A Spacious Place
A Spacious Place
John Newton (1725–1801) was a militant atheist, bully and blasphemer. He was a wild and angry young man. He was press-ganged into the Navy at the age of eighteen where he broke the rules so recklessly that he was publicly flogged for desertion. He was hated and feared by his crewmates and himself became a slave trader.
At the age of twenty-three, Newton’s ship encountered a severe storm off the coast of Donegal and almost sank. He called out to God as the ship filled with water and on that day, 10 March 1748, God rescued him. He began a new life. He started to pray and read the Bible. Eventually he joined William Wilberforce in the campaign to abolish the slave trade and became a leading light in that campaign.
Newton is best known as the author of the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’:
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now I’m found,
Was blind, but now I see.
To be rescued is to be saved, set free, delivered from danger, attack or harm. Jesus is the one who rescues you and brings you into ‘a spacious place’ (2 Samuel 22:20).
A spacious place for youPsalm 73:15-28
Have you ever experienced the slippery slope of sin? You find yourself slipping further and further down a path that you do not really want to be on.
The psalmist found himself on the slippery slope: ‘As for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked’ (vv.2–3).
Your whole perspective changes when you enter ‘the sanctuary of God’ (v.17a): ‘Then, I understood their final destiny’ (v.17b). It is the arrogant and wicked who are on ‘slippery ground’ (v.18). Although they may seem outwardly successful and prosperous, they are on a road that leads to destruction (vv.19–20).
It is ‘senseless and ignorant’ (v.22) to be envious of the ‘ungodly’. When you get a proper perspective, you realise how almost unbelievably blessed you are (vv.23–26).
There is nothing that compares to walking in a relationship with God, knowing his presence, his guidance and his strength, and his promise that he will take you into glory. You are far better off than the ‘ungodly’, both in this life and in the future. God brings you into his ‘spacious place’.
When you see what you have been rescued from, you realise how good it is to be near God (v.28), and you want to pass the good news on to others:
‘But I’m in the very presence of God –
oh, how refreshing it is!
I’ve made Lord God my home.
God, I’m telling the world what you do!’ (v.28, MSG).
Lord, thank you that you have rescued me from the slippery slope and brought me into a spacious place.
A spacious place for the churchActs 9:1-31
Do you know anyone who is very antagonistic towards Christians and the Christian faith? Saul was like that. John Newton was like that. I was like that. When we read the account of Saul’s conversion it gives us hope that God can change the most unexpected people.
In this passage we see a double rescue. The church is rescued from the darkness brought about by Saul’s attacks, and Saul is rescued from his own inner darkness (13:9). God’s transforming power changed Saul from a persecutor of the church into the great church leader, evangelist and apostle Paul.
Saul had a privileged background. He was a Roman citizen from Tarsus. He was a highly educated intellectual. He was a qualified lawyer. He was a deeply ‘religious’ man with a strong belief in God.
Yet, Saul was living in darkness on a road that led to destruction. He was ‘out for the kill’ (9:1, MSG). He was trying to arrest Christians and put them in prison (v.2). He had a terrible reputation among the Christians because of ‘all the harm he [had] done to [them]’ (v.13) and the fact that he wreaked ‘havoc’ among followers of Jesus (v.21).
On the road to Damascus, Saul ‘was suddenly dazed by a blinding flash of light’ (v.3, MSG). Jesus appeared to him and said, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ (v.4). As Saul had never met him before, how could he be persecuting Jesus? In that moment, he must have realised that the church is Jesus. It is his body. In persecuting Christians, he was in fact persecuting Jesus. Later, he was to develop this understanding that the church is the body of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 12–14).
Saul’s physical blindness symbolised the spiritual darkness in his life at that point. When Ananias laid hands on him, his sight was restored and he was filled with the Spirit (Acts 9:17): ‘Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again’ (v.18). He was rescued from physical and spiritual darkness.
Not only did Jesus rescue Saul from darkness, but he also appointed him as his ‘chosen instrument’. He said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel’ (v.15).
However, God did not promise him an easy life. With great privilege would come suffering, ‘for I will make it clear to him how much he will be afflicted and must endure and suffer for my name’s sake’ (v.16).
At once, Saul began to preach that Jesus is the Son of God (v.20). He grew ‘more and more powerful… proving that Jesus is the Christ’ (v.22). Like a lawyer, he produced the evidence to show that something had in fact happened in history. Jesus had been crucified, raised from the dead and is the Christ.
Through the rescue of Saul, the church was also rescued: ‘Things calmed down after that and the church had smooth sailing for a while. All over the country – Judea, Samaria, Galilee – the church grew. They were permeated with a deep sense of reverence for God. The Holy Spirit was with them, strengthening them. They prospered wonderfully’ (v.31, MSG). God had brought the church into a spacious place and they enjoyed a time of peace and blessing.
Lord, I pray that you will bring the church in our nation into a spacious place, that strengthened and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it will enjoy a time of peace and grow in numbers.
A spacious place forever2 Samuel 22:1-23:7
As David comes to the end of his life, he praises God for rescuing him again and again from his enemies and from death and destruction (chapter 22 – the song is also found in Psalm 18). God is his ‘rescuing knight’ (2 Samuel 22:2, MSG).
‘A hostile world! I called to God,
to my God I cried out.
From his palace he heard me call;
my cry brought me right into his presence –
a private audience!’ (v.7, MSG).
Many times, he called out to the Lord and the Lord heard his voice. ‘He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters’ (v.17). ‘He rescued me from my powerful enemy…’ (v.18). ‘He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me’ (v.20, see also v.49).
When God rescues you, he does not want you to stay as you are: ‘When I cleaned up my act, he gave me a fresh start... God rewrote the text of my life’ (vv.21,25, MSG). He wants you to lead a blameless life and to keep yourself from sin (v.24). He wants you to be ‘faithful’ (v.26), pure (v.27) and humble (v.28).
With God’s help, you can ‘advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall’ (v.30). God arms you with strength (v.33) and enables you to stand on the heights (v.34). He broadens the path beneath you so that your ankles do not turn over (v.37).
Whatever you are facing – a difficult boss, a complicated marriage, raising a problematic child – God gives you strength to stick with it.
David, in the evening of his life, summed up his experience of God and of life (chapter 23). God had rescued him and anointed him (23:1): ‘The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; his word was on my tongue’ (v.2).
God had already saved him. Yet, there was more to come: ‘Will he not bring to fruition my salvation and grant me my every desire?’ (v.5). God’s rescue plan of salvation will one day be brought to fruition. On that day, the rescue will be complete and you will enjoy a spacious place for ever.
Lord, thank you that you have rescued us through the cross and resurrection of Jesus. Thank you that one day the rescue will be complete, when Jesus returns and we will be in a ‘spacious place’ with him forever.
2 Samuel 22:33
‘It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.’
This is rather encouraging when I feel so unprepared for so many situations, most of the time.
Verse of the Day
‘He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me’ (2 Samuel 22:20).
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.