Back in 1925 the Italian Freighter, Ignazio Florio, was sinking in the Atlantic Ocean. To the rescue came the United States Liner, President Harding. But the sea was too rough and the ship was in such distress that they could not get a line aboard her. Thus, the boat’s crew had to take a lifeboat over the giant waves and save the thirty-eight men aboard the Italian Freighter. The first American sailor to volunteer for the dangerous mission was Salvatore Bracco. And the mission was a huge success. Salvatore Bracco was awarded five medals and an illuminated scroll describing his heroism, handed to him from the hands of Mussolini himself.
Then, in January of 1929, another Italian ship, the Florida, was foundering off the Virginia Capes, and once again another United States Liner, America, came to help. And again the first person to respond was Salvatore Bracco, and once again the rescue mission was a success. He once again received many honors for his heroism. From New York to his home town of Union City, New Jersey they threw a party for him. He received the congressional medal of honor from the United States government. He received several other American medals and two more from Italy for what he did in saving the lives of others and risking his own.
But soon after that the world forgot about Salvatore Bracco. He developed a heart condition that prevented him from going out to sea anymore, a job he loved. He could not find any work on land for himself. Thus, his savings quickly vanished. The crowds that once cheered for him and welcomed him with open arms now paid no attention to him. His wife and son were starving. He had to go on relief. And this hero, the one that saved the lives of many, the one who received 15 medals, was now living on seven and one-half dollars per week! When he died he once again received many honors, but once again the sacrifice that this man gave, was quickly forgotten.
When we read of such a story we think of it as being tragic, and it is. But think about this for a minute, if it were not for me reading you this story, would you have been aware of the sacrifice made by this man, the lives he saved? Probably not! And this story is not limited to just one man, but has been repeated over and over again throughout history.
The main reason I brought this story up, is it deals with our topic this morning. Solomon, in Ecclesiastes chapter 9, is going to be speaking of a similar situation that he saw, which made him see the emptiness of life no matter what you do “under the sun” or apart from God. And so this morning lets begin reading in verse 13 of Ecclesiastes chapter 9.
This wisdom I have also seen under the sun, and it seemed great to me: There was a little city with few men in it; and a great king came against it, besieged it, andbuilt great snares around it. Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that same poor man. Then I said: “Wisdom is better than strength. Nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom isdespised, And his words are not heard.”
Now we are not sure who Solomon is speaking of, but the events he saw take place troubled him. There was a small, seemingly insignificant city, not to many people and surely not able to defend itself from any hostile enemies. Now there was a powerful king who didn’t care how big or how small a city was, he wanted it for himself. And so he began to attack this helpless city to make it his own.
Now in this city was a poor but wise man. And yet he was able to come up with a plan to defeat this enemy, not by force but by using his wisdom. And his plan worked beautifully, the city was saved, and I’m sure huge celebrations took place for this cities newest hero. But as quickly as his fame came, it went. The people forgot about all he had done for them and life continued on like nothing happened. No longer did he receive honor, no longer did they appreciate the work he had done for them, for saving them from this powerful king.
Now this event, sometime in the life of Solomon, he saw take place, it was real. There is also another event that is real, and carries with it spiritual truth that is very important to us. And that is what we are going to focus on for the remainder of our time this morning – OUR DELIVERER!
This story has a spiritual truth that we are now going to look at. The little city is like a man’s soul. In other words, small and defenseless against the enemy. The great king that is coming against our soul, raging war against us, is Satan. In a war there are invasions and destruction, and in Satan’s war against God, he is trying to destroy God’s creation, us! In I Peter2:11 we read “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.”
Peter is speaking to the family of God, warning them to be aware of Satan’s schemes. The word “beg” carries with it the idea of a strong force and is used for every kind of calling which is intended to produce a particular effect. In other words, Peter wants us to move away, be aware of what Satan is doing. And where does Satan attack us? Peter tells us “fleshly lusts”. The word “lusts” speaks of the diseased condition of the soul, and “fleshly” covers the entire gamete of our fallen nature.
Thus, Satan’s military campaign against our souls is one of enticement with the flesh in order to bring us down, ruin our witness or keep us lost if we are not saved yet! And you can turn on your television sets and see how intense the battle is. What comes forth are shows, commercials that are trying to appeal to the flesh or our fallen nature. Why? Because they know if they can appeal to our flesh, they have us, and we will buy their product or watch their show. No wonder Peter warned us to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” I Peter 5:8. Don’t become complacent in the battle. If you do, you are opening yourself up for a fall!
