Under God’s Blanket

Have you ever gone to bed on an icy cold night and been thankful for that warm quilt, or thick wool blanket, or down comforter? God has a blanket for us. It’s not a blanket of wool or down, but a spiritual blanket that covers us when we need it most. Learn more about this amazing blanket in Under God’s Blanket.

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I used to go backpacking in the mountains. I’ve seen some beautiful sights, but my favorite thing about backpacking was sleeping. Several times, on various trips, it snowed – during July or August! High altitude often brings with it some surprises…

There was one time – snow was more memorable than others – I had a friend with me, and he and I had been on the John Muir trail in the Sierra Nevada for a while earlier in the day. But we parted to the west, and then came over a high pass, and we were now on our way down toward home, even though we were still more than a day away from the trail head. It was late in the day. We were tired. The sky was ominous – heavy overcast. The afternoon was getting toward evening quickly. So, we raced down off that pass, quick as we could, toward lower ground, looking for a flat place to camp. We found one right near a picturesque little lake. Perfect! Except for the fact that it had started to rain a little. So we hurriedly set up camp, and while we were doing that, the rain turned to snow. We started a fire to keep warm. We were low enough that fires were permitted back then – I don’t know about how about now. We pitched our tents, boiled water for hot drinks and dinner, and as the temperature continued to drop, we decided to hit the sack. I crawled into my tent. It was nice and dry. I blew up my air mattress and unpacked my down sleeping bag – all the while it was getting colder. I kept my soft, cushy, insolated jacket on. I put on my knit wool cap. I crawled into my sleeping bag – enjoyed being warm and being dry as the temperature dropped and the snow increased – so nice and warm, protected from the elements. Let it snow! I pulled my sleeping bag hood up over my knit cap, turned out my head lamp, snuggled the cinch cord of my sleeping bag hood around my face and was asleep within minutes. 

I recalled I woke up about 2 am that night. The snow had stopped. The sky had cleared off. The moon had come out over the lake. The terrain around the lake was covered with a two-inch layer of snow – not enough to hinder our hike out, but enough to be spectacularly beautiful. Moonlight on snow – hard to beat. I took a short walk around one side of the lake. It was almost daylight with the moon reflecting off the snow. I remember thinking that I would remember this for the rest of my life.

It was still quite cold, so I went back to bed and enjoyed getting warm in my sleeping bag twice in one night. There was something magical about snuggling under warm covers on a cold night. We see it in movies occasionally. John Denver wrote a song about it – Grandma’s Feather Bed – a heavy wool blanket, a down quilt, a snug sleeping bag on a cold night. It’s a good feeling.

Are there times in your life when you remember that feeling? Can you connect to it? Did you know that God has a blanket kind of like that? He does. So, I’d like to talk with you today about God’s blanket. It’s His blanket of grace that He wraps us in. 

Many people stop thinking about grace after realizing that God forgives their sins. That’s a good thing to know, but there’s so much more to know about it. Let’s talk about some of the encouraging good stuff that comes from God as He wraps us in His blanket of grace. 

Let’s go to Psalms 32, verse 1 – David said:

Psalms 32:1 – Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered – under God’s warm protective blanket of grace – forgiveness. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. He doesn’t try to hide it from God, or ignore it, or repress it. For when I kept silent – David said – my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him. After the crisis starts, it’s too late. You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. 

That was David’s experience. When he tried to cover his own sin, and stubbornly refused to acknowledge it – refused to see it – he was in misery. The guilt, the shame, the fear, the depression, the isolation, the pressure of pretending he was okay with God – it was a great burden. But when he uncovered his sin to God, God covered his sin – wrapped him in His blanket of forgiveness. He was off the hook. God erased his sins and considered him a man of no deceit – no more pretense, no more anxiety – just freedom and relief. That was something he could never do on his own. But God has wrapped in a blanket that protected him from the accusations and attacks and sin and death. 

So, Christians know what that feels like, I think, but there’s no way to buy our blanket, because that blanket doesn’t exist in the human realm. And there’s no way to pay God back for His blanket – nothing we can work off, no amount of doing good can make up for it. What we did, we did. And what we were, we were. There’s no way to undo what we did. Only by the beating and death of Jesus Christ, who died in our place, are we free from our sins. So, a free and undeserving gift that draws all of us to Him. It’s proof of His love. So, isn’t that great? What a relief! God’s good, right? He loves us in spite of our past miserable behavior, motives and attitudes. I think that’s where many people stop thinking about it. You know, “I’m free.” And that is good. But there’s so much more! 

