“For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat; for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall, like heat in a dry place.” Isaiah 25:4-5a (ESV)
This verse gives us four ways that God promised to provide for the needy in Isaiah’s day. The prophet Isaiah knew the wonder of God and what He did for His own who were in need. Number one, God is a stronghold (defense) to the poor or those without the means to have a defense. Number two God is also a stronghold (defense) to those oppressed and in need of help. A stronghold was a place or means of safety and protection. A third is the shelter He provides when the storms of life come upon us. And when the heat is on God provides shade as the fourth way. He is ourrefuge and we can look to Him when we are threatened and wonder how things will work sort out for us. We trust Him for shelter when life is stormy. Sometimes we face people who have us up against a wall – we can trust and know God is with us to help us. So, let’s allow the words of our verse to remind us today how full sufficient our God is to be there and meet our every need.
“Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.” – Proverbs 30:5-6 (NASB)
These are “the words of Agur the son of Jakeh the oracle.” We can only suggest that Agur was an otherwise unknown sage who could have been a student or teacher of wisdom at the time of Solomon. The words are identified as an oracle which was often used of the words of a prophet. The verses or proverbs we’ve selected compare the certainty of God’s revelation and the uncertainty of our speculation of what God’s words mean. Stating that every word of God is ‘tested’ is literally translated ‘tried’ in verse 5. The same teaching comes to us in Psalm 12:6 “The words of the Lord are pure words; As silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times.” Proverbs 30:6 delivers a powerful affirmation on the inspired nature of God’s canonical Word to Israel. To add to or subtract from God’s Word is to deny God as the standard of truth. The same instruction and warning are given in Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32. It is a first and frequent practice of false teachers to modify the words of God. The Bible concludes with the warning again in Revelation 22:18-19 with a more dire warning.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” – Proverbs 14:12 (ESV)
“In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.” – Proverbs 14:26 (ESV)
Two Proverbs with promises. One a promise of death the other a promise of salvation. Discussions with those who do not yet believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior often effect resistance. Many people simply cannot see that the way they are is not the right way. It seems so reasonable and so much makes sense in their minds. At the same time, the message of the Gospel seems unreasonable and even silly. The truth is this, rejection of God’s offer of salvation through Jesus Christ leads to the way of death. Jesus made this clear in Matthew 7:13-14. “For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Our second proverb is a Christian paradox—confidence—issues out of fear. Abraham sacrificed his son in the fear of God: but he was fully confident “that God was able to raise him up from the dead.” By faith, our fear of God gives us victory over the doubts, of the the enemy.
“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” Psalm 118: 8-9 (NASB)
We might ask what it means to take refuge in the Lord? We are glad that the psalmist really explains it by what he says in the last part of each verse. There he uses the word trust. If we take the time to listen to what people are concerned with ⸺ we are talking about faith believers, ⸺ we find many who trust in “a way of life.” They fret and worry about how our society is changing and what once was common piety is being cancelled by a sinful world. God has been left out of the process of reckoning and replaced by wanton heathenism. We turn to take refuge in the Lord by reaffirming our trust in Him. Our teach us that it is better to put our confidence (trust) in the Lord than in any human being. Our presidents, princes, and kings are not good object of this kind of trust. So if we need to depend on the help of any person us let’s be sure that our real trust is first and always on our God. Trusting in God is a sure and safe means to find God’s way that never fails us.
“He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. ” – Psalm 91:4 (ESV)
The imagery in this verse will be very familiar to anyone who has lived where their chickens have the run of the yard. When a hen’s brood has hatched, her chicks follow her wherever she goes. She leads them to food and they learn how to find it for themselves. If ever the shadow of a hawk passes over the hen she senses the danger and sends out a call to her chicks. They run to her and hide under her spread her wings. Her wing feathers keeping them safe from the sharp eyes of the hawk who can swiftly dive and snatch up the small chicks for a meal. That’s a metaphor the psalmist gives us of God’s faithful protection. God will cover us with his ‘pinions’ and we find refuge under His ‘wings.” Our God is spirit and doesn’t actually have wings or feathers but the psalmist says it this way to help us visualize God’s protection. It’s God’s faithfulness, not ours. God’s faithfulness is like a shield or buckler – a small shield worn on the arm. God, our protector, promises refuge and safe places we need. When we face threats from the devil we need protection.
“God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.” Psalm 46:1-3 (KJV)
It was just a few days ago that we considered the promises from God’s Word found in the book of Isaiah. The promise was that even if mountains may depart and the hills be removed, God’s love would never fail to be here for us. Today we consider again a comparison of God’s attributes with mountains being moved, this time into the sea. God promises to be our refuge (shelter) from storms and danger. Such threats are around us all the time and we may not even know every time we are in such peril. Think of those who were on that jet that lost most of an engine. Disasters happen and we are not always protected from them happening but God here promises that He is still our refuge and strength. Strong enough even to bring us into His presence or see us safely home. Floods and earthquakes are uncontrollable and nearly unpredictable as are the crises and circumstances that might knock us off our feet. But God is and will be with us protecting us from fear and trouble. Let’s hold tightly to these promises today and next time disaster threatens, no matter what kind it is.
“Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” Psalm 57:1 (NIV)
“Mercy me!” These days it is the name of a band and/or the name of a song sung by a different band. It is an exclamation with the same meaning as the words David wrote in this Psalm. He was calling on God for mercy and for protection. Twice David had an opportunity to dispatch King Saul who was hunting to kill him. What is interesting about this verse is the fact that when David wrote this song he was recalling when he was hiding in a cave where he had an opportunity to be rid the threat of death by killing Saul and being rid of him permanently. Instead, David hid in the cave and trusted God. David, anointed to be King after Saul, knew his own need for a refuge for his soul, and he found that in God. He could be secure and safe spiritually. He didn’t have to kill Saul. David chose to trust in God who promised to keep Him safe forever. We need and have the same refuge. God has promised us a safe place with Him for our souls, for eternity. So we can say with David, “We have our refuge in our God.”