Our Refuge and Strength

“Finding Refuge,” (the Medieval city of Barga), © Lynn Abbott Studios, Used with Permission.

Editor’s Note:  Dear Friends, Please forgive my quiet this week.  I am currently moving my art studio and thus, it has been difficult  to complete paintings for my meditations here.  I hope I will be able to swiftly put my workspace back together, and resume my regular posting schedule.  Thank you for understanding. 

©2018 Lynn Abbott

Quite honestly, I don’t know what actually happened.  I have no idea how it came about…

The day started off well enough. The flutter of soft cherry blossoms signaled spring, and the artist in me wished to bring beauty to my garden.  Just after breakfast, I casually mentioned to my husband that I planned a trip to the local nursery.

His face brightened and he said, “Pick up some flowers for the window boxes while you are there.”

Either he shares my love of gardening or he was happy to avoid any form of shopping.  Your guess is as good as mine.

Even so, I was happy for the enthusiastic endorsement, and added the nursery to my long list of errands.   After several stops, I finally pulled into the nursery’s parking lot.

Because I had a lot of plants to purchase, I grabbed a flatbed trolley and scampered through the greenhouse.  I reached for many beautiful flowers and lovely leafy bushes.

Just before I checked out, I spied a spectacular petunia at the end of an aisle.  So I popped it in my cart, placing it right next to the verbena and geraniums.

I was visiting cheerfully with the cashier when a petite senior tapped me on the shoulder.

“Excuse me,” she said curtly.  “Did you take THAT from my cart?” she demanded, pointing the spectacular, purple petunia.

I was dumbfounded.

I have no idea how it came about…

“Why no,” I stammered.  “I didn’t take it, but would you like it?  I promise you I didn’t take it.  I got it over there,” I explained, waving my hand in the general direction of the greenhouse aisles.

“I’d be happy to let you have it,” I trailed.

She looked dubious. “No,” she said.  “You answered my question.”

As I unloaded my cart for the cashier,  my mind whirled.  I tried to recall if there were a cart parked at the end of the greenhouse aisle.

I supposed it possible that in my hurry that I mistook a flatbed for part of the aisle.  But it did not seem likely. Even so, the other shopper obviously believed I had kidnapped her petunia.

I turned and stepped toward the lady.  Touching her arm gently, I offered, “Are you sure you would not like the plant?  I would much rather you have it than for you to think that I took it from you.  The plant isn’t that important to me…”

She shook her head.  “No, you answered my question,” she said firmly.

Evidently, there was nothing I could say or do that would persuade her that I had not intentionally nabbed her prize petunia.

I stood at the cashier uncertain as to whether I should insist she take the plant.  But she had turned away, and so I reluctantly placed the plant on the counter before me.

I felt terrible.  Perhaps, I had inadvertently and unconsciously done something to offend.  I didn’t know.  But at that moment, I longed to hide.

Like Anne Shirley who mistakenly sold Rachel Lynde’s Jersey cow, I felt I had somehow gotten myself into yet another scrape.

The other shopper obviously believed I had kidnapped her petunia.

I do that a lot.  Get into trouble accidentally, that is.

More often than not,  I look for refuge from angry AARP members armed with swinging pocketbooks.

Okay, so I exaggerate just a little.  But when I feel I have offended, I honestly wish to hide. After all, Rachel Lynde can potentially become a formidable adversary.

I think everyone has accidentally offended someone at some point or another. And many of us have paid a high price for our blunders.

David certainly knew what it was to run from someone he had unintentionally offended.  King Saul hated him.

David probably found the situation puzzling.  After all, he had served Saul well.  He had valiantly fought Saul’s enemies; he’d killed Goliath.

That’s right.  David offended by simply serving well. And Saul’s insecurity soon gave way to jealousy and resentment, (1 Samuel 18:8b).   You see, Saul had previously rebelled against God and as a result, he lost God’s blessing.

Thus, Saul knew his days were numbered as king, and he scrambled to hang onto power.  All his anger, bitterness and resentment found focus in his fear of David.  After all, David enjoyed God’s blessing and the praise of God’s people.

David eventually had to run for his life.  But even that did not solve the problem.  Saul pursued David. For this reason, David spent years hiding in caves.

