The Refuge from the Storm
by Robert Leighton
Men, in great straits, when they are not able to make defense against pursuing enemies, run to their hiding place, as the Israelites did from the Philistines. When the men of Israel saw that they were distressed, they hid themselves in caves, in thickets, in rocks, in high places, and in pits," 1 Samuel 13:6; and so God's children, when they are too weak for their enemies, seek a safe and sure hiding place. "A prudent man foresees the evil, and hides himself," Proverbs 22:3. Certainly there is a hiding place for God's children, if we had but the wisdom to find it out — and where is it but in God? "Lord, you are my hiding place, you shall preserve me from trouble." So again — "In the time of trouble, he shall hide me in his pavilion; in the secret of his tabernacle, shall he hide me: he shall set me upon a rock," Psalm 27:5.
God's protection of his people is a secret, hidden mystery — as everything that pertains unto God is to the carnal man. The person hidden is seen abroad every day following his business — serving his generation — doing that work which God has given him to do — yet is he hidden, while he is seen, by the secret power and love of God dispensing all things for his protection, the man is kept safe by ways which the world knows not of. "You shall hide him in the secret of your presence from the pride of man," Psalm 31:20.
There is a secret power of God by which his people are upheld and maintained by one means or another, which they see not, and cannot find out. So there is that in God — that we may trust him with our souls, with our bodies, with our peace, with our goods, with our good name, with our all; all that concerns us between this and the day of judgment, as Paul did, "I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." His soul and all its concerns, he dared trust in the hands of God.
Our soul is much sought after; Satan, who has lost the favor of God himself, envies that others should enjoy it, therefore he pursues God's people with great malice and power; but let them put it into the hands of God, he is able to keep it. This hiding place is large enough for all that we have. "You shall keep them secretly as in a pavilion, from the strife of tongues." As the hearts of men are in the hands of God, so are their tongues, Exod. 11:7.
There is the same reason why we should trust God in all things — as when we trust him for one thing. And indeed, did we truly, and on Scripture grounds, trust him for one thing — we should trust him for all. If we did trust him with our souls, we should without anxious care trust him with our bodies, our secular interests and concerns also. There is safety until the trouble is over, and we may be kept as quiet in God, as if there was no danger. "Under the shadow of your wings will I make my refuge until these calamities are over and past." There is an allusion to the chicken under the hen's wing — when hawks or birds of prey are abroad, that are ready to seize upon them with their talons, they run to the hen's wings, and there they are safe.
"Come, my people, enter into your chambers, and shut the doors about you: hide yourself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast," Isaiah 26:20. Here we have an allusion to a storm which is soon over; it is as a little cloud, that will easily be blown over; but in the mean time here is a covert and defense. The use of God's protection and love is best known in a time of straits and difficulties. There is not only safety — but comfort also. Christians, it is not a dead refuge or hiding place — but, as the Psalmist says, "None of those who trust in God shall be desolate," Psalm 34:22. There are sweet supports, spiritual experiences, and inward comforts; so that a believer, who is hidden in the secret of God's presence, fares better than all those who have the world at their command, and go on in ease and plenty, if we judge of his condition by spiritual considerations.
And not only will He be his protection — but He will be a sun, as well as a shield. Psalm 84:11. As a "shield," he will keep off all dangers from us. As a "sun," he will give all things that belong to our blessedness; "He will give grace and glory." The word of God shows not only what God can do herein — but what he will do for our sakes.
To Abraham, God said, "I am your shield and your exceeding great reward," Genesis 15:1. Abraham might be under some dread that the kings he had lately vanquished would work him some trouble, and then God comes and appears to him and comforts him, and says to him, "Fear not, I am your shield." Here then we may rest; for where else can we hope to find a resting place, but in the arms of God's protection — in his attributes, promises, and providences? His word invites us so to make use of God — to enter into Him as a covert from the storm, while it seems to rage, and be likely to overwhelm us. "He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty," Psalm 91:1. He who commits himself to God shall not be thrust out — but shall be allowed to dwell there, and enjoy the benefit of a covert and defense; we have this assurance repeated again and again in Scripture. "Every word of God is pure; he is a shield unto those who put their trust m him," Proverbs 30:5. Do not think that these are careless expressions, dropped into the word of God by chance. Oh no! they are the sure and pure words of the Lord himself, that will yield comfort, peace, and happiness, to those who flee unto him — it is only to trust and to have. If you will glorify God by trusting him, and depend upon him according to his word — you will find it to be so.
We miss of our protection and defense by our doubts, unbelief, and distrust of God. All those who in time of danger are duly sensible of it, and make use of God as their refuge and hiding place — shall find him to be that to them, which their faith expects from him.
There is a keeping of the outward man, and a keeping of the inward man. As to the outward man, "all things come alike to all," Eccles. 9:2; the Christian is safe, whatever becomes of the man; the Lord will keep him to his heavenly kingdom, 2 Timothy 4:17, 18. What the Christian desires mainly to be kept is his soul, that he may not miscarry — blemish his profession, and dishonor God. I say, we cannot absolutely expect temporal safety. The righteous are liable to many troubles. Psalm 34:19, therefore, in temporal things, God will not keep off the temporal stroke — but leave us to many uncertainties, or at least hold us in doubt about it — that we may trust his goodness. When we trust God, we may trust all his attributes, not only his power, that he is able to preserve — but his goodness, that he will do what is best for us, that there may be a submission and a referring all to his will. God will certainly make good his promise — but this trust lies not in an absolute certainty of success as to temporal things. However, this should not discourage us from making God our refuge, because promises of better things are sure enough, and God's keeping us in suspense about other things is no evidence that he will not afford them to us. It is his usual course (and few instances can be given to the contrary) to have a special regard to his trusting servants, and to hide them secretly. Those who know His name, will find that he has never forsaken those who put their trust in him. Psalm 9:10.
