Greetings and salutations, friends, and happy whatever day it is. I think it is Tuesday today, but the days are running so much together, that I am only pretty sure it is April, and that we are still, sadly, in 2020, the most remarkable and craziest year of my life. Yesterday our eight year old was talking about the NEXT time a pandemic came along, and wondering what we might do then, and my first thought was that pandemics are very rare, my second thought was I hope there is no NEXT pandemic, and my third thought was that this particular pandemic, for an 8 year old, is going to take up a significant portion of her life if it stretches much further. Perhaps such things will be somewhat normal in her mind. I hope that this never becomes normal, however.
Hope you all are holding up well! Today's Bible readings are Leviticus 10, Psalms 11 and 12, Proverbs 25 and 1st Thessalonians 4. Our focus passage is derived from Psalms 11:1, "I have taken refuge in the Lord." In today's short episode, I'd like for us to consider two things about this passage: What it means, theologically, that the Lord is a our refuge AND practically, how can we take refuge in Him? Let's read those two Psalms passages, and come back and discuss.
So -what is your favorite hymn? Mine changes, but I think my usual answer is a Mighty Fortress is Our God by Martin Luther:
A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
our helper he, amid the flood
of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
does seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great,
and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.
This hymn is based upon passages like Psalm 11:1, and also, even more specifically, it is based on Psalms 46:
God is our refuge and strength,
a helper who is always found
in times of trouble.
2 Therefore we will not be afraid,
though the earth trembles
and the mountains topple
into the depths of the seas,
3 though its water roars and foams
and the mountains quake with its turmoil.Selah
4 There is a river—
its streams delight the city of God,
the holy dwelling place of the Most High.
5 God is within her; she will not be toppled.
God will help her when the morning dawns.
6 Nations rage, kingdoms topple;
the earth melts when he lifts his voice.
7 The Lord of Armies is with us;
the God of Jacob is our stronghold.Selah
8 Come, see the works of the Lord,
who brings devastation on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease throughout the earth.
He shatters bows and cuts spears to pieces;
he sets wagons ablaze.
10 “Stop your fighting, and know that I am God,
exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth.”
11 The Lord of Armies is with us;
the God of Jacob is our stronghold.Selah
Verse 5 is one of the most quoted verses on Instagram, but we should probably point out that the 'her' in this case is not a particular female that God will keep from failing or toppling, but the City of God - the Refuge of God, the Shelter of God that we are talking about today. Many times in the Scriptures, particularly in the Psalms, we are pointed to God's protection over His people - that HE HIMSELF is our shelter/refuge/fortress. Consider these comforting truths:
I have asked one thing from the Lord;
it is what I desire:
to dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
gazing on the beauty of the Lord
and seeking him in his temple.
5 For he will conceal me in his shelter
in the day of adversity;
he will hide me under the cover of his tent;
he will set me high on a rock.
19 How great is your goodness
that you have stored up for those who fear you
and accomplished in the sight of everyone
for those who take refuge in you.
20 You hide them in the protection of your presence;
you conceal them in a shelter
from human schemes,
from quarrelsome tongues.
The Lord is my rock,
my fortress, and my deliverer,
my God, my rock where I seek refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation,
3 I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and I was saved from my enemies.
But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them shout for joy forever.
May you shelter them,
and may those who love your name boast about you.
12 For you, Lord, bless the righteous one;
you surround him with favor like a shield.
for you have been a refuge for me,
a strong tower in the face of the enemy.
4 I will dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge under the shelter of your wings.Selah
So - how does God protect us? How is He a Shelter? I offer three ways here (and note that this is NOT an exhaustive list. )
1. He supernaturally protects us by His sovereign Will. Consider Romans 8:26-28, "26 In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.28 We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." I included that first part because it is important. God sovereignly protects His people as a fortress by sovereignly and particularly causing all events to work together for the GOOD of those who KNOW Him and are CALLED according to His purpose. This means that the God who NUMBERS THE HAIRS ON YOUR HEAD also orders the everyday affairs and details of your life to protect you and propel you into His good purposes and pleasures. It won't always be easy, or pain-free, but it will always be for your ULTIMATE GOOD. That is a protection and a shelter from God. Bonus: The Holy Spirit is praying for us in our weakness. (Jesus is too, according to Hebrews!)
2. He supernaturally protects us by His sovereign power, and His angels. First, the angels. God commands and organizes His angels to protect His people, so says passages like Psalm 34:7 ”The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them.” AND Hebrews 1:14, “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” Also, God Himself protects us, according to numerous passages like Psalm 121:4-5, "Indeed, the Protector of Israel does not slumber or sleep.5 The Lord protects you;" Also consider the promise to Israel in Isaiah 41, that Christians inherit also, because we are grafted into the vine of Israel as God's people:
I brought you from the ends of the earth
and called you from its farthest corners.
I said to you: You are my servant;
I have chosen you; I haven’t rejected you.
10 Do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you; I will help you;
I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand.
3. He supernaturally protects us by His salvation and preservation for eternal life. John Piper, years before the coronavirus pandemic, tweeted out, "World death rate holds steady at 100%. (Hebrews 9:27) "It is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment." This tweet is very appropriate today, because the fact is, we are all going to die one day. Some tragically, some early, some horribly, and so on, and so forth. This is discouraging, or it would be if it were not for the supernatural preservation and salvation of Jesus! Here's his promise, "Everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." 1st Thessalonians 4, another passage we will read today, points us very specifically to this hope. JESUS IS COMING AGAIN! And when He does, the dead in Christ will rise first, and meet the living in Christ people and they will be MADE NEW - in the twinkling of an eye - in a blink - our old perishable and mortal bodies will be made immortal and imperishable. No matter how badly it ends for some of us - WE WILL NOT PERISH, because the moment our heart stops beating, and we breathe our last, in the next moment, we will step into eternity as a blood-washed, Christ-saved, Grace-purchased child of God, and what we will step into is many magnitudes better and more joyful than what we are stepping out of!
Allow me to close with this bit of good news from John Piper about how God is our refuge:God Is Your Refuge and Strength
And you will follow his lead if you believe that he is your refuge and strength, which is what verse 1 says: "God is our refuge and strength." People turn away from the risks of significance and choose the brief security of success because they don't really believe this—that God is their strength, and God is refuge, and God is their defender and their refreshment.
But I want you to believe it. Look at the connection between verses 2–3 and verse 6. "Though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam . . . " The words for "shake" and "roar" are the same Hebrew words used in verse 6: "The nations rage [roar] and the kingdoms totter [shake]."
The point of using these same words like this is to show that whether the threat to us is from nature (with earthquakes and floods and storms, verses 1–3) or from political upheaval and wars (verse 6)—whether our world is shaking from nature or from the nations, God is our refuge.
And not just a refuge but an active counter force and a source of peace and refreshment. Verse 6b says that God's response to the raging nations is this: "He utters his voice and the earth melts." His response to dangerous seas that roar and foam is to become for us (note verse 4) another kind of water—river (not a tumultuous sea)—a river whose streams make glad the city of God.
This is the secret this morning to whether you will choose significance or mere success: The risks of significance turn out to be no risk at all if you believe that God is your refuge and strength and defender and refreshment. I pray that you will believe it and that God will make plain the path of significance.
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