Now for the unsaved, Satan’s plan is to keep them in that position – dead in their trespasses and sins. Paul tells us in II Corinthians 4:3-4, “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.”
Paul is telling us that Satan, the god of this age, has covered-up the truth of the Gospel message by blinding people with lies, false hopes, fleshly lusts. The idea behind the word “hid” or “veiled” is to wrap something up in something else. An example of this is bark around a tree, or skin around our muscle-skeletal system. Thus, Satan covers the truth of God with other things that keep us from the truth of the Gospel. They become blind to the truth and are comfortable in their sin.
Now if the small city is our soul and the great king is Satan doing battle against our soul, then who is the poor wise man that delivers the city or our soul? Jesus Christ, of course!
We are told in II Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” Notice what Paul is saying here. God, who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, left his throne to become man in order to make us rich by His sacrifice for us. So Jesus became poor to make us rich.
In Colossians 2:3 Paul tells us that in Christ “…are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Not only was Jesus a poor man, by earthly standards, but He also was very wise. Now this poor wise man in Ecclesiastes chapter 9 delivered the city from the powerful king. Jesus, this poor wise man, delivered our souls from the enemy, Satan.
Paul, in II Corinthians chapter 1 is speaking of the difficult life he had in preaching the gospel, to the point of death. I also see this passage we are going to be looking at, speaking of God’s deliverance from spiritual death unto life. Paul said beginning in verse 9, “Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us.” II Corinthians 1:9-10.
Paul says that “we HAD the sentence of death“, past tense. What happened to bring us out of death and into life? Simple. It happened when we saw no hope of salvation through our own human efforts, we couldn’t work our way out of the condition we were in. Think about it this way, a dead corpse can’t do anything to bring itself back to life. It can’t do CPR on itself. Can’t give medicine to itself. It can’t move away from the danger it is in. In other words, if you are dead, you are dead and there is nothing you can do about it, no matter how hard you try!
Once you come to that realization, once you have exhausted all human effort, you are at the point to turn to the only one that can help, GOD! Yes God raises the dead, He takes our dead spiritual bodies and makes us alive again in Christ. In verse 10 Paul uses three tenses regarding our deliverance in Christ, and we are going to look at these a little closer.
1. HE HAS DELIVERED US FROM DEATH
Paul is speaking of a past deliverance that God has done for us. When did this occur? On the cross of Calvary! Notice what Paul has to say in Colossians 2:13-14. We read, “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”
We were dead in our trespasses and sin, but Christ has paid the penalty for our sins and has cast them as far as the east is from the west, to be remembered no more. The handwriting of requirements that were against us may be difficult to understand in our day, but during the time of Paul, it was very clear what was meant. You see, if you were guilty of a crime or crimes, you would be arrested and they would write out what your crimes were, for you were now responsible to pay your debt to society for your crime. Once you had finished serving your sentence, you would be released and across this paper where your transgressions were written they would write “TETELESTAI”.
Paul’s point is this. When God became flesh and dwelt among us, He went to the cross as a substitutionary sacrifice for our sins. As Peter said “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.” I Peter 3:18. Thus, as Jesus bore the sins of the world, taking our penalty for us, nailing the sins of the world to the cross, before He died, before he gave up His spirit, he cried out “TETELESTAI!” or “Paid in full!”
Because of that God has extended the free gift of life to all who receive Him, but not all will accept that free gift, even though He has paved the way for us all to be delivered! It is as Isaiah 61:10 says, “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” In other words, “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13-14.
It is in that new life, being born again, being born of the Spirit, that we once again have fellowship with God. As Paul told Timothy “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all…” I Timothy 2:5-6a. Now that we have been reconciled to God through Christ, the enemy does not give up, but turns up the heat upon us. He can’t take away our salvation, that was a free gift given to us by God, but he can try to destroy our witness, discourage us, and-so-on. And thus, that leads us to the second point.
2. HE DOES DELIVER US
Paul is speaking of a present deliverance, one that happens here and now. In Ephesians chapter 6, Paul warns us to “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Ephesians 6:11-13.
In other words, stand strong in the Lord and let Him deliver you out of the various trials and tribulations that you will be going through in life. By putting on the armor of God you are allowing Him to help you stand against the attacks of the enemy. Notice the attitude of David in Psalm 3 when he said “But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head. I cried to the LORD with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill. I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people Who have set themselves against me all around.” Psalm 3:3-6.
