A Sanctuary in the Time of Trouble

“Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.” —Isaiah 26:20,21

THE HARVEST PERIOD at the close of the Gospel Age is especially marked out in the Scriptures as being a momentous one for the Lord’s consecrated people. It is a time of great trial, of severe testing, but it is also characterized by the rich blessings which the Lord then showers upon his own. It is a time when the spiritually wise among God’s people are enlightened with “present truth.” (II Pet. 1:12) It is the time when the returned Lord girds himself and serves “meat in due season” to the household of faith.—Luke 12:37,42

The closing period of the Gospel Age is also the time when this ‘present evil world’ comes to an end and, because of this, God’s people are surrounded by trouble, subject to the trials and hardships incidental to the collapse of a world society. Our text relates particularly to this aspect of the Christian’s experience, being in the nature of an admonition concerning our proper course in view of what we know is coming upon the world. The advice is that we should seek a place of refuge, a place of safety, where we can retreat and shut the doors to prevent the intrusion of anything which would be of a harmful nature.

It is a matter of great importance to all of us to know where we can find a secret ‘chamber’, a hideaway from the time of trouble which is upon the whole world. Does the Lord mean that we should seek some retreat, some relatively unknown place, away from the busy cities or other possible trouble centers, in the belief that we may be able to escape the distress which is coming upon the world—in fact, is already upon a large part of the world?

Some in the past have misinterpreted this and other scriptures to mean that the Lord’s people should seek a literal place of safety. These have found, however, that from the human standpoint they fared no better than those who did not hide themselves away in such a literal manner. With the nature of the time of trouble such as it is, reason tells us that one place is relatively as safe as another. Besides, if God wishes to protect his people from physical harm, he is able to do it in a large city as well as in a remote country district. Evidently the prophet does not refer to any such literal ‘chambers’ of safety.


Does the Lord wish us to retire from all association with the world, to go into seclusion in the sense of having no further contact with them? Jesus said of his disciples, “They are not of the world.” (John 17:14) Surely he wanted them to be separate from the world in the sense that they would no longer partake of its spirit, nor join in its selfish schemes or carnal pleasures. But he did not want them to become hermits. He commissioned them, in fact, to be very aggressive in mingling with the people, to go into all the world and preach the Gospel.

No one has ever lived a life more separate from the world in the true sense in which we are admonished, than Jesus himself. But Jesus mingled with the world. The pseudo holiness people of his day held this against him. They could not understand how Jesus could be holy and at the same time mingle with publicans and sinners. There have always been those who, not understanding what constitutes true holiness, have supposed it necessary to withdraw from society altogether in order to live near to God. This false conception of holiness is prominent in the religions of the Orient. This practice was adopted by the Christian church, and became the basis of the monastic life.

Satan would like to induce all the Lord’s people to withdraw themselves from an active life of witnessing for the truth. And, strange though it may seem, there is something about suggestions of this kind that appears to be very appealing to the flesh. Perhaps, though, it is not so strange. Quite appealing is the idea of belonging to an exclusive group of our own, and of feeling no responsibility for anyone outside our own little circle. It can lead to taking our sacrifice off the altar. It furnishes a measure of protection against the rebuffs of the world. In many ways, in fact, it is rather a pleasant arrangement to think about. But is it what God wants us to do?

‘Entering into our chambers’ does not mean that we should become recluses. This is made clear by various scriptures which have to do with the time of trouble, and the church’s relationship to it. One of these scriptures is Isaiah 35:4, which reads: “Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you.” When Jesus mentioned the ‘time of trouble’, the ‘day of vengeance’, he explained that one of the effects of it would be to cause men’s hearts to fail them for fear.—Luke 21:26

Through the prophet, the Lord is asking us to explain to those who are fearful—those among them who have a hearing ear—that while the day of vengeance is indeed upon the world, its object is to open the way for salvation through the kingdom. God comes with vengeance upon a sinful world, but he comes to save. What a wonderful privilege is ours of comforting those who mourn with a blessed message of this kind!

