[This is the third in a series of four Friday posts on fear.]
“You must be the bravest person I’ve seen,” the Ben Yehuda Plaza shopkeeper said as he totaled up my purchases in shekels. “After the bomb exploded last week, all the tourists fled Jerusalem.”
The bombing is obviously still heavy on his mind, I thought, remembering that the boarded-up site of the terrorist attack was less than a block away. My friend and I had noticed the absence of foreigners that night, but the number of Israeli soldiers on the streets, with their ever-present rifles, gave a feeling of security. We were probably safer in that spot than almost anywhere else in the world: terrorists seldom strike twice in the same location and the military was ready. But that wasn’t the reason that I wasn’t afraid. I explained to the shopkeeper that I was there as part of a Christian journalist tour, a guest of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism. Not wanting to leave him with the impression that I was naturally courageous I said, “I believe that God is able to protect me. Because of that, I don’t have to live in fear.”
There was a time I couldn’t have said that, but over the years I had come to trust the God who is larger than, as a movie title put it, “the sum of all our fears.” I had learned that the psalms are full of pleas to God for deliverance not only from flesh and blood enemies but from the fear those enemies evoke. Even though David had some pretty powerful fear-producers in his life (his enemies were lions, bears, giants and kings) he wrote, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them” (Ps. 34:4-7).
Psalm 34 paints a picture of beautiful trust, but the historical context shows that David acted out of fear not faith. Fleeing from King Saul, David found himself surrounded by enemies in the king of Gath’s court (1 Sam. 21: 10-15). He tried to appear harmless by pretending to be insane. The king of Gath decided he had enough crazy people around him, so he neither offered David shelter nor harmed him. Maybe David, as he wrote this psalm, recalled the shameful feelings of that ruse as he scribbled on the doors and let his saliva drip into his beard like a madman. By contrast he declared that the faces of those who look to God for protection are “never covered with shame.” It wasn’t David’s finest hour. He realized that despite his attempt at protecting himself—which could have easily backfired—it was God who had protected and delivered him.
Can Christians be assured that we will always be perfectly safe from harm? No, Christians sometimes are attacked or murdered in senseless acts of violence. And over the centuries millions were murdered for their faith in calculated persecutions. In A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (IVP 1980), Eugene Peterson explained the phrase “the Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life” (Psalm 121:7). “The promise of the psalm—and both Hebrews and Christians have always read it this way—is not that we shall never stub our toes, but that no injury, no illness, no accident, no distress will have evil power over us, that is, will be able to separate us from God’s purposes in us.”
Whether in a war zone or inside a king’s palace, we are kept safe by God’s power. However, that isn’t a promise of absolute physical safety but a promise of being kept in God’s absolute sovereignty—safely in His plan.
© 2012 by Vicki Huffman
Vicki Huffman is the author of two Christian non-fiction books and a Christian-based novel which are available in various forms through the author (email Mentoring Moments) or amazon.com. To read the first chapter of her novel A Secret Hope at no cost, follow here.