1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
3 Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.
4 There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.
6 The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth.
9 He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.
10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
11 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
A Refuge for Refugees
When I think of the word “refuge” the immediate word I connect to it is “refugee”. The definition of refugee is a person who has been forced to leave their country to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.
The word refugee has become so politicized these days that it’s lost some of its meaning. But for our purposes today let’s use the intended meaning of the word refugee.
Normally when a country is involved in a war, or a civil war, the people of that country become nervous and worried, and they begin to panic. They decide to flee to a place of safety where they can wait until crisis passes. That usually will involve crossing borders into a neighboring country. Some are fortunate enough to get on airplane and go to some distant country where they believe they will have a better life and a better chance of survival.
Before South Africa became a democracy in 1994, it was quite normal for people to apply to the American embassy for a visitor’s visa to the USA. Then once they arrive safely in America, they applied for refugee status. They would say the reason was because their lives were in danger because they were black. The evil apartheid system put the lives of black people in danger.
Most of the time their application as a refugee would be approved. Then over time they became a permanent resident and then finally they became citizens of the United States of America. There they would be able to have a better life.
That was several decades ago, but things have changed. Now South Africa is the country that receives refugees. Many people cross the border into South Africa in search of a better future because it is unsafe in their country of birth.
The first main hurdle for anybody who manages to cross into South Africa is to find their way to the Department of Home Affairs so that they can apply for refugee status. Refugee status brings them many benefits. They are free to live in the country. They can apply for any job that’s available once they have refugee status. They are permitted to go and buy a car and to open credit accounts. They can buy property and register it in their own name.
Once you are approved with refugee status in South Africa, you are treated more or less like a South African citizen. It is very similar to how it is in America.
Peter, James and John
I want to share with you a personal experience of people who were from the Democratic Republic of Congo when their nation was experiencing a civil war. There were three young men who decided to run for safety. Their lives were being threatened, and they felt they had to escape. So, they left behind all their possession, taking only what they could carry, and they went on their quest to escape. In their journey they were robbed, they were beaten, they were ill-treated as they were crossing from border to border into country after country. But eventually those three men made their way to Cape Town South Africa.
Those three young men didn’t look pretty when they arrived. To be honest, they looked quite dirty. They looked like people who were abused, and you could see their scars. You could see the unhappiness and the fear in their eyes. These three men were named, Pierre, Jacques and Jean. They were French-speaking young men and they could hardly speak English. So, we gave them the names Peter, James, and John to make it easier for ourselves.
These three young men ended up at a church in Cape Town. At that time, I knew the pastor of that church very well; we were good friends. The pastor asked all the people in his congregation to provide accommodations for the three young men, but no one wanted to accept Peter, James and John. They were from a different nation, spoke a different language, and were of a different race. This was enough for most people to want nothing to do with them. Some worried they may have a brought a disease from another country. Some worried they could be murders or runaway criminals. So, no one was going to take any chances.
But these three men were desperate. Eventually they convinced the pastor to let them sleep in his church. So, we made a place up in the church attic. That is where they lived.
One day we happened to be in a meeting with the pastor and other ministers, and he mentioned the story about Peter, James and John. To my amazement the other pastors there agreed with the congregation. They said, “you can’t take in strangers, and you can’t open your doors to just anybody, especially from Africa. We don’t know their background.” No one was going take a chance.
I felt very disturbed, so I went home and told my wife about this story. Now she is a darling; she really has a heart for people. She said, “You know what? Why don’t we go and ask Uncle Ron and Aunt Lolly. They have an empty guest house, and nobody is living there.”
So, we went to visit them, and we explained this situation. My wife and I offered to pay their rent until Peter, James, and John were able to find a job. They are wonderful Christians and Uncle Ron said, “Sure bring them!” So, we went to get Peter, James and John and loaded them into our car.
Once we arrived, we all had a chat. These men started telling their stories in their broken English with a French accent. Uncle Ron and Aunt Lolly were so touched they said, “You boys come and live with us!” So, they opened their doors to them and said you don’t need to pay rent until you get you refugee status and get a job and can afford to pay.
