A Place Called Safe
by Tom Stewart
July 4, 2002
"In the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice"
From a current events perspective, good news is rare. "Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving,
and being deceived" (2Timothy 3:13).
Think about it. Were it not for the Gospel, there would be nothing about which
to be glad. "10
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for,
behold, I bring you Good Tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto
you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the LORD" (Luke 2:10-11). God created us so that "no man ever yet hated his own flesh" (Ephesians 5:29); and, when someone abducts a child
in our neighbourhood, starts a fire close by, threatens to shut down the cyber controlled
infrastructure of emergency response, utilities, etc., then we begin to take notice
of the fragile nature of safety. "No weapon
that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against
thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the
LORD, and their righteousness is of Me, saith the LORD"
(Isaiah 54:17). The safety of the space that surrounds us is
affected even by the security of our employment situation and the prosperity of our
economic environment; indeed, the world observes that crime and homelessness can
often be traced back to the lack of decent paying jobs. "Men
do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry" (Proverbs
6:30). But, the Saints are to continually hope in the LORD's
provision. "I have been young, and now
am old; yet have I not seen the Righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread" (Psalm 37:25). [See our article, "Provision in the LORD" ---New Window, for Promises on Provision.]
Until we have reached the end of confidence in self, we shall forever wonder at those Saints who notice the difficultness and insecurities of the times; but, how can we genuinely yearn for His appearing, if we have too great a confidence in our earthly circumstances? "Set your affection on things Above, not on things on the Earth" (Colossians 3:2). The secret is that God will preserve those who trust Him from the dangers surrounding them, until He promotes them to Glory. "Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of Thy wings" (Psalm 17:8). Until the Sovereign LORD chooses to remove us from this planet, He must hide us in His safety. "Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in Thee: yea, in the shadow of Thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast" (Psalm 57:1). Our safety is not our ignorance of our circumstances, but it is our supreme confidence that "safety is of the LORD" (Proverbs 21:31).
We must cooperate with the LORD in promoting our own safety:
Though we have every justification within the Law of Love, i.e.,
"Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself [not less or more]" (Matthew 22:39), to promote our own safety, and though
we can be Divinely called to set aside our safety to do good for someone else, i.e.,
"Greater love hath no man than this, that
a man lay down his life for his friends" (John
15:13), it must become soon apparent to the Saints that we need more
than our personal willingness to promote our safety, for even the world does the
same. "Not by might, nor by power, but
by My Spirit, saith the LORD of Hosts" (Zechariah
4:6). Instead, enough cannot be made of the promises of God for safety,
since our need of safety is only another means by which the LORD of Armies causes
us to trust Him, and thereby be "sanctified
by faith that is in [Jesus]" (Acts 26:18). [See the collection of Promises
for safety in our article, "Safety
in the LORD" ---New Window, in the Promises
Section ---New Window of our website.] Collectively, our
confidence in the LORD to keep us safely is founded in His Promises. "Whereby are given unto us Exceeding Great and Precious
Promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the Divine Nature, having escaped
the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2Peter
1:4). Our confidence of safety must be firmly in the LORD's presence.
"Yea, though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy
staff they comfort me" (Psalm 23:4).
But, we must not forget that our safety is never more important than our sanctification,
that is, we must be more concerned about increasing our relationship of trusting
God than to be merely content with our personal safety. "The
just shall live by faith" (Hebrews 10:38).
A sobering example of the Christian's necessity to comprehend the gravity of their dangerous circumstances, while confidently abiding in the safety of the LORD, is the recent death of missionary aviator Martin Burnham, held captive with his wife Gracia for more than a year by the al Qaida linked Abu Sayyaf in the jungles of the Philippines. Shortly before his death, he said, "We might not leave this jungle alive, but at least we can leave this world serving the Lord with gladness. We can serve Him right here where we are, and with gladness." "Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in Thee: yea, in the shadow of Thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast" (Psalm 57:1). [See our article, "Martin Burnham Went to Heaven"---New Window, for more background on Martin's June 7th 2002 homegoing.] Is there a conflict between the LORD preserving us safely and His need of completing the work of sanctification in us? "God forbid" (Romans 6:2)! Are we also to conclude that the New Testament martyrs, John the Baptist, Stephen, Peter, and Paul, were not familiar with the safety of the LORD? Certainly not! "Because Thou hast been my Help, therefore in the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice" (Psalm 63:7). God will wisely and perfectly balance the need of our safety with the needs of our usefulness and sanctification. "How excellent is Thy Lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings" (Psalm 36:7).
The first recorded Christian martyr, deacon Stephen, "a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 6:5), surely comprehended the threat to his physical safety, when he responded to the Jews, who were disputing with his wise presentation of the Crucified Saviour. "10 And they were not able to resist the Wisdom and the Spirit by which [Stephen] spake. 11 Then they suborned men [induced them to give false testimony]... 12 And they stirred up the people... 13 And set up false witnesses..." (Acts 6:10, 11, 12, 13). Before they violently, emotionally, and with great malice, pronounced the death sentence on Stephen-- without the formality of the permission of their Roman occupiers to do so-- Stephen summarized the Truth of their awful circumstances. "51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. 52 Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: 53 Who have received the Law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it" (Acts 7:51-53). Even as this Spirit filled servant of God died-- who willingly and obediently set aside the safety that He had a Divine right to claim-- he planted seeds to flourish the Church. "58 And [they] cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. 59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, LORD Jesus, receive my spirit" (Acts 7:58-59). Who does not see that the blood of Christ that bought Stephen, caused him to sacrifice his safety, that his blood would water the Church, which would produce the harvest of the Apostle Paul-- formerly, Saul, the great persecutor of the Early Church. "And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him" (Acts 22:20). [See our article, "Martyrdom: They Loved Not Their Lives Unto the Death"---New Window.]
Only the Spirit of God can tell us when it is appropriate to expect our safety or to trust Him for the bold witness of faith in Jesus that we know will take place at the completion of the Church Age. "10 And I heard a loud voice saying in Heaven, Now is come Salvation, and Strength, and the Kingdom of our God, and the Power of His Christ: for the accuser of our Brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. 11 And they overcame him by the Blood of the Lamb, and by the Word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. 12 Therefore rejoice, ye Heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the Earth and of the sea! for the Devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time" (Revelation 12:10-12). Unless we are shown otherwise, seek the promises of God for safety. "But when ye go over Jordan, and dwell in the land which the LORD your God giveth you to inherit, and when He giveth you rest from all your enemies round about, so that ye dwell in safety; then there shall be a place which the LORD your God shall choose to cause His name to dwell there" (Deuteronomy 12:10, 11).
[You may also like to examine our article, "Must There Be a Pre-Tribulational Rapture?"---New Window]
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