“A Refuge in Times of Trouble”

Intro: A few days ago, Floridians faced a familiar sense of insecurity and apprehension. As Hurricane Matthew approached from the southeast the weather forecasters and public officials warned of possible catastrophic results. What could we do?

For those who were in the greatest danger (on the coast where the winds and water would be the highest) were told that their only safe option was to seek refuge someplace else. We are thankful that many took that advice.

  • Have you ever felt the need of a place of refuge? (Maybe you were among those who felt the need this past week.) But it might be more probable that you have recently sought a spiritual refuge from the pressing battles of life. Where could you go? Where should you go?
  • As young David fled from the jealousy and hatred of King Saul, he often spoke of God as a place of refuge. Psalm 9:9“The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.”
  • In 1 Sam. 23 David is hiding out in the wilderness of Ziph.1 Sam 23:14And David stayed in strongholds in the wilderness, and remained in the mountains in the Wilderness of Ziph. Saul sought him every day, but God did not deliver him into his hand.

I. “I Will Make My Refuge” Notice David’s plea in Psalm 57:1-3“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by. I will cry out to God Most High, to God who performs all things for me. He shall send from heaven and save me; he reproaches the one who would swallow me up. Selah God shall send forth His mercy and His truth“.

A. The word phrase “make my refuge literally means to put one’s trust in something that will protect him. He uses the image of a mother bird who provides a hiding place for her chicks under her wing

1. David uses the same verb in Psalm 144:1-2, where he describes his refuge as a “high tower” and a “fortress” . [Psalm 144:2 – “My lovingkindness and my fortress, my high tower and my deliverer, my shield and the One in whom I take refuge, who subdues my people under me.”] David understood the value of a high place that was secure and protected. A place to hide.

B. God has always recognized the need of a refuge for His people. God gave the Israelites “cities of refuge” for the protection of those who accidentally took the life of another. (Num. 35) As long as the accused person stayed in that city he was safe from the retribution of others.

1. God placed Himself before Israel as their refuge in times of trouble. The prophet Isaiah sang God’s praises in Isa. 25:4; “For You have been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat; for the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall“.

II. “A Very Present Help in Trouble” – Read Psalm 46(A song from the sons of Korah – doorkeepers, songleaders) This Psalm stands as a prominent expression of God’s protecting power over His people. As the people of Israel sang this song they were speaking of God’s protection in three stanzas, each followed by a “selah” (a pause in the singing to give time for reflection).

A. The Challenge of Our Trouble. (vs. 1-3 – “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah”

1. The Hebrew for “present help” here literally means “is found, or has been found”, indicating that God has proven Himself to be of immediate help. God knows what you need today. His counsel and consolation are relevant to my world. What troubles you now? Whatever it is, God can help.1.

a. The soul can be confident because God provides a refuge, even if the world is falling apart around them. The word refuge here is a different Hebrew word and means a shelter – implying the need of deliverance from a catastrophic event. (hurricane room)

B. The Secret of Our Confidence: v. 4-7 – There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. 5 God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn. 6 The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted. 7 The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

1. The secret of the confidence is the consciousness of the nearness of God. 3 times in 11 verses the Psalmist declares that God is with us (His people). He is a river of gladness in the midst of the city. Even when attacked by the enemy, God remains in the midst of his people, providing their needs. In John 14:18 Jesus promised his apostles he would not leave them orphans (desolate, or alone). The Spirit would provide guidance and assurance.

C. The Vindication of our confidence: v. 8-11 Come, behold the works of the Lord, Who has made desolations in the earth. 9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire. 10 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! 11 The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

1. What G.C. Morgan calls the vindication of our confidence is found in observing God’s activity. He proves Himself to be a true refuge and help. He is in control.

a. Notice the twice repeated refrain in verses 7 & 11. The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. It reveals the twofold conception of God – 1) He is the King (Lord) of His army; and 2) He is the God of the individual (Jacob).

