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God’s Protection – Are You Listening

By Pastor William R. Cunningham
Sunday November 6, 2005

 

INTRODUCTION

Have you ever wondered if God specifically protects His people today or if His protection was only for those during Old Testament Times?  Does God actively protect Christians today?  I wonder about things like this especially given all of the pain and suffering in the world and especially the recent natural disasters that befell many “innocent” people.

I wonder if people could have prayed for the recent hurricanes to take a path that would not devastate coastlines and therefore lives.  Would God answer such prayers and indeed spare thousands of lives?  Are we on our own as many believe (Deists for example)?  Did God protect certain people during these calamities?  After all we do hear of stories where people were “miraculously” saved, spared, or rescued from a seemingly terminal situation.

The answers to these types of questions are not as simple to answer as you may think.  Some may say that God protects His people and then quote a multitude of scriptures to “prove” it.  However, that begs the question of the suffering of so many people.  Surely there is someone that doesn’t deserve the suffering.  Some may say that God does not protect people today except for special situations.  That begs the question of whether God cares about the individual or not.  The latter would also be very depressing in my opinion.

So what is it then?  Does God protect people today or not?  Can we expect God to come to our rescue the way He did for those in the Old Testament and even some parts of the New Testament?  Can I expect God to rescue me when I am at my wits end and don’t know what to do?  What should you do when you have no more money, no more food, and no more hope?  Can I depend on God to help me or can I expect life to take its natural course?

These are real questions that many people have.  I believe that people’s perspective of God is tightly woven throughout the answers to these types of question.  God wants us to love Him, but why should we?  God wants me to do what He says, but what difference would it make?  Is there any reason at all why I should serve God when it appears that bad things happen to me anyway and life is just going to truck on regardless of where I am.  How can I allow myself to believe that God will protect me regardless of my relationship with Him?

There are also many people that truly love God and don’t believe that He will reach out and rescue them at every point of danger.  It appears that these people seem to accept what comes their way.  They fear God and perhaps are motivated by something else besides true love.  Perhaps they are simply afraid of going to hell and reckon that suffering now and not understanding why is far outweighed by the prospects of heaven later.

So does God protect His people?  Does God rescue people from danger regardless of the scope?  This lesson will dive into these questions and I pray that you would be edified by what is presented.

Scripture Lesson

Read the following scriptures carefully.

God Protects Israel

Exodus 8:22 (NKJV) -- {22} And in that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, in which My people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there, in order that you may know that I am the Lord in the midst of the land.
Exodus 9:6 (NKJV) -- {6} So the Lord did this thing on the next day, and all the livestock of Egypt died; but of the livestock of the children of Israel, not one died.
Exodus 9:26 (NKJV) -- {26} Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, there was no hail.

Recall how God plagued the Egyptians during the process of delivering the Israelites.  There were swarms of flies, frogs, hail, and more that were put upon the Egyptians.  Now one would expect that everyone would have been affected by these types of things.  Why would locusts, flies, frogs, and hail discriminate as to where they would go?  Would a frog know the difference between an Israelite and an Egyptian?  Wouldn’t the Israelites have had to face the same plagues as the Egyptians?  After all they were living in Egypt.  Well it appears that these things did know the differences or were controlled. 

The Israelites lived in Goshen, which was a fertile region in the eastern Nile delta of Egypt (See Genesis 47:27-28).  This was the area that Pharaoh allowed Joseph’s family to settle during the famine.  So Goshen was the home of the Israelites.  However, the Israelites were protected from the plagues that were put upon the Egyptians.

Consider another scripture.

Exodus 23:20-23 (NKJV) -- {20} “Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. {21} Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in Him. {22} But if you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. {23} For My Angel will go before you and bring you in to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites and the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will cut them off.

This was most interesting to me when I read it.  God sent His angel to guide the Israelites, but they had to do what this angel told them to do.  It also appears that this angel was a type of Apostle of God in that He was sent on a mission with God’s authority accompanying him.  Whatever the angel spoke was just as if God spoke it so that the words of the angel were actually the words of God.  It appears that this angel is identified with God himself.  The phrase, “my angel” is equivalent to the Hebrew phrase, “Angel of the LORD.”

