If you’re familiar with the coastline of the British Isles, it’s likely you’ll have come across some castles. Built mostly in Medieval times as places of safety and defence, they were designed to protect their residents from marauding raiders, who were keen to come ashore to stake their claim to territory that wasn’t theirs to take.
In the North West part of Wales, nestled in the Llyn Peninsula, is a small seaside town called Criccieth. High on a promontory, jutting out to sea and overlooking the town, lie the ruins of what would have been a once impressive castle, with imposing views in every direction.
When I consider the original purpose of castles, like the one in Criccieth, it helps me understand what the Bible means when speaking of God being our stronghold and fortress against the Enemy.
The Lord calls his people to be ready for spiritual battle. If you are reading this and you are a Christian, then this includes you!
But he also provides his people with the means to fight from a place of absolute safety, security and protection. He knows the Enemy’s tactics, and his desire is to prevent casualties.
Psalm 91 speaks of all kinds of terrors – terrors of the night, terrors of diseases, terrors of war. It also speaks of all sorts of destruction. But the central emphasis of Psalm 91 is ‘covering’.
There are three Hebrew words for ‘covering’ that are used in the Old Testament. They each have a slightly different meaning – to enclose or hedge in, to conceal or hide, to overlay or cover – but together, these meanings speak of safety, security and protection.
In verses 1, 4 and 9-10 of Psalm 91, we read this:
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty …
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart …
If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling,
then no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent … “
Aren’t those amazing words? Shelter. Shadow. Cover. Refuge. Shield. Rampart. Dwelling.
How, though, can we put those words into action? How can we seek and find God’s covering?
I’d like to suggest that it comes from the little phrase, “in Christ”, which is used over 200 times in the New Testament.
When we believe “in Christ”, we actively come into Christ. We are in Christ and he is in us. As far as God is concerned, our position, before him, is that we are “in Christ”. It means we are covered by Jesus’ holiness, Jesus’ righteousness, Jesus’ purity. We are covered by Jesus’ blood, shed for us on the cross.
This means that, if we are “in Christ”, when God looks at us, he sees Jesus first. As Paul says in Colossians 3:3, “Your life is now hidden with Christ in God”.
Equally, when the Enemy tries to find us, if we are “in Christ”, we will be hidden, so he will come up against Christ first – which means he will only be able to get hold of us by dealing first with Christ. Yet Christ has already dealt with the Enemy! The Enemy has already been defeated through Christ’s death and resurrection. The spiritual battle has already been fought and won.
The Enemy will do what he can to lure us out from our place of safety, security and protection, into an exposed position. But he can’t touch us if we are covered “in Christ”.
As you think about this, I will leave you with these questions to ponder:
How familiar are you with spiritual warfare and the need for God’s covering to have victory in the spiritual battle? Which aspect of God’s covering appeals to you most – safety, security or protection – and why?
If you are a Christian, what might make you step out from being beneath the covering God offers you “in Christ”? What will you do to step back under it?
Please feel free to respond with constructive comments below.
Please note: This is my ‘thought for the month’ reflection for June. (You can find all my ‘thought for the month’ reflections here.)
Also, for a related reflection, from a couple of years ago, about the importance of standing firm and wearing the armour of God, when waging spiritual warfare, see here.
The photo is my own. It shows Criccieth Castle.