Walls, fences, borders, barriers– there are many reasons to build them, and many ways to view them, but they have only two sides, and we can be only on one side or the other. I enjoy visiting castles and forts, monasteries, and mansions. Nearly all have impressive walls. From the outside, they look imposing, intimidating, and often unfriendly (especially those with armed guards and cannons!). But inside, the walls provide protection, insulation from any outside threats, and often peace.
Most walls provide protection– from nature, from floods or winds, from predators, and from enemies. But there are a few walls that are built, not to keep danger out, but to keep people trapped within. Such walls are used to isolate, punish, and imprison.
God is described in the Psalms (and elsewhere) as a fortress, a rock, a safe place, a hiding place, and a sure defense. But those attributes and qualities are for those who chose to come inside the fortress; to ask for protection and defense.
Sometimes, we approach God as an adversary, rather than a defender and protector. We find ourselves on the outside, facing dangers unprotected and alone. The very walls that can shield us and give us peace rise up as barriers, We feel locked out and vulnerable. The only difference between peace and peril is where we are in relation to the wall. We are no stronger, our enemy is no weaker on one side or the other– only the wall makes the difference. And the level of peace and confidence is related, not to our own ability, but to the stability and strength of the wall between us and disaster. The higher and stronger the wall, the safer we feel.
Other times, we approach God as a jail-keeper. We have lived inside the walls, and resent His protection. We have forgotten, or we deny, that there is danger outside the walls. Or we assume the walls are too close or too restrictive to offer us peace. But God hasn’t built a wall to keep us near Him or to control us– He IS the wall, the fortress, the bulwark. To approach Him is to be protected. To resent His protection is to resent His very presence.
Earthly walls will eventually crumble and return to dust. Even walls that have stood the test of centuries, like the Great Wall in China, or the Tower of London, or the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem– they are not perfect, nor will they last forever. But our Bulwark, our Sure Defense, will never fail. Not only will He never fail to stand, nor fail to protect us, He will never fail to let us in when we seek His salvation.