Another very important thing about this scripture is that the guidance and protection afforded by the angel was conditional on the Israelites obedience.  If they would obey the angel’s voice, i.e., God’s voice then they would do well.  If not then they would be in trouble not only with their enemies, but also with the angel (God).  This angel evidently would not tolerate disobedience.  So guidance and protection was here dependant or conditional on obedience.

Let’s look at a few more scriptures showing God’s protection of His people.

God Rescues Hezekiah from Death

Isaiah 38:1-8 (NKJV) -- {1} In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.’ ” {2} Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the Lord, {3} and said, “Remember now, O Lord, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what is good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. {4} And the word of the Lord came to Isaiah, saying, {5} “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will add to your days fifteen years. {6} I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city.” ’ {7} And this is the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do this thing which He has spoken: {8} Behold, I will bring the shadow on the sundial, which has gone down with the sun on the sundial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward.” So the sun returned ten degrees on the dial by which it had gone down.

Now here is an interesting situation where King Hezekiah was sick and was near death when he pleaded with God to spare his life.   Have you ever been sick and cried out to God to heal you?  Well that is what Hezekiah was doing.  Hezekiah even “reminded” God of how he was faithful to him.  God answered Hezekiah’s prayer and extended his life by 15 years.

Would we receive similar results if we prayed to God like this?

God Rescues Peter From Prison

Acts 12:1-11 (NKJV) -- {1} Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. {2} Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. {3} And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread. {4} So when he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after Passover. {5} Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church. {6} And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and the guards before the door were keeping the prison. {7} Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands. {8} Then the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and tie on your sandals”; and so he did. And he said to him, “Put on your garment and follow me.” {9} So he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. {10} When they were past the first and the second guard posts, they came to the iron gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord; and they went out and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him. {11} And when Peter had come to himself, he said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people.”

Now a couple of things are interesting about this verse of scripture.

  1. James was killed
  2. Peter was rescued from prison

First of all one could ask why James was not protected by God.  However, we see that Peter was rescued from prison.  Why was he not protected from prison?  If we put these verses together with the ones we examined earlier we would come to reason that God protects whom He chooses to protect in a given situation.  God did not choose to protect James given the data that we have.  God did not choose to protect Stephen from death.  Let’s look at Stephen’s predicament a little closer.

Stephen’s Death

Acts 7:54-60 (NKJV) -- {54} When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. {55} But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, {56} and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” {57} Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; {58} and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. {59} And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” {60} Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Stephen was mobbed by angry religious folk because he preached the gospel with wisdom.  They conjured up a charge of blasphemy against him with false witnesses (See Acts 6:8-15).  Stephen had just told them about themselves from the time of Abraham.  He then told them in 7:51 that they were stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears. 

Acts 7:51-53 (NKJV) -- {51} “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. {52} Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, {53} who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.”

The Jews eventually stoned Stephen to death.  However, I found it very interesting that Stephen saw Jesus standing at the right had of God.  Why didn’t Jesus miraculously rescue Stephen?  He was innocent of the charges.  Why wasn’t he protected from the unrighteous Jews?  Instead he was allowed to die.  Again we see that God protects whom He chooses.  We should also remember that God’s ways are higher than our ways and many things we therefore do not understand.  It is also interesting that the Bible says that Stephen fell asleep instead of saying that He died.  This was an implication that his life did not end, but rather changed.

The main point here is that God does what He wants to do.  He didn’t rescue Stephen because He didn’t want to.  Perhaps Stephen had a way out and didn’t take it.  We can’t say.  We do know that he died and was therefore not miraculously rescued from death.  However, he did end up with God so we can’t say that it was an absolute bad thing.  In any case, God is sovereign and sometimes we just don’t understand the things that He does.

Prophets’ Sufferings

Consider the following scripture.

Hebrews 11:32-38 (NKJV) -- {32} And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: {33} who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, {34} quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. {35} Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. {36} Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. {37} They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— {38} of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.

