Yom Rvi'i, 26 Shevat 5777 — יוֹם רְבִיעִי כו שְׁבָט ה' תשעז Wednesday, 22 February 2017
God As Our Protector

INTRODUCTION:

As most of you know I come from Namibia. However a little bit of trivial information which you may not know about my country is that we only got television when I was about 13 years old. Pretty crazy! But you know what? I don't think I missed out on much. In fact, this week, as Garrett and I listened to the late night news about the new terrorist threats and Osama Bin Laden's latest taped message, I found myself wishing I didn't have a TV.

But, you know, it's all over the place. Not only on TV, but you turn on the radio and it's there. You buy the Boston Globe and the front cover reads:

[read headlines & highlights]

Phew! Am I glad I now live in Boston!

But let's face it, we all get a little unsettled by these threats. I was driving in the car this past week with my realtor as she stressed about these times of uncertainly and expressed pessimistically that she felt we were heading into world war III. At that point I really felt pity for her for the fact that her life has little to no security or stability and that her fears were not only real but also quite destabilizing.

I am so grateful that, as believers in Y'shua, we get to see the world from a different perspective, since we hold the newspaper in one hand BUT the Bible in the other.

This morning I would like us to continue in the theme which both Garrett and Greg addressed these past two weeks. The idea that we need not be afraid or anxious because our God is near and willing to act on our behalf; He calms storms and is Almighty. And we are reminded:

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Messiah Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7).

Now that is all fine and well, but let's face it, it's easier said than done. Our little minds can get quite caught up and carried away. At least mine can.

This morning, I would like us to take a look at a specific passage in the Bible that helps us to keep our hearts and minds in the right place. It's Psalm 91 which Garrett and Bimini read to us earlier.

It is presumably a Psalm that was written by a priest or levite serving in the temple and offers words of assurance and security to those who trust in God. I would like us to focus on three aspects of this Psalm:

1. God as our protector
2. The perils or dangers we are protected from
3. God's one prerequisite for that protection

Three P's Repeat

1. God as our protector
2. The perils or dangers we are protected from
3. God's one prerequisite for that protection

If you do not have your Bible open yet I encourage you to turn with me to Psalm 91.

LET'S PRAY AND ASK GOD'S BLESSING AS WE SEEK TO UNDERSTAND HIS WORD

1. God as our protector:

Psalm 91 undoubtedly has some of the most beautiful and descriptive words when it comes to addressing God as our protector.

1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."

Now that's a verse each of us should commit to memory, don't you think?

I want us to first take a look at the titles used for God before focussing on the ways in which He protects us. Here in verse 1 and 2 God is called:

the Most High, and Almighty.

He is not only High but MOST High. He is not only Mighty but ALL Mighty. The Psalmist is elevating God to the highest level.

This title Almighty, El Shaddai, is used 48 times in the Tenakh. The first time it is used is in Gen 17, the account of God establishing His everlasting covenant with our patriarch Abraham. Here God says to Abraham:

I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.

Some scholars suggest that this word "Almighty" is closely connected to the Hebrew word for mountain; which seems appropriate since the Psalmist is wanting us to grab hold of God's omnipotence: His power, His strength, His sufficiency and His immovability.

Having established God's ability to protect us because He is Most High and ALL Mighty, we now turn our attention to the way in which He protects us. We are told that God is not only our shelter but also a refuge and a fortress. There is not a redundancy of words here since each of these words describes a different aspect of the Lord's protection. Allow me to flesh these out for us.

My shelter:

When we think of the word shelter; a protective covering comes to mind. In Hebrew the word "shelter" means a hiding place.

I vividly remember the first time I was mindlessly driving along in my car when suddenly I was caught in a hailstorm. Now, not only does Namibia not have Television, it does not have hailstorms. I was terrified and in the midst of my panic attack I rushed to the nearest gas station and found shelter under the protective covering of their roof.

And that is the kind of protection God is offering you and I. No matter what the storms of life may be. Be it hailstorms or otherwise; God is our protective covering; our hiding place. And this concept of God as our shelter can be found throughout Scriptures.

In Psalm 27:5 we read

5 For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.

And Psalm 61:4 says

I long to dwell in your tent for ever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.

What beautiful imagery! God will protect us with the shelter of his tabernacle and with the shelter of His wings.

And as I was contemplating that imagery I couldn't help but think about the special time in our service each week when we call our children forward to invite them under the canopy and bless them. And I felt that that is what we are symbolically doing. We are inviting our children under the protective covering of the Lord because He is their shelter. And not only is God called our shelter but He is our refuge.

My refuge:

Three times in Psalm 91 we see God described as our refuge. Verse 2, 4 and verse 9. In Hebrew the word is "Machseh" It implies a sanctuary, a safehaven or even a tabernacle like a sukkah. A place one can retreat to and find security and shelter from danger or exposure.

In America today we meet people who call themselves refugees taken from this root word "refuge". Refugees are people, whose lives have been threatened in their country of birth, even to the point of death. This is true for example of Jewish people who have suffered under the communist regime of the Former Soviet Union. And so they seek a safehaven, a place of security from danger and harm. And so America offers to be a refuge for them. They are taken in.

And as children of the Lord that is what He does for us. We become His refugees.

In Psalm 46:1 we read:

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble."

