Friday, August 24, 2012

Rescue, Refuge, Rehab, Reassignment (2 Samuel 22)

This is our last passage in our series in 1 and 2 Samuel.  Most of this chapter is actually the same as Psalm 18, but it is included here as part of David’s story.  It is kind of a summary of how God helped him throughout his life.  We’re only going to read a few parts of the psalm because it’s really long, but listen for four basic themes: rescue, refuge, rehabilitation, and reassignment.
First there is an introduction section:
1 David sang this song to the LORD on the day the LORD rescued him from all his enemies and from Saul.  2 He sang:
The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior.
my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
He is my shield, the power that saves me,
and my place of safety.

Next is the rescue section:
5 The waves of death overwhelmed me;
floods of destruction swept over me.
6 The grave wrapped its ropes around me;
death laid a trap in my path.
7 But in my distress I cried out to the LORD;
yes, I cried to my God for help. ...
17 He reached down from heaven and rescued me; 
he drew me out of deep waters.
18 He rescued me from my powerful enemies, 
from those who hated me and were too strong for me. ...

Then comes refuge:
20 He led me to a place of safety;
He rescued me because he delights in me. ...
31 He is a shield of for all who look to him for protection.
32 For who is God except the Lord?
Who but our God is a solid rock?
33 God is my strong fortress ...

Next is something we might not expect: rehabilitation.
34 He makes me as surefooted as a deer, 
enabling me to stand on mountain heights.
35 He trains my hands for battle;
he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow.
36 You have given me your shield of victory;
your help has made me great ...

The final move may be even more surprising and uncomfortable: reassignment.
38 I chased my enemies and destroyed them;
I did not stop until they were conquered ...
40 You have armed me with strength for the battle;
you have subdued my enemies under my feet.
41 You placed my foot on their necks. ...

David finishes with a conclusion of praise.
47 The LORD lives!  Praise to my Rock!
May God, the Rock of my salvation, be exalted!

Over the past two weeks, we had the great privilege to see this psalm lived out in Bangladesh.  Bijoli was an orphan as a child.  She faced staggeringly bad options: near-slavery as a worker in a house or sweatshop, homelessness, or prostitution.  However, she was rescued, and given refuge in an orphanage sponsored by the Church of Bangladesh.  Over the next decade or so, she experienced a beautiful rehabilitation.  Despite her difficult beginnings, she learned about God’s love and developed a beautiful personality of joy and peace.  She studied well and showed great potential for ministry.  

A bishop introduced Bijoli to Kishur, a promising young layman.  Bijoli and Kishur married, and Bijoli talked him into studying theology.  They started a church together.  Later, they joined the staff of a Christian hospital - with Bijoli studying and working as a nurse and Kishur studying and working as an x-ray technician.  
When that hospital closed, they took jobs at a Nazarene school in the southern part of Bangladesh.  Bijoli was the principal of the school, and Kishur was the project manager.  They were faithful and effective, so when the Church of the Nazarene was looking for a couple to be the leaders for the Village of Hope, they called on Kishur and Bijoli.
When Kishur and Bijoli moved to the Village of Hope in 2010 with their two boys, they did so at great personal risk.  The nearest neighbors were over a kilometer away, and there was no electricity.   Being alone in the dark in Bangladesh is very dangerous.  Bandits, terrorists, and kidnappers usually attack isolated locations at night.  In fact, when we first visited Kishur and Bijoli in February of 2011, their top prayer request was for safety.  
When Bijoli and Kishur arrived, the area for our village was basically empty - just a few houses, some grass, and one crooked little tree.  Bijoli immediately began gardening.  In September of 2011, there were seven houses, and the first five new families (each with one widow and six orphans) moved in.  Our second mission team funded fruit trees, and Bijoli added flower gardens in front of each house along with a community vegetable garden.  
After returning from the February 2012 trip, Park MoonShik said the Village of Hope looked like the Garden of Eden.  I couldn’t really understand what he meant until I saw it for myself.  There are literally flowers everywhere - all along the sidewalks, in every front yard, in all of the community spaces.  The whole village is a well-tended garden.  
Kishur told us that the children help with gardening as part of their rehabilitation.  He said that a child who learns to care for flowers will not kill people.  Developing appreciation for beauty and empathy for living plants changes our hearts and empowers us to see beauty in people as well and to live with more love.
Now Kishur and Bijoli live with such deep joy and trust that they exude the life of Christ.   One of them is usually gently teasing the other or someone else, but it is all with so much love and grace that the only possible reaction is joining in their laughter.  The most common image I have of Bijoli is her tilting her head back in a roaring laugh.  When we asked Kishur and Bijoli what was the secret of their exuberant love for each other and passion for life, they answered simply that they trust each other and God without limit.
Kishur and Bijoli manage the village with efficiency, grace, and love.  The children obviously respect and love them.  They obey without question and without the slightest hint of resentment.  The widows follow Bijoli’s example of firm but gentle love, and they replicate five more homes of joy and peace.  
Bijoli is still using her nurses’ training.  When I injured my leg on the construction site, she pulled out the first aid kit, and lined up four different items in the order that I should use each one.  When Dip, their oldest son, could not understand the inadequate science textbook that his school was using, Bijoli created her own auxiliary textbook complete with examples and chemistry illustrations.
  Bijoli was an orphan, lost in desperate hopelessness in one of the poorest countries in the world.  She was rescued and given refuge in a loving Christian community.  The Body of Christ facilitated her rehabilitation, and then God reassigned her in God’s mission of healing our world.   Bijoli is a living example of God’s grace through rescue, refuge, and rehabilitation.   And now her life has moved full circle as her reassignment is enabling rescue, refuge, and rehabilitation for others.