And although David repeatedly had opportunities to kill Saul, David refrained.  He waited and trusted God for protection.

David later wrote, “God is our refuge and strength.  A very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1).

Without a doubt, David’s words embody authentic faith. If anyone understood the necessity of a place of refuge, David did.   Yes, David knew what it meant to be misunderstood, to be hunted for an unintentional offense.

I do that a lot.  Get into trouble accidentally, that is.

David recognized what conflict at work or within a family could do.  David personally experienced pain as the result of someone’s bitterness and commitment to revenge.

Yet, David also knew where to find refuge.  Refuge in time of trouble.

Recently, as I studied the life of Joshua, I found new depth of meaning for the word “refuge.”  Finding refuge, actually,  is the focus of Joshua 20.  And I believe David likely wrote his Psalm within this context.

In the Law, God had not only addressed premeditated crimes, but He also made provision for the inadvertent offense.

Yes, Abba has always been a God of grace. And, after all,  sometimes people accidentally hurt others.

Abba knows this.  For this reason, He instituted a safe-guard of grace for His people.   He first hinted that there would be such a safety net in the book of Exodus, and later, Abba established the plan through Joshua.

In Joshua 20, God told Joshua that 6 cities were to be designated as “Cities of Refuge.” The cities would serve as a safe haven for any Hebrew who had accidentally killed another.  It was God’s provision for manslaughter.

The offending individual could run to a city of refuge; present his case before the elders of that city and reside there in safety.  The guilty party could find gracious refuge from the one who sought revenge.

In this way, a person could find immediate protection from certain death. The city also provided long-term sanctuary if the one who sought shelter remained in the city until his adversary died.

David knew where to find refuge.

With this in mind, I read David’s Psalms with greater appreciation.  David’s words take on even deeper significance: God is my city of refuge.

I love this beautiful portrait of grace. Its symbolic significance becomes clear when I consider that you and I have offended. Some of it has been premeditated; sometimes, we have offended in ignorance.

Nevertheless, our failure has been noted.  Of course, none of it is unusual. Our transgressions are common to all of humanity, (Romans 3:23).

But when Adam and Eve rebelled in the garden, Satan screamed for justice. In fact, he cries for blood now.

For this reason, without Christ who died in our stead, you and I would be destined to remain on the run.  Satan is a deadly enemy–an angry, resentful being whose thirst for revenge is never sated.

Yet, Christ is our city of refuge.  When the furious devil called for our destruction, we ran home to Abba.

I am so thankful that in Christ, we are not only saved from ultimate destruction, but that we also find grace to deflect the daily onslaughts of the enemy.

And I know from experience that the minute I step out of Abba’s protection, and try to do things my own way, Satan ceases the opportunity.  Without a doubt, the enemy continues to lurk outside the city, “seeking someone to devour,” (I Peter 5:8).

It’s true: our lives have been redeemed through Christ.  But our enemy still remains.

And Satan uses every weapon in his arsenal to attempt to destroy us.  His methods are as varied as life itself: he levels false accusations, encourages conflict at home and at work, and even uses fatigue and physical illness to dishearten us.

Christ is our city of refuge.

And the enemy celebrates our every misstep with words of recrimination.  He expertly shoots fiery darts from outside the city gates.

Thus, our daily dwelling place must be in Christ. Our very lives depend upon it.

Of course, unlike the early Hebrews, you and I carry our comfort and refuge with us. We do not run to a city dwelling made with hands.

Jesus reminds us, “Abide in me, and I in you,” (John 15:4a)

In Him, we find security.  In Him, we find refuge from the enemy that seeks to destroy all that Abba loves.

When you and I are falsely accused, when we are misunderstood, when we inadvertently hurt others or when some wish us harm, we run to Christ, our refuge.

He hears our case. He offers forgiveness and grace for our offenses. And in Him, we dwell securely.

In Christ, we truly find our refuge and our strength.

“The name of the LORD is a strong tower; The righteous runs into it and is safe,” ~Proverbs 18:10

“My soul, wait in silence for God only.  For my hope is from Him.  He only is my rock and my salvation.  My stronghold; I shall not be shaken.” ~Psalm 62:5-6