Rafik Hariri, Lebanon’s former Prime Minister, is a genuine, modern-day rags to riches story. Rakif was born on November 1, 1944, the son of poor farm workers from the southern city of Sidon in Lebanon. He attended elementary and secondary school in Sidon, and pursued his university studies at the Arab University of Beirut, where he majored in commerce.
After training to be a teacher he went to Saudi Arabia in 1965 to seek his fortune. This was typical for many Lebanese who wanted more than Lebanon had to offer at the time. In Saudi Arabia he worked as a school teacher, but decided that teaching wasn’t his thing. He took a job as an accountant for awhile before he decided to start his own construction business in the early 1970′s. Mr. Hariri’s construction company did good work so he became highly sought after in Saudi Arabia. He spent more than 20 years in Saudi Arabia and he did make a fortune. In 2003, Forbes magazine estimated his wealth at $3.8 billion on its 2003 World’s Richest People list.
Rafik’s big break came in 1977 when he took up the challenge of building, in just six months, a palace for the late Saudi King Khaled in the resort of Taif. He won the confidence of then Crown Prince Fahd, Saudi Arabia’s King from 1982-2005, and was awarded the rare privilege of Saudi nationality.
After Mr. Hariri became wealthy he got involved in other opportunities which included banking, real estate, oil, industry and telecommunications. In 1979, he founded the Hariri Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides educational, health, social and cultural services to the needy in Lebanon. Hariri also founded a television station, Future TV, in Beirut and he became a partner in several other Lebanese newspapers. He founded his own newspaper, al-Mustaqbal.
His fortune and great success opened the door for him to enter politics. He used his business savvy and popularity with the people to become Prime Minister in 1992. He lost the vote of the people and resigned as Prime Minister in 1998. Mr. Hariri reclaimed the position in 2000 after the people of Lebanon felt that he could pull them out of their economic slide.
I’m sure that you’ve come to understand by now that Rafik Hariri was both a rich and powerful man. He was loved by the people of Lebanon for his generosity and kindness. Yet, Mr. Hariri traveled with seven body guards to protect him in a bullet proof car. None of these measures could protect him from a car loaded with over 600 pounds of TNT that took his life on February 14, 2005 as he was traveling with his body guards.
It is a real temptation to believe that wealth can provide for and protect us isn’t it? There are certain privileges that come to those who are wealthy, but money also creates a mirage that can lead us to believe things that just aren’t true. Money can provide “things” for those who have the financial resources, but money can never provide peace and contentment. Howard Hughes was one of the richest men in the world while he was alive and yet anyone who has seen the movie, The Aviator, knows that Mr. Hughes was not a man who was familiar with peace and contentment. Money can provide you with great healthcare, it can open doors to the offices of the greatest doctors alive on the planet, but we all know that Christopher Reeve’s money couldn’t get him out of his wheelchair. Money can provide you with the means to hire bodyguards and buy bulletproof automobiles, but $3.8 billion dollars wasn’t enough to build an impenetrable wall around the life of Rafik Hariri to safeguard him against death.
Solomon knew about wealth. The Bible tells us that God blessed Solomon with greater wealth than any king before him had ever possessed or any king after him would ever know. (2 Chronicles 1:12) I want you to notice that it was God who blessed Solomon with great wealth. There are many today who look at wealth and those who are wealthy with a skeptical eye. Many people who do not have great wealth are prejudiced and demonize those who have lots of money. Money is not the problem–it is the way we view the financial resources that God has entrusted to us that is the problem. Paul wrote to Timothy and said,
9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. (1 Timothy 6:9-11 NIV)
You see, it’s not possessing great wealth that gets us in trouble, it’s being possessed by the desire to be wealthy that gets us in trouble. Paul doesn’t say that “money” is a root of all kinds of evil, he says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Solomon knew this and he wanted his own son to walk in godly wisdom so that he could avoid the trap of being disillusioned with the limited power of money. Solomon writes to his son in Proverbs 18:10-11.
10 The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. 11 The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it an unscalable wall. (Proverbs 18:10-11 NIV)
Last week, as we looked at Proverbs 17, we took at look at Solomon’s contrast of how we harbor bitterness and resentment towards others who hurt us and how God calls us to forgive, truly forgive, because He has forgiven us. This week we are going to take a look at another contrast. Solomon says, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower” then he adds in verse 11, “The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it an unscalable wall.” What a tremendous contrast! How insightful and wise is this wealthy man! God wants to teach you and me that He is our Strength, He is our Provision, He is our Protector, and He is our Help! Oh, we can find some sustenance in our money–after all, it is a wonderful thing to be able to go to the grocery store and buy food for our family isn’t it? We can buy security systems with our financial resources, but the best security system in the world can’t provide fail-proof protection for you and me. Solomon says that the righteous will run to the Lord and they will be “safe.” The Hebrew word for “safe” means, “to be secure, to be strengthened, or to be lifted up.” Let me show you two places where the word appears so that we can gain a good understanding of what Solomon is teaching his son. In Psalm 59:1 David writes,
1 Deliver me from my enemies, O God; protect me from those who rise up against me. (Psalm 59:1 NIV)
David prayed that God would protect him from those who were trying to kill him. David knew what it was like to live life on the run. King Saul wanted to kill him, he was obsessed with getting rid of David, but he was unsuccessful because David’s prayer for protection was answered.
