Flying a combat mission during an attack on enemy installations in Vietnam, Jeremiah Denton was shot down on July 18, 1965. He spent the next 7 1/2 years as a prisoner of war. While imprisoned Denton provided the first direct evidence of torture by the North Vietnamese. During a televised interview, he blinked in Morse Code the word “torture.” He underwent terrible suffering during his captivity. He’d prayed for deliverance, and it came in 1973 as he was finally reunited with his family back home in the U.S. He was later elected as a U.S. Senator.
In the Old Testament, the Israelites had been taken captive by Babylon. God had allowed it as the consequence of their relentless sinning for centuries. But in His mercy, He sent the prophet Isaiah to warn them to repent before being invaded. The first half of Isaiah’s book pronounces judgments on God’s people. But God also delivers a message of hope. As Isaiah looks into the future he gives comfort to the captives by promising deliverance. And after about 70 years, they were delivered.
Are you needing deliverance? Isaiah chapter 55 may speak to you. The prophet says, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near…” (v. 6). It’s not that He’s hidden, but the call is a wholehearted plea to the Lord as He eagerly waits to show His grace. When someone is in captivity to a vice or addiction, what’s the first thing that must be done? That person must recognize the problem & reach out for help, right?
The Lord invites us to reach out to Him. “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (v. 7). While we’re reaching out, we should repent for our own lack of responsibility for getting into the condition we’re in. Whether for Israel or an individual, there must be a complete reversal. Turning TO the Lord means turning AWAY from the evil that enslaves us. Better to pray like Jesus, “Deliver us from evil,” to prevent being captured in the first place. But the Jews learned the hard way, & too often so do we.
How can we be sure God will deliver? Because He says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways… For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (v. 8-9). He knows best & knows me better than I know myself. That’s why we should abandon our inferior ways & thoughts. It didn’t seem wise to the Jews, but God knew what He was doing by permitting them to be taken captive. They would learn to honor, obey & trust Him during that time.
In the same way, it didn’t seem wise for God to send His Son to be crucified. This is the suffering Servant that Isaiah prophesied in chapter 53. How could anything good come out of the disgraceful, horrific spectacle of the cross? But God’s wisdom is higher than ours. That’s exactly what was needed to accomplish our ultimate deliverance!
Noah was delivered from the flood. Moses & the children of Israel were delivered from Egyptian slavery. David was delivered from Goliath & King Saul. Elijah was delivered from Jezebel. Jonah was delivered from the storm & the fish. Daniel was delivered from the lions. Peter was delivered from prison. Jesus was delivered from the grave!
God’s Word is certain & effective. It must inevitably achieve the purpose for which He sent it. God says, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (v. 10-11). God’s Word promises deliverance from our sinful situation. It may not come quickly, but you can count on it!
Deliverance means being released to go out in joy & peace to receive blessings (v. 12-13)! How much more for those who are delivered from their sin by the Savior. Jesus gives us a joy & peace the world cannot know. They may look for it in money, sex, popularity, religions, sedatives & stimulants, but they’ll never find it until they turn to the Lord. You don’t have to remain a prisoner of this spiritual warfare. Even as we go through suffering & heartaches, we still trust in His promises for the final deliverance from this fallen world one day. Whatever tortures we endure now, we will one day finally be free forever! Deliverance is on the way.