A PLACE OF SAFETY

“Abide thou with me, fear not: for he that seeketh my life seeketh thy life: but with me thou shalt be in safeguard.”
I Samuel 22:23

Saul was relentlessly pursuing David, following any information that might lead him to the son of Jesse, and destroying anyone perceived to be David’s friend. Saul heard that Ahimelech, the priest of Nob, had given David food and the sword of Goliath. Because of Saul’s insane jealousy and fear, he ordered the murder of eighty-five innocent priests, including Ahimelech. One of Ahimelech’s family members, Abiathar, escaped and delivered the gruesome news to David. Abiathar knew that his life would be in danger. Was there any place that he would be safe from Saul? David promised Abiathar the protection and defense he so desperately needed, as is recorded in our text. “Abide thou with me, fear not: for he that seeketh my life seeketh thy life: but with me thou shalt be in safeguard.” As long as Abiathar would remain with David, David promised him a place of safety.

It would be a fearful thing to know that someone is determined to take your life, and to have to live in the constant awareness that you are in danger. What a comforting thing it was for Abiathar to know that David would take responsibility for his safety. We also have a perpetual enemy. Satan wants to destroy our lives, our testimonies, our families, and our ministries. “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (John 10:10). Jesus teaches us that our spiritual enemy is bent on our destruction. Like a lion stalking his prey, he looks for opportunities to attack. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8).

Thank God that we also have a place of safety. We are no match for the enemy in our strength alone. He is clever, cunning, and effective. Just as David could promise protection to Abiathar, our Savior promises to be for us a place of refuge. He is our Shepherd, and He protects His flock. For the enemy to get to us, he must go through Jesus. The closer we stay to Jesus, the safer we will be. The devil wants to lure us away from the side of the Shepherd and the fellowship of the church family, that we might be more vulnerable to his attack. There is a place of safety for the child of God. Our Lord is a shelter in the time of storm.

DIVERS WEIGHTS

“Divers weights, and divers measures, both of them are alike abomination to the LORD. Divers weights are an abomination unto the LORD; and a false balance is not good.”
Proverbs 20:10, 23

Stones were used in old time as a means of measuring. A stone of a particular weight would be placed on a balance, and it would be the standard for measuring whatever was being bought or sold. An honest man would use a stone of the exact weight at all times. However, a dishonest man would try to deceive people for his advantage. He would use one weight when he was buying so that he might gain more goods for less money, and a different weight when he was selling that he might get more profit for fewer products. So God says a system of “Divers weights, and divers measures, both of them are alike abomination to the LORD,” and “a false balance is not good.”

God will not bless dishonesty, nor is He pleased when we live by a double standard. Though we may not use “Divers weights, and divers measures” in the market place, we may do it in our own minds and with other people. When we use one standard to judge ourselves and another standard to judge others, it is just as wicked. If we would be honest, we all have probably been guilty of using divers weights. We are able to excuse behavior in our lives, or find a reason to justify it, but we judge it mercilessly in the life of another. This is the same as having a “false balance.” We have one bag of weights that we use to consider our faults and another bag of weights to measure the faults of another. This kind of deceit and dishonesty is surely just as much an “abomination to the LORD.”

It is pride that causes us to look at our shortcomings differently from how we look at the same sin in others. We tend to be harder on the other person in order to make ourselves look better. Their sin looks vile and wicked, but our offense is excusable. The Scribes and Pharisees were guilty of this reasoning when they brought the adulterous woman to Jesus. They wanted Jesus to agree with the Scriptures that she should be stoned. However, when Jesus said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7), they were all convicted by their conscience and went away one by one. They were guilty of using one set of stones to measure her sin, and another set for their own. This is hypocrisy.

WHEN I AWAKE WITH THY LIKENESS

“As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.”
Psalm 17:15

Like so many of the Psalms, this one also includes many references to David’s mistreatment and opposition. He prayed for God’s protection “from men of the world, which have their portion in this life” (Psalm 17:14). What an accurate way to describe the unsaved of our world. They “have their portion in this life.” The men of the world have such a limited and selfish perspective of life. This world is the best that they will ever know or experience. They live for the present world. When they die, they will take their place in eternal regret and torment.

