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Emmanuel Church, Plymouth
in partnership with
St Paul's, Efford
Tony's Reflection 10
I'm glad to say I have never come anywhere near drowning. A few scary moments in the old Ballard’s pool, when I was learning how to swim, but that is the closest!
Can you imagine, though, what it must be like, if you are drowning? The wild thrashing around, trying to find something to hold onto… going down under the water and struggling to stay above it … gulping down air as if each breath could be your last.
Someone throws you a lifebelt.
What do you do? You don't ask questions about how reliable that particular lifebelt is. You grab hold of it for dear life.
, God is throwing out some precious promises. They are as life-saving as a lifebelt is to a drowning person.
If you are drowning and someone throws you a lifebelt, that is not the time for asking questions about what the lifebelt is made of, how it works, or what exactly it will save you from. If you are drowning, you just grab hold of the lifebelt.
On the other hand, if you are walking along the coast path on a safe and sunny day and you see a lifebelt, you may well stop and ponder those more detailed questions. That’s when you might think about what it's made of, how it works and how it might save you.
How we respond to God's promises will depend on our situation.
If we are drowning, so to speak and our situation is desperate, we need to grab hold of them and never let them go.
If our days are feeling sunny and safe, then that might be the time to ask those detailed questions about how the promises work and what exactly they mean.
There is a time for both grabbing hold of the promises and a time for asking questions about them.
makes a string of remarkable promises. So remarkable that, during the 1853-4 cholera epidemic, the famous preacher Charles Spurgeon called them the best “medicine against plague" (cholera). There are two amazing promises in just one short verse:
“Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence.” (
The first promise is that those who run to him for shelter and live close to him (
see verses 1-2
) will be "saved from the fowler's snare". Fowlers (bird catchers) use a range of nets. Each one is hidden so the bird won't notice it … until it is too late. It will be just the right size and style for that particular bird to be caught.
We have an enemy, Satan, who sets traps for us. There is an attractive bait to lure us in. He will know exactly how to attract your attention. He knows your weaknesses. He knows how to tempt you and what with. He will have just the right trap for you. Tailor-made to entice you to wander into it. Purpose-made to keep you caught and helpless, once you have fallen in.
If you live close to God and make a habit of staying close to him, he will be watching your path. Just as you are about to hop into the trap and be caught in the net, his mighty hand will reach down and rescue you.
The second promise is that all those who live and stay close to him "he will save from the deadly pestilence". If you had Covid symptoms right now, this promise would be like a lifebelt thrown to the drowning. You would simply cling onto it, for all you are worth.
If you don’t have symptoms, we have time and space to take a step back and think through exactly what that promise might mean. If you live close to God, then you can certainly expect his protection. But how?
He rings you with three lines of defence.
The first line is that when you see the virus around you, you trust in God to stop you from catching it.
Secondly, if you do catch it, you trust him to bring you out the other side, alive.
Thirdly, if you are terminally ill and no miracle is coming, you still trust him. This time you trust that he will bring you back to life again, after death. When he does, you will live with him forever.
All eventualities are covered. Whichever way you look at it, you are "saved".
If you've looked ahead at what is coming in
, you will have seen we return to this promise in a bit more detail, later on.
For now, though, just be glad because of God’s promises to you. If you are taking God up on his invitation to live close and stay close to him, then both of these amazing promises are yours.