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May 13, 2018 The Sheltering of God

 

Scripture reading: Psalm 91:1-2, 11-12; 121:3, 5-7; John 10:7-9.

 

Our Lord Jesus likens himself to a door and we are likened to sheep.  Christ, as the door, is the way for his sheep to find salvation. Once they find salvation, he is also the door for them to go out and be nourished to enjoy the pasture. You see, even the pasture is Christ. He is the door and he is the pasture.  This is not the only passage where the followers of Christ are likened to sheep.  Many times throughout the NT Jesus is called the Shepherd of the sheep. Why sheep?  I will tell you. It is at least for two reasons. Sheep are defenseless animals. And, sheep are stupid.

 

People are not defenseless when it comes to physical combat. We engage in wars and many wars are prevented because one side has strong defenses. But we are defenseless when it comes to spiritual defense…unless we have a Shepherd. Those who do not have a Shepherd have no defense against the wiles of the enemy. Our Shepherd is Christ and he has appointed under-shepherds in the church. He has delegated authority to them to protect the flock. Those who absent themselves from the meetings of the church also absent themselves from the under-shepherds and open themselves up to spiritual deception.

 

This is an important truth. But today I wish to focus upon the sheltering of God Himself. The direct sheltering of God over his people.

 

I said that there are at least two reasons we are likened to sheep. Besides being defenseless, sheep are stupid. Glenn Brunkow is a sheep farmer and he wrote a short article in the Midwest Messenger last year. The name of the article is The Questionable Intelligence of Sheep.[1] He begins the article with these words: “I don’t know if you are aware of it, but I have concluded based on my years of experience that sheep are stupid. Not just stupid but mind-numbingly stupid— sometimes I wonder how they manage to breath and eat.”

 

He relates how one spring morning he did his walkthrough, as he did everyday, and found a lamb with its head stuck in the fence. It was the same lamb that had its head stuck in the fence the day before…and the day before that…and the day before that. This was the fourth day in a row that it got its head stuck in the same hole in the same fence. The previous three days all Glenn had to do was turn its head slightly and out came its head! But the lamb didn’t have enough sense to turn its head those first three times. Who knows how long that lamb was stuck and uncomfortable before the farmer released him?

 

This is the way we are. We are stupid. Now, we may not be stupid when it comes to knowing and fulfilling our duties at our jobs or knowing mechanics or science or mathematics or any number of disciplines. But we are stupid when it comes to spiritual danger and spiritual benefit. We get stuck in sin for a time. We are miserable like that little lamb. And we are so stupid we don’t even have enough sense to turn our heads. If we turned our heads we would get out. But our Shepherd has to come and turn our head.

 

So, this particular morning Glenn noticed that the lamb had jammed his head in the fence at an unusual angle. Try as he might even he could not get the lamb’s head out of the fence. He writes: “Finally, in desperation I gave up, went to the barn and came back with the bolt cutters and cut him loose. For all of that, he simply shook his head at me and ran off. The ungrateful little booger.” This too, is the way we are. After being rescued more than once from the clutches of sin we go back again and then one day we are so stuck that the Lord’s usual way of deliverance is insufficient. He has to get out the bolt cutters! But, we are rescued once again! Often, just like the lamb, we don’t appear to be grateful.

 

Mr Brunkow goes on to relate how, in addition to the lambs he had 15 ewes. These ewes were kept in a separate pen that he had set up a month earlier. The pen wraps around the barn and is separate from the feeding troughs. The sheep can see the feeding troughs from their pen but must walk around just one side of the barn to get to them, which they had done everyday for a month. This same morning he dumped the feed into the troughs and five sheep took the walk around the side of the barn to eat. The other ten just stared at the feed through the panels in the barrier between their pen and the place of feeding, becoming very irritated. Glenn had to take a feed bucket and go back around, show it to them, and then have them follow him back to the feeding troughs along the same path they had taken for a month!

 

We are like those sheep in this respect, too. We are too stupid to know how to get to our food even though we have been there before. I am speaking of spiritual food, of course. It’s not because we are not hungry. Many Christians feel an emptiness within. They know they need spiritual food. But they are too stupid to take the short trip to receive it. They would just rather stare at it from afar. The local church is the place of spiritual nourishment. Their own Bibles are buckets of good food, but many just let it sit and will not eat. They are too stupid to eat, even though they need the nourishment.

 

Because we lack sense in spiritual matters we need sheltering.

 

In Psalm 91 we read:

 

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. [2]

 

The one who belongs to the Lord Jesus dwells in the shelter of God. The remainder of Psalm 91 goes on to portray God’s active power and oversight in sheltering those who have made Him their dwelling place. Not only is God a shelter but He is active. He shelters us.

 

The various ways that God shelters us in this psalm have to do with physical protection. The lover of God (vs. 14) is kept from various dangers that will physically harm her.

