God is our refuge and strength, a help always near in times of great trouble. That’s why we won’t be afraid when the world falls apart, when the mountains crumble into the center of the sea, when its waters roar and rage, when the mountains shake because of its surging waves.
There is a river whose streams gladden God’s city, the holiest dwelling of the Most High. God is in that city. It will never crumble. God will help it when morning dawns. Nations roar; kingdoms crumble. God utters his voice; the earth melts. The Lord of heavenly forces is with us! The God of Jacob is our place of safety.
Come, see the Lord’s deeds, what devastation he has imposed on the earth— bringing wars to an end in every corner of the world, breaking the bow and shattering the spear, burning chariots with fire.
“That’s enough! Now know that I am God! I am exalted among all nations; I am exalted throughout the world!”
The Lord of heavenly forces is with us! The God of Jacob is our place of safety. (CEB)
We possess the unconditional presence of God. Yes indeed, the Lord of all creation is always with us. What a wonderful and radical thought! But that is not all. What is more, God helps us. The Lord does not stand by idly to watch us squirm in tough situations. Because God is present with you and I, there is divine assistance which can help us in troubling times.
Something we can all seem to agree on is that we are in times of trouble and hardship. Everyone is collectively experiencing adversity. COVID-19 has punched us in our worldly gut and caused us to bend over, writhing in pain. We need the Lord. We require Divine help.
The psalms, as Hebrew poetry, were designed with a certain structure. Unlike the way we arrange things with a thesis statement said right up front, Hebrew poetry has the most important statement smack in the middle of the psalm. What comes before that statement is a growing crescendo meant to highlight the central idea. Everything that comes after is the decrescendo pointing back to the main idea.
What we have in the middle of today’s magnificent psalm is the important truth that the Lord of heavenly forces is with us. This reality is meant to drop its weight on us so that we will feel the impact of God’s presence and power. Consider some of English translations of the Hebrew statement:
The Lord All-Powerful is with us. The God of Jacob is our fortress. (CEV)
The Lord of Armies is with us. The God of Jacob is our stronghold. (GW)
Jacob-wrestling God fights for us, God-of-Angel-Armies protects us. (MSG)
The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (NIV)
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress. (NLT)
Yahweh of Armies is with us. Jacob’s God is a turret for us. (FT)
Today (and everyday) is a good day to use the statement, “The Lord of heavenly forces is with us,” as a point of thought, contemplation, and deep consideration. God has the back of those who do right and seek to be just in all things. Whenever you are waiting, driving in the car, in-between scheduled stuff, or just sitting at home, repeat this biblical statement many times to yourself and to the Lord. Then, allow God’s Spirit to bring the truth of it home to the depths of your soul. There is no better security, no better hope than to know God is with us.
God Almighty, great upheaval in this world does not make you nervous because you are above it all. Thank you that you are with me in all the great churnings of my life, as well as all the small things of trouble. Even if all around me changes, you do not; through Christ my Savior, I pray. Amen.
The Lord is my light and my salvation— so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble? When evil people come to devour me, when my enemies and foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will not be afraid. Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident.
The one thing I ask of the Lord— the thing I seek most— is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple. For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock. Then I will hold my head high above my enemies who surround me. At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy, singing and praising the Lord with music.
Hear me as I pray, O Lord. Be merciful and answer me! My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” Do not turn your back on me. Do not reject your servant in anger. You have always been my helper. Don’t leave me now; don’t abandon me, O God of my salvation! Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close.
Teach me how to live, O Lord. Lead me along the right path, for my enemies are waiting for me. Do not let me fall into their hands. For they accuse me of things I’ve never done; with every breath they threaten me with violence. Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living.
Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. (NLT)
The message of the Advent season is perfectly and succinctly encapsulated in this heartfelt psalm to wait patiently for the Lord. Oh, how impatient we can be as people! Not only do we anticipate the celebration of Christmas with the coming Christ child, but we long for deliverance, courage, help, strength, and, of course, patience.
