A Narrow Escape
David declares that our Lord is a God of deliverances, to whom belong escapes from death (Psa. 68:20). Some of those escapes can be quite narrow, as David himself experienced. At one time only a mountain stood between a murderous Saul with his army and a fleeing David and his company (1 Sam. 23:26). At another time, David barely escaped Saul’s spear (1 Sam. 19:10). Nor were these narrow escapes peculiar to David. In the shepherd psalm he writes of the Lord preparing a table for him (and, by implication for us) in the face of the enemy (Psa. 23:5). There is also the imagery of the Christian warfare and armour passage (Eph. 6:10ff) that alerts us to the fact that our satanic adversary’s destructive determination, his approach, and even his touch are separated from us by something as thin as bodily armour.
We do well to recognize that many of the escapes that our Lord promises and provides for us are narrow. We do well also to observe these narrow escapes with right understanding, lest we view them with contempt and fail to gather comfort from them and to express our gratitude for them.
Our narrow escapes can be perceived by us too often as being defective deliverances. We are prone to place the emphasis on the narrow margin of safety we experience, rather than upon the safety itself. When we focus only on the narrowness, we then feed our fears, if not our resentments, because the Lord cut things so close in His delivering us from threatening situations. We may feel that our God is giving us slight attention, or that the enemy is stronger and the Lord is not as strong as we had thought. Such misapprehensions are common, but they are wrong. Our salvation is in the Lord–His almighty Person and His gracious provision for us in Christ–not in the amount of distance in time and space that may be between us and our foes.
The truth is that the narrowness of our escapes does not result from defect in them, but rather by divine design. The sovereign Lord ordains that our adversaries should draw near to us threateningly, but not triumphantly. Our God has wise, holy, and loving purposes in His providing us with such narrow escapes from defeat and death. Those purposes have to do with our circumstances, with the clothing God provides for us in Christ, and with our characters.
Why does our God not subdue and govern all of the circumstances in the lives of His people so that pains are few and quickly relieved, so that trials are minimal and easy, while triumphs are plentiful and decisive? The Lord provides us with spiritual armour (Eph. 6:lOff), but why does He not keep the deadly threats so far from us that our wearing of uncomfortable protection would be unnecessary? The answer is that our Lord intends that we come to value our clothing more highly than our imagined comforts without that clothing. The pressures of threatening circumstances, especially when they are deadly pressures, serve to drive us to put on Christ and to don the full armour of God as the only things that stand between us and death. A man may not enjoy the discomforts of a fire-proof suit, but he is heartily thankful to have such a suit on when he is amidst the flames.
The provision that the Lord has given us may seem slender and foreign to us, but it is vital and will become precious to us in time. For the Lord designs the pressures of our threatening circumstances not only to prompt us to clothe ourselves in His strength, but by the repeated application of those pressures to convince us that we should put on Christ and never take Him off.
While we are in the Church militant, our survival depends upon our faithful application of the provision of the Lord. However slender that provision may appear to be, we shall find it strong and securing. However narrow our escapes may be, we shall find ourselves safe from all harm. Then, we shall learn to leave our spiritual armour on, not knowing when we shall have need of it, until finally we grow comfortable with the divinely provided covering that has become second nature to us.
When we are in glory, we shall not then take off the clothing of Christ, nor shall we remove all of our divinely provided armor. The shield of faith will no longer be necessary, as we shall see face to face. Yet, the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, and so forth will yet adhere to us. But these things will no longer be uncomfortable attire that we don because our survival depends upon them being applied to us. Rather, we shall find that through the pressures of close and consistent combat, the armour has grown to be a part of us, having been forged into our character, and beautified in glory.
This metamorphosis is prophesied by Isaiah when he records the Lord telling His Church that: I will make your battlements of rubies, and your gates of crystal, and your entire wall of precious stones (Isa. 54:12). The practical battlements, gates, and walls will not need to be our grim protectors in glory, but will be transformed into precious and permanent qualities of the living stones of the glorified Church. This is part of how the righteousness of God becomes imparted to us, and how the Law of God is written on our hearts. Those things which begin as protective components to shield us in the warfare of our earthly pilgrimage will become our permanent, precious, and beautifying character qualities. Let us then not despise the day of apparently defective care that is really effective divine design for our safety, sanctification, and glorification.
William Harrell is Pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Norfolk, Virginia.
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