Psalm 33: 16-22 “A king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a vain hope for victory, and by its great might it cannot save. Truly the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and shield. Our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”
I think all of us desire safety and security. The need to feel physically safe is a prerequisite for most people, before anything else can be undertaken. And most of us desire security, in our job, our home, relationships, and our sense of well-being.
For these reasons this passage, and others like it, are popular and comforting. God is promised to be our shield – a bulwark between us and the many threats to our security in the physical world. And, the psalmist may have intended the imagery of the shield to serve in a physical sense – of God protecting him from enemies, famine and death.
To be sure, we all have a duty to safeguard ourselves and those around us, particularly the vulnerable, those unable to protect and provide for themselves. And, we should always turn to God in times of trouble, just as in times of joy and prosperity. But these physical concerns bear a secondary, surface meaning that pales and falls away when we consider the true meaning of Christ as our shield.
A king with a great army, even though he survive many battles, eventually ages and dies. The warrior’s strength is sapped by time, giving way to weakness and death. And the war horse, for all its might, is destined to return to the earth. The disciples suffered persecution and martyrdom. Christ – our help and our shield – gave himself over to suffering and death.
None of this should make us forlorn. Rather, we are called to rejoice with a glad heart, for as the concerns of the physical world fall away, the light of Christ within us is free to shine forth. As we turn away from fear, anger, hatred and greed, and turn inward to the spirit of pure love within us, we reach a place in which our soul must no longer wait on the Lord – for the Lord already is there, waiting on us to open our soul to the world.
How then, is Christ our shield? God protects and provides for us physically, just as the lilies of the field and the birds of the air. But, all that is temporary – fleeting, really. Something far greater, and eternal, lies beyond the physical. If we look within ourselves, and within our neighbor, we see the true depth of Christ’s protection.
When we let worldly concerns fall away we begin to experience the eternal bond, through Christ, between our true self and God. When we trust in that bond – in God’s steadfast love – we bear a shield no evil can breach. It is a shield that protects our true self from the worst assail of our own ego, our avarice, fear and jealousy. It is the shield of our eternal hope and salvation.
Lord, we ask for your help today to break down the walls within us. Help us to overcome the barriers between our true self, the self you knew before we were born, and your boundless love. Help us to know this love within ourselves, to shield it from our own fear and from the false self we create in ego. Let us be one with you in spirit, Lord, and help us to bring those around us closer to your love. In your name we pray, Amen.