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Anointed Boundaries: God's Particular Plan of Protection

‘The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand.’

- Psalm 37:23-24 -

 

Sometimes the Devil gets it right. While talking to God about Job, he makes this true statement: “Have You not made a hedge around [Job], around his household, and all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land” (1:10). What the Devil is referring to is also described by David. After naming the Lord as his shepherd, David says: ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over’ (Ps. 23:5). In Bible times, shepherds led flocks to grassy fields and poured a special oil around the feeding place to prevent snakes from sneaking in to attack the sheep. The sheep ate to their hearts’ content as their shepherd had prepared them a ‘table’ in the presence of their enemies. This oil, symbolic of God’s protective anointing, was a hedge of blessing, and we can live the good life thanks to similar heavenly protection.


 

If sheep wandered outside the hedge of protection, they risked the lethal appetites of hungry serpents. Likewise, our lives depend on following the Good Shepherd, going where He tells us to go, and staying where He tells us to stay. Sovereign hedges are serious business. Hear Asaph: ‘Why have You broken down her hedges so that all who pass by pluck her fruit? The boar out of the woods uproots it, and the wild beast of the field devours it’ (Ps. 80:12-13). We also read: ‘You have broken down all the hedges; You have brought his strongholds to ruin. All who pass by the way plunder him; he is a reproach to his neighbors’ (Ps. 89:40-41). Portraying Israel as a renegade vineyard, God says: ‘And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned; and break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down’ (Isa. 5:5).



Hedges in Scripture show that God has predetermined plans for our lives. So don’t go off and start doing your own thing. You’ll fall into consuming darkness if you do. Learn from Solomon that ‘the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble’ (Prov. 4:18-19). God will not bless and protect our lives if our plans differ from His. Many blaze their own trail, but such disobedience forfeits fulfillment. They deny that the good life arrives when we step into God's prepared plan. As Paul tells the Ephesians: ‘God predestined, planned beforehand for us, taking the paths that He prepared ahead of time, that we should walk in them, living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live’ (2:10). We should not tell our children: “You can be anything you want to be.” We mean well, but if Jesus is Lord, it’s not up to us to decide what we will be or do. It’s already decided. It’s up to us to search by prayer and study what we’ve been predestined for. Only that holy pursuit brings the good life.


Included in this plan for our life is a God-ordained place where we are supposed to be. Paul says of God: “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings” (Acts 17:26). Consider another promise of God: “Moreover I will appoint a place for My people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own and move no more; nor shall the sons of wickedness oppress them anymore as previously” (2 Sam. 7:10). Just like shepherded sheep, if Israel kept their anointed boundary, hungry serpents (sons of wickedness) would not have come in and wreaked havoc. Yes, Israel failed and was exiled for a time, but God’s promise remains. He vows to guard all who turn to Him in repentance and love.



Provision and protection come to us when we settle in our predesigned places. If God leads us to minister in mosquito-infested swampland, don’t sneak off to a nice tropical island and try to serve God there. No, go where God leads you and stay there. If we get out of our place, judgment and destruction will come. Hear Jude on just this: ‘And the angels who did not keep their proper place, but left their own abode, [God] has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day’ (6). Rebellious angels left the place God gave them and they paid a heavy price. So yes, stepping out of our proper place does have serious consequences.

 

Jesus tells His followers to “look at the birds in the air” and to “consider the lilies of the field” (Matt. 6:26,28). There is a place where those birds and flowers are supposed to be, and in order to flourish they must be in their proper place. Orange trees don’t grow in England and whales don’t live on dry ground. Cactus flourish in desert conditions and elephants don’t go fishing. No one ever saw kangaroos romping with polar bears in the Arctic cold, or penguins galloping with wild horses in Montana. Do camels swim with Alaskan trout or zebras soar with eagles? No, there are boundaries where each of them belongs and so it is with God’s elect.


Even our planet is in its proper place. One mile closer to our sun and we’d burn up, or one mile further away and we’d freeze. Flee from the place you’re supposed to be like Jonah and you’re vulnerable to destruction. Like a roaring lion, Satan roams the earth ‘seeking someone to devour’ (1 Pet. 5:8). Easy targets for that serpent of old are all who cross anointed boundaries; people in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Bible is filled with stories of many such people who were not where they were supposed to be.



When Lot leaves Abraham and moves to Sodom, he enters the wrong place. Sodom is an evil city and, eventually, Lot's wife dies and he barely escapes with his life. And when the children of Israel refuse to enter the promised land and instead wander the wilderness for forty years, they, too, are not in their proper place. When the prodigal son resorts to eating pig slop, he realizes he is most definitely in the wrong place. All these people are not in the place they were meant to be, and all paid a heavy price for their pigheaded errors.


There is no better example than when one evening, David strolls on his balcony while his men are at battle and he spies Bathsheba bathing. The king is straying outside his anointed boundary by staying home from war, so serpents of lust and murder fill his life with their deadly venom. This act of disobedience forever tarnishes the legacy of this great king, who the Bible calls “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14). Months later, when the baby born out of sin dies, David learns all too well that the safest place was always inside God’s anointed boundary. He finally sees that man’s biggest enemy is often his own plans.