The true teacher and light-bearer (Matt.5:14), the true church, the body of Christ, is not to be left in darkness to learn of her Lord’s presence by the manifestations of his wrath and power, as the world will learn of it. For her enlightenment special provision has been made. By the sure Word of prophecy, which shines as a light in a dark place, she is clearly and definitely informed just what to expect. (II Pet. 1:19) Through the prophetic Word, she shall not only be shielded from discouragement, and enabled to overcome the besetments, snares, and stumbling stones so prevalent in “the evil day,” and thus to stand approved of God, but she becomes the light-bearer and instructor of the world. The church is thus enabled to point out to the world the cause of the trouble, to announce the presence of the new Ruler, to declare the policy, plan, and object of the new dispensation, and to instruct the world as to the wisest course to pursue in view of these things. And though men will not give heed to the instruction until the lesson of submission has been forced upon them by the trouble, it will greatly aid them in learning the lesson. Meanwhile, those in Zion—the church—are blessed by the knowledge of promised salvation and good tidings as expressed in, “Thy God reigneth.”—Isa. 52:7


We are shielded from the storms of life by being in the refuge of the Lord and the truth. This is beautifully stated by the psalmist: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 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. 46:1-3

The removal of the symbolic earth, the mountains carried into the midst of the sea, and the roaring of the troubled waters, are all manifestations of God’s vengeance in the great time of trouble. The affirmation of the psalmist that because God is our refuge we will not fear though all these things are occurring round about us is an indication of what constitutes the only true ‘chamber’ of safety for the Christian during this time of transition from the old world to the new. It is the protection which God affords to his people who are fully devoted to the doing of his will.

God has promised to care for us, and it remains for us but to claim these promises by making them our own and by bringing our every thought, word, and deed into line with the conditions upon which they are given. But it is important to remember that God is dealing with us as New Creatures in Christ. (II Cor. 5:17) As New Creatures, our flesh is being sacrificed in divine service. God has not, therefore, promised physical protection except insofar as it relates to the necessities of the New Creature.

It has well been said that a Christian is ‘immortal’ until his work is done. If there is a divine purpose to be wrought out in us or by us that necessitates the protection of our earthly interests, those interests will be protected—not for the sake of our flesh, but for the sake of the New Creature which must use the flesh. It is obvious, then, that the only kind of ‘chambers’ into which the New Creatures can enter are those whose walls are constructed of the promises of God, and whose doors are those of faith which shut out the disturbing elements of a chaotic world during this Day of the Lord’s wrath.


After reminding us that God is our refuge, and that because of this we will not fear though the earth be removed, the psalmist uses additional symbolisms to indicate the manner in which God does care for his people during this time of trouble. He writes: “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) The ‘streams’ here mentioned are the comparatively small rivulets which have their origin in the hills and mountains, and which, flowing down the slopes into the valley below, converge to form a river.

Notice, it is these ‘streams’ of the ‘river’ rather than the river itself which are said to ‘make glad’ the city of God. The river is evidently essentially the same as that portrayed in Revelation 22:1,2, where it is shown as flowing from underneath the throne of God and of the Lamb. It is the river of life, pictorial of the glorious provision of life which God has made through Christ, and the divine plan of salvation centered in him.

The streams of this river would, therefore, picture the preparatory phases of the plan of salvation—those arrangements of God which lead up to, and finally make possible, the river of life and its blessings for all mankind. God’s promises and his providences manifest in a very marked manner his part in the outworking of his plan. He also gave his beloved Son to die for the world, and now the blood of that sacrifice ratifies his promises and makes them operative on behalf of those whom he has called and is preparing for the future glorious work of the kingdom.

The prophets of old—those ancient worthies—and also the church, the earthly and heavenly phases of the new kingdom, have been prepared for their future work by the influence of the promises of God in their lives, and the overruling providences of God in connection with his fulfillment of those promises. Obedience to the conditions upon which the promises have been made has also entered into the development of these classes. When we think of all the promises of God and the conditions attached to them, and also the very effective manner in which God overrules the experiences of his people as he deals with them in keeping with his promises, it would seem proper to define the entire arrangement as God’s plan and the message of truth.

And this is in harmony with our experiences and observations. What has God done for his people during the harvest period at this end of the age in order that their hearts and minds might be protected from the evil with which they are surrounded? He has given us the truth. He has made us acquainted with his plan of salvation. Through the truth he has given us a vision of his glory. He has provided us with the armor of the Gospel. It is all of these that are symbolized by the ‘streams’ of the river which now make glad the city of God.


