God Our Glorious Refuge!

Posted on August 28, 2020

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By David Ettinger

Deeper Meaning
One advantage both the Hebrew and Greek languages have over English is that their words have deeper shades of meaning.

This holds true for the word “refuge.” If you look up the word “refuge” in an English thesaurus, you find synonyms such as “fortress,” “haven,” “hiding place,” “protection,” “sanctuary,” “shelter,” and “stronghold.”

What these synonyms have in common is their “physical” nature. In other words, in English the word “refuge” has only a material, surface-level meaning. Basically, a “refuge” is a place in which to hide or seek shelter, the main idea being a physical place of protection.

Biblically, however, the word “refuge” encompasses these physical attributes, but goes one very important step further.

Biblical “Refuge”
One of the more familiar uses of the word “refuge” in the Bible is found in Psalm 46:1, and is elaborated upon in the next two verses. Psalm 46:1-3 reads: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

The Hebrew word for “refuge” is machaceh (pronounced mak-as-eh), which does indeed mean “shelter” in the physical sense, but goes beyond this to imply “hope” and “trust.”

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In other words, in this ever-changing, spiraling-out-of-control world in which we live, we have an emotional and spiritual refuge. Because God is our machaceh – our hope in which we can place all of our trust – we know that whatever happens to us in this life, we are secure in God, knowing that He loves us with an undying love.

What it Means
Does having God as our “refuge” mean that nothing in the physical realm can touch us? No, believers are prone to the same dangers of life as anyone else. What “refuge” means, however, is that if we belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, our souls are protected no matter what (see John 5:24). Even if our bodies are destroyed, our souls are untouchable.

This is the meaning behind verses 2-3: “Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

What is being presented here is a worst-case scenario, the destruction of the earth. In such a case, no physical refuge or shelter can save. However, with God as our machaceh – our hope and trust – we know that the essence of who we truly are – our souls – are safe and protected. Let the world do what it will to our bodies, our souls are secure in God our machaceh!

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Paul Knew This
The apostle Paul knew this, lived it, and proclaimed it. In writing to the Philippians, he revealed the war being waged within him: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:21-23).

This is the bold testimony of a man who knew his Refuge, his Machaceh! This was a man who lived in the sure hope and trust of the God who was the protector of his soul. This was a man, in fact, who was so sure of the protection and destiny of his soul that he desired to be taken from this earthly life and transported to his heavenly one.

I long to have Paul’s confidence and assurance that my soul is firmly nestled in the hand of God my Refuge, my Machaceh, and I hope you do too. May God our glorious Refuge fill you with His peace, knowing that in Him you have a hope and a trust which can never perish, fail, or be rescinded!