TODAY’S READING: Psalm 7, 27, 31, 52, 142
David was not yet king. In fact, he was running for his life. He sent his family as refugees to the nation of Jordan and he fled to the nation of Philistia. He hid in caves and in the wilderness. In all his hiding and fleeing, David learned that shelter and safety were not found in a place.
There is no safe nation, for there is no sin-free nation. For years we have hosted college age students in the Middle East and we have often received worried phone calls or emails from their parents. When I hear of these mass shootings in America, I desperately want to write a letter to them that says:
We are so thankful that your children are with us in the Middle East during these turbulent days in America. Not only do they not have to deal with decadent magazines at the checkout counter in Walmart, but there is no drunk driving in our country and our schools and universities have never had a shooting—ever. Both the unborn and the school-aged children are more secure over here. We would be delighted to keep your students with us here in the Arab world until things stabilize in America.
Of course, I would never write that letter because the Arab world has its own challenges. But again, that’s the point: No place is safe anymore.
David discovered that the only safety was (and is) in a person, in God. There were (and are) no guarantees for any place on earth. In Psalm 27, David said: “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple. For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me” (vv. 4–5). God’s pavilion could be Gath. It could be a cave in the wilderness. It could be field or forest, prison, or the eventual palace. The geography doesn’t matter, for as David reminds us, God is our rock and our fortress (Psalm 31:3), and He will hide us in the secret place of His presence (v. 20). When Doeg the Edomite betrayed him, David stood tall and said: “I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever. I will praise you forever, because You have done it; and in the presence of Your saints I will wait on Your name, for it is good” (52:8–9). When in the recesses of a dark cave, he said, “Refuge has failed me… I cried out to You, O Lord: I said, ‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living’” (142:4–5).
We can send and go to the most volatile places and peoples of earth because of this assuring truth: Our place of refuge is not in a Western, developed suburb sanitized from all disease and walled off from all criminals. Our place of refuge is in a person, in God Himself, for all other refuges fail us.
In the ebb and flow of world history (directly linked to the redemption narrative that biblical missiology explains), there is no enduring physical refuge. Nations that make Jehovah their God enjoy His blessings. He lives among them and uses them to bless others. When those nations rebel (as they always do), the blessing is removed and the slow decline of cultures unfolds. Prosperity shifts to those who will use it for the glory of God—wittingly or otherwise. David put it this way: “So the congregation of the peoples shall surround You; for their sakes, therefore, return on high. The Lord shall judge the peoples; judge me…” (7:7–8). David knew that all the nations will be judged according to whether they knew and obeyed Jehovah, whether they lived holy so He could live among them, whether they blessed others with what Jehovah provided. David knew that Jehovah is a just judge and angry with the wicked every day (v. 11). That’s the real danger. For neither our safety nor our destruction is a place or a human. Our protection and our demise are found in Jehovah. Our fate depends on whether or not we obey God to bless the nations. Our times are in His hand (31:15). May He save us for His mercy’s sake (v. 16). May He use us to offer His shelter to Vietnamese and Cambodians as their recent history shows that geography offers no shelter. Maybe we can be used to help them find their rock.