Chapter 10

                    TEN – Sardines

     Sardines!  No, not the small herringlike fish, but the game.  Have you ever played “Sardines?”  The activity is entertaining and relatively simple to play.  Take a bunch of young people (the group may be large or small), a structure with lots of hiding places (like a church building), turn off the lights, and tell the kids to hide in groups of no less than four or five.  After the groups have hidden, one person begins to search.  As groups of people are discovered, they join the seeker in search of others.  It is called ”Sardines” because the hiding places can manage to get exceedingly cramped and crowded.

     What does the game “Sardines” have to do with the joy of obedience?  Simple—just as people find creative and sheltered hiding places, God the Father knows how to perfectly provide and protect His children; often with great creativity, always with great ability.  Second Corinthians 1:3 states, “What a wonderful God we have—he is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials” (TLB).  His comfort is sometimes manifested by a secret hiding place.  Fully confident in God’s strategy and ability to protect him, David wrote,

Hear my cry, O God, give heed to my prayer.  From the end of the earth I call to Thee, when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  For Thou hast been a refuge for me, a tower of strength against the enemy.  Let me dwell in Thy tent forever, Let me take refuge in the shelter of Thy wings (Psalm 61:1 – 4).


     In Psalm 81 the writer spoke of abiding in the shadow of God.  The psalm begins, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, My God in whom I trust!’”  In both passages, the writers used a special Hebrew word, which is translated “shelter” and means a secret hiding place.  God offers each born-again child protection and shelter but, to the obedient child, the Heavenly Father gives a very intimate, private, and special hiding place, a shelter from the storms of life, a protection from the enemy’s flaming missiles and strength to handle temptation, as illustrated in Figure Ten.  This is the essence of the cited Psalm passages.

     David wrote in another Psalm, “Let all who take refugee in Thee be glad, let them ever sing for joy; and mayest Thou shelter them that those who love Thy name may exalt in Thee.  For it is Thou who dost bless the righteous man, O Lord.  Thou dost surround him with favor as with a shield” (Psalm 5:11, 12).  This Hebrew word for shelter carries the idea of a cover or screen—to overshadow.  No matter what the attack or circumstances, the Word of God clearly teaches His children are overshadowed by His mighty power, ability, and love.  The Almighty is qualified to shelter, keep, and guard His beloved ones.  “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard (or garrison) your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6, 7). 


     The New Testament writers often used a Greek word, which the New American Standard Bible translates using several different English words such as “protect,” “preserve,” or “keep.”  In 2 Thessalonians 3:3, Paul used the same word:  “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one” (italics added).  To Timothy Paul testified, “. . . I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him . . .” (2 Timothy 1:12 [italics added]).  Peter Used this Greek word when he referred to a familiar Old Testament figure as he wrote, “ . . . [God] preserved Noah a preacher of righteousness . . .” (2 Peter 2:5 [italics added].  Finally, Jude penned, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy” (Jude 24 [italics added]).  These and many other Scripture passages graciously reassure the born-again believer of God’s keeping power.  In addition to biblical statements already cited, there are dozens of flesh and blood examples of His forte to shelter and protect.  Together we shall examine some of these representative models, such as Elijah, David, Daniel, the three Hebrew men facing a fiery furnace, the little family of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, Moses, and Noah.  First, we look at an extra-biblical example of a twentieth century Dutch family named ten Boom.


     We have learned trying times and temptation is part and parcel of this life.  Despite them yes, even in the midst of difficult situations, obedient children of God will know God’s joy and peace, His protection and provision.  Such is the case for two sisters who endured tremendous hardship afflicted by the Nazis in the late 1930’s—Betsie and Corrie ten Boom.


     In the quiet town of Haarlem, Holland lived a family named ten Boom—a wise and godly man named Caspar and his two adult daughters Betsie and Corrie.  They were gifted watchmakers who were devoted to the Lord Jesus and the people who were at the center of German aggression and persecution—the Jews.  In 1937 this family secretly converted their house into a hiding place; and, for several years during World War II, used it to protect Jewish people and members of the Dutch resistance movement from Hitler’s war machine.


