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[Find the Peace of God and Take this Hiding Place with You! (4)]
Metaphysical Application Ideas the Christian Science Bible Lesson on

“God the Preserver of Man”
For December 9—15, 2019

By Craig L. Ghislin, C.S. Glen Ellyn, Illinois (Bartlett) / (630) 830-8683 / (630) 234-3987 (cell)

Do you have a place that makes you feel safe? Everyone needs someplace where they can shut out the noise and distractions of the world, and just be still with God. Not all hiding places are physical. We can also take refuge in prayer, or a comforting thought, and according to the psalmist, in music too. Many of us have been uplifted, comforted and healed through music.

In the Golden Text, the psalmist refers to God as his “hiding place.” While at first thought, it seems that the psalmist is seeking refuge from physical danger, many theologians, including Albert Barnes (1798-1870) feel differently. He writes: “The general allusion is to concealment from an enemy, but the immediate reference is to sin, and the consequences of sin.”

In the Responsive Reading, the psalmist shows he’s fully attuned to God’s merciful goodness. He has called upon God in times of distress, and gained strength to stand firmly against all threats through divine power. Barnes enhances the imagery of a large place:

“I was before pressed on every side; sorrows compassed me around; I could not move; I had no liberty. Now he gave me space and freedom on every side, so that I could move without obstruction or pain.”

Beyond times of physical danger due to violence, God is our refuge in all times of trouble—some of which may include threats of illness or disease, temptation, tyranny, contagion, financial challenges, war, or natural disasters. We are never in a condition where God is unable or unwilling to help.

Adam Clarke (c1760-1832) describes the refuge as “a high place, where their enemies can neither reach nor see them. He who has God for his portion has all safety in him [God]. …Such a place is inaccessible to the enemy.”

John Gill (1697-1771) explains that “the oppressed” are:

The poor and weak, such as have no might nor power, and are thrown down and trampled upon… They are oppressed with the burden of sin; they are bowed down with Satan and his temptations; and are sometimes pressed out of measure, and above their strength, with the persecutions of men; they are trodden under foot by antichrist, or otherwise are borne down with a variety of sorrows and afflictions; but the Lord is a refuge for them.

Here again, commentators seem to emphasize the oppression coming from sin, rather than oppression from literal enemies. This Lesson includes safety in a variety of contexts.

Section 1: When Troubles Loom Large

We start this Lesson with a plain fact: “The Lord is thy keeper…thy shade upon thy right hand” (B1). It’s obvious that no matter how large troubles may loom, the psalmist has complete trust, and expectancy that God will save him from every physical attack, as well as from sinful temptations (B2). As most of us should be, the psalmist is mindful of his sins, yet he prays that “integrity and uprightness” will preserve him. Integrity means, “completeness, and wholeness,” and comes from the English root word, “integer” which means “a whole number.” Therefore, protection comes from our oneness with God.

Have you ever worked on a problem for a long time and were tempted to be discouraged because it wasn’t healed? The psalmist mentions two traits that have served him well: patience and delight (B3). Patience is born not only out of expectancy and trust, but also out of a lack of anxiety over the outcome. And rather than feel burdened by following God’s will, he delights in it. It’s so natural to him that it is within his heart—a part of his essence. There’s certainly no hint of toilsome suffering there. He can think of nothing better he’d rather do than to wait on the Lord. In fact, he says he would surely have fainted had he not been waiting on God (B4). Therefore, he bids all men to have “good courage” in tribulation, and to be confident that strength will come.

Are there any areas of your life that could use more patience and delight? The New Testament author of Second Timothy echoes that God doesn’t give us “the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (B5). “Soundness” is another definition of integrity; so when we’re at one with God, nothing can touch us.

Mary Baker Eddy brings out the tenderness of God in her use of the name “Father-Mother” (S1). She reminds us that the Father-Mother embraces all identities at all times (S2). Continuing this line of reasoning, we find a reoccurring theme of this Lesson—that God is a “very present help in trouble” and that nobody is left out of God’s care (S3). Rather than positioning God as a stern ruler that should be feared, she brings out the loving-kindness of God that brings peace and comfort (S4); and she assures us that being man’s maker, God, will surely maintain His/Her creation (S5).

