One of the most spectacular and magnificent 19th-century military invasions did not conquer new lands or win a great war. It is rarely mentioned in history books, or celebrated during any holiday. Yet, this military invasion, because of the monumental resources committed and logistics involved, is considered by military historians to be one of the greatest military invasions of all time. It took place in Ethiopia in 1868, and is considered an equal military masterpiece to the Allies’ 1944 invasion of France in World War II.
The scenario was this: For four years, Emperor Theodore III of Ethiopia had held a group of 53 European captives (30 adults and 23 children), including some missionaries and a British consul, in a remote 9,000-foot-high bastion deep in the interior of Ethiopia. By letter, Queen Victoria pleaded in vain with Theodore to release the captives. Finally, after exhausting all diplomatic channels, the government ordered a full-scale military expedition from India to invade Ethiopia, not to conquer the country and make it a British colony, but to rescue the tiny band of civilians.
The British spared no expense in their pursuit of freedom for the captives. They expended millions of pounds towards the rescue. The invasion force included 32,000 men, and 44 elephants to carry the provisions and heavy artillery. The provisions included 50,000 tons of beef and pork, and 30,000 gallons of rum. Engineers built landing piers, water treatment plants, a railroad and telegraph line, and many bridges. All of this effort was made to fight one decisive battle, free the prisoners, and go home.
In Acts, we read about another kind of invasion. Not a military invasion into the heart of a nation to win a battle to free prisoners, but a spiritual invasion into the heart of a man to win a soul for the kingdom of God. Saul of Tarsus was a zealous and violent man, intent on stamping the life out of the fledgling church of Jesus Christ. He hated Christians, and he hated the Christ they served. Yet, grace invaded into the heart of this raging man. We read of this spectacular spiritual invasion in Acts 9:1-18. It’s an amazing story of undeserved, unearned grace invading the heart of Christ’s enemy to conquer him with the Gospel, and claim him for God’s kingdom.
When grace invades, there’s never any doubt about the outcome. God accomplishes His plans, and when He begins a good work in the heart of a man or woman, He sees it through to completion. But our faulty sense of fairness would have us object to this invasion of grace into the heart of Saul. Saul didn’t deserve it. He didn’t do anything to merit such mercy. Saul didn’t pursue Jesus, he persecuted Jesus. Why on earth would God choose to expend the time and energy to invade this guy’s heart?
Well, that’s the glorious thing about grace. That’s what makes it so amazing. Saul didn’t deserve to have his heart invaded by the love of Christ any more than we do. Yet, God, in His sovereignty chose to penetrate the hard heart of His enemy Saul, and changed him forever. God was willing to spare no expense and spend the most precious resource on earth, the blood of Jesus, in order to save Saul of Tarsus.
Certainly, it’s hard to believe the British would spend so much money, time, resources, and men to try to save the lives of a few European prisoners in the middle of nowhere. Yet, the decision to save those people, and the lengths the British went to make it happen, are an amazing testament of the sanctity of life.
It’s also hard to believe God would spend so much to save our lives when we are so undeserving. Why would God go to such lengths to invade our hearts with His amazing grace? Saul was undeserving of His grace, and so are we. Only when we understand and consider how undeserving we really are, will we truly begin to appreciate the lengths God went to, and the glorious riches He spent on our behalf in order to invade our hearts, and save us for His glory.