A mighty Fortress is our God,
A Bulwark never failing;
Our Helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal. …Martin Luther
The word of the week has been refuge, meaning a safe place, protection. Martin Luther said that our refuge was a mighty fortress which is the Almighty. We are tempted to think that it is violent people that we need protection from, and often we do. The Almighty is sufficient for that. But by now you know that what happens on earth is a reflection of what is happening in the unseen spirit realm. Take the Syrian refugees as an example, I do not think that people trying to escape the horror that is happening in Syria and the evil people who happen to travel with those crushed souls is our real problem, as many people are afraid of and tell us of there fear.. Our real problem is the “cruel hate” of our ancient foe, the Serpent, the devil himself.
Americans have a saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” It means that we often get rid of what is good in our attempt to rid ourselves of what is bad. What happened in Paris is so horrible that we want to stop all refugees from coming across our boarders to settle in our nation, as if that is what will keep us safe. So far as I know, Americans have suffered similar things throughout our beloved country, but there is not any evidence that refugees from Syria have every been responsible for the atrocities committed against Americans. Syrian refugees are neither the question nor the answer as far as I can tell. The question for me, the question I want to ask you is, do you know where the “mighty fortress” is and who your helper and protector are?
In today’s passage we are introduced to the Hebrew word for grace. Chen which is a pictograph for a fence or wall protecting a righteous life; our “might fortress.” The first place chen is used in Scripture is in Genesis 6:8, Noah found chen in the eyes of the Almighty. Grace. It does not mean that we are exempt from the cruel hate of our ancient foe, it means we have a place where our righteous life is protected.
The angel said to her, ” Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. Luke 1:30-32 nasu
Mary also found chen in Luke 1:30-31. After hearing the news that she was pregnant, our English Bibles tell us that she said, “How can this be…” Luke 1:34. We often wonder how she could ask the same question as Zacharias yet not receive any kind of chastisement like he did. I’m not convinced that we are seeing her question through her culture. I think Mary, knowing the consequences of being an unwed mother was saying, “But I am innocent!” An unwed mother in Mary’s day would be stoned to death by men with stone hearts. Joseph had every right to marry a virgin. If she were to humiliate him by “fooling around with someone else” then he was encouraged to kill her before the wedding. But it was the chen, the grace of the Almighty that Joseph did not have such a stony heart. While he did not want the humiliation of an unfaithful, pregnant bride, he also did not want to kill her, but instead he wanted to send her away quietly. Because of his tender heart, after he heard the angel, he was not ashamed to take Mary and her child as his own. Life would not be easy for the couple. Grace is not a pathway to an easy life; it is a protection for a righteous life. A mighty fortress against a wicked hateful foe. We are still called to stand firm, to walk “ The Way,” to prepare ourselves for war, but not against flesh and blood, but against dark forces of wickedness (Ephesians 6:12)
In today’s passage we see the difference between a gracious- chen life and a violent life.
The violent seem to have wealth, (Pr 16:11) but they do themselves harm (vs 12). Their wealth is from lying and cheating (vs 18), They pursue evil and it kills them (vs19). They are an abomination (disgrace-revolting) to the Almighty and they WILL be punished even though it may seem as if their money might protect them (vs 20-21). Their women tend toward physical beauty instead of honor but even their beauty is gross in the Almighty’s eyes (like a gold ring in the nose of a pig. Even with a pretty ornament a pig is still a dirty pig)
But what does the same passage say about those who live in the chen, the grace of the Almighty? They have honor, mercy and do good, they sow (spread instead of hording their riches) righteousness and in return receive a truly desirable reward from the Almighty—life for steadfast righteousness! They are blameless as they walk in “The Way,” which is a delight to the Almighty. Deliverance from evil and punishment go to their descendents.
It seems as if Americans will have no choice about Syrian refugees. We will be forced to live with the decisions that other people make, but should that frighten you? If it does then run to the mighty fortress, the Grace that is our refuge. The Almighty has been our protection to this day; he will continue to be our protection from our true foe, who uses his hateful ways no matter what people he chooses for his dirty work. The thing is, I KNOW that there are Christians among those refugees. He will show grace to them just as he did to us, to our ancestors who were refugees in America at one time. Trust in YHVH with all your heart, do not lean on your own understanding, or even your favorite news for understanding. As you walk pleasing to the Almighty, which is walking The Way, he will protect you.
Stand firm beloved,
Mrs. Hagerty, November 20, 2015