Here's what I heard a speaker tell his audience: "Imagine," he said, "that you were standing on the moon and you were looking at the earth…Under proper conditions you would see, just vaguely, one man-made object: the Great Wall of China. Its size is indeed enormous, 1900 miles, fifteen feet thick, with some 25,000 stone towers of various sizes, strung along the entire distance." The wall was built by Emperor Chin Shih Ti, some 200 years before Christ, in order to shield China from the attacks of the Huns and the Tartars in the North. Every third man in China was ordered by the emperor to work on the Great Wall.
Twisting through the most barren and mountainous parts of China, it was reported that it took more than a million lives. It brought near ruin to a once prosperous nation. It has been said that the cost of the Great Wall in life and treasure was so heavy that the Chinese never got over it—but the Huns and Tartars did.
At the risk of drawing lessons all too obvious, perhaps it might be said that there is something of that Chinese emperor in all of us. By nature we all are security seekers, shelter builders. The most pious among us will try to provide for the future of their children. Who of us would not manage our resources carefully so there is something to fall back upon in our old age? Freedom from fear is a precious emotion among us. How can we arrive at a reasonable form of inner security and still honestly face life's realities?
The People of Israel knew these realities. All throughout history they felt threatened by ruthless neighbors. So they also built walls…they built them big and strong. They built the walls of Jerusalem. They spared neither cost nor sacrifice. You read about it in Psalm 51. But in their best spiritual moments they actually depend on those walls. Their eyes were on the God of those walls, the God of Jerusalem. Psalm 51 is a prayerful confession of dependence. In verse 18 the people sang: "… in your good pleasure build up the walls of Jerusalem!" They confessed that it was actually God who had done the building. That's how the walls provided security. God manned the walls…
So, that leaves you and me. We know all too well that our hard work is no guarantee for security and abiding safety. We are unsure about the future. But, we have a promise!
What we have heard from the generations before us remains true: "You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you." (Isaiah 26:3).