We all love stories of rescues from behind enemy lines, don’t we?
There’s something thrilling about the courage of soldiers who risk their lives penetrating hostile territory for the sole aim of retrieving a fellow soldier who is trapped there.
Perhaps you’ve seen movies like “Behind Enemy Lines” or “Saving Private Ryan,” both of which feature storylines of military units launching search and rescue missions into enemy territory to retrieve one of their own soldiers.
We admire the willingness of soldiers to potentially sacrifice their own lives to save another’s. They deserve our utmost respect.
But did you know that God goes “behind enemy lines” to save people, too?
You might recall the story of Jericho from the Bible, as told in Joshua 2 and 6.
God had told the Israelites that He would give the city of Jericho into their hands. But before the main group of people crossed over the Jordan River to attack the city, their leader Joshua sent two spies ahead of them to scout out the area.
During their reconnaissance mission, the spies lodged in the house of a prostitute named Rahab. The king of Jericho, however, soon got wind of their presence, and tried to track them down. Rahab bravely hid the spies in her home, and sent their pursuers on a wild goose chase.
The spies promised Rahab that when the rest of the Israelites descended on Jericho, they would make sure that her life, and that of her family, would be preserved. She had just saved their lives, for despite her unsavoury background, Rahab was a believer in the God of the Israelites.
The spies’ reconnaissance mission, however, seemed to be a bit of a bust. They had to flee from the king of Jericho and hide out before crossing back over the Jordan. So what did they really accomplish?
I believe that God’s purpose in having the spies venture behind enemy lines was not just to see the lay of the land, but to provide for Rahab’s rescue. God honoured her faith and made sure that the spies encountered her during their scouting trip so that she and her family could be saved later on. God had Rahab in mind the whole time.
We see another “behind enemy lines” rescue in Luke 8:26-39.
In this account, Jesus crossed the sea of Galilee by boat to enter the country of the Gadarenes. This was Gentile territory: the presence of a herd of swine in the story marks the area as unclean according to Jewish tradition. But Jesus insisted on going anyway.
After alighting from the boat, Jesus encountered a man possessed by demons. This poor soul had been tormented for years by evil spirits, unable to lead anything resembling a normal life.
But this day, he would be set free from his bondage.
Jesus cast numerous demons out of the man, who is later found clothed and in his right mind by his astonished compatriots. They were so afraid of what had happened, however, that they begged Jesus to leave their area.
So Jesus ended up going right back across the Galilee to Israelite territory, making His trip to the Gadarene country a brief one. Being able to discern the future, Jesus would have known that His stay there would be curtailed.
But His whole journey “behind enemy lines” was worth it to save just one man.
This is the heart of God, isn’t it? He values a single life so much that He will go to extraordinary efforts to rescue that person.
He leaves the 99 sheep to go after the one that is lost. As Jesus told His disciples:
“What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the pasture and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders, comes home, and calls together his friends and neighbours to tell them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my lost sheep!’ In the same way, I tell you that there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous ones who do not need to repent.” (Luke 15:3-7)
You have no idea the lengths God will go to in order to reach you. He loves you and wants to save you.
Scripture tells us that He is not willing that anyone should perish or be lost, but that everyone would come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
You may think that you’re too far “behind enemy lines”: in prison, in bondage to sin or addiction, or living in a nation hostile to the gospel.
But God has ways of reaching you nonetheless. He values you so much that He gave His only Son to die for your sins, so that you could spend eternity with Him.
If you reach out to God in repentance and ask for His mercy, He will respond, no matter where you are.
Help is on the way!
© 2021 Lori J. Cartmell. All rights reserved.