Daily Devotional: Psalm 61:1-4
Hear my cry, O God,
listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you
when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy.
Let me dwell in your tent forever!
Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah
John G. Paton and his wife Margaret were Scottish missionaries to the New Hebrides, what is now Vanuatu. His autobiography records their arrival to the the island of Aniwa in the New Hebrides in 1866. The native islanders were depraved, practicing infanticide, widow sacrifice, and cannibalism. The first missionaries to Aniwa that preceded the Patons were martyred after only a few months on the island. Few places were more dangerous than the New Hebrides for missionaries.
Over the course of 15 years, nearly the whole of Aniwa turned to Christ. The story of Paton’s endeavors to the tribes of the New Hebrides is one of the most amazing missionary stories that we have available. But it was costly. Paton lost both his wife and child to illness shortly into his time on Aniwa. For the first four years, he faced the constant threat of murder by the various tribes. At one point he was hunted by hundreds of warriors in the dead of night. Paton climbed a tree, and desperately waited for the danger to pass. Listen to how he describes his helplessness:
“I climbed into the tree and was left there alone in the bush. The hours I spent there live all before me as if it were but of yesterday. I heard the frequent discharging of muskets, and the yells of the Savages. Yet I sat there among the branches, as safe as in the arms of Jesus. Never, in all my sorrows, did my Lord draw nearer to me, and speak more soothingly in my soul, than when the moonlight flickered among those chestnut leaves, and the night air played on my throbbing brow, as I told all my heart to Jesus. Alone, yet not alone! If it be to glorify my God, I will not grudge to spend many nights alone in such a tree, to feel again my Savior’s spiritual presence, to enjoy His consoling fellowship.” (Autobiography, 200)
Psalm 61:1–4 describe well his iron-clad hope when most vulnerable. God heard the cry of his servant on Aniwa, and even when in mortal danger, reminded John of the “rock that is higher” and the impenetrable “strong tower” that we have in Jesus. Nothing else could have sustained Paton for years on Aniwa, through the grief and loss of his wife and child, nor through the constant threat of murder from hostile warriors. The never-failing, all-sufficient hope in Jesus sustained John Paton through his trials.
Friends, I pray that as you may be tempted in these times to declare “I am alone,” God would remind you that you are not. God has brought you to a sweet refuge, a strong tower against all enemies. In Jesus, we have a sure hope that will withstand any danger, and trial, any dire situation. Those trusting in Christ can take great comfort in his words from Matthew 28:20—“Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”