“It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.” II Samuel 22:33
I was running late to catch my flight from Sapporo to Tokyo, so I failed to take the usual precautions to prepare for my journey. This lapse became evident when I entered the airport security line and fumbled to remove the loose items in my pocket. To my chagrin, I discovered that I was still carrying my ever-present pocket knife. When I retrieved my laptop from my backpack, I noticed the bottled drink in an outside pocket that I had mindlessly purchased for the trip minutes earlier. No problem. I was in Japan. The security personnel took my knife, apologized profusely and proceeded to place it in a sealed envelope, promising to return it once I disembarked from my plane in Tokyo. The offending plastic bottle of water was removed, examined by a special machine, and put back in place by the efficient white-gloved agent. As I walked through the metal detector, my footwear apparently triggered an alarm. I was therefore politely asked to remove my shoes, step into the provided slippers, and quickly passed through the screening device a second time. Upon exiting, my shoes were placed neatly in front of me with additional apologies.
Following this incident a few months later, I was once again standing in an airport security line, but this time it was back in the States preparing to return to Japan. Like before, I had neglected to remove my treasured pocket knife. Without any evidence of pity, a TSA agent harshly instructed me to toss my keepsake into a nearby barrel along with the illicit possessions of other inattentive travelers. He also promptly declared my medium-sized tube of toothpaste and a freshly purchased can of shaving cream to be contraband, so I reluctantly fed them to the insatiable barrel, joining my knife. While I was still grieving the loss of these items, I hesitantly followed the example of all the other passengers in front of me who were routinely removing their shoes for inspection. I trudged behind them with great reluctance on the unsanitary floor before me in socked feet.
Security was obviously the common goal in these two very diverse experiences, but cultural values and practices shaped it in radically different ways. People in general are understandably driven to pursue security, which is why it is often identified as being a basic human need. However, many of the forms of security we frequently seek easily lend themselves to becoming false gods that potentially lead us astray from the purposes of God. For example, our cravings for financial security, physical security, emotional security, relational security and political security in an unstable world are certainly reasonable, but God does not necessarily promise such things this side of eternity. King David exclaimed in praise that God “keeps my way secure” (II Samuel 22:33), but the events in previous chapters reveal the context in which this was said. They indicate that David had repeatedly refused to take certain measures in his own hands to ensure his personal safety against the schemes of those who sought to take his life. His personal security lay entirely in God’s hands, not his own devices.
Many terms are used to describe God as our source of security, such as our fortress, our rock, our strong tower, our shield, our refuge, our hiding place, and most poignantly, our shepherd. All of these descriptions center on the very character and power of God, without any of them being conditional on who we are or what we do. These are powerful truths we would do well to bear in mind while standing in airport security lines or on other occasions where we are reminded our lives are not in our control.