19th June 2016
The God Who Is Our Refuge.
Jeremiah 20 verses 7-18.
We spoke about fear last week, and I want us to continue this morning thinking about fear, but thinking about it in the context of our safety and indeed the refuge that we can find in our God.
Our world, our society as highlighted pretty forcefully this past few weeks can and does present to us a pretty scary place at times.
We are gobsmacked by the level of depravity that manifests itself in what human beings can do to each other.
Our own lives as we face the many ups and downs that make up our journey can be rollercoasters of emotions as we hit the highs and sink into the lows.
We spoke last week about the need for us to expose our fears and get rid of them and the need for us to stop cowering in fear but have instead an expectation of the power and blessing of God.
As I was thinking about that I felt the need for us to look at fear and the need to do all these things I just mentioned, but to reinforce the wonderful truth that we are not left out on our own to deal with this, to wrestle with this, because our fears are not all down to us, and there are many times in our lives that we need to find rest and shelter and support, to enable us to face our fears and deal with them appropriately.
Therefore this morning it is this amazing picture of God as our refuge that I want us to think about.
Psalm 91, look at verse 4, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge…”
It is that picture of the mother hen lifting her wings when danger is near and the chicks disappearing under them.
The picture of safety and security under the protective wing. Friends today God delights in spreading his protective wings and enfolding his frightened, weary, beaten up, worn out children.
“Hide here for a while, get out of the danger. Regroup. Recuperate. Find new strength.”
The time will of course come when God will lift his wings and urge his children to venture back out into the world, but they will do it a litter calmer, a little stronger and a bit more secure.
Have you ever experienced that in your life, maybe you can testify to the refuge that you have found in God when situations have just became to much.
Maybe for someone here this morning who is really struggling this is the best news that you have ever heard.
Or maybe for others it’s a case of , so God is my refuge, so what, I don’t need a refuge, I don’t need to feel his wing over me, I’m doing just fine thanks very much.
This raises our first question this morning. Okay God is our refuge but:-
WHO NEEDS IT?
Who needs this refuge? Oppressed people. Weary people. Fearful people. Worried people. Disappointed people. Lonely people. Grieving people. Heartbroken people.
Psalm 9:9 promises this, “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.”
You know the wonderful thing about the character of God that we can glean from that verse and the others that we have mentioned, it is this. God delights in providing a refuge.
Doing so isn’t a bother to him. It’s not a side line that he does or something that takes up some of his hours. It is the very heart of what he does, and who he is, and indeed the essence of what it means for him to be our God.
One writer says, “His overwhelming, irrational love for us makes it a joy for him to hide us for a time.”
Maybe for you just now, things are going just fine, but I think we would all agree that we are being a bit optimistic if we think that life is always going to be fine. The odds are overwhelming that between this day and the day that we die, we are going to have our share of heartache, pain, and adversity. Feel the crippling effects of fear in our lives.
Friends isn’t it at those moments we realise our need of a safe harbour.
You will all know by now that I am not good on boats. I have told you this before but when I worked with the Fishermen’s Mission up in Scrabster I used to have to go across to Orkney once a year with Christmas Parcels for the retired fisher folk.
The Pentland Firth in December tends not to be to clever.
I always wrestled with the thought of delivering the parcels in July, you know for an early Christmas but always resisted, so I just gritted my teeth and got on with it.
One year the passage to Orkney was okay, but the way back was horrendous, they had to go via Scapa Flow, when it was bad. It was so rough that the restaurant staff were just putting the food straight into sick bags.
Anyway I spent the whole voyage flat on my back eyes tight shut, praying that the sea sickness tablet that my kind hosts in Stromness had given me, would hold out. They did.
I was never so glad to reach Scrabster, it was amazing although I didn’t see the harbour, I knew we were there because they motion of the boat suddenly stopped, because we were in the protective waters of the harbour.
The storm couldn’t touch us there, and I was able to relax and recuperate.
When trouble hits, we need to find a refuge, we can solve other problems later, our immediate need so often is to get out of the storm. The Bible tells us that God is that refuge.
This takes us to our second question this morning?
HOW DO WE FIND IT?
The first step of accessing the refuge that God provides is so simple, yet so often we miss it.
To enter, to know the refuge of God, the first thing we need to do is to call out to him. The Lord says in Psalm 91:15, “He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honour him.”
You know when I stop and think about it, I can’t really work out why this calling on God thing works but friends it does.
The Bible tells us to walk by faith, not by sight, and this is one of those times when we can’t understand why something works, we can only trust in God.
For centuries, Christians have poured out their hearts to God and found treasured times of refuge in the midst of turmoil. This is good news, we don’t have to get out a map and look for cities of refuge, we don’t have to drive looking for solitude, you know away from it all.
We don’t have to wait until the next church service. Anywhere will do, they are all as good as the most elaborate cathedral.
