Shelter from the Storm

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1)

Outside of checking the local forecast, I don’t normally watch the Weather Channel. The one exception is if I happen to come across an episode of Storm Stories while channel surfing. I find some the episodes having to do with hurricanes and tornadoes particularly fascinating. The intensity of these storms is amazing. Hurricanes are those slow-moving storms so deliberate in their approach that unless you have personally experienced one before, you may not believe it could be so powerful. That is, until it arrives with all its fury. On the other hand, tornadoes are often right on top of you before you even realize it. Though radar detects their risk, there can be little time to prepare. And what about the devastation they can cause in just a matter of minutes? Images from these episodes on the Weather Channel make it clear the destruction these storms cause. Which one presents the greater risk depends on the area of the country in which you live. Part of how people prepare for these storms is by knowing the best places in their homes to take shelter in hopes of remaining safe and secure until the storm passes.

Safety and security in the midst of adversity is the central theme of Psalm 91, but it’s security that comes from the Lord. The Hebrew word for “dwell” means to be settled. In verse 1, God is referred to as both the “Most High” and “Almighty”. “Most High” emphasizes God’s strength and sovereignty. We are to be settled in the shelter that He alone provides. When God is referred to as “Almighty,” the emphasis is on His self-existence, His activity in the world, and His guardianship over our lives. To “abide” means to remain; a faithful person abides in His “shadow,” shadow being a metaphor for being under the care and protection of the Almighty.

Storms appear in life as well. Maybe they’ve appeared in yours. Life storms don’t discriminate. They don’t care about geography, social status, income, race, gender, or anything else. What kind of storm have you encountered? Was it like a hurricane, that slow-moving and progressive storm, maybe a drawn-out illness you or someone you love is battling? Perhaps it was trouble in your marriage that you and your spouse just can’t seem to get through. Or was your storm like a tornado—the sudden death or disability of a spouse, child, parent, or friend? Maybe it was the job loss you never saw coming. In all these storms, have you ever considered that just maybe you’ve been seeking the wrong shelter? God is powerful and sovereign over any storm. And He loves us greatly. When you and I settle in the shelter that He alone provides, He is pleased to keep us in His shadow and see us through any storm. Believe that! If you’ve been fortunate to thus far be “storm” free, thank God for it, but don’t wait until the storm hits to seek His shelter. Seek it now. There is an amazing rest to be found in God. Seek the only shelter that is truly secure.

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Sovereign in Every Circumstance

“So it was not you who sent me here, but God” (Genesis 45:8)

For all Joseph’s brothers subjected him to, it would have been easy for bitterness to consume him. His brothers wanted to kill him, but instead sold him into slavery in Egypt. He was seventeen. They did it because they were jealous of how much their father Jacob loved Joseph. It didn’t help matters that Joseph also told them of his dream, a dream that they would one day bow down to him. It only made them hate him more. Joseph’s brothers sought to do, and did evil to Joseph.

For a large part of his life, Joseph was cheated out of many things he might have enjoyed; the opportunity to spend time with his family, including his younger brother whom he had never met and the father he loved greatly. He was also subjected to various challenging circumstances along the way. But whatever the circumstance, Joseph always found favor with God and in the end was reunited with his brothers and his father. God’s great purpose for Joseph was to preserve the Hebrew people, a remnant on earth (Genesis 45:7). The complete Joseph narrative is found in Genesis 37-50.

Scripture teaches that for those who love God, all things work together for good (Romans 8:28). But good doesn’t always mean easy. Joseph’s life is testimony of this truth. During his times of testing, Joseph exhibited faithful obedience and trust in the Lord each step of the way. He recognized that what his brothers meant for evil, God meant for good (Genesis 50:20). He grasped the important truth that everything that happens, happens only under the sovereign hand of God.

Evil is real, life is full of storms and sometimes our circumstances can be overwhelming. This can lead to bitterness. But our God is greater. Trusting in His sovereignty is not only a help when evil dawns, but also comforts through life’s storms and protects us by keeping bitterness from taking root, robbing us of the joy of our salvation. God’s sovereignty puts perspective around our circumstances. People and circumstances may come against you, but as He was with Joseph, God is with you. Be faithful to obey and trust in the Lord’s sovereignty knowing that He is working both for your good and His glory.

Nothing but the Blood

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“…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22)

There are people and even some churches that would deny or downplay the necessity of a blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin. Scripture, however, is clear. “…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22). Under the old covenant, repeated blood sacrifices were required to atone for sin. But these sacrifices were never meant to permanently deal with sin, only to point forward to the new and everlasting covenant mediated by Christ. “He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12). The blood of bulls and goats dealt only with external cleansing while the blood of Christ was meant to “purify our conscious from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14). So, whereas the old covenant sacrifices were incapable of changing people’s hearts, the sacrifice of Christ could.

Though the author of Hebrews is not known, the purpose for which he wrote is. Hebrews was written for us to see the supremacy of Jesus above all things, greater than the angels and the Mosaic system. It was for us to see Jesus as the truly great High Priest whose once for all sacrifice cleanses us from sin.

In our day, there is an increasing tendency to deny the necessity of the cross for salvation. I suppose if we could, we might choose another way; a way that didn’t require the cross or a blood sacrifice, but instead a more palatable way—a way where God’s holiness and justice were stripped from His character—perhaps a way where all would enter in. But it’s not our way to choose, only God’s. He is the author of salvation, and as such, the manner in which redemption comes belongs only to Him. It may seem counterintuitive that salvation would require a sacrifice such as it does, and that one man would die for the sins of many is certainly countercultural. But that’s the way God planned it. Thankfully for us, Jesus lovingly and willingly submitted to that plan. There’s no greater love than the love of the Father and the Son.

Salvation comes only one way—through Christ alone. All of us need forgiveness of sin. If you have received that forgiveness, it came only by the blood of Christ. If you haven’t, it’s the only way it will come. For us to accept anything less is less than Christian, and if it’s less than Christian, it’s not Christian at all. Don’t believe the world. Believe the Bible. Embrace the grace found at the cross. Your salvation depends on it.