The Shelter of God's Word: Are You among the Prophets?
- Wednesday, August 29, 2007
And he too stripped off his clothes, and he too prophesied before Samuel and lay naked all that day and all that night. Thus it is said, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1 Samuel 19:24)
This story of David’s fleeing for refuge among the prophets of the Lord is instructive for us in many ways. Many in the world are working hard to shelter the rest of us from what they regard as the harmful effects of religion, and especially, of the Bible.
To protect us from the evil influences of objective law, they have removed the Ten Commandments from the schools and court houses of the land. To shelter us against the dangerous effects of the knowledge of God (so Christopher Hitchens), they have decreed that all conversation about matters spiritual or Biblical should be regarded as strictly private and personal, without entrée into the public square. To shelter our youth from the Bible’s claims to absolute truth, they have banned it from the classrooms. And to shelter even the faithful from a too-serious regard for the Word of God, scholars from within the camp seek new and more respectable ways of undermining the authority of Scripture.
In some churches there is even a desire to shelter “seekers” and other visitors from the Word of God. Members are instructed to leave their Bibles at home, and are assured that as much of it as they might need on any given Sunday—or that the seekers pressing in all around them might be able to stand—will be provided in the bulletin or on a projection screen.
Preaching, accordingly, is backing away from the clear and uncompromised exegesis and exposition of the text into the realm of anecdote and story, complemented by drama, to fit the demands of a generation hooked on entertainment.
We are an age frantic to find shelter from the bright light and oppressive heat of the Word of God. David, on the other hand, knew that there was no better place to be, particularly when matters of life and death are on the line.
In King Saul’s later years he devoted himself less to governing the nation and more to hunting down his hated rival, the young David. During one of his flights from God, David took shelter with Samuel and the prophets at Ramah.
Saul, discovering his whereabouts, sent “messengers” to dispatch him. But three times those “messengers,” coming under the influence of the Word of God, were stopped in their tracks and utterly transformed. Finally, King Saul himself came to Ramah, but with precisely the same result. He also was overcome by the Spirit and Word of God, and lay prostrate and submissive throughout his stay in Ramah.
David had gone to find shelter from his enemy in the community of the Word of God, and his God did not fail or disappoint him.
Can the Word of God provide such shelter today? And does understanding that we live among a generation who want nothing so much as to be sheltered from the Bible help us to understand the problems and confusion that threaten our neighbors and friends?
There are five ways that the Bible can be a shelter for people today. Those who know and love the Scriptures have already discovered the truth of its sheltering power. But it will help us to see just how the Scriptures remain as a shelter for our contemporaries as well.
A Shelter from Fear
The fear of death is as present and palpable today as it was when the writer of Hebrews observed that it haunted all men, all their lives (Hebrews 2:15). Our generation is working harder than ever to postpone death, or, if they can’t postpone it, to euphemize it as to ameliorate its sting. TV programs speculate on death and what follows; recent episodes of both Grey’s Anatomy and CSI featured conversations between the dead and near-dead designed to encourage us to believe that maybe death is not so final after all.
So we would like to think. But deep inside, men and women know that one day they will lie cold in that grave, turning to dust, just like any dumb animal, and the terror and finality of it stalks them all their days.
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