Storied Salvation - Part V

Salvation: Old Testament Context

God has always been in the business of delivering. The stories in the Bible describe the salvation effected by God in unique ways. He saved righteous Noah and family with an ark, suspending them above the chaotic, watery justice brought about due to the wickedness of humanity. He delivered a man out of a wicked city through the agency of not only angelic messengers, but a loyal, persistent and bargaining uncle. He preserved a baby at the hands of godly midwives, a creative mother and compassionate princess by floating another ark[1] above the graves of Hebrew babies who were fed to the crocodile river-gods. This baby was saved to be a savior.

“The primary meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words translated ‘salvation’ is non-religious. Thus, the derivatives of the Hebrew root yš are used frequently in military contexts as of victories by Gideon (Judg. 8.22), Samson (Judg. 15.18), Jonathan (1 Sam. 14.45), and David (1 Sam. 28.5; 2 Sam. 19.3); of projected defeats of Aram (2 Kings 19.17) and of the enemies of Gibeon (Josh. 10.6); and of victory in general. In fact, recent translations often translate nominal derivatives of yš with ‘victory.’”[2]

Salvation was deliverance in real, experiential ways.[3]

“In general, the root yš` implies bringing help to people in the midst of their trouble rather than in rescuing them from it. It is almost exclusively theological term with Yahweh as it subject and his people as its object. The root's specifically theological usage concerns the acts of God's salvation in Israel's history (65x). Not surprisingly, forms of yš` bracket the report of the OT's paradigmatic salvation-event, the Exodus (Exod 14).”[4]

It is vital to realize that the NT authors wrote with the expectation that the hope which had been promised was in the process of being fulfilled. They were not redefining what God promised, but interpreting what they saw in light of Messiah.[5] Here are two passages that illustrate the existing breach between the way salvation is often portrayed today and its NT application:

“Knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed” Rom. 13:11.[6]

“So also the Messiah, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him” Heb. 9:28 CSB.[7]

[Salvation:] acts whereby God delivers his people from distress. The term occurs frequently in biblical and liturgical texts (cf. Gn. 49.18; Ex. 14.13, 14.30) and in the prophetic books, particularly in Isaiah (cf. Is. 45.17, ‘Israel is saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation’), and in Psalms, but almost always refers to deliverance from concrete and specific sufferings, such as oppression and exile. It is not used in connection with the remission of sin, atonement and the like. The noun moshi a (savior) is occasional used for the leaders sent by God to succor the people in times of distress (cf. Jgs.) but is generally applied only to God (Prophets; Ps.). A favorite image is that of the sprouting or flourishing of salvation (cf. The second and fifteenth benedictions of the Amidah, ‘Who causes the horn of salvation to flourish’), which is connected with the idea of the messianic sprouting of the ‘shoot of David.’”[8]

[1] Heb. Tevah - Two “arks,” Gen 6:14, Exo 2:3, both instruments of salvation.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Isa 45:21,22; 49:6; 51:5; 59:16; 62:11; Lam 3:25-26, Jon 2:9; Mic 7:7; Hab 3:18, etc.
[4] William A. VanGemeren, “ישע,” New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis (Grandrapids, MI.: Zondervan, 1997), 2:556. “The root yš` is most at home Israel's cultic literature. The Psalter accounts for almost 40 percent of its total occurrences (136x), nearly half of the psalms having at least one example.” Ibid., 2:559.
[5] Acts 4:12; Rom 10:9-13.
[6] Unless otherwise noted, citations are taken from the NASB.
[7] “So too Messiah – having been sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people, will be seen again, not to deal with sin, but for these who are eagerly awaiting him, to gain their salvation.” Heb 9:28 OGFOMM, A. Buzzard.
[8] R. J. Zwi Werblowsky and Geoffrey Wigoder, “Salvation,” The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1997), 602.

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