David is very explicit in his identification of those whose hearts are made glad by the ‘streams’ of the river. As a class he speaks of them as the ‘city of God’. The ‘city’ of God is the kingdom of God, but here the psalmist is not referring to the kingdom when established in power and great glory, not the “Holy City” as John saw it come down from God prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (Rev. 21:2) No, David explains that the ‘city of God’ to which he refers is the kingdom class, who dwell “in the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High.”—Ps. 46:4

In the King James Translation of this passage, the word “place” is added. It does not appear in the Hebrew text. David is not referring to the Holy Place, which was the Court surrounding the Tabernacle, but to the first compartment in the Tabernacle proper, which was called the Holy, or First Holy. In the symbology of the Tabernacle, this First Holy depicts the consecrated, spirit-begotten condition of the people of God during this Gospel Age. It is mentioned again in Psalm 91:1, where we read, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”

From this latter text we are definitely given the thought that the Holy of the Tabernacle, God’s secret place, is one of protection for the saints, a hideaway indeed, where those who retreat thereto may be assured of dwelling ‘under the shadow of the Almighty’. In the type, the divine protection overshadowing the Tabernacle was impressively shown by the cloud which rested continuously over the typical secret place. That cloud, symbolizing God’s presence, remained as the guide and protection of Israel during their entire wilderness journey. How reassuringly it portrays to us the overshadowing of Divine wisdom and power to direct and protect us in every time of need!


Our text invites us to enter into our ‘chambers’, there to abide while the Lord’s wrath is upon the nations of the earth. We have seen that our place of retirement and safety is pictured by the Holy of the Tabernacle, the ‘secret place of the Most High’. It is, then, a matter of vital importance to know how to enter into this chamber and to be certain that Divine protection is overshadowing us. How may we enter God’s secret place?

Briefly stated, it is through the door of full consecration to do God’s will. That consecration is, of course, based upon our faith in the blood of Christ and upon the promises of God that through Christ we will be acceptable and accepted. The expression, ‘full consecration’, is very significant to the sincere, and only the wholly sincere can be assured of a standing in the secret place, under the shadow of the Almighty.

It is well to examine our consecration from time to time, to make sure that it continues to mean a full surrender of our own preferences and wishes—our own wills—to do the will of God. This is the only kind of consecration that opens the door for us to enter into God’s secret place of protection. But our flesh is so deceptive, Satan is so subtle, and the world so alluring, that we need continually to be on the watch lest some counter-influence enter our hearts and turn us aside from our determination to know and do only God’s will.


Have we made a full consecration to God? Are we endeavoring day by day to pay our vows unto the Most High? (Ps. 116:14) Are all our thoughts and words and doings devoted to God? Are we certain that nothing is being held back, not even the sweetest earthly tie? Are we fully resolved that we will continue to do God’s will no matter what the cost may be? Are we wholly committed to saying what he wants us to say; to going where he wants us to go; to doing what he wants us to do; and to being what he wants us to be?

If this be the attitude of our hearts and minds, and God is blessing us with a knowledge of the truth as an evidence of his favor, with that knowledge becoming more and more precious to us as the days go by, then we may know that we have found the way into the secret chambers of God’s love and protection. It is necessary, however, to ‘dwell’ in this attitude of full consecration, or else earthborn clouds will arise to hide us from beholding the face of God beaming upon us with the smile of his favor.

It is not those who merely enter, but those who enter and ‘dwell’ in the secret place who ‘abide’ under the shadow of the Almighty. Undoubtedly one of the most severe tests of Christian discipleship is that of endurance. How many there are who sooner or later lose their “first love.” (Rev. 2:4) Faith is an important element in gaining the victory over the tendency to become weary in well doing—faith in God, faith in his promises, faith in his ways, faith in his providences. Even in the natural affairs of the world, how many thousands there are who make a failure or partial failure of their lives, simply because they lack the ability to apply themselves to one thing long enough to make a success of it. This human weakness, which is more or less prevalent in all of us, tends toward discouragement and lack of constancy in Christian effort.

If every effort we make to serve the Lord should be at once followed by visible results to reward us, there would be little need of patient endurance. These favorable results would serve as an incentive to keep on sacrificing. But God, in his wisdom, has not arranged such an easy course for the Christian. He wants us to put our trust in him, and to manifest that trust by continued, constant obedience to his will regardless of the sacrifice involved and the apparent lack of visible evidence that he is blessing our efforts. He wants us to be “faithful unto death,” and to wait for the reward until he gives us the “crown of life.”—Rev. 2:10


Located in the Holy of the Tabernacle, the typical secret place of the Most High, were three articles of furniture—the table bearing the shewbread; the lampstand; and the golden altar on which the priests burned incense. All of these picture God’s provision for his people, and our proper use of them demonstrates the depth and sincerity of our consecration. It is well to remember that the bountiful provisions of God’s grace are without value to us if we fail to use them in keeping with his arrangements.

