“Let us take refuge from this world. You can do this in spirit even if you are kept here in body. You can at the same time be here and present to the Lord. Your soul must hold fast to Him, you must follow after Him in your thoughts, you must tread His ways by faith, not in outward show.” – Saint Ambrose
REFUGE is both the condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or trouble; and something that provides shelter. A refuge is also an institution that provides safe accommodations usually for women who have suffered violence from a spouse or partner. It is derived from the Latin refugium – re-‘back’ + fugere ‘flee.’ Have you ever felt the need to flee? To run away from a place or situation of danger? I have, and it’s a horrible feeling.
At the 10 year memorial of the September 11, 2001 bombings, former President Barak Obama read from Psalm 46:
1God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.2Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; 3Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah…4There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.5God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn. 6The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted. 7The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah…8Come, behold the works of the Lord, Who has made desolations in the earth. 9He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire.10Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! 11The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
God is our refuge. We can run to Him when we’re in trouble. The Hebrew word machaseh also means shelter – a place giving temporary protection from bad weather or danger. My husband once managed Cincinnati’s City Gospel Mission —which provides formerly incarcerated, addicted, and homeless men and women food and accommodations. Shelter is a shielded or safe condition. It is protection from something harmful. It also means to prevent someone from having to do or face something difficult or unpleasant. In medieval times, a church’s sanctuary was a place of refuge or safety, where fugitives who’d unintentionally done harm were immune from arrest. There are times that even the guilty need a place to which they can run. Israel called these 6 city shelters Cities of Refuge (cf. Numbers 35).
One of my mother’s favorite hymns was, A Shelter in the Time of Storm by Vernon J. Charlesworth. The lyrics say, “The Lord’s our Rock in Him we hide, a shelter in the time of storm. Secure whatever ill betide, a shelter in the time of storm. Oh Jesus is a Rock in a weary land, a weary land, a weary land. Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land…a shelter in the time of storm.” I need the Lord to be my refuge, my rock and my shelter…how about you?