First it was merely suggested: “It might be wise for you to shelter in place. It will deny the virus fresh hosts to infect.”
Then it was legally mandated: “You must shelter in place. There is no other way of flattening the curve.”
Finally it was firmly implemented (and done so with draconian diligence):“If you do not shelter in place you will be drawn and quartered, beheaded, shot to death, executed by lethal injection, thrown into the sea wearing concrete blocks (called “shoes” in parts of New York City and Sicily), hanged by your neck until dead, forced to listen to rap “music” for two whole minutes, and then we will fine you and make you shelter in place.”
You will think all that merely a slight exaggeration when you see pictures of authorities in Rimini, Italy, just a couple of days ago, using drones, quads, and a jeep to hunt down and penalize a man thought to be spreading coronavirus by sun-bathing alone on an empty (as in “no one around for miles”) beach. One would assume he was a terrorist about to release anthrax into the air as they closed in on him from every side. To whom, exactly, he was spreading the Wuhan virus remains a mystery, as there was no one on the vast expanse of beach except the man himself (that is, until the police arrived). The photos reminded me of Shelley’s “Ozymandias,” which those of us of a certain age (“a circle age,” as one older and beloved Italian, in a delightful mondegreen, often so whimsically said) had to memorize in public school. Shelley wrote about the “lone and level sands stretching far away.” The smile-inducing drone images of the solitary sun-bather showed “lone and level sands” – Saharan-like – “stretching” all around him, as far as the eye could see, while he was so selfishly “spreading” the virus. He was fined because he was not “sheltering in place.”
As to the need to “shelter in place,” we have been lectured by the lionized stars of stage and screen as they “languished” luxuriously on rolling estates, “cooped up” in 30-room mansions, and were, perhaps, in peril of breaking a fingernail trying to open a container of Haagen Dazs themselves because the maid-servant was quarantined in her own house.
Still others have fled to secret, private, underground hideaways in New Zealand in the hopes of sheltering in place and surviving the global pandemic about to wipe humanity off the face of the earth. Without question, New Zealand is stunningly beautiful, so I guess if you have to be all alone somewhere in the world, Wellington or Auckland is as good a place as any.
Now back to reality: I think people have endured – with remarkable and laudable longanimity – all the sheltering in place that has been demanded. The desire to be set free is growing exponentially around the world. After all, no one wants to shelter in place indefinitely, do they?
Well, yes, apparently, (and depending on what is meant by “in place”), someone did. The Psalmist wrote: “Be Thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort … for Thou art my rock and my fortress” (Ps 71:3). David added:
- “Thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy” (Ps 61:3
- “In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, (shelter) is in God” (Ps 62:7).
- “Trust in Him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before Him: God is a refuge (shelter) for us. Selah” (Ps 62:8).
- “I cried unto Thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my refuge (shelter) and my portion in the land of the living” (Ps 142:5).
Numerous other writers throughout scripture viewed God as their “habitation,” “fortress,” and “high tower.” Moses in Psalm 90 described God as the “dwelling place” of His people in every generation. In Psalm 91, the writer described God’s people as being “under the shadow of the Almighty” (Shaddai). You will recall that God introduced that name first in Gen 17, telling Abram, “I am the Almighty God, (El Shaddai).” God was promising to do the impossible for the 99-year-old patriarch, and so He revealed to Abram His name, “El Shaddai,” the All-sufficient One.
All of which raises this question: “Who named God?” Who gave God the name, “El Shaddai”? Your name, unless you legally changed it, was chosen by someone else. It identifies you, sets you apart from others, and is both necessary and helpful in myriad ways. Your parents likely named you. But who named God? The answer is, of course, He did. He named Himself. Why? Certainly angels in Heaven were in no danger of mistaking who God was unless He had a name. But in revealing Himself to mankind, with condescending grace, He gave us His name – and in fact, names. Why? Among other reasons, we can infer:
- He named Himself so that we could know Him.
- He named Himself so that we would be able to appreciate something (in however small a measure) of the magnificent and resplendent glory that is His alone (because a name reveals character).
- He named Himself so we would know Who the true God really is (setting Himself apart from all the false gods of human ideation).
- And He named Himself so we would have the incomparable blessedness of actually speaking to Him, personally and devotedly.
There are, of course, occasions when believers expressed a name for God based on how He had just revealed Himself (e. g., Abraham’s speaking of “Jehovah-Jireh” in Genesis 22). But there is a wonderful occasion when God allowed Himself to be permanently named by His creatures. Granted, an angel communicated the name and it was God Himself Who chose it; but He gave humans the privilege of bestowing it –
- Matthew 1:20, 21: “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins.”
- Luke 1:31, “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call His name JESUS.”
- Luke 2:21, “And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, His name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before He was conceived in the womb.”
Jesus! It is a name that means everything to our hearts. Countless believers confess, “Never has there been a name so dear to this heart of mine, as the Name Divine, the precious, precious Name of Jesus.” To become our Savior He endured the tempest at Calvary. Now we safely shelter in place under “the shadow” of this Almighty Savior. Numerous Gospel messages on this theme have quoted Jehoiada Brewer’s well-known poem. But his words might never have become famous had they not been found in the pocket of the noble Major John Andre, (himself a poet), after he was hanged in Tappan, NY, on October 2, 1780. Its opening lines are:
“Hail, sovereign love, which first began the scheme to rescue fallen man!
Hail, matchless, free, eternal grace, that gave my soul a Hiding Place!”
That is where we “shelter in place” – securely, confidently, and eternally. A thousand years from now, when we are safely with Christ in glory, we scarcely will recall COVID-19; it is unlikely we will look back to these days, unless it is to reflect on His constant care. In this temporary world, crises like this will come and go; governments will rise and fall; tyrants will live and die; troubles will ebb and flow. But nothing – not difficulties, dangers, death, not even the dissolution and conflagration of the cosmos – can wrench the humblest believer from the safety and security of the shelter we have in Christ. Again, Brewer wrote:
“Should sevenfold storms of thunder roll, and shake this globe from pole to pole,
No thunderbolt shall daunt my face, for Jesus is my Hiding Place.”
In the meantime, David gives us comforting advice for this present experience: “My soul trusteth in Thee: Yea, in the shadow of Thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.”