From Rags to Riches
Now here is the side of the story that nobody knew. These young men had been professional men in their country. They all had college degrees and held good jobs before they were forced to leave everything behind. So, when we got to know them a little bit better, we found out that Peter had an MBA degree and that in his country he was a banker. We found out that James had a BSC degree and that he was an executive chef in his country. And John was formerly an executive in a big security company.
So, we started spreading the word looking to help them find a job. Then one day we got a call from an employer that asked James to come for an interview. So, James went to this very posh and fancy fine dining restaurant. The owner of that restaurant was French-speaking so it was easy for them to communicate. The owner made James the executive chef of his restaurant.
Then we started to ask around looking for a bank that was hiring. Finally, Peter got an interview at Standard Bank, and he landed a job as one of the top executives at Standard Bank, handling the financial portfolio for many other banks in Africa. So, Peter got sorted out.
Then there was John that was that was still without a job. Do you know what those two other men did? They took their earnings and they set John up with his own security company. Then within six months John landed one of the biggest security contracts in South Africa, and today he is a wealthy entrepreneur, the boss of his own business.
And all these guys eventually got married. They have their own families, and they are they are well off. But before that happened, they were refugees.
I have shared this story because I want you to know that when you are down and out, and no one cares for you, when people look down on you, when people assassinate your character, when your friends turn their backs on you, when your situation look hopeless, and you wonder how it will all end: remember, God is our refuge.
There Is No Refuge Like God
I want to repeat this: God is our refuge. He is not just a friend. Because as much as we need the company of friends and acquaintances, when you are deep down in a valley, and life challenges you, and you need advice, it’s not always your friends that can give you the right advice. There are many good friends, but even your best friends can disappoint you at times when you need them the most. They are nowhere to be found and they can even turn their backs on you. So, a friend cannot be your refuge. But God is a refuge.
God is more than a neighbor. He is more than someone who live near to you. There are many good neighbors, and they would give up their own comfort to help you out. But neighbors are limited in the type of help they can offer when you have a spiritual problem. When you have a problem with overcoming certain things in your life, things that are so private that you cannot tell it to anyone. It is at times like these that you need a friend that sticks closer than a brother or sister. (Proverbs 18:24) You need a friend who is closer than your kind neighbor. You need a high priest that can be touched with the feeling of your infirmities. (Hebrews 4:15)
God is our refuge. We also know that God gives instructions to his angels to watch over us. (Psalms 91:11) When we are in danger, God could send angels to deliver us. But even angels can only do so much. In the case of Peter, an angel came at night to lead him out of prison. They blinded the eyes of the guards and made the prison doors open. And do you know what caused those angels to be sent to help out? In the upper room there were believers gathered in prayer and they petitioned the throne of mercy. God heard their desperate prayers and sent an angel to lead Peter to freedom.
Those believers had seen too much, they experienced too much to ever doubt that God was their refuge. They saw their lives changed. They saw how people were being filled with the Holy Spirit. They saw how demons had to flee. They knew God is our refuge.
We love our mothers. Mothers are wonderful gifts. They are precious and should be respected and cared for. But even mom is limited in how much she can help when it comes to that which you battle from deep within. Mom does not know how much turmoil you experience when you made a wrong decision and are too ashamed to share it with anyone. You may laugh and smile, but deep inside you are a spiritual wreck. You are torn between what is worldly and what is godly. You are torn between the right and wrong. You are torn between good and evil. You are torn between satisfaction and disappointment. Mom can pray for you and mom can love you and mom can care for you. But eventually you realize that God is our refuge.
Our dads are wonderful people. They are strong and we are proud of them. But there still comes a time in the life of every Christian where he or she must stand on their own feet. Dads will always be there to support us, but even dad is limited in the help he can offer. Dad can teach you to pray, but dad can’t make you to pray. Dad can teach you godly principles, but he can’t make you observe them. Dad can guide and coach you and teach life skills, but when you’re on your own it’s up to you to apply it.
When we are outside the protection of dad and mom and life throws those curveballs at us, what we need is a power greater and stronger than the natural impulses that leave us disappointed and distressed. After we fail and falter and give way to the attacks of the enemy of our lives, please know God is our refuge.
Grandmothers are wonderful gifts, and they are precious. You can ask granny; she also knows God is our refuge. Grandpas are cool people; they spoil us and they love us to the moon and back. You can ask grandad for some advice, and you will hear him say to you “God is our refuge.”