 

God is still doing this. Sometimes we become aware of His protection. A friend of mine shared with me how, when he was a teenager, he had a motorcycle and there were several times when he should have gotten into bad accidents but he avoided them and he was certain that it was because of God’s hand upon him. When I was a young man I was driving across the country, from Ohio to California, returning to my post of duty in the Air Force at Travis AFB. Trying to make good time I drove 16 and 18 hours per day. I was driving through a desert in Utah, doing about 80 miles per hour or more. Around midnight I fell asleep at the wheel and woke up heading toward a concrete embankment of a bridge.  I swerved back onto the freeway just in time! If I had not awoken there is no question that I would have died. The Lord woke me up because he was sheltering me. More often than not, though, we are completely unaware of his sheltering actions. I am convinced that when we get to heaven we will be shown the multitude of times that we were preserved by angels from death or destruction. We will rejoice and be amazed at God’s love for us!

 

Although God sheltered his lovers under the Old Covenant from physical dangers, under the New Covenant He mainly shelters us from spiritual dangers. We have inherited greater revelation and greater insights into the spiritual realm than the OT saints had. Grace and truth came to us when Christ came (John 1:17). This grace and this truth is primarily of spiritual realities. Make no mistake, spiritual dangers are more perilous than physical hazards. If we are physically injured we may be healed in this life. If we are not (because many are not), we will receive a new and incorruptible body in the age to come. But if we succumb to sin it will have consequences that reach into the age to come. Here, I am speaking about believers, about followers of the Lord, not about the lost. The degree to which we succumb to spiritual ensnarement will affect us in the next age. How we need the sheltering of God.

 

In verses 11 and 12 we read:

 

For he will command his angels concerning you

to guard you in all your ways.

12    On their hands they will bear you up,

lest you strike your foot against a stone. [3]

 

We may think of this passage in reference to the Lord Jesus. In fact, the Devil used this verse to tempt our Lord in the wilderness. But Psalm 91 consists of promises to all lovers of God, not only to our Lord. It is for us. It is for you!

 

God commands his angels concerning you! Angels are guarding all your ways! Let me say that again: Angels are guarding all of your ways! Oh! How wonderful is the sheltering of God! Again, it is not merely physical dangers wherein angels are guarding you. You are being sheltered from spiritual jeopardy.

 

In Psalm 121 we read:

 

He will not let your foot be moved;

he who keeps you will not slumber. [4]

 

Our God does not sleep. There is never a moment when he is not watchful over you.

 

The Lord is your keeper;

the Lord is your shade on your right hand.

6    The sun shall not strike you by day,

nor the moon by night. [5]

 

We are under the keeping power of God! When David writes that the Lord is our shade he intends to communicate the shelter from troubles that come in life. For, surely, we do not need shade from moonlight! He is saying that we will be sheltered from troubles in the daytime and troubles in the nighttime. Praise Him! Thank you, Lord!

 

The Lord will keep you from all evil;

he will keep your life. [6]

 

The Lord will keep you from all evil! We are like sheep. It is so easy for sheep to fall into “evil” situations. When David writes “all evil” he means all kinds of evil. The Old testament saint may still have been touched by evil not to the point of losing their physical life. The New Covenant saint may be touched by evil but not to the pojnt of losing their eternal life.

 

The sheltering of God is working day and night. Like sheep, we do not see the peril that lies around so many corners. But, God is sheltering us from falling into the pit, from falling off a cliff, from the clutches of wolves. We will look back on our lives and see the many spiritual perils that we avoided because God was sheltering us. We will thank Him on that day!

 

What ought we to do now?

 

We do not have to wait until heaven to thank the Lord. Thank him today for how he has sheltered you in days past. Thank him today for how he is sheltering you right now. Thank Him for how he will shelter you in the days to come.

 

The other thing that we ought to do is cooperate with the Lord in his sheltering. Do not just depend upon his sheltering. He warns us of various dangers in his word.

 

  • There is the danger of loose women and loose men. We must pick our companions and our spouses wisely.
  • There is the danger of various sins of which the Scriptures have much to say. Do not be ignorant of what constitutes sin! (I Cor 6:9; 2 Cor 2:11; I Thes 4:4; I Tim 3:15).
  • There is the peril of not redeeming the time. Do not waste your time but redeem it!

 

If we will cooperate with the Lord by knowing what sin is and staying away from it, and by redeeming the time, then the sheltering of God, already effective, becomes even more effective and more blessed!

 

God’s sheltering always leads to his pasture. If you are not enjoying the riches of Christ as the pasture, then you are not experiencing the fulness of his sheltering. Come to the shelter of God!

 

Pray with me. “O Lord! Thank you for sheltering us! You have sheltered each one of us who have the Lord Jesus. You have kept us from countless dangers and pitfalls. You have brought us to green pastures! We are grateful. We ask that you continue to shelter us and that you continue to lead us to green pastures. Give us a hunger for your word. For this is where your sheltering leads! Amen.”

 

 

 

 

[1] Midwest Messenger, May 3, 2017.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 91:1). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 91:11–12). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 121:3). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 121:5–6). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 121:7). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.