“The godly may fall seven times, but they will get up again.” -Proverbs 24:16
“If God is for us who can be against us?” -Romans 8:31
It happens to us all. Near misses, close calls, averted disasters, followed by that sobering realization that we narrowly escaped death or catastrophe. As we stand there trembling, surveying the damage, and wondering at the What if’s; one might say “Dude, that was close,” while the more spiritually aware would answer, “No dude, that was God.”
Saturday, June 6, 2015, 11:00am. Palm Desert, California. Our church Couples Retreat was underway. Our speakers, Rick and Kathy Hicks, dismissed us from our second morning session uncharacteristically early. Our assignment was to spend some time talking over some questions they had prepared for us. They said, “Go back to your room, go out for coffee, or just hang out by the pool and work through this material together.”
What if Rick had kept us on the typical schedule? What if our session hadn’t been dismissed forty minutes early? What if three couples hadn’t decided to take their assignment to the poolside?
It’s hard to say, but I know this; those three couples, including a nurse, a doctor, and a fireman wouldn’t have been there to pull the limp body of an unconscious six year old girl from the pool, administer CPR that restored her breathing, and stabilize her, as well as comfort her mother until the ambulance arrived.
We all stood there amazed at the miracle of that moment. Some would call it luck. Some would credit karma. We all knew better. This was God. He was with us.
Psalm 124 finds David singing his song of gratitude and recognition over God’s defense when enemies, disasters, circumstances, and storms slam into our lives. The pathway of the pilgrim has many close encounters.
David understood close calls. He’d had quite a few.
• With wild beasts
• With jealous, insecure King Saul
• With his own rebellious son, Absalom
• With Goliath and the camp of the Philistines
But this song isn’t about David’s personal near disasters. The king writes about close calls experienced by his nation, Israel. Woven into their history was story upon story of close encounters of the disastrous kind. Nation after nation took their best shot at God’s chosen people. Countless enemies rose against them, each capable of finishing them off, or in David’s words, “Swallowing them alive.”
The list of nations who threatened the security of Israel by the time David arrived was long and growing longer, including Egypt, Philistia, Midian; and of course, those seven nations they were told were bigger and badder than them: Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perrizites, Hivites, and Jebusites. (Deuteronomy 7:1)
Here, David, surveying the faithfulness and power of God measured against the history of Israel, seems to be saying, “Dude! That was close!”
We’ve all said that. Maybe after the “T-Bone” collision that destroyed our pickup truck without serious injury to either driver or the passengers. (Yes, there’s a personal miracle story there.)
Perhaps it was the unexpected recovery from an illness, even if we were left with chronic pain or disabilities. We survived without any explanation except, “God was with us.”
Maybe there was a frustrating delay that turned out to be providential.
Maybe it was the text, email, call, or visit from a friend who just happened to reach out when you were ready to give up.
Or maybe it was that stranger jumping into the pool to rescue your sinking child from the deep end, just in time. All of them leave us wondering, “What just happened?”
For David, there was no question. It was God who was to be credited with the inexplicable win.
• The frightening fury of amassing army … quelled by God.
• Those swollen flood waters … diverted by God.
• That assassin’s spear … swatted away by God.
David could see the solid yet invisible presence of God in the midst of all the buffeting and battles. Do we see the same? Do we believe God is truly on our side. Do we keep getting up after our setbacks?
Moses spoke courage into the hearts of the children of Israel on many occasions with words like these:
Exodus 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you.”
Deuteronomy 31:6 “The Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”
Jesus put it like this in Matthew 28:20 “I am with you al-ways, even to the end of the age.”
In other words, God is on our side. However, it’s important to note two things.
First, God didn’t defend Israel because they were perfect, blameless, or even good, but because GOD is good. Because God is love. And don’t forget God’s grand redemptive purpose. This nation, Israel, would be the vehicle through which Yahweh would provide our Messiah, our Savior Jesus Christ.
Secondly, we need to remember that we will not dodge every bullet. Jesus’ followers often suffer hardship and loss. But in the midst of those life-altering disasters, God will still be on your side.
• God was with His enslaved people in Egypt and Babylon
• God disciplines those He loves. (Hebrews 12:6)
And remember, at some point in our future, one last encounter will not be just another close call but our last call, leading to that long awaited, “Close encounter of the best kind” with Jesus. Until then, stop worrying about anything or anyone slipping through God’s security system. The watchful, living God is on your side.
So, allow me to give you a little assignment of your own. Why not sit down and make a list of your close calls? Then turn your list into your own song. And sing out LOUD, because on this long hike home, we need to be reminded that God IS now and always has been On Our Side.