Human Vulnerability Vs Divine Protection
Dr. Saju Joseph
Human beings are exposed to sickness, danger and death always and everytime. This awareness is the reason for fear and anxiety in every one’s life on this earth. The famous pastoral counselor and author Howard Clinebell says that every human problem has a spiritual dimension. The only animal or a living being, which knows that it has an end in this life on earth or death, is a human being. Therefore, any hint of sickness or danger evokes the thought of impending death in a human being. In fact it is this knowledge about his or her death which makes a human being basically spiritual.
Human life is vulnerable on earth. It has no security. The susceptibility to disease, danger and death leads people to take utmost care and precautions in life. From the least to the greatest, every one on earth takes precautious measures in their own way. The rich and most privileged like rulers and leaders of nations receive the maximum security possible to protect and save their valuable lives. But, even such measures may sometimes prove to be futile when dangers and death happen by various means within a split second. It can be heart attack, terrorist’s attack, airplane crash, or other road accidents. The accidental deaths of American Presidents, Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, the Indian Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi are examples. Their lives were taken away inspite of strong human security measures.
If this is the plight of human beings on earth, is it possible to lead a stress free life in this world? Yes, the Bible says that it is possible to do so, in this vulnerable and susceptible world. Both Old and New Testament saints trusted in a God who protects and cares for His people. There are promises of God that he would protect His people. God’s protection and provision for human beings are mainly of two types. One, is His general protection which he extends to all humans irrespective of their qualities. The other is special protection for his children to fulfill His purpose in their lives.
But sometimes the question arises “Why do God’s people or children undergo danger and death through incurable diseases or accidents.” “Why did not God save the lives of his own children who are members of His church”. Why doesn’t God answer our prayers on certain occasions? Before we come to answer to this questions let’s think about God’s protective measures for his people.
Psalm 91 is a good example of the way God protects His people. This Psalm describes divine protection (vv. 1-4), satanic perils (vv. 5-13) and divine promises (vv. 14-16).
If we find our refuge in the secret place, who will be our companion? The Spirit mentions four names of God, a galaxy of titles, each with a specific precious meaning. The Most High—El Elyon, was used by Melchizedek (Gen.14: 19), and by Daniel (4:24). It is used mostly in relation to Gentiles (Deut.32: 8). El Shaddai—Almighty, was used by Jacob and Job. Some say it is derived from ‘shad’, the breast. It speaks of God as the Provider, the All-Sufficient One. Jehovah - the covenant-making and covenant-keeping God, is also included in the introduction to this psalm, as is Elohim—the Creator (Gen.1:1).
These verses could be read thus: He that dwells (makes his home) in the secret place of El Elyon, shall abide (lodge) under the shadow of Shaddai. I will say of Jehovah, He is my refuge and my fortress, my Elohim: in Him will I trust.
These four magnificent titles of God, describing His majesty, glory, power, compassion, and tenderness, are the resource and hiding place for every timid and tried child of God. There are four descriptions of this hiding place for the saint:
a) a secret place, known only to God and His children; b) a mighty fortress, impregnable to the enemy; c) A soldier’s equipment - a shield and buckler (perhaps a coat of mail, Ephes.6:11-18; and d) a bird’s nest, where we are covered by the wings of the mother bird. This is a beautiful simile used of creation, the Passover, the Tabernacle, Ruth, by David in the Psalms, and by our Lord in Mathew 23:37. Moses would see the eagle in the desert of Sinai, with its mighty wings and claws and beak protect its young in the nest.
We have the same idea of shelter in the wings of the cherubim over the mercy seat in the holiest in the Tabernacle, and in the Shekinah cloud of glory covering the Tabernacle.
Theodore Beza, Reformer and Bible Translator, when dying, went back to the three personal pronouns of Psalm 91:2 my refuge, my fortress, my God, in Him will I trust. Moses, Elijah, David, Paul, and John were well acquainted with this secret place. It is available for us, too.
There is a story about God’s great miracle in the days of the persecution of the Covenanters in Scotland, a group of humble saints were having a secret meeting on the moors. A scout suddenly reported, “The soldiers are coming!” The venerable Alexander Peden, the preacher for the “hill folk,” dropped on his knees and cried: “O Lord, cover old Sandy and his flock with the shadow of Thy wing.” Then a thick mist came down and blanketed them from view, and the soldiers passed on, unable to find God’s people.
Ten enemies are mentioned in three categories:
Weapons of the enemy. The arrow by day and the terror by night come suddenly upon us. The snare and the booby trap are like the attacks of Amalek and Moab. Later, the maledictions of Balak and Balaam also sought to ambush God’s own.