The table bearing the shewbread foreshadowed the spiritual food of God’s Word. This food is borne to the household of faith by the church, hence the table represents the church in this privileged role. At the same time we, as individuals, must partake of the food in order to grow up into Christ, and to be strong in the Lord. So here is shown the necessity of faithfulness both in our own use of the Word of God, and in our holding it forth for the strengthening and upbuilding of others in the Christian graces.

The lampstand upheld the light which illuminated the secret place. It pictures the church in the role of light-bearer. The light, antitypically, is the light of the Gospel, the truth. It is the light with which God has shined into our hearts, revealing his will as a guide in the way that we should go. As with the table bearing the shewbread, so with the lamp stand bearing the light of the secret place, our relationship to it is of a two-fold character. We are to be guided by the light, and as members of the church we are to cooperate in holding forth the light for the illumination of the individual members of the body of Christ.

Yes, the fulfilling of our consecration vows implies faithfulness, both in receiving and giving. God has done marvelous things for us, and he has given us the opportunity of serving him by doing things for his people. Hence we are at once both partakers and channels of his grace. We feed upon the rich spiritual food of his Word, and we serve that food to others. We rejoice in the light of his Word, and we hold up that light for the guidance of others.


But there is still more to living the consecrated life which is represented in the Holy of the Tabernacle than that which is typified by the table of shewbread and the lampstand. There was still another article of furniture in that sacred place. It was the golden altar on which the priests burned incense. An altar is emblematic of sacrifice, and the lesson here is that those who are dwelling in the antitypical secret place are sacrificers. In vain would we be strengthened by the shewbread and enlightened by the candlestick, if in that strength and guided by that light we did not go on to sacrifice.

Only the priests of Israel frequented the Holy of the Tabernacle, and one of the main services of the priest was to offer sacrifice. The consecrated class of this age are called to be priests, and as such to offer sacrifice. True consecration, therefore, leads to sacrifice. This is one of the conditions upon which we may be assured of dwelling in the secret place of the Most High, the hidden chamber of safety during the storms of the time of trouble.

“God is in the midst of her,” David declares, “she shall not be moved.” (Ps. 46:5) As we have already noticed, the psalmist tells of the removal of the symbolic earth, and of the mountains being carried into the midst of the sea, but ‘she shall not be moved’. It is during the great time of trouble that everything out of harmony with God will be removed. But, if our consecration be wholehearted and sincere, and God blesses us with his grace and strength to serve him acceptably—which he has promised to do—we will not be removed from the secret chamber of his protecting care.

“God shall help her,” David continues, “when the morning appeareth,” or “at the dawning of her morning.” (vs. 5 continues, Margin and Leeser) In addition to protecting from all that would harm us as New Creatures in Christ Jesus, the Heavenly Father has promised his help in still another way; that is, by delivering his church in the first resurrection and exalting her to live and reign with Christ. That is the reason we can look up and lift up our heads, knowing that our deliverance “draweth nigh.”—Luke 21:28

As the hymn says, “Happy Zion! What a favored lot is thine!” Never before in the history of the world have people been so conscious of their need of protection and security; never before have they so feared the result of not being adequately protected. But in all the turmoil, confusion, and suffering incident to the Day of God’s Vengeance, the consecrated people of God have peace and joy. They are not assured protection from physical harm. Indeed, perhaps the very best spiritual blessings may come as a result of physical pain, or material loss.

This is the peace that “passeth all understanding” (Phil. 4:7), that belongs to us today! There is danger on every hand, but greater is he who is for us than all that may be against us. (Rom. 8:31; I John 4:4) As long as we remain hidden in the secret chambers of his protecting care, no harm can come to us as New Creatures in Christ Jesus. Even though storms rage and billows roll; yea, though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea, we will not fear. Regardless of the tempestuous conditions by which we are surrounded, we will continue to rejoice; yea, we will sing praises to our God in whose secret chambers of safety we have taken refuge!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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