Pastor's Piece - A Place of Refuge
by Dr Barry Wright
A Place of Refuge
In the turmoil and strife of the world we live in today there is often a need for us to find some form of refuge, security and safety from those things that continually beset our lives.
In every life there will come a time when we need to turn to someone or something where our fears and insecurities can be catered for.
Throughout history mankind has often turned to a God who cares and we see this in the words of one of the wisest men who ever lived where he says in Proverbs 14: 26 that: 'In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge'.
This thought is often found throughout the Old Testament Scriptures where we read in the words of the Psalmist that 'God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble' (Ps 46: 1).
In Ps 91: 1, 2 he continues this theme by suggesting that 'He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'
It is interesting to note that these last words were to eventually form the basic foundation stone of a newly discovered nation in the New World. The words 'In God we trust' were to become the motto minted on all coinage in the United States of America and this has remained the position right through to our present day.
When temptations assail us, when care, perplexity, trials, disappointments, darkness and loss seem to surround us on every side we need to look outside of ourselves to our Father in Heaven who cares.
The 'fear of the Lord', that comes from a loving heart, should give that confidence and peace along with the assurance of a shelter away from the storms of strife around us (Mears, 1983: 198). David makes this very clear in Ps 119: 114 where he says of the Lord that: 'Thou art my hiding place' (Richards, 2004: 249).
We see this concept of God's love illustrated throughout ancient Israel where a number of fortified strongholds were set up as places of safety for those whose lives were in immediate danger. This situation usually occurred when the life of another person had been accidentally taken (Coleman, 1984: 256). These fortresses became known as Cities of Refuge and were seen as a symbol of the refuge provided by the Lord to every believer. The 'fear of God' was seen as a faith in Him and His Word while His provision for us was to be our strong city (Richards, 2004: 249).
It was during the years of the nineteenth century that the Headmaster of the Charles Haddon Spurgeon's orphanage became impressed with the words of Scripture written by the prophet Isaiah. The Reverend Vernon J. Charlesworth (1839-1915), while working with the orphans under his care, saw in their lives their desperate need to find refuge from the storms of life that had brought them to his institution. The words found in the book of Isaiah were to provide the needed inspiration for his well-known hymn 'A Shelter in the Time of Storm' (White, 1968: 392).
Isaiah in praising God says in Isaiah 25: 4 (NIV) 'You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat. For the breath of the ruthless is like a storm driving against a wall.'
From these thoughts Charlesworth wrote the words of the hymn that, since 1889, were to bring comfort to so many people. He says:
'The Lord's our Rock, in Him we hide,
Secure whatever may betide, A shelter in the time of storm.
A shade by day, defence by night,
No fears alarm, no foes affright, A shelter in the time of storm
The raging floods may round us beat,
We find in God a safe retreat, A shelter in the time of storm.
O Rock divine, O Refuge dear,
Be thou our helper, ever near, A shelter in the time of storm
Mighty Rock in a weary land, Cooling Shade on the burning sand
Faithful guide for the pilgrim band, A shelter in the time of storm.
SDA Hymnal - No. 528
These words still have meaning for the believer today. Christ is the Mighty Rock and the City of Refuge who provides a place of safety for all who seek Him during times when they are troubled, tempted, worried or in danger (Richards, 2004: 249).
Today, may we say of the Lord as David did, 'Thou art my hiding place' (Ps 119: 114), an ever present help in trouble (Ps 46: 1) and '…my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust (Ps 91: 1,2).
Coleman, W. L. (1984) Today's Handbook of Bible Times and Customs. Minneapolis, USA: Bethany House Publishers.
Mears, H. C. (1983) What the Bible is all about. Ventura, USA: Regal Books
Richards, H. M. S. (2004) The Promises of God. Hagerstown, USA: Review & Herald Publishing Association
White, E. E. (1968) Singing With Understanding. Warburton, Victoria, Australia: Signs Publishing Company.
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