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Salvation:- 2


By Nelson Thomas Evangelist, Mumbai


            In the Old Testament, from the book of Genesis on wards God’s work of salvation for mankind is being unfolded. As we go through various Old Testament books we can see their concept of salvation gradually changing through out their history.

The words used:-
            The Hebrew word ‘yesa’ and other forms like ‘yesuah’ mean ‘to save’, ‘to keep safe and sound’ or ‘to rescue from danger or destruction’. Ref. Psalms, Isaiah etc.  It may also mean ‘bring in to a special environment’. Cf, Gen 28:21; Gen 44:17; Psalm 3:2;  18:36; 66:12. 
            In English the word ‘salvation’ occurs 113 in OT (KJV) and refers to:-
‘Deliverance’ cf. Exo. 14:15; Psa 3:8; 9:14; 35:3
            ‘Victory’ cf. 1Sam 14:15
            ‘Prosperity’ cf. Psa 118:25    etc

    In the Old Testament salvation involved ‘giving space’, ‘enlarging their boundary’, ‘to be made well’, ‘to be free’ etc. So salvation meant primarily ‘being delivered or preserved from a danger or disease’. The result is the experience of safety or health for the people. For Israel ‘salvation’ and ‘deliverance’ were synonymous.  Not only an individual salvation they expected a national deliverance as well.

God’s saving activity
            The Old Testament history is full of God’s saving activity for His people. In the beginning of the Bible itself we how God saves / delivers Noah from the floods, Lot from fire.  Cf. Genesis ch.9; ch19. After the call of Abraham, God’s work of salvation is related particularly to the people of Israel. Their history is in fact the history of the saving activity of God. God’s ‘saving work’ for the people of Israel in the OT is prominently seen in their deliverance from Egypt. Cf. Exo. 14:15:- “Stand still and see the salvation of God”.     

             That deliverance was very deeply impressed in their mind.  “Yahweh (Jehovah) saves” was the creed of Israel. Cf. Exo 14:13, 15, 30; 15:2, 6; Psa 3:8; 62:1. They celebrated the memory of this salvation in the annual Passover feast. Dt. 16:1; Psa 66:13—20. Not only the Lord delivered them as a nation from the Egyptian bondage, He continued to save them from enemies, famines, poverty, slavery, drought, pestilence etc. cf. Num 10:9; Due 20:4; Hab 3:13; Isa 33:2. Apart from such collective deliverances, God saved them individually also from sickness, imprisonment, evils, dangers and hostility.

The reason
            What made God to save Israel as a nation as well as individually? The basic reason was God’s covenant with Abraham. Not their goodness. Cf. Gen 12:7; 15:13—16. Exo 2:23, 24. The presence of the Ark of the Covenant was a visible proof of God’s presence among them. It was the guarantee of a continuous deliverance and victory. Cf. Exo 25:22; Joshua 2:3, 14, 15; 6:9. (Notice the role of the Ark while crossing Jordan and conquering Jericho)But when they disobeyed and took the Ark of the Lord as a ritual God did not save them. Cf.1 Samuel. 4:1—11(v. 5, 11). Ark was captured by the Philistines. As long as they remained faithful God did save them. Cf. Numb. 10:9; Hab 3:13.    

            Yet, He is gracious and merciful whenever they cried for salvation, the Lord saved them in whatever way it meant. Cf. Isa 33:2; Psa 3:8; Judges. 3:9, 15. In fact in the book of Judges we see many acts of God’s saving work among the people of Israel. Cf. 6:14; 3:9 etc. There we see a pattern, God saves them from the enemy, but they forget in the course of time and sin again, thus God allows them to go under bondage, again crying and graciously send a deliverer.

Spiritual salvation
            Most part of Old Testament -may be till psalms- salvation refers to various things: individual as well as national deliverance from enemy, famine, sickness or enlargement and victory etc. But later by the beginning of the book of Isaiah this idea is changing. Apart from the material aspect, spiritual and moral aspects also included. Cf. Isa 59:1; 61:10; 63:1; Jere 17:14; Hos 1:7. They found that wicked people can not experience this divine salvation. Psa 119:155. It was the meek and godly who can expect salvation. Cf. Isa 12:3. (Psa 85:9; 86:2; 149:4)

Why this change?
            Repeated bondage under other nations, particularly the Babylonian captivity taught Israel that departing from God’s way lead to suffering. So they longed for an internal salvation – change of heart- righteousness, forgiveness etc. cf. Ezk 36:29; Jer 31:33. Jeremiah says God Himself will do it. Of course David too referred to a transformed heart it. Cf. Psa 51:6Incidentally, Isaiah spoke much about God’s salvation. Cf. Isa 1:18, 19- Notice the call of God to the sinful nation. Isaiah also spoke of salvation that God offers to the Gentiles (non-Jews). Cf. Is 35:4; 45:21, 22; 49:6; 52:10 cf. Jer 16:9; Mich 5:4; Psa 67:7; 98:3.

            Isaiah also sets forth the method of salvation. Spiritual salvation was possible only through the sufferings of the Servant of the Lord – the Messiah. Cf. Is 53. God’s saving works are His own, done for His own purposes and glory.  Cf. Hos 1:7; Jer 30:10; Deu 20:4; Psa 20:6; 106:7—10. It was His own righteousness that was revealed in God’s salvation. Isa 45:21. No one can make any claim or rights over it. Cf. Isa 56:1; 45:8, 19—25; 46:13; 51:3ff.

The conditions for salvation in OT.
            Whether national or individual salvation, always certain conditions were there. They need to trust God, rely upon Him and be obedient to the will of God. God will save only those who renounce their self-sufficiency. Notice the following versus and see for whom does the Lord offers salvation:-
            Jos 5:15; 22:29:- Poor and humble
            Psa 7:10; 37:39:- Whose heart is right / righteous.
            2Sam 22:28; Psa 18:27; 22:24; Isa 49:13:- Afflicted (Job 34:28)
            Psa 34:18; 51:17; Isa 57:15; 66:2:- The contrite
            Psa 34:6; 109:31:- Confess –acknowledge their need.
            Isa 45:22:- Look (Spurgeon got saved at this verse- He looked!)
            Psa 85:9:- Fear Him   etc          Cf.  Isa 12:3. (Psa 85:9; 86:2; 149:4)

The expectation from the redeemed
            Because He saved them by His mercy, grace and power, not according to their state, He wanted them to remember such deliverances and stay faithful and obedient to Him. They must act in a morally responsible way as the redeemed of the Lord.  God wanted the saved one to worship, serve and honour Him through surrendered lives. Cf. 1Chro 16:23; Isa 43:11, 12; 49:6, 7; Zech 8:13. That’s why we see the people of Israel often refer to the deliverances especially from Egypt as the supreme evidence of God’s undeserved favor on their behalf. Cf. Due 6:20—24; 26:5—9; Joshua 24:2, 3.

            Thus we see the doctrine of salvation was revealed in the Old Testament in a progressive manner. The main idea of salvation emerging form the history of Israel is that God saves good men from trouble, enemy etc. Later Israel understood that salvation is related to sin because sin leads to punishment, so need an inward change.      

           As a result, Old Testament saints got awareness of such a salvation that affects moral and spiritual life. This thought moves to further reality that God saves bad men too which is revealed in Isaiah etc, (cf. Isa 1:18, 19) and fully developed in the New Testament. The truth is that most Jews could not understand what their prophets spoke of salvation. Cf. 1Peter 1:12.


Next:- III Salvation in the New Testament


More:- An index for all studies

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