The Secret Place
It was a cool, clear morning. So early it seemed no one was up.
And that was the idea. Jochebed looked left and she looked right. She didn't see anyone so she quickly and quietly carried her bundle down to the river.
Once again she checked both directions. No one. Then with a kiss and some tears she put the little basket into the water.
She couldn't stay, but she could hardly leave. Her heart was in that basket. But if she were caught, she would die and so would her baby boy. So with more tears she left -- left the basket in the water.
She couldn't just leave him, so she posted her daughter to watch. And she prayed that God would watch.
Can you imagine? Your baby in a basket in the water and all you can do is watch?
Turn with me to Exodus, chapter 1. In the first two chapters of Exodus we find the background to this story. There is a new Pharoah in Egypt. And this new Pharaoh is concerned about the strength of the Hebrews so he ordered that all the Hebrew baby boys be killed.
Exodus 1:22 says, "Then Pharaoh gave this order to his people, `every boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.'"
It struck me that Jochebed might have some lawyer's blood in her veins. She did what Pharaoh ordered. She put her boy in the river. She just put a basket around him.
As I thought about this story, I could not imagine what Jochebed was hoping for. How could this possibly turn out right?
Did she hope that the little basket would be like a modern message in a bottle? That it would float down the river to some place where they didn't kill little boys?
Except for technically complying with the law, the river is the last place I would put my little boy. I think parents are generally afraid of having young children by water.
When my son was young I used to take him way up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We'd go fishing at the very same place where my dad took me fishing when I was my son's age. Aside from the very real danger of riding with me for 2400 miles, my wife was concerned about the boy and all the water.
The story continues in Exodus chapter 2. Read Exodus 2:5. The Bible tells us that things went from bad to worse. The baby is in the water, which is bad enough. But then Pharaoh's daughter comes to the river by the water and notices the basket. E. G. White, in the book Patriarchs And Prophets suggest (p.243) that angels directed Pharaoh's daughter to the little boy.
That is easy to believe since we know the end of the story. But since Jochebed had not read Exodus, and did not know the end of the story, I've got to believe that Pharaoh's daughter is the next to the last person in the entire world that Jochebed wanted to find that basket. After all, it was her father who gave the command to kill the Hebrew babies. The only way it could get worse would be to have Pharaoh himself, the guy who gave the command to kill the babies, find Moses.
Lets hold that thought for just a moment: the butcher's daughter, finds the baby that you are trying to hide.
This morning I want to discuss with you Psalms 91. One of the most powerful and inspiring Psalms. Some Bible scholars believe that Moses wrote this Psalms. Considering his beginning, I can believe it. Read Psalms 91:1.
The New International version says "shelter," but the King James verson and many other translations say, "secret place." The Hebrew word means a covering, a hiding place.
Remember that thought you were holding? Consider how the beginning of Psalms 91 fits the beginning of Moses life. His situation was impossible. All Hebrew babies were to be killed. But Moses was in a secret place, a hiding place.
Lets put this in today's terms. The Bible tells us that Moses was 3 months old at the time. Imagine that you are sitting around with your friends, just shooting the breeze, just talking about life, and someone says, "OK, I've got a problem I want you to solve: How do you hide your three month old baby until he turns 20?" Assume something like World War II. Nazi occupation and a 3 month old Jewish baby.
So one of your friends says, "I got it! Lets put the baby in a basket in the water!" Bet you'd say, "Now that's a brilliant idea!"
In fact, in your little discussion group someone not only suggests that you put the kid in a basket in the water, but that you put the basket in a place where Hitler's daughter might find it.
Wouldn't that be a stoke of luck -- have the daughter of the guy who gave the command to kill the babies find your baby?
I have heard there is a movie out now called "Dumb and Dumber." that about sums this plan up in my mind: float the baby in an area where the killer's family will find it! As young people today are wont to say, "Duh!"
My friends, this is the kind of Bible story I love. I think it is what Psalms 91 is all about. You have an impossible situation and man (woman) comes up with an apparently idiotic solution.
How many times in life have you had that happen? Your problem is so impossible that you cannot figure out a good solution and you aren't sure that anybody could!
We have a great God in heaven. He says, "I can work with that. "No problem."
Lets look at Psalms 91:1 again. "He who dwells...." "He who dwells." it sounds like the initial action is with us. We make the choice, it is voluntary action. You might hear someone say, "He dwells in a great house by the sea." It would be unlikely hear someone say, "He dwells in the prison next to the landfill."
This is a choice you can make: a choice to constantly have an active relationship with God. If you make this choice Psalms 91:1 tells us that we can "rest" in the shadow of the Almighty.
Hebrews 11:23 opens a little window on this. It refers to the parents of Moses in this situation and its says, "They were not afraid of the king's edict."
Isn't that something? Pharaoh said to kill all the little boys. They had a little boy. And they had him in a basket in the water and Hebrews tells us they were not afraid.
