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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A bastion of defense and sanctuary of offense

There is something special about having a place of sanctuary, isn't there?  When we have a place of retreat, we somehow feel a little better knowing we can go there to recover from the things of our day which only serve to beat us down and make us a little weary.  Another word for sanctuary is refuge or bastion.  The purpose is for our protection - something of a fortress is available for our defense and for our developing a good offense.


The way of the Lord is a stronghold to those with integrity, but it destroys the wicked.  (Proverbs 10:29 NLT)


God is solid backing to a well-lived life, but he calls into question a shabby performance.  (Proverbs 10:29 The Message)


As I found this scripture this morning, I wanted to bring you both translations because they each explore this idea of "sanctuary" a little differently.  In the New Living Translation, we are told our Lord is a stronghold (sanctuary, bastion) to those with integrity.  Yet, this same stronghold destroys the wicked!  Did you catch this when you first read through the verse?  I didn't until I re-read it a couple of times.  What is a place of refuge for one is the very thing which will destroy the other!  We see this as true throughout scripture, don't we?  Look at Israel and the surrounding nations - Israel enjoyed God's presence as their stronghold (sanctuary, bastion) while the heathen nations found the presence of God as a threat and a thing of dread!
Our second translation states it just a little differently, but with similar meaning.  God is a SOLID backing (bastion, stronghold) to a well-lived life - yet a life lived in the shabbiness of sinful self-indulgence is unable to enjoy the safety and protection of this same sanctuary.  


Some things to consider as we read these verses today:

- Not only is God our stronghold, but walking in the way he outlines for our lives is a place of "sanctuary" for us.  Sometimes I think we imagine a stronghold or sanctuary as being "someplace" rather than being a journey of consistent progress in the right direction.  It is just the opposite!  As we are "on the way" we enjoy the sanctuary of the presence of God.  We don't need to "retreat" to a physical place to enjoy his presence (sanctuary, bastion).  We simply need to be walking in the way of the Lord.


- Integrity is the "key" which unlocks the door of our sanctuary.  Let me just say this - the moral soundness of our walk is important!  In order to understand this a little better, let's use a picture to illustrate.  Think of getting dressed in the morning.  If you are female, there may be a few different items you will don to keep things in place and modestly covered.  If you are a guy, you probably might wear a few things us ladies would not, like a tie or a belt to hold all those things you like to attach to your waist.  Now, if you were to dress today by leaving off some of these things you use to "hold things in place" or "attach important stuff to", how would you feel?  You'd probably feel a little less than "perfectly" put together.  Integrity is the condition of having things together in right order.  When we try to make God our sanctuary, we are able to do so when things are in "right order" between us and God.  God calls into question any "shabby performance" - simply because his presence is enjoyed best when we have things in order within our lives!  


- We all need "backing" in our lives.  No one is able to live life completely without the help of another.  Try as we might, we will never be able to accomplish quite the same degree of performance as we can when we are doing it with the help of another.  There is no stronger assistance, no better "backer" of our lives than God himself.  We may hunt high and low attempting to find other things and people to "back us up" in life - but nothing outshines God's backing!


- The twenty-seventh verse of the same proverb says, "The Fear-of-God expands your life; a wicked life is a puny life." (The Message)  Isn't a sanctuary a place where we can "spread out" in rest, repose, and refreshing?  The idea of sanctuary leads us to believe we can "recover" and "retake" ground we may have lost during previous failures in the battle.  We can rest assured, God is most interested in our living well than he is in pointing out our failures, but it is good to know when we fail, there is a place of refuge to turn for healing and restoration!


Someone today needs to consider their sanctuary.  Maybe it has been a long time since you have "retreated" into the presence of God - allowing him to heal and restore.  If so, today is your day.  It is a day of moving from shabbiness into integrity.  Remember...his presence is both a place of defense and offense!  Sometimes we don't walk well - recognition is the first step toward sanctuary!