Terror is in the wind! Over the last couple of weeks, the media have been bringing us the chilling news that there is “chatter in the air” among various terrorist cells. Apparently, there is enough credible concern that the public has been notified and extra security precautions have gone into effect.
We now measure our days in color codes. At this writing America is at “Code Orange.” While the major nations of the Western world are putting on their best faces and encouraging the public to go on with a business-as-usual attitude, nonetheless the entire world is looking over its shoulder and, for that matter, under every concealed box or suitcase.
Perhaps as you traveled by jet over this winter-break period you looked just a bit more closely at the person seated next to you. And, turn about being fair play, just maybe they were giving you “the once over” as well.
How sad that such a beautiful color as orange is now synonymous with terror. I’ve always had a certain partiality for the color orange. I’ve always thought of orange pumpkins as a hint of autumn harvest. I think of orange as a charming earth color that adds to the decor of a Thanksgiving table. Being from Southern California, I think of all the lush rural citrus orchards dotted with speckles of orange. I remember how excited I was when as a youngster in school I learned that orange was really a mix between the two other colors of red and yellow. I thought I was really on to something big!
Putting our butterflies into formation
But that was then, and now is now. Orange is no longer simply about autumnal bounty or childhood memories. Orange is synonymous with vigilance toward potential catastrophes perpetrated by terrorists. Since 9/11, the world has never been the same. And maybe the same can be said for the color orange. But adversity often allows our minds to come to a positive focus on “what really is real” and where our life’s energies should be directed. Adversity can add up to personal growth as much as red and yellow add up to orange.
Terror in our lifetime is not going to dissipate. In fact, put your seatbelts on, the Bible clearly states it is going to escalate to an astounding crescendo. But there is a cure for the very real psychological trauma sparked by Code Orange. It will not necessarily always stop the shaking of our knees, which is simply the extension of a wobbly heart. But it should place our butterflies into a positive formation. What can we learn from a given negative and how can we transform it into a winning positive?
As Christians, the specter of Code Orange should be a vivid reminder to maintain the same kind of vigilance in our daily spiritual walk in a world that is increasingly alien and threatening to the ways of God.
Just like the Islamic terrorists who threaten America and its allies, there is another terrorist, operating in a far greater spiritual sphere. This terrorist despises our personal heavenly citizenship and all for which it stands. Frankly, what we are about is diametrically opposite of this other kingdom’s culture. This other spiritual kingdom feels threatened, thwarted and sees its very existence in jeopardy.
As subjects of the Kingdom of God, we must realize we are targets of such a stealthy and dedicated foe. The apostle Peter places all the people of God on alert by stating, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8 1 Peter 5:8Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour:
American King James Version×).
So how are we doing?
The apostle Peter’s words clearly place Christians on a wartime footing against a spiritual adversary. We are plainly told to be alert, attuned and active. But even so, on the human level, there is only so much that we can do now. What about the future? As incredibly stressful as the world has become in the last couple of years, the Scriptures clearly indicate there is going to be yet ahead an even more dynamic period of time.
Matthew 24:21-22 Matthew 24:21-22 21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
American King James Version×poignantly states, “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.” With this prophetic reality in full view, let’s take a step back and ask ourselves, “So how are we doing now?” If we aren’t handling “now” too well, how could we ever possibly handle “then” when the color for unimaginable chaos goes off the charts?
The simple, powerful and wonderful news is that God has not left us alone in these shaky times. Did you realize that in a very real sense God has His very own “Homeland Security” operation to project and protect His perfect will for each of us? Well, who and where are they? Am I speaking of sky marshals? No, I’m speaking of something even more effective and ever more present.
“Surely, He shall deliver you”
God grants the subjects of His Kingdom an incredible promise through the words of David in Psalms 91:1-7 Psalms 91:1-7 1 He that dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
3 Surely he shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
4 He shall cover you with his feathers, and under his wings shall you trust: his truth shall be your shield and buckler.
5 You shall not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flies by day;
6 Nor for the pestilence that walks in darkness; nor for the destruction that wastes at noonday.
7 A thousand shall fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you.
American King James Version×.
“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.’ Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day… A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you.”
The covering of feathers and wings that we are to come to trust in as the shadow of the Almighty is defined just a few verses later in verse 11: “For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.”
But how does this relate to our world today and in the near future? Daniel 12:1 Daniel 12:1And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which stands for the children of your people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
American King James Version×gives us a reality check to the seriousness of what lies ahead and the safeguards in place. “At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time.” We are offered assurance that as events escalate even beyond a Code Orange, a specific angel has been given charge over people who have made a covenant with God.
