God is Our Security and Sufficiency

Dr. Brian Allison

This past week was a week of various personal tragedies. Payne Stewart, the 1999 U.S. Open champion, died in an air plane crash. He was only 42 years old. He had just recently accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour and Lord. Also, the Armenian president, along with seven other government officials were gunned down in parliament by several revolutionaries. What pain must the families be going through? Death is an ugly thing. It leaves the surviving family members distraught and lost. Also, the New York Yankees won the World Series this past week. That day was a bitter sweet one for Paul O'Neil, the Yankees' right fielder. Shortly before the start of that final game, O'Neil received news that his father had died. After the game, as he was making his way from the dugout to the locker room, he tried to hold back his tears.

What has your week been like? What are the burdens that you are carrying? What are your hardships? How are you handling personal tragedy – like the imminent death of a loved one, or the evaporation of your personal dreams, or the unexpected end of a career, or the loss of your life time savings? Where do we go, as the people of God, when tragedy strikes our lives? Where do we retire? I want to share a very simple and devotional truth in this message. Maybe by the end of the week, or before this year is up, personal tragedy may strike you; maybe your child will become fatally ill, maybe your mate may seek separation or file for divorce, or maybe your house may burn down. If tragedy has not visited you yet, it will. What will you do then?

Words of blessing

Deuteronomy 33:27a are well known words, "The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms." Moses uttered these words after leading the people of God for many years in the wilderness. Israel had experienced difficulty and hardship. Because of their disobedience, God pronounced that they would wander in the wilderness for forty years. After the exodus from Egypt, the Israelites were destined to enter the Promised Land of Canaan; but because they failed to believe God, they were judged. Accordingly, after forty years of wilderness wanderings, Moses and the Israelites stood on the edge of the land of Canaan. Moses was forbidden to enter the Promised Land with Israel because he had grievously sinned by not honouring the Lord's name before Israel.

With the Israelites about to enter the land of Canaan, Moses utters twelve blessings, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. These are Moses' last words to a people that he had led and governed for many years. Having blessed each of the twelve tribes, Moses concludes with a benediction. He points to the goodness, mercy, and grace of God – truth that would be comforting to God's people as they were about to enter unchartered land and uncertain circumstances. Moses presents the glorious character and benevolent ways of God. We read, "There is none like the God of Jeshurun, who rides the heavens to your help, and through the skies in His majesty. The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms; and He drove out the enemy from before you, and said, 'Destroy!' So Israel dwells in security, the fountain of Jacob secluded, in a land of grain and new wine; His heavens also drop down dew. Blessed are you, O Israel; who is like you, a people saved by the LORD, who is the shield of your help, and the sword of your majesty! So your enemies shall cringe before you, and you shall tread upon their high places" (33:26-29). Here we have words of consolation and confidence. Now verse 27 is the lynch pin of these verses. It is the verse around which the other verses hinge and swing, "The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms." With these words, Moses sets forth two foundational truths about God that His people need to remember when personal tragedy strikes – first, God is our security, and second, God is our sufficiency.

God is our security

God is our security – "The eternal God is a dwelling place." A better rendering of the language structure is, "God is a dwelling place from ancient times (i.e., forever)." The notion of eternal does not refer to the nature of God, but to the ways of God. The emphasis is on God's manifestation – how He reveals Himself; and He reveals Himself as an eternal dwelling place. Similarly, this same Moses writes in Psalm 90:1ff., "LORD, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations [i.e., throughout history; and, of course, because God is an eternal dwelling place, He is, by nature, eternal]. Before the mountains were born, or Thou didst give birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God."

God is a residence, He is our habitat. This is His character; this is how He is pleased to reveal Himself. In other words, God is our shelter, our refuge. The term translated 'dwelling place' in the original Hebrew literally means a den or a lair, the home for a lion or a wild animal. For instance, Psalm 104:21 reads, "The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their food from God. When the sun rises they withdraw, and lie down in their dens [same word]." Consider also the words of Solomon, "Come with me from Lebanon, my bride, may you come with me from Lebanon. Journey down from the summit of Amana, from the summit of Senir and Hermon, from the dens [same word] of lions, from the mountains of leopards" (Cant. 4:8). What graphic language; what stark imagery conveying profound and amazing truth. We could translate Deuteronomy 33:27a, "A hidden den is God from ancient times." God is our shelter in the wilderness to protect us from harm, hostility, and predators. We need to remember this truth during times of personal tragedy.

