The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runs into it, and is safe.
The two verses put side by side two pictures, two fortifications: "The name of the Lord is a strong tower"; that is so, whether a man thinks it or not; that is an objective truth and always true. "The rich man's wealth is his strong city," because "in his own conceit" he has made it so. So we have on the one side fact and on the other side fancy. The two pictures are worth looking at. "The name of the Lord is a strong tower." Now, of course, I need not remind you that "the name of the Lord," or "the name of Jesus Christ," means a great deal more than the syllables by which He is designated, which is all that we understand generally by a name. It means, to put it into far less striking words, the whole character of God, in so far as it is revealed to men. So we have to recognise in that great expression the clearest utterance of the two thoughts which have often been regarded as antagonistic, viz., the imperfection, and yet the reality, of our knowledge of God. His name is not the same as Himself, but it is that by which He is known. Our knowledge of Him, after all revelation, is incomplete, but it is His name — that is to say, it corresponds to the realities of His nature, and may be absolutely and for ever trusted. "The name of the Lord is a strong tower," which, translated into plain prose, is just this — in that revealed character there is all that shelterless, defenceless men can need for absolute security and perfect peace. We may illustrate that by considering either Him who defends or him that is defended. On the one hand, perfect wisdom, perfect love, perfect power, that endure for ever; and on the other hand, men weighed upon by sore distresses, crippled and wounded by many transgressions. These two, the defence and the defenceless, fit into each other like the seal to its impress, the convexity to the cavity. Whatever man needs, God is, and whatever dangers, dreads, pains, losses, sorrows, sins, attack humanity, in Him is the refuge for them all. "The name of the Lord is a strong tower." Do you believe that; and is it an operative belief in your lives? "The righteous runneth into it"; and what is that running into it? Neither more nor less than the act of faith. One of the words of the Old Testament which is frequently translated — and rightly so — "trust," has for its literal meaning to flee to a refuge. So, says our teacher, the way to get into the fortress, and to have the solemn battlements of that Divine name round our unarmed and else shelterless weakness, is simply to trust in Him. But the word suggests the urgency and the effort that will always go with faith. "The righteous runneth into it" — not dawdles in it — "and is safe." And that takes effort and means haste. Do not put off your flight. And stop in it when you are there, by that constant communion with the name of the Lord, which will bring you tranquillity. "In Me ye shall have peace." Stay behind the strong bulwarks. But there is a formidable word in this old proverb. "The righteous runneth into it." Does not that upset all our hopes? I need not say anything about the safety, except to make one remark. The word rendered "is safe " literally means "is high." The intention, of course, is to express safety, but it expresses it in a picturesque fashion which has its bearing upon the word in the next verse, viz., it sets before us the thought that the man who has taken refuge in the strong tower goes up to the top of it by the winding staircase, and high up there the puny bows of the foe below cannot shoot an arrow that will reach him. That is a truth for faith. We have to bear the common lot of humanity, but the evil that is in the evil, the bitterness that is in the sorrow, the poison that is in the sting, all these may be taken away for us. And now I need only say a word or two about the companion picture, the illusory imagination. "The rich man's wealth is his strong city, and a high wall in his own conceit." It is very hard to have, and to be concerned about, and to use, the external good without putting our trust in it. The Bible has no foolish condemnation of wealth. And we all know, whether in regard to money, or to earthly loves, or to outward possessions and blessings of all sorts, how difficult it is to keep within the limit, not to rely upon these, and to think that if we have them we are blessed. What can we do, any of us, when real calamities come? Will wealth or anything else keep away the tears? What will prevent the sorrows, deal with the sins, or enable us to be of good cheer in the face of death and disease, and to say, "You cannot touch me"? Ah! there is but one thing that will do that for us. "The name of the Lord is a strong tower." The other man has "a high wall in his own conceit." Did you ever see the canvas fortifications at some entertainments that they put up to imitate strong castles? — canvas stretched upon bits of stick. That is the kind of strong wall that the man puts up who trusts in the uncertainty of any earthly thing, or in anything but the living God. Let us keep ourselves within the Divine limits in regard to all external things. It is hard to do it, but it can be done. And there is only one way to do it, and that is by the same act by which we take refuge in the true fortress — viz., by faith and communion. When we realise that God is our defence, then we can see through the insufficiency of the others.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.