III. How is God our Refuge? I am convinced that God cares about all of our troubles. As a loving Father, He is interested In every detail of our lives. Jesus’ teaching on prayer implies this, as God does not give his children a snake when they ask for a fish, or a scorpion when they ask for an egg. (Lk. 11:12). In this framework of answering prayers, he protects us from the everyday troubles we face.

A. He is a Refuge Against Want: How many contented people do you know? Contentment is a rare quality. We think we know what would make us happy… Just one more thing, right. But that one thing will only lead to another want. (Story of king who had acquired everything he could think of, but still w/o contentment. He sent for his wise man and inquired. He told him to find a contented man and wear his shirt for a day and he would find the secret to contentment. But when he found him he didn’t have a shirt.) Contentment is an attitude that protects us.

1. Matt. 6:33 – God’s care gives us the ability to seek spiritual things first. Heb.13:5-6 “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”(NIV)

2. Prayer is the catalyst toward real contentment. Not because God will give us everything we want, but because through prayer we learn to trust in God. We may learn the significance of the answer, “my grace is sufficient for thee for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). How much time do you spend alone in prayer to your Father?

B. He is a Refuge Against My Enemies: Do you have any enemies? If you fight the battle long enough, you will. People who may want to destroy you. I know one who does. But God can protect us from our enemies through the faith that sustains us against his accusations.

1. Psalm 27:1 “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” – David was fearless as he faced the giant. How? David had seen God’s ability to protect him. He understood that He was not alone, and that God was in control. So he refused to be intimidated by Goliath’s words. There is an old English proverb that I like. “Fear knocked at the door; Faith answered. Nobody was there.”

2. God protects us through a call to obedience. Satan cannot deal with obedience that comes from unfeigned faith in God. 1 Peter 2:12having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. 1 Peter 3:14-17But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

a. Remember the familiar words of David in Psalm 23:3-5He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil;

C. He is a refuge against sin: There are 3 aspects of God’s help here.

1. God protects me from temptation, and provides a way of escape. Jesus instructed even his closest disciples to pray for God’s protection from temptation. Matt 6:13…And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil (one.)” This is a prayer we desperately need to offer for our young people. God is more powerful than Satan. Even when we are tempted God provides a way of escape. 1 Cor 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it”.

2. When I do sin God hides me in the refuge of forgiveness and protects me from condemnation. We sing the familiar refrain, “Come from the loathsome way of sin, hide you in the blood of Jesus. Come for the Lord will take you in, Hide you in the blood of Jesus.” ; … “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee, Let the water & the blood from thy wounded side which flowed, be of sin the double cure, save from wrath and make me pure.”

a. Satan would seek to accuse me (as his name indicates; diabolos, devil, means false accuser) but the blood of Jesus makes that impossible. Rom. 8:33-34“Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” God is always willing to forgive every sin that I am willing to acknowledge & repent of.(Acts 17:30)

3. God protects me from overbearing guilt. The assurance of forgiveness is a refuge against the pain of further guilt or life-numbing fear. Rom. 7:24-25“O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God– through Jesus Christ our Lord!” One commentator suggests that Paul’s use of “body of death” was from the common practice of tying the body of the victim to the murderer as he awaited punishment. He could not escape his deed. Though forgiveness does not erase the consequences of our actions, it does allow for us to start over again, and not be overcome with the sorrow of our past actions. Paul warns against “being swallowed up with too much sorrow” in 2 Cor. 2. God encourages me to protect my conscience so that it can properly “afflict me” when I sin. But God does not want us to allow Satan to use our consciousness of sin to destroy us.

a. This points out to me that God’s refuge to one who has sinned may come through me, and how I react toward him. I must reflect God’s willingness to forgive. (parable of the unforgiving servant). The church should be a refuge for the afflicted conscience of those who have sinned and been forgiven.

Conclusion: God is with His people. No matter how bad it looks. (“This in not an abandoned car.” As bad as it may look, this is not an abandoned world.) He is a present help.

How safe are you? As Americans, we may be feeling less secure all the time. But if we are Christians we can have confidence both here and in the future.

But if you are not a child of God, there is no refuge. And the further away we move from God, the less refuge we have from the storms of life. Come to the blood of Jesus.