As our shelter, God is a place of safety. The world can be a pretty dangerous place in which to live. Sometimes we have people breathing down our necks, wanting a pound of flesh. Unfortunately, some people want to hurt us, and do damage to us. But at such times, we must remember that God is a place of safety into Whom we may run and be safe. Israel knew this truth. When Israel came out of the land of Egypt, the land of bondage, they made their way to Pihahiroth. They became hemmed in between the Red Sea and an advancing Egyptian army. There was no where to go. It looked like disaster was imminent; but God manifested Himself as the place of safety. In a pillar of fire, God descended and positioned Himself between the Egyptian and the Israelite camps. God made a way out of no way. He parted the Red Sea, and guided His people safely across to the other side and caused the divided walls of water to crash down on the enemies of His people. He is the same God today, and He is still pleased to deliver His people. He is a place of safety.

Now, as our shelter, God is not only a place of safety, but He is also a place of solace; He is a place of rest. Many of us seem to be moving all the time, madly darting here and there, like chickens with their heads cut off. We live in a crazy world. We cry out; "Give me some rest, Lord. I am wound up so tight, like an elastic ready to snap." Jesus says, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and YOU SHALL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light" (Mt. 11:28-30). A young woman stood up in our evening worship service recently and gave her testimony concerning what God had done for her at a spiritual renewal retreat. She had been severely abused. She was riddled with fear, not able to leave her place of residence. She was on antidepressant medication. And in a moment of time, God came and revealed Himself as the place of rest; and she experienced emotional healing in a moment. God can do that. God can take your burden, and in a moment make all things new. If He can speak the world into existence in a moment, He certainly can take away all your burdens and cares in a moment; and He wants to do that, but you have to come to Him in trust. You have to believe that God is able to set you free. God is our refuge in a time of storm. Psalm 61:1-4 reads, "Hear my cry, O God; give heed to my prayer. From the end of the earth I call to Thee, when my heart is faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For Thou hast been a refuge for me, a tower of strength against the enemy. Let me dwell in Thy tent forever; let me take refuge in the shelter of Thy wings."

It does not matter what is the nature of our struggle, the nature of our problem, the nature of our burden, God is our shelter in the time of storm. Now, remember that we are considering imagery here. Literally speaking, Deuteronomy 33:27a is saying that we can experience and enjoy the very presence of God. God Himself is our environment. He surrounds us, He envelopes us. His very person is our portion. And, of course, when we think of this fact, we must think of the necessity and centrality of prayer. Prayer is the practice of the presence of God. When we enter into prayer, when we pour out our hearts in supplication and petition, we experience, in faith, something of His presence. In prayer, in a particular way, God is our shelter, our hidden den from predators. In closing our abuse support group meeting this past week, we had a time of prayer. When our prayer time ended, someone made the comment, "That was like a taste of heaven." This person was simply saying that God's presence was there – our living refuge. Psalm 46 reads, "God is our refuge [that is, a place where we can hide, find recourse] and strength, a very present help in trouble...There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy dwelling places of the Most High. God is in the midst of her [His presence is made known], she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns...The LORD of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold" (vv. 1,4,7). This is a word of promise to us. Thank God for the place of prayer. There yet remains a rest for the people of God in His presence. God is our security forever. He does not change. He will be our shelter today, tomorrow, next month, next year, next millennium, from everlasting to everlasting.