It is the only sure way to be safe; whereas, to perplex our souls with distrust, even about these outward things, dishonors God's faithfulness, and is the way to bring ruin upon ourselves. You see then, what respect the word has to this privilege, that God is a shield and a hiding place. The word discovers God under these figures; the word invites and encourages us to put God to this use; the word assures us of his divine protection; it directs us to the qualification of the people that shall enjoy this privilege, "those who trust God;" and it directs us to expect the blessing, not with absolute confidence of success — but in humble submission to his will.
This quiets the heart in waiting God's leisure. "Our soul waits for the Lord, he is our help and our shield," Psalm 33:26. If so, then faith is quietly to wait God's leisure; until he sends deliverance, his promise must bear up our hearts, and we must be contented to tarry his time — our impatience must not make us outrun God. This will fortify the heart against present difficulties. When all visible helps are cut off — yet may we encourage ourselves in the Lord.
When Israel was wandering in the wilderness, and had neither house nor home, then Moses, that man of God, pens that Psalm, "Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations," Psalm 90:1. What was lacking to sense, they saw made up in the all-sufficiency of God. And here is the use of faith, when in defiance of all difficulties, we can see an all-sufficiency in God to counterbalance that which is lacking to sense.
"Lord, you are my shield and glory, and the lifter up of my head," Psalm 3:3. David wrote this psalm when he was driven from his palace by his son Absalom; when he was in danger — God was his shield; when his kingdom and honor were laid in the dust — God was his glory; when he was under sorrow and shame, and enemies insulting over him; when the people rose against him, and he was in great dejection of spirit — "God was the lifter up of his head." This is getting under the covert of this shield, or within the compass of this hiding place!
"Into your hands I commit my spirit, for you have redeemed me, Lord God of truth," Psalm 31:5. David was then in great danger, the net was laid for him, as he said in a former verse, and when he was likely to perish, what does he do? He casts all his care upon God, and trusts him with his life, his safety: "Into your hands I commit my spirit."
The use of faith is to quicken us to go on cheerfully in our path, and with a quiet heart resting on God's love, power, and truth. To persuade us to contentment in a time of trouble, though our condition is not what we desire — yet if we have but a hiding place, if God grants us a little liberty in our service, we ought to be content, if he will give us safety, though not plenty — for here on earth is not our rest. God never undertook in his covenant to maintain us in such a state, nor thus to enlarge our earthly portion; if he will grant a little peace and safety to us during the time of our pilgrimage — we ought to be content.
And unless God be our hiding place, the strongest defences in the world are not enough to keep us from danger. All the shifts we run into, will only entangle us the more, drive us farther from God, and to greater suffering. Many thus run away from God's protection, and seek out means of safety for themselves; thus they do but plunge themselves into troubles so much the more. There is much sin and danger in departing from God; he can soon blast our confidences. God will blast our carnal shifts, Jeremiah 17:15-18. No hurt can come to us without God's permission. No creature can move or stir — but only by God's permission — but by his influence. Others may have a will to hurt us — but not the power, unless given them from above, as Christ told Pilate. Satan is a raging adversary against the people of God — but he is forced to ask permission before he can touch either Job's goods or his person; he could not touch his skin, nor anything that belonged to him, without permission from God, Job 1. Nay, he must ask permission to enter into the herd of swine, Matthew 8:31.
Constantly then, make use of God. You may think this advice not needed by you, because you are at present out of fears and dangers; but what says the scripture? "Be not high-minded, but fear," — and again, "Blessed is the man who fears always." Are you not constantly to make use of God, whether your state be well or ill, and to live upon God at all times? All our comforts are from God — as well as our support in trouble. Certainly, he who lives upon God in prosperity — will live upon him in adversity. Oh! when you are at ease and abound in all things, and consider Him as the author of all your happiness, and the giver of all your gifts — you will learn better to make Him your refuge when all things fail. But he who lives upon the creature in prosperity — when the creature fails, will be in utter distress, and know not which way to turn for comfort.
"O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water. Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise!" Jeremiah 17:13-14
"Jesus Our Hiding Place"
When God's right arm is bared for war,
And thunders clothe his cloudy car,
Where, where, oh where! shall man retire,
To escape the horrors of His ire?
'Tis He, the Lamb, to whom we fly,
While the dread tempest passes by;
God sees His well-Beloved's face,
And spares us in our hiding place.
Thus, while we dwell in this low scene,
The Lamb is our unfailing screen;
To Him, though guilty, still we run,
And God still spares us for his Son.
While yet we sojourn here below,
Pollutions still our hearts overflow;
Fallen, abject, mean, a sentenced race,
We deeply need a hiding place.
Yet courage, days and years will glide,
And we shall lay these clods aside;
Shall be baptized in Jordan's flood,
And washed in Jesus' cleansing blood.
Then pure, immortal, sinless, freed,
We, through the Lamb, shall be decreed;
Shall meet the Father face to face,
And need no more a hiding place!