God is our refuge and strength.
We live in a day and age where many people are looking for some sort of security or means of coping with life in the best way possible. In light of this we remind ourselves that ultimately God is our refuge and strength.
Firstly let’s note what is going on:
David is not yet king and Saul, who is king, is continually sending out search parties – surveillance and pursuit teams - to capture and kill David. David sees those coming after him as shameless people – he likens them to dogs who, as we read in verse six, return at the end of the day without success and prowl around the city; spewing out swords from their mouths. In the socio-political scene of the day, David is in trouble. The leadership of a struggling nation is after him, wanting to find him, to pull him down and kill him.
When trouble comes along people often question God or stop talking to Him altogether and also avoid other Christians. This is what the enemy wants. He cannot defeat God so concentrates his efforts on being an accuser, seeking to sow seeds of doubt in people’s minds. When we are with God, we stand in His strength, on our own we are not match for the enemy. Balaam realises this when, in working with Balak (the king of the Moabites), he comes against God’s people. He soon realises that he cannot defeat God and tells Balak to entice Israel away from God so as to be able to defeat them (Num 22;25).
There was a lot going on in David’s life but he did not swerve from his trust in God. David held on and said, “Deliver me from my enemies O God; protect me from those who rise up against me.”
Secondly we remind ourselves that God is always in control.
Due to some amazing films about his books, many people know that Tolkien wrote ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’. After he had written these, he was asked to produce more works and wrote ‘The Silmarillion’ which wasn’t published until after his death. In it he writes about the universe of Ea in which are found the lands of Valinor, Beleriand and Middle-Earth - where the stories of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings takes place.
In this creation tale, Tolkien speaks about how God can bring about good from evil events. He writes of a god-figure directing a really good choir but there is an evil person in the choir who wants a solo part and sings loudly and out of tune in order to point to himself as he disrupts what is going on. Yet God continues to conduct a new harmony that incorporates the wrong notes being sung by the evil person. Every time the evil person sings off key, God brings in harmonies that include the note and do not disrupt the piece of music.
Tolkien then goes on to say that no amount of evil can compromise God’s infinite goodness and God can bring good from seemingly hopeless situations. Ultimately, we see this at Calvary. The evil of the world and of supernatural darkness was hurled at Jesus who then underwent the wrath of God, yet rose victorious.
In Psalm 59, we see that there is a whole lot going on around David. Early on in the Psalm there seems to be more about the present difficulties David is going through than anything else, yet as the Psalm moves on to a conclusion we see that David is actually focused on God. At the end he says, “O my strength, I sing praise to you; you, O God are my fortress, my loving God.”
In a seemingly helpless and hopeless situation, there is always something that can be done - we can talk to God. David could talk to God because he knew what God was like. He is aware that God is a covenant-making God who so often takes the initiative. David was aware that God could change events, yet also aware that God could change him in those events. God is aware of all things.
Thirdly: God knows all about us.
In his book What Darwin Didn’t know Geoffrey Simons, a doctor, points out that if Darwin’s origin of the species was submitted to a University today, it would more than likely be thrown out. Later he speaks of the complexities of the human physiology in this way: -
“The interior of the human body is a much busier place than New York City, London, Tokyo City and Bombay combined. Ten to seventy-five trillion cells participate in more than a quadrillion purposeful chemical interactions each day that help us walk, think, sleep, procreate, see, hear, feel, smell, digest food, eliminate waste, write, read, talk, make red cells, remove dead cells, fight infections, behave, misbehave, absorb nutrients, transport oxygen, eliminate carbon dioxide, maintain balance, carry on dialogue, understand complex instructions, argue and make complex decisions, just to name a few common activities.”
God knows all about us. Do we really think that the One who designed such amazing complexity into our physical form does not know about us? Do we not recognise that our minds are equally complex, if not more so? Do we really recognise that we were not made to walk alone?
David was undergoing immense hardship and emotional turmoil, caused by people he knew who had walked from God and were pursuing him. Yet he did not give up. He knew that God knew him and he knew that God is a covenant-keeping God. David ‘knew’ in the biblical sense, where knowing always speaks of engaging.
Fourthly: God is our refuge.
God’s grace and mercy is seen in many ways throughout scripture and one of those ways is in how He instructed Israel to set up refuge cities.
In Israel there were six cities of refuge (Num 35) which were strategically placed across the land. If someone killed a person by accident or was falsely accused of something and in mortal danger, he or she could go to a city. Once within that city no-one could touch that person until a proper trial had taken place and they would be protected from anyone who tried to kill them without trial.
The roads to the cities of refuge were kept well-repaired by the Sanhedrin and there were signs all along the routes with the word ‘refuge’ on them. On occasion, when a person was fleeing to one of the cities, two law students would accompany them along the route in case the person chasing them caught up with the fugitive.
Ultimately, our refuge comes from God and at great cost to Him because, unlike many who ran to a city of refuge, we are the guilty ones. Yet we can find refuge because in Jesus, we were pronounced forgiven by the Covenant Shepherd who lay down His life for us at such a great cost.
Think about how Jesus must have felt. Many of his friends crumbled and fell away from Him in His time of need. He would have felt vulnerable and isolated at a time when the enemy was allowed his hour. People then mocked Him as He died in order to stand in the place of all who would seek forgiveness. More than anyone, Jesus knows what suffering is all about.
When life gets tough and does not go the way we would like it to, it helps to remember that God knows what we are going through. He knows us, knows what we are going through and is a refuge to all who call on Him. That refuge can also take many different forms.