“The ones whom the LORD has sent”
But if that’s not enough to give us a boost of encouragement, your Bible indicates that there are angels who literally set watch among those with whom God would deal. Let’s take note of the prophet Zechariah’s experience as he comes to terms with the reach of God’s attentive care through His angels.
“I saw by night, and behold, a man riding on a red horse, and it stood among the myrtle trees in the hollow; and behind him were horses: red, sorrel, and white. Then I said, ‘My lord, what are these?’ So the angel who talked with me said to me, ‘I will show you what they are.’ And the man who stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, ‘These are the ones whom the LORD has sent to walk to and fro throughout the earth.’ So they answered the Angel of the LORD, who stood among the myrtle trees, and said, ‘We have walked to and fro throughout the earth, and behold, all the earth is resting quietly’ ” (Zechariah 1:8-11 Zechariah 1:8-11 8 I saw by night, and behold a man riding on a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom; and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white.
9 Then said I, O my lord, what are these? And the angel that talked with me said to me, I will show you what these be.
10 And the man that stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, These are they whom the LORD has sent to walk to and fro through the earth.
11 And they answered the angel of the LORD that stood among the myrtle trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sits still, and is at rest.
American King James Version×).
So we come to see that angels are assigned here below to allow God to meet our needs. But we also know that the earth is not always “resting quietly.” What do we do then?
Let’s take a cue from King David. He asked God to “keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me under the shadow of Your wings, from the wicked who oppress me, from my deadly enemies who surround me” (Psalms 17:8-9 Psalms 17:8-9 8 Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of your wings,
9 From the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly enemies, who compass me about.
American King James Version×).
David was spiritually aware and bold enough to ask God to keep him as the apple of His eye. He understood, and prayed like he understood, how much God loves us. With all this said and written before us, why is it we are drawn by fear to the moment of surrounding events? Because, simply, we are human beings.
Do not fear
But let’s consider one more episode that specifically dealt with a terrorizing event and learn a lesson. It’s the story of Elisha and his servant who were targeted for elimination in the city of Dothan by the armies of the king of Syria. The king’s forces had stealthily sneaked up on them at nighttime. Seemingly there was no way out. In 2 Kings 6:15-18 2 Kings 6:15-18 15 And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?
16 And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
17 And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray you, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
18 And when they came down to him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, and said, Smite this people, I pray you, with blindness. And he smote them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.
American King James Version×we find the details of what happened next.
“And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, ‘Alas, my master! What shall we do?’ So he answered, ‘Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ And Elisha prayed, and said, ‘LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ Then 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. So when the Syrians came down to him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, and said, ‘Strike this people, I pray, with blindness.’ And He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.”
Does that mean that angels are simply spiritual firemen, policemen and paramedics who rush in and protect us from every blow in this life and offer us soft cushions for every fall or hazard that comes our way? Not at all. If that is their mission, they have a spotty record. Just look in Acts 12 where we learn that one apostle, James, was killed with the sword (verse 2), while Peter was put in prison (verse 3). Why was this? Do angels go to sleep on the job? Or does God play favorites?
Let’s first and foremost remember that angels are “ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14 Hebrews 1:14Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?
American King James Version×). Humanly, we would like to equate physical deliverance with spiritual salvation. But they are not synonymous. A purpose is being worked out here below. And people of purpose come to grips with the understanding that God will answer at the right time, in the right way—and that may mean the resurrection itself. For even in death, it can never be underestimated how one life can touch others and bring people of purpose to a deeper spiritual insight.
We truly are not alone
My writing for this month’s column is nearing completion, but I just checked and the security threat of Code Orange is still on. So I’ve got to go out now and practice what I’ve written. I must remember that God’s perfect will for me is not written in one day or on a monthly deadline like this column. It is written in a lifetime of faithful confidence that God loves me and those near and dear to me. I need to remember that as I pass through airport security checks, amusement park turnstiles and mill about in large urban crowded areas.
No, I can’t stop living. And, for sure, I can’t stop believing that there is a cure for the Code Oranges of this lifetime. The words of encouragement from Elisha for times like these echo Isaiah’s refrain, “This is the way, walk in it.” The lesson is for now and for always, to help us confidently remember that we truly are not alone.
Elisha tells us, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them… LORD…open [their] eyes that [they] may see.” WNP