Let’s talk about what it would have been like to be one of the early church Christians. If you and I had been one of those, we would have been Jews. We were there that first Pentecost, aware of our own sins and aware of need for forgiveness. We would also be used to looking down on Gentiles and tax collectors and other low-life types. We couldn’t help it. We’d been raised that way. Paul was raised that way too, but Jesus snatched him off the Damascus Road and took him into the desert of Arabia for three and a half years, and then Paul learned another way. God then sent him back to the church to teach it to the church. So, in Romans 4:7, we can read about him doing just that. He said:

Romans 4:7-12 – Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin. Sound familiar? Yeah, he’s quoting David. And then he says: Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? In saying circumcised, he’s talking about all the Jews, because all the males were circumcised, according to the covenant that they had with Abraham. Uncircumcised is talking about everybody else. So, the question again is: Are we Jews the only ones who can get under God’s blanket of forgiveness? Or, are there more? Now, listen to what he says: For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. Same thing today, he’s saying. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So, circumcision came after faith, It was only a symbol, pointing to the fact that he was now free of sin. It was by faith that he worshipped God. And then Paul continues: The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. 

You know, today, being under God’s blanket of protection, is not about circumcision or about being a Jew. It’s about having faith in God. It’s about belief. It’s about the state of our heart – loyalty to God and trust in Him. And it has always been that way. They had to learn that anyone – not just Jews – could have a heart turn to God to be under the blanket of grace – so, a lot more people under the blanket of grace than ever before. 

So, what’s my point? Well, the same as Paul’s. It’s not just about you and me. It’s about everybody being about to get under that blanket. If we extend what we just read to today, our lesson is, “Oh, God’s blanket doesn’t just cover me.” And to get out of the cold – out of the storm – there’s something we have to do to get under that blanket. 

In Matthew 6:12, Jesus said, as part of the Lord’s prayer:

Matthew 6:12-15 – forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. For if you forgive others their trespasses, He says, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. 

Some people think that we don’t have to obey God, because Jesus did all that. “Jesus is my Sabbath now,” for example. But on the contrary, New Testament Christians are held to an incredibly higher standard. Not only do we have to abstain from killing those who have hurt us, we have to forgive them and love them. That’s the only way we can get under the blanket with everyone else. 

So, given that we are not the only ones under the blanket, what would that feel like? I think most of us think about the effects of grace on us – being forgiven – but we’re not the only ones under that blanket. So, what’s it like with everybody else under there? It’s an interesting concept. If everyone is supposed forgive as they have been forgiven, what does that produce? Well, it produces a group of people who are all forgiven by each other and who have forgiven everyone else. So, that’s the kind of people that are all together under the forgiveness blanket. 

So, when God gives us His law, the way He explains it to us is to tell us what we are to do toward everyone else – forgiving everyone who has wronged us. That’s His will for us. But it’s also true that He wants everyone to forgive us of our sins as well – not just Him. That’s His will too. He doesn’t want us to be alone under the blanket of forgiveness, covered with His forgiveness. He wants all of us there together, forgiving each other. So, everyone who’s under that blanket has to forgive you, as well as you forgiving them. So, think about what church would be like if it was that way 100% of the time. Think how fun that would be – how peaceful, and how safe, and how encouraging, and how, because there’s no competition, all the gifts that God’s people could be used to do what God gave them the gift for – not limited by other people.

I heard a story – a friend of mine told me this story. There was a storm one day on Mount Whitney. And a group of church people had all gone up there to climb Mount Whitney on that day. Out of nowhere, came this storm. Now, in the Central Valley, to the west, it was just rain, but on the mountain, it was a whiteout. When people climb Mount Whitney, they have to go around to the east side of the Sierra Nevada. If you live in the Bay Area, for example, you have to go all the way around the bottom of the mountain – almost to Southern Cal – and start back north to get to the east side. You have to check in at the base camp – not the base camp, but the ranger station – and check in so that the Forest Service knows who’s on the trail, in case of problems – a really good idea. The rangers knew that there were people up there that needed help, but there was no way to get to them. The snow was too deep. They also knew that most of them had only minimal food and light clothing. It was a day hike, and they knew they would be freezing cold. There was a small building up on top. Memory fails, but I think it was just wood building with no heat. Possible there were windows, but no glass. Maybe there was glass. I just can’t remember. It was not a warm place. But they all got in this area. At least it kept the snow off them. They huddled together, crammed into this little shelter – not just the church people, but others as well. Together, they stood up all night and kept slowly rotating from the cold edge of the group into the center so everyone got some warmth. Some of the people who had more clothing shared with those who had little. The goal was not to survive for oneself, but to survive together. Everyone needed everyone else’s warmth to survive. To do that, they needed each other and the combined body heat of the group. As the story goes, several of the group had experienced severe panic because of the life-threatening situation. But others kept them upright, and kept rotating them into the center to keep them warm as needed. The effort by the group undoubtedly saved the lives of those who were temporarily incapacitated, not to mention their own lives. 

Now, this story was told to me by a man who arrived too late to climb with the group. He started later in the day. So, he was following along, but way behind. He got caught in the snow several thousand feet from the top. It became obvious he wasn’t going to go higher or lower. He was stuck. Fortunately, he had a tent and a sleeping bag, and there was a little staging area there, so it was flat. So, he pitched his tent and hunkered down for the night. He told me that, in the morning, the snow had completely covered his tent. He had to dig out. It wasn’t long before a rescue crew arrived, however, from down below, and they proceeded to clear trails to the top and rescue the group. 

