My Rock, My Fortress, My Shield

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.” Psalm 18:2

David was considered a man after God’s own heart. Yet David experienced many physical as well as spiritual battles in his lifetime. He enjoyed many blessings from God, and he also failed God on occasions. I love studying the life of David, because he was so real. While yes, he was considered a man after God’s own heart and he was in close fellowship with God, he didn’t always do everything right. But he knew God. He knew him as his fortress, as his rock, as his shield.

The definition of fortress is “a military stronghold, especially a strongly fortified town fit for a large garrison”. In ancient times fortresses were often walled off from the rest of a city and they were supplied with food, water and ammunition. They were there for protection as well as defense. David knew that when he was walking in fellowship with God he did not need to fear because God was his fortress, his place of safety. David knew this because he had experienced it. After David was anointed King it was still fourteen years before he took his place on the throne and for the majority of those years he was on the run from King Saul who wanted to kill him. David had experienced God’s protection, safety, and deliverance from Saul’s hand many times and had even had opportunity to take Saul out a couple of times but instead he acted with integrity and did not touch the Lord’s anointed one, as King Saul had also at one time been anointed to be King. 

I can honestly say that I too have known God as my fortress, my rock, my shield of safety. That is not to say that there is nothing that touches me that hurts my heart. But it is to say that I know where to run to get healing and direction and peace and safety from the things that can truly harm me.  And if and when there is something, some circumstance that seems beyond me, I know the one to retreat to when the battle gets too rough. Where do I go to get fortified, to get my nourishment and to have my wounds tended to. I run to my fortress, I hide behind the rock for a while and I get my shield ready for the battle again before I head back out to the field. 

What do you run to when the circumstances become overwhelming? Many people run to people, to relationships, or to any number of addictions ~ shopping, alcohol, drugs. Some may look at material things to satisfy and take our mind off of things. But running to our fortress is the only sure thing that will never let you down. He will satisfy and He will give comfort and He will give you peace. And then He will also give direction when it comes time to face those circumstances again. 

A mighty fortress is our God! 

Strong Tower 

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.” Proverbs 18:10

A tower is a structure that is taller than it is wide. It can stand among buildings and gain strength from the buildings but many times it stands alone and its strength is built upon itself. It is self-supporting. A tower can be used for many things, to improve visibility of an object because it stands taller than the rest of the objects surrounding it, such as a clock tower. Or it can be used to improve visibility of surrounding areas. A tower built in conjunction with a castle or a fort would be used to watch out for oncoming enemy attack. A fire tower is built in the midst of a forest to watch for fire or smoke. The two characteristics of a tower that mean something to us here are 1. It is strong and can stand alone and withstand strong winds and the elements around it and 2. It stands far above the rest. 

So what does this verse mean when it says “the name of the Lord is a strong tower”? The name of the Lord is strong, it stands alone, it has power, it provides a place of refuge. It should be our first line of defense. We should be finding refuge in the tower. If we are in close fellowship with the Lord, with our strong tower then we are putting on our armor and we are standing strong against enemy attacks before they come. However, the thing also about our strong tower is that it is also a place of refuge we can run to when we get out from under it. How many times have I found myself out of God’s will and left vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks on me? More than I like to recount. The thing about God is that I can run home to Him when I have wandered away. He is like a strong tower and when I turn myself back to righteousness (right living), I can run to Him and I am safe. I may still have consequences to the wandering, more than likely I will. But whatever comes my way will be sifted through His strong and mighty hands and I can be safe in His tower of strength. I like it better when I am staying in His will, in the refuge of his strength, but I am so grateful that even when I wander, all I have to do is look around and I can see Him above all of my circumstances, He is my strong tower and I will run to Him to be safe. 

Jehovah-Jireh ~ The Lord will provide

Years ago when I first realized that there were so many names of God in the Bible, this may have been the first one that I learned. I remember my family was going through a time when money was tight and we had to lean into the Lord more than ever before for his provision. But even then I didn’t study where the origin of this name came from. As I was studying it now, I found out how kind and tender and personal this name of God really is. 

In the book of Genesis, chapter 22 we see Abraham who had already been through so much with God, being told by God to take his son and to sacrifice him on the altar. 

