by Del Tackett
In May of 1588, King Philip II dispatched the 130-ship “Invincible Armada” to invade England and bring the “separatist” nation back under the control of Rome. The pitiful English navy was grossly out-matched and it became clear that only a miracle would save England. A historian of the period, Richard Hakluyt wrote: “… all people throut England prostrated themselves with humble prayers and supplications unto God... continual fastings and supplications… knowing right well, that prayer was the onely refuge against all enemies, calamities, and necessities…”. A fierce storm arose, affecting only the large Spanish ships and blew them up against the coast of Holland. The smaller English ships maneuvered up to them and set many afire. What was left of the Invincible Armada limped back to Spain without touching English soil.
If you Google it, you will see titles like “England’s Lucky Escape” or historical narratives about “Mother Nature” saving the English.
But for the people who lived through it, they believed God had clearly come to their defense. A special coin was minted: on one side were the ships sinking; on the other, the people on their knees in prayer. The caption: “Man Proposeth, God Disposeth. 1588”.
Does God really come to our “defense”? Is He a Defender?
The Scripture would certainly lead us to believe this to be true.
One of my all-time favorite accounts is from the life of Elisha. It is somewhat humorous, because Syria and Israel were “warring” and the King of Syria was beside himself because every time he laid secret plans, the king of Israel would know about them and evade him. So the king was “enraged” and fully convinced a spy was in his camp. But one of his servants (possibly Naaman) told the king: “No, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.”
Well, this set the King of Syria on a death hunt for Elisha and he dispatched a “great army” to the little town of Dothan, where Elisha lived. Here is the key part of the account:
When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6:17
This is the Defender. Often times our eyes are blind to Him. But just because we cannot see Him in His Defensive work, does not mean that we are alone. Consider this familiar passage:
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13
Beyond our visual senses stands the Defender, who will not allow temptations to get through to us that are beyond our ability. Yes, we read it. Yes, we may even be able to quote the verse. But do we believe it?
The horses and chariots of the Defender were all around Elisha’s servant, but he couldn’t see them. God has graciously given us His word so that we might “see” the reality of who He is, though we may not actually “see” Him.
Israel often forgot this, just as we do. Early on, in 1 Samuel, the elders came to the prophet and asked for a king like all the other nations had. They said they wanted a king who would “go before us”. These are key words, because God continually told them that He would “go before them” and defend them; He would be their “rear guard”:
“For the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” (Isaiah 52:12)
He would be their Defender.
When a culture walks away from belief in God, it walks away from any sense that God will defend them. No longer is the nation called to prayer and fasting and supplication. And as we weaken further in our belief in God, the people begin to get “defensive”; they develop a “chip” on their shoulder. Everything becomes “offensive” and everyone goes "on the offensive”… attacking, blaming, biting back, pointing fingers, yelling, hating, suspicious… crawling into their own defensive holes, hiding beneath their hoodies and behind their ear buds and isolating themselves in their smart phones; afraid of relationships; afraid of each other… always on the defense... always suspecting someone is dissing them… somehow, someway… “I’m all alone… it’s all on me… it’s all about me… it’s me against the world.”
No one, we begin to believe, will stand up for me. I’m the only one who cares.
And the reality is that we are not able to defend ourselves against the forces that are arrayed against us. We are not even able to defend ourselves against ourselves, let alone the infinite holiness of God that will ultimately bring judgment upon the world.
If He is not our Defender, then we are defenseless.
For there is nothing, absolutely nothing, can withstand the ultimate wrath and judgment of God.
But there is a Defender… thanks be to God.
There is a Defense Attorney who stands in heaven, continually arguing our case. This is the Ultimate Defender.
For those who are in Christ, there stands before the Throne of God, the only One who can stand and argue our case, because He has clothed us in His righteousness.
“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…” 1 Tim 2:5
Therefore, no one will snatch us from His hand… no one. Neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
“Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” Rom 8:34
Fear is the normal response when we think we are overmatched. Do you find yourself fearful? Are you constantly "defensive"? Do you find yourself biting back or pulling into a defensive hole, isolating from relationships and the world? Maybe these are signs that you have not met the God who has not only clothed you with His righteousness, but will always go before you, who will always be your "rear guard"... the one in whom there is no more condemnation... the tower of refuge. May you draw close to Him this week.
For further contemplation throughout the week:
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. John 10:28-29
Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Heb 7:25
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. Rev 12:10
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 1 John 2:1
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Rom 8:31
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him. Psalm 34:7
He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. Psal 91:4
As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore. Psalm 125:2
You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name's sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. Luke 21:16-18
My God sent his angel and shut the lions' mouths, and they have not harmed me… Daniel 6:22
The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. Prov 18:10