I think about that group of people – a mixed group, some of them strangers – all under the cover of that building. As they cooperated to slowly rotate themselves into the heated part of the group, I’m sure they all realized the more people they had generating heat, the better it was for all of them. The fact that some of the people were unknown made no difference at all. All that mattered that night was that they worked together. Being under God’s blanket of forgiveness is a lot like that. 

Look at this scripture with me. In Matthew 18, Jesus tells us a parable about a servant who owed a debt he could not repay. Sound familiar? But the one to whom he owed the debt – his master – forgave the debt – marked it “Paid,” even though nothing had been paid. And yet this man, who had been forgiven of his debt, was harsh on his demands that others pay him back what they owed. And then in Matthew 18:32, Jesus said:

Matthew 18:32-33 – Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ Well, I think we all know the answer to that question, don’t we? So, it’s God’s will that, when everyone is forgiven and under the blanket of grace, all those under it are also forgiven, making it a place where there are no grudges, offenses or regrets – only good will and cooperation and encouragement and love. To further drive home the lesson, Jesus said in verse 33: And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. I don’t know how he was going to pay that in jail, but maybe that’s the point. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you – every one of you – if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.

One of the requirements to be under the blanket of grace is that we extend grace to others as grace has been extended to us. That’s what makes it such a great place to be. Everyone is together, minus all the anger, distrust, vengeance, regret and other acts of the flesh. 

Now, I was thinking about this, and in today’s world, worship of God and a desire to get into God’s Kingdom has been replaced with a quest for happiness, since most people don’t believe in God anymore. They say, “I just want to be happy,” and so their life quest is to be happy. People without God think the only thing they have to shoot for is happiness. So, no goal of eternal life in the God family to shoot for. So, whatever they need to do to be happy is what they want to do. No boundaries to human behavior, because God’s boundaries aren’t there anymore. Just do what makes you happy. 

So, where does that leave Christians? Well, it leaves them under the blanket of grace. And, if they are under that blanket, then they are not hateful, jealous or angry, but at peace with everyone else. Maybe this is one reason Jesus tells us that His burden is light. Remember that statement? You can be at peace in a way that you can’t be under peace any other way, because of what God gives. 

So, how do you think that will make us feel – even though we have the responsibility of forgiveness. I mean, you’re in an environment where everybody’s for you. Nobody’s against you. It’s much easier to accomplish and you’re headed towards God’s Kingdom. How does that make you feel? Well, you would be happy, wouldn’t you? It’s not that there won’t be difficulties, trials, challenges, responsibilities to surmount. It’s that we face them in freedom, knowing that we are all going the same direction and that we will all arrive together on that great day. 

Sometimes, as we read through the Bible – especially in Isaiah and Paul – we find something that’s so powerful it just rocks us. Here is one of those passages by Paul. I’m not going to read all of it, but if you want to be rocked, you can read it later. It’s in Hebrews 11 – the Faith Chapter. And, in context, Paul has just reminded us about Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and Moses, and Rahab, and other people who have existed in faith, and then he says this:

Hebrews 11:32-40 – And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets – who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire – the story about John, the apostle – who was the oldest living apostle – being thrown into a vat of boiling oil, and he came out unburned – quenched the power of fire escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated – of whom the world was not worthy – wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. 

So, everybody – all of us who are under God’s blanket – no matter when we live – are all going to get there together at the resurrection when Christ returns. God’s blanket turned out not to be only a blanket of forgiveness and grace, it’s a blanket of salvation. And we are under it now. 

Now, I want to go back to Hebrews 11. There’s something Paul said before what we just read. It’s in verse 13. He said:

Hebrews 11:13 – These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. So, he says, in spite of all the trials, they greeted their eternal salvation from afar.

Now, that word greeted, it doesn’t really mean that exactly. Here is, from Louw & Nida, what that word means. “To be happy about something on the basis that it would prove particularly welcome, thus implying a type of future orientation; to be happy about; to anticipate with pleasure.” Isn’t that amazing? 

I’ve heard it said – and I’ve actually said it – that, in answer to the headlong quest for happiness without God, that God is not concerned with our happiness, but only our redemption. He’s willing for us to be unhappy so that we can attain salvation. And I suppose that is true in the narrower view, but reading this verse, we can see what God is offering us – not through the gain of money, or power, or influence, or health, or safety, or any other physical thing, but peaceful, confident happiness – a kind of happiness no person can have by their own accomplishments, a kind of anxiety-free happiness that passes all understanding, a kind of happiness that comes from knowing that Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 

So, when we are with our brothers and sisters in Christ, whether we’re together with loved ones in the moment or alone, it’s good to know that we’re under God’s blanket together. And that is something to enjoy, to be happy about, much more even than a soft warm blanket on a cold winter’s night.