Bodily sickness. The noisome pestilence that walks in darkness and the destruction that wastes at noonday portray the calamities that overcome us. The book of Numbers describes the various plagues that overtook the people in the wilderness, all of them brought on by their own folly and sin. In the rebellion of Korah, 14,700 died (Num.16:49). In the plague that followed their sin with the women of Moab, 24,000 died Num.25:9. At the end of forty years, out of the 600,000 men that left Egypt, only two survived—Joshua and Caleb.
Wild beasts. The lion, the adder, and the dragon are mentioned. All three are used as figures of Satan in the Scriptures. The lion devours ( 1.Pet.5:8); the serpent or adder is the most subtle (Gen.3:1); the dragon is the persecutor (Rev.12: 13).
Here we have the voice of God the Father. Seven times we have the words, “I will.” These are things He did for His beloved Son, but also what He will do for His people. They are not spoken to the trusting soul, but of him to others by the Father. This makes the utterances very impressive. T. Earnest Wilson says that the seven promises are the answers to the seven prayers of Psalm 90:14-17.
His love. All is traced back to God’s love and our response to it. This was true, first of all of Christ and His love to His Father, mentioned many times in John 13-17. We love Him because He first loved us. The New Testament speaks of six people whom Jesus loved. He loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus; the rich young ruler; the Apostle John—the disciple whom Jesus loved; Paul could say: “He loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal.2:20). As the seventh, we can put in our individual names and say: “He loved me, blessed be His name.”
His Name. “I will set him on high, because he hath known My name” (v. 14). This could be applied to the Lord Jesus in His resurrection and exaltation to God’s right hand. But we, too, when we know and enjoy the meaning of the names at the beginning of this psalm, can be lifted out of this dreary world and enter into the peace and rest of the secret place of the Most High.
Prayer. “He shall call upon Me and I will answer him.” This was true of the secret prayer life of our Lord when He was here below, so beautifully outlined in Luke’s Gospel. We can also gladly testify to answered prayer. Again and again the Lord has heard our cry and answered in the nick of time.
Trouble. “I will be with him in trouble.” Job said: “Man …born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble” (Job.14:1)). But in contrast, the Saviour said: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me” (John.14:1). What a comfort it is to have the presence of the Lord with us in our trouble.
Honor and deliverance. “I will deliver him, and honor him.” The Word declares: “Them that honor Me I will honor, and they that despise Me shall be lightly esteemed” (I Samuel 2:30). This is illustrated in the lives of Moses, Joseph, and Daniel, and in the experience of many others since.
Long life. “With long life will I satisfy him.” In spite of the seventy to eighty years predicted as frail man’s life span in Psalm 90:10, Moses lived 120 years, and at the end, his eye was not dim nor his natural force abated. Joshua lived 110 years. Caleb at 85 asked for a tough task; he took on the three sons of Anak and captured Hebron, the royal city (Josh.14, Eph.2.6-10).
We might ask, ‘If long life is promised to obedient children, why do some submissive children die at a young age?’. The answer in part may be found on the tomb of a young believer in the Catacombs: “He lived long enough.” Rebels never live long enough to fulfill the purpose for which they were made. Only the obedient child lives “long enough.”
And show him My salvation. Salvation has three tenses: past, present, and future. There is deliverance from the penalty, power, and presence of sin.
God’s Will and Deliverance
New Testament is the ultimate revelation of God’s will and plan for man. It is more spiritual and eternal than earthly and ephemeral. God is more concerned about man’s soul and eternity. Therefore the protection or deliverance of his children from sickness, dangers and death on this earth ultimately depends on God’s perfect will in our lives. Only those who have Christian maturity can have this knowledge.
Divine protection from dangers, death and sickness today is only a token advance of the eternal protection and deliverance that the saved ones will enjoy in eternity with our Lord! God protects his people and delivers from earthly sufferings and death only if God has a special purpose in it. All misery in human life also is a token advance of the pain and suffering the lost people have to go through in eternal fire. Neither physical healing nor material blessings are perpetual. Even the God given gifts can be taken away from our lives. Those who experienced divine healing from diseases can be affected by the same disease or another on a later stage. Even those whom Jesus resurrected from death died again.
In short, as a Christian grows to maturity he or she has to learn that God protects and delivers from death and dangers in this earthly life if only it is His will and plan in our lives for His glory and our good. We Christians have the right and privilege to “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Our Lord will protect and deliver us from troubles for sure. But we also should have the attitude of Jesus when He prayed on the Mount of Olives, “Father, if you are willing take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Amen.