This is very interesting and goes a long way for us to answer the question about God’s protection.  Some prophets did great things and experienced great things.  Still others experience tragedy and even death.

Some prophets…

  1. Subdued Kingdoms
  2. Worked righteousness
  3. Obtained Promises
  4. Stopped the mouths of lions
  5. Quenched the violence of fire
  6. Escaped the edge of the sword
  7. Were made strong though they were weak
  8. Became valiant in battle
  9. Turned to flight the armies of the aliens
  10. Women received their dead raised to life

However other prophets…

  1. Were tortured (these did not accept deliverance so that they would obtain a better resurrection)
  2. Had mock trials
  3. Faced scourging
  4. Were Imprisoned
  5. Were stoned
  6. Were sawn in two
  7. Were tempted
  8. Were slain with the sword
  9. Wandered in sheepskins and goatskins
  10. Were destitute
  11. Were afflicted
  12. Were tormented

I don’t know about you, but these and similar scriptures go a long way in helping me to understand God’s protection of His people.  In Christian history we find that many Christians were….

  1. Eaten by wild beasts
  2. Burned alive
  3. Tortured
  4. Boiled to death
  5. Burned to death
  6. Impaled
  7. And much more

We also find that many Christians were…

  1. Rescued from the hands of the authorities that were arresting Christians
  2. Provided for
  3. Escaped to other regions away from the local persecutions

We can only imagine the individual “miracles” that occurred during this time and even now for that matter. 

Consider the following words of Jesus Christ.

Matthew 5:44-45 (NKJV) -- {44} But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, {45} that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

The unjust experience good and bad things and the just experience good and bad things.  So both bad and good things happen to all people, even to the people of God.  However, God may intervene to rescue or protect us miraculously from certain situations.  See also 2 Timothy 3:12 and Ecclesiastes 9:11.  We are sometimes the target of evil and of chance.

Another question arose in me.  Is there something that we can do to facilitate God’s protection or hinder it?  In other words, is it possible for me not to experience God’s protection because of something that I did?

Other Examples

There are many other examples in the Bible where we find God's protection, deliverance, guidance and more. Consider the following.

  1. David and Goliath
  2. David killing the lion
  3. Elisha and Jezebel
  4. Paul bitten by the snake
  5. Paul shipwrecked
  6. Moses and the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt
  7. Esther and Mordecai
  8. Joseph crossing the Jordan
  9. And many more

The point here is that we see many times where God protected the people. However, obedience and/or knowledge of God was necessary in all of these cases. Do you know God? Have you contemplated the things He has done for you during the course of your life?

OBEDIENCE

Something stood out to me when God told Moses about the angel that would go with them (Exodus 23:20-23).  They had to obey.  We learned in our lesson on “Wise Counsel” that we can obtain great advice from others.  I would dare say that sometimes that advice could keep us away from danger.  Sometimes just listening to the warnings of others could protect us from danger.  We also said in that discussion that God could very well speak to us through that wise counsel.

However, I have always asked myself why we don’t seem to experience the things that the people experienced in the Bible?  Why don’t we see the miracles that are recorded in the Bible?  Why can’t we call out to God and receive healing and deliverance?  Well I have come to the conclusion that there are several reasons why we don’t have those biblical experiences and results now (or it appears that way).

  1. We don’t listen to God when He speaks to us
  2. We don’t know when God is speaking to us because we are too busy with our lives
  3. We don’t do what God says to do
  4. God wants us to go through the thing for another purpose or else He chooses not to rescue us

I have come to realize that we in general do not have the relationship with God as the people in the Old Testament appeared to have.  This could be a type of catch 22.  They were closer to God than we are because they saw God operating close and up front.  The Israelites saw God open the sea, plague the Egyptians, provide water in the desert, etc.  We have not seen any of these things and for the most part we don’t see signs and wonders like those (not that we need to).

The western mind is not spiritual though there is a move to more spiritualism than in previous years of western society.  Most people do not have a relationship with God so why would we expect him to talk to us.  God has given us leaders to serve us and therefore guide us in the ways of God.  However, we are again to busy living to listen.

