THE PROMISE OF DIVINE PROTECTION God says He will respond to our pleas for help in threatening circumstances. "'He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him'" (Ps. 91:15).
The last person to be pulled alive from the rubble of the World Trade Center was an African American woman who said as she stopped on a landing to take off her shoes, she heard the terrifying sound of the building collapsing around her. She felt herself falling as literally tons of blazing twisted metal, shattered glass and concrete came tumbling down around her. But as she fell she prayed, "God, give me a miracle."
While she lay trapped and unable to move under tons of debris for more than 27 hours, she called repeatedly, "Somebody help me!" Finally, she heard the tapping and scraping sound of someone digging nearby. With a broken shard she frantically tapped back.
A voice above the rubble replied. Although unable to move her body, she extended one finger through a tiny opening between the rubble and made contact with a valiant New York City firefighter, who grabbed her finger and cried: "I've got you! I've got you!"
Although it took hours for the firefighters to dig through to save her, she could "live" on the promise that help was on the way. I would submit that we can too. We can live on the promise that God has said: "I've got you! I've got you!"
For me, these true-life miracles of the protection of God in the midst of calamity are living proof of the truth of God's Word in Psalm 91.
The acts of 9/11 were a 21st-century phenomenon requiring the most modern technology: the Internet, jumbo jet aircraft, cell phones, secret electronic bank accounts, secret training camps, and sophisticated means of communications to coordinate, plan, and execute. But God knew the terrorists by name thousands of years before the event.
He prepares us ahead of time for the threat of biological warfare and the anthrax scare. He pre-empts the enemy's mechanisms of fear by telling us not to be afraid of the terrorist's plotting by night, nor the biological agents that are released in the darkness, nor the rhetoric of propaganda prophesying "collateral damage" in the thousands (see Ps. 91:5-6). He lets us know that in spite of the danger, He is still in control and still able to keep that which we have committed to Him (see Ps. 91:14-16; 2 Tim. 1:12).
Psalm 91 ends with the promise of divine provision and protection. In the beautifully poetic language of David, the poet-warrior king, God Himself declares: "'He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation'" (vv. 15-16).
So what can we know with certainty in this uncertain world? What can we be sure of when all else fails? Where can we turn for help when our traditional props and sources fail? We can turn to the two things that will never change: the immutable God and His Word.
I no longer experience the haunting fear and insecurity that I felt immediately after Sept. 11. The numbness has gone, as have the vague feelings of uneasiness that left me virtually speechless for days. I now have an answer for 9/11; it is the promise of God's protection in Psalm 91:1!
Many of the events of the history of the Middle East, however, are recorded in the Scriptures. In fact, the foundation of the nation of Israel is based on the life of the patriarch Abraham.
Abraham was called out of his father's home, away from his kindred, on the promise that God would make him a great nation (see Gen. 12:1-3). He and his wife, Sarah, both advanced in years, seized the promise by faith and went out according to God's instructions.
Though God had promised them a son, nothing happened for many years. So Sarah gave her Egyptian handmaid, Hagar, to Abraham to bear a child for her.
Hagar gave birth to a son, Ishmael, 13 years before Isaac, the promised son of Abraham and Sarah, was born. The dysfunction, rivalry, aggression and hostility of competing loyalties within blended families immediately began between the two mothers and their sons.
It is widely held that the descendants of Ishmael are the modern Arabs, while the descendants of Isaac are the modern-day Jews. The conflict among brothers that began in Abraham's time continues to this day.
To make matters more complex, following the final fall of the ancient Jewish state of Israel in the 6th century A.D., the Jews were dispersed outside their homeland. In the Diaspora, as it is known, the Jews abandoned Palestine and spread to all the countries of Europe and even to sub-Sahara Africa.
The state of Israel, then, disappeared off the world's maps for more than a thousand years, until after World War II. Only the territory known as Palestine remained.
Following World War II, the conscience of the world was aroused by the unprecedented persecution and systematic extermination of the Jews by the Nazi regime. The world had not been moved to prevent the Holocaust, but it was moved at the end of the war to create a Jewish homeland in Palestine, welcoming the oppressed Jews back from all over Europe to a home in their own nation.
Thus, the state, or nation, of Israel was reborn in 1948, created by partitioning Palestine--taking bits of territory from several Arab states to carve out the tiny arrowhead known as Israel.
In the process, Palestinian people, mostly Arab and Moslem, who had been living on that land for more than a thousand years, were told that the land now belonged to the Jews. Homes, farms, shops, schools--even whole towns that had been in Palestinian hands for generations--were taken from these people and used to create Jewish settlements. The dislocated Palestinians thus became refugees in what had been, in their eyes, their homeland.
Although I am simplifying the history greatly for the purposes of this discussion, it is easy to see that the situation I have described was the fermenting soil in which the seeds of today's violence were sown.
There is a natural animosity between the conflicting cultures, religious traditions and ethnic backgrounds of the Arabs and the Jews. There is conflict over the holy places throughout this troubled land. There is conflict over political and economic rights and power. And in virtually every instance, the United States has linked its national interests with those of Israel, giving economic, military and diplomatic assistance to the tiny nation.
Therefore, the United States has perpetually been associated with Israel in the eyes of the Arabs throughout the Middle East. Many of them feel that if it were not for our powerful nation, which supports Israel militarily, the displaced Palestinians might have been able to overwhelm and drive out the Jews by the sheer weight of their numbers. This is at least one of the reasons we are a target for terrorism.
Nevertheless, as Psalm 91 promises, "[We] who dwell in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. [We] will say of the Lord, "He is [our] refuge and [our] fortress; [our] God, in Him [we] will trust."
"Surely He shall deliver [us] from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover [us] with His feathers, and under His wings [we] shall take refuge.
"A thousand may fall at [our] side, and ten thousand at [our] right hand; but it shall not come near [us]. Only with [our] eyes shall [we] look, and see the reward of the wicked. Because [we] have made the Lord, who is [our] refuge, even the Most High, [our] dwelling place, no evil shall befall [us], nor shall any plague come near [our] dwelling; for He shall give His angels charge over [us], to keep [us] in all [our] ways" (vv. 111, NKJV).
Winifred W. Morris is the first lady, church mother and president of the Department of Women's Ministries at Mount Airy Church of God in Christ in Philadelphia. She is also an author, a noted motivational speaker and the founder of Abounding Life Ministries.
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