The way to wait patiently is through hope. And hope is one of those things which needs to be continually be fortified. Whatever it is that we desire to see realized – the return of a wayward son or daughter; revitalization and revival within the church; courage to face the high wall of adversity; protection and deliverance from mean-spirited people; an end to pandemic; freedom from racism and injustice – whatever the situation we long for, patience is to be our breakfast every morning to help us through each day, living one day at a time, putting one foot forward.
Apart from patience and faith in God, we will lose our spiritual zeal and settle for a mediocre existence with tepid relationships and lukewarm engagement of the world. God desires more for us than simply having a marriage in which two people only exist under the same roof; for church to be more than buildings, budgets, and butts in the pews; for our work to be more than a necessary evil to make a living; for our lives to be more than fear, worry, and anxiety; more than broken dreams, messed up relationships, and situations gone sideways.
The confident expectation of hope neither eliminates trouble from our lives nor magically makes everything better. Deep faith, like the psalmist expressed, does not change reality – but it does change us. The way in which we view and handle our troubles is understood differently through the filter of faith and the lens of hope. The mammoth adversity in our lives is no longer feared because of settled trust in God; the danger which lurks about has no teeth to hold us when we are secure in the Lord.
The actions we ourselves take toward God amidst the fallen nature of this world are to wait and hope, be strong and take courage. It is precisely when we are totally discombobulated that these actions are to take effect. “I believe…” and “I have confidence…” become the beginning pronoun and verbs to every sentence we utter. So, let us flesh out those words:
I believe the Lord is the Light which keeps me safe and illumines my path.
I believe the Lord is my Fortress, a castle to protect me.
I believe the Lord is an Army surrounding me, defending my life.
I believe the Lord is the Rock of my salvation, keeping me secure.
I believe the Lord is a Parent who holds me close and does not let go.
I believe the Lord is the righteous, just, and good Judge, always extending grace and mercy to me.
Therefore, I have confidence and courage to engage the world, knowing God has my back.
I have confidence God will handle malevolent persons, systemic evil, and sinister forces on my behalf.
I have confidence I can approach God, since God’s character is always gracious and loving.
I have confidence to pray with authority, understanding God is the Sovereign of the universe.
I have confidence better days are ahead, that the Christ is soon coming.
I have confidence God bends to attentively listen to me praying.
I have confidence God is neither angry at me nor hidden from me.
I have confidence God shall lead me, guide me, and teach me in the way I ought to go.
Rather than losing heart, we can be strengthened with solid theology. Making daily affirmations of faith, persevering in hope, and performing small acts of love are our daily tasks while we wait and watch….
Almighty and everlasting God, the One who sees, knows, and protects, by the power of your Holy Spirit, you are refining us, purifying our discipleship, pulling us into following Jesus in this scary new world of uncertainty. Grant us mercy and grace to trust you more deeply, for the only secure place is with you, our light and our salvation, the stronghold of our life. We pray in the name of Jesus, the first-born of your new creation, and our hope, our life. Amen.
After the death of Moses, the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.
“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
So, Joshua ordered the officers of the people: “Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your provisions ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own.’” (NIV)
The ancient Israelites were delivered from Egyptian bondage, wandered through the desert for forty years, and, after the death of their leader Moses, were poised to enter the land promised to them. It was going to be no cakewalk. There were pagan peoples entrenched in the land and it would be a huge accomplishment to conquer their territory. Joshua, the young aide-de-camp of Moses, now leader of the people, would be the one to go before them in battle. As you might understand, Joshua was likely nervous, perhaps even downright scared.
So, the Lord came to Joshua and told him to be strong and courageous, to not be afraid to claim the good promise of the land. The path to success for Joshua, as well as all of God’s people, would not be by the physical sword but by the sword of the Lord, the Word of God. The Lord was plainspoken about the need to intimately know the Law given to the people and to continually meditate upon it. Being careful to do everything written within it, Joshua would find both the courage and the wisdom to lead the people to victory.