I recently read a book which spoke of a Ugandan woman called, Vicki, who was abandoned along with her three children by her husband and who then found that he had infected her with aids. I wonder how she must have felt.
Her story, along with others, was featured in a film by Emmanuel Exitu and Danielle Minguna called, ‘Greater: Defeating Aids’. The film is about the Naguru and Kireka slums of Kampala which is the capital of Uganda.
Vicki was abandoned by her husband who left her with a killer disease. She was at a total loss until she met, Rose Busingye, a Christian nurse who founded ‘Meeting Point International’.
Rose told her that she was greater than her illness and Vicki joined her community which shared the love of Christ. Vicki was not cured of AIDS but her life changed drastically. She learnt that her suffering was not what defined her and in Christ she found faith and great hope. Her friend, Rose, once said, “The greatest need of a human being is the need of belonging which gives stability and certainty in all aspects of life.”
In all his trials and difficulties, David did not forget that he belonged to Someone and that Someone is the Creator of the heavens and earth who desires to be known as a Father. Elsewhere David writes:
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.”
Fifthly: God is our strength.
God becomes our Father, in the truest sense, by way of a deeply abiding relationship through Jesus which is lived out with the support and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Whilst in glory veiled, Jesus spoke words into the lives of the blind, deaf, sick and marginalised and brought healing, hope and restoration to so many. In glory veiled, He spoke through death and Lazarus (John 11:43), Jairus’ daughter (Luke 8:49-55) and the widow of Nain’s son (Luke 7:11-15) were brought back to life. He is the One who fed over five thousand people (John 6:4-13), walked on water and stilled a storm (Jn 6:18-20) and told the crowds that He was the bread of life (Jn 6:35) and then said, “The Spirit gives life…” His words – the creative words of God – are sharper than a two-edged sword and are spirit and life to all who bow the knee and destruction to those who do not. He is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in times of trouble.
A young Muslim woman came to Christ and was, for a period of months, imprisoned for her faith. She was asked what it was about Christianity that was more complete and made her leave Islam, she replied:
“Christ said, ‘I am the first and the last.’ There is no one before Him, no one after Him. Christ’s completeness is evident in His love. Even the most sinful people on earth can feel God’s love through Jesus. He was the perfect man, who sacrificed His life on the cross for our sins. By paying the price we could never pay. He gave us the priceless holy gift of freedom – freedom from sin and freedom from religious laws we could never perfectly follow as imperfect mortals.”
Maryam Rostampour in, ‘Captive in Iran’ pages 185-6.
David was being pursued by an enemy that just did not seem to want to give up. Yet, David was not separated from God; He called out to him and acknowledged that, no matter what, He would sing of God’s strength in the morning and He would sing of God’s love. No matter what was going on, David would acknowledge that God was his fortress and a refuge in times of trouble. God was his fortress, his strength, his loving God; the God who keeps covenant. And this amazing God – our heavenly Father – often turns up, as it were, in unexpected places and in unexpected ways, even when we have got it wrong, if we are prepared to call out to him. Genelle Guzman-McMillan, a one-time backslidden Christian found this out. She was the last survivor to be pulled out of the rubble of the World Trade Centre. In speaking about what happened to her she said:
“One hundred and ten floors were coming down around us. I knew I was being buried alive. The noise was deafening…
When I woke again I told myself I had to do something. But what could I do? “God, you’ve got to help me!” I prayed. “You’ve got to show me a sign, show me a miracle, give me a second chance. Please save my life!” My eyes were so caked with grime that the tears couldn’t come, but I felt it in my heart. I was talking to God as though he were right there. I told him I was ready to live my life the right way. “Lord, just give me a second chance, and I promise I will do your will”…
The next day I heard a beep-beep sound like a truck backing up. I called out for help, but there was no response…Finally someone hollered back: “Hello, is somebody there?” “Yes, help me! My name is Genelle, and I’m on the thirteenth floor” I cried, not realising how ludicrous the information about my location must have sounded, coming from a pile of rubble…
I could see a bit of daylight coming through a crack, so I stuck my hand through it…I stretched my hand out as far as I could, and this time someone grabbed it. “Genelle, I’ve got you!” You’re going to be all right. My name is Paul, I won’t let go of your hand until they get you out.”
Genelle said that she felt completely calm when Paul took her hand and believed his repeated assurances throughout her entrapment. Despite all that was happening she knew, deep down, that she was going to be all right.
Including the time until Paul took her hand, Genelle was trapped for twenty-seven hours before being pulled from the rubble. She then spent five weeks in hospital recuperating. Afterwards, she went round all the fire stations trying to locate Paul to thank him. She was told there was no one named Paul on any team and nobody was holding her hand when the rubble was being removed.
Our refuge is in God alone. The enemy cannot defeat God, so he tries to separate us from God and from God’s people because then we will be no match for him. Let’s make sure we don’t allow circumstances or situations to distance us from our heavenly Father.
David would eventually become king. He would not always get it right and was called to task on occasion, yet Daivd always knew, deep down in his heart, that God was his refuge and strength.
We are clothed in the work of Christ and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. This does not mean life will always be easy, but life will be a lot harder if the enemy can pull us away from God or fellow-believers. The world we live in presents us with great challenges and in our lives there will be at times, great difficulty, yet there is One who will never leave us or forsake us. At times, we are going to feel vulnerable but that’s OK. What is not OK is to stop engaging with God. He knows us, understands everything about us and will help us to know His presence above all else – even if things don’t seem to change for a while. Ultimately, God is the One who can bring good out of all situations and His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away and can never be destroyed.
“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”