“He said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.’” Genesis 22:2

Now remember this was the son Isaac, who had been born of the promise from God and Abraham had been told his many descendants would come from him. I truly think I would have questioned God. I am sure I would have been thinking “this can’t be”! I am sure I would have wailed at God how unfair that I had had to wait until my old age to have this son, who was such a blessing to me and I would have shook my fist and not understood. But that is not what Abraham did. 

“So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to  the place of which God had told him.” Genesis 22:3

Abraham acted with immediate faith and obedience. He set out on his journey toward the place that the Lord had told him to go with all of the supplies and with his son. This story says many things but it speaks quietly and steadily of the trust that Abraham had in his God. Abraham had had many times in the past that he had doubted and questioned. But this time, he began carrying out the command of the Lord. Even when questioned by Isaac of where was the lamb, he assured his son that God would provide. Now as I have read this story many times before I always think that Abraham was begging God in his spirit to not make him go through with this. But studying this story and reading in Hebrews it shows Abraham’s quiet faith in this matter. 

“He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” Hebrews 11:19

Abraham was willing and was about to carry out exactly what God had instructed him to do. He had acted in total faith and obedience that God had a plan even in this that there was no way he could understand. Abraham took his son to the place where God showed him, he built an altar, he laid out the wood but just as he took the knife to slaughter his son. God stopped him. 

“But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’ And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.” Genesis 22:11-13

Can you just imagine the waves of emotion that would have come upon Abraham? Gratitude and peace and joy and relief and all of these things would have manifested in worship to God who had provided for him the replacement for his son. 

“So Abraham called the name of that place, ‘The Lord will provide’; as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’” Genesis 22:14

God had provided the sacrifice for Abraham that day, in place of his son Isaac. I read in my studies that “provide” in Hebrew also means “see to it”. What is it today that you need the Lord to “see to it” for you? He will surely do it. I read this statement and I can’t say it any better. 

“When Abraham calls God Jehovah-Jireh, he isn’t just saying, ‘God gives the goods!’ He is saying, ‘You see/experience all this need of mine and make provision for it.’ It is deeply personal.” ~

When we truly see God as our provider, we aren’t just looking for Him to provide for our physical needs. God is more interested in providing for our hearts what we need. 

Immanuel – God with us! 

“‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).” Matthew 1:23

There are only 3 places in scripture that this name of God, Immanuel appears. But there are many times that we see Jesus, God with us! Jesus came to us by a virgin birth as a baby. He was born in a stable, wrapped in cloths and laid in a manger. The son of God, had the most humble earthly beginnings that we could think of. 

He grew in wisdom and stature and became a man that by mere appearances was just a man, but he was fully God as well. And He walked and He talked and He taught among all people, mere peasants not just among the scribes and scholars of His day. In fact, He spent more time with the mere peasants than He did with the scribes and scholars, and when He was with them, He was challenging them. 

But what does it mean for us, this God with us, this Immanuel? I think one of the places we can find the answer is in 1 John. 

“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” 1 John 4:16

Can you be any more “with” something than to abide “in” it. Friends what I believe this is saying is this, as you fall more and more in love with Jesus, you believe the love He has for you more and more. And as you love Him, you are abiding in Him. His love abides in you as you abide in Him. 

So what of this word abide? I looked it up and while there are many meanings of the word, the one that I believe is the meaning we have here, it makes the most sense is “to remain stable or fixed in a state.” To abide in God and to have God abide in you means that you are stable, you are fixed on God’s love. You believe Him to be your Immanuel, God with us! And for Him to be with you is for you to spend time with Him. The way you abide, the way you fall deeply in love with Him is to spend time with Him. You must spend time with Him and you must believe in His word. And if you doubt His word or His love ask Him to show you. This is the promise of Immanuel. God with Us! God with Me, God with You! We don’t have to wait for a prophet or even for the preacher on Sunday morning to tell us what to do and how to live. We get to go to the book and spend time with the one who lives there. Let His word abide in you. Study it and learn it and live it. Then you will be abiding in it and God will be abiding in you! 

Immanuel – God with us! 

The first place in scripture that this name appears is in Isaiah. 

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

Immanuel is a Hebrew compound word. The word Immanu means “with us” and El as we know means God. In Isaiah this was a prophecy given to Ahaz who was King of Judah who was wicked and worshipping other gods to the point of even sacrificing his own son to Molech. From what I read in my study there was immediate meaning given to this prophecy as well as future meaning of the birth of Jesus to this prophecy. And you can see that in the previous verse. 

