the ungodly art of self-defense

cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes the flesh his strength

– jeremiah 17:5

when i got what that verse was saying it shook me. it was the first time i realized what god thinks of “my best efforts”. he doesn’t just dislike them – he pronounced a curse over them. a couple verses later he gives the flip side:

blessed is the man who trusts in the lord and whose trust is in the lord

the context is a parallel to psalm one about the barrenness of trying to do it ourselves and the fruitfulness of letting him do it in us.

think about the terms in the bible describing god’s protection. he’s our rock, our fortress, a wall around us, our defense, our deliverer, our shield and our strong tower. when our trust is in him we are completely safe, completely at peace, completely covered and protected.

one of my favorite examples is in the book of numbers, chapter 12. miriam and aaron (moses sister and brother) were mad at mo for marrying a black girl (i’m not making this up, read your bible). but of course, being good religious people, they didn’t accuse him of the thing that really bothered them. instead they came at him with a theological argument: “hey, god talks to us too you know!”

the key is in verse three: moses was more humble than any man who was on the face of the earth. meaning, among other things, that he didn’t say a word in his own defense. and god, as he loves to do, immediately stepped in to protect his friend.

there’s a very simple way to get out of god’s protection. all we have to do is raise a defense of our own. imagine if moses had responded with “yeah well you’re ugly and i get to write the bible – nya nya nya”. would god have intervened for him? not a chance! when we build our little fort of popsicle sticks, he sits back and waits for our failure. because our own defenses will surely fail. god requires that we be utterly dependent on him. anything else is a false picture of the situation – and a display of our pride.

if we really saw the scope of the trap set for us and the overwhelming superiority of his defense, we’d readily stand aside and let him handle it. when someone throws something at us our natural response is to put up our arms as a shield. we’re born with that – no one has to teach us. but the supernatural response is to trust our daddy in heaven. that’s not a natural or an easy thing at all. but it’s the requirement if we want to see god’s intervention.

god is not a pacifist, btw. when he says “pick up your weapon”, you’d better be ready to do it. but 10 times out of 10 that’s so he can use you to defend someone else.

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