Bread – Refuge

February 5, 2016


Psalm 5

“…because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against You.  But let all who take refuge in You rejoice…”  Ps. 5:10b-11a

When we use the word “refuge,” a lot of images come to mind.  When a spy “comes in from the cold,” he or she takes refuge in a “safe house.”  A “safe house” is one presumptively impervious to attack, but we who read spy novels know better – because the meanies on the other side know where the “safe house” is and how to break into it, we know that the “safe house” is not really safe at all.  It is only the illusion of refuge for the spy within.  When the spy enters the safe house, we know what will happen in the next chapter and it will not be good.  That person will be driven from his place of perceived refuge back into the cold, real world.

We may also have an image of a place in our home which is armor plated against intrusion.  That place of refuge might be called a “safe room” or maybe even a panic room.  And when the robber comes to the door, we might seek refuge in our internal safe room.  But for those of us who have seen the movie, we know that this “safe room” or “panic room” again provides only the illusion of refuge, because there is always some way for the bad people outside to force their way inside … or trick their way inside.  Because we know that the safe room, if designed right, can only be breached by our own foolishness of leaving it because we think the outside is safe, because we think that the bad person has left.

Then there is the image of the refugee from war or riot or famine who seeks a new life in another place, another country.  Today, it may be the people from Syria seeking refuge in the United States.  Tomorrow it may be Texans seeking refuge in Mexico, or vice versa.  But we know the end of that story, too.  They may find a better life in that new place, but the place of refuge is rarely the Nirvana which it is made out to be by the slick advertisers – instead, it has its own share of troubles, which it is happy to visit upon people seeking refuge there.

We have been talking about physical places of refuge, but there can been emotional places as well.  When we withdraw from the world to read a good book or play a good videogame, we may be seeking refuge in the mindless, in the mind-numbing, because the reality is just too tiring, too depressing, too destructive, too difficult to handle.

The Psalm today really speaks of two places in life.  The first place is within ourselves.  This is the place of self, where David points out that they live “by their own counsels.”  It is these people who David points out have an abundance of transgressions because, in relying upon self, they rebel against God, they say “no” to God.  One might be inclined to say that there is a third place, the place of society or friends or other people, but this would be wrong because all society is, all our friends are, all other people are is a collection of selves.  To the extent that this collection of selves each rely upon themselves, they are occupying the place of self.   have taken refuge in their own strength, in their own knowledge, in their own position and power, in their own wealth, and in their own ability.

The second place we can reside in life is with God.  We can take refuge in Him.  In Him and not ourselves, we can find love, safety, support, power, and position.  But to do it we have to “take refuge” in God.  We have to not seek refuge in ourselves or others, but seek refuge in God.

Where is our place of refuge?  Is it among our belongings, our house, our friends, our achievements, ourselves?  Or is it with God?

I have been somewhat unfair in how I have asked the question, because I have left off the third alternative, which is both.  Isn’t this the answer, really, that we choose most often?  We seek ourselves when that seems appropriate and convenient, and we seek God according to the same criteria.  Or we may take refuge in ourselves most of the time and then, in times of “real” trouble, seek refuge in God.  In so doing, we live in neither place for very long, always wandering and never resting, always looking for refuge and never finding refuge.

Why do we do that?  Do we believe that refuge in God is like refuge in the spy’s safe house, like God’s house can be invaded at will by Satan?  Do we trust God, mostly, but make sure that our own safe room is ready to retreat to when God fails?

We take refuge where we believe we can be protected.

Do you believe God can protect you?  Do you believe He will protect you?

Why do you think Christ died on the cross?

Why, indeed, except to save us, to provide us the place of refuge from the effects of our own sin, to preserve us for eternity.  We sing “A mighty fortress is our God.”  Maybe it should really be “The mighty fortress is our God.”  It should be “the” and not “a” because there is only one place of refuge where we may truly lie down in safety – every other place is only an illusion of safety.

You might think of it this way.  There are two places of refuge.  One is refuge “lite” and the other is refuge “strong.”  Why would you not pick the strong place?   Every time, all the time.

__________

© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

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