In Psalm 107:41 we read about a totally different context. We see how God lifted the needy out of their affliction and increased their family. Take a look with me.
41 But he lifted the needy out of their affliction and increased their families like flocks. (Psalm 107:41 NIV)
It is interesting how we run to all kinds of supposed solutions when problems arise. We turn to authorities to try and help us figure out our predicaments, but our strength rests in the name of the Lord. We turn to drugs, alcohol, or some other means of escape to try and get away from our problems, but instead of running away from our troubles we need to run into the arms of our Sovereign King. Psalm 28:7-8 says,
7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. 8 The LORD is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one. (Psalm 28:7-8 NIV)
Is this true? Is God really our strength for every experience that drains us? Is God really our shield against those people and things that would try to destroy us? I read to you from David’s diary just a few minutes ago, but let me share a story from David’s life with you. Turn with me to 1 Samuel 30. In this section of Scripture we find David hiding among the enemy, the Philistines, because Saul, his king, is trying to hunt him down and kill him. The Philistine leaders are suspicious of David and don’t want to further damage any relationship with Saul. David is a man without a country. The leaders of the Philistine army would not allow David to go to war with them so David and his men got up early the next morning to head back to Ziklag where they had left their families. In 1 Samuel 30 we read,
1 David and his men reached Ziklag on the third day. Now the Amalekites had raided the Negev and Ziklag. They had attacked Ziklag and burned it, 2 and had taken captive the women and all who were in it, both young and old. They killed none of them, but carried them off as they went on their way. 3 When David and his men came to Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. 4 So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. 5 David’s two wives had been captured–Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. 6 David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the LORD his God. (1 Samuel 30:1-6 NIV)
Now David found himself in the worst of all situations. His king was seeking to kill him, the Philistines were turning him away, he had lost his family, and now his buddies, the only men who still stood by him were thinking about stoning him to death. He was all alone. I mean all alone! What do you do? David found strength in the LORD his God. So can you and I.
What situation do you find yourself in today that is keeping you up at night? What antagonists are there in your life that pick on you, talk behind your back, and will not let up on you? What problems are there in your life that seem to have you under their thumb? You can’t seem to escape. You can’t seem to get a grip. You have absolutely no idea how you will ever get out. Don’t fear, don’t give up–remember that “the name of the LORD is a strong tower!”
You may wonder what in the world I’m talking about right now. You may be asking yourself, “How can the ‘name’ of the Lord help me in my situation right now?” That’s a fair question. A great question. Let me show you what I’m talking about. In the Bible a name means something. When the Hebrews named their children they didn’t get on the internet and find the most popular names at the time. The Holman Bible Dictionary explains it this way:
The biblical concept of naming was rooted in the ancient world’s understanding that a name expressed essence. To know the name of a person was to know that person’s total character and nature. Revealing character and destiny, personal names might express hopes for the child’s future. Changing of a name could occur at divine or human initiative, revealing a transformation in character or destiny (Gen. 17:5, 15; 32:28; Matt. 16:17-18).
Connie and I have three kids. Each of our kid’s names has meaning. We named Daniel after the Old Testament hero Daniel. He was strong and would not compromise even when he was standing before the pagan king Nebuchadnezzar. In Hebrew, Daniel means, “The Lord is my Judge.” Our second son, Nate, was named after a friend that I had in college, Nate Miller, and the Old Testament prophet Nathan. Nate’s name means, “Gift of God,” and we pray that Nate will always be a gift to those the Lord leads into his life. Our third child, Annie, wasn’t named after a Hebrew prophet, but her name means, “Gracious.” Our heart’s desire is that the Lord’s graciousness will characterize Annie’s life for the rest of her days.
Now, we name our kids when they are just babies so we don’t know if their name will characterize their life or not, but when it comes to God, the names we know Him by describe His actions, the way He interacts with His people. Let me show you what I mean.
In Genesis we read about Abraham and Sarah and God’s promise that they would have a child. When they didn’t have that child as quickly as they thought they should they sought another solution. Sarah suggested that Abraham have the baby with her servant girl, an Egyptian girl named Hagar. Of course Abraham did as he was told and Hagar became pregnant and had a baby she named, Ishmael. Sarah became jealous and resentful towards Hagar. She fussed at Abraham and blamed him for what she was feeling. Eventually the stress and strain became so great that Hagar and Ishmael were put out of the camp.
