God is our stronghold in troubled times, but this promise is for those He knows trust Him fully. It requires intimate relationship and intimate knowledge.
The Lord is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him. (Nahum 1:7)
Today’s verse provides a startling addition to the truth of God as our stronghold in troubled times. While this is undoubtedly true, there is a ‘bonus truth’ that we would be wise to remember. So many turn to God only in troubled times as a kind of last-ditch desperation. Having tried everything else, why not try God? Today’s verse, however, reminds us that God knows those who trust Him.
A stronghold in troubled times.
This part of the verse is one that appeals to us. It speaks of the love, grace, and protection of God. We will all happily grab hold of this kind of truth because it’s God doing the ‘giving.’ But we need to understand the relevance of the word ‘stronghold.’ The imagery, of course, goes back to ancient times and the ways men waged war, right up to ‘modern warfare’ which changed the ‘rules’ dramatically. The stronghold was a critical ‘fixture’ in warfare that we’ve lost the real meaning of. Any king, nobleman, landowner, or town had their ‘stronghold.’ It was the place of defence, a bastion against a marauding army, and a place of safety in troubled times.
But the critical requirement of a stronghold was that it was prepared. It was never neglected or allowed to go to ruin. Defences and walls were maintained, weapons were stored, and food and water stockpiled. Scouts were constantly on watch, and at the first sign of trouble, citizens and soldiers alike would enter the stronghold and the gates were shut. A lot of people have the impression that the stronghold was kind of the last line of defence, the place of desperation, but this is completely incorrect. The stronghold was the epicentre. Many a besieging army has been defeated without a single drop of blood being shed because the stronghold was prepared for troubled times and therefore unassailable.
Preparing our stronghold for troubled times.
The message is very clear. To have a stronghold in troubled times, we have to make sure it’s kept ‘ready.’ This implies familiarity. It’s not a ‘bolthole’ we scurry into but a place where we know what is available for our defence. We know the lie of the land. It’s like a ‘home from home,’ so familiar we can find our way around in the dark. Our weapons must be kept clean and sharp, and our supply of the bread of life and living water already in place. The gates must be oiled and the walls secured. All this must be done in advance and then maintained.
What it comes down to is our relationship with our stronghold – with God. As our stronghold in troubled times, He has all we need, but we must be sure to do the preparation. It’s too late to dig into the Word the proverbial hits the fan. If we’ve neglected to be ‘continually filled’ with the Spirit, we’re going to feel the lack when we really need it. Our weapons – the promises and Word of God – need to be sharp and already inside us. If we’re dabbling in things we shouldn’t, we’ll find way too many gates that need closing. Where there’s a gate or a hole in the wall, the enemy will use it. All too often, complacency and compromise undermine the walls without us realising it. When the battle heats up, we find ourselves fighting on too many fronts.
A living, knowing stronghold in troubled times.
The second part of today’s verse introduces a truth that is both wonderful and challenging. Our stronghold in troubled times isn’t brick and mortar, or concrete and steel. It’s the living, all-knowing God. On one hand, that’s just plain awesome. With God, all things are possible. If God is for us, who can be against us, right? He’s alive, all powerful, and possesses supernatural knowledge. But the very things that sound – and are – so incredibly wonderful should also give us pause. Our all-knowing God knows the enemy, but He also knows us – better than we know ourselves.
We can fool ourselves, but we cannot fool God. It’s very easy to slide into complacency and to rest in presumptive faith based only on the first part of this verse. In the hustle and pressure of life, it’s easy to put off sharpening our weapons. Compromise often happens without us realising it, masked by stresses that diminish our discernment and judgement. We skimp on time with God today, promising ourselves and Him that we’ll catch up on the tomorrow that never comes. But while it’s critical that we know our stronghold, it’s as critical that He knows us. This isn’t vague familiarity. It’s rock-solid, intimate, daily-growing knowledge that only comes with relationship.
Troubled times reveal our true condition.
Mostly, we wing through life by the seat of the pants, so troubled times catch us unawares. Yet we have the best ‘scout’ of all – the Holy Spirit. I’ve lost count of how many times He’s dropped some seemingly arbitrary something into my spirit, only to see it materialise a few days later. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve not ‘cracked the code.’ I’m as human as anyone else. But the reality is that if we’re ‘receiving messages,’ the Spirit will usually provide some kind of heads up. We might not have the details, but there is a sense of needing to check the stronghold.
The reality is that our response to troubled times determines the effectiveness of our stronghold. If we settle ourselves complacently on the first half of the verse, we miss the crux of the matter. God becomes our ‘bolthole,’ the place to run when nothing else works. But this isn’t trust. Real trust takes Him seriously and puts in the effort. It trusts God in the little things, not just the crises. God knows those who truly trust Him. He also knows those who simply abuse the promises and ignore the instructions. He cannot be an effective stronghold for those who do not trust Him.
Trusting God in troubled times.
To trust God, we have to know Him, and this isn’t possible in the heat of battle. Intimate knowledge is built through intimate time together. It’s built through sharing, discovering, and simply being together. Trust is built alongside faith. We learn and grow but trusting for the silly little things in life first. If we can’t trust God for a parking space, how will we trust Him for healing? The principle applies to troubled times. If we can’t trust God to help us resolve a disagreement with a colleague, how will we trust Him to protect us from a full-scale onslaught by the enemy? Let us rejoice that our God knows us intimately. But let’s also build our stronghold together with Him, laying each small brick in intimacy and trust.
Father God, thank You for the assurances You give in Your Word. Forgive us if we take Your promises for granted, and when we miss or avoid the things that require us participate. Help us to prepare our strongholds, to spend time with You and in Your Word, to be continually filled with Your Spirit, to listen, and to love You. By Your grace, Lord, help us to make our stronghold in You a place to live, not simply a place to run to in troubled times.