Sometimes we hear statements from scripture quoted by other Christians and even though we might understand a surface meaning, we fail to comprehend the depth of riches behind them. One of the biblical concepts I have used and am hearing a lot in this time of crisis, is that “God is our refuge.” What does this really mean?
In Psalm 61, David is crying out to God from what seems to him to be the end of the earth. His heart is ‘faint.’ He is wearied and forlorn. We know that for David, this could fit any number of circumstances in his life as he was often surrounded and hunted down by enemies. David looks beyond his physical hiding places and his loyal band of warriors to find ‘refuge’ in God and describes five ways that God is our refuge.
God is our rock.
Psalm 61:2 from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
In this first description David likens God to what humans know in creation as the sturdiest structural matter on which we can stand. This, however, is not any rock, this is a rock higher than David. This is a strength and more solid foundation than David himself can provide. It is elevated and from this vantage point David can discern what is coming. As we see God as our rock, we understand that he has this strength and wisdom as the God of the universe. In God’s truth we can understand the world and remain founded upon a higher strength to discern the turmoil that comes against us in life.
God is our tower.
Psalm 61:3 for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.
Even more that a solid rock in creation, God is for David a purpose-built structure designed to withstand the attacks of an enemy. When we see a fortress with its surrounding walls and lookouts, it is for a signal of safety. It is in our High Tower that refuge provides an eye on all that is against us and is actually purposed for providing security in the threat of attack. We know that in this world we are not immune to the effects of a fallen creation. Every human at some stage succumbs to death and human enemies and threatening diseases lurk around us. They may even overcome us, but there is a High Tower who has purposed to give us security beyond this world and he knows every threat that comes upon us.
God is our tent.
Psalm 61:4a Let me dwell in your tent forever!
As our refuge, God is not impersonal. He is not some force or energy that we use for protection. He is where we can actually dwell. We get to be inside his tent, and it is in tents where David knew that only friends would be invited. In tents friends can share an intimate meal and have fellowship with one another. There is an intimate notion of dwelling and presence and this is what God’s chosen friends can have with him. When we take refuge in God, we don’t just seek safety from worldly threats, we seek community and fellowship with our God who, in Christ, is our friend.
God is our caring Father.
Psalm 61:4b Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah
If the intimacy of a tent excites you about our refuge in God, try the picture of being a chic sheltering under the wings of your parent. By now I hope you are realizing that when we think of God as our refuge, it is not just any kind of shelter from a storm, it is relational and intimate and it tells us more about God than it does about hiding from our own problems. God is our safe place because nobody cares like our Father. We want to be under his wings because he loves us and covers us. In and through Jesus Christ, his love for us will never end even when this world does.
God is the provider of our eternal community.
Psalm 61:5 For you, O God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.
This verse is where David looks into the future and realizes that refuge in God means the provision of an entire community of his people. David realized that the people of God were an inheritance for each other. David never had to worry about his solitude or the emptiness of never having community. God will provide people for his people and they will be people who all love God and are on the same side. As we continue to renew our allegiance to God (vows), we are never and will never be alone. It is a refuge of community.
God is our King.
Psalm 61:6-7 Prolong the life of the king; may his years endure to all generations! 7 May he be enthroned forever before God; appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him!
It’s easy to imagine that David is probably recalling the words of Samuel here in 2 Samuel 7:12-16. David is looking to a kingdom established by God that will bring a King enthroned forever and be surrounded by love and faithfulness. His refuge is not without rule and reign but gives hope in an appointed King. This is surely a direct Messianic statement. The forever King is no doubt Jesus who has come from the line of David and has conquered sin and death and every evil in the world through the power of the cross. Jesus is the greater David, our King. It may be a foreign concept to us to associate kingship with refuge, but when the King is loving and faithful, righteous, true and just, we want to come under the protection of his rule and the providence of his care. Most of all, we want to live in the security of his victory.
This is refuge, and the more we meditate upon it, the more we realize that God is a greater refuge than any earthly definition of the term. The Foundation is sure and strong, The Tower views every threat, The Tent is welcoming to friends, The Father cares for his children, The Provider of Community ensures we are not alone, The King of the Kingdom brings us under his rule, victory and providence. What have we left to say?
Psalm 61:8 So will I ever sing praises to your name, as I perform my vows day after day.