God, the Refuge of His People!
William Nicholson, 1862
"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble." Psalm 46:1
"The righteous is more excellent than his neighbor," the wicked. This remark will hold good in reference to moral character and conduct — and also spiritual experience, and enjoyment. The righteous possesses privileges and advantages of which the wicked are ignorant. When they are in trouble, where is their refuge?
When the righteous are visited by calamity, they have an unfailing refuge in God: "Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge." Psalm 62:5-7
I. The Necessity of a Divine Refuge.
1. As it respects man as a sinner, he needs a refuge.
(1.) He is guilty, having broken the righteous law of God.
(2.) He is condemned, and the object of pursuit; Galatians 3:10. As a guilty transgressor, Divine justice pursues him, demanding satisfaction, etc., etc. Nor will God relax that pursuit until satisfaction is obtained from him, or from an adequate substitute.
(3.) He is helpless. He cannot give satisfaction, Romans 3:19, 20. He is weak, Romans 5:6. He can give no atonement for the past, Micah 6:6, 7.
2. As it respects the believer, he needs a refuge. Though he is saved from guilt and condemnation of sin — yet he is not finally delivered from the power and presence of sin.
He still dwells in the body of sin and death;
he still feels the evil heart of unbelief;
he dwells in a corrupt world.
(1.) He needs a refuge, on account of his never ceasing conflict . . .
with his own heart,
with Satan, his mighty Adversary,
from the world, with its allurements, its opposition to piety, its smiles and its frowns.
The believer is a soldier, and numerous and strong are the enemies with whom he has to contend! Ephesians 6:12.
(2.) He needs a refuge, on account of the many trials and sorrows of this world. "Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward!" "Many are the afflictions of the righteous!" "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows!" John 16:33
Trials and sorrows arise from . . .
temporal losses and poverty,
personal and relative afflictions,
the slander and persecution of human tongues.
(3.) The believer will need a refuge in a dying hour, and at the last day.
(4.) The believer needs a refuge on account of his helplessness. This has been acknowledged by the most eminent saints, 2 Corinthians 12:10. The Savior and his apostles fully stated it, "Without me you can do nothing!" John 15:5.
He has to perform duties, and exercise graces connected with eternity — and therefore he needs the eternal God for his refuge, to incline his heart and strengthen it.
He has mighty, cunning, and invisible foes to contend against, and therefore he needs refuge in Him who is more than all they who are against him.
He is surrounded by numerous temptations to which thousands around him are yielding obedience, and he feels that nothing can preserve him but the arm of Omnipotence!
II. The Nature and Properties of This Refuge.
A refuge is a place of safe retreat from danger, where a person may be protected, and escape the pursuit of an enemy. Hence the "cities of refuge," Numbers 35:13, etc. God is called the refuge of his people, Deuteronomy 33:27; Isaiah 25:4, etc.
1. God is a refuge for the guilty. Even as the cities of refuge were provided for the guilty manslayer, so Jehovah is a refuge in and through Christ against conscience, wrath, and the law, which accuse and pursue guilty sinners. Christ is the way to the Father, and the only way, Acts 4:12. It is here the most guilty — the vilest of the vile — find refuge and support. He pardons, etc. "Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us!" Hebrews 6:18
2. He is a refuge for his people in conflict. Such he was to David, 2 Samuel 22:1-3; Psalm 142:4-6. He will give grace sufficient . . .
to war a good warfare,
to mortify the deeds of the body,
to resist Satan,
to conquer the world.
Hence he has prepared spiritual armor, Ephesians 6, and he will "teach our hands to war," etc. He will be present in every engagement, etc. He is the fortress and garrison, Proverbs 18:10. Hence the triumph of the Apostle, "Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us!" Romans 8:34, etc.
3. God is a refuge in trials and sorrows. "The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble!" Psalm 9:9. "But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble!" He stands by the furnace, and tempers the blast. He delivers from trouble in answer to prayer; if not, he gives strength according to the day. He sweetens the bitter cup, and sanctifies every visitation. "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!" Romans 8:28. Psalm 41:1-3.
4. He is a refuge of strength for the weak and helpless. The Father will defend his child. The Great Shepherd will defend his helpless lamb, or wandering sheep! "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand!" Isaiah 41:10. "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble." Psalm 46:1. He inclines the soul to duty; by his Spirit he animates it he gives strength and ability when most needed, Psalm 29:11.
5. He will be a refuge m death, and at the judgment day. Then will he is recognized as a God in covenant, and he will save his people from the presence of sin.
1. Behold the excellency of this refuge.
It is suitable.
It is strong and effectual.
All are safe there.
It is easy of access.
It is unfailing.
2. To enjoy this refuge, we must fly to it — and must be in it. A mere profession will not do.
3. How awful the state of the sinner! They have no refuge or hiding place from the eternal storm of God's wrath!