Our Refuge and Strength

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” —Psalm 46:1

GOD’S PEOPLE HAVE always been people of trouble, and he has always been their refuge and strength. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all,” the Scriptures declare. (Psalm 34:19) One of the fundamental reasons for the afflictions of the righteous is found in that statement by the Lord in the Book of Genesis where he explained that he would put enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. (Gen. 3:15) This has been manifested by Satan’s persecution of all those upon whom God has shown his favor, the most outstanding example being the animosity that resulted in the crucifixion of Jesus.

The Lord’s people have also suffered in common with the world of mankind, because they have been members of a fallen and dying race. God has not promised to spare his own from the trials which come through sickness and pain and death. The apostle wrote that there has not befallen us any temptation or trial but what “is common to man.”—I Cor. 10:13

Another reason the Lord’s people suffer is because he chastens them—“Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” (Heb. 12:6) Lest we be discouraged by the experiences which fall into this category, it is well to remember that they are an evidence of God’s love. They are disciplinary in nature, and calculated to train and direct us into a more whole-hearted service of God and a more resolute determination to do his will regardless of what the cost may be.

It is true—reassuringly true—that in every age, and under every circumstance, God has been a refuge and strength to his people. He was a source of strength to Abel, who by faith offered a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain; he sustained Enoch, who walked with him. All the patriarchs and prophets—in fact the entire class of ancient faithful ones—found in their God an ever-present source of strength and comfort. In their every time of need they knew that they could flee to God and find in him a haven of refuge from the storms of opposition and persecution by which they otherwise would have been overwhelmed and destroyed.

The same was true of Jesus. It has been true, and continues to be true with all his footstep followers. Not only is it our privilege to suffer with him, but we can rejoice also in the blessed assurance that we will be given grace sufficient for our every time of need. God has not promised to deliver spiritual Israel from trouble, but he has promised to sustain them as they suffer for righteousness’ sake. What quietness and peace, therefore, should be ours when we take into our hearts his blessed promise, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”—Heb. 13:5

While the Lord’s people throughout the Gospel Age have rejoiced in the blessed assurance of our text, and have experienced in no uncertain way the Lord’s sustaining grace, this promise seems to have a special application to the footstep followers of Jesus living at this end of the age. There are many promises which assure us of his love and care in every trial, in every trouble, but this opening verse of Psalm 46 is a promise of God’s grace in a particular trouble (vss. 2,3), also referred to by the Prophet Daniel as a “time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation.”—Dan. 12:1

“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.”—Ps. 46:2,3

Because God is our refuge and strength, we will not fear though the earth be ‘removed’. This symbolic language clearly identifies the application of the Psalm to the end of the age, the time of Christ’s Second Presence; for it is during this time that the symbolic earth is removed and the symbolic mountains are carried into the midst of the sea. It would almost seem as though the Master had this very prophecy in mind when, in answering his disciples’ questions concerning the signs of his Second Presence, he described the great “time of trouble” as “distress of nations, with perplexity,” and said that the sea and the waves would be roaring.—Luke 21:25

But we will not fear though “the waters thereof roar and be troubled,” wrote the psalmist. Jesus said of this time that men’s hearts would fail them for fear as they looked forward to the things coming upon the earth; but we do not share this fear, for we have the promise that ‘God is our refuge and strength’, that he will care for us in this time of trouble that is upon the world—that even though the earth be ‘removed’—and it is even now in process of being removed—he will be our refuge, our sure retreat of safety, so that no evil can befall us. What a reassuring promise!

‘Though the earth be removed’—it is the removal of the symbolic earth that is filling the hearts of the people with fear. It is not alone fear of the devastating trouble they see coming upon the nations in the form of nuclear or bacterial warfare, or other horrors men can produce, but the fear also which is due to uncertainty of the future along economic lines which is now blighting the peace and happiness of the world. But we do not need to share even this fear.

If our faith in the plan of God is strong, we will rejoice in every evidence which reveals the disintegration of the old and selfish order of things, even though it may work to our disadvantage so far as the material things of life are concerned. In the 121st Psalm, there is a statement which says: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.” (vs. 1) However, the thought seems more likely to be interrogatory: “Shall I lift my eyes to the hills? From whence comes my help?” Then the psalmist answers, saying, “My help cometh from the Lord.”

