All strength, ample refuge
6-7 Blessed be God—he heard me praying. He proved he's on my side; I've thrown my lot in with him. Now I'm jumping for joy, and shouting and singing my thanks to him. 8-9 God is all strength for his people, ample refuge for his chosen leader; save your people and bless your heritage. Care for them; carry them like a good shepherd. (Psalm 28:6-9)
David had been through a rough stretch in his life. Companions had turned against him, conspiring to destroy him and keep him from the role as leader of the kingdom. The constant running, the immediate danger, had caused David to cry out to God for help. In his cry, he says he has "thrown his lot in with God" - in other words, he has abandoned his own way of doing things and now completely relies on God to be all that is needed in the moment. David exclaims with such joyful exuberance that god has heard him praying. It is probably at least once every week or so that I hear someone describe the struggle of "hearing from God". Their prayers seem to bounce the skies - not really getting through (or so we'd like to think). Yet, we can see over and over in David's writings, God hears - the answer may be delayed, but he heard when we cried out!
Somehow, we don't think God is "on our side" if we don't have an awesome outcome to every circumstance. We wonder if our prayers have fallen on deaf ears. Sometimes, the circumstances have proven to be overwhelming, uncomfortable, or just plain undesirable - not because God has not listened, but because we have chosen the course we are on apart from listening to him. Ouch! Now that I've gone meddling, perhaps I should say that I am not immune to this same type of moving out ahead of God and then asking God to bail me out! I also struggle with the "God, why aren't you listening?" prayers. The skies can be like brass to me, as well.
Look at how David trusts in God. He has a conviction in his heart that God is all strength to his people - not just to the "good ones" or the ones that "deserve" his attention. God is ALL the strength we need - plain and simple. Finding ourselves in a moment of rehearsing our misery is not an uncommon occurrence - but finding ourselves celebrating the strength and shelter of our all powerful God should be the "norm". Look at the exact way David describes God - he is ALL strength. GOD - Jehovah - the one who is unchangeable in his promises, permanent in his commitment, and divine in his compassion - is all the strength we need for this moment. He is our physical strength. He is also our mental strength - giving us the power to overcome negative self-talk; the authority to stand against evil thoughts. There is a "potency" in his presence. Where his presence is, there you will find ample resources for the present need. We just need to "tap" them.
David sees God as an ample refuge - not some mediocre, broken down shack we can find some shelter from the heat, a little protection from the rain - but an ample refuge. God is fully sufficient and more than adequate for every purpose in our lives. He is a God of "liberality" - a giving, caring, and compassionate God. His presence is a place of shelter and protection from all forms of danger - real or perceived.
David asks three things of this ALL strong and ample refuge - save us, bless us, and care for us. Save us - rescue us from all possible error or harm. Save us - because we find ourselves in circumstances where we lack the power to come out on the other side unhurt. Bless us - because without his divine favor, life is not worth living. Care for us - like a good shepherd, tending with gentle care over his sheep. Care for us - be concerned about us, and let us see that concern. David calls us God's heritage - we belong to him by reason of our birth into his family. Would God ever let his heritage go into a state of disrepair? Would he ever shirk his duty as the Good Shepherd? Absolutely not. When we feel the skies are brass - he IS listening. When we feel that we cannot trust - he is faithful. When we are more focused on the battle than on the Commander of our lives - he stands strong on our behalf. God is our ample refuge. It is time to lift his praises!