This week's Bible Study - January 11, 2015
The Shelter of God's Protection
Quotes of the Week:
At their core, when things really matter, people see a need to turn to God for strength and protection.
Have you ever been personally impacted by a tornado or other fierce storm? It is amazing to see the damage that can be done. At times, tornadoes will plow very wide paths, impacting nearly everything in its way. At other times, it seems that a tornado can go from one side of a street to the other, leaving a perfectly intact house in between two homes that were destroyed by the storm. Around our world, there are many natural disasters that occur and in those places, humanity is unable to stand up to the force of nature. It might be tornadoes, volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, cyclones or many other types of disasters. For some of these, we may have some advance warning when they are likely to occur, but other than to seek shelter, we are powerless to alter nature.
There are many companies that build protection shelters to protect people from tornadoes, severe storms, hail and high winds. Some of them are above ground and others are below ground. I have seen programs on TV where people have spent exorbitant amounts of money to build shelters to protect from a wide array of natural disasters, including tsunamis. There are all types of doomsday shelters and bunkers that have been designed and built around the world. Years ago, there were shelters that were constructed for fear of nuclear fallout and association radiation. I suppose that some people see offering protection as a way to make money.
We like to think that we can be safe, right? If we have money to invest, we would like to think that it could be invested wisely and protected. As for our health, we often will make choices to exercise or change our eating habits, if we thought it might protect us. Many have security systems in their homes and businesses. Some people keep guns in their homes, in order to protect from intruders. We have insurance to protect our health, our homes, our cars and other possessions.
We do all we can do to provide protection, yet we know that there is only so much we can do. As previously stated, we can't protect ourselves from storms. There are many innocent people in our world who are in places where wars are either underway or could happen at the drop of a hat. Suicide bombers have walked into the middle of busy places and have caused all sorts of mayhem. You can take steps to provide a level of protection, but you can't guarantee it. There are many health concerns which come upon people - diseases, cancers and the like. There are doctors and specialists who can help treat different types of diseases, but they cannot provide full protection. When you really look at the human body, it is more amazing that everything works as it is 'supposed to', as opposed to problems occurring. We want protection. We can do things to help provide protection, but ultimately we are not in control of all that we would need to be, to truly provide protection from all things in life.
While most people contribute all of the Psalms to David, others have surmised that this Psalm may have originated from Moses. It is less important as to who wrote the passage and is more important as to its meaning for you and I. While some would like to think of God as providing protection for all ills that we may face, a German physician once spoke of this passage as the best preservative in times of cholera and as a heavenly medicine against plague and pest. Its words allow us to live with a spirit of fearlessness, even when the whole world appears to be falling apart. It can't change the world, but it can change us.
This is written to whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High and rests is the shadow of the Almighty. Where would you say that your dwelling place is? Where do you find rest? Is it in the shadow of the Almighty, as this passage indicates? As believers, most of us would say that we find shelter in God. However, the question we must all answer truthfully is not so much where we say that we go, but where we are. If you recall the Old Testament Temple, you may remember that there was an outer court and an inner court. Many people would rather spend most of their time in the outer court, where they can come and go more freely. We must realize that this passage is written to those who dwell in the Presence of God.
The Psalmist says that he will speak of the Lord, saying, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust".
The verse does not say that God is a refuge and a fortress, but rather that God is MY refuge and MY fortress. In whom do we trust? In America, our money says in God we trust, although there are people that seem to want to change that. Certainly, as believers, we put our faith and trust in God. Those who are seeking God will strive to live in close fellowship with God. All believers (and many nonbelievers) will look to God in the day of trouble, but we are called to abide in the presence of God daily. In day to day living, many claim the protection of God and association with God, but their lives are indicative of a completely different way of living that gives little regard to the things of God. It is as if they only turn to God as a last resort. We must all admit that we have each done this at some point and have fallen short of where God desires for us to be. The question we must answer, however, is when we are content to live in our 'sin' can we really say that God is our fortress?
We read that the Lord will save us from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence. A snare lures unsuspecting prey. Each of us is more easily lured to destruction by cunning foes than we would like to admit. However, when we are dwelling near to God, He will keep us from being entrapped by snares. Have you ever noticed that when you are drawing near to God that you tend to be less impacted by temptation and are able to stay away from those snares? Drawing near to God will help us stay away from things that we can't otherwise avoid. Does your day to day life exhibit a life that is near to God?
When we think of the deadly pestilence, we realize that there are some things that we cannot avoid. Often, we are
more and more aware of how scared we are of 'mysterious diseases'. If you think of the Ebola scare of 2014, and all of the things that were done in the US, you see that we are easily frightened by what we don't understand. This is not to say that we should deal with these diseases in a cavalier manner, only to show how difficult it is to deal with things out of our control.