Can you imagine the sadness and loneliness that Hagar was feeling? She was truly a victim and yet she was cast out of the camp and left all alone with no way to support her child. I’m so glad that the story doesn’t end here. You see Sarah might have shouted, “Get her out of my sight!” and Abraham may have turned a blind eye to the injustice, but Hagar, the story ain’t over. Hold on, help is on its way! God heard the boy crying and He came to their rescue. Read along with me from Genesis 16 where God catches up with Hagar.
8 And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered. 9 Then the angel of the LORD told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel added, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.” 11 The angel of the LORD also said to her: “You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery. 12 He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” 13 She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” 14 That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered. (Genesis 16:6-13 NIV)
Hagar may have felt all alone, but there was One who saw her in her distress and sorrow. Hagar gave God a name; she called Him, “El Ro-ee, ‘the God who sees.’” Where are you today? Do you feel all alone? Are you in a dark place full of depression and despair and feel like nobody has even noticed your pain? Have you been led to believe that there is no hope for you, no future? Oh, my friend know this–there is One who sees you where you are and He has not abandoned you.
Hagar was not the only one who would ever face distressing times. God knew that there would be “Hagars” who would face injustice and feel alone in every generation. In Exodus 3, after 400 years of slavery, God moved in the lives of His own people. Turn with me to Exodus 3:7-10 and let’s read together.
7 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey, the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:7-10 NIV)
You may be a young person who feels like you have been abandoned by your mom or dad. They may have walked out on you, but God never will. He sees you and He will never walk out on you. You may have given your all to your marriage only to have your husband or wife walk away and abandon you, but you are not alone. God is “El Ro-ee.” He is the God who sees you and He will never abandon you.
God not only sees us and the predicaments that tend to paralyze and drain us, but He is also the God who has promised to provide for us–He is “YHWH Yireh,” the God who provides. Abraham found this out after he had been commanded to take his son Isaac and offer him as a sacrifice on Mt. Moriah. Turn with me to Genesis 22 and let’s pick up on the story where Abraham was making his way up the mountain with his son.
6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. 9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” 13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” (Genesis 22:6-14 NIV)
God had commanded Abraham and God provided for Abraham in a way that Abraham could have never imagined. In response to God’s provision, Abraham named the place “YHWH Yireh” which means, “The Lord will provide.” Over and over again throughout Abraham’s life he learned that God will always provide. God not only provided for Abraham, but He has provided for His people throughout history. You may not even be willing to acknowledge Him as Lord of your life this morning, but let me assure you that He has provided for you every day of your life. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Church in Philippi and encouraged them by saying,
19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19 NIV)
God sees us, He provides for us, and He is our help. He is the help of the helpless. He is the help of those who cry out to Him for help. He is an ever present help in our time of need.
In Psalm 33:20 we find “YHWH Ezrenu,” “God our help.” The word for “help” occurs more than 100 times in the Old Testament and what is interesting about the word is that it is often used with military connotations. The help that God provides for His people is stronger than the combined armed forces of the most powerful nation on the planet. Take a look with me at Psalm 33:13-22 and you will see what I mean.
13 From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind; 14 from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth,15 he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do. 16 No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. 17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. 18 But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, 19 to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. 20 We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. 21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. 22 May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you. (Psalm 33:13-22 NIV)
Did you notice how God’s help is compared with the king’s army and the strength of the warrior? Some may trust in these mighty forces, but God’s people will trust in His strength to sustain them through every peril. Just this past week I’ve encouraged a parent to call upon God’s help as they anguish over their child sitting in the County Jail. I prayed for God’s help for another parent who is trying to stay sober. I’ve met with a woman in the hospital whose strength has faded and we prayed for God’s help in her predicament. I’ve watched God’s help begin to rebuild a life that has been shattered by a broken relationship. Have you ever been in a predicament where no person’s help would suffice? If you haven’t ever experienced this then give thanks and know that you will be there one day. When that day arrives cry out to “YHWH Ezrenu,” “The God who helps! In his anguish the Psalmist cried out and God heard him. Turn to Psalm 118 with me.
5 In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and he answered by setting me free. 6 The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? 7 The LORD is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies. 8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. 9 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes. (Psalm 118:5-9 NIV)
“It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.” It is also better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in our material resources to provide for us, protect us, or help us. As I mentioned when we started our study this morning, money can provide some things in life, but when you look at the broad scope of things then you begin to see that money’s ability to provide, protect, and help is so limited. Build your life on the “Name of the Lord.” Trust in Him, hope in Him, serve only Him, rely upon Him. If He saw a young Egyptian girl then He certainly sees you and me. If He is willing to provide for a Jewish man then He is certainly willing to provide for you and me. If He was willing to help those in ages past then He is certainly willing to help you and me.
“The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run in and are safe.” The “righteous” in this passage of Scripture are not those who are goody-goody or modern-day saints. “Righteous” means, “rightly related.” Are you? Are you rightly related to God? Not by what you did today that was good, good works will never earn us God’s approval. If you want to be rightly related to God then you must accept His Son, our sacrifice and Savior, Jesus Christ. Won’t you invite Him in?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114