33. God Answers

God in the Psalms No.33  – God who answers distress calls

Psa 20:1 May the LORD answer you when you are in distress

Imagine a little boat in a storm, surrounded by mountainous waves, the mast broken, the rudder missing, drifting in the enormity of the ocean, lost! In the heaving cabin a figure is at a small radio set, with a microphone in his hand, crying out that well-known international distress call, “May Day, May Day, is there anyone out there”. As the battery gets weaker and weaker, hope begins to falter. There is no one out there! But still the call goes out, “May Day, May Day!” And then, almost at the point of giving up, there is a crackle from the receiver and a voice answers, “Distressed vessel, we have you on our radar, we should be with you in half an hour.” Relief! We’ve been heard! Some one knows! They are coming!  Who they are doesn’t matter; they’ve heard us, they are responding to us, we’re no longer alone in this. Half an hour later an enormous ocean going tanker appears dwarfing even the mountainous waves. Rescue has come!

David knew ‘distress’, David knew times when he seemed alone, facing huge odds, in peril, desperately needing help. The second half of the above verse is interesting: may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.” It’s possible that in this psalm he was addressing his men. They went out in the name of the Lord; they were the Lord’s people, and therefore they may assume that when they cry out in distress, the Lord will pay special attention to them. Do you remember the occasion when Jesus stayed on the hillside to pray and sent the disciples across the lake (Mt 14:23,24)? The disciples were out on the lake buffeted by the wind and the waves, going nowhere! Yet Jesus on his hillside viewing point, sees their distress and goes out to them!  They are his disciples so he keeps his eye on them and will be there for them when they need him. If we are God’s children, let’s remember that the Father is there for us; we’re His family!

Have you ever noticed this, that when we’re in distress, all you need is the Lord’s voice breaking through?  All we need is to know that He knows and when in the midst of the trial, His voice breaks through, that is enough!  To hear God’s voice and to know it is Him, is the most wonderful thing! He’s there, He knows, He’s responded! It’s all right!

But it doesn’t stop there.  David continues in the second verse: May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.” When you’re in distress and you cry out, the Lord will answer, that’s the first bit, but He’ll also do something and send you help! At the point of distress we don’t care what help as long as it is help. At the point of distress we come to place complete reliance and trust in the Lord. However He’s going to do it, we don’t care, as long as He does it. We’ll just trust and rejoice in the help whatever it is, and however it comes. When you’re desperate you’re like that!

Later in the psalm David reiterates his trust: Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand.” (v.6). Note in this that David knows who he is. He knows he is God’s anointed one, the one chosen by God to lead. For us, as we said above, we’re to know we are God’s children, and know that because we are, our Father in heaven who watches over us, will see and hear and answer and come on our behalf. He may leave us for a bit, while we learn some things, but He will come. You have doubts about this? If you have children think back to times when there were small (perhaps they still are) and cried out in distress. Did you just stand there?  No, you responded to their distress!  So does God!

31. Harms Way

ADVENT MEDITATIONS No.31

31. Out of Harm’s Way

Matt 2:14,15 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

The world in which we live today seems increasingly unstable. Three or four years ago, terrorist threat became a very real feature of modern life and that has continued. In the past years the forces of nature have also wreaked havoc in many parts of the world, and it seems that no area of safe from possible natural catastrophe. Fear has become a very real part of many people’s lives as society has changed out of all recognition from fifty years ago. Where is there some source of stability?

As we look into these verses today and yesterday, we find our answer. Hollywood has produced various films where rogue government groups hunt the hero. This could be one such story and the rogue authority is Herod. He is shortly going to have every child under the age of two killed in an attempt to purge the land of a potential competitor to his family dynasty. Very soon the land is going to be very unsafe for this little family; their lives are under a very real threat, even if they don’t realise it fully yet.

And that’s where God’s intervention comes in. God has bound Himself to permit us free will – and that includes allowing evil men to be evil, so the murder of the infants will happen. As terrible as that is, it cannot be avoided. This is what sinful men do! However, while the plans of Herod are being made, the Lord speaks to His servant, Joseph, in a dream, knowing that this is a man who has proved that he listens and obeys. Possibly God was speaking to all the other parents with young children, but few if any heard.

