Preserving the best

Autumn is in the air! Well, maybe not the cool, crisp feel of the first frost that looms nearer and nearer, because it’s still pretty hot in the sunny South. But the calendar has let us know that the days are now shorter than the nights, as we passed the autumnal equinox.

That means that many of us are still canning, freezing, or dehydrating the last of the harvest. I DO love the look of a pantry full of colorful jars of tomato sauce, peaches, jams, and everything good the garden and our good Lord had to offer this summer.

I learned my canning skills from the good people answering the phones at the Iowa State Extension Service. I even affectionately nicknamed the phone number as “Mom,” having lost my own canning-expert mother when I was nine.

One thing that they kept telling me, time and again, was to make sure to use the very best produce. Any nicks or bug bites on tomatoes, peppers, or cucumbers might be a haven for enough bacteria to spoil the whole jar.

Even the methods of preservation must be perfect. Once I threw away a whole five-gallon crock of the most delicious brine-cured pickled cucumbers and green tomatoes, because there was a tiny crack in the stoneware crock that was only noticed after the pickles were done.

Of course, as I became more proficient in my own preserving skills, I realized that the experts always err on the side of extreme caution, so as not to be blamed for making anyone sick.

“The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul” (Psalm 121:7, NKJV).

This word, “preserve,” from the Hebrew “shamar,” has also been translated as protect, guard, or keep. Those words are consistent with the Hebrew meaning, used twice in verse 7 and then repeated and expanded upon in the next verse.

As with our garden produce, only the most valued is preserved. While we may want the Lord to preserve many things, he preserves the best and most prized.

I may have cut off the bad spots to preserve my cucumbers for pickling (against “Mom’s” recommendations), but if I were entering them in a contest at a county fair, I would only preserve the best!

God has the power to preserve our health, our wealth, and our easier, happier times. We pray for each other for these things, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Often, the answer to those prayers is a “Yes!”

But do we understand this psalm to mean that he will always give us what we ask for? The principle is true stated in Luke 11:1-13. God gives us what we ask, within certain parameters.

The important thing to see here is that God, as a good Father, will give us what is needed and will preserve the best — our souls!

No matter what happens in this short life, our souls will be preserved up to — and more importantly — THROUGH the portal of death.

Sometimes we are asked to bear the seemingly unbearable, all the while asking in vain that our grief be lifted. Is God preserving us through this? Yes, he is preserving our souls, if not our temporary happiness. If we trust him, he won’t let our souls slip into Satan’s hands.

“He will not allow your foot to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber” (Psalm 121:3).

The word “keeps” here is our word “shamar” (preserve) again. God is vigilant not to let our souls perish.

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