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Surrounded by Grace

Mt. Carmel cave with prehistoric remains

Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion,
    which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
    so the LORD surrounds his people
    both now and forevermore. — Psalm 125:1–2

As human beings, we begin our life’s journey in the safety of our mother’s womb. There, we are provided for and protected from the outside world. It is in this safe environment that a vulnerable, tiny fetus can grow into a baby able to live on its own. Once we are born, we leave the haven of our mother’s womb, but we can enter into a new one. We can reside, if we so choose, within the shelter of our loving God. Like the pillars of clouds surrounding the children of Israel in the desert, God’s protection and love is available to us at all times.

If you look at a map of the Middle East, the reality is intimidating. The tiny country of Israel is surrounded by hostile enemies on all sides, except for one, where she is bordered by the sea. The Arab world is 800 times larger than Israel. Indeed, she is outnumbered and also outgunned. This is her physical reality.

But there is another reality surrounding Israel, and in particular, her capital, Jerusalem. Look at a topographical map of Jerusalem and the areas around her, and you may notice that Jerusalem is completely surrounded by mountains. Like the petals of a rose, Jerusalem is surrounded by beauty, grace, and protection.

In Psalm 125 we learn that this physical structure is a paradigm for our spiritual reality. The psalmist writes: As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore.” The mountains around Jerusalem symbolize God’s protection that exists all around us. Just as the mountains provide a physical barrier between Jerusalem and invading forces, so too, does God serve as a barrier between the righteous and their enemies. Greater than the Iron Dome designed to protect Israel from missiles, God is Israel’s shield, now and forever.

But who is worthy of such protection? The verse before tells us: Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.” Those who have faith will be protected, and they will endure.

Friends, there are always two ways that we can see our reality. We can see the challenges that surround us, or the grace that envelopes us. Yes, there is evil and difficulty in our world, but there is also God’s protection. God is our refuge, a haven, a womb. When we have faith in God’s protection, then everything else surrounding us becomes irrelevant.

As the saying goes, “Don’t tell God how big your storm is; tell your storm how big your God is.” Because when we focus on the grace that surrounds us, that is all we will experience and all that we will see.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

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