“Sometimes life comes at you fast!” This slogan was used several years ago in a humorous series of insurance commercials where over-the-top catastrophes befell hapless individuals. In reality, however, that statement is all too true. We live in an uncertain, unstable, and often dangerous world. Sometimes the peace and security of our lives is shattered by a crisis; but perhaps more often, peace and security elude us as we simply try to cope with the daily onslaught of life in these overwhelming times.
Deuteronomy 33:27 says,
“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
Refuge is defined as:
“A state of safety, protection, or shelter; a place of safety, protection, or shelter; something or someone turned to for safety or assistance.” (Source: www.wictionary.com, emphasis mine)
God is all of these definitions, and more. This interesting descriptive phrase is added by one dictionary: “an action taken to escape trouble or difficulty.” God is there to be our state of safety and our place of protection, but we must take the action of running to Him. We do this by choosing to turn the focus away from the things causing stress or anxiety, and instead focusing on the everlasting arms which are there to support us. We hear in the news every day of refugees who have fled their country and left all that is familiar to escape their oppressor. At some point in time, every refugee had to come to a critical moment of decision: do I stay in the only place I have ever known and risk death? Or do I flee into the unknown and seek life? Neither option is without hardship and risk, but only one leads to the possibility of life-giving opportunity. In Deuteronomy 30:19, God pleads with His people, saying “Oh, that you would choose life!”
In doing a little research on the word “refuge”, I discovered that it comes from the Latin word refugium. The definition of refugium is “an isolated area whose climate remains unaltered while those of the surrounding areas change, enabling alien life forms to persist.” (Britannica Online Encyclopedia)
My childhood home always felt like a warm refuge to me, and to everyone in our extended family. The home was not a large one, but there was always a seat at the dinner table for anyone passing through, and many a guest stayed in the spare bedroom. Regardless of how the “climate …of the surrounding area” changed over the years, the sense of “home” always enveloped me whenever I walked through the door and into the welcoming presence of my parents. After they died, selling the family home was wrenching. It was a place of refuge no longer.
We have all experienced people or places that served as an earthly refuge; but EVERY earthly refuge is temporary, and will one day fail us or come to an end. When viewed with the proper perspective, though, they can become a picture that points us to the only true Refuge, the One who has the power to catch us when we fall.
Our world and our individual circumstances may change daily, but God, our Refuge, is that place of safety that remains forever unaltered. He emphasizes the point to us twice in this verse: “The eternal God…the everlasting arms.” We are aliens and strangers on this planet, but the safety and protection of His arms, like a refugium, enables us to persist in the face of hardship until the day He calls us Home. Like the old hymn says,
“When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.”