     Early in 1944, an associate betrayed members of the ten Boom family to the Nazis; each was arrested and imprisoned.  Father ten Boom died ten days later; however, the two sisters, along with 35,000 other women were eventually sent to Ravensbruck and forced to endure inhuman treatment.  Shortly before Christmas 1944, Betsie was released from this life when she went to be with Lord.  Weeks later Corrie was literally released because of a simple clerical error.  In the spring of 1945, Holland was liberated by the Allied troops, and a few days later Germany surrendered.


     Until her death in 1982 on her ninety-first birthday, Corrie ten Boom traveled the world with the message of the Lord Jesus Christ’s ability to rescue and provide complete victory for any one.  “For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sin” (Colossians 1:13, 14).  Miss ten Boom told the story of revisiting Germany, only to come face to face with a former Ravensbruck guard.  At the conclusion of a church service, where Corrie shared her testimony, this former guard came forward to speak with someone about receiving Jesus Christ as Savior.  He extended his hand to Corrie and a flood of horrible memories filled her mind.  She immediately uttered a quiet prayer; Lord I cannot love this man.  You must love him through me.  In the moments, which followed Corrie told how God lifted the hatred and bitterness so she was enabled to return the greeting.


     It is true but ironic, at this hideous prison camp, God used lice to protect and provide a special hiding place for these two sisters.  The guards refused to enter the innermost recesses where the prisoners lived, because of these nasty little creatures.  Betsie and Corrie, along with their fellow detainees had a measure of privacy affording them the opportunity to read the Bible, testify of Christ, and speak openly about spiritual things.  The last statement Betsie uttered encouraged Corrie to tell others of God’s ability to forgive and keep His own.  Even in the midst of horrendous surroundings like Ravensbruck, Betsie realized, “There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still.”


     Examining 1 Kings 17 and 18, we find the first biblical example, the amazing story of Elijah.  He was ordinary and simple, yet a profound man of God.  As with the ten Boom women, God used some unlikely resources of His creation to hide and provide for this man:  a little brook, ravens, and later a Gentile widow.  During three and one- half years of drought, God hid and protected this prophet from the demonic clutches of an evil king.  Later God instructed a poor widow, an innocent victim of the severe drought, to provide day by day for this man as God continued to conceal and endow His obedient prophet.


     Another prime example of God’s protective hand is seen in the life of David.  Because David’s predecessor Saul was determined to kill him, Israel’s future king had to be on the run, always looking over his shoulder.  The long hide and seek saga is found in 1 Samuel 9 through 2 Samuel 1.  Saul was a self-indulgent, jealous, and bitter man.  Israel’s first king had no understanding of the joy and satisfaction the obedient life could give him.  Rejecting divine design he chose to live his life outside the bottom circle in a state of rebellion, confusion, and frustration. 


     Although Saul had every possible resource at his fingertips, he was never successful in his pursuit of David.  Saul and his army of men chased David throughout Israel and beyond, searching every cave and cranny.


     During these trying times, David penned many of his psalms, many of which were prayers.  “Keep me as the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of Thy wings” (Psalm 17:8).  “For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; in the secret place of His tent He will hide me, He will lift me up on a rock” (Psalm 27:5).”How great is Thy goodness, which Thou hast stored u0p for those who fear Thee, which Thou hast wrought for those who take refuge in Thee, before the sons of men!  Thou dost hide them in the secret place of Thy presence from the conspiracies of man; Thou dost keep them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues.  Blessed be the Lord . . .” (Psalm 31:19 – 21a).  Finally, “Hide me from the secret counsel of evildoers, from the tumult of those who do iniquity” (Psalm 64:2).  Even to the casual reader it is evident David was fully dependent upon the Lord his God for protection and provision.  David was an obedient servant who trusted his God and rested in His promises and protection.


     As in the case of Elijah, God chose to use the most unlikely instruments to provide protection for Daniel—a dungeon full of hungry lions.  Daniel 6 recounts the story of this obedient man who was manipulated by his enemies.  As was his custom, Daniel prayed to God and thereby transgressed the king’s law.  For this violation of state law, he was sentenced to the lions’ den.  What the enemy meant for Daniel’s harm, God used for Daniel’s safety and keeping.  No doubt, Daniel’s rest that evening was satisfying and sweet as he cuddled next to one of those fearsome beasts.