To Mary Baker Eddy it was unthinkable that God could either allow, or create discord of any kind. Discords are but “mortal beliefs” that have no chance before Truth and Love (S6). She acknowledges that the earthly experience can be fiercely difficult, but all the hardships serve to turn us away from trusting the mortal picture, moving us to strive for a closer relationship with God. She punctuates this thought with these most encouraging and comforting words: “Love supports the struggling heart until it ceases to sigh over the world and begins to unfold its wings for heaven” (S7). How sweet is that?!

Section 2: Only the Good Is Real, and Only the Good Survives

Ezekiel alludes to the sins of the fathers being visited upon the children (B6). We often think of this in terms of heredity through DNA or genes. Not only do we seem to be condemned through heredity to be predisposed to disease, temperament, and sinful tendencies, but we also seem to inherit habits, behaviors, and opinions learned through our upbringing. We tend to continue those behaviors unless we break free of them through the recognition of our true family and heritage as sons and daughters of God.

When praying to be free from heredity, we need to take into account learned behaviors and attitudes, in addition to claims of physical attributes and disease. God never forsakes His saints. We are all “His saints” because we are all His children. The psalmist recognizes the family traits of the household of God as preeminent and eternal compared to the feeble traits of genetic heritage (B7). He puts his complete trust in God and knows that God alone determines who he is, how he is, and what he is. Rather than being on a predetermined path of destruction, our heritage as children of God leads to the path of eternal life (B8).

Although it seems that we are fashioned through genetics and our environment, we can’t forget that in truth, we are fashioned by God (S8). We are the image and likeness of infinite Spirit. The difference between a so-called genetic or material heritage and our spiritual heritage is that even though material traits and predispositions to sin and disease claim to be permanent, they are constantly mutating, while the spiritual facts of being are fixed yet constantly unfolding. The good is always preserved.

Evolutionary changes emphasize survival of the fittest, but we have to be cautious, because to human sense it’s not the goodness of a quality or trait that determines fitness, but the strongest traits that continue from generation to generation in order to ensure their survival. So, it’s up to us to make sure that it’s the good traits that are the strongest. Therefore, the good survives. In Truth, all true being springs from God, who is always the same and cannot be erased (S9).

Nothing in God’s creation is erroneous, mortal, mutable, or variable, and “God…is never reflected by aught but the good” (S10). “Nothing inharmonious can enter being, for Life is God” (S11). As we learn this we will understand that it’s impossible to be saddled with detrimental inherited traits, diseases, and sins. No matter how forceful heredity appears, it is not a law.

Mortal mind claims that not only disease, but also the way we view the world is determined by, “its priority and the connection of past mortal thoughts with present” (S12). We need to be alert to this. This is the “old man” that Paul tells us to “put off.” Our textbook assures us that turning to God can help us out of all claims of heredity. What hereditary claims—either physical or behavioral would you like to put off? And how would you replace them?

Section 3: Bless the Beasts…

Psalm 36 (B9) reads, “…thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.” Gill tells us this means from the earth unto the clouds God’s mercy extends to all creatures, and God never changes His mind, nor forgets His word. He is a God of Truth, and preserves every single aspect of His creation. Barnes marvels at the “myriads of creatures upon the earth – so many hundred millions of human beings – so many thousand millions of wild beasts, reptiles, fish, birds, and insects – all dependent upon Him; that He provided for their needs, and that He protected them in the dangers to which they were exposed.”

In the story of Balaam’s ass (B10), we first note that Balaam is so wrapped up in doing things his way that he was too preoccupied to notice the angel “standing in the way.” The animal however, notices the angel immediately. In fact, the angel’s sword is drawn and the beast actually goes into the field to protect Balaam. Yet, Balaam’s first instinct is to discipline the animal for misbehavior, and lead it back to the original course. At the second appearing of the angel, again with sword drawn, the animal tries to get by the angel, and in the effort crushes Balaam’s foot against the wall; and once again the animal is smitten. On the third appearing, there is no place for the animal to go. Unable to turn right or left the animal buckles, and falls down under Balaam. At this point Balaam looses all control and beats the ass with his staff.

To Balaam’s surprise, the ass begins to speak, asking why he is continually being beaten. Balaam says it’s because the ass “mocked” him, and then he says if he had a sword he’d kill the animal. According to John Gill, being mocked meant, “to be defiled.” He tells us the Arabic version reads, “you have rolled me in the dirt,” and thus Balaam is exposed to criticism and mockery causing him extreme embarrassment. Basically, Balaam did not like being made to look foolish by an animal.

