19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19–20, NKJV)
May disciples of Jesus Christ protect themselves from outside harm when they assemble together? The doors where these disciples assembled were “shut” – closed, secured, made inaccessible – “for fear of the Jews.” This word is used of prison doors (Acts 5:23), of the temple doors (Acts 21:30), and of the door shut by “He who has the keys of David” that no one opens (Rev. 3:7). The appearance of Jesus brought them peace and gladness. Yet, when they assembled eight days later, the doors were again “shut” when Jesus appeared to them. The fact that Christ is with His people when they worship does not prevent a church from securing its safety when it assembles for worship. The prayers made for Peter by many disciples at the house of Mary were offered behind a closed gate that had to be opened from the inside (Acts 12:12-16). Their careful security was not due to a lack of faith, it was a prudent course of action given the present danger of persecution (Acts 12:1-5). Certainly, churches may secure their safety when they assemble to worship God. The principle to “be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” surely finds application here.
4 Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; Preserve me from violent men, who have purposed to make my steps stumble. 5 The proud have hidden a snare for me, and cords; They have spread a net by the wayside; They have set traps for me. Selah (Psalm 140:4–5, NKJV)
David had enemies. They devised wicked plans against him, strengthening themselves together to assault him. They spoke lies against him in their attempts to overthrow him (Psalm 140:1-3). Rather than despair and lose hope when evil people lay traps and snares against us, like David we must set our hope on the Lord to deliver us and preserve us (verse 4). The Lord sees the hidden snares of the proud, so remain humble and set your heart on trusting Him fully (verse 5). Do not try to vindicate yourself (Romans 12:17-20). Your spiritual safety and preservation come from the Lord, not from “fighting fire with fire.” Christ challenges you not to be “overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). That is the course David chose, and the Lord delivered him (Psalm 22:19-21). The Lord still preserves those whose minds are set on Him (Isaiah 26:3; Romans 8:31-39; Hebrews 13:5-6).
7 The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah 8 Come, behold the works of the Lord, Who has made desolations in the earth. 9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire. 10 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! (Psalm 46:8–10, NKJV)
God’s people are repeatedly told to know it is God who saves and secures us. When the Egyptian army pressed down upon them at the Red Sea Moses told the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today” (Exodus 14:13). When facing a fierce enemy, the prophet Jahaziel told the people of Judah and Jerusalem, “Thus says the LORD to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15). Like Israel, we need to stand still and see the majestic power of God. See His salvation at Calvary. See His victory over death at the empty tomb. See His protection in prayer and His guidance in His Holy Scriptures. God is with us. He is our refuge. He commands His hosts and nothing can withstand Him. He is exalted above every nation and power. When the enemy seems to be at his strongest, never forget that our God is stronger, and He will never forsake us (1 John 4:4; Hebrews 13:5).
6 You will prolong the king’s life, His years as many generations. 7 He shall abide before God forever. Oh, prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him! (Psalm 61:6–7, NKJV)
King David was sure that God would hear his prayers and protect him from his enemies (Psalm 61:1-3). For his part, David would abide with God and keep trusting in God’s sheltering wings, sure of God’s favor and reward of a heritage and abundant life (Psalm 61:4-6). God prepared two things that would preserve the king, mercy and truth. By these the king would be guarded by God to lead the people in wisdom and righteousness. Like the king, each of us will be shielded by God and assured of His blessings when we are merciful and guided by truth. “God shall send forth His mercy and His truth” to save the righteous and reproach is enemies (Psalm 57:3). “Mercy and truth preserve the king,” and they also bless us when we walk in them (Proverbs 20:28). With David, we praise God for the extent of His mercy and truth, “I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing to You among the nations. For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens, and Your truth unto the clouds” (Psalm 57:9-10). Let us commit ourselves to being merciful and living by God’s truth. By doing so you will have His favor and reap eternal life.
9 The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. 10 And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You. (Psalm 9:9–10, NKJV)
Shelter from the storm. A haven of rest for the weary. The Lord gives sanctuary to those who put their trust in Him, for they rely upon His great power to preserve and to protect them. His trustworthiness is unwavering; His relief is complete. Whatever storm of life you are facing today, make the Lord your refuge. Seek the Lord when the storm of sin roars against you; He will save you (Matthew 8:23-27; Luke 19:10). Seek His protection when you are oppressed by unrighteous people; He will help you endure (Hebrews 13:5-6). Seek His comfort when enemies of the faith harass you for the sake of righteousness; He will give you reason to rejoice (Matthew 5:10-12). The Lord does not abandon His people. He rewards those who “diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
19 Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You in the presence of the sons of men! 20 You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the plots of man; You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues. (Psalm 31:19–20, NKJV)
During His sermon on the mountain, Jesus taught us to lay up treasures in heaven (Matt. 6:19-21). It is noteworthy that in today’s passage, the Lord God lays up the treasures of His goodness for those who fear Him and trust Him. God protects us from spiritual and eternal harm, from the “plots of men” who may even kill the body, but who cannot harm our soul (Matt. 10:28). Those who fear God and trust Him live faithful lives before friend and foe. The Lord shelters these from the strife that others speak – words designed to frighten, discourage and defeat us. We will trust in the Lord’s goodness, for it is great. He is our haven of safety against every evil.