And today, as well, it is to God that we should look for help. There is no point in putting our trust in the ‘hills’, or the ‘mountains’—symbolic of earthly kingdoms—for we know that they will be ‘carried into the midst of the sea’. But we can put our trust in the Lord, for in this time of trouble he is our ‘refuge and strength’. And how blessed it is to realize this! How it should contribute to our peace and quietness of mind and heart to know that despite the turmoil and fear with which we are surrounded, no harm can come to us as New Creatures.

Soon there is to be a ‘new heavens and a new earth’, and that, if we are faithful in laying down our lives in divine service during these trying times, we will have a part in the ‘mountain of the Lord’—that glorious Mount Zion which is to take the place of the mountains which even now are being ‘carried into the midst of the sea’. “There is a river, the streams whereof shall make ‘glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High.”—Ps. 46:4

In Hebrews 6:18 we read about ‘fleeing for refuge’, and ‘laying hold upon the hope set before us’—a hope that is based upon ‘two immutable things’: God’s promise, and his oath by which that promise was ratified. The apostle’s reference here is to the promise made to Abraham—that oathbound promise, or covenant, which guarantees the blessing of all the families of the earth through the ‘seed’ of Abraham. I t is, in a general way, this same refuge, or source of strength, that the psalmist spoke of when he wrote, as quoted above: ‘There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God’.

The ‘river’ is undoubtedly the same symbolic river referred to in Ezekiel’s prophecy, and also in Revelation. (Ezek. 47:1-9; Rev. 22:1) This river is not ‘flowing’ as yet for the blessing of all nations. When we examine the text carefully, we discover that the psalmist makes a distinction between the ‘river’, and the ‘streams’, which converge to form the ‘river’. These ‘streams’ of the river in the illustration, are all the many tributaries which, by emptying into the main stream, form the river—a very meaningful symbolism of the preparatory work of God throughout the ages which finally results in the ‘river of life’ flowing with its abundant blessing of life for all mankind.

What has God been doing throughout this Gospel Age? He has been calling and preparing the church, the footstep followers of Christ, to live and reign with their Lord in the heavenly realm. During previous ages he was selecting and training those who are to be “princes in all the earth.” (Ps. 45:16) Nineteen centuries ago he sent his Son to be the Redeemer of the world, providing an opportunity of life for all mankind. His method of dealing with his people and of preparing them for the place designed for them in his kingdom arrangements has been to a large extent through his Word.

God has made promises—revealing and heart-cheering promises. To these promises he has attached conditions of obedience. In their entirety these promises outline the divine plan of the ages. But not all of God’s people have been blessed with a knowledge of that plan. God promised Abraham that his ‘seed’ or offspring would be the channel of blessing for all mankind, but Abraham comprehended very little of how this would be brought about. We might think of the promise to Abraham, however, as one of the ‘streams’ which helped to contribute to the great river of life yet to flow for the blessing of all. It had a powerful effect in the life of Abraham, and in the lives of all the ancient people who sought to serve God faithfully from Abraham’s day to the coming of Christ. It helped, in other words, to prepare for the river.

Throughout the Old Testament there are hundreds of other promises, all in full harmony with the Abrahamic promise, and all helping to make plain the plan of God. In the New Testament there is a further revealing of the divine plan. It is here that the heavenly phase of the kingdom is stressed. And we know, too, that the death and resurrection of Jesus ratified all the glorious promises of God, making them workable and real in the lives of God’s spiritual Israelites.

As we have seen, Abraham was blessed by one of the ‘streams’, while other of the Lord’s people have rejoiced in the knowledge of perhaps many ‘streams’; but not until the end of the age—the time of Christ’s presence—have the people of God been blessed by the refreshing waters of all the ‘streams’ of the river, for not until now has the divine plan been understood in so full a manner as it is today. And why is this? It is because the Lord knew that in these trying times incident to the ending of the world, when the symbolic earth would be removed and when the ‘mountains’ would be carried into the midst of the sea, his people would need the whole truth of his plan in order to withstand the fiery ordeals of these trying times.

