During this month, I’ve had a couple of opportunities to hang out with a bunch of pastors. None were flashy leaders of mega-churches. Instead, all were faithful shepherds of modest flocks. Most I had never met until having the privilege of “crashing the party” and joining their retreats. And, as strangers are wont to do when they find themselves together over a meal, they look for things in common with which to begin a conversation. “How’s the last two years been?” was one of those conversation starters.
If nothing else, the last couple of years have brought a shared experience. Details differ slightly, but the themes are much the same. We were shut down. Then we weren’t. We innovated. Some of us separated. It’s been hard, real hard. But, in so many ways, we’ve not only survived, we’ve actually thrived. Even those emerging most battle-scarred testifying to God’s faithfulness and goodness.
And these tenders of the flock came to mind this morning as I hovered over Psalm 125. In particular as I chewed on a single lyric. One word running through my head and providing reassurance for my soul. Surrounded.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the LORD surrounds His people,
from this time forth and forevermore.
(Psalm 125:2 ESV)
Jerusalem, the city on a hill surrounded by hills. From a military point of view, this is a good thing. Sentinels can be posted about the holy city, on guard against unwanted intruders. Armies can man the high ground, owning the advantage as they defend against hostile forces. Nothing enters Jerusalem without someone knowing about it in advance. Protection is afforded Jerusalem when protection is required. Behold, in this image, our God!
. . . the LORD surrounds His people from this time and forevermore!
Surrounded. That’s us. During the past two years. During the past two decades. Surrounded before the foundations of the world according to the purposes of God.
Surrounded. For the next two years. For the next two million years. And, perhaps most importantly, for the next two hours. Surrounded, even now, by the presence of God.
Surrounded. Nothing gets into our world apart from Jehovah knowing about it. Much is repelled by His powerful protection. Some is allowed according to His permissive will. Some orchestrated for His divine purposes. Regardless of season or circumstance, what is unchanging is the reality that, as God’s people, we are surrounded.
That’s what provides strength for today and hope for tomorrow. It’s what fuels the fight. It’s what sustains the weary. It’s what keeps us keepin’ on.
That, it seems to me, is a promise to claim. A truth to own. A reality to know.
By His grace. For His glory.