7 January 2023 Anno Domini, the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. 3Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. 4He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.” (Palms 91:1-4; all scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
There is a sacrosanct covert of the Christian into which Satan cannot prod or invade – it is the heart of faith. This is the ‘secret place of the Most High.’ The heart of the Christian believer is the very Temple of God – a Temple not made with hands, but by the Holy Spirit of God. That saving faith is formed and conditioned by the Word of God. It cannot be seen by the enemy because its substance is comprised of faith, hope and love. Its walls can only be breached by the heart that rebels against its Sovereign.
We see in our leading text above a reference to God’s Word (Truth) as our ‘shield and buckler.’ These two are not to be lumped together as one and the same – there is a difference. Both the shield and buckler are useful for defense, but the buckler serves a dual purpose as a weapon of offense as well. The shield is designed to shield the whole body from the thrusts of the enemy; but the buckler is used to ward off the blows of the enemy so that counter-blows may be made. It also serves as a weapon to batter the enemy. Unlike the shield which is strapped to the arm of the soldier, the buckler is a smaller hand-held device capable of maneuver and thrusts. God’s Word is both a defense and an offensive device. It is a two edged sword which cuts in two directions – to either convict the sinner, or else to condemn that one who rejects the Gospel.
Who is “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High?” It is the faithful follower who makes both his daily walk and nightly bed in that ‘secret place.’ To dwell in a place is to make that place your home. You do not desire to venture from its love and security. “He is my refuge and my fortress” because the place of God is always the place of security. What did God say to Noah before the first rains and floods? “And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark.” (Genesis 7:1) God did not say, “GO into the Ark, but COME into the Ark.” Why – because the place of God is also our safe place, our “refuge and fortress.” Noah was saved because he believed God and added obedience to his faith. He did not, however, enter the Ark of his own volition, but at the command of God – the way we all are quickened by the Holy Spirit of God and made alive in Christ.
God is our Fortress because He is our REFUGE. A fortress is designed to protect those inside and to forbid entry by those outside who wish us harm. Unlike a prison (designed to keep the enemy in bondage), it is a Fortress to defend the Friends of God. The Fortress is an edifice whose admittance is under the absolute control of the Sovereign – our Lord. He reserves the entry for those who are believers, but forbids entry of ALL others. The Ark was opened for Noah at the behest of God, but closed to the multitudes who sought refuge there as the flood waters rose. The door of that Fortress is Christ. He is the DOOR of the Sheepfold. (see John 10) If the Door is opened for those of faith, who closes it for those who are not of faith – is it man? “And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in.” (Genesis 7:16) Unlike we see in popular movies, it was not Noah who closed the door of salvation, but the Lord!
Remember the temptation of our Lord in the Wilderness. He was in that stressful and barren land for forty days and forty nights. He was famished with hunger and in great thirst for water. The Adversary watched Him patiently as He suffered. At His weakest moment at the end of the forty days, Satan made his insidious approach. I love bread even when my hunger is satisfied, but how appealing would bread be to one who is famished so? “And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. 3And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” (Matthew 4:2-3) Satan observes our every weakness and exploits it, however, our Lord responds with the WORD: “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) If extreme hunger will not cause submission, perhaps pride may do so: “Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, 6And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.” (Matthew 4:5-6) How did Christ respond? “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” (Matthew 4:7) And the third time Satan approached, he was sorely trounced. Satan says to Him: “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” Jesus answered as we all should answer to that Red Dragon, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Matthew 4:10) The devil departed. We, too, have access to that refuge and fortress of the Lord.