1, 2. The Israelites were in what danger as they entered the region of Sinai in 1513 B.C.E., and how did Jehovah reassure them?
THE Israelites were in danger as they entered the region of Sinai early in 1513 B.C.E. A fear-inspiring trek lay before them, a journey through a “vast and terrible wilderness infested with poisonous snakes and scorpions.” (Deuteronomy 8:15, The New English Bible) They also faced the threat of attack by hostile nations. Jehovah had brought his people into this situation. As their God, would he be able to protect them?
2 Jehovah’s words were most reassuring: “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, that I might carry you on wings of eagles and bring you to myself.” (Exodus 19:4) Jehovah reminded his people that he had delivered them from the Egyptians, using eagles, as it were, to carry them to safety. But there are other reasons why “wings of eagles” fittingly illustrate divine protection.
3. Why do “wings of eagles” fittingly illustrate divine protection?
3 The eagle uses its broad, strong wings for more than just soaring aloft. In the heat of the day, a mother eagle will arch her wings—which may span over seven feet (2 m)—to form a protective umbrella, shielding her tender nestlings from the scorching sun. At other times, she wraps her wings around her offspring to protect them from the cold wind. Just as the eagle safeguards its young, so Jehovah had shielded and protected the fledgling nation of Israel. Now in the wilderness, his people would continue to find refuge in the shadow of his mighty wings as long as they remained faithful. (Deuteronomy 32:9-11; Psalm 36:7) But can we today rightly expect God’s protection?
The Promise of Divine Protection
4, 5. Why can we have absolute confidence in God’s promise of protection?
4 Jehovah is certainly capable of protecting his servants. He is “God Almighty”—a title indicating that he possesses irresistible power. (Genesis 17:1) Like an unstoppable tide, Jehovah’s applied power cannot be thwarted. Since he is able to do anything his will directs, we may ask, ‘Is it Jehovah’s will to use his power to protect his people?’
5 The answer, in a word, is yes! Jehovah assures us that he will protect his people. “God is for us a refuge and strength, a help that is readily to be found during distresses,” says Psalm 46:1. Since God “cannot lie,” we can have absolute confidence in his promise of protection. (Titus 1:2) Let us consider some of the vivid word pictures that Jehovah uses to describe his protective care.
6, 7. (a) The shepherd of Bible times provided what protection for his sheep? (b) How does the Bible illustrate Jehovah’s heartfelt desire to protect and care for his sheep?
6 Jehovah is a Shepherd, and “we are his people and the sheep of his pasturage.” (Psalm 23:1; 100:3) Few animals are as helpless as domestic sheep. The shepherd of Bible times had to be courageous to protect his sheep from lions, wolves, and bears, as well as from thieves. (1 Samuel 17:34, 35; John 10:12, 13) But there were times when protecting the sheep called for tenderness. When a sheep gave birth far from the fold, the caring shepherd would guard the mother during her helpless moments and then pick up the defenseless lamb and carry it to the fold.
7 By comparing himself to a shepherd, Jehovah assures us of his heartfelt desire to protect us. (Ezekiel 34:11-16) Recall the description of Jehovah found at Isaiah 40:11, discussed in Chapter 2 of this book: “Like a shepherd he will shepherd his own drove. With his arm he will collect together the lambs; and in his bosom he will carry them.” How does the little lamb come to be in the shepherd’s “bosom”—the folds of his upper garment? The lamb might approach the shepherd, even nudge his leg. However, it is the shepherd who must bend over, pick up the lamb, and gently place it in the security of his bosom. What a tender picture of the willingness of our Great Shepherd to shield and protect us!
8. (a) God’s promise of protection is extended to whom, and how is this indicated at Proverbs 18:10? (b) What is involved in finding refuge in God’s name?
8 God’s promise of protection is conditional—it is realized only by those who draw close to him. Proverbs 18:10 states: “The name of Jehovah is a strong tower. Into it the righteous runs and is given protection.” In Bible times, towers were sometimes built in the wilderness as safe places of refuge. But it was up to the one in danger to flee to such a tower to find safety. It is similar with finding refuge in God’s name. This involves more than just repeating God’s name; the divine name itself is no magic charm. Rather, we need to know and trust the Bearer of that name and live in harmony with his righteous standards. How kind of Jehovah to reassure us that if we turn to him in faith, he will be a tower of protection for us!
