Miles to go...

I have miles to go... please pray each day for the next leg of my Biblical journey!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Day 43 & 44: Do Angels Watch Over Us?

Retouched Photo By Nevit Dilmen  CC-BY-SA-3.0 

Psalm 91:9-11

New Living Translation (NLT)
If you make the Lord your refuge,
    if you make the Most High your shelter,
10 no evil will conquer you;
    no plague will come near your home.
11 For he will order his angels
    to protect you wherever you go.

There sure is a lot of hope in those words, isn't there? What a promise; If we make God our refuge, nothing bad will happen to us. Now, if you're like me, you probably wonder then, why you've had so much heartache, pain, and all sorts of other disasters in your life.  It could be that we need to re-examine what it means to really make God our shelter, and exactly what we're protected from. 

I think I'll start with what we're protected from. I'm pretty sure that the promises made in this Psalm (or anywhere else in Scripture) don't mean that each of us is guaranteed a life of ease. No matter where you read in the Bible, even godly people still struggle with disease, poverty, domestic disputes, cheating spouses, wayward kids, broken hearts, and things like that. They still have issues with evil people that want to hurt them, too. So why isn't God sending angels to protect them? Are his promises empty?

Of course not. But we sometimes get so caught up in our own misery that we start thinking that the entire universe is revolving around our problems. That's not the case. We're so small in the big picture that it's not even funny! God cares about our personal stuff, but He also has this hard and fast rule; He doesn't over-ride a person's free will.

Ok, so maybe it's not your own free will that has brought calamity into your life. That's debatable, really, because every action has a reaction, and if we followed the trail back far enough, it's usually our own choices that have inevitably brought us to wherever we are. But setting that aside for a moment, maybe there are a few instances in your life that you were totally innocent of. Maybe you were standing at a bus stop minding your own business and a drunk driver flew around a corner and careened out of control, and now you're paralyzed and have a lifetime of medical expenses that will never get paid off. Assuming you've been living your life for God, then why did God allow that to happen? That wasn't your will!

True, it wasn't. But some idiot made a decision to get drunk. Some bartender made a decision to continue serving him after he'd had too much to drink. Some bouncer made a decision to let the drunkard get in his car, instead of taking his keys and calling a cab. And you, well, you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. So why didn't God's angel swerve the car just a bit, so that it hit a brick wall instead of you and whoever else was standing at the bus stop? We'll never know. Maybe the bartender, the bouncer, and the driver all had a pattern of behavior and God is using this instance to stop their stupidity before the next person at a bus stop gets killed. Or it could be that God wants you to rely on Him, and as you overcome adversity, will use your paralysis to help others going through the same thing.

Or another example, one that's bigger than just you. Why did God allow so many to die on 9/11/01 when terrorists flew planes into the twin towers? Or in Hurricane Katrina? Or in some other disaster of epic proportions? Where were His angels then? Oh, this one could get very complicated, very quickly. I sure don't know the answers, but historically, the Bible uses catastrophic events to get our attention on a national level. Why did some live, and others didn't? I'm imagine that was a case-by-case scenario, and we'll never know why God chose who would survive and who wouldn't, and what the purpose was behind each one.

So what the heck does it mean when God promises to send His angels to protect us? My best guess is that He won't personally bring on any punishment that He won't provide protection from for those who are living right. Kind of like the Israelites, when God sent all those plagues over Egypt, but placed angels in strategic places to make sure that the ones He wanted to spare were spared. I'm picturing the scene in the movie "The 10 Commandments" with Charlton Heston where the Hebrews obediently marked their doorposts with the blood of a lamb, and as that dark smoky looking hand that was the Angel of Death snaked through the city, it went went right on past, in search of those whose homes weren't covered with the blood. If we're obedient to God, He also promises not to let evil destroy us. According to His definition, not our own. We may think we're destroyed when God sees us as being perfected through our imperfection, or strengthened through our adversity. It may take years, decades even, for us to see what God foresaw in that moment.

It all sounds so vague and uncertain, doesn't it? Maybe we're really protected, maybe we're not. But there is a conditional aspect to that promise, too. "If we make God our refuge". How do we do that?

Here is the most important part of this chapter. While God never promises us a life that knows no sorrow or struggle, we can be sure that if we're holding up our end of the deal, we'll have a much bigger buffer. And without a doubt, we'll be more likely to reach out and accept the comfort of the Holy Spirit that is available to us.  If only we could know exactly how to do that!

The answer is in yet another psalm. To me, Psalm 101 is bigger than the ten commandments. Not that those are irrelevant, but they're very specific. If we memorize the words of Psalm 101 and live our entire lives according to the words there, we're going to be obeying the ten commandments without even thinking about them. 

So are you ready to learn the simple rules of living for God, the rules that keep His umbrella of protection over our heads, and the pillow of His comfort readily available to us? Just let me say one thing before I share it with you. Remember, this was written by King David, so when it talks about people serving in his house, for us that would be the equivalent of people we hire as employees, or that we hang out with as friends.

Psalm 101

New Living Translation (NLT)
I will sing of your love and justice, Lord.

    I will praise you with songs.
I will be careful to live a blameless life—
    when will you come to help me?
I will lead a life of integrity
    in my own home.
I will refuse to look at
    anything vile and vulgar.
I hate all who deal crookedly;
    I will have nothing to do with them.
I will reject perverse ideas
    and stay away from every evil.
I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors.
    I will not endure conceit and pride.
I will search for faithful people

    to be my companions.
Only those who are above reproach
    will be allowed to serve me.
I will not allow deceivers to serve in my house,
    and liars will not stay in my presence.
My daily task will be to ferret out the wicked
    and free the city of the Lord from their grip.

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