We can access the refuge of God anytime, anywhere, we just need to acknowledge our need, move from self-sufficiency to dependence and ask God to become our hiding place.
Have you felt the arms of God surround you, in times of difficulty. I have and I haven’t. I can honestly say that I have when I have called out to God.
I can think of times when amidst the confusion and the hurt and all the rest of it, I did call out to God, and yes all that stuff didn’t go away, but I knew God’s refuge, his hand upon me.
Yet there have been other times of trial when I have just plodded on myself, shut God out, and haven’t known that refuge.
We said it earlier, God is there for us, he delights to be there for us, we just need to cry out to him a bit more often, and feel the comfort of his arms around us. If we cry out to God in our need, He responds and becomes a refuge for us.
The next step to entering God’s refuge is to pour out whatever is concerning us. Psalm 62 verse 8, says, “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.”
You know I think you will agree some of us find it easier to pour out our heart to someone than others do. Some find it easier to come to their pastor or to friends when they have a problem than others do.
It can be the same for us with God. Listen to this writer, “In a curious way, the passwords that open the gates into the refuge of God are the soul wrenching words that flow out of our hearts when we finally decide to trust God.
It happens when we tell him how bad it really is and how close to the edge we really are. Somewhere in the middle of taking that step of faith, the gates open, and God’s wings extend.”
One of the people who had to learn this lesson was Jeremiah. God called Jeremiah to bring a message of truth into a hostile environment, basically to a people who didn’t want to hear it. The people tried to shout Jeremiah down, and when they couldn’t shut him up, they beat him up and put him in a set of stocks in front of the public gate of the city.
Thus totally humiliated Jeremiah had to take all sorts of abuse from all sorts of people.
Jeremiah gets so worn down by all this hostility and resistance that he laments, “O Lord you deceived me, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me.” (v7-8)
Then in verses 14&15 he gets really morose, “Cursed be the day I was born! May the day my mother bore me not be blessed! Cursed be the man who brought my father the news, who made him very glad saying, a child is born to you – a son.”
And yet look what happens in the middle of this chaotic unedited prayer, Jeremiah stops and says, “Sing to the Lord! Give praise to the Lord! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked. (v13)
This prayer shows that Jeremiah is regrouping, Wait a minute I am still alive. And still somehow, mysteriously, I still feel cared for at this moment.
The situation didn’t change, yet in the midst of his heart felt cries to the Lord, this comes through.
We all hate weakness, but weakness in a sense is our friend here. Nothing will extinguish the experience of God’s love like false piety and dishonest heroism, putting on a brave face.
In times of real pain and difficulty,and fear, no matter what form they may take, we need to pour out our heart to God, tell him how it is, tell him how you really feel, be real, be honest, and friends it is when we are doing that, that we begin to feel the covering of God’s comforting presence.
So often we have this great hang up which says that we are not allowed to feel certain things, that when it comes to prayer before God then we aren’t allowed to express fear and hurt or disappointment and pain and we certainly are not allowed to voice these things about God.
If that were the case then there would be an awful lot of the Bible that would be missing, and friends there would be an awful lot of people who have never felt the comfort of refuge in our God.
When was the last time you had a time out. A time out with God?
Look at Jesus, nobody before or since has faced the responsibilities, duties, and pressures that Jesus bore, yet sometimes He would take an entire day and an entire night, grab a couple of disciples, and retreat to a safe place, a boat, a mountain, the desert.
And there Jesus would enter the refuge that His father had prepared for Him. Surrounded by safe people, Jesus could pour out his troubles to a God who would hear and cover him with his wings.
In that place of shelter, Jesus could regroup, restore his strength and sense of purpose, and get ready to go back into the world.
I will finish by saying that there is one other element of the refuge of God we haven’t mentioned, and I will briefly now. The bible teaches that there is an eternal city of refuge that awaits all of us who are his children.
In this city called heaven, there will never be another footstep chasing, no fear, heartbreak or loneliness or hurt or frustration or misunderstandings. None of these things will get through the gates of that city.
We will be able to relax, rest and feel safe and secure for all eternity.
Never a threat, never a worry, never a fear. All of that will be gone.
God is our refuge, and whether we are talking about the refuge we can find in him now or indeed in the future, both point to the character of our God, a God who loves us and is there for us, a love a refuge that is open to anyone and everyone who trust in Jesus Christ.
Are you struggling just now? Call on Him, pour out your concerns. Are you frustrated, are you overloaded, take a time out, call on him, pour out your concerns, regroup, be strengthened.
Or is all of this just an unknown to you? Maybe you don’t know this God in a personal way, maybe you feel this morning that you do need him, but now what? Come to Him call on Him, pour out your heart to Him, tell Him you need Him because you can’t do it on your own, trust your life to Jesus, and you will know Him.