Job suffers devastating trials, but he still declares: “Though [God] slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will argue my ways before Him” (13:15). Job is a righteous man who trusts God, but when trials come, he complains and grows self-righteous. Job admits: “For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me” (3:25). This tells us Job was in fear and dread even before trials came. So how did fear creep in? Even when you love and trust God, it’s still tempting to chart your own course. You build wealth and grow a family, then fixate on the threat of losing what has become idols. Cling to your plan and argue your way before God like Job and you can’t keep fear out because your heart knows you’ve chosen your path instead of God’s.



Speaking as Wisdom, Solomon says: “They would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled to the full with their own fancies. For the turning away of the simple will slay them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them. But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil” (Prov. 1:30-33). Solomon tells us to seek safety under the wings of true wisdom: God. Therefore, Jesus says: “Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it” (Luke 17:33). In order to eat the good of the land we must be willing and obedient to do the will of God. We must go where He says to go and stay where He says to stay. His plan is exciting and there is a place where the enemy touches us not if we abandon ourselves and follow Christ.


All believers have a place to serve but most aren’t doing it. It hurts the whole church when millions of born-again believers pursue their own plans and not the kingdom of God. Many don’t even go to church, let alone seek to serve. God wants us in a specific place for His grace to allow our full potential to shine forth. We all have potential for greatness in the kingdom. But just having potential isn’t enough unless we’re willing to step out of our comfort zone and let God work through our lives. Having potential doesn’t mean what we try to do is going to happen. It means it can happen if we’re in our proper place. Encourage yourself knowing that the place God has for you is a well-watered and you should seek for it by prayer and study.


David writes: ‘The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand’ (37:23-24). That path calls out to us. Geese fly south to warmer climates each fall. How do they know where to go? The place calls out to them by God’s good design. The salmon swim upstream each year, even leaping over waterfalls, all to reach their predestined place. They don’t think, plan, or reason. They just go. They don’t stop and hesitate, trying to figure it all out. They just follow the call and go. We must do likewise!



‘By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place that he would afterward receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going’ (Heb. 11:8). Abraham believes that God will direct his steps, and he is blessed when he dutifully follows. Something similar happens when Elijah prophesies a drought: ‘Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there”’ (1 Kings 17:2-4). Elijah counts on God to lead him to his rightful place and he is cared for.


Elijah then receives more divine direction: ‘And it happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you”’ (7-9). Once again, God tells him precisely where to go. If Elijah goes anywhere else, he will miss God’s gracious provision. Our God is One who calls, just as when Martha tells her sister Mary, “the Teacher has come and is calling for you” (John 11:28). As Paul says, ‘Faithful is He who calls you’ (1 Thess. 5:24), and we can trust Him to lead and guide us to our predetermined place.


There is a place for us to excel like no other, but there is no guarantee that our circumstances will always be comfortable there. Consider this: ‘There was a famine in the land, besides the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines, in Gerar. Then the Lord appeared to him and said: “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I will be with you and bless you”’ (Gen. 26:1-3). Life is never comfortable when famine sweeps the land, but Gerar is where God predetermines Isaac to be. Isaac sows in that place and reaps a hundredfold that year, suddenly becoming prosperous (12-14). God’s plan feels mysterious, and while we suffer for seasons, our heavenly Father loves His own. He is ‘the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation’ (2 Cor. 1:3-4). So trust Him!



Our first urge when we’re unhappy is run away. Sarah gave her maidservant Hagar to her husband Abraham to bear him a son, but ‘when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress became despised in her eyes’ (16:4). When Sarah deals harshly with Hagar, she runs from her presence (16:6). The Angel of the Lord finds Hagar by a spring of water in the wilderness and tells her: “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand” (16:9). Hagar had left her rightful place, so God directs her back to it. Hagar obeys God, so we read: ‘The Angel of the Lord said to her, “I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude”’ (16:10). For going where God tells her to go and staying where God tells her to stay, Hagar receives the exact same blessing as the father of our faith: the great Abraham (Gen. 13:16).

 

Soldiers in the Lord’s army don’t write their own orders. We go where we’re sent and stay where stationed. We wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t a plan for our lives and a place where we’re supposed to be. We are saved to serve, so the most miserable life is a selfish one. The great Shepherd will ‘make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is pleasing in His sight’ (Heb. 13:21). God is working in us to fulfill His perfect will in our proper place. He’ll get us there if we heed His leading. God’s directing is connected to spiritual desire. As the psalmist says, ‘Deep calls unto deep’ (42:7), and that deep soul desire guides us to the place we’re meant to be. God plants that craving in us and He works in us through that desire.



Jesus gives this hard saying: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). To live the good life we must die to our own dreams and submit to God’s plan for us. As Luke says of the disciples: ‘They forsook all and followed Him’ (5:11). Jesus teaches: “Many are called but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14). As the chosen, we step away from our own plans and separate ourselves unto the plan of God. It’s a privilege to be chosen, so stop making excuses (Luke 9:59-62). Go forward and never look back. And by all means, don’t draw comparisons with the call and placing of other believers. If God calls you to frigid Siberia, don’t murmur and moan that you’re not being sent to the sandy beaches of the Dominican Republic.


Stop thinking the grass is greener on the other side. It’s an honor to serve God, wherever that may be, so never act like you’re doing Him a favor. You are special in God’s eyes and the body of Christ needs you, so never consider yourself to be of little significance or value. God has a plan and place for your life, so put on your marching shoes, pray for God’s guidance, and He will lead you each step of the way. The good life is before you, but you must go forward and possess it (Deut. 1:8,21). Start today. It will be the wisest decision you’ve ever made.


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