When the Israelites asked God to give them a king, they feared the Philistines and wanted to be like the other nations. They wanted a king to lead them in battle and protect them from their enemies (1 Sam. 8:19). But their first king, Saul was not ideal, neither in terms of his faithfulness to God nor in his defense of the people.
Soon enough, the Philistines again marched against the Israelites. As the people of God faced off with their enemies at the Valley of Elah, King Saul failed in his primary role as protector of the people. Saul cowered before the taunts of Goliath and spread fear and dismay among his countrymen. It would be up to David, the shepherd boy, to save the people. When David asked to face Goliath on Israel’s behalf, Saul at first dismissed his offer. But the brave young man told the king that he already knew what it meant to defend the fearful and helpless:
But David said to Saul, “Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you.” (1 Sam. 17:34-37).
Scripture is full of images of protection. God is described as a shield, a keeper, a fortress, refuge, and shelter. He is a hiding place and stronghold. He is the pillar of fire who goes before the Hebrews as they flee Egypt. And Jesus likens Himself to a mother hen, eager to gather her brood under her protective wings (Luke 13:34).
But perhaps Jesus’ most significant ongoing act of protection is His acting as our Advocate before God the Father, appealing to Him on our behalf (1 John 2:1). Because Jesus took upon Himself the wrath of God stored up for us, He becomes our Shelter and Refuge. He is our great Defender.
Leslie Leyland Fields writes about how faith in God’s protection shields us from anxiety in her In Touch magazine article “Now I Lay Me Down.”