“And he said, ‘Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also?” Isaiah 7:13 

The prophecy was for Ahaz. There would be a near fulfillment in Ahaz’s lifetime as there would be a child born in his kingdom that would be named Immanuel and during that time there would be an attack from Israel and Syria. The name Immanuel and it’s meaning was a rebuke to Ahaz who did not put his trust in God but feared his enemies. 

But our concern at this time is the far fulfillment of this prophecy. This was a prophecy of the virgin birth of Jesus!! This was the best baby reveal of all time! This prophecy was addressed to the House of David. We know that Jesus was from the lineage of David so with the language “O house of David” we can see that this was not just for Ahaz but for all. It also speaks of the virgin birth and we know that only happened once. It would still take hundreds of years but He was coming. Commentary I read said it best. 

“Immanuel speaks both of the deity of Jesus (God with us) and His identification and nearness to man (God with us).

Before Jesus was born of a virgin, God spoke to His people through prophets and a few chosen people, Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, to name just a few. We know that there was a Holy of Holies in the temple and the Priest could only enter there once a year and had to be completely purified of all sin before He did so. God’s presence was felt by only a chosen few. But with the birth of Jesus, Immanuel was born and became God with us! Jesus dwelt among ALL people when He had His earthly ministry. He dined with sinners and saints alike. No longer did we have to wait for a prophet or for the priest to go into the temple to meet with God. Then after Jesus death and resurrection we were ALL left with the Holy Spirit so that we can all have Immanuel, God with us all the time!  How exciting is that! I can be so guilty at times of wanting a burning bush or a pillar of cloud because I think I just don’t know which direction to turn. But truthfully, I like having Him in my heart and knowing His voice in my head much better. I am so grateful that God is with me always and that I don’t have to wait for someone else to speak to me about what God has to say! 

Jehovah Sabaoth ~ the God of Angel Armies

“Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.’” 1 Samuel 17:45

When David defeated Goliath he did it in the name of the Lord of Hosts, not with the might of men but with the might of God!  David defeated Goliath with nothing more than a staff, a sling and five smooth stones in a pouch. If you know the story, then you know that Saul tried to clothe David in his armor. 

“Then Saul clothed David with his armor. He put a helmet of bronze on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail, and David strapped his sword over his armor. And he tried in vain to go, for he had not tested them. Then David said to Saul, ‘I cannot go with these for I have not tested them.’ So David put them off.” 1 Samuel 17:38-39

Man’s might and man’s armor has limitations. In some ways it may protect you but it will never protect like God’s armor and it’s bulky and heavy and makes it hard to fight. In Ephesians we see Paul encouraging us to put on the whole armor of God. 

“Finally be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:10-12

Now these verses may not specifically mention Jehovah Sabaoth, but it is talking of battles that take place in the spiritual realm and putting on the armor of God. So in my mind as I studied Jehovah Sabaoth, and kept looking at God as the Lord of Hosts, the commander of the angel armies these verses in Ephesians came to mind over and over. This is the only way for us to join the fight with the Lord of Hosts! Spiritual warfare is taking place all around us as long as we are on earth. In order to be victorious in this warfare we must put on the armor of God. 

Which is the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes of peace, take up the shield of faith, make sure we have on our helmet of our salvation, and have the sword of the Spirit, the word of God. (Eph. 6:13-17) 

That’s our battle clothes to join with the Lord of Hosts in spiritual battles. 

There is another Old Testament story that gives a picture of spiritual battles. In 2 Kings chapter 6 Elisha was a prophet of Israel and the king of Syria sent his army to seize him because Elisha would speak against him to the king of Israel. So the Syrian Army surrounded the city where Elisha was and Elisha’s servant rose early in the morning and saw them. There were horses and chariots surrounding the city. The servant was frightened and asked Elisha what do we do. 

“He said, ‘Do not be afraid for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.’ So the lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” 2 Kings 6:16-17

Do you find yourself in a spiritual battle today? Or is someone you love in a spiritual battle? Pray to the God of Hosts, Jehovah Sabaoth to open your eyes so that you can see Him as He fights for you. Ask Him to open the eyes of the person you are praying for. We may not see horses and chariots of fire, but if you pray for God to show you where He is working, I believe He will show you. Strap on that armor, take up the sword and fight, but not with man’s armor, fight with God’s armor. Make sure you have your helmet of your salvation, the belt of truth and breastplate of righteousness will protect you and take up the shield of faith and your sword of truth and fight. And walk in peace my friend. The battle is the Lord’s. 