Think about this. The creature perceived the angel three times, and each time it attempted to communicate this to its rider to no avail. Whereas his rider was too arrogant, too pre-occupied, or too ignorant to notice the angel, and presumed the animal was being disobedient. The ass recounts that he has always been obedient in the past, and that Balaam should have taken notice that there was something important going on. Finally, Balaam’s eyes are opened, and abashed, he falls down to his face. This is an instance of God giving help to man through another of His creatures. God always finds a way to deliver us, and to get our attention (B12).

Let’s pause for a moment and think of the arrogance of Balaam as an example of how mankind reacts to signals from the environment. In this case a creature was continually attentive to an angelic messenger, and the human was inattentive, perplexed, and actually irate toward the beast. Three warnings were given with increasing urgency, and three times the man was progressively more irritated. What lessons can we take from this? Is there anything you think nature might be trying to tell us today?

Our textbook tells us that God forms and preserves the “individuality of animals as well as of men” (S14). But we can’t behave as if nature has nothing of importance to tell us. Mary Baker Eddy says, “God gives the lesser idea of Himself for a link to the greater…” That sentence finishes with reciprocity—“in return, the higher always protects the lower” [emphasis added] (S15). We’ve got to keep up our end of the bargain. God shines through all creation, and nature’s messengers have something to tell us if we’re listening. These warnings go deeper than the environment. They extend to the attitudes and behaviors that cause the problems.

Sometimes the worst situation becomes a vehicle for the greatest growth (S16). God’s angels—God’s thoughts passing to man (S17)—reach us through a variety of outlets.

Man has the ability, and responsibility to control himself. Balaam allowed his arrogance to blind him and his anger to rise, and he could have stopped it. We, too, can put a halt on the aggressive tendencies that hound us. Error goes only so far as we let it (S18). In Science, the real man can do no harm (S19). If we are truly listening to God, our thoughts are true, safe, and beneficial for all, including the animal kingdom and the environment.

Might and dominion don’t have to be bombastic and cruel. The might of Spirit is tender (S20). All God’s creatures are “harmless, useful, and indestructible.” Let’s not forget that man is one of those creatures, and all creation can coexist, and thrive peacefully.

Section 4: The Secret Place

God not only preserves the integrity of our environment, he also preserves the peace and safety of men. Those severe circumstances that bring “angels entertained unawares” take many forms. The psalmist uses the example of mariners in a storm—no matter how irreligious one might be on land, he is likely to kneel in prayer for safety in a storm at sea (B12). Whether there is a storm is at sea or a storm between nations, God will deliver us. Psalm 27 (S13) is one of the most comforting passages in the Bible—with God at hand what can make us afraid? Even if the enemy is camped all around us, we can still find confidence. Using the analogy of God being the master of the house, Barnes provides some illumination on the concept of the “secret of the tabernacle”:

“…the meaning here is, that God would hide him [the one in need of protection] as it were in His [God’s] own dwelling; He would admit him near to Himself; He would take care that he should be protected as if he were one of His own family…[the secret tabernacle] is the place to which He Himself withdrew to be alone, and where no stranger, and not even one of the family, would venture to intrude. Nothing could more certainly denote friendship; nothing could more certainly make protection sure, than thus to be taken into the private apartment where the master of a family was accustomed himself to withdraw… and nothing, therefore, can more beautifully describe the protection which God will give to His friends than the idea of thus admitting them to the secret apartments of His own dwelling-place.”

As the psalmist refers to the safety of the master’s house, Peter’s Epistle includes the safety that comes with obedience and integrity; and specifically mentions something applicable to today’s world, “Be not afraid of their terror” (B14). We never need to let evil keep us shuttered away in fear. We can take our “hiding place with us” and find the peace of God that passes all understanding—there is no greater peace that we can conceive of (B15). Barnes elucidates:

“The Christian, committing his way to God, and feeling that he will order all things aright, has a peace which is nowhere else known. Nothing else will furnish it but religion. No confidence that a man can have in his own powers; no reliance which he can repose on his own plans or on the promises or fidelity of his fellow-men, and no calculations which he can make on the course of events, can impart such peace to the soul as simple confidence in God.”

Science and Health echoes the familiar refrain that God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (S21). Mary Baker Eddy doesn’t pretend that there isn’t trouble in the world. She acknowledges that to belief, there are conflicting forces at work (S22). But as with the “angels entertained unawares,” these upheavals are harbingers of progress. Through it all, those attuned to Science, will recognize such disturbances as indicative of error’s impending destruction. Therefore, they will be undisturbed by these challenges (S23).