This is a time when the fulfillment of the promises and prophecies of the Word of God are so manifest that it is almost as though we were walking by sight, yet never has the faith of the saints been tested so severely. One reason for this is our very human viewpoint of time. We are impatient in our waiting for the kingdom, and in our impatience become easy targets for the adversary’s arrows of doubt. How great, then, is our need for the truth, the whole truth—all the ‘streams’ of the river—in this day of trial, this ‘time of trouble’.

The psalmist writes that ‘the streams of the river make glad the city of God’. The ‘city of God’ is the kingdom of God. But here the reference is not to God’s kingdom which is to be established in power and great glory, but rather, as the text declares, the city that is represented in the “holy of the tabernacles of the most High.” The word ‘place’ in Psalm 46:4 is not in the original Hebrew text, but has been supplied by the translators, and the reference is, therefore, to the first compartment of the typical Tabernacle called the ‘Holy’.

Students of the Tabernacle will recall that the Holy symbolizes the condition of full consecration to God. The church as a whole is represented as dwelling in the Holy from three standpoints—by the Table of Shewbread, by the Lampstand, and by the Golden Altar. The Lord’s consecrated people partake of the spiritual food represented by the Shewbread; they are enlightened by the truth as represented by the lights of the Lampstand; and they offer sacrifice of praise on the Golden Altar.

They also hold forth the Word of life, as symbolized by the table which bore the shewbread; and they let their light shine for the guidance of one another, as part of the antitypical lamp stand. They show their obedience to doing God’s will as symbolized by the Golden Altar.

Briefly, this is the manner in which ‘the Holy of the tabernacles’ pictures the consecrated life of every true Christian. It is in this condition—this blessed haven of separation from the world—that we find refuge and strength. It is referred to in Psalm 91 as the “secret place of the Most High,” and here we are told that those who dwell in this secret place “shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” What a beautiful symbol of God’s protection and care, of his loving interest in his consecrated people!

How can we be sure that we can claim this provision for ourselves? The answer to this question is in our own hands. God has made every necessary provision for our care, and it remains only for us to take the necessary steps which make those provisions available for our own individual needs. Primarily they are the steps of repentance, the acceptance of Christ and his atoning work, and full consecration to do God’s will. The latter is undoubtedly the crucial test of our faith and devotion. It is so easy to say that we have made a consecration, and in a limited way live a consecrated life. But are we really consecrated in the full and absolute sense of the word? Are we consecrated to sacrifice all in the service of the Lord, not merely to righteous living as human beings; as is the case with so many?

It is important also to note well the psalmist’s statement to the effect that it is those who ‘dwell’ in the secret place of the Most High who shall abide under the shadow of his protection. It is one thing to enter the Holy through consecration, but quite another thing to remain there, to make it our home. It is here that the test of ‘patient continuance in well doing’ enters into our relationship to the Lord. It has been true throughout the entire Gospel Age that some. have run well for a time, and then have become weary and have faltered by the wayside.

Beloved, let us resolve to be permanent dwellers in the Holy, in the ‘secret place of the Most High’. There are times, no doubt, when all of us tend to become weary of holding forth the Word of life, and when we wonder if it is necessary to continue letting our light shine. When the fires of sacrifice become more than ordinarily hot we might feel like removing ourselves from the altar. But at such times let us remember the Lord’s many assurances of help in our every time of need. Let us also realize that the joy of the Lord is our strength, as surely it is. Let us remember that these “light afflictions which are but for a moment” are working out for us a “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”—II Cor. 4:17,18

If, when we examine our own hearts, we find that the greatest desire of our lives is still to carry out the terms of our consecration to God; and if in turn the Lord is continuing to bless us with a knowledge of his truth and a desire to make it known to others; and if we are rejoicing in those blessed spiritual opportunities which are symbolized in the ‘Holy’, then we may know that God is for us, that he is our refuge and strength; for the streams of the river have made glad our hearts and have inspired us to present our all in devotion to him and his cause. Happy Zion, what a favored lot is thine!

