I’ll be honest… I think Navy SEALs are pretty cool. But this morning in prayer over Psalm 34, I realized that Navy SEALs have nothing on God 🙂
“In my desperation I prayed, and the LORD listened; he saved me from all my troubles. For the angel of the LORD is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him.” (Psa 34:6–7 NLT)
As we prayed over this verse, here’s what got me thinking: “…he surrounds and defends…“. Normally I think of defense from the inside out. We all gather together and point outwards, prepared to defend.
But what does it mean to surround something in order to defend it?
A Modern Tale
Jessica Buchanan knows. Jessica was an aid worker in Somalia a couple of years ago when she was kidnapped by Somali warlords and held for ransom. After enduring months of captivity in the wild, she became gravely ill. Hostage negotiators and doctors agreed… she had perhaps just weeks to live.
This news arrived just days before a new moon (i.e., complete darkness)… ideal conditions for a daring midnight hostage rescue. And so it was on a moonless night in January, as Jessica cried out to God to rescue her from death, that a team of Navy SEALs dropped from the skies to bring her home.
Realizing she was too weak to walk, a SEAL picked her up and began running “for several minutes” until they got to the extraction zone. As they waited for the helicopter, the SEAL team thought they heard approaching danger. So what did they do?
They “surrounded and defended” Jessica.
First, they told her to lie down on the ground. Then they formed a circle around her and some of them laid on top of her. As the story goes, these SEALs (who didn’t even know Jessica existed just days prior) were willing to take a bullet for her to keep her safe. They held their positions until the helicopter arrived and all were rescued.
You can see the complete 60 Minutes segment HERE. Her description of the SEALs’ protection is found at 12+35.
An Ancient Story
Jessica’s story was the backdrop in my mind as I read those words in Psalm 34 this morning. “Surrounds and defends…”. One who surrounds to defend surely knows they are in danger. It’s a conscious decision to place oneself between a potential victim and imminent danger. It means they must be willing to sacrifice their well being, if not their very life, to protect others.
Is this not the story of the cross? Paul tells the story of Jesus this way:
“Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” (Phil 2:6–8 NLT).
And why would one so privileged… so lofty… so worshipped in heaven give all that up to come and die the most humiliating and painful death imaginable?
Perhaps it’s because he answered a Psalmist’s cry to surround and protect.
A Tale for All Time
In Christ, we are all “surrounded and protected.” He knows the risk of placing himself between the threat and us. And while he didn’t take a bullet for us, he took something far more painful. He took the nails.
And in turn he gave us something of even greater value than our lives. He rescued us from the power of sin… and he offers life… forever!
If that’s not enough to rank God above Navy SEALs, then consider this last point. The SEALs didn’t know Jessica. They went because it was the right thing to do… to rescue an innocent hostage from an evil warlord.
But Christ DOES know who he’s going after. And we’re not innocent… we’re not worth trading the life of the Son of God. In other words, he knows everything about us…
and He came to “surround and protect” us anyway.
“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Rom 5:6–8 NLT)
The idea that one so great would stand between me and absolute evil and willingly give His life drops me to my knees in humility. How can I ever live a life worthy of that sacrifice?
I don’t think I can. But here’s something I CAN do: it comes just a few verses earlier in Philippians:
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”
(Phil 2:3–5 NLT)
And I can’t help but wonder… what would this world look like if it was filled with people willing to surround and protect those who are crying out?
Let it begin with us, Lord….