However, it is not so with the child of God. This world is not the best we have in store. Living in this world as a follower of Jesus Christ is a great life. But this is not all there is. David, in contrasting himself with his enemies, said, “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” One day, we will leave this world. When we do, we will awake in that beautiful place called Heaven, and we will see the face of the One who loves us and died for us. For us, the best is yet to come. We are going to a better place, a place where sin does not exist. Peter said, “we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (II Peter 3:13). We will awake in a place where there are no more disappointments and death, where sickness and sorrow are no more.

Not only will we be awakened in a new place, but when we awake, we will be transformed in a glorious way. Our text says, “I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” Death and Heaven will mean the end of our sinful and selfish selves, and the consummation of His sanctifying work in our lives. We were redeemed by God’s grace that we might be forgiven of our sins and transformed into the image of Christ. Speaking of this, Paul said we were to be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). John said of that wonderful moment when we see our Savior, “when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (I John 3:2). Every sincere Christian wants to be more like our Savior. We want to sin less and please Him more. The people of this world have their portion in this life, but thank God, our portion is in Heaven.

HIGHER GROUND

“The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.”
Habakkuk 3:19

Habakkuk closes his prophecy by expressing his faith in God, saying, He “is my strength.” God, said Habakkuk, “will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.” Similar language is used in other places in the Bible, declaring that God would give His servants the nimbleness and swiftness of the deer and bring them to walk on a higher plane. These are words of praise to the Lord, “To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.” In some places in the Bible, high places refer to places of false worship or idolatry; this is not the case in our text. Here, as well as in other instances in the Scripture, higher ground refers to elevated places of safety and protection. The psalmist put it this way, “lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2).

Higher ground is a desired place to dwell, to be protected, and to worship. It represents a place higher than the world we live in, elevated above the strife and confusion of this earth – a place of refuge. God can help us walk above the world. In the high places, our hearts are full of praise for our great God. In the high places, we are enabled to rejoice in the presence of the Lord and live by faith. In the high places, we see that God is sufficient for the needs of our lives; and we are assured that His way is perfect. In the high places, we live not by sight, but by faith. In the high places, we are not overcome by the snares of this world but are more than conquerors through the grace and power of Jesus Christ.

In the high places, we see that our preferences and personal agendas are petty, and the things that really matter are those things that please Him and further His kingdom. In the high places, we are delivered from fear and worry and are made to rest in the presence of the King. In the high places, we fellowship with the One that “treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The LORD, The God of hosts, is his name” (Amos 4:13). In the words of the hymn writer, “I’m pressing on the upward way, New heights I’m gaining every day,” and in another verse, “My heart has no desire to stay, Where doubts arise and fears dismay; Tho’ some may dwell where these abound, My prayer, my aim is higher ground.”

WHAT MANNER OF SPIRIT ARE YOU?

“But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.”
Luke 9:55

Jesus was visiting a village of the Samaritans on His way to Jerusalem. The Samaritans and Jews had no dealings with each other. When the Samaritans knew that Jesus was going to Jerusalem, they would not receive Him. When the disciples James and John saw the way that Jesus was rejected, they wanted to retaliate. They asked Jesus, “Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?” (54) They took offense at the behavior of the Samaritans and were more than ready to execute them for their treatment of Jesus. However, instead of complying with the request of the disciples, Jesus rebuked them, saying, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.” Jesus was more concerned about the harsh and critical attitude of James and John than He was with the poor reception by the Samaritans.

More than a few times, we have seen glimpses of ourselves in the attitudes and behavior of the disciples. James and John were as close to the Lord as any disciples could be. They loved Him and wanted others to love Him also. When He was mistreated, they took it personally. Their response to the Samaritans’ rejection of Jesus was an expression of their loyalty to Him. They wanted to stand up for Him and had no regard for those who did not share their commitment. Although their allegiance to Christ was admirable, their spirit was less commendable. We can find ourselves in that same state, having a strong appreciation for the Savior and the cause that He has entrusted to us, and a bad attitude toward those who do not agree with our sentiment.

It is important that we keep a right spirit, as well as a strong position. It has been said that there are those with the right position who have a wrong disposition. This is true. There will always be those who do not agree with our stand or support our position. That does not mean they are unworthy of living. We will have people, even fellow Christians, who mistreat us. Some will criticize us and attack those we respect and love. It is hard to see our family and friends rejected. However, that is no excuse to attack in retaliation. Jesus is interested in our keeping a right spirit. However we are received, we ought to forgive others and treat them with kindness.

WHAT PEACE?