My friends, I want that! I don't want to be in the middle of an impossible problem armed only with an idiotic solution; but I want to just rest my problems in God's shadow and have no fear.
This idea of resting in the shadow of the almighty reminds me of the mental picture that I had of my father. My father was a great man. He was both intellectually and physically powerful. When I was a kid I used to view him as this mighty battle cruiser and I was just a little dinghy (not a little dingy in the head, a little boat) gently bobbing in the water tied up to the back of the battle cruiser.
If you've ever been in a power boat, you know that behind the engine, no matter how fast the boat is going, is a calm place. So whenever I had any problem, my father would steam right in like a mighty battle cruiser and he would simply roll over the problem. All the while I was tied up to the back just bobbing along behind in that calm place in the water.
Psalms 91 promises us rest. But rest is not a problem free life. Look at verse 2. Read. It says we will call the Lord our "refuge" and "my fortress."
You need a refuge when the bad guys are coming to get you, right? When I think of fort, I think of the Indians attacking. You need these things when you have something to fear. So Ps 91 does not paint a picture of us just floating on a cloud.
Think again of Moses and his folks. From the world's point of view, they faced impossible problems. Psalms 91 does not promise us a problem free life, it promises us solutions to our problems:
It promises us a refuge.
It promises us a fortress.
It tells us that if we dwell in Jesus, we can rest in His shadow as He faces the problem.
Verses 3-6 gives us an insight into the nature of the problems which God is willing to bear for us. Read v.3 do you see two kinds of problems described here?
How many of you are bird catchers? Raise your hand.
I didn't think I would see too many hands!
My wife's brothers are hunters. The one in particular is a hunter. Rifles, pistols, muzzle loaders and even bows (and arrows).
Not long after my wife and I were married, her brothers asked me if I wanted to go Pheasant hunting with them.
I was a vegetarian, but I'm a stand up kind of guy, right? So I said, "OK."
They handed me a loaded shotgun, rounded up a bird dog and the four of us: the two brothers, the dog and I, started tromping through the woods.
I can tell you that watching for birds to catch was not my number one priority. Not even close.
My number one priority was to keep a close eye on my wife's brothers and walk slightly behind them. I wanted to be sure that if a bird jumped out of the bushes, they wouldn't get excited and shoot me!
My number two priority was to ensure that if a bird jumped up in front of me, I wouldn't get excited and accidentally shoot them! Especially, I was no hunter. I had never done this before. Hard telling what I would do if a bird jumped up -- so I was concentrating on not shooting my brothers in law.
My third, and clearly last priority was to shoot a bird if I got the chance.
The snare of the fowler refers to bird catchers before they had shotguns. The snare is the trap that the hunter deliberately sets to catch birds. I don't think I've ever seen one, but I've read about these very fine nets that are put in the air. The idea is that the bird cannot see it or can't see it until it is too late. He flies right into the net and is caught.
In my story I was the hunter. Sort of. But in Psalms we are the bird. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us that the Devil is a hunter. That he is prowling around like a lion and he is looking for someone to eat.
And that someone is you or me. God promises us in Psalms 91:3 that He will save those who dwell in Him from the snares and plots of the master hunter -- Satan.
The other kind of problem mentioned in v. 3 is pestilence. Pestilence is not exactly a household word today. It means a disease or a plague. It is not looking for you. Some might say it is an accident or just plain bad luck that it caught you. In fact, the comparable Arabic word means "misfortune."
God tells us that if we dwell in Him, He can be the solution to problems aimed at us and problems that simply seem to be misfortune.
Verses 5-6 repeat this idea and add a new element. They talk about night problems and day problems. The "terror of night" and the "arrow that flies by day."
What is a day problem? How about something that everyone can see? You have some problem that everyone knows about.
Let me suggest that night problems are those that no one else knows about. Private, maybe secret problems.
God tells us that He is here to solve the problems everyone knows about and the problems no one knows about.
Before we leave night problems, let me share with you an idea I got from Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words on night problems. Vine's suggests that the Hebrew word translated "night" here, can refer to problems where it seems that God is not present and is not helping.
In Job 35:10, Elihu repeats the phrase, "Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night...?"
"Songs in the night."
I like this word picture.
When you were a kid, what did you do when you were afraid?
When I was a kid I had two solutions to being afraid. Some of my earliest memories involve throwing myself on the floor and covering my head with my arms. It was dark in there. So I figured that if I couldn't see anything, no one could see me!
I don't do that any more.
But the second thing I did as a kid was to find my folks. If I'm in Boston or some other big city, I will walk places at night with someone else that I would not walk by myself.
It doesn't really make any sense because the people I'm with are not any bigger or stronger than I am. They aren't armed. But it feels safer to be with someone.
And that is what I think Elihu is talking about. It's night, and we're scared and God is there singing songs to let us know it is OK.
Job's problem was that it was night, and God could not be heard singing His songs. He did not seem to be there. Job was alone with his problem. Job was wanted to know "where is God in all of this?"
