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Strong Tower vs. Imagined Walls

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Strong Tower vs. Imagined Walls:  Where Is Your Faith?  In God or in the world?

Preached on July 17, 2005 at Skillman Bible Church

Pastor Terry is about to begin a series on what students of the Bible call the “Wisdom literature” of the Bible where he will take us, not straight through one book, but instead looking at various passages from Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes.  I thought long and hard about what message to give for today and I decided to just join him in this series and so we’ll be looking at Proverbs today in chapter 18, verse 10 – 11.

Please open your Bibles to Proverbs 18:10-11: 

The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
       the righteous run to it and are safe.

The wealth of the rich is their fortified city;
       they imagine it an unscalable wall.

It was a beautiful morning, a light breeze coming off the waters.  The sun was on the rise and the soldiers were enjoying every minute of their military duty, thanking God and counting themselves lucky for where they had been stationed.  Some were going off the night shift, some just getting up to head to church, work or to enjoy a lazy Sunday morning, and maybe some were sleeping off the hangover they received the night before, most of them for sure were asleep.  Little did they know that within a matter of hours, their world would be turned upside down, many of them killed and practically a whole fleet of battleships sunk.

A few months back from that 7th day of December, 1941, the following was printed:

A Japanese attack on Hawaii is regarded as the most unlikely thing in the world, with one chance in a million of being successful. Besides having more powerful defenses than any other post under the American Flag, it is protected by distance.  Written by journalist Clarke Beach on September 6th, 1941.

That one chance in a million happened and we can draw parallels with what happened at Pearl Harbor to what happened on September 11 or to what happened in London a couple of weeks ago and to any disastrous event in history.  We weren’t prepared.  It just couldn’t happen.  One chance in a million.  Is this a bad dream?  How could it happen? 

It is during these tragic events when we come to grips with reality and must ask ourselves the question, “Where is my faith?” or “Where is my trust?”.  Like many people today, Solomon also asked these questions and encouraged his readers to ask these questions.

As we move into this series on the wisdom literature, Terry will give you more background information on the material than what I will give today and also on King Solomon, the author of most of the book of proverbs, ecclesiasts and Song of Songs.  But for today I just want to make the point that Solomon knew something about putting trust into the Lord.  Now Solomon was no shining example of righteousness, after all he ended up with 700 wives and 300 concubines, most of them foreign women whom he married as signs of peace treaties with other nations.  These women eventually turned Solomon’s heart from God and he started worshiping idols and false gods. But in the beginning of his reign and in his childhood there is evidence in the text that Solomon did trust in the Lord.   

First of all he had seen his father put much trust into the Lord for his safety.  I think of all the times David sought after the Lord for guidance and protection in the book of 2nd Samuel during the time that Solomon was alive: the 3 year famine in chapter 21 and the many revolts against David’s rule.  When David announced Solomon as king and Solomon saw the great responsibility before him of reigning over Israel, he turned to God and sought after Him. It was not because of Solomon that he became the richest and wisest person who ever lived, but it is because of God’s blessing and anointing on Solomon which made him wise and rich.  Solomon knew where his true security was – in the name of the Lord, a strong tower.

The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
       the righteous run to it and are safe.

A strong tower for what?  For protection?  For keeping us from physical danger?  Now track with me here - The phrase, “name of the Lord” is quite often associated with being a sign of refuge and we see it in the Psalms.  Let’s turn to Psalm 124, verse 8:

Our help is in the name of the Lord,

the Maker of heaven and earth.

And what help does the Lord offer?  Psalm 18:2-3 states that:

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;

my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.

He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,

and I am saved from my enemies.

Back to Proverbs 18:10, the phrase “and are safe” literally means in the original language “to set on high”.

I believe that we can turn to the “name of the Lord” for protection and security from our enemies and physical harm.  In the Bible there are many instances where God did physically protect those who called on him.  Noah was saved from the flood.  Joseph was saved from death many times because of his trust in the Lord. According to Acts 12, Peter was saved from prison and execution.  And Jesus Himself was protected until the appointed time. All of these people had put their faith and trust into God.

But what about all of those who put their trust and faith into the Lord and were overcome by their enemies?  What about James, the brother of John, who was executed for his faith in Christ?  What about Stephen or even Paul?  What about the many martyrs throughout history, including modern day martyrs like Jim Elliot, Bonhoeffer, the Russian Christians during the communist reign, the Chinese Christians even still today being persecuted?  Why are they not saved from their enemies?

