Our best refuge
Social distancing restrictions can wear you down. Compare the optimism that many of us had months ago to what you might feel like now. February: ‘Start running. Try new workouts at home’. August: ‘Walk to restaurant to get takeaway lunch. Walk home.’ February: ‘Think about everything that you can achieve with the extra time at home.’ August: ‘Think about how little was achieved in all that extra time at home.’ Maybe you’re feeling quite jaded. And it’s not just from the restrictions. There’s also the added weight of concern about infection, the economic slowdown, and the political situation.
King David speaks ancient wisdom into our modern situation. In Psalm 16 he says, ‘Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge (v. 1). David knew he needed a refuge, a place of calm and safety. Recently, we’ve been confronted with this need as well, as we’ve seen our familiar routines and the security of our city unravel before our eyes.
We can have no true refuge outside of God.
We have a choice about where we can find our refuge. David says, ‘Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more’ (v. 4). In his time, people believed in different deities: gods of war, and fertility, and wealth. Nowadays, we don’t believe in these gods, but we do ‘run after’ other counterfeit gods. It can be anything that you take into your heart and think, ‘If I have that, everything will be ok. I will be secure and safe. I will be someone important.’ For most of us, these gods are our bank balance, our education or jobs, or our control over our routines.
Notice that David says, ‘Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more’. If you prioritise these other gods, you’ll be disappointed. They can’t provide the security and safety that they promise.
David’s choice is clear. He says to God, “You are my LORD; apart from you I have no good thing”(v. 2). It’s not that David is saying, ‘There are no good things whatsoever, except for God’. He’s talking about priority. It’s like he’s saying, ‘I can have health and wealth, friends and family, security and significance, but if I don’t have you, I might as well have nothing’.
We would do well to remember David’s perspective and to make the same choice. Our present anxiety and jadedness, the troubles that our city has experienced, are a reminder of the reality of our fragile existence. We can have no true refuge outside of God. When we hold on to him our jadedness turns to joy. We can say with David, ‘I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure’ (vv. 8 and 9).
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