O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
2 many are saying of my soul,
there is no salvation for him in God. Selah
3 But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
4 I cried aloud to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
5 I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
6 I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.
7 Arise, O Lord!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
8 Salvation belongs to the Lord;
your blessing be on your people! Selah
On November 5, 1858, the Scotsman and missionary John G. Paton landed on the Island of Tanna in what was then called the New Hebrides but today is known as the nation of Vanuatu. Tanna is one of many islands in that south pacific nation. Gibson came with his wife Mary and they were soon joined by a newborn son, Peter. But Mary soon grew ill and died, followed shortly by their son. Surrounded by a hostile and cannibalistic native population, John slept on their graves until he was sure they would not be dug up and eaten. John’s efforts to bring the Gospel seemed to fall on deaf ears. Tensions erupted and Gibson was barely saved by the timely arrival of a ship which carried him and another missionary couple to safety.
He returned to Scotland and started raising money, eventually enough to build a steamship and return. He married, had ten more children, but returned to that Island nation which had driven him. His second wife, Maggie, soon began teaching the women of the island, both to read and to sew. John had created an alphabet and translated the Scriptures. By persistence he gradually won their trust and eventually those who had sought to devour him became his friends.
He loved this psalm. Its words of God’s care, despite many foes surrounding him, gave him hope. You are not likely surrounded by cannibals today, but we are always confronted by an ugly triumvirate of sin, death, and devil who wish us ill. Our salvation belongs to God. We go to sleep, are vulnerable and helpless, and yet we arise for the Lord sustains us too. Whatever foes you face today, be these enemies within or without, stronger than you can possibly face, know that the Lord fights for you. Not even death will hold you, but with His strong voice Jesus shall slap the grave and break its teeth and free you from its grasp.