Where does Joseph and Mary’s security come from? It comes from hearing God’s words of guidance and protection and responding to them. Note the twofold aspect of that. God speaks AND they obey. God could have spoken and they refused to go. In such a case Jesus would have been killed! No, their security came from obeying what God said to them; it was that which put them out of harm’s way. Does God not move sovereignly to protect His children? Yes He does, but more often than not, it seems that He wants our co-operation. The story of Peter’s escape from prison, from the plans of a later Herod (see Acts 12), is a classic example of this. God’s angel told him what to do and opened up doors for him, but he still had to get up, get dressed and follow the angel, step by step, out of the prison. Do you see this? Our security is not some passive thing, whereby we just sit back and let God pander to us. He wants us to be an active part of His plans and so He involves us in our deliverance from harm.

Is this easy? Is this easy, this listening to God and responding to Him? In as much as it requires us to learn to listen to Him, and the old natural ‘us’ would prefer to reason out our own lives, no, it’s not easy, but this is how it works! It’s what we’ve been saying again and again: this Christmas story is not a comfortable soft and mushy children’s story; it is an account of how God actually moved in the affairs of men and women, and it challenges us who call ourselves His children, to walk in the same way as them – the way of faith. When we learn to do this, we can be at peace, in the strong assurance that God is for us, and He who knows all things will lead and guide us – as much as we will allow Him to lead and guide! Maybe you have a steep learning curve ahead it you – but it’s worth it! Go for it!

God, a Shield

God in the Psalms No.3

Psa 3:3 But you are a shield around me, O LORD ; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head

We have seen previously that God sees and God acts. God reigns from heaven through His anointed on the earth. He is the Lord. Now all of that could remain purely academic, purely remaining in our mind and leaving the rest of us untouched, but not so for David. The God who is ‘out there’ is also ‘down here’ with us and therefore has effect upon us.

For David, as he flees from his rebellious son, as he fears for his life, he sees the Lord as a shield. Remember what a shield is? Something you hold out in front of you to protect you. We have windshields in our cars to protect us from the wind as we drive. We have shields around x-ray machines in hospitals to protect us from the x-rays. We have shields in nuclear reactors to protect us from harmful radioactivity. We have sunshield creams to protect us from too much sunshine. A shield keeps something away, stops something from harming us. Thus for David, he is able to say that the Lord stands between him and his enemies to keep them from harming him.

But more than this; he says that the Lord is a shield around me. In other words, the Lord’s protection completely surrounds him. There is nothing half-hearted about this protection. It is complete.

When others come against us with words, with unkindness, or with harmful intentions, do we know the security that comes from experiencing the Lord standing between us and them? That’s what it is – a sense of Him standing between us and them, and therefore we can be sure that they cannot harm us. That knowledge means that we can therefore stand there without fear, stand there in the grace of God, knowing that we are God’s children, loved and protected. This means we can smile at our enemies. This means we can pray for our enemies (Mt 5:44). As we stand there, confronted by our enemies, we can know peace and security, because He is there and He surrounds us with His protection.

But there is more in this verse. Sometimes when others seem to be against us, it has the effect of wearing us down. We feel we are in a place of blackness, a place of isolation and loneliness. So what does David go on to say? “You bestow glory on me. The light of God’s presence seems to shine in our darkness and two things follow. First, we know that we are not alone; He is here. Second, the darkness, the heaviness, falls away as His light shines and suddenly we are no longer cast down. Suddenly we find we are walking with our head held high. As David said, the Lord came to lift up my head.

Yes, this is what this psalm tells us: our God is not just the all-powerful, all-mighty, all-knowing God ‘out there’, but He is personal, here for me. I can experience His presence, here and now. I can know security because He is here and now, to guard me and protect me, to stand between me and those who are against me.

Can we learn to have that sense, that God IS here with us and that He is here FOR us, to love us (for He is love – 1 Jn 4:8), and to protect us, as He stands all-powerfully between us and the people or things that would seek to harm us? He is there to ensure that we are not harmed by them, and He wants us to learn to know Him, know His presence, know His power, know His protection, and in ‘knowing’ we shall be changed.