God has many names that reveal who He is. Several describe Him as a God who watches over us keeping us safe. He is Maon, Machseh, Magen, Metsuda, Migdal-Oz which are translated as Dwelling Place, Refuge, Shield, Fortress, Strong Tower. To feel secure in an insecure world we must come to know Him in these capacities.
We are told in Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Therefore, we search for God as our refuge, shield, fortress, and strong tower at our most vulnerable points in life and when we do so we uncover the miraculous and realize God is not just spectacular in the stories of the Bible but in the stories of modern life. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
My first example is from a book “Praying the Names of God” by Ann Spangler.1
The author tells the story of a Liberian man, Joedafi, trying to escape a horrific civil war in the late 1990s. During his trek he cried out to God repeating the words of Psalm 23—“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”
Captured by rebels who had little regard for human life, Joedafi continued to repeat the Psalm and soon began to gain confidence sensing God would deliver him. He wrote: “In the past, I read my Bible daily and went to church. Now I believed that God would do something and prove himself. I had believed in the Lord and trusted him to lead me in my life. I took faith in the teaching I heard that the Lord delivers those who trust him and commit their ways to him.”
The Lord did deliver him. One dark night a silent voice called his name and told him to get up and walk away from his captors. He obeyed, walking past sleeping guards onto a main road. He continued to walk for hours and hours through the night passing rebel soldiers who did not question him, continuing through checkpoints with ease until he found a ride to the capital city where he was able to board a ship for Ghana.
He trusted God to be his refuge and found God to be true to His name.
When I read this, I immediately think of Peter imprisoned by Herod. In the middle of the night an angel of the Lord wakes him and leads him out of prison passing guards and opening an iron gate leading into the city. [Acts 12:6-11]
At times when I am standing on shaky ground trying to find stability, I have longed for an angel to appear to me. This has not happened yet, but the Lord has appeared to me when I run to Him in times of trouble.
A couple of years ago I was diagnosed with cancer and began chemotherapy. As I passed through the trials of treatment which included daily uncertainty due to the side effects of the drugs, a different lifestyle because of the illness, and no guarantee of success, I sought God as my refuge.
Shortly after my treatment began the Holy Spirit highlighted 2 Kings 5:1-20 as I read the Bible. This is the story of Naaman, a commander in the Syrian army. He is described as a mighty man of valor but plagued with leprosy. A young girl from Israel tells his wife, who is her mistress, about a prophet in Samaria who can heal Naaman. With the king’s permission he sets out to be healed.
When Naaman reaches the prophet Elisha’s house a messenger is sent out to tell him “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” Naaman is mad because he wants the prophet to come out, call on his God, and wave his hand over the leprosy. He wants a “miraculous” healing. Finally, he dips in the Jordan river seven times, according to the instructions given by Elisha and is healed. In fact, his flesh is restored like the flesh of a little, child and he is clean.
My prayer was for a miraculous healing after my cancer diagnosis. An instantaneous healing, but God gave instructions to go through five chemo infusion treatments just as he had given Naaman the instructions to dip in the Jordan River seven times.
The sense that God had given me the story of Naaman as my message of deliverance was so strong, I printed it out and carried it with me to the infusion center each time I went and even to the imaging center where I was to get a PET scan following treatment to determine whether chemo had been successful.
I had a CT scan partway through treatment and I longed for them to tell me the cancer cells were eradicated, or at the very least compromised, confirming that my healing was a done deal. The news did not come. And so, I wrote in my journal as my confidence wavered… “Did not God give me the vision of Naaman? If so, is not the healing already a done deal? Did not God direct me to open my Bible to the book of 2 Kings chapter 5?”
What I did not know is this passage of Scripture was not the only way God planned to show me I could trust that all the names that reveal who He is are ways we can come to know Him. And in this knowledge have the security we need.
After my last chemo treatment, I did not hear from my oncologist in a timely manner. Each day, as I waited, I battled doubt. But God wanted to confirm to me He was indeed my deliverer. One anxious night, I told my husband I had to seek the Lord for I was in a state of uncertainty. I needed to know He had given me the message from 2 Kings, and I would be healed. In my bedroom, the devotional “Morning and Evening” caught my eye.2 Yet when I sat down with the book in the living room preparing to pray, I realized I grabbed the wrong book. It was “Praying the Names of God,” so I opened the book reading from the page that seemed to appear at random. It focused on the Lord of Hosts from Psalm 46.
In the book I read: “When you pray to Yahweh Tsebaoth, you are praying to a God so magnificent that all creation serves his purposes.”
I am reminded this is the God who has been my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble throughout the months of my cancer treatment [Psalm 46:1] The next morning I grab the devotional I was drawn to the night before, the evening of May 3, and read on that date: “A very present help-Psalm 46:1” Charles Spurgeon writes: “Covenant blessings are not meant only to be observed but to be appropriated. Even our Lord Jesus is given to us for our present use. Believer, you do not make use of Christ as you ought to do. When you are in trouble, why do you not tell Him all your grief? Does He not have a sympathizing heart, and can He not comfort and relieve you?”
After God confirmed that He was very near and ready to help in our time of trouble I did hear from my oncologist, who told me there was no sign of the cancer. But it wasn’t the healing that gave me the greatest joy. It was the intimate interaction I had with my Savior. Just as God proved Himself to Joedafi, he proved Himself to me.
Whenever life is uncertain, we can run to God. He wants us to know without doubt, he is our refuge, shield, fortress, strong tower. A very present help.
Contemplate Your Ways:
1-Where do you seek help when you feel like you are in an earthquake and the walls of life are falling around you? Share some specifics!
2-How has God proven Himself to you? In what ways has God revealed Himself when you are in a desperate situation?
1-“Praying the Names of God” by Ann Spangler published by Zondervan in Grand Rapids, Michigan 2004.
2-“Morning and Evening” by Charles H. Spurgeon revised and updated by Alistair Begg published by Crossway Books Wheaton, Illinois 2003.