer or with Sodom and Gomorrah. They would only take up arms if one of them or any of their family was directly threatened.

When Abram hears that Lot is taken prisoner, he gathers all the fighting men in his family and sets off in pursuit. They catch up with Kedorlaomer near the city of Dan, in what we call the Golan heights, on the border between Israel and Syria. The area is filled with narrow, steep-sided gorges.

It’s likely that Abram would have attacked Kedorlaomer’s mighty army as it wound its way through this treacherous landscape. By approaching from several directions at night they would have the element of surprise, and the defenders would have nowhere to hide. The Bible records that Abram pursued them as far as Damascus and recovered all the goods and people that had been captured.

Let’s think about what is happening here. Abram has only 318 trained men in his household. Their experience would mostly be in protecting the livestock from marauding animals and nomadic raiders. The armies of the four northern kings are thoroughly trained, well equipped and battle hardened. The odds are against Abram.

Why, then, would Abram risk everything to rescue his nephew, who had caused his own downfall by greed and selfishness, and would continue to give Abram trouble for years to come? Although the Bible does not express it this way, Abram is living out God’s covenant love in the same way as Hosea did when he took Gomer back as his wife. God has promised to do the same for all who are faithful, and for those wanderers who choose to return to him:

But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors … I will remember my covenant with Jacob and … with Isaac and … with Abraham

Leviticus 26:40-42

Conclusion

Consider how important is your family to you. What would you be willing to do if any of them were in trouble? Perhaps this dramatic rescue is beyond the experience or capability of most of us. However, we do see examples of great sacrifice in real families:

  • Some parents constantly welcome back their rebellious children, no matter how much trouble they have caused.
  • Others have scrimped and saved to put their children through university, so that they may achieve their full potential.
  • Mothers (and sometimes fathers) have forgone the possibility of a career and remained in monotonous jobs in order to put food on the table or to be with their children. 
  • Parents (and often siblings) will give up much to support their sick children, even when others have given up hope.

When life is difficult and God seems far away, it can be easy to dismiss his promises to always be with us. But Jesus reminds us that God is better than even the best earthly father:

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Matthew 7:11

As we reflect on Abram’s sacrifice on behalf of Lot, let us remember God’s constant love for us, and vow to show that same love to those around us, whatever the cost.

Song: How much more

This song is from the musical Hosea, which tells how God helps a young man to save his broken marriage.

If human hearts are often tender,
And human minds can pity know,
If human love is touched with splendour,
And human hands compassion show,

Then how much more shall God our Father
In love forgive, in love forgive!
Then how much more shall God our Father
Our wants supply, and none deny!

If sometimes men can live for others,
And sometimes give where gifts are spurned,
If sometimes treat their foes as brothers,
And love where love is not returned,

If men will often share their gladness,
If men respond when children cry,
If men can feel each other’s sadness,
Each other’s tears attempt to dry,

John Gowans


Prayer

Father God, we are amazed at your faithful love for us, no matter what we do. Yet perhaps we should not be surprised when we see such willingness to sacrifice on the part of human parents.

When we are feeling lost, we have gone astray, or we are just confused by the events surrounding us, remind us of your love.

And when we are struggling to love others, fill us with your spirit, that you may love through us.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen

Song: Jehovah is our strength

Jehovah is our strength,
And he shall be our song;
We shall o’ercome at length
Although our foes be strong.
In vain does Satan then oppose,
For God is stronger than his foes.

The Lord our refuge is
And ever will remain;
Since he has made us his
He will our cause maintain.
In vain our enemies oppose,
For God is stronger than his foes.

The Lord our shepherd is;
He knows our every need,
And since we now are his,
His care our souls will feed.
In vain do sin and death oppose,
For God is stronger than his foes.

Our God our Father is;
Our names are on his heart;
We ever will be his,
He ne’er from us will part.
In vain the mightiest powers oppose,
For God is stronger than his foes.

Attr Samuel Barnard (d 1807)

Benediction

May God’s blessing surround you each day,
As you trust Him and walk in His way.
May His presence within guard and keep you from sin.
Go in peace, go in joy, go in love.

[1] Taken from https://www.ussmarblehead.com/dr_wassell.shtml

About prophetable

My wife Elizabeth and I were commissioned as Officers (ministers) in The Salvation Army in 1997, and have served in appointments in England and Scotland. Since July 2016 I have been working in The Salvation Army's Scotland Office as combined parliamentary and ecumenical representative.
This entry was posted in Worship and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.