Our City of Refuge
“Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.” (Hebrews 6:17-20)
I love the book of Hebrews. It was written to people considering a return to the Judaic system. They were on the verge of abandoning their faith and going back to the old ways.
The book is really an urging on in the faith. It’s a call for endurance and patience in the Christian life as well as a stern warning not to turn from the way of salvation (Heb. 2:1-3; 10:38). Hebrews demonstrates the superiority of Christ, His priesthood, his sacrifice, and the new covenant.
In these verses he is addressing the surety of Christ. The counsel of God in saving a people through Christ is immutable or unchanging and then He bound Himself with an oath. This gives double confidence both in the counsel of God to save and the oath He took since it’s impossible for God to lie as an attribute of His nature.
He speaks of fleeing to Christ for refuge as foreshadowed in the Old Testament with the cities of refuge. The immutability or unchanging nature of God is a strong consolation for us to lay hold of the hope set before us. Our confidence is related to the fact that God cannot lie and does not change.
These are days of uncertainty and people are experiencing change along with the uncertainty. We should not be tossed to and fro on these waves of doubt, fear and uncertainty. We have an anchor and as the text says that anchor is steadfast and sure.
The same source of refuge we fled to for salvation should be the place we find refuge in trying and uncertain times. God is the same, He doesn’t change. He is as sure now as He was in the more “normal” times.
The God who walked with Adam, spoke to the prophets, swallowed the rebels of Korah, rescued His people from Egypt, led them to the promised land, was born in Bethlehem, healed the sick, cast out demons, died at the hands of sinners and rose from the dead is the same one who ascended to the throne to reign declaring all power (which means authority) was given to Him.
This same Jesus sits enthroned today and He doesn’t change. This is why He is a refuge for us both in salvation and everyday life.
“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
Uncertainty has been very common throughout church history. The American Christian experience is not normal it’s actually a very rare experience historically speaking. We have it easy compared with the previous 2,000 years.
Now for the first time we are facing uncertainty. A new virus spreading, jobs lost, a crumbling economy, churches closed and society basically on lock down. How do we handle this?
Everyone whether saved or unsaved is facing this question. The answer comes down to worldview. We can’t ask what the “proper” response is because the word proper is relative. What’s proper to one person may not be to another.
We can’t seek the “American” response because Americans are typically split between conservative and liberal ideals. If we try to find answers by clinging to our political “side” if you will then we are finding answers in the same place the unsaved are. This means our answer cannot be decidedly Christian, which also means our worldview can’t be decidedly Christian.
For believers we have to answer these questions from a place the unbeliever can’t and that place is the Scriptures. This is the only infallible place to find answers in these troubling times. What God has spoken is perfect and it can be trusted.
What does the Bible says about these uncertain times? Let me encourage you to rest all of your concerns on 2 specific truths.
1. God is sovereign.
“In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” (Ephesians 1:11)
I can’t emphasize this enough God works all things after the counsel of His own will. Everything is subject to the Lord. The same God who is unchanging and cannot lie governs the entire universe.
One preacher said there is not a maverick molecule. Everything does God’s bidding.
Let’s do a little review of what is under God’s control. I caution you this list is not exhaustive.
“God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.” (Acts 17:24-26)
“Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.” (Job 14:5)
“The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up.” (1 Samuel 2:7)
“This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.” (Daniel 4:17)
“Praise the LORD from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps: Fire, and hail; snow, and vapours; stormy wind fulfilling his word.” (Psalm 148:7-8)
6. The heart of government leaders
“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” (Proverbs 21:1)
7. Natural disasters
“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil (calamity) I the Lord do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7)
Consider the book of Jonah. God sent a storm to drive Jonah into the water, and directed a fish to carry him to Nineveh. God directed a plant to grow to shade Jonah then directed a worm to eat the plant when Jonah was complaining. This story brings our attention to the fact that everything is subject to the counsel of God’s will. This even applies to… you guessed it, viruses.
“I have sent among you the pestilence (disease) after the manner of Egypt: your young men have I slain with the sword, and have taken away your horses; and I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.” (Amos 4:10)
God is not caught off guard by anything… ever. If the Christian can’t find rest in this truth then they are without hope. Christ is our refuge, the immutable one who is sovereign over all things.
The world is missing hope. Our hope is found in a real God, with unchanging promises and a perfect divine nature. If we lose hope where will the world find it? If we can’t find refuge and hope in Christ we are as Paul said “of all men most miserable.”
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” (Matthew 28:18)
The risen Christ declared that all power or authority had been given to Him then He ascended to the place of honor at God’s right hand. I don’t think viruses, or economies are exempt from this declaration.
2. All things work together for our good.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Sometimes I feel like I’m beating a dead horse by quoting this verse but we as Christians need to grab on to this verse with both hands. Nothing ever works to the detriment of a follower of Jesus. I wish we could grasp Paul’s confidence when he says “we know.”
There is a confidence in those words that we need especially right now. We know that all things work for our good because according to verse 29 He is using all things to
conform us to the image of Christ.
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
Every trial and every heartache molds us into God wants us to be. This means that every bad thing is a gift that we must receive from the Lord. Even the seemingly bad things are gifts from God to make us more like Jesus.
This is why we’re told in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 that we need to give thanks for
everything. It goes against our nature to give thanks for “bad things.” If we understood that all things were for our good then giving thanks would be a natural overflow of that reality.
We can look to Jesus as the ultimate guarantee that God is working all things for our good.
“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32)
If God did us good by giving Jesus for us then He won’t stop doing us good. At the height of His suffering Jesus was in the will of God. When He seemed the most defeated He was actually victorious.
How do we make application of these truths? My mind goes to a story out of Mark 4:36-41.
“And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
The disciples were afraid for their lives and Jesus is in the boat asleep on a pillow. He was confident that God the Father was in complete control and that He would not die without accomplishing His purpose which was to glorify Him through the cross.
We should have the same restful spirit knowing that God is sovereign and in complete control and that He is working all things together for our good to glorify us together with Christ. We can’t say “well that was Jesus, He could have that kind of confidence.” Does God have less control over circumstances today?
Does He have no purpose for us? Does He care less for our well being than He did for Christ’s? The answer is no. We should have the same restful, trusting confidence in God as Jesus did on the ship, or on trial, or on the cross. If you are not saved, I urge you to flee to Christ for refuge. Turn to Him and be saved.
We become children of God by calling on His name. If you haven’t done that I welcome you to. Don’t trust your good works or religious affiliation. Don’t go on in sin when an offering for sin has been made and accepted by God.
For Christians who have found refuge in Christ we often need to be reminded both of God’s
unchanging nature and His oath. He cannot lie, He will bring us safely to glory. We need not fear viruses, crumbling economies or increasingly tyrannical governments.
God is sovereign over all things and all things work for our good so what have we to fear? Let’s rest that’s what taking refuge means. Let’s rest in the safest place in existence, the hiding place of the Almighty God.
“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.” (Psalm 91:1-2)