“In the Lord I take REFUGE.” (Psalm 11:1)
According to http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary the definition of refuge is:
- shelter or protection from danger or distress
- a place that provides shelter or protection
and the definition of refugee is:
- one that flees; especially : a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution.
Recently I read a book called “Walk in my Shoes”, the story of Afghan refugees arriving by boat from Indonesia to Australia (before the present policy of off-shore detention). On arrival at the detention centre in Australia, Gulnessa, the young woman telling her family’s story, describes the scene:
“I heard a man’s voice, low and slow at first, and then his song increased in strength and tempo, until it filled the room. Then Abdul’s and other voices joined the chorus, passionately, jubilantly, until the room rang with sounds of celebration…We pushed back tables and formed circles to dance…there had been few [such] celebrations at home [in Afghanistan] for a long time. But this was an occasion for rejoicing. We’d been through hell and had reached a safe haven alive…Here there were no gunshots and explosions. No Terror [referring to the Taliban] to torture us or to kidnap our loved ones…That night I felt safe – for the first time [in ages]…we slept, soundly, dreamlessly.” (Alwyn Evans Walk in My Shoes Penguin Books 2004)
Most of us reading these words know little of such an experience, although some of us who have lived overseas have also seen some of the sorts of atrocities that occur and therefore have some understanding of why people often need to flee their homes for a safer place.
The psalmist’s though, and maybe especially David, understood the feeling. In his early years David had spent many years it seems fleeing from Saul and needing to find refuge in caves and other such places. But generally the references in the Psalms are not referring to these places of physical refuge.
The word refuge occurs about 40 times in the Psalms and numerous other times in the rest of the OT. And in the Psalms it most often uses similar words to how David commences this psalm: “In the Lord I take REFUGE.” (Psalm 11:1) and then other verses speak of “God … our REFUGE.” (Psalm 62:8)
A few others psalms elaborate even more:
The Lord is a REFUGE for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. (Psalm 9:9)
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take REFUGE, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18:2)
But how does this apply to us today? We can so easily quote these verses or sing them in our songs of worship, but what does it really mean for us in our everyday lives?
When was the last time you really sensed that you needed God to be your “refuge” considering that the meaning of the Hebrew, it seems, could also be translated as “to put your trust in” or “find protection in” the Lord.
The first time I had any idea that I needed God to be my “refuge” was at 19 when I was overwhelmed by my sense of guilt, dissatisfaction with my life, fear of the future and longing for meaning and hope. The day I “put my trust in” Jesus was the day I found God to be my “refuge, my stronghold, my fortress”, my Saviour from sin, my hope for now and all eternity.
I now recognise our constant vulnerability in this world we live in. A world spoilt and broken in so many ways, and where too often, so it seems, evil triumphs over good. It seems to me that there has actually never been a time when our need for God to be our “refuge” was greater!
David understood this when he wrote Psalm 11 and verse 3 summarizes the crisis both in his day and in ours:
“When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
“The sociologist Peter Berger argues that Western culture has undergone a seismic shift in the past fifty years…our culture has become hostile towards its Judeo-Christian foundations… (see references # 36)
Knowing this, David gives us some good advice in Psalm 11 – we don’t need to panic or give up! Why? His answer is simple: “The Lord is…” (verse 4)
“The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne.” (11:4) He reigns!
In the beginning, God! In the present, God! In the future, God!
And so we, like David, no matter what our present circumstances, are able to say confidently, “In the Lord I take refuge.”
Father, in one sense, nothing much has changed since David first wrote these words. And best of all, You are still “in [your] holy temple…on [your] heavenly throne…”, and so in times of trouble we can run to you and find in you our refuge. You are “our hiding place”. Amen.