As you read the Bible, you see that the lives of the saints who have gone before were shaped or marked by some sort of affliction and suffering. Job is possibly the most prominent name associated with suffering, but he is certainly not the only one who suffered. Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, David, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Daniel, Paul, Peter and plenty others are on that list.
King David, who is equally as well known, though for different reasons, also lived a life full of challenges and affliction. Some came from being a soldier; some came from being a king; some came just from being human. The psalms that David penned are both a cry for help and comfort and a record of God’s faithfulness and love as he experienced them. These two themes are tightly woven into Psalm 119, making it clear where David sought his comfort and strength. In Psalm 119:50, 51, David says, “Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.”
In 2 Peter 2:7–10, Peter reminds us that God’s holiness demands separation from everything unholy. He did not spare angels who sinned, or the ancient of Noah’s day, or Sodom and Gomorrah. However, as David knew, God certainly saves the righteous. As God spared righteous Lot, in the same way “then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials…” (2 Peter 2:9).
The use of the word rescue here is compelling. Rescue means
There is a beautiful example of this in 2 Chronicles 29–32. After years of Israel’s unfaithfulness, King Hezekiah cleansed the temple, restored worship, celebrated the Passover, and organized the priests. Then as 2 Chronicles 32:1 (NIV) recounts: “After all that Hezekiah had done so faithfully, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah.” Hezekiah responded as any military man would and made a defense plan.
Hezekiah encouraged the Israelites to be strong and keep courage because the Lord their God was with them, to help them and to fight their battles (v. 8). When Sennacherib derided Hezekiah’s trust in the Lord, Hezekiah and Isaiah cried to heaven.
God answered their prayer swiftly and powerfully in 2 Chronicles 32:21:
…the Lord sent an angel, who cut off all the mighty warriors and commanders and officers in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned with shame of face to his own land. And when he came into the house of his god, some of his own sons struck him down there with the hand of sword. So the Lord saved Hezekiah and the inhabitant of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib king of Assyria and from the hand of all his enemies, and he provided for them on every side.
God did not rescue the Israelites by any military prowess, but through a supernatural work. He simply “sent an angel.” God rescued them, as it were, ex nihilo, or out of nothing.
Ex nihilo is used in Genesis 1 when God created everything. God created everything so wonderfully complex out of nothing. As my faith as been challenged recently, I am drawn to the mystery and power of God as creator and preserver of all things. God’s rescue, both in salvation and in trials (as Peter writes), is out of nothing. He does not need the stars aligned or the plan double-checked. He has only to speak a word and rescue will come to us.
As we are three weeks into a new year, remember that affliction and suffering are imminent on this narrow way. But God will rescue his people from trials in his time. He is the God of all comfort and he can do all of this ex nihilo. We need only cry to heaven and trust him.