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Emmanuel Church, Plymouth
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Tony's Reflection 19
What have you missed most during lockdown?
For me, it's been a haircut, Chinese takeaways, and hugs with my granddaughters.
I am still waiting for my first Chinese takeaway but I had a haircut the week before last.
Last week, though, I had a really lovely moment. The first hug with Maisie, my five year old granddaughter. I knelt down in front of her, held my arms open wide and she came running for kisses and hugs. She smiled and giggled, then she walked back a few steps and came running forward, her little arms wide open, for more … three times! It was so special, not just to hold her close again, but to see her running forwards to let me wrap my arms around her.
I am sure you can imagine how special that felt, for both of us.
This week's verse from our Psalm describes something like that, between us and God.
"Because he loves me", says the Lord, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he knows my name." (verse 14)
Perhaps it seems strange to think of God responding to our love. We often focus on his love for us. His love for us is consistent, reliable, faithful. Our love for him is anything but. Yet it is our love for God which begins this verse and triggers a powerful reaction in him. How can that be?
There is a clue in the Hebrew word used for "love". It means "to cling onto, with affection", according to my Hebrew dictionary.
It is just the same as my little granddaughter running into my arms and clinging on to me. Can you understand how moving that is for me, as her grandfather? If so, you can begin to feel what that verse means for God, when you come running to him.
Throughout this psalm, we have been encouraged to run to God, into the secret place, for protection. You have probably been doing that yourself, as you have been reading these reflections.
Our focus has been on what it is like for you to run towards God for safety and protection. In this verse, we see it from God's perspective.
I see my little granddaughter running towards me with her arms open wide and my heart melts, as I sweep her up into my embrace.
God sees you running towards him, your arms open wide to cling on to him for safety and protection. He knows that you are depending on him. You are trusting him. Your heart is full of gratitude and affection as you come. His heart melts as he sees you coming. All of that is wrapped up in that little phrase "because he loves me".
Ponder that just for one moment. Isn't it extraordinary that what you do has such a deep effect on God? He is the maker of the universe. Purely in terms of size, the whole of humanity is as a few specks of dust before him. Do you care about the specks of dust, under your seat as you are reading this? Of course not.
Why should God care about you, a little speck of dust?
It truly is amazing that he does care. Not only that, but he delights in you so much, that when you run to him for safety and protection, arms open wide ready to lay hold of him, his heart melts.
There is something else in our verse, which moves God, too.
It is not just that you come running to him with your arms open wide, it is that you "know his name".
Now that seems very strange. What is so special about "knowing God's name"? After all, many people "know his name" … and use it as a swearword.
In the Bible, if you "knew someone's name" it meant that you knew all about them. Names were reflections of people's nature and character. If you knew their name, you knew their character, what they were like. You could probably tell how they were going to respond in any particular situation.
God is not touched just because we know he is called "God”. He is deeply moved, though, that we know what being called God means. When little Maisie came running into my arms, it wasn't because she knew I was called "grandpa". She knew what that name meant - a kindly old man who loves her dearly - and that's what made her run into my arms without holding back.
Have you come running to God and taken refuge in him, as you have been reading these reflections? If so, then you have done what this verse says moves him so deeply. You have "loved him" and you have "known his name". You have known that God is a refuge, that he can be relied upon. That is why you have run to him.
Now let's see what God promises…
“I will rescue… I will protect …".
When you come running to God, arms open wide to him, because you know he is your rescuer, then this promise is yours. It is not that God "might rescue you, if you are lucky" or "might protect you, if you catch him on a good day”.
There is a cast-iron promise here. He will rescue you. He will pick you up and place you somewhere high above your troubles. Where they cannot reach you.
Run to him, with your arms open wide …