As this year continues to fly by, we find ourselves soon approaching the Easter season. We have Palm Sunday next Sunday and Good Friday and Easter Sunday the week following. It’s a season full of both mourning and joy as we recall our savior’s death as well as His resurrection to life.
As we enter into this season, I felt the Lord leading us to dig into a new message series where we look at some of the attributes revealed to us about Jesus. The first that we’ll be looking at is how God is Our Refuge.
A refuge is a place that provides shelter or protection especially from danger or distress.
Life is full of challenges and difficulties. There are often times when we just want to find a way of escape; a way to just get away from it all. It seems that just at the moment that you think that you cannot possibly handle anymore, something else comes your way. I’m certain that Jesus felt the same way and was far more familiar with the stresses and letdowns of life than we think.
A familiar prophesy from Isaiah of Christ’s coming said this about Him:
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
So often, we think of Jesus as this soft, attractive, and gentle man who always had a big smile on His face. We find a bit of a different reality when we dig into the truth, however. Jesus humbled Himself from being God of all of the universe and wrapped Himself in flesh – He became like us in every way and faced the same weaknesses and temptations that we do every day.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
This morning, let’s take a look at one of those roller coaster seasons in Jesus’ life similar to that which we often find ourselves in.
14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.
Christ was being praised by everyone where He went as He effectively ministered by the power of the Spirit. I’m sure that He was on an emotional and spiritual high! Then, he decided to go back to His hood.
16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
After proclaiming His calling prophesied by Isaiah, His own neighborhood was enraged and drove Him to a cliff in order to kill Him. Things were going good for Him up until this point… However, Christ didn’t let that get Him down. In fact, He literally walked right through the crowd and continued on to His father’s will for His life. Unfortunately, their doubt prevented Him from performing many miracles in His home town amongst His own family and childhood friends!
Let’s put this in perspective and try to consider what we had done were we to experience this. Most of us would be crippled by the fact that our own people rejected God’s call on our lives and might even spend years in depression and sorrow after dealing with such rejection. It easily could have created such doubt and insecurity in our life that our ministry would be hindered for a lifetime. We might even doubt God’s call altogether since we went from performing all sorts of miracles in power to not being able to do much at all. Many of us might have even stopped there and never recovered or moved on from it.
Jesus, however, continued throughout Galilee proclaiming the good news, healing the sick, and driving out demons (setting the captives free). People were amazed at His teaching because of the authority by which He spoke and at the immediate fruits of His ministry. As we continue through His ministry, we find one of the most important reasons that Jesus was able to continue on as He did. Through this, we as well, can learn how to become overcomers in life and walk in the victory and power that He has called us to.
Continuing on in Christ’s ministry:
12 While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
13 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him.14 Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”15 Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. (increased stress on Jesus) 16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
We see here that despite the amount of work to be done and the stress that Jesus was being put under by continuous crowds of needy people, that He often would find an escape from it all. He would often withdraw to lonely places and pray. It was during these times that Jesus spent quality time in the presence of His Father.
He ran to the Father, His refuge. It wasn’t that Jesus was running away from all that He was called to do and needed to get done, it’s that He was running to the one place where He could get filled up and empowered to do all that needed to get done and receive wisdom and direction for what He was to do. We see Jesus doing this frequently where He would wake up early while it was still dark to take this time (Mark 1:35), left crowds of thousands to do so (Mark 6:46), and even spent entire nights to pray and spend that time in His Father’s presence (Luke 6:12).
It is God’s desire that we take refuge in Him as He reveals Himself to us and what He is doing. However, God will never force Himself on us – He created us with free will to choose. We can choose to come into and remain in His refuge or to walk out from under it.
He asks us to cast all of our anxiety on Him because He cares for us. Too often we take on burdens and worries that we were never designed or intended to carry. God wants us to carry those things to Him and to leave them at His feet as we enter His refuge. Sort of like a welcome mat where we leave all of our dirt on before entering into a home. In His refuge, worry melts away as we trust in Him.
Jesus said this concerning His chosen people:
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.
*Video – HenGatheringChicks*
You could even hear the peace that came over the chicks as they were gathered in under the hen’s wings. A mother hen will often call her chicks under her wing to keep them warm, protect them from a storm, or to protect them from any approaching enemies. If she’s concerned that you intend harm to her chicks and you get close; she’ll let you know for sure!
*Video – HenAttack*
What an image that God has given us in this as He desires to be our refuge just as that mother hen is a refuge to her chicks! While under His refuge, no enemy of ours can touch us!
43 times just in the book of Psalms God is referred to as our refuge, but the clearest picture of this is found in Psalm 91.
1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.9 If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.14 “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”
As we love Him and keep in step with His Spirit, we remain in His refuge. In His refuge, we are not only protected, but honored and satisfied by Him. Of course, we need to be careful not to become distracted and to stray from his protection! It’s an easy thing to do, but being outside of His refuge and covering is a dangerous and lonely place to be!
Let’s take a look at a parable given to us by Jesus concerning an individual that decided to run away from this covering instead of remaining under it.
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
If you’ve wandered from His covering this morning or need His covering in some area of your life, pray with me this morning. He’s lovingly waiting with open arms to bring us back into His refuge to restore us as His children!