An honest look at the Bible will show that obeying God is very important.  Why should we expect God’s blessing and protection when we don’t do what he says to do?  If I am your technology consultant and I tell you to backup your files on your computer and you don’t then don’t blame me for not protecting your data when in fact you simply didn’t listen.  This is typical with our relationship with God.  We don’t listen or we don’t know to listen.   We don’t obey because we don’t know.

Hosea 4:6 (NKJV) -- {6} My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.

We are just so disconnected from God.  We look for his protection and don’t realize that He has already provided a lot of protection that we overlook.  Consider the laws that we break each day.  Consider the common sense issues that we neglect.  The speed limit for example is 55 mph in many places or 35 mph depending on where you are driving.  There are even places in residential areas where the speed limit is 25 mph.  However, how many of us typically drive faster than the speed limit.  We think the speed limit is a guide or something.  We feel it is OK to go 65 mph in a 55 mph zone or 40 mph in a 25 mph zone.  When we either are a victim or the cause of an accident we tend to want to cry out to God for help when in fact he has already provided that help.  SLOW DOWN!

We get advice from people all of the time.  We hear things on the news, from our doctor, from a knowledgeable associate or friend.  However, we still hide in our own illusion and do what we probably shouldn’t do and what common sense tells us is dangerous or unhealthy to do.  God has provided us with much protection, but we tend to ignore it or are too busy with our own lives that we don’t even hear when He hollers out, “Stop!”

It’s always so interesting when I hear how animals vacate a location when a natural disaster is eminent and yet people want to hang around to guard their possessions.  Don’t get me wrong.  I do understand that, but still we have to think about the bigger picture.  Guarding our possessions may mean losing our lives.  God says go and we want to stay.  God says to go left, but we want to go right.  We then want to blame God when things go awry.

Now I am not suggesting that all events in our lives fall into the above category.  However, we cannot neglect that many times we do something and later regret it because we didn’t do what we knew what was right to do.  Many times we regret our decisions because we realize that we didn’t do what God told us to do either in his word, through someone else, a book, or whatever.  Deep down inside we knew what to do and we just didn’t do it.

Obedience is the key.  If we would only obey God we would enjoy much more fruit so to speak.  If we would only obey God then we would experience so much more protection, blessings, prosperity, and more.

Conclusion

I am amazed that before a natural disaster comes that the animals seem to know and they move away.  Why do they know danger is coming and we humans don’t?  Well the truth of the matter is that we do know that it is coming, but many times do nothing about it.  We are warned about certain things and we ignore those warnings so that we could do what we want.  For example, I am still amazed to this day why a person would want to build a house on the side of a mountain in an area that is prone to earthquakes (California, USA).  I was taken back when I was in California of the houses that were built on the sides of mountains.

Humans have the disposition that we can do whatever we want to do.  Sometimes we think that we can defeat nature and thwart its power.  We think we are indestructible and in control when in fact we are helpless.  This is another reason why we don’t listen to God.  After all, we think we don’t need his help.

So God does protect us, but sometimes we hinder his protection from manifesting in our lives.  Sometimes we do go through hard times and sometimes Christians lose their lives.  Jesus told us that this would happen.  That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t protect us.  It only means that he has chosen something that we would consider bad when in fact it results or ends in very good.  Consider the story of Joseph and Jesus Christ for example.

God protects whom he wants to protect in a given circumstances.  He has also provided protection for us by his word and his Holy Spirit.  It is just up to us to join ourselves with God and experience all that He has for us.  It is up to us to be sensitive to Him and listen to Him when He speaks to us.  We are not unconditionally protected by God, but very conditionally protected for the most part.  The condition is obedience because contrary to our fantasies, God will not beam us up until the last day. 

We simply have to do what God says.  However, we must know what God says in order to do what God says.  We have to know His word in order to live by it.  We have to have a relationship with God in order to recognize His voice when He is speaking to us, warning us, or directing us.  We must obey and be protected.

Amen.

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