Every generation has seen its share of doomsday theorists calling us to run and hide.
Remember Y2K? Certain “experts” predicted dire consequences (computer malfunctions, shortage of food and water, total collapse of the economy). Some people in my home church met weekly to prepare for the catastrophe, certain the world would collapse. This once-grave concern seems more than a little embarrassing today. But in more recent years, we’ve heard about the threatening possibility of economic collapse over and over.
There are many examples in the Bible of people “fleeing to the mountains”: Adam and Eve, Saul, Jonah, Israel and Judah, Peter. But how should the church respond to threatening circumstances? The Bible gives us two basic choices: we can either flee to the hills, or we can take refuge in God. And, of course, we do well to follow David’s example in Psalm 11:1: “In the Lord I take refuge; how can you say to my soul, ‘Flee like a bird to your mountain’?”
Let our day of worship be a day of choosing the right way forward in whatever difficulty and distress we face. Let it be a day of taking refuge in God.
Taking Refuge in God
When tempted to flee the pressures of life, the Scriptures call us to hide ourselves in God. Only God can offer true refuge from life’s dangers and the misery of our sin.
When we join together each week to worship a righteous God, we proclaim that God not only dwells in heaven, but reigns there: “The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven” (Psalm 11:4). Taking refuge in God does not always mean immediate escape from pain and suffering. But because God is enthroned, he is in control and unperturbed by the apparent chaos on earth. This doesn’t mean that he is unconcerned with human affairs. It merely means that God is not panicking (Psalm 2:4). He is carrying out his perfect plan.
He remains unshaken and eternally in power, which provides us with confidence in the day of trouble. We come together and celebrate him as King, no matter what happens on earth.
In the Cleft of the Rock
For a long time, when I sang the song “Rock of Ages,” I would think of myself as being in the “cleft of the rock” of God’s comfort, with his hands protecting me from evil. Eventually, I realized that God’s hand — his refuge — was protecting me from something greater: from myself and the consequences of my own sin. This clarifies what it means to take refuge in God as we gather for worship each weekend.
David tells us, “his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man” (Psalm 11:4) and “the Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face” (Psalm 11:7). But according to Romans 3:23, none of us can stand before God’s righteous gaze. So, how can God grant us to “behold his face” (Psalm 11:7)? We keep reading in Romans 3 that we are “justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Romans 3:24–25). Our only hope in life and worship is that we have been redeemed.
On the one hand, then, taking refuge in God means hiding in Jesus, the Rock who was cleft for us. But taking refuge in God also goes a step further: it means living a life of holiness in this chaotic world, completely devoted to God. In Christ, God’s people really can perform the “righteous deeds” that God loves, even when “the foundations are destroyed” (Psalm 11:3) and troubles surround us. Any who sincerely follow after God in righteousness and purity will be safe under his protection.
Thus, we should take worship seriously. We should eagerly sing that God is holy, transcendent, and pure, and that he is conforming us into the image of his Son (Romans 8:29). We should remember that he loves righteous deeds, and that he has created us in Christ to walk in them (Ephesians 2:10). And we should confess all the ways we’ve failed, trusting that he will both forgive and cleanse us (1 John 1:9). Sunday has a built-in holiness effect in the congregation.
Seeing God’s Face
May we celebrate Sunday as a day of refuge in God, instead of in self-reliance. As we enter God’s presence with other believers, let’s reflect that God sees and “tests the righteous” (Psalm 11:4–5). And let’s give thanks that, when God is our refuge, he both redeems us from our sin and equips us to display righteous deeds. May our worship always reflect how beautiful and awesome God is and how much we need his mercy and grace in Christ.
In the end, a congregation devoted to refuge in God and his word stands and sings on a firm foundation. By doing so, “the upright shall behold his face” (Psalm 11:7). This is the Christian hope: seeing the face of God. But how? Now we see “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). A gracious God provides a way for restoration and new life in the righteousness of Christ for us. In him we take refuge!