“And it came to pass, when Joram saw Jehu, that he said, Is it peace, Jehu? And he answered, What peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?”
II Kings 9:22

Jehu was the recently anointed king of Israel. When he was anointed by the young prophet, Jehu was told, “thou shalt smite the house of Ahab thy master, that I may avenge the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the LORD, at the hand of Jezebel” (II Kings 9:7). Jehu took his assignment seriously and began immediately to inflict judgment upon God’s people. His first mission was to visit the kings of Israel and Judah. As Jehu was riding toward Jezreel, the kings of Judah and Israel came to meet him. When Joram, the son of Ahab and Jezebel and king of Israel, saw Jehu, he asked, “Is it peace, Jehu?” Joram wanted to know the purpose of Jehu’s coming; was he there to make trouble or peace? Jehu responded with this question, “What peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?” How could there be any peace when the wicked, ruthless, idolatrous family of Ahab was leading Israel in such a terrible direction? When Joram tried to flee, Jehu killed him with the bow and arrow.

Jehu’s question to Joram is a legitimate one for us to consider: “What peace?” How could there be any genuine peace under the reign of Ahab? They were guilty of every imaginable sin. They rejected God’s law and His prophets and worshipped idols. How can we expect peace when sin is not confessed and repented of? People want to find peace when they are living in rebellion and disobedience. There can be no peace where there is not obedience and submission to truth. There is no peace where there is bitterness, envy, gossip, lying, hypocrisy, and compromise. “There is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the wicked” (Isaiah 48:22).

Peace is found in the atmosphere of humble submission to God and obedience to His Word. Peace is the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s control. Peace is a gift from Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Jehu warned the king that as long as they continued in their direction and followed the ways of Jezebel, there could be no peace. However, when we surrender to Christ and His reigning in our lives, we will find the peace that He has promised.

ENEMIES OF FAITH

“But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.”
II Timothy 2:16-18

Paul instructed Timothy about the danger of false doctrine and warned him to “shun profane and vain babblings.” Error should not be treated casually, for it will “increase unto more ungodliness.” The influence of wrong doctrine is destructive. It spreads, contaminates, and will eventually destroy. The example is given in our text of two men who had departed from the truth on the vital doctrine of the resurrection. The spreading effect of their error would in turn “overthrow the faith” of some Christians.

This is truly one of the objectives of Satan – to overthrow the faith of others. The devil does not want us to live by faith, trusting God and His Word. He does not want us to have supreme confidence in the Holy Scriptures. The Bible teaches us that “the just shall live by faith” (Hebrews 10:38). We are saved by faith, and we are to live by faith if we are to please God. “But without faith it is impossible to please him” (Hebrews 11:6). We should recognize that in this life, there are many enemies of faith. There are multiplied forces that will tempt us to detour from the life of faith. The devil is certainly an enemy of faith, but the Scripture teaches us also that error is faith’s enemy. False doctrine will prevent us from trusting as we should. Unbelief is another obvious enemy of faith.

God wants us to have an unwavering confidence in His inspired Word. When Peter was walking on the water, he began to look at the storm and became afraid. After the Lord escorted him back to the boat, Jesus said to Peter, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:31) Logic, or reason, is another enemy of faith. Focusing on the natural, and living according to human reasoning, can blind us to the possibilities of the supernatural. Emotion can likewise be an enemy of faith. Feelings are part of life. But if we live according to our feelings, we will not be living by faith. Self-reliance is also an enemy of faith. We must identify these enemies of faith, feed our faith with the Word of God, and resist temptations to live in fear, doubt, or self-reliance.

I AM WITH THEE

“And his armourbearer said unto him, Do all that is in thine heart: turn thee; behold, I am with thee according to thy heart.”
I Samuel 14:7

Jonathan, intending to make an attack against a garrison of Philistines, asked his armorbearer to accompany him. The two of them would be greatly outnumbered by this company of troops. Despite the odds, the armorbearer immediately agreed, saying to Jonathan, “Do all that is in thine heart: turn thee; behold, I am with thee according to thy heart.” The brave Jonathan would not be alone when he faced the Philistines. Together they killed about twenty of the enemy.

Support, fellowship, and encouragement are so important in the Christian fight. Like Jonathan, we realize how terrifically outnumbered we are in this world. The values we hold, the priorities we live by, the Bible we believe and obey, and the Savior we serve put us in the minority. As true soldiers of Jesus Christ, we want to stand true to our Master and His Word, even if it means standing alone. However, it definitely strengthens our resolve knowing that we are not alone. What an encouragement when someone comes alongside us and says, “I am with thee.” Thank God for family and friends who share our convictions and accompany us in this journey. Thank God for those who are there to lift us when we fall. “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10).