It remains true for all God’s people that faithful knowledge, sage wisdom, and careful adherence to Holy Scripture comes through meditation upon its contents. There is a great need amongst believers to continually ruminate on God’s Word. We may sometimes wonder how to address and deal with certain situations and problems that seem as large as taking the Promised Land. The place to begin is by going to the Word of God – not so much in an anxious, hasty, or impatient question-and-answer sort of way which looks for a quick response; but instead, in a slow, deliberate, contemplative way.
Lasting and genuine spirituality, as well as a sense of settled success, comes not only through acknowledging the Bible is God’s Holy Word; it develops through meditating upon it consistently and continually.
Scripture memorization is a discipline worth pursuing. Having large chunks of Scripture within our minds and hearts helps us to home in on relevant and helpful verses, narratives, and messages when facing challenging situations and adverse circumstances.
What is more, when engaged in tedious work, we can engage our minds in the practice of contemplation on those verses we have committed to memory. Meditation on God’s Word is a necessary practice if we want to have success in living the Christian life.
Courage and meditation are a package deal. Bravery and contemplation are meant to be wed together. One rarely comes without the other. Which means the realization of our good dreams for self and world need the practice of Scripture meditation.
God Almighty, my delight is in your law, and on it I meditate day and night (Psalm 1:2).
O how I love your law! It is my meditation, my food and drink, all day, every day (Psalm 119:97).
I will meditate on your precepts and honor your ways in all I do and say (Psalm 119:15).
I am determined to lift my hands to your commandments, which I love; and I will meditate on your statutes (Psalm 119:48).
I look forward to the wee hours of the night because it provides me the space and the quiet to meditate on your word (Psalm 119:148).
In fact, I meditate on all your doings through both day and night; I ponder and consider the works of your hands (Psalm 143:5).
I pray through Jesus Christ your Son, my Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit reign forever. Amen.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. Be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (NIV)
Today’s New Testament lesson has some densely packed verses concerning spiritual warfare. There are three major imperatives or commands for every believer and every church:
Be strong in the Lord because we are in an invisible war.
Put on the whole armor of God and prepare for spiritual battle.
Take up your spiritual weapons and fight.
We are to be vigilant since Satan and his wicked spirits are highly organized for evil with devious schemes and stratagems designed to blunt our spiritual growth. We are to put on the necessary armor of truth, righteousness, and peace to defend ourselves against the inevitable attacks. We are to use our spiritual weapons of faith, salvation, and the word of God to advance against the darkness.
To do just that, the following is a focused and thoroughly Christian prayer I have used for many years both for myself and with others. I suggest praying it out loud in its entirety each day for the next two weeks to push back the dark forces:
Heavenly Father, I bow in worship and praise before You. I cover myself with the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ as my protection. I surrender myself completely in every area of my life to You. I take a stand against all the work of Satan that would hinder me in my prayer life. I address myself only to the True and Living God and refuse any involvement of Satan in my prayer.
Satan, I command you, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to leave my presence with all your demons. I bring the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ between us.
Heavenly Father, I worship You and give You praise. I recognize that You are worthy to receive all glory and honor and praise. I renew my allegiance to You and pray that the Holy Spirit would enable me in this time of prayer. I am thankful, Heavenly Father, that You have loved me from eternity past and that You sent the Lord Jesus Christ into the world to die as my substitute. I am thankful that the Lord Jesus Christ came as my representative and that through Him You have completely forgiven me; You have adopted me into Your family; You have assumed all responsibility for me; You have given me eternal life; You have given me the perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ so that I am now justified. I am thankful that in Christ You have made me complete, and that You have offered Yourself to me to be my daily help and strength.