I believe that the ultimate reality of our existence is shown in our eternal state. Being protected from physical death is not the form of refuge and protection that God has designed and desires for us. After all, even though he was saved from the flood, Noah eventually died. Joseph died. Peter died and was in fact crucified. God’s protection is not just physical protection, more importantly it is from the second death, or the spiritual death.  Our life as we exist right now is not what matters the most, rather what is important is how we will be spending our eternal lives either in God’s strong tower, or outside of it.  And the decision must be made now, while we live in this temporary state.  This life is the chance God has given us to decide if we want to live in His tower, which provides safety and security, or if we want to live outside of it where there is constant gnawing of teeth and anguish.

What is so wonderful is that God has provided an open door into His tower.  It states in Proverbs 18 that “the righteous run to it (the name of the Lord) and are safe.”  The name of the Lord is Jesus Christ and John 14:6 states that He is the way, the truth and the life. 

But, you say, I’m not righteous.  Only the righteous may enter the tower.  You are right.  Only the righteous can enter the tower and there has never been, in human history, someone who has lived a righteous life, save one – Jesus Christ. Romans 3:23 states “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.  But because Jesus lived a perfect life, He took upon Himself all of human sin so that those who believe would be saved and have access to the security given by God that can only be found in His name – which is a strong tower.   But I’m still not righteous and no one is born righteous, but the believer in Christ is declared righteous by Jesus in front of God, the Father.   Romans 5:19 states: “For just as through the disobedience of the one man (Adam) the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man (Christ) the many will be made righteous.”

Jesus is now sitting at right hand of the Father and is ready for the time of judgment when all of mankind is before Him and HimHe will say to the Father, “That one is mine, he is righteous, he is allowed to enter the tower” or he will say “I don’t know that one, he is unrighteous, he is not allowed to enter and be safe”. 

How does a person become righteous in God’s eyes?  You must believe that Jesus Christ is your savior and that He died for your sins.  This is the free gift from God.  We cannot earn it by being good people, you must accept with faith that God has an eternal plan for your life and that includes becoming a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. Romans 6:23 states “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ.”

The 3rd chapter of John states: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” 

The rest of this verse in Proverbs is a contrast to the previous one.  Proverbs 18 verse 10 dealt with that which is good, but verse 11 deals with that which is not good.  This, as you will discover during Pastor Terry’s series on the wisdom literature, is how much of the proverbs are written in order for us to fully understand the meaning of the proverb. Verse 11 states that:

The wealth of the rich is their fortified city;
       they imagine it an unscalable wall.

I like the way the Message paraphrase renders this passage:

The rich think their wealth protects them;

they imagine themselves safe behind it.

This is not saying that being rich or wealthy is wrong or evil.  This isn’t the point.  In fact, this very misnomer is addressed in 1 Timothy chapter 6 where Paul states that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”  The love of money, not money itself.

It’s not the money that is evil, it is our response to wealth and money which can be evil. In 18 verse 11 it is the response of the rich which condemns them.  They put their trust into their money, into their worldly possessions and not into the name of the Lord.  When trouble comes, they run to hide behind what their money can buy – high walls, weapons, protection from the enemy, but it states that this is all “imagined” or false.

It is false protection.  Yes, wealth can buy much protection and it might just be enough to save you from physical death, at least for now.  But death will come and when it does, will you be able to say I put my trust into the Lord, or I put my trust into the world, my money or myself?

Many years ago there appeared one day in the same daily newspaper two stories:  one story was of an American woman who had just spent over $70,000 for Paris dresses; the other story was of a Christian woman, who after being questioned in a legal matter, modestly admitted that she had given many millions of her estate to various ministries and to helping the poor. “Well”, as someone remarked, “It is a matter of taste – Paris gowns or heavenly crowns.”

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Where is your treasure?  Where is your faith?  Is it in your own worth and self or in worldly things, or is it in the God who saves and provides a refuge and security for us?  A fleet of battleships hundreds of miles away from the enemy may or may not be able to save you from physical death, but name of the Lord will save you for an eternity. 

If there is anyone here today who does not believe in Christ as their Savior and would like to receive eternal salvation and to be declared righteous in the presence of God (or another way of saying that is to be made right with God), please come see me up here after the service.  I would love to talk with you and pray with you and for you.

Let’s pray now as we continue our worship.

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