“God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.” (Ps. 46:5) In this verse we are told of help that goes beyond that which is provided through the truth and the overruling providences of God. ‘She shall not be moved’, writes the psalmist. As the psalm has its principal application at this end of the age, the reference here is similar to that found in Hebrews 12, where the apostle tells us that at this time everything will be shaken that can be shaken. (vss. 27,28) In the psalm itself we notice the result of this shaking. The earth is ‘removed’, and the ‘mountains … carried into the midst of the sea’.

There is one thing in the psalm that is not moved! ‘She’ shall not be moved! The reference here is to the Lord’s people as a class—the Zion class—the city of God—the last remaining members in the flesh, represented in the ‘holy of the tabernacles of the Most High’. She shall not be moved! Blessed promise! She will be tried and tested. Her goods will be spoiled. As human beings, each member of this class will seemingly go down in defeat. Like Jesus, they will be “despised and rejected of men,” and the world will know them not as ones who will be the future kings of earth.—Isa. 53:3; I John 3:1

God will know them. (II Tim. 2:19) He will care for them. (I Pet. 5:7) Being the last prospective ruling members of the new kingdom to prove their faithfulness, they will not be removed from their place in that kingdom, but will finish their course in joy by being faithful unto death, when they will be given “a crown of life that fadeth not away.” (James 1:12; I Pet. 5:4) As overcomers it will be their glorious privilege to sit with the Master in his throne, and to live and reign with him a thousand years.—Rev. 3:21; 20:4,6

‘God shall help her, and that right early’. The Marginal Translation reads, “God shall help her when the morning appeareth.” The morning of the Lord’s new day is already appearing. The Day Star has arisen, and we know that the time is near—very near—when this further ‘help’ will be given to the Lord’s faithful people. (II Pet. 1:19) Indeed, it has already been vouchsafed to many. This is the help which results in the deliverance of the church in the first resurrection. When Jesus answered the disciples’ questions pertaining to the time of his Second Presence, after mentioning many of the signs he said, “When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption [deliverance] draweth nigh.”—Luke 21:28

We are now seeing these things. We see the earth being removed, and the mountains being carried into the midst of the sea. We hear the roaring of the sea and the waves. We note that fear is blighting the lives of the people, and the manner in which they are madly seeking pleasure as a retreat from the grim reality of the times in which we live. Instead of fearing, we are rejoicing. Instead of seeking happiness in the pleasures of this crumbling world, we have fled to the Lord for refuge, and he has hid us in the secret of his pavilion. (Ps. 27:5) Instead of leaving us in doubt and uncertainty, he has enlightened us with his truth, and the streams of the future river of life have made glad our hearts. Surely, we should ‘lift up our heads’ with confidence, and keep our eyes and our hearts fixed upon the fruition of our glorious hope of soon being with the Lord, of experiencing his ‘help’ in exalting us to glory, honor, and immortality to be a part of the glorified City of God.

How blessed is the promise that God will help ‘her’ early in the morning. We may not be able to determine just when the last member of the church will be glorified, and it is better that the Lord has not given us this information; but we do know that the time is short—too short to settle down as though we had the rest of our natural lives to live under normal conditions. For some of us the time may be shorter than we even dare to hope; but it cannot be very long for any of us. So let us see to it that our consecration is up-to-date, and as real as when we said to the Lord that we were giving him our all. Let us make sure that no earth-born cloud—either of worldly hopes, or ambitions, or opportunities for fame or wealth—is permitted to come in between us and the Lord, to hide from us the smile of his countenance and to weaken our assurance of his grace to help in times of need.

“This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” (I John 5:4) How strong is our faith? Do we really believe what we profess to believe? Are we really convinced that the world—this present evil world—is coming to an end, and that all forms of earthly security and riches cannot be depended upon? Are we really assured that if faithful to our consecration vows we will be blessed with the high honor of living and reigning with Christ in his kingdom which we believe is now so near?

If we really have faith in these things, we will act in harmony with our faith, and will permit nothing to hinder us from devoting our all to the Lord, even as we covenanted to do. And what a blessed thought it is to realize that if we dwell in ‘the secret place of the Most High’, we will have his protection, his care, and, by his power, will be exalted to the place in the heavenly kingdom which he has prepared for us. Truly, God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. May we appreciate this glorious refuge, and through faithfulness to him avail ourselves of the protection which it offers.

Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |