EDITOR’S NOTE: No matter how severe the threats of disease or economic collapse or war may be, God is faithful to defend and protect His children.
In 1983, I traveled to Lebanon to deliver food, medicine, and Bibles to the people there. Minutes before reaching the city of Sidon, the PLO bombed the area. Had our arrival been any earlier, we could well have been caught in the crossfire. We distributed supplies and then headed for Beirut. We met with U.S. marines on a beachhead by the Mediterranean Sea, ministering to them, giving them Bibles, and praying with them.
Later that evening, the troops returned to their barracks at Beirut International Airport, approximately 500 yards from the beachhead. Our team unrolled our sleeping bags and made our beds on the sandy beach. A little after 6:00 a.m. the following morning, I was standing on the beachhead talking to a contingent of Marines who had just taken up their posts. Suddenly, a terrific explosion rent the air.
We would soon learn that as the American troops were beginning a new day, the Marine sentry at the gate looked up to see a big yellow Mercedes truck barreling down. The sentry reported that the driver of the truck smiled at him as he crashed through the gates. The truck was on a course for the lobby of the barracks. The sentries, armed only with loaded pistols, were unable to stop the speeding vehicle. The truck carried explosives equal to about six tons of TNT.
The driver rammed into the lower floor of the barracks and discharged his deadly cargo. The explosion was so great that the four-story building collapsed in a heap of rubble. Many of the dead had not been killed by the blast itself but were crushed beneath the cinder-block building as it pancaked in on itself.
News would soon spread that Islamic Jihad, a pseudonym for Iranian armed and funded Hezbollah terrorists, had taken credit for the attack that had blown up the Marine barracks. The explosion and collapse of the building killed 241 American servicemen: 220 Marines, 18 Navy personnel, and three Army soldiers. Huge guns from warships off the coast of Beirut began to shell the area in retaliation.
Upon hearing the explosion, my friends and I hurriedly gathered our belongings and headed for Nahariya, Israel, on the border. I had followed the sea to Beirut, but it would be dark soon. That became a problem as we drove south. I made several wrong turns that took us to Tyre and into the midst of the funeral procession of a Hezbollah operative. Our vehicle was an Avis rental car from Jerusalem with a distinctive Israeli license plate—not a good thing to have when you’re surrounded by raging, grieving terrorists!
Somehow God blinded their eyes, and we were able to get through the city. Once we reached the outskirts, I made another wrong turn. Instead of going to Nahariya, we were headed down a dirt road toward Damascus. Soon our vehicle was spotlighted and tracer bullets raced overhead, then 37-millimeter mortars began to crash into the desert near us. We had been on God’s business, and now we were being targeted! Next, our car’s engine sputtered and died. We had left Beirut so quickly I had forgotten to check the fuel tank. Now we were lost on a desert road, amid hostile fighters, and out of fuel. What else could happen? There seemed no way to survive. It could only be a matter of minutes before our vehicle would be blown to shreds. One of the men with me shouted, “We’re dead!” “You’re not dead; you’re talking! We have to pray,” I responded.
As I began to petition heaven for our safety, I was startled by a rap on the car window. Despite my bravado, I jumped at the sound. I thought, “This is it! We’re going to meet our Maker on the backside of nowhere. God help us!” Standing there was a young Arab wearing a kaffiyeh—the traditional head covering—and hefting not a weapon but a fuel can. I wondered how he could possibly have known we were out of diesel. He went to the back of the car, removed the fuel cap, and poured the diesel into the tank. He then walked over to the passenger door and pointed at the lock. I hesitated only briefly before pulling up the lock. He opened the door and climbed inside.
“Drive,” he ordered. We had no idea where he was taking us. I looked in the rearview mirror at my passengers, shrugged, and complied. For 32 kilometers the young man did not speak another word, only pointed in the direction he wished the car to go. After what seemed like hours, he barked, “Stop.” The man opened the door and climbed from the car. He stuck his head back inside, said, “Safe,” and then slammed the door.
I turned to look at my friends in the back seat…when I turned back, the young man was gone. We were out in the open. There was no place for him to disappear as quickly as he had. No one spoke a word until we drove over the border into Israel. One of my friends looked at me in awe and asked, “Can you explain what just happened?” I couldn’t, other than that God answered the prayers for safety that had been prayed over us before we left Beirut.
Psalm 91 is a wonderful song of God’s precious protection over His people. As the Believer reads through the chapter, it is soon evident that God doesn’t promise that we will never find ourselves in tight places, in desperate situations, or be exempt from trouble or affliction. It does promise that God will walk with us through each trial and tribulation. He is omnipresent—everywhere—and is our Strong Deliverer, our Mighty Tower, our Strong Refuge, our ever-present help in time of need. God has promised never to leave us alone.
Psalm 91:1–2 says: He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” Like the psalmist, the Believer has a choice to make: Dwell in the “secret place” or walk in the counsel of the ungodly and stand in the path of sinners. The place of Psalm 91 is a place of safety and protection, a place where we are totally dependent on God. It is a place of strength for the obedient; the only true sanctuary. All the blessings of God are available to the one who “abides under the shadow of the Almighty.”
God’s protection is not some nebulous, abstract thing; it is a demonstrable element. God’s Word declares that we are surrounded, embraced, sheltered, and overtaken by His kindness and are secure in Him. How all-encompassing is God’s love for us and protection over us! Another thing you have to do to ensure God’s protection, besides walking with God and obeying Him, is to speak your faith. The psalmist declares, “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress’” (emphasis added).
The psalmist gives us a mighty tool in invoking the Lord’s protection. He reminds us that we must speak up. The tongue is a powerful force, either for good or evil. When we speak the Word in faith, it is a powerful reminder of God’s grace and favor in our lives. When faced with the temptations of the Enemy in the wilderness, Jesus did not just “think” His responses. No, He spoke out against the wiles of Satan. His physical weakness from the lack of food did not deter His faith in the Father. He declared the Word with power and conviction, and as a result, received the benefits of God’s protection.
Storms do come to us even though we would much prefer that God hold them at bay. However, “Sometimes God calms the storm; sometimes He lets the storm rage and calms His child.” If you, like me, have ever seen God’s profound protection during times of tremendous trouble, you have benefited from an unfathomable grasp of His divine protection that may have been missed had He simply spoke, “Peace, be still,” to the storm. It is in these times that our faith is multiplied, and we receive new and awe-inspiring awareness of God and His matchless love. God’s mercy and shield are more than enough to keep us safe in the stormiest of situations.
No matter what diseases or plagues or economic unrest may come into your life, remember, “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27).