I want to encourage you with a scripture from Proverbs 18:10:
‘The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous run into it and are safe.’ (NRSV).
You might be familiar with this scripture already.
On several occasions in the Book of Exodus, God identifies himself to his people with a different name. For example, in the Burning Bush encounter with Moses, God identified himself to Moses as ‘The I AM THAT I AM’ (Exodus 3:14). After the Burning Bush experience, God identified himself again as JEHOVAH (or the LORD). God said to Moses: ‘And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob by the name of God Almighty, but by My name JEHOVAH was I not known to them’ (Exodus 6:3).
In another instance, it was rather Moses who ‘built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi [that is, The Lord my banner]; for he said, “Because the Lord hath sworn that the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation’ (Exodus 17:15-16).
Why does God’s name keep changing? For me, God’s name expresses his nature and qualities.
That is, who God is and what God can do. So in distressing times such as ours, when we are fighting an invisible (or a visible) foe, as a person who trusts in God and in his Son Jesus Christ with your heart, invoking God’s name for your safety and protection, for me, is the best you can hope for.
Most often in the Psalms, you read how King David says, ‘in my distress, I cried out to God’. For David, God’s name is synonymous with a safe haven; a place of protection; a place where he can hide from his foes; ‘a dwelling place and a strong tower against the foe’ (Psalms 61:3).
Now a little story. Many years ago, when there was political instability in Ghana, we lived under tense conditions. Dusk to Dawn curfew was imposed on us. One ought not be found anywhere during curfew hours. One’s life would be in danger. Many who were found during curfew hours were mercilessly beaten to death or were maimed.
Some people were taken from their homes. They were killed or they completely disappeared. Notable among those gruesomely murdered were two High Court Judges and a Military Officer in the rank of a Major.
One of those eminent Judges was a nursing mother. She was breastfeeding her son when she was taken from her home during curfew. They were sent to a forest somewhere in the country by their kidnappers; murdered in cold blood and their bodies set alight. What prevented the victims’ bodies from being burnt beyond recognition was an unexpected heavy downpour of rain after their bodies were set on fire.
That day was a Sunday evening. News of the atrocities came to light the following Monday morning. However, there was something unusual about that Sunday evening. Our atmosphere was strangely serene, a bit eerie. No one could put a finger on what’s wrong in our country. Sudden fear and dismay came on us all.
In the meantime, prominent people in society, including business owners, were wrongly labelled as corrupt. Some vanished without trace. Some had to disguise themselves as mad people, as King David did in 1 Samuel 21:13, so they could flee the country. After all, in Ghana, ‘mad people’ roam the streets, eat from garbage, some have no clothing on them, and there is very little care about them. On top of that, no ritualist would accept a mad person's body parts for rituals. Therefore, disguising oneself as a mad person was a ‘perfect’ cover to run to neighbouring countries, usually walking days through thick forest to a place of refuge or safety.
After we came to some normality as a nation through electing a democratic government (which, by the way, lasted less than two years) people shared their harrowing stories. They also told how they felt lonely and scared during their long journey to safety; how their faith was strengthened, because the name of the LORD was the only name they could call for help. Some tell of how they have to come to believe in the God, whom they have previously said does not exist. They were thankful that they sought refuge in God, and God did not turn them away.
God, who sheltered King David from all the storms of his life, also provided refuge for these run-aways and God will provide for us as well.
God continues to offer us the promise and the assurance of his safety. We may feel lonely, scared and vulnerable during this present global pandemic. But God is our refuge. His banner of love is over and around us.
As Wesley writes:
‘Other refuge have I none;
hangs my helpless soul on thee;
leave, ah! leave me not alone,
still support and comfort me.
All my trust on thee is stayed,
all my help from thee I bring;
cover my defenceless head
with the shadow of thy wing.’
Trusting and remaining loyal to God in such unprecedented times is what we strive for as we seek God’s protection, healing and strength for ourselves and our loved ones.
Daniel says in Daniel 11:32b ‘but the people who are loyal to their God shall stand firm and take action' (NRSV). Although the context of this verse is slightly different from current situation, nevertheless it still speaks into our fears, our hurts, and our anxieties. It encourages us to stand firm and take action. In other words, we keep hanging onto the LORD, keep praying and let our hearts stay firmly on God and God’s promises.
Mark O’Donohue says, the state of one’s heart shapes one’s life… and the power of the heart’s attitude is expressed beautifully in Jesus’ words: Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’ (Matthew 6:12). Does this resonate with you? Is your heart fixed on Jesus? As believers, our victory is in the Lord God, who has promised to fight our battles for us.
I hope and pray that you would keep trusting in the Lord, for in the Lord JEHOVAH is an everlasting strength. His name is the strong tower which we, the righteous, run to and are safe. Amen.
Hymn as Prayer:
Sing this hymn over and over this week and let it be your prayer as well:
Jesus, lover of my soul,
Let me to thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll,
While the tempest still is high;
Hide me, O my Saviour, hide,
Till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide,
O receive my soul at last!
Other refuge have I none;
Hangs my helpless soul on thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone,
Still support and comfort me.
All my trust on thee is stayed,
All my help from thee I bring;
Cover my defenceless head
With the shadow of thy wing.
Plenteous grace with thee is found,
Grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound;
Make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art;
Freely let me take of thee;
Spring thou up within my heart,
Rise to all eternity.
Charles Wesley (1707-1788). H&P 528
Psalm 91 Safety of Abiding in the Presence of God
1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” 3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. 4 He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. 5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, 6 Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you. 8 Only with your eyes shall you look, And see the reward of the wicked. 9 Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, 10 No evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; 11 For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. 12 In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone. 13 You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot. 14 “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. 15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honour him. 16 With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation.”
Poem ‘For Solitude’ by John O’Donohue
May you recognize in your life the presence,
Power, and light of your soul.
May you realize that you are never alone,
That your soul in its brightness and belonging
Connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe.
May you have respect for your own individuality and difference.
May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique, that you have a special destiny here,
That behind the facade of your life
There is something beautiful, good, and eternal happening.
May you learn to see yourself
With the same delight,
Pride, and expectation
With which God sees you in every moment.