     This Old Testament book also records another fascinating story of God’s miraculous provision, this time involving Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.  This account is found in Daniel 3.  These three young Jewish men respectfully declined to worship and proclaim allegiance to the monarch and his image.  Therefore, they were cast headlong into a fiery furnace.  Again, we have another instance of God’s protection and provision—He used a blazing inferno to protect His obedient ones.  As we live obediently, because God is faithful, He obligates Himself to also care for us, to protect and provide our needs.  We have a magnificent God of grace.


     Matthew 2 records another example of God’s protection and provision for His obedient ones.  Shortly after the birth of the Lord Jesus, certain magi, in order to worship Him, sought the newborn King.  They first went to the Roman leader Herod asking where this child could be found.  These insightful wise men recognized Herod’s intense jealous rage and never spoke again to him.  At this point, Herod became enraged and ordered all male children born in Bethlehem to be killed.  Next we red, “. . . An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, ‘Arise and take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him’” (Matthew 2:13).  Herod, acting as Satan’s tool, had only one goal, and that was to “destroy” the Lord Jesus.  It is interesting to note later when Jesus spoke of the devil, He referred to him as a “thief” who comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).  The angel and Jesus used the same Greek verb—“apollumi,” which means to utterly annihilate.  Times could barely get much more trying for this obedient little family; nevertheless, God protected and provided.  Part of the magi’s worship was gift giving; they brought to Jesus gold, frankincense, and myrrh (2:11).  These expensive treasures were most likely God’s means of financing their trip to Egypt where God protected them.


     Another biblical example of God’s gracious care is found in still another obedient little family:  Jochebed and Aamram, the parents of Moses.  The narrative is found in Exodus 2.  Once again, a maniac sat on a throne making times extremely desperate and trying.  Like Herod, he, too, fearing a deliverer ordered the death of every Jewish baby boy.  Hebrews 11:23 informs us “by faith” Moses’ parents hid him in a homemade basket and floated him down the Nile River.  Under the watchful eye of big sister, Miriam, none other than Pharaoh’s daughter discovered the basket containing Moses.  Opening it, she saw the tiny baby, and immediately fell in love with him.  She brought him into her home and raised Moses as her own son.  Once again we find God’s miraculous provision and care.  The Exodus narrative also relates that Jochebed was engaged by the Egyptian princess to nurse the youngster.  AS Moses grew he saw an example of godly obedience modeled by his birth mother.  Hebrews 11:23 states, “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.”  The writer used a plural pronoun to refer to Moses’ parents—it was a joint venture in faith.  They did not fear Pharaoh because they were obedient to God.  In verse 27, we find, “By faith [Moses] left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king . . .” Where did Moses learn not to fear the king?  What example did he have in this matter?  Moses learned this at the feet of his birth mother—the one God provided for his rearing and protection.


     The final example of God’s ability to protect and provide is Noah and his family.  In the New Testament Peter wrote God “. . . preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly” (2 Peter 2:5).  Noah’s contemporaries were ungodly and disobedient.  Jesus described it this way:  “’They were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark and the flood came and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:27).


     With an obedient spirit, Noah faithfully built the ark God had designed and continued to preach and witness of God’s judgment and the way to escape.  Thousands rejected the offered message.  Noah and his family accepted God’s provision; His rescue from destruction resulted in their salvation.


     Manifestations of God’s faithfulness toward mankind could continue evidence by people like Elisha and the Shunemite woman, Hanah, Jeremiah, the Samaritan woman at the well, John the apostle, Martin Luther, J. Hudson Taylor, and many, many more.  Time and space prevent a complete representation; however, heaven will reveal a full and perfect accounting.  Suffice it to say:  our God is faithful, gracious, kind, and masterful.


     Notwithstanding, this truth may raise a question or two.  Do these biblical and extra-biblical figures teach God will provide and protect His children only when they are obedient?  Does God withhold His protection and care when we are disobedient and rebellious?  What happens when a saint of God is willful and disobedient—0oes the Lord just allow him to face life on his own without His aid?  Perhaps you are wondering, Didn’t Jesus promise to never desert or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5)?  Those are good questions and we will take them up in Chapter Eleven.





Copyright © 2010 by J. Michael Fox