“Our God . . . Is Able to Rescue Us”
9. How has Jehovah done more than just promise protection?
9 Jehovah has done more than just promise protection. In Bible times, he demonstrated in miraculous ways that he is able to protect his people. During Israel’s history, Jehovah’s mighty “hand” often kept powerful enemies at bay. (Exodus 7:4) However, Jehovah also used his protective power in behalf of individuals.
10, 11. What Bible examples show how Jehovah used his protective power in behalf of individuals?
10 When three young Hebrews—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—refused to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar’s image of gold, the furious king threatened to throw them into a superheated furnace. “Who is that god that can rescue you out of my hands?” taunted Nebuchadnezzar, the most powerful monarch on earth. (Daniel 3:15) The three young men had complete confidence in the power of their God to protect them, but they did not presume that he would do so. Hence, they answered: “If it is to be, our God whom we are serving is able to rescue us.” (Daniel 3:17) Indeed, that fiery furnace, even when heated seven times hotter than normal, presented no challenge to their all-powerful God. He did protect them, and the king was forced to acknowledge: “There does not exist another god that is able to deliver like this one.”—Daniel 3:29.
11 Jehovah also provided a truly remarkable demonstration of his protective power when he transferred the life of his only-begotten Son to the womb of the Jewish virgin Mary. An angel told Mary that she would “conceive in [her] womb and give birth to a son.” The angel explained: “Holy spirit will come upon you, and power of the Most High will overshadow you.” (Luke 1:31, 35) Seemingly, God’s Son had never been so vulnerable. Would the sin and imperfection of the human mother blemish the embryo? Would Satan be able to injure or kill that Son before He was born? Impossible! Jehovah formed, in effect, a protective wall around Mary so that nothing—no imperfection, no hurtful force, no murderous human, nor any demon—could damage the growing embryo, from the moment of conception on. Jehovah continued to protect Jesus during his youth. (Matthew 2:1-15) Until God’s appointed time, his dear Son was unassailable.
12. Why did Jehovah miraculously protect certain individuals in Bible times?
12 Why did Jehovah protect certain individuals in such miraculous ways? In many cases Jehovah protected individuals in order to protect something far more important: the outworking of his purpose. For example, the survival of the infant Jesus was essential to the fulfillment of God’s purpose, which will ultimately benefit all mankind. The record of the many displays of protective power is part of the inspired Scriptures, which “were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) Yes, these examples strengthen our faith in our all-powerful God. But what protection can we expect from God today?
What Divine Protection Does Not Mean
13. Is Jehovah obligated to work miracles in our behalf? Explain.
13 The promise of divine protection does not mean that Jehovah is obligated to work miracles in our behalf. No, our God does not guarantee us a problem-free life in this old system. Many faithful servants of Jehovah face severe adversities, including poverty, war, sickness, and death. Jesus plainly told his disciples that as individuals they might be put to death because of their faith. That is why Jesus stressed the need for endurance to the end. (Matthew 24:9, 13) If Jehovah were to use his power to effect miraculous deliverance in all cases, there might be a basis for Satan to taunt Jehovah and to call into question the genuineness of our devotion to our God.—Job 1:9, 10.
14. What examples show that Jehovah does not always protect all his servants in identical ways?
14 Even in Bible times, Jehovah did not use his protective power to shield each of his servants from untimely death. For example, the apostle James was executed by Herod in about 44 C.E.; yet, shortly afterward, Peter was delivered “out of Herod’s hand.” (Acts 12:1-11) And John, the brother of James, outlived both Peter and James. Clearly, we cannot expect our God to protect all his servants in identical ways. Besides, “time and unforeseen occurrence” befall us all. (Ecclesiastes 9:11) How, then, does Jehovah protect us today?
Jehovah Provides Physical Protection
15, 16. (a) What evidence is there that Jehovah has provided physical protection for his worshipers as a group? (b) Why can we be confident that Jehovah will protect his servants now and during “the great tribulation”?
15 Consider, first, the matter of physical protection. As Jehovah’s worshipers, we can expect such protection as a group. Otherwise, we would be easy prey for Satan. Think about this: Satan, “the ruler of this world,” would like nothing more than to eliminate true worship. (John 12:31; Revelation 12:17) Some of the most powerful governments on earth have banned our preaching work and have tried to wipe us out completely. Yet, Jehovah’s people have remained firm and have continued to preach without letup! Why have mighty nations been unable to put a stop to the activity of this relatively small and seemingly defenseless group of Christians? Because Jehovah has shielded us with his powerful wings!—Psalm 17:7, 8.
