What’s the strongest fortress you can think of? Alcatraz? Masada? The Great Wall of China? All have been breached. Very few fortresses have never been breached or taken. Hochosterwitz (pictured on this page) has fourteen lines of defense and has never been taken, yet its claim to fame is not well known.
Herod’s southern fortress of Machaerus was seemingly impregnable and unassailable. Anyone approaching it could be seen half day’s journey away. At Herod’s hand, Machaerus became more than a fortress; he made it a statement—adding a palace, gardens, bath houses, and mikvahs. He also expanded its infamous prison where John the Baptist was beheaded. Machaerus’s protection stoked Herod’s pride … yet it was taken around 72 AD.
King David knew a few things about war and fortresses. In Psalm 71, David names one as his rock and refuge, his strength and hope.
Psalm 71 has taken on new meaning for me in the past two weeks. I was recently in a rather serious auto accident. The irony? I had prayed for God’s protection before and during the drive that took me out of state to an all-day board meeting. More irony: The accident happened early in the morning with virtually no traffic on the highway or the last road I turned onto—except for a car in my blind spot.
Many things can go sideways after an accident, so protection is still a big-ticket item in my prayers.
Undercurrents about David’s fortress
When we’re in the middle of a mess, we seek reassurance from God. We don’t want to hear Him tell us about a hard road ahead or extra responsibilities to shoulder. David had more reasons than most of us to bleed woe-is-me before God while asking for reassurance of His protection. In Psalm 71, he proclaims God is his fortress. But David asks God to protect him physically and restore his honor so he can live to proclaim God’s power to the next generation (vs 18).
David admits he’ll never know all the amazing things God is doing for him (vs 15). But, for as much as he does know, it’s more than enough to move him to proclaim God’s goodness and splendor “all day long” (vs. 8) and “enter into the strength of the Lord” (vs 16). In other words, David’s faith is so firmly settled in who God is that He is ready to tell everyone about God. That’s the bedrock of David’s strength that enables him to fearlessly travel every hard road ahead.
Fortresses of fear
What do you fear most? What do you take pains to wall off so it won’t harm you? What do you trust more to your efforts than to God’s sovereignty?
Prudence is legitimate and necessary in many situations, but it should never usurp your confidence in God’s ability to take care of you as David proclaimed in Psalm 71.
Perhaps the bigger-picture question is this: what do you dread God will say “no” to if when you ask?
Does that fear lead you to procrastinate in prayer?
Nothing to fear, even in the face of “no”
I get that way sometimes. But fear of God’s “no” just distracts and derails my prayers.
Re-reading the Gethsemane scene this past weekend impressed upon me that God said “no” even to His Son. God didn’t withhold His help from Jesus at Gethsemane, but it didn’t materialize the way Jesus asked. God’s “no” at Gethsemane paved the way for His infinitely greater “yes” at the Resurrection. We can take refuge in knowing that God’s “no” is always a step toward His greater “yes”—His working out something bigger and better than we can imagine.
Lord, You alone are my rock, my refuge and fortress—the only One with power that can never be breached. Please remind me of that when life looks bleak. You can make my Kilmanjaros as flat as the Great Plains—or give me the strength to summit their obstacles. Every “no” from You is preparation for a greater “yes”—which is why life can’t be just about me. Your plans are always bigger than my needs. You graciously help me so I can live to proclaim You to the next generation, as David said in Psalm 71. Make it so, O Lord! Amen.
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Charity Gayle’s powerful “Thank You Jesus for the Blood” (my new favorite Easter song)
Here are a few of its lyrics:
The breach was far too wide
But from the far side of the chasm
You held me in your sight
“So You made a way
Across the great divide
Left behind Heaven’s throne
To build it here inside”