It is for this reason that we should make sure we are associated with the right kind of friends. We need companions who will encourage us in the right direction, not influence us away from the Lord. This is also one of the important benefits of church membership and fellowship. We need the support and encouragement of the brethren in a sound church family. Even if they do not always vocalize it, we know our brothers and sisters in Christ are there for us. We are not alone. For some, the assembly of the church is only a place to occasionally meet for some spiritual food; but for us, it is much more than that. We belong to Christ and to each other.
And remember, our Lord is always with us. He says, “I am with you alway” (Matthew 28:20). When we feel there are more against us than for us, Christ is by our side. Through Him, we can be victorious.

THE DEPRAVITY OF THE FLESH

“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.”
Romans 7:18

In this great chapter of the Bible, God uses Paul to enlighten us about something we can all identify with – the struggle we have with our flesh. There is a tremendous need for people of faith to understand the nature of our carnal self, especially when there are so many false beliefs about this subject. We are all born with a carnal nature, inherited from our ancestor, Adam. Paul tells us that in our flesh “dwelleth no good thing.” This is contrary to the view we often hear regarding the human nature. In our humanistic society, worldly people speak of the nobleness of the flesh. We have all heard comments such as, “There is something good in every person,” “Believe in yourself,” or “You are a good person.” Actually, when it comes to honestly assessing our flesh, the Bible plainly states the opposite.

Thankfully, when we are saved, we receive a new Spirit, the Holy Spirit of God. However, we do not lose our selfish nature when we are born again. We still have to deal with our flesh; thus, we are introduced to the struggle that every child of God will be engaged in. It is an inner conflict between the sinful and selfish nature we are born with and the holy nature we receive when we are converted. In another epistle, the Bible describes it this way, “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:17). There are those who claim that a Christian does not have a carnal nature after he is born again, but these verses teach otherwise. Others underestimate the destructive power of walking in the energy of the flesh. The flesh is one of our primary enemies, along with the world and the devil. Truthfully, the flesh is probably the foe that gives us the most difficulty day after day.

We need to appreciate how depraved the flesh is and learn that it is not capable of anything good. In order to win this spiritual battle, we must rely on the Holy Spirit and His power. “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). As we learn to walk in the power and fullness of the Holy Spirit, the more we will experience victory over our flesh.

GOD WILL PROSPER US

“Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.”
Nehemiah 2:20

Nehemiah was dispatched with the permission of the king to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the ruins of the city. After surveying the damage, Nehemiah declared his purpose to build up the breeched walls of Jerusalem. Immediately Nehemiah’s company was confronted with those who opposed their plans. Nehemiah’s response to his critics was direct and swift: “The God of heaven, he will prosper us.” This project was the result of a sincere burden and had been birthed as an answer to a specific prayer. The great leader and man of God had every confidence that God would bless their hands as they purposed to carry out His will.

Whatever we are doing for God, or as a part of His will, we need His help and blessing to fulfill it. We are not able to accomplish God’s will in our own strength or wisdom. We need to know that God will prosper us. We can have the same confidence Nehemiah had as we set out to follow God’s will for our lives. Whether it is building a personal life and testimony that pleases Him, building a family, building a ministry, or building a Christ-honoring business, our desire is that God will prosper when we are doing His will in His way.

Nehemiah’s life can serve as an encouraging pattern for our personal decisions and endeavors. The first thing he did when he learned of the devastation in Jerusalem was pray. He cried out to God, confessed his own sins, and confessed the sins of the people. He rehearsed to God the promises of the Scripture concerning His gathering of His people. Before asking for the king’s blessing on this proposed project, Nehemiah again prayed. In every detail, Nehemiah sought the Lord concerning his plan. Nehemiah was not requesting that God bless his plan; he was diligent in making sure it was God’s plan.

God wants to bless us and prosper us as we seek to serve Him in His will. That does not mean we will be without opposition or difficulties; Nehemiah faced them as well. Nor does the fact that God will prosper us mean that God will do all the work and we will do nothing. Our text says, “we his servants will arise and build.” We will have to work to see God’s purposes fulfilled, but as we work, we can trust that God will prosper us.