Deacon Jones is such a wonderful servant of God and the people, and you can count on him. But Deacon Jones will also tell you when your trouble is on every hand, take it to the lord in prayer, because God is our refuge.
Elder Franklin dedicates the babies and assists the pastor whenever and wherever he can. He can give good advice and tries to make you smile. But Elder Frank will tell you, “Child, I know a God who you can trust with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Take your burdens to the lord because he cares for you. God is our refuge.”
Our pastor is a blessed man. He is kind and generous and he’s like a real shepherd watching over his flock. He feeds you the word of God and make sure you are spiritually nourished. He cares for you, and he will do anything in his power to help you with your spiritual growth. The pastor is like the man that sits in the lighthouse, he watches the wind and the waves and he’s always ready to warn us of impending dangers on the waves. He is like the captain of the boat he always makes sure that you don’t get shipwrecked. He’s in the boat with us when we face some storms in our life and he does his utmost to help navigate our boats out of treacherous waves.
But the pastor is also dependent on the good shepherd for leadership and guidance. He will tell you, “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.” He will tell you that Jesus is the master of the winds and the waves, and you should trust him in the time of need. My brother and sister please remember, God is our refuge.
I trust where I cannot see, no matter how hard the way may be. I trust where I cannot see, but my dear friend remember, God is our refuge.
Our god is almighty and all-powerful. God is unique. There is no God like Yahweh. God is infinite and omnipotent. God is everywhere unlimited and all-powerful. God is eternal. God always was and always will be. God is immense. God contains all things. God is immutable, unchanging over time, and unable to be changed. God is utterly simple, a pure spirit, because the bible says God is a spirit and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. God is personal. You are special in his eyes.
Applying The Lesson
There can be times in our lives when we may feel like refugees. Circumstances can force us to flee to a place of refuge and safety. Like Peter, James, and John, we may look dirty and beat up when we arrive at the refuge, but there in safety God can restore our souls and heal our wounds. Many times, he will use other Christians to be there for us, to show us his love.
Being a refugee can be traumatic. The circumstances can take some time for us to recover from. But in the story of Peter, James, and John, we see how God worked wonderfully not just to bring them safely to a place of refuge, but to restore them and bless them.
If you are facing a situation in your life, where you are in need refuge, the arms of God is a safe place. He will be the wall around you. Your soul is safe in his care. He will tell you to take the time you need to recover, and he will be there to help you ever step of the way.
This lesson has been adapted from a sermon of Bro. James Manuel of South Africa.
Kept By God: A Prayer of the Puritans
Thou Creator, Upholder, Proprietor of all things,
I cannot escape from thy presence or control,
nor do I desire to do so.
My privilege is to be under the agency of
omnipotence, righteousness, wisdom, patience, mercy, grace.
Thou art love with more than parental affections,
I admire thy heart adore thy wisdom,
Stand in awe of thy power, abase myself before thy purity.
It is the discovery of thy goodness alone that can banish my fear,
Allure me into thy presence,
Help me to bewail and confess my sins,
When I review my past guilty and am conscious of my present unworthiness,
I tremble to come to thee,
I whose foundation is in the dust,
I who have condemned thy goodness,
Defied thy power,
Trampled upon thy love,
Rendered myself worthy of eternal death.
But my recovery cannot spring from any cause within me,
I can destroy, but I cannot save myself.
Yet thou has laid help on One that is mighty,
For there is mercy with thee,
And exceeding riches in thy kindness through Jesus.
May I always feel my need of him.
Let thy restored joy be my strength;
May it keep me from lusting after the world,
Bear up heart and mind in loss of comforts,
Enliven me in the valley of death,
Work in me the image of the heavenly,
And give me to enjoy the first fruits of spirituality,
Such as angels and departed saints know.
In Jesus name, I ask it
The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers
Edited by Arthur Bennet, 1975
- The story of Peter, James, and John is about three men who had to flee for refuge. What are some of the ways God intervened to help them?
- How would you describe a refuge?
- Can you share a story about an experience when you or someone you have known who was in need a refuge?
- Can you name some of the benefits of taking refuge in God?