Jehovah Sabaoth ~ The Lord of Hosts 

The word “host” in this context means army or organized group. So this term for God is most often used in a military context. It is used 486 times in scripture and most often has to do with warfare, armies or fighting. Jehovah Sabaoth is the Lord of Hosts and has a heavenly army to work on our behalf. 

One of the first times that it is used in scripture though is in 1 Samuel chapter 1. I love the tenderness of this story. There is a woman named Hannah and she is married to a man named Elkanah who had another wife as well, Peninnah. Now Peninnah had children but Hannah did not. So when the three would travel to Shiloh to worship and bring sacrifices, Elkanah would give portions to Peninnah to sacrifice for her and her children, Hannah would get a double portion because Elkanah loved her, even though she had no children. But Peninnah would taunt and make fun of Hannah because she had no children. This happened year after year and Hannah would be heartbroken all over again and reduced to tears. Elkanah could not understand, he would try to comfort her and probably in his own way let her know he loved her with or without children but poor Hannah was desperate. 

So one time while in Shiloh after they had worshipped, after Peninnah had taunted and after they had eaten Hannah went to the temple and she prayed and she wept and she cried out to God. 

“She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. And she vowed a vow and said, ‘O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.’” 1 Samuel 1:10-11

When Hannah cried to the Lord of Hosts, she was crying for the God of the armies. She had probably prayed a prayer for a child many times before but this time she was crying out in desperation. She needed the God of Angel armies to fight on her behalf this time. 

Have you ever gotten so to the end of your rope that you didn’t know what else to pray? This is when to pray to Jehovah Sabaoth, the God of Hosts. Hannah was desperate, she was at the end of herself on this matter. She was already heartbroken and she was dealing with Elkanah’s other wife who rubbed it in, and her husband didn’t understand. She knew that her only hope was in God alone. This is when the spiritual warfare comes in and when she knew she needed to know our commander in chief – Jehovah Sabaoth, the God of Hosts. 

El Olam ~ The Everlasting God

In looking for references to God as El Olam in scripture it led me to one of my favorite Old Testament passages. 

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:28-31

Another meaning for Olam is time. So when you hear this name of God it teaches us that God created time, yet God exists outside of and beyond time. God was here before time began, He always has been, He always is, and He always will be. What an awesome thought that the same God who parted the red sea for the Israelites to walk across, the one who brought fire down from heaven to ignite a very wet sacrifice for Elijah on Mount Carmel and the same God who sent His son to be born of a virgin and to die on a cross for our sins is the same God we worship today. He may not do miraculous signs and wonders the same WAY that he used to do them, but He could if He wanted to. And don’t you mistake that if you look for Him, he does and He will work on your behalf. 

When this writer wrote this, He was recognizing God as Creator, He is the Everlasting God to the ends of the earth and He is always there. He doesn’t faint or grow weary. Take comfort in that. No matter how much we think He may be tiring of us bringing the same old same old to Him, He isn’t. He knows, He understands. 

And because of His understanding, He gives us the strength even when our stuff is exhausting us, He will give the strength to go on and to face the day, each day. 

The last verse of this passage has always been a favorite. Although to me it may have seemed a little backward. 

“but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

I would think you would walk, then run, then fly. But my favorite commentator put it this way: 

“First, we recognize that we soar up into heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Then we set ourselves on the course to run the race. Then we are in the good place to walk the walk.” ~ David Guzik (Blue Letter Bible)

When the race gets hard and the way is exhausting, we have no other choice but to get with God and soar into heavenly places with Him and let Him set our feet on a path so we can walk this thing out. After all, He is everlasting and eternal and He created time, yet it doesn’t exist in Him. Because He created time and can see into time, He knows when and where the end of your struggle will come so it only makes sense to let Him help you walk it out! 

El Olam ~ The Everlasting God 

We know that El means God. Olam means eternity, forever or everlasting, so when put together El Olam means Everlasting God. 

