During Christmas, our family had the privilege of going to the local sheriff’s department location to bring gifts to the deputies on duty, as a way of thanking them for their selfless service to all of us on Christmas day. While most of us were enjoying the usual restfulness of the holiday and preparing for a comfy night at home after dinner, these 15 or so men and women were preparing for another night of protecting the rest of us, even at the cost of their own safety, maybe even their lives. That aspect of protection that they and other law enforcement agencies provide is often overlooked, I think, in view of the fact that sometimes they have to protect us from ourselves.
When I think about that concept of protection and self-sacrifice, at least for me no more vivid image comes up than that of the Secret Service agents who protect the president and other dignitaries. Notwithstanding some recent and unfortunate reports of misbehavior among certain factions within the Secret Service, the substantial majority of these agents dedicate their lives to upholding our laws and protecting our society, some of them protecting the representatives of our free society in our government.
The protective function of the Secret Service started around 1901 after the assassination of President McKinley. Prior to that, the role was primarily investigative and surrounded financial systems, fraud, and similar areas. Today, the protective element of the Secret Service is pretty commonly understood, given the visibility of the sometimes stereotypically-attired agents in certain venues primarily associated with the President. In fact, the Secret Service are charged with protective responsibilities over a fairly broad array of dignitaries, some of which can refuse protection. However, by law, the President of the United States (“POTUS”) and Vice President (and President-elect and Vice President-elect) may not decline service.
These Secret Service agents, often unnoticed and unseen, devote their service and sacrifice their lives to protect (most commonly) POTUS. In this capacity, they literally are dedicated to guarding POTUS from harm, jumping in front of danger and threat and if needed acting as a human shield. Many have done just that in the past. They are constantly on the look-out and vigilant to note threats, allowing POTUS and others to carry out their business confidently and without feeling a sense of danger. They are continually watching over their assigned protectee, alert at every angle of possible harm, and they are willing to lay down their life to ensure their protectee’s life is preserved.
As I started my new reading plan this week (reading through Psalms and Proverbs over the next 180 days), Psalm 3 reminded me of this protective comfort that God provides you and me … in it we read:
O Lord, I have so many enemies; so many are against me. So many are saying, “God will never rescue him!” Interlude. But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high. I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy mountain. Interlude. I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me. I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies who surround me on every side. Arise, O Lord! Rescue me, my God! Slap all my enemies in the face! Shatter the teeth of the wicked! Victory comes from you, O Lord. May you bless your people. Interlude.
It struck me in reading this in a bit of the same way we can overlook the importance to POTUS of the Secret Service, we can overlook how God is constantly in protection mode on behalf of you and me. The difference, is that God is not in secret-mode. Let’s chew on this a bit more …
Are we surprised that we have “so many enemies?” Okay, I get that you and I probably don’t have a host of nut jobs out there looking to shoot us in order to gain favor with Jodi Foster (look it up if you’re too young to remember this), or to murder the leader of the free world (because, no surprise, neither of us is that in the literal sense). But in another sense, we are constantly in danger. Spiritual danger. We’re attacked from every side, as the Bible declares, “not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
Without overly mystifying things, it’s true that there is a real enemy out there that is ever-actively looking to take us down. We too can put ourselves in positions of danger, spiritually-speaking, and frankly we can use protection against ourselves at times. Our world wants to pull us in harmful directions, places where the degradation of societal values of old are trying to redefine (or eliminate) truth, a sense of right and wrong, and otherwise expose us to innumerable dangers to our very souls. All because we have a ruthless enemy who will stop at nothing short of destroying us … who as Christ followers represent the true Leader of the truly Free world.
But what Psalm 3 reminded me is that as dignitaries for the Lord, we have assigned to us a Protector. This Protector is constantly on the watch, perhaps unnoticed or unseen, and is described as providing a shield of protection around us. This Protector is always watching over us, ensuring He sees the potential threats from every angle, in every possible place. Just like a Secret Service agent, He is always on the lookout and is specifically in place at every turn to protect us from spiritual harm. Like a Secret Service agent, He also laid down His life (the life of His Son) in order to preserve our life, eternally. Unlike the Secret Service … His presence is not so secret … He declares His protection and His devotion to the heavens.
What are the threats in your life this week? Are you feeling fear, or doubt, or loneliness, or loss through the illness or death of a loved one? Our enemy wants to use those very real, very understandable emotions to cause you to doubt … to doubt your worth, to doubt your faith, to doubt your salvation or maybe even to doubt God. Maybe the threats are struggles with sin, or guilt or condemnation from things we’ve done in our past or even in our present. Our enemy wants to attack us and lie to us about the lasting pleasure of sin, or to tell us that because of what we’ve done we’re not qualified to be who God says we are (loved by Him, forgiven by Him, saved by Him for eternity). Our enemy wants to steal our joy, our sense of purpose, and our fulfilled life.
Fortunately, we have an ever-present, all-powerful Not-So Secret Service protector, Who shields us from any potential harm, Who can never fail in His protection, Who sees every threat, and Who has actually ALREADY defeated the enemy. The thing is, like many protectees by the Secret Service, we can decline His protection. Let’s choose this week, this month, this New Year, to never decline it, and to rest ever comfortably in it.
Soli Deo gloria!