For our church, we experience rescue, refuge, rehabilitation, and reassignment in many different ways.  Of course, there is the fundamental rescue from our sins and the destruction that sin brings to us and to others.  When we were dead in our sins, Christ died to save us (Romans 5).  For some Christians, this is all they understand of Christianity - just avoiding hell.
But the Church - when it is healthy - functions as a refuge from the storms of life.  Our Christian brothers and sisters give us a support network during our times of struggle.  
Above and beyond the Church is God our Rock.  “On Christ the solid rock, [we] stand.  All other ground is sinking sand.”  When all else fails, God is a rock and a fortress, a place of safety for our souls.  Our identity and personal worth are safe in God’s care because he loves us.  No matter how others fail us, no matter how we fail ourselves, God’s love for us never fails.  God’s love is a solid rock, a shield of protection because he delights in us.
Many Christians stop here also, but David’s psalm and God’s work continues with rehabilitation.  God is not content to pull us out of danger and to keep us safe.  God wants to restore us - body, mind, and heart.  God is constantly working to strengthen us, to make us more healthy and whole.
Finally, we may be uncomfortable with the battle imagery in this psalm, but we cannot miss the point.  After rescue, refuge, and rehabilitation, God is thrusting us back into the battle of life, reassigning us to participate in his mission.  After he has strengthened our arms to draw a bronze bow, it’s time to use it.  
A great many Christians - perhaps most of us - never get to this point.  We know we need rescue.  We love experiencing God’s refuge.  Sometimes, we are reluctant to do the hard internal work that rehabilitation requires, but once we get started, we know that it is good for us.  But very often, we resist reassignment.  We want to stay in God’s refuge, safe in the community of God’s people.  We want to stay in a posture of receiving.  Or we want to be continually practicing for battle without ever doing battle.  I remember Rick Warren’s words that most Christians don’t actually need to study the Bible more.  Instead, they need to live the Bible more!
Thankfully, most of us will never engage in a physical war or draw a bow or use a physical weapon.  However, we still live in a battle field.  Our opponents are not “flesh and blood,” and our weapons are not of this world.  But we fight the enemies of greed, violence, selfishness, prejudice, sin, poverty, falsehood, and injustice with the spiritual weapons of faith, hope, peace, joy, truth, and love.  But the greatest of these is love.  Eventually, love will subdue all enemies.  Love wins.
God is rescuing and healing us, but God is also sending us back out into the world to participate in the rescue and healing of others.  And this, too, is part of our healing.  As everyone who has gone on one of our Bangladesh trips can testify, this assignment heals us just as much as it heals those we go to serve.  The same is true for our daily assignments to join in God’s mission of love and healing.  Loving others with God’s deep love heals our hearts just as much as it heals those we love.
God is using us to provide rescue, refuge, rehabilitation, and reassignment to others.  But this is just the beginning.  May God continue to transform us more and more into a loving community that changes our world, and this will be for our healing as well.

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