A Place of Refuge

“And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence.  And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the day time from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain” (Isaiah 4:5-6).

A few days ago, I came across this passage and was struck by how comforting these verses were.  I think the reason why these words left such an impression was because, as we all do at times, I had been experiencing the heat of the day as well as the rain and the storm of verse six.  At times, we all feel the heat of life’s fiery trials, a heat that leaves us weak and exhausted, longing for a bit of shade where we can find relief and rest.  And we also feel the sorrow of life’s storms and rains that come over us, leaving us feeling powerless and alone.  Like the Israelites in the wilderness alluded to in Isaiah, we face many hardships in our lives as we wander through this earth with its heat and storms.

The Israelites had been delivered out of captivity in Egypt, brought through the Red Sea, and given manna to eat and water from the rock to drink.  We, too, can look back on our lives, as individuals and as God’s church, and see how we have been freed from the bondage of sin, granted salvation, and provided for by our God throughout our whole lives.  And, like the Israelites, who were looking forward to entering into the promised land of Canaan, we look forward to entering the promised land of heaven.

However, even being able to look back at God’s provisions in the past and to look forward to His promises for the future, the Israelites still faced difficulties and hardships in their present situation, and so do we.  Yes, we have been promised salvation and have seen God’s work all throughout our lives, and we look forward to the end of this life’s journey when we will finally enter Paradise, but sometimes the scorching heat and the stormy rains we face during the journey seem almost unbearable.  It is in these times that we must remember that just as God did not forsake the Israelites in the wilderness, neither will He forsake us now in our own hardships.

In the wilderness, God provided the Israelites with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night for protection and guidance, and he also will do the same for us.  Isaiah 4:6 says that a tabernacle will provide this shade and protection and serve as a place of refuge.  In the Old Testament, the tabernacle was where God dwelt with His people, and it is in this way that God provides us protection from the storms of this life – He dwells among us, and we find shelter and refuge in Him.

As we enter God’s house tomorrow, let us be thankful for this place of refuge and rest from life’s storms.  Although we will continue to face scorching heat and violent storms until we finally reach the promised land, we are not left unprotected.  As we have fellowship together with our heavenly Father as brothers and sisters in Christ, let us remember to place our trust in Him and find refuge in His tabernacle from whatever trials we might face in this life.

“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.  My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.  He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.  Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.  The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.  The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.  The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore” (Psalm 121).

Amy Kaiser

My Tears in God’s Bottle

I recently read an article which reminded me crying is not something to be ashamed of. Crying shows sorrow, and we definitely have many things we need to sorrow over. In Psalm 38:17-18, the psalmist says: “My sorrow is continually before me. For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin.” We sorrow over sin, and we also sorrow in the trials God handpicks for us. Crying over these sorrows results in many, many tears. Tears running and running and running. Tears that are silent. Tears that we try to hide from others. Tears angry, bitter, burning. Tears that only show themselves once in a while. Tears appearing day after day. Tears that convey our sorrow.

Shedding these tears often takes a physical toll on us, and sometimes we wish we didn’t have to cry about things. But this is our plea to God: “Put Thou my tears into Thy bottle!”

This was the plea of David in Psalm 56. He was being oppressed by the Philistines in Gath, and it must have brought him to tears because he says in verses 8 and 9: “Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book? When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me.” The Psalter puts it this way in the fourth stanza of number 15: “Thou knowest all my woes, O treasure Thou my tears; are they not in Thy book, where all my life appears?” We ask God to collect our tears, to keep track of how many times we cry. And He does! Our Lord hears and sees every single tear that slides down our cheeks. He even sees the silent tears that never come out of our eyes, the ones that we try to keep in. God knows our sorrow.

How deep that is! God knows my sorrow. He collects my tears. My heavenly Father cares for me so much that He saves my tears in His bottle. He knows what I go through—the loss of loved ones, the everyday stress, the heartbreaks, the moments where it seems nothing goes right, the days when I know I can’t do it on my own, the sins I keep going back to—He knows it all. Because I am His creature, God knows every part of me that He has made. He put all of my tears in me in the first place, and so He knows when each tear escapes from my eyes.

Because God is so powerful and sovereign in everything He does, He designed our tears for a very special purpose: to allow us to show our sorrow. Our Father requires of us that we confess our sins, repent of them, and show our sorrow for them. Therefore, when our tears spill over in sorrow, God knows we are truly sorry for those sins. He treasures those tears because they show Him that we are His weak children who need Him every moment of every day. He keeps our tears in His bottle to remember that we have repented and been redeemed by the blood of Christ. Psalm 9:12 says this plainly— “When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them: he forgetteth not the cry of the humble.” God does not forget our tears…He treasures them forever.

The next time you find yourself shedding tears, remember God collects every one of those tears and finds them precious in His eyes. What a comfort!

Grace Medema

 

Why Do the Birds Sing?

Psalm 148

“Praise ye the Lord. Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise him in the heights.Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts. Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light. Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens. Let them praise the name of the Lord: for he commanded, and they were created. He hath also stablished them for ever and ever: he hath made a decree which shall not pass. Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps: Fire, and hail; snow, and vapours; stormy wind fulfilling his word: Mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars: 10 Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl: 11 Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth: 12 Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children: 13 Let them praise the name of the Lord: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven. 14 He also exalteth the horn of his people, the praise of all his saints; even of the children of Israel, a people near unto him. Praise ye the Lord.”

All of creation praises God together in Psalm 148. This is more than just God’s children singing to Him. It includes the weather, mountains, trees, and animals. Each element of creation uniquely gives praise to God. Verse 13 gives the reason: “Let them praise the name of the Lord: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.” God alone deserves all the praise of each part of creation.

In my travels recently, I had the amazing opportunity to go paragliding. We had some promotional material from the company, and I was looking at it afterwards. The phrase “Discover why the birds sing” caught my eye. When flying through the air, we had a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains and lakes; I understood why they would use such a phrase for marketing.

Later, though, I had some time to reflect on the day and the place we were in. I looked around me at the snow-capped mountains, the massive trees that seemed so small from a distance, the river nearby, and all the singing birds, and I was amazed by God’s intricate handiwork in this little piece of the world. In that day, I took some time to think about why the birds sang. I pondered why the water sparkled and why the trees grew tall and then turned beautiful colors in autumn. I considered why the lion roared and why the snow fell and why the sun set and rose each day in all its glorious splendor. I thought about why the stars shone and why the flowers bloomed.

Romans 11:36 reads, “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” Our God is amazing, and He created all things for the purpose of showing His splendor in so many different ways. It’s easy to imagine how the Grand Canyon or the Rocky Mountains exist for the glory of God, but I so often forget to see Him in the normal, everyday things. Romans says “all things,” though. The birds singing, the sun shining, and the tree growing – each does this to glorify its Maker.

When I remember this, it’s a humbling reminder to me of my lack of praise. I am created in God’s image as a rational, moral creature, but I think the flowers praise God better than I do sometimes. As part of creation, God created me so that I could glorify Him. I forget, I’m distracted, and I’m busy, but sometimes creation reminds me of a better life – one in which my walk gives constant praise to my King.

Kelsey Kuiper