This morning, we’re continuing our new message series entitled, “Understand” where we’re learning just how powerful and critically important understanding truly is. This becomes the foundational requirement to fulfilling our vision this year. After all, we cannot truly connect with someone unless we understand them and we cannot begin to understand someone until we connect with them.
We learned that to truly understand someone requires humility on our part; to lay down our pre-conceived notions and assumptions and to ask questions to learn about someone. In the same way, we must humbly lay down ourselves and choose to tell others what is happening inside us and not expect them to know otherwise.
We went to the second book of the Bible that most frequently speaks to our need of understanding: Job. This week, we continue on the same theme of understanding God; especially during difficult times.
We’ll start by focusing on a powerful and unchanging attribute of God. This attribute is so powerful that it was the very thing that Satan challenged Job on and was also one of the three temptations that Satan chose to throw at Jesus in the wilderness. It is also one of the few attributes that Jesus verbally expressed about His people, Israel. It is an attribute that Satan tries to deceive us with today as well. That attribute is God as our Protector.
We’ll start with this Psalm quoted by Satan against Jesus by an unknown author that expresses God’s desire to be our Protector. This is an awesome reminder and promise to stand on when it becomes difficult to understand what God is doing in our lives.
1 Whoever 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.”
3 Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
9 If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”
Jesus expressed this same attribute of longing to be the Protector of His people here:
Luke 13:34-35; Matthew 23:37-39
“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, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
If being our Protector is such a core attribute of who God is, then why do we experience harm and disaster in life? Why are we not always covered under the wings of God, our refuge?
I believe that the scriptures reveal two general reasons why this happens.
- We choose not to live under His covering
Just as we read Jesus’ lament, He longs to connect with us and bring us under His wing, but we are unwilling. God will never force Himself on any of us and this includes all of His amazing benefits. If you’ve never chosen to put your faith in Jesus, or if you know that you are simply not where you should be in your relationship with Him, you’ll often feel the pain and consequence of not being under the protective covering of God.
The reality is that anytime that we choose to live outside of the principles and constraints of God’s word, we choose to walk out from under His covering. The boundaries which God’s word define are ones to ensure our safety and freedom in life. They are guidelines drawn in love for His creation even as any good parent draws safe boundaries in the lives of their children to protect them.
It is easy to see this reality in the consequences of people who deny Jesus altogether with their lives. Those who live blatantly sinful lives in rebellion against God clearly reveal how quickly a single life can be damaged and destroy so many other lives in their path with their choices.
Definitely, if you know that you are not where you should be at with God, I urge you to go running to Him so that He can bring you in under His cover. Come running like the prodigal son into the arms of your Heavenly Father and don’t waste even another moment! His love and His mercy is new this morning and there’s no time like the present to get your life right with God. God is able to make all things new and to restore all things lost.
However, it is easy for even the most faithful and devout follower of Christ to unknowingly walk out from under His covering. It is easy to get consumed by the things of this world and to neglect staying under the cover of God’s protection.
This Psalm begins, “whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High.” To dwell in the shelter of God’s protection is quite different than the lives that most Christians live. To dwell is a place of permanence, a place where we primarily spend our time and resources. It is a place where we invite others into visit us. We can be in a dwelling place and be completely unaware of the storms that are happening outside while we are consumed by the peace and comfort found inside.
The root word used here for the phrase, “whoever dwells” is a Hebrew word carrying the idea of continuing in, to habitate, to marry, to remain, to tarry. For sure, this is the lifestyle choice defined by this Psalm; one who dwells in the shelter of God. The tranquil protection defined by the Psalm is conditional on this single phrase, “whoever dwells”.
If we are to be honest before the Lord, God’s protection for many of us is much more-so a lean-to shack that we remain somewhat nearby so that when things get bad, we can run to it and get out of the bulk of the storm’s affects. We don’t really remain there and we put little to no effort into building it up. We’re well aware of every little breeze and storm that comes our way and feel the blunt of them most of the time. We spend more time dabbling in the things of this world than diving into the depths of God’s Presence.
Oh, but to live a life within the dwelling place of God’s protection! To be delivered and honored by the Lord, Himself when times of trouble comes. To be satisfied with long life, to be covered by His feathers, and to find refuge under His wings. These all far outweigh and outvalue any sacrifices made in order to live a lifestyle which dwells in the Presence of God and under His divine protection!
So the first reason which we may not be covered under the divine protection of God is simply because we choose not to live under it. The second general reason is that:
- God is testing, proving, and/or growing us
The scriptures give us the visualization over and over again of God’s protection being us under His wing like a chick under a mother hen’s covering. We know that any loving mother eventually also boots its chicks out of the nest. It isn’t because she doesn’t love them or because she wants harm to come to them, it is because she wants them to see what they are capable of.
The Lord will sometimes withdraw His protection intentionally in order to do the same for us. It may be to test or prove our faith or simply to grow us in some way. Think of Job. His problems in life did not come because he chose to walk out from under the covering of God. In fact, Job was a very faithful and obedient man to God and was very careful to make the Lord His dwelling place. Listen to the conversation that took place in Heaven:
6 One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. 7 The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”
Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”
8 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
9 “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
12 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.
God withdrew His divine protection from Job’s life and permitted Satan’s power to have control instead.
It was to prove Job’s faithfulness to God and not merely to the blessing and benefits of God. If we find ourselves shrinking back from serving and worshipping God when things get rough, this might just be a healthy heart check-up for us. Is our god the one, true, living God, or have we made our god His blessing and benefits?
Job’s response to the tragic loss of his family and belongings proved who His god truly was:
…he fell to the ground in worship and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”
Remember that Satan quoted Psalm 91 to Jesus to tempt Him to intentionally step out from under His Heavenly Father’s covering. However, it was the Holy Spirit who lead Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. We may receive this same test from time to time in order to keep us trusting in God alone and not only His benefits.
We all love hearing this scripture, but it still rings true and helps us keep perspective during times of testing:
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
And also this reminder:
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Hope comes not in an instant when we face times of trouble, but as an end result as we persevere and allow that perseverance to build character within us throughout seasons of suffering. God’s intentionally lifted protection causes our faith to grow and also proves our faith to be genuine. He doesn’t remove His protection intending to harm us, but to grow us and to show us that we are stronger and capable of more than we realize.
God’s protection sometimes spares us from trouble, but also found in this Psalm is the simple quote of the Lord, “I will be with him in trouble.”
Sometimes in the midst of trouble and tests, it is enough just to know that the Lord is near you. The fact that the Lord is near us, but has removed His protection is evidence that we are strong enough, prepared enough, and trained enough to fight this fight and to earn the victory! It is a powerful display that the Lord trusts us enough to prove our faith is sincere and that it will endure whatever test given it by our enemy.
Imagine a smile on God’s face as He says to Satan, “Have you considered my servant, (your name here)?”
This morning, let us choose to make the Lord our dwelling place. Let us resolve to remain hidden away in the refuge and protection of the Lord. Let us pursue His Presence above all else.
However, when the Lord chooses for us seasons to step out of His covering, let us be strong and courageous enough to stand each test and prove that no matter what comes our way, our faith and our commitment is to the Lord alone!