God is our sufficiency

God is not only our security, but He is also our sufficiency – "And underneath are the everlasting arms." A better rendering of this phrase is, "And underneath are His arms forever." Again, we are not considering an attribute of God's nature; but we are considering that which describes His ways. What a powerful picture! I have a scar on my forehead. I split my head open when I was four years old. One day my brother, uncle, and I were playing in the school yard in which there was a set of monkey bars. I asked my uncle to lift me up to the top bar so that I could hang down, and he did; and I hung there, and hung there, and then my arms became tired. My uncle refused to help me down, and so I let go and dropped to the cement pavement below. I smashed my head. The next thing I remembered was being in someone's arms and being carried to a truck, and whisked off to the hospital. I do not know who this man was. My brother told me that he was driving by and witnessed the fall. He stopped, picked me up in his strong arms, and took me for help. Similarly, God says that underneath us are His arms. Again, this is symbolic language. 'Arms' in the Old Testament simply refers to strength or power. God's arms refer to His omnipotence. Deuteronomy 11:2 reads, "And know this day that I am not speaking with your sons who have not known and who have not seen the discipline of the LORD your God – His greatness, His mighty hand, and His outstretched arm, and [manifested in] His signs and His works [His mighty miracles] which He did in the midst of Egypt to Pharaoh the king of Egypt and to all his land;" and Psalm 71:18 reads, "And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Thy strength [lit., arm] to this generation, Thy power to all who are to come."

God's arms are firmly underneath us. This truth is contrasted with the language in the previous verse of this chapter – "There is none like the God of Jeshurun, who rides the heavens to your help, and through the skies in His majesty." God is far above us; He is the lofty One who inhabits eternity, and yet He is also below us. He surrounds us with His love and power. The notion of sufficiency suggests, at least, two facts: support and supply. First, God does not simply give support and strength, He Himself is our support and strength. We know only too well our weaknesses and frailties, our anxieties and fears. God says to us, in His Spirit, that He is our support. He causes us to stand and to persevere. Recently, I was speaking to a young lady who was experiencing much difficulty and hardship. She had many burdens. I tried to encourage her with the truth of Jesus Christ, and the significance of His indwelling, and the fact of His sufficiency for our lives; and before my very eyes her countenance changed – from worry and consternation to calm and confidence. In hearing God's word, and experiencing the impact of that word, she became strengthened and was characterized by joy and peace.

Second, in thinking of God as our sufficiency, He is the supply for our every need. We know only too well our own deficiency and poverty. God is pleased to supply our every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (cf. Php. 4:19). Recently I was speaking to a Church member who has much stress in her life. However, some positive developments transpired, and her response was, "Well, that is an answer to prayer!" Simply put, God supplied her need. We should be able to constantly say, as we walk by faith, trusting in God, "Well, that is an answer to prayer!" God delights in answering our prayers because He delights in supplying all our needs.

So, God is pleased to carry us along. He bears us up; and His arms do not get tired. He can carry the whole world and not get exhausted. Conversely, we become tired and exhausted. Many times we do not know how to carry ourselves along. Sometimes we wonder if we will even be able to put another foot in front of the other because we are so weighed down with the cares of this life. Remember, there is Someone who delights to carry us, and it is not a burden or problem for Him. Why? That is His character and way; and that is our comfort and confidence.

God is our security and our sufficiency. Now, as you have been reading this message, you may have been saying, "Yes, right; I am encouraged by these words;" and you may give intellectual assent to these words, but do you really believe them? If you do not really believe what you have just read, you will not know the effect and power of these words in your life when your personal tragedy strikes. It is not good enough to simply feel warm while reading; that will not help you when you are in the spiritual trenches. You must embrace these words by faith; you must rest in the goodness and grace of God. You must put your trust in God who is adequately able to deal with any issue you have; and not only is He able, and not only is He willing, but He wants to. He wants to be your strong tower.

My final word is to my unbelieving friend. Maybe you have never put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord. Remember the Scripture quoted above, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." These words are particularly addressed to those who have sought to live their own life and have felt the burdens and pressures of this life, thinking that they could adequately manage matters themselves, and yet feeling the crushing weight of them. Jesus wants you to come to Him, and to believe in Him as your Lord and Saviour, and to receive His salvation; and He will give you spiritual rest in the presence of God. My non-Christian friend, you can know, not simply peace with God, being reconciled to Him, but also the peace of God, a peace that passes all understanding. My non-Christian friend, I invite you to come and place your faith in the Lord Jesus and find rest for your soul. Won't you come? I trust that you will.