We continue to read of the terror of night and arrows that fly by day. There will be pestilence in the darkness and
plagues at midday. Thousands may fall at our sides, but God protects. Many people take this text as their main point
of doctrine to say that God will protect them from everything. In theory, this sounds like a great idea. But,
in practice, have you seen this happen? It all sounds so plausible, and if God were able to control everything, like He can, why couldn't He do this and if so, why doesn't He? Certainly, we have all heard of how God miraculously cured a person's disease. In those times, we have experienced His protection in a way to remove the disease. At other times, we know that there have been other believers who have suffered through diseases and eventually died from that disease. Truly, we would all desire for God to remove diseases from every believer. However, what happens if this becomes the basis for your theology?
If you are expecting protection from anything that could happen to you, you are asking for something that God has not
promised. First, you have elevated your own comfort and safety in this world to top priority and it would appear that
you may be basing everything you believe on health and prosperity. I believe that those who follow God will be blessed
in many ways, but I've just seen too many dedicated Christians that have endured all sorts of problems. Secondly, what
happens to your theology when you or someone you love contracts terminal cancer or some other disease? If you are wrapped
up in health and prosperity theology, you will find yourself questioning God in a major way. If this is the key point of your faith, and it falls through, then what?
I believe that we all have seen times where God has worked in miraculous ways, and while they are greatly appreciated at the time, they are soon forgotten. Each of us should be able to look back and recall where God has worked in the lives of many people and we should be thankful for what He has done.
The Psalmist continues to remind us that we must not only 'say' that the Lord is our refuge, but we must also make the Most High our dwelling. Our words and our lives must line up, so that not only will others know that we belong to the Lord by our words, but our lives must be indicative of the life of a believer. We will never achieve perfection, and one of the ways that others see our faith is the way in which we handle failures in our lives. Often, the best witness we have is when we encounter problems, as that is most often when others are watching.
We know that God can provide for us. We read that no harm will overtake you, nor will disaster come near your tent. We also read the verse that Satan quoted to Jesus, in the midst of temptation, saying "he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone." Continuing, we read that He will tread on the lion and the cobra, and He will trample the great lion and the serpent.
It is instructive to think of the temptation of Christ in the wilderness, where Satan did tempt the Lord to show the validity of these words. What was Jesus' response? He said "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test". We cannot live our lives without regard for our safety, trusting that God will handle every problem we face. Some people tend to want to put God to the test, and when He doesn't respond as they would like, they tend to question His power.
Why does God ever protect His people? He desires a relationship with each of us and desires that we each acknowledge Him in our lives and love Him. We know that when we call on Him, He will answer us. We may not always get the answer we want, but we know that God desires a dynamic relationship with each of us. We know that the Lord will be with us in trouble, and will deliver and honor us. Isn't it amazing that the God of the universe cares anything about each of us, to be with us in the midst of our daily lives?
We read that God's desire is to show us His salvation and to bring satisfaction into our lives. We have all done things in our lives that we wish we hadn't, and we are keenly aware that God spared our life when we certainly didn't deserve it. It is out of His marvelous grace that He does go with us when we walk with Him.
This is admittedly a difficult lesson to write, because from our own human perspective we seem to see and focus on areas where it seems that God has not chosen to act. We all know people that have lost their lives prematurely, due to a myriad of different illnesses or accidents. There is part of us that would truly like to think that if we stayed close to God that we would be immune from tragedy. If this chapter in Psalms was all that the Bible contained, we would certainly question anytime tragedy befalls a believer.
Perhaps, like us, some of you are dealing with an undetermined illness that makes you cry out for God's protection. If this life were all it was about, we would certainly be more discouraged when these issues arise, but we can look further than 'now' because we know of eternity - where there is no death or sorrow or sickness. Have you ever thought of the tremendous blessing that we have been given in Jesus Christ? Through Him, we have overcome eternal death and separation from God.
It's easy to forget that there is life beyond the one we live on earth and so when life gets really difficult and the days seem eternally long; when we watch a loved one die from a disease; when planes crash into seas and natural disasters destroy lives; when evil of all kinds are perpetrated on the innocent it's hard NOT to focus on the here and now. We have to deal with what is immediately before us - we don't have a choice about that. But as we walk down the dark paths, we can focus on the light of eternity. It doesn't change our present circumstance, but it can give peace in an otherwise peace- less situation.
We will all suffer loss in this life. Grief and mourning are very real. When we are enduring illnesses and the associated symptoms, we are fearful. We know that God 'can' cure all disease and give protection from other tragedy's in life, but we know that He does not cure all disease in every believer and does not keep all safe from accidents of all kinds. However, our greater need is eternity, and we know that God not only 'can' deliver us to eternal life, but we have that as a certainty in Christ.