What does it mean to be kept? In this world, being kept has more negative than positive implications. To some, being kept means sacrificing independence in exchange for financial security. Others are unwitting victims of true evil, suffering the abuses of modern-day slavery. Even if we haven’t experienced physical captivity or violence, most of us have suffered under the authority of someone less than loving. It’s no wonder we feel uncomfortable submitting ourselves to being ‘kept’ by anyone, including God.
For a long time, I inwardly cringed at scriptures referring to an omniscient God who knows our words before we even speak and who keeps track of our every waking moment. I saw God less as a benevolent protector and more like Santa Claus on steroids, keeping record of my every deed. When I thought of God singing a song over me, I was less likely to hear a lullaby and more likely to hear Sting crooning “every breath you take I’ll be watching you.” Yikes!
Apparently in his misery and self-pity, Job held similar beliefs about God, seeing Him as the keeper of his wrongs (Job 13:26-27):
26 For you write down bitter things against me
and make me reap the sins of my youth.
27 You fasten my feet in shackles;
you keep close watch on all my paths
by putting marks on the soles of my feet.
And isn’t that what religion teaches us? That we better behave, because God is watching? Still, Job pines for a loving Creator (Job 14:15-16):
15 You will call and I will answer you;
you will long for the creature your hands have made.
16 Surely then you will count my steps
but not keep track of my sin.
Thankfully, Job’s story ends with redemption. And the Bible illustrates that through relationship with God, we can gain revelation of His goodness. David, for example, enjoyed fellowship with the Lord and invited His “keeping” power repeatedly in the Book of Psalms: “keep us safe and protect us” (12:7); “keep me as the apple of your eye” (17:8); “keep your servant from willful sins” (19:13); “keep watch over the door of my lips” (141:3); and “keep me from the snares [evil men] have laid for me” (141:9). Religion fears God as an angry tyrant. Relationship fears God as the One who is able to keep us from all harm (Ps. 121:7).
Jude also delighted in the Lord’s keeping, mentioning it at the start and end of his epistle. Verse 1 of Jude addressed “those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for [or in, by] Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.” Jude knew being kept in the Lord brought spiritual blessing! Jude closed his letter, “To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen” (Jude 1:24-25, NIV). The Lord Himself makes us blameless and keeps us blameless. I don’t know about you, but I’m so thankful to learn it’s not up to my actions!
I looked up a definition of the verb ‘keep’ and surprisingly, a beautiful picture of Christ’s love for the church emerged from the dictionary. Merriam-Webster defines ‘keep’ as “retaining in one’s possession or power,” but also “to preserve or maintain such as watch over and defend, take care of…tend, support, maintain in a good, fitting or orderly condition…to cause to remain on or in usually against opposition…maintain a course, direction or progress.” Isn’t that just how the Lord keeps us? When we accept Him as our Lord, He holds a position of power over us, but He is not a harsh master. He watches over his sheep, keeping us in good spiritual condition, maintaining us in the faith, and causing us to remain in Him in spite of the enemy’s attempts to derail us. He maintains our course so we go from glory to glory. He takes responsibility for our victory. Hallelujah!
I’m still gaining understanding of how good He is, but I now know we can trust God with our lives because He is the only one who can keep us. It’s hard to get over past hurts and become vulnerable enough to yield our will to someone else’s. But true peace and security are found in surrendering ourselves into His care and His keeping. There can be freedom in becoming a slave if, and only if, we are a slave to Him and His righteousness—a freedom we can never hope to achieve on our own.
Thank you Lord that You will establish us to the end [keep us steadfast, give us strength, and guarantee our vindication; You will be our warrant against all accusation or indictment so that we will be] guiltless and irreproachable in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah (from 1 Cor 1:8, AMPC).