Don’t let life’s circumstances cause you to become discouraged, depressed, disillusioned with life. It doesn’t matter how big the enemy is, how hopeless the situation is, God is above all that and He does deliver us from the various situations of life. As Jesus said “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.
Now sometimes God allows us to go through those difficult times which cause our faith to grow, our dependence upon Him to deepen. At other times the deliverance is seen in taking us out of or removing us from the trial or tribulation that has come upon our life. And at other times God allows us to finish the race, allowing these bodies to go back to the dust of the earth. Yes there is deliverance even in death, which speaks of our third point.
3. HE WILL DELIVER US
For the Christian, death is just moving from this body of flesh to a new body created by Christ which our spirit will dwell in. It is in this life that God is forming us into His image. Paul said in Philippians 3:20-21, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” And again in Colossians 3:4 we read “When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”
God will deliver us from death and separation from Him into life in His presence for eternity. This is our hope and joy, that when our Lord appears, we will appear with Him in glory! What a great promise for all of us to hold onto. God has delivered us from death through His Son Jesus Christ. God will deliver us from the various trials and tribulations of life. And God will deliver us into glory to be with Him for eternity.
Now in saying all that. In seeing all that God has done for us. There is a problem. Remember the poor wise man who delivered the city from the attacks of the powerful king? After he accomplished all this, saving the city, the people quickly forgot what he had done. Life went on as usual. No one remembered this man and all he had done for them.
In Philippians we are told that Jesus, being equal with God, took the form of a servant by coming in the likeness of man. He then was obedient to the words of the Father, to the point of death on the cross. Jesus provided deliverance for man through His work on the cross and yet do people really care today? Do people even remember what it cost Him so that we might live? Do people even appreciate what He has done for us? It doesn’t seem like it, does it?
Think about it for a minute. We celebrate Christmas as Christ’s birth, and yet today it is not called Christmas, but Xmas, we have taken Christ right out of the picture and have made it into a greedy, selfish celebration. Easter, celebrating the resurrection of Christ, is now a time to go Easter egg hunting, get candy, get your picture taken with the Easter bunny. Where is the cross and resurrection in all of that. And those are just a couple of things, the list of negating Christ goes on and on.
Remember when Jesus was making His triumphal entry into Jerusalem as Messiah the King, descending down from the Mount of Olives. And we read, “Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Hosanna in the highest!’” Matthew 21:9. They had recognized Jesus as their Messiah, their deliverer!
But, a few days later the crowds quickly changed their view of things. As Jesus appeared before Pilate, and Pilate asked the people what they want him to do with Jesus, their response is shocking. “…Pilate said to them, ‘What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ They all said to him, ‘Let Him be crucified!’ Then the governor said, ‘Why, what evil has He done?’ But they cried out all the more, saying, ‘Let Him be crucified!’” Matthew 27:22-23.
One day they are worshipping Him and the next they are crying for Him to be crucified, and it is easy to come down on their fickleness, but are we any different today. We come up with our own ideas of salvation, and who Christ is, negating what God has said. One example is from Robert Schuller, who said: “I don’t think that anything has been done in the name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality, and hence counterproductive to the evangelistic enterprise, than the unchristian, uncouth strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition.” What he is saying is that it is better to keep people lost in their sins than to hurt their fragile self esteem and tell them that they are sinners in need of a Savior. That is nothing more than a doctrine of demons, for it denies the work of Christ and our true condition!
Also, the Pastor of Community Church of Joy in Glendale, Arizona has another tragic idea that they share with their people. Their pastor says “People today aren’t interested in traditional doctrines like justification, sanctification and redemption.” I don’t care if they are interested in it or not, they need to hear the truth, for the truth of God will set them free, and the lies of the world will keep them in bondage.
Yes, God became man to save us from sin and death, but many today don’t care about the sacrifice He gave us. But even though some may negate His work, it doesn’t change the fact of what He has done for us. As Paul said in Romans 5:19-21, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Don’t negate the work that God has done for you. Thank Him for His love towards you. Draw close to Him. The enemy will attack, but if we draw close to Him, resist the enemy in the faith, we will be victorious. Never let us forget the deliverance that God has given to us, and let us share that deliverance with others. As Paul said, may we also say, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Romans 1:16.
Salvatore Bracco risked his life to save a few men. Jesus gave His life to save the world! A world that was against Him. Don’t forget that truth. Proclaim the message! If you don’t, as Jesus said, and I’ll paraphrase, “The rocks and stones themselves would begin to cry out!” The truth will never be extinguished or completely forgotten!