We have lived in our South African home for just over 7 ½ years. One of the things that was most difficult for me to become accustomed to were the high walls that enclosed our property. In the States, you notice the high security walls that surround the homes of the S rich and famous, but certainly not around the Oregon neighborhoods that I lived in for the majority of my life.
In Johannesburg, though, the walls are high. The fence tops are spiked. The razor wire is sharp. And the electric wire that is strung tight atop the walls and fences are shockingly hot.
These security measures have one purpose; safety and protection. Security is a multi-million dollar business here. High walls, electric fences, house alarms, security guards, and security patrols are characteristic of the communities of the 3.8 million Joburg residents like us. In fact, we receive weekly email updates from our security company informing us of the recent crime strikes in our neighborhood. These updates encourage us to remain alert and on guard; at all times.
In the 7 ½ years of living here, we’ve had two attempted break-ins. The first attempt was in May 2008. The second happened in the early hours of October 2012. We suffered some broken locks and broken windows, but in both situations, the house alarm was activated when the perpetrators tried to enter the house. The burglars were scared away. These trespassers made it over our walls, fences and electric wire and nearly inside our home. Thankfully, other than some lost sleep in the middle of the night during one break-in attempt and the inconvenience of repairs, we suffered very little.
Living here, we know that the tall, fortified walls are not enough to keep us safe. They are a barrier and the first line of defense, but if some one wants to break into our home, they will find a way.
The walls that surround our home are what I thought about when I read these words in Deuteronomy:
They will lay siege to all the cities throughout your land until the high fortified walls in which you trust fall down. They will besiege all the cities throughout the land the Lord your God is giving you. Deuteronomy 28:52 NIV
Why would the Israelites be given this word of warning by Moses?
If you read Deuteronomy 28, you will find that this chapter describes both blessing and curses that will descend upon the Israelite nation according to how they follow their God and obey His word. If they obeyed, blessings would abound. If they disobeyed, they would experience the wrath of God.
Moses warned this people that if they put their trust and security in fortified walls, then the walls would ultimately fall down.
Trust in Deuteronomy 28 comes from the Hebrew transliterated word, batach. Batach means the sense of well-being and security that comes from having something or some one in whom to place confidence. Batach means to feel safe and secure and to live at ease because of the confidence that is placed in the LORD.
The Israelites were warned that if they substituted anyone or anything for the provision of their confidence, hope, welfare and security for their God, the replacement would fail them.
Like I’ve said, I have a literal and concrete word picture in mind when I envision the fortified walls of Deuteronomy 28. And like I’ve shared, our walls are not impenetrable. Our walls have failed us.
There are other types of walls that we build to provide us with a sense of security and well-being. We construct invisible walls to defend ourselves from the pain of the past. We erect force fields to shield our hearts from criticism or betrayal. We create obstacles that impede others from getting too close. We build barriers that safeguard us from grief and sorrow. We build fortified walls of self defense and self protection to feel safe emotionally, physically, and even spiritually.
Yet, just like the fortified walls for the people of Israel, our invisible walls are not impenetrable. They will disappoint us. What then?
The answer comes in the word of batach, trust. Rather than placing our trust in something or some one that is unable to provide for our well-being in every possible way, we can place our trust in our God who can.
Our God is trustworthy, faithful, dependable and true. His resources and blessings abound and are without end. We can rely upon Him for our well-being and our security. Batach is a bold word. As believers, we can boldly trust in the confidence and care of our God and not in our own erected walls of self-defense.
Does trusting in God mean that we will never experience pain, anguish, grief, sorrow, betrayal, a health scare or even a break-in?
There are no promises against difficulties. In fact as believers, we should expect hardships. Jesus actually promised us this: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV
Our family lives in an environment where we know that our fortified walls and security systems are not enough to prevent crime from happening to us. The same is true with whatever invisible, futile wall we construct to protect our sensitive hearts from the pains of this fallen world.
Our Savior asks us to rely upon Him. His peace and security is available to us; always.
The choice is ours. In whom shall we place our trust?