God’s Providential Protection
‘Praise be to the LORD, who has not let us be torn by their teeth. We have escaped like a bird out of the fowler's snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped.’
You can listen to this meditation here:
Here the Psalmist presents us with 2 pictures in order to capture our imagination and strengthen our resolve as we consider the perilous conditions from which the Lord delivers his people. It’s as if he can’t stress enough how dangerous it is to be a pilgrim travelling through this world, in this case to the earthly Jerusalem, but in our case the heavenly one. He is realistic enough to know there are troubles and snares on every side and we are always a hairsbreadth away from falling into them. And that would inevitably be the case if it were not for the preserving grace of God, and this in turn is meant to drive us to praise (v6), literally, ‘Blessed be Yahweh who has not given us as prey to their teeth’. He is saying that God is to be adored because he has not given us over to enemies who, given half the chance, would tear us apart. It is a picture of a wild animal devouring its prey as you see sometimes on the nature programmes on TV with lions ripping into wildebeests and the like. That is what would have happened to us had God not been watching over us.
The second picture is of a bird which seems to have been caught in a trap only to find that the trap has broken and so it can fly away and enjoy its freedom. This is akin to the situation in which God’s people can find themselves, says the psalmist. All looks lost, you seem trapped, but before you know it - lo and behold the trap is not as secure as those who laid it thought it was, it is a faulty trap and doesn’t have the power to ensnare us because God has ensured it didn’t.
We are not talking about chance but providence. Let me give an example of this. In 1928 missionaries went to Ethiopia with the Gospel and worked away establishing three mission stations. In 1936 in came the Italians. Mussolini and his crowd wanted a showpiece to demonstrate the might of the Italian army and so they picked on poor defenceless Ethiopia to show just how big and strong they were! By 1938 the missionaries were forced to leave and, on the face of it, all that they had laboured for seemed under threat. In their absence the whole Gospel enterprise looked as if it would fold. There were only about 150 believers left at the time spread between three churches - not much to look at, you might think, and hanging by a very slender thread. So the missionaries left as the Italians came. In one of these areas the Italian army commander decided that the Ethiopians needed to be impressed by Italian military might and so he arranged for a big display to be held with parade of tanks, artillery and infantry and people from miles around were compelled to come in order to see this spectacle. And these were people travelling in from the unevangelised areas into Sardu. The amazing thing was that these people stayed overnight in the homes of Christian believers who got talking about the Christian faith. After the Mussolini parade was over they returned to their towns and villages and, as they did so, they took back with them the Gospel. In 1941 the British come back to retake Ethiopia and, following them, of course, were the missionaries who were expecting to find nothing and were psyching themselves up to start all over again. But, to their utter amazement, they found 70 well established churches with evangelists working away and an estimated 10,000 Christian believers. That is God’s preserving and promoting providence. And who knows what work God is going to rise up out of our situation?
We can say with the psalmist - ‘Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth’.
O great giving God, my heart is drawn to you for your amazing grace and love to me in the influences of your Holy Spirit, special help in prayer, the sweetness of Christian service, for thoughts of arriving in heaven, for raising me to new life in Christ. Thank you for your protective providence. May this knowledge not make me complacent, but ever watchful and thankful.
For Jesus’ sake