Deliverance is defined as ‘the action of being rescued or set free’, and in spiritual terms, it often refers to God’s intervention in human situations which would otherwise result in distress or death. We think of how God delivered His people from Egypt, when His people were facing the prospect of being drowned in the Red Sea or killed by Pharaoh’s chariots, but God stepped in to part the Red Sea, giving them a way through and an escape from slavery. (Ex 14-15) We think of Ruth and Naomi, bereaved and bereft, finding salvation in the generosity and kindness of Boaz. (Ruth 1-4) We think of the Jewish people, under threat from the plots of Haman, rescued thanks to the intervention of Mordecai and Esther’s appeal to the king (Esther). Deliverance, whether personal or for a whole nation, is what happens when God steps into the situation and does the impossible. The psalmists frequently spoke of this kind of rescue:
‘I will exalt you, Lord,
for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
Lord my God, I called to you for help,
and you healed me.
You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
you spared me from going down to the pit.’ (Ps 30:1-3)
‘He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.’ (Ps 18:16-17)
‘In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them.’ (Ps 22:4)
‘I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.’ (Ps 34:4)
‘For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.’ (Ps 56:13)
In Ephesus, deliverance came in an unlikely form: the town clerk (who is not even given a name in the text!) spoke to the silversmiths and other rioters and effectively quashed the complaints against Paul and his companions. (Acts 19:35-41) It’s worth pondering from this that God can use anyone He likes to do His will (even those who may not know Him or acknowledge Him, as we see when Cyrus, a foreign king, allowed God’s people to return from exile, thus fulfilling God’s plans) and that deliverance may or may not look supernatural or spectacular. I’m sure this ‘ordinary’ conversation, which saw the malcontents drift away disconsolately without causing any more trouble, could have been easily dismissed as human intervention, but Paul saw it as God’s deliverance: ‘He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again.’ (2 Cor 1:10) We should not despise the ordinary, for God can use the everyday and the ordinary to work for our deliverance and protection.