So Moses tells us in Psalms 91 that God can be the solution to the problems that everybody knows we have,
The problems nobody knows we have, and
The problems where, to be honest, God doesn't seem to be helping.
Let me read on. v.7-10. Does this seem hard to understand?
The text says that a thousand fall by my side and ten thousand at my right hand, but it does not come near me. How can it not come "near me" when it is at my right hand?
Later, it says that disaster will not come near my tent. From that I understand that disaster will not come to my home.
I first started seriously considering Psalms 91 because of my brother. He told me that he read Psalms 91 every morning and then prayed for Psalms 91 protection for himself and his wife. And he prayed for Psalms 91 protection for my family and me.
I was glad my brother's life had changed. He was studying the Bible and praying for me. When I cautioned him about believing that no harm would come to him, he told me I was wrong.
How do we square some pretty strong language in Psalms 91 with reality? -- and, more important to me: Biblical accounts?
The Devil in Luke 4:10-11 told Jesus that Psalms 91 (v.11-12) applied to Jesus. Jesus did not deny it. And some commentators suggest that this chapter is really talking about Jesus and not us. I don't think Psalms 91 is so narrow. But even if we assume it is, Jesus suffered, He was humiliated and tortured, and He died a very painful death.
The Bible tells us that God said that Job was a perfect man, yet Job suffered.
So we are not talking about someone who I think is good. Where I say, boy that was a good person, how come that bad thing happened to him?
My judgment has nothing to do with this. God is the one who called Job perfect, and God is the one who accepted Jesus as my perfect substitute.
So in light of the fact that the Bible records that perfect people suffered, what does Psalms 91 mean when it says that harm will not come near us?
I think there are at least two answers that I hope will give you comfort.
First, I think God, at a minimum, is talking about the big picture, the long view of things.
How many of you enjoyed high school? Academy?
Those of you who enjoyed it, did any bad things happen to you then?
How many of you did not enjoy high school? Academy? Although you did not enjoy it, some good things happened didn't they?
When I think about being in academy I remember a very good experience. Not a bad experience, a good experience. That doesn't mean that I didn't have bad experiences. I certainly did. I remember having a terrible acne problem. I remember losing the races for President of the Student Association and Senior Class President. I remember my brother, who was two years younger, dating some of the same girls I dated. But those things are far outweighed by positive, fun experiences.
When God tells us that no harm will come near us, He speaks of the glorious outcome of all this. Not the specific problems, but the outcome.
This idea is supported by verses 14-15. God talks about being with us in trouble and delivering us, rescuing us. If we never had a problem words like "rescue" and "deliver" wouldn't make sense. God can't deliver us from trouble unless we have some.
If we dwell with God, our fate is in His hands.
He will rescue us from harm.
He will deliver us when ten thousand fall by our side.
He is the solution to those who are gunning for us and He is the solution to what appears to be random evil.
Second, I think Psalms 91 states a general rule that--that God will literally protect us. God is in charge. If we dwell in Him, He will protect us.
That means there is no luck, no chance, in our lives. God makes an executive decision on everything that happens in our life.
When you think about it, the story of Job specifically supports this idea. The first two chapters of Job show that Satan was not allowed to do anything to Job that God had not specifically cleared.
In Job 2:3 we find God angry with Satan for causing Him to ruin Job without reason. Job teaches us that for those who dwell in Him, God is running the show.
Is that true for Jesus too? Turn with me to John 11. Jesus had heard that his friend Lazarus was sick and He delayed coming a couple of days. Then He announced to the disciples that they were going to see Lazarus.
Read John 11:7-10. What the disciples said is obvious. "Don't go there, that is 'Indian territory.' They tried to kill you there."
What does Jesus say? He says that if you walk during the daylight you won't stumble. What does that mean? I don't think the disciples planned to go at night. I think Jesus understood He had a certain period of time to finish His mission. During the time of the light the Devil could not harm Him -- just as they were not able to stone Him the last time He was there.
In contrast, in Luke 22:53 Jesus talks about a new hour, an hour of darkness. An hour when His enemies will be in charge.
Do you see the level of His Father's control that Jesus recognizes? That His enemies cannot hurt Him even when he walks into the danger area when it is still the daylight time of His life here. But when the hour of evil comes, He is exposed to harm.
When we dwell with the Lord, no harm will come to us that He does not permit.
Like Job, we might not have the slightest idea why this is happening.
Like Job, we cannot see any good that can possibly come from this. Like Job, the trouble that comes to us is not the Lord's idea in all likelihood.
But Psalms 91 teaches us it does not come by accident. And it does not come without Our Protector knowing about it.
And so if you trust God. If you know that He loved you enough to die for you, then you know that harm can come near, but it cannot come to you. For God has already measured the evil, formulated a rescue plan and will deliver you.
perfect knowledge of what is best for us.
The perfect rescue plan for an impossible problem.
This morning, I invite you to rest in the shadow of the Almighty.