As we have to make peace with nature, we must also make peace with our fellow beings (S24). God is the only Mind. When we realize that all men have one Mind, war will cease (S25). What better hiding place is there, than in the warmth and protection of unity and love?

Section 5: The Light of Life

Where do we seek refuge if the threat is against our health and wellbeing? When threatened with illness or disease the psalmist turns completely to God, acknowledging that His word is a purifying power that cleanses us from fear and anguish (B16). No matter how aggressive our troubles are, we find our delight in God’s laws. Notice that word “delight” again. It’s not a weak, half-hearted, passive thing. To delight is to be greatly pleased, captivated, and thrilled! Our delight in God’s law brings us into a fuller awareness of Him whose greatness is potent enough to derail even death itself (B17).

That short verse about the people being as sheep without a shepherd is more significant than it seems (B18). Sheep rely on the shepherd for pretty much everything—not the least of which includes guidance through dangers and rough terrain; leading to safe places to drink, eat, and sleep; careful selection of food and removal of poisonous plants, and protection from predators. That reminds us that “the higher always protects the lower.”

The Scriptures are filled with accounts of those with threatening health issues turning to Jesus for healing. In one of these a man brings his son who suffers from seizures to the disciples for healing, but they aren’t able to do it, so he appeals to Jesus for help (B19). The Master immediately attends to him, somewhat chiding the disciples for not having enough faith to see through the claim. In Matthew’s version of the same story Jesus calls the disciples not only faithless, but “perverse”! According to Barnes, this means, “that which is twisted or turned from the proper direction; and is often used of the eyes, when one or both are turned from their natural position.” As in every circumstance, Jesus could see clearly while others were completely disoriented and looking the wrong way. After Jesus rebukes the foul spirit, it looks as if the young man is dead. It must have been alarming to the father and those watching, and it may have seemed that all was lost. But Jesus, being unimpressed, “took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.”

Jesus’ ability to clearly see through every material condition gave him the authority to call himself “the light of the world.” (B20). Irrespective of the extremity of the challenges he faced, that light lead the way to a safe place and up the path of healing.

Mary Baker Eddy says, “Jesus taught the way of Life by demonstration” (S26). To “demonstrate” is to give a practical exhibition and explanation of how something is done, and to show the truth by giving proof or evidence. He proved that we don’t ever have to be afraid of sense testimony because the seeming danger is only an illusion (S27).

Mortal belief claims to create and sustain material laws that govern life and death (S28). But God neither allows nor supports these false laws. We don’t live in matter, we live in Spirit, and we aren’t subject to its so-called laws. Our Leader counsels us to think less of what mortal mind seems to be doing, and keep focused on what God is doing. Understanding the laws of God overrules any material beliefs. It’s like knowing how a magic trick is done. Once you know the technique, you are never fooled by it again. In just the same way, we can see through the claims of disease. Man-made doctrines are powerless (S29). Mary Baker Eddy cautions that denying the possibility of spiritual healing is taking away the very element that gives force to Christianity. She declares very simply, “In divine Science, man is sustained by God, the divine Principle of being” (S30). This being the fact, we need never fear disease again.

Section 6: God Is Our Refuge, Strong Hold, and Hiding Place—We Can Rely On It

The Scriptures promise that when we’re in trouble, God is a strong hold (B22). That’s not a tiny, minimalistic space. A stronghold is a fortress, and that is big place to hide, and definitely safe. Notice too, that God knows those who trust Him. It’s not like in order to get God’s protection, we have to approach some nebulous entity, or a hugely popular, and important mega-mortal who is too busy to notice, or have time for “little old us.” God actually knows us intimately! The psalmist says that tender care is unlimited, and we are preserved whether we’re coming or going, and throughout all time (B23).

Science and Health confirms that we indeed have a beautiful, bountiful, secret place in which we can be hidden from the dangers of the world (S31). That doesn’t mean sticking our heads in the sand. It means that despite all the trouble around us, we are still untouchable. God, “divine Mind maintains all identities, from a blade of grass to a star, as distinct and eternal” (S32). That includes every one of us, every creature, and every part of nature, and the universe. That’s one outstanding place to hide, and the angels are singing your entry hymn right now!

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