16 What about physical protection during the coming “great tribulation”? We need not fear the execution of God’s judgments. After all, “Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial, but to reserve unrighteous people for the day of judgment to be cut off.” (Revelation 7:14; 2 Peter 2:9) In the meantime, we can always be certain of two things. First, Jehovah will never allow his loyal servants to be effaced from the earth. Second, he will reward integrity keepers with everlasting life in his righteous new world—if necessary, by means of a resurrection. For those who die, there is no safer place to be than in God’s memory.—John 5:28, 29.
17. How does Jehovah safeguard us through his Word?
17 Even now, Jehovah safeguards us through his living “word,” which has the motivating power to heal hearts and reform lives. (Hebrews 4:12) By applying its principles, we can in some respects be protected from physical harm. “I, Jehovah, am . . . teaching you to benefit yourself,” says Isaiah 48:17. Without question, living in harmony with God’s Word can improve our health and extend our life. For example, because we apply the Bible’s counsel to abstain from fornication and to cleanse ourselves of defilement, we avoid the unclean practices and hurtful habits that wreak havoc in the lives of many ungodly ones. (Acts 15:29; 2 Corinthians 7:1) How thankful we are for the protection of God’s Word!
Jehovah Protects Us Spiritually
18. What spiritual protection does Jehovah provide for us?
18 Most important, Jehovah provides spiritual protection. Our loving God protects us from spiritual harm by equipping us with what we need in order to endure trials and to safeguard our relationship with him. Jehovah thus works to preserve our life, not just for a few short years but for eternity. Consider some of God’s provisions that can protect us spiritually.
19. How can Jehovah’s spirit make us equal to any trial we may face?
19 Jehovah is the “Hearer of prayer.” (Psalm 65:2) When life’s pressures seem overwhelming, pouring out our heart to him can bring us much relief. (Philippians 4:6, 7) He may not miraculously remove our trials, but in response to our heartfelt prayers, he can grant us the wisdom to deal with them. (James 1:5, 6) More than that, Jehovah gives holy spirit to those asking him. (Luke 11:13) That powerful spirit can make us equal to any trial or problem we may face. It can infuse us with “power beyond what is normal” to endure until Jehovah removes all painful problems in the new world so near at hand.—2 Corinthians 4:7.
20. How may Jehovah’s protective power be expressed through our fellow worshipers?
20 At times, Jehovah’s protective power may be expressed through our fellow worshipers. Jehovah has drawn his people into a worldwide “association of brothers.” (1 Peter 2:17; John 6:44) In the warmth of that brotherhood, we see living testimony to the power of God’s holy spirit to influence people for good. That spirit produces in us fruitage—beautiful, precious qualities including love, kindness, and goodness. (Galatians 5:22, 23) Hence, when we are in distress and a fellow believer is moved to offer helpful counsel or share much-needed words of encouragement, we can thank Jehovah for such expressions of his protective care.
21. (a) What timely spiritual food does Jehovah provide through “the faithful and discreet slave”? (b) How have you personally benefited from Jehovah’s provisions to protect us spiritually?
21 Jehovah provides something else to protect us: timely spiritual food. To help us draw strength from his Word, Jehovah has commissioned “the faithful and discreet slave” to dispense spiritual food. That faithful slave uses printed publications, including the journals The Watchtower and Awake!, as well as meetings, assemblies, and conventions to provide us with “food at the proper time”—what we need, when we need it. (Matthew 24:45) Have you ever heard something at a Christian meeting—in a comment, in a talk, or even in a prayer—that provided just the needed strength and encouragement? Has your life ever been touched by a specific article published in one of our journals? Remember, Jehovah makes all such provisions in order to protect us spiritually.
22. Jehovah always uses his power in what way, and why is his doing so in our best interests?
22 Jehovah is certainly a shield “to all those taking refuge in him.” (Psalm 18:30) We understand that he does not use his power to protect us from all calamity now. He does, however, always use his protective power to ensure the outworking of his purpose. In the long run, his doing so is in the best interests of his people. If we draw close to him and remain in his love, Jehovah will give us an eternity of perfect life. With that prospect in mind, we may indeed view any suffering in this system as “momentary and light.”—2 Corinthians 4:17.