November 21, 2017

My Strong Refuge

Jim Oesterwind

Psalm 71.3

“Be my strong refuge, to which I may resort continually” (Psalm 71.3).

Shame, escape, the plea for deliverance, refuge, rock, and fortress are all very clear indicators in this psalm. If we linger over these words, they help us to understand the background of this Psalm. All these definitive descriptors and we are still only three verses into the Psalm. It is quite obvious that the psalmist is experiencing great upheaval and persecution from “the hand of the wicked … unrighteous, and cruel man” (71.4).

However, the psalmist has experience in his relationship with God. He has trusted and hoped in God from his youth (71.5). Something has happened to him that has caused people to look upon him as a “wonder” or an astonishment (71.7). This same idea is expressed in Isaiah’s Suffering Servant passage. “Just as many were astonished at you, so His visage was marred more than any man…” (Isaiah 52.14). So, the psalmist pleads for the Lord to keep hold of him in his old age … to not forsake him when his strength fails (71.9).

The deepest hurt for him was the people saying that God had forsaken him (71.11). It is very difficult to live a truly altruistic life and have people say that God has left you. So he cries out to God to come near and help him (7.12) …to confound and consume his adversaries (71.13).

The psalmist clings in hope to God continually. He cannot do anything else (71.14). He will go in the strength of the Lord God (71.16). Old and gray-headed, the only thing he cannot endure is the thought of God forsaking him (71.18). He knows that even great and severe trouble shall give way to revival (71.20). He will praise the Lord for deliverance and talk of the Lord’s righteousness all the day long (71.24). But his adversaries who caused such deep hurt in his life will be confounded and brought to shame (71.25).

But I’d like to back up and linger upon verse 3: “Be my strong refuge, to which I may resort continually.”

God has been gracious to us. We probably haven’t had too many occasions where we have prayed like the psalmist has here. But we have to realize that God alone is our strong refuge. We may resort to Him continually. There isn’t anything or anyone in this world that is able to stand in His place. Look carefully at Psalm 71.3:

Be my strong refuge, to which I may resort continually.

God’s Strong Refuge: The Mark of God’s Mercy

First, this refuge is a mark of God’s mercy. Think about the word refuge and all that it entails. The Lord is my strong refuge. The Lord is my strong refuge. He is mine, and He is strong. Beyond this, I may resort to this refuge continually. There is never a time when I cannot find all that I need in Him. I shut the door on everyone who seeks to rob me of peace and safety and find my strong refuge in Him. Nothing can be brought against us as children of God – at least nothing that God does not allow. Then when He allows it, He graciously provides a refuge to which we may resort continually.

Amazing! Don’t even think we deserve this privilege. That God would provide each of us a refuge like this is amazing access. It is a sure indicator of His mercy. We are certainly undeserving. We can identify with David who prayed, “Lord, what is man, that You take knowledge of him? Or the son of man, that You are mindful of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow” (Psalm 144.3-4).

God’s Strong Refuge: The Manifestation of God’s Comfort

Second, this refuge is a manifestation of God’s comfort. A refuge is a place of comfort and security. You are assured of the fact that not only will you be safe, but you will find comfort and relief. All can stand against you but if you find a refuge in God, you find comfort, wisdom, and strength to face the storms brewing on the horizon. God is a faithful anchor amidst a faithless sea of humanity. “Hide yourself …until the indignation is past” (Isaiah 26.20).

Life robs us of temporal comfort and joy so that we might find eternal comfort and joy. God’s refuge is not only far more compelling to those seeking it, but far more satisfying than anything else they’ve been offered. It takes a long time for some of us to learn this.

Think about this prayer as a whole: Be my strong refuge, to which I may resort continually. Now ask yourself if you pray like this. I’m quite convinced that many believers do not have continual refuge in the LORD because they never ask for it. Many are too busy building their own places of refuge. These shanties cannot stand when trouble comes. Some hide in the pursuit of pleasure or popularity or behind the veneer of a false profession, or underneath the cover of a zeal God will not own. We should genuinely seek God as our strong refuge …the place where we resort continually. There are two reasons why we should do this (apart from the fact that the Bible advocates it; I take that for granted).

God’s Strong Refuge: The Wise Choice

First, it’s the smart thing to do; it’s the wise choice. When you think of just the little things that consume Christians in our country, it is frightening to think of a future filled with real and persistent persecution! As a church, we must be taught to fail in our own strength. It is the most merciful thing God can do in order to teach us to resort to Him continually.

When God is our refuge, there is always hope even in the most miserable situations here on earth. Believers who resort to God during these times find that out. They are truly wise. We must conclude that it is the height of foolishness to ignore the refuge we’ve been given in God. Let us go to Him continually. Let us rely upon His omnipotent arm instead of our feeble attempts to deliver ourselves. Jeremiah wrote, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD …Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD” (Jeremiah 17.5, 7).

It really is a no-brainer as they say. Fire and brimstone is already coming upon the face of Sodom. It’s time to flee to our strong refuge; to resort in Him continually.

God’s Strong Refuge: The Loyal Choice

Second, it’s the loyal thing to do. Loyalty matters to God. When you look for a refuge in anyone or anything else, God will not put up with it for long. He is a jealous God …He has perfect jealousy. The psalmist was loyal to God because he experienced the all-sufficiency of God in his weakness.

Only God has the power to protect you. Only God loves you enough to provide you with what you need instead of what you want. If we don’t read and study verses like Psalm 71.3, it would never occur to us to pray as the psalmist did. You discover who God is and what He wants to do for you by studying the Psalms. Until you know God’s character, you’ll never really understand why people are willing to forsake everything and everyone else in order to serve Him.

The wonderful thing about God’s character is that as we discover Him together, we will conclude that He indeed is our refuge through all generations (Psalm 90.1). When we flee to Him, we find comfort and security even in the midst of great chaos.

Conclusion: We ought to have great pity upon those who still struggle to find a strong Refuge to whom they may resort. If they think that their their troubles are burdensome now, just think of the terror that awaits them in Hell after they die! People who fight against God will one day find that they fight against the Creator of all. But if they pursue a relationship with God, they will have a peace that protects and keep their hearts for this life and the life to come.

Yet I hasten to add that those of us who have made the LORD a refuge and dwelling place may be assured that “no evil shall befall” us (Psalm 91.9-10). “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (Proverbs 18.10). When we pray, let us ask that God be a strong refuge, to which we may resort continually (Psalm 71.3).


Jim Oesterwind is the pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Antioch, CA. He blogs at Sun and Shield.


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