Deliver me in thy righteousness, and cause me to escape: incline thine ear unto me, and save me. 

Psalm 71:2.

  1. Modes of Deliverance 

Our text makes three main statements, highlighting three possible ways or combination of ways by which God might save a person:

  1. “Deliver me in thy righteousness” – deliverance by the mercy of God,  
  2. “cause me to escape” – divinely assisted personal escape, 
  3. “incline thine ear unto me, and save me” – deliverance in response to a call for help. 

The first is almost entirely God’s prerogative: deliverance by His mercy, or deliverance in His righteousness.  It is deliverance often without a conscious effort by the person or people delivered.  The second, although initiated by God, involves human participation for its complete execution: escape, or assisted deliverance.  The third is basically God’s response to human cry.  That is, a person or group of persons start the process by prayer, and God steps in in response to their call.  There is actually a fourth, which involves a combination of any of the three modes of divine help.

There is a fifth, which will be merely highlighted in the course of this message: deliverance by right of personal righteousness, as when God said of Noah, Daniel and Job, that there could come a general calamity from which none but only such holy men would save just themselves, based strictly on their personal integrity of life (Ezekiel 14:14).  Sole deliverance by right of personal righteousness.

By association with the righteous, a person might also be saved, which is the mystery of which Satan lamented in the case of righteous Job whose household, and even distant property, could not be touched.  Satan queried, Have You not made a hedge [1] around him, [2] around his household, and [3] around ALL THAT HE HAS on every side?” (Job 1:10, NKJV).  That is mode of deliverance No 6.  When a Satanic storm invaded the boat in which Jesus and His disciples had been travelling, they confronted Him with the fact that He couldn’t be there and they drowned.  He rebuked the storm and spoke back calm to the sea.  That was deliverance by association: His presence saved them (Mark 4:37-41).

Like deliverance by association, destruction by association also happens.  In other words, like preservation, destruction can also come upon a person merely by association, despite their personal righteousness (Revelation 18:4).  For example, when the time came for King Ahab to die in battle, those who followed him into that battle died a death that they certainly would not have died if they had not been thus associated with that marked man (1 Kings 22:20).  Despite his covenant with David, Jonathan the good man died with Saul his father because he was with that man whom God had rejected when death came for him (2 Samuel 1:17).  The children and servants of Job who got tragically caught in the great trial that came for Job would not have died when and how they died if they had not been as connected with that man (Job 1:1-19).  Accordingly, the voice of God calls out loudly in Revelation 18:4, “COME OUT of her, MY PEOPLE, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of HER PLAGUES.”  Although the people in question are a righteous people, “my people,” they could suffer the plagues of judgment coming upon Babylon for “her sins” if they did not “come out of her.”  That is, destruction by association, regardless of personal righteousness.

Back now to our three primary safety gates, as per Psalm 71:2.

  1. Deliverance by Mercy 

The first prayer in our text is, “Deliver me in thy righteousness” – that is, deliverance not based on the righteousness of the supplicant but based strictly on the righteousness of the Judge, the Lord God.  It is deliverance that God grants a person, a people, or a place solely on the basis of His mercy, His own righteousness alone, rather than based on the righteousness of the person or the people or the place.  When God thus saves in His righteousness or for His name’s sake, individual shortcomings are overlooked, and everyone, whether righteous or wicked, enjoys the discharge of His mercy (Matthew 5:45).

In other words, in His mercy, there are times when God saves a person without that person being aware of His intervention, let alone requesting it in prayers.  In such cases, the initiative is usually entirely God’s.  It is a prerogative of mercy.  The person might only discover later that they were saved from a danger of which they had not even been aware, or that help came to them despite their desperate helplessness; help for which they were unqualified and for which they never asked.

10 To him that smote Egypt in their firstborn: for HIS MERCY endureth for ever: 

11 And brought out Israel from among them: for HIS MERCY endureth for ever (Psalm 136:10-11).

David committed adultery with Bathsheba and brought upon himself a chain of terrible consequences that lingered down his generations: rapes, deaths, rebellions, etc. (2 Samuel 12:7-12).  It all started with a careless casual walk upon his palace rooftop, surveying his prominence and estate.  Thereupon, he saw a naked woman below, having her bath.  He lusted after her, invited her, slept with her, killed her husband to cover up his tracks when she was pregnant, and thus brought judgment upon himself and his household.

Amnon the rapist and incestuous prince was a remote product of that blunder of King David his father.  Absalom the murderer and international schemer, Tamar the raped princess, the death of Amnon at the hands of Absalom’s thugs, and all the women of David’s household shamefully and publicly raped in broad daylight by one mischievous son, were all cursed fruits of the evil seed that David sowed when he slept with Bathsheba.

It is very unlikely that the Holy Spirit did not restrain David that day from taking that tragic walk in that place at that time. It is unlikely that the Spirit did not urge him to look away after his first unexpected sight of that baited bathing naked woman.  David certainly did not envisage all the terrible consequences that came from his one-day romance.  The voice of the Spirit that he resisted was the mercy of God trying to deliver him from danger that he could not see.  If David had obeyed that Voice and kept from Bathsheba, and those consequences never came upon him, we would never have known the many troubles from which God had saved him by steering him away from that snare that day (1 Samuel 11-16).  In other words, also through our obedience, God in His righteousness sometimes saves us from dangers that we would never know.

There are kinds of communal danger from which everyone may be saved based solely on their individual righteousness rather than based on the covenant of their fathers or the covenant of the place or the prerogative of God’s mercy (Ezekiel 14:14, 20).  But when God decides to deliver in His righteousness, individual frailties are overlooked, and even personal righteousness is no certificate enough.

From The Preacher’s diary,
October 4, 2023.
continued in Part 2 of 2

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