And in Psalm 61:3:

For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.

But God is not only our shelter and refuge; he is also our fortress or high tower.

My fortress:

The Hebrew word is actually "Mezuda" from which we get Masada and those of you who have been to Israel will know what I am talking about. That immovable mountain-height or natural fortress in the South of Israel that provided a temporary protection and the last stand for the people of Israel in their fight against the Romans in 70 AD. But Israel was ultimately defeated.

And so fortresses such as Masada whether natural or man-made can provide only a limited protection against the forces of evil. But there is a fortress that can withstand even the greatest battle. It's the fortress of our God; who is the greatest fortress of all. His protection is not limited.

And no one can say it better than King David when God delivered Him from the hand of Saul who was seeking to destroy him.

"The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Ps 18:2)"

2. What He protects us from:

And having establish God as the MOST High and ALL Mighty who is our shelter, refuge and fortress the Psalmist goes on to describe in detail what we are protected from.

Psalm 91 is structurally divided into two halves of 8 verses each and in each section we see God's protection. In the first half of the Psalm we see a protection in the midst of a battle and also a protection of our health :

We read is verse 3:

"Surely he will save you from" the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence

and then in verses 5-6

"You will not fear":
the terror of night, nor
the arrow that flies by day, nor
the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.

And then in the second half of the Psalm specifically in verse 12 and13 we see God's further protection from the dangers of the rugged desert :

you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread upon the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

And while each of these areas in which God offers protection is worthy of elaborating on; I believe we need to remind ourselves of the main point. This list is pretty extensive. God wants us to understand that He will protect us in every circumstance. In just 16 verses we see God's promise of protection from 11 different threats. And not only that, but God promises to protect us (pause) by night, by day, in darkness and lest we doubt even at midday. God is not only able to protect us friends he wants to. But there is a condition, a pre-requisite and this brings us to the main and final point of this morning's message.

3. God's one condition for that protection:

God's one condition for His all-encompassing protection is found in a little two-letter word at the beginning of verse 9. It's the word "IF".

9 If you make the Most High your dwelling--even the LORD, who is my refuge- then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.

God wants nothing more than to offer you and I protection from the many dangers that pose a threat upon our life every day. But me need to understand that this protection is conditional.

Now let's be sure that we all understand that when we say God's promise of protection is conditional we are not talking about it being merited. There is a big difference. We do not earn the right to God's protection. There is nothing we could ever do to make us any more worthy of it than another person. Yet it is not unconditional in the Scriptures. Let me try to explain the difference.

If Pizza Hut sends you a coupon in the mail which says: "You have just won 10 pizza's to be delivered to your house completely free of charge, just call this number to order." You may be thrilled at this offer but understand that even though you have won the pizzas; there is still a condition in order to receive them. You need to pick up the telephone to place order. It may even be conditional on making that call while the store is open. And let's not all forget its definitely conditional on placing the call before the expiration date which is found written in teeny tiny writing at the bottom of your coupon. You get the point. You didn't do anything to earn the pizzas. They were completely free, completely unmerited. Yet there were conditions.

And while God is offering us SO much more than 10 free pizzas the point remains the same.

This morning we sang the beautiful words from Proverbs 18:10

"the Name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run into it and they are saved."

You see God longs to be our Mezudah (or Masada), our strong tower; but the righteous need to first run to Him before they are saved.

God longs to give us his unmerited; all encompassing protection. He longs to be our shelter, refuge and fortress -- but it's conditional on us making the MOST HIGH our dwelling.

This may seem obvious, but I have heard lots of complaints towards God. Why isn't God doing this or that? I remember one person Garrett was discipling back in DC who complained about all the pain he had in his relationship with his girlfriend. "Why wasn't God doing anything about it." Well, he was living with her, and when Garrett suggested that he maybe should try moving out. He said; "No, I just want God to bless it."

I want to be careful in what I say here. The last thing I want to communicate is that we have some formula for making God do things, "If I pray in these words, then God will do what I want." That is legalism, tit for tat, if I do this, then he must do that. Let's remember that God's ways are not our ways and let's also remember that God is not our sugar daddy. He promises to supply all our needs, not our wants. He promises to be with us in trouble, not necessarily take us out of it. After September 11th a friend reminded me:

"Peace is not the absence of danger but the presence of the Lord"

And that is the main point our Psalmist wants us to understand. Peace can come to us IF we make the Most High our dwelling.

God is longing for us to run to his strong tower so that He can be our shelter, so that we can come under his protective wings; but we need to be willing to come to Him.

Y'shua utters this same invitation when He says:

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, 'how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings,' but you were not willing.

There Y'shua stood, longing to gather Israel to himself, longing to spread his wings of comfort and protection over them but they were not willing.

And still today Y'shua desires to spead his wings of protection over the Nation of Israel and over you and me, but we must be willing to come to him and allow him to shelter us. And IF we do this then no harm will befall us, no disaster will come near our tent.

Psalm 91 climaxes with the most amazing set of promises. In these final 2 verses the Psalmist is no longer addressing us but the Lord Almighty himself says:

"Because he loves me," says the LORD,
"I will rescue him;
I will protect him,

For he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and:

I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and
honour him.
With long life will I satisfy him and
show him my salvation."

What more could we want than that? Let's pray