Heavenly Father open my eyes that I might see how great You are and how complete Your provision is for this day. I am thankful that the victory the Lord Jesus Christ won for me on the cross and in His resurrection has been given to me and that I am seated with the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven. I take my place with Him and recognize by faith that all wicked spirits and Satan himself are under my feet. I declare that Satan and his demons are subject to me in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I am thankful for the armor You have provided. I now put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the sandals of peace and the helmet of salvation. I lift the shield of faith against all the fiery arrows of the enemy; and I take in my hand the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. I choose to use Your Word against all the forces of evil in my life. I put on this armor and live and pray in complete dependence upon You, Holy Spirit.
I am grateful, Heavenly Father, the Lord Jesus Christ disarmed all power and authorities, triumphing over them by the cross. I claim all victory for my life today. I reject all the insinuations, accusations, and temptations of Satan. I affirm that the Word of God is true, and I choose to live today in the light of God’s Word. Heavenly Father, I choose to live in obedience to You and in fellowship with You. Open my eyes and show me the areas of my life that do not please You. Work in me to cleanse me from all ground that would give Satan a foothold against me. I do in every way stand into all that it means to be Your adopted child and I welcome all the ministry of the Holy Spirit in my life today.
By faith and in dependence upon You I put off the old person and stand into all the victory of the crucifixion where the Lord Jesus Christ provided cleansing from the sinful nature. I put on the new person and stand into all the victory of the resurrection and the provision He has made for me to live above sin.
Today I put off the old nature with its selfishness and I put on the new nature with its love. I put off the old nature with its fear and I put on the new nature with its courage. I put off the old nature with all its deceitful lusts and I put on the new nature with its righteousness, purity, and honesty.
In every way I stand into the victory of Christ’s ascension and glorification, in which everything was made subject to Him. I claim my place in Christ as victorious with Him over all the enemies of my soul. Holy Spirit, I pray that you would fill me. Come into my life, break down every idol and cast out every enemy of my soul.
I am thankful, Heavenly Father, for the expression of Your will for my daily life as You have shown me in Your Word. I, therefore, claim all the will of God for my life today. I am thankful that You have blessed me with every spiritual blessing in Christ. I am thankful that You have given me new life into a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. I am thankful that You have made provision for me so that today I can live filled in the Holy Spirit with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. I recognize and affirm that this is Your will for me and so I reject and resist all the attempts of Satan and his demons to rob me of the will of God. I refuse today to believe my feelings of worthlessness and I hold up the shield of faith against all the accusations, distortions, and insinuations that Satan would put into my mind. I claim the will of God for my life today.
In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ I completely surrender myself to You, Heavenly Father, as a living sacrifice. I choose not to be conformed to this world. I choose to be transformed by the renewing of my mind. I pray that You would show me Your will and help me to walk in Your ways today.
I am thankful, Heavenly Father, the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world, but have divine power to demolish strongholds, arguments, and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God. I take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. Therefore, in my own life today I tear down the strongholds of Satan and smash the plans of Satan that have been formed against me. I demolish the strongholds of Satan against my mind, and I surrender my mind to You, Holy Spirit. I affirm, Heavenly Father, that You have not given me a spirit of fear but a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline. I break and smash the strongholds of Satan formed against my emotions today. I give my will to You. I choose to make right decisions of faith. I smash the strongholds of Satan formed against my body today. I give my body to You and recognize that I am Your temple. I rejoice in Your mercy and grace.
Heavenly Father, I pray now and through this day that You would strengthen and enlighten me. Show me the ways Satan is hindering, tempting, lying, and distorting the truth in my life. Help me to be the kind of person who pleases You. Help me to be aggressive in prayer and faith. Help me to think rightly, and actively practice Your Word. Help me to give You Your rightful place in my life.
I cover myself with the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and pray that You, Holy Spirit, would bring all the work of Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and all Your work of Pentecost into my life today. I deliberately surrender myself to You, God. I refuse to be discouraged. You are the God of all hope. You have proven Your power by resurrecting Jesus from the dead, so I claim this victory over all satanic forces in my life. I pray in the Name and through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ with thanksgiving. Amen.