The first time this appears in scripture is in Genesis 21:33. In this story Abraham had settled near Abimelech the Philistine King. Abimelech had taken note that God was blessing Abraham and that God was with him in everything he did so Abimelech comes to Abraham to say “hey please don’t do bad things to us. We can tell God is with you so let’s be nice to each other.” Abraham agreed, however there had apparently already been some disputes among the servants concerning some wells that had been dug and who they belonged to. Abimelech told Abraham, he didn’t know of it until “today”. So Abraham and Abimelech made a covenant with each other and used all kinds of animal sacrifices to seal their covenant. Abimelech then went home assured that Abraham and his men would play nice with his people. Then: 

“Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God. And Abraham sojourned many days in the land of the Philistines.” Genesis 21:33-34

Abraham dealt with many conflicts and good times and bad times in his own family as well as with the people around him. But Abraham kept in close relationship with God regardless of what was going on. Sometimes the relationships we have with others can be challenging but at the forefront of our lives our relationship with God should always be paramount. If we can keep that relationship in tact, He will direct our steps to navigate our family relationships, our work relationships, our friend relationships and our church relationships. Abraham was recognizing that when he planted the tree and called on El Olam, His Everlasting God. It was a way to acknowledge God!

We have an enemy who is prowling around looking to destroy our relationships and our families, he is after our lives. And if he can’t have us in eternity, he will do what he can to destroy our life on earth. But we also have an Everlasting God, who never changes, He is the same today, as He was yesterday and He is the same today as He will be tomorrow. He is the one constant in our life that we can always depend on. I don’t know about you but I need constant, I need something to be unchanging. That is where my dependence on God comes in. He is eternal! He is everlasting! He is forever! Come what may and whatever rocks my world if I cling to Him, I can make it through this day and look forward to my tomorrows! 

El Elohe Israel – God the Holy one of Israel

Remember Jacob and Esau, the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah. Also remember that Isaac was the son of Abraham. Remember that Jacob cheated Esau out of his birth right and received the blessing as the first born from Isaac even though it was Esau who should have gotten it.

So Rebekah sent Jacob to live near her brother Laban to hopefully find a wife. Along the way, Jacob stopped to sleep and he has an encounter with God. God spoke to him in a dream. Jacob recognized that it was God who was speaking to him, but Jacob also shows in his language that while he knows who God is, he has not really made Him his God.

“Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God.’” Genesis 28:20-21

Notice the words “if” and “then.” Jacob was bargaining with God. God if you do this, then you will be my God. Now before we go shaking our spiritual heads at that, think back. Has there ever been a time that you may have said the same. “God if you do this, I’ll follow you?”  Ouch, I know I have. 

God did bless Jacob and gave him two wives and many children and he blessed him while he was with his Uncle Laban with wealth. God continued to chase after Jacob even in all of the deception and the lies and the half heartedness of Jacob. Not because of who Jacob was but because of who God is. 

Fast forward, eventually Jacob desires reconciliation to his brother Esau. So Jacob decides to return home. (There is a whole lot to the story that falls between chapters 28 and 33 of Genesis.) Along the way, Jacob begins to take a shift in his prayers and he finally stops bargaining with God, but he begins seeking God. He still acknowledges God as the God of his fathers but he is at least beginning to acknowledge the blessings he has received because of who God is. 

“And Jacob said, ‘O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,’ I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant.” Genesis 32:9-10

Jacob is working a plan to gain favor with his brother Esau and one night he lays down to rest again, but instead of rest he wrestled with an angel fo Lord all night long. 

“Then he (the Angel of the Lord) said, ‘Let me go for the day has broken’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ And he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ Then he said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.’” Genesis 32:28

Have you ever felt like you were in a wrestling match with God? The good thing about a wrestling match with God is there is purpose and that purpose is not to harm you but it is to set you in your right place. Jacob, Israel had wrestled with God and he had wrested with men and yet he had prevailed. And in this wrestling God had finally become the God of Jacob. 

“So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.’” Genesis 32:30

Jacob goes on to meet Esau and they have a beautiful reunion in chapter 33, then Jacob finally arrived in Shechem, in the land of Canaan and he pitched his tent. 

“There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel.” Genesis 33:20

Finally Jacob, Israel can call God his God, not just the God of his fathers. But since he knew God face to face, he finally had a relationship with Him and Jacob knew Him as the Holy one of Israel. His personal God! Just like he can be mine and your personal God too.