Summary: It is in God that we find and have security.
A Secure World?
Do you think we live in a secure world? If you don’t, you’re not alone. And let’s face it, there isn’t much reason to feel secure about our world. The conflict in the Middle East has reached what is likely an uneasy ceasefire. British authorities recently discovered, and thankfully stopped, a plot to terrorize several airliners headed for the US. As a result of this and the general mood that characterizes our world, many people are more reticent or downright scared to travel south of the border or across the globe by plane or any other means. There are guns and metal detectors in big city and inner city schools. People wonder and worry about what some scientists predict is an inevitable pandemic. We are surrounded by enemies we can’t even see and by some that we can see. Given the state of our world there is plenty of reason to feel insecure.
The same is true of our jobs and all the ways in which we make a living. Picture a manager and a sales rep of a big company standing and looking at a map on which colored pins indicate the company rep in each area. The manager looks at the map and then looks at the rep beside him and says, “I’m not going to fire you, Wilson, but I’m loosening your pin a bit just to emphasize the insecurity of your situation.” Whether we are the employer or the employee, all of our pins are at least a little loose. There is no ultimate job security.
The story is told of a monastery in Portugal perched high on a 3,000 foot cliff accessible only by a terrifying ride in a swaying basket. The basket is pulled with a single rope by several strong men, sweating under the strain. One American tourist who visited the site got nervous halfway up the cliff when he noticed that the rope was old and frayed. Hoping to relieve his fear he asked, “How often do you change the rope?” The monk in charge replied, “Whenever it breaks!” Well, in this life many of the things people turn to for security feel like one of those old and fraying ropes—and they’re just waiting for it to break.
But you would think that God’s people would always feel secure. After all, we don’t base our security on global security or job security; we base our security on a God who promises, according to Jesus, that no one and nothing can snatch us from our Father’s hand (John 10: 27). We are secure in the hands of a loving and gracious God who holds us tightly—and so it is in this promise that we trust.
Or do we? Or do we sometimes wonder about our own security? We hear the phrase “eternal security” and ask whether it applies to us. Do we really believe that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord? Maybe all of us here do. That would be ideal. But I imagine that many of us have felt at times that maybe we’ve slipped off the path of the righteous, have backslidden in our faith, and are no longer so secure in the hands of God. As a result we feel as insecure about our faith as we do about everything else.
In one of his talks at this year’s Leadership Summit Bill Hybels mentioned speaking with another Christian leader who in the course of their conversation said something about heaven to the effect that “I hope I manage to get in.” Who knows how seriously we should take such a comment, but you could just imagine that person crossing their fingers with a silly grin on their face. Hybels, of course, found it strange that someone who is a Christian could have such an attitude. Hope I’ll make it. But I wonder if it is so strange. And even if it is strange for Christians to think this way, it likely isn’t for most people who are not believers. People who are not Christians probably see religious faith as just another old and fraying rope hardly worth holding onto. Our Scripture today hopefully dispels this as false and points us toward something, or in this case Someone, who can give us such eternal security.
“The Lord Surrounds His People”
Psalm 125 is about security and where we can ultimately find it. To describe the sort of security available for God’s people, the psalm uses the image of the city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was surrounded by a circle of mountains—“as the mountains surround Jerusalem,” it says in verse 2—and it tells us that this is an image of God’s relationship with us—verse 2 continues, “so the Lord surrounds his people.” When we read this psalm we can easily imagine those pilgrims arriving at Jerusalem for one of the yearly festivals, looking at the panoramic view of those mountains and interpreting it as a metaphor for God’s eternal protection. These mountains, as Eugene Peterson says, “illustrated and enforced the reality of God’s secure love and care.” They see the mountains and they sing this song about the security that God provides.