Refuge is more than a hiding place
We run into people on occasion who make out God to be some big, bad "guy in the sky", who sits upon a throne, passing judgment on earth below. They simply don't understand the mercy of God - seeing "justice" as only the "bad stuff" which happens to people. If we look at justice in the most literal sense, we find it means to give both reward and punishment - based on a set of moral principles. Therefore, to think of God as simply the "big bad guy in the sky" is a wrong perception of his "role". First and foremost, he is the one who cannot vacillate from a standard which is morally correct. He sets this high standard of righteousness and then he sticks with it because he cannot cross that line. It would be a violation of his holiness and "rightness" if he did. We find there are times we want to blame the "big bad guy in the sky" for every bad thing which happens on this earth. In truth, the bad stuff which happens is because we live in a fallen world, not because God wants this stuff for us. Tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, devastating fires, and the like are deemed to be "natural disasters" - they are the earth reacting to the fallen state it presently occupies. Until God makes the earth new again upon his Son's return to set up his reign forever and ever, this world will continue to experience this "bad stuff" in its fallen state. The truth we need to remember is that God is "fair" - equitable, right in his judgments, and very protective of his kids!
The Lord set up his throne to bring justice, and he will rule forever. He judges everyone on earth fairly. He judges all nations honestly. Many people are suffering—crushed by the weight of their troubles. But the Lord is a refuge for them, a safe place they can run to. Lord, those who know your name come to you for protection. And when they come, you do not leave them without help. (Psalm 9:7-10 ERV)
Many will attempt to justify the bad stuff by saying it is because God has turned his back on them. It is impossible for you or I to be out of God's sight, for he sees all things, knows all things, and is everywhere at all times. Our wee brains have a hard time with that one, but it doesn't make it any less true. If we think God has deserted us, or let us be overcome with the "bad stuff" in this life because he doesn't care about us, we are entirely misguided in our beliefs. In response to this I only have to point out the myriad of times God has been merciful in our lives. Times when we deserved "way different" than what it was we received. These are the moments we conveniently forget whenever we rant against "the big bad guy in the sky" - those moments of self-pity we experience whenever things just didn't go the way we thought they should. The reality is that if things went the way we thought they should, we'd probably be more disappointed down the road than we are right now!
In order to really stay on right footing as it applies to "justice" we must remember a couple of things:
- God judges fairly. He is the ONLY one capable of doing this because he cannot possibly violate the moral standards by which his justice is carried out. We are all fallible creatures, changing in our "opinions" or "stands" as quickly as the urge takes us down a different path. Therefore, whatever justice we think we might be able to carry out is far different than "true justice" - simply because we do vary in our "interpretation" of the circumstances and the "truth" we adhere to at the moment. God cannot cross that line - he remains the constant "steady" in an ever-changing world.
- Troubles come because we live in a fallen world, not because our God rejects us or has it in for us. These weights we face may be quite "crushing" in their effect on our lives, but when we unburden ourselves by turning to the one who loves us too much to vary from his righteousness, we find those burdens lifted and our weights begin to shift from us carrying them to him carrying them. It isn't something we totally understand, but we know it works. We cry out to him in the the moments we feel those weights taking us down under them, and he moves in to lift those burdens. It isn't that they "bad stuff" doesn't exist anymore, but we have a different strength by which we "bear up" under their influence or attack.
- Those who know his name and call upon it are assured of refuge. It isn't the "magic" in his name - it is the relationship of having taken his name as our own. When we enter into his family, saying "yes" to Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we find a new refuge within this "family". Those who have never known the "refuge" of family on this earth have a hard time understanding this one because the earthly has betrayed the meaning of true family. There are times when we need to "relearn" our position and privilege - for we don't take on a "title" by entering into this family (Christian), but we take on a new way of living and making choices when we enter into this family. We choose to lean in and lean on, rather than doing stuff all on our own. Justice comes only when we learn to rely and lean upon the one who sees things exactly as they are and not as we imagine they might be.
- Refuge is a place of protection; help is a means of escape. We can find refuge and still not escape the thing pursuing us - such as when we were little and played hide and seek. We found refuge behind the couch, but eventually someone found out hiding spot and we could no longer escape. God's refuge comes with a way of escape - not just a place to hide. We don't just get a reprieve from the "bad stuff" in life. We get the privilege of walking hand-in-hand with the one who can navigate us through and bring us safely out on the other side, stronger and more secure than when the "bad stuff" began to give us the trouble in the first place. Just sayin!