We’re All Refugees

21 Evil will slay the wicked;
    the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord will rescue his servants;
    no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned. Psalm 34:21-22

The last two verses in this passage present us with an interesting contrast: foes of the righteous will be condemned while the righteous will take refuge and not be condemned. So then, what does it mean to take refuge in him?

What does it mean to take refuge from a storm or from the rain? Those who flee one nation or part of a nation to go to another are called refugees. Why? They are being sheltered and taking refuge in the good graces of their new home. Their new home is able to handle the load of refugees in a crisis and take care of them as if they were their own, and sometimes better.

When was the last time you took refuge in God, when you ran to Him in a crisis? Perhaps a better question might be when was the last time you ran away from evil into His arms? Have you ever considered that it’s a bigger deal to God that we run to Him than it is for us to run away from something?

Put another way, I don’t think we understand just how much He cares for us.

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Picking Up the Pieces

The righteous person may have many troubles,
    but the Lord delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones,
    not one of them will be broken. Psalm 34:19-20

You may recognize verse 20 as being a specific prophecy fulfilled by Jesus on the cross. The Roman soldiers did not need to break Jesus’ legs. Breaking Jesus’ legs would have sped up his death because He would no long have been able to prop himself up to breathe. But by the time the soldiers were ready to strike Him, He was already dead.

What’s interesting about this verse is it comes immediately after a passage that I have been struggling to understand (and you may have “heard” that in the previous few devotionals). From verse 17 on it is clear that God is at work in the righteous. Now, think about verse 19 as it relates to Jesus.

  • Did He have troubles? Most definitely.
  • Did the Lord deliver him from them all? Yes.

He didn’t spare Him from going through them, but was there to “pick up the pieces” on the other end.

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32

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The Lord is Close

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
    he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
The righteous person may have many troubles,
    but the Lord delivers him from them all; Psalm 34:17-19

It’s very easy to think that this verse says that you will not have troubles, but it’s not saying that at all. Read the first part of verse 19 to confirm. It’s saying that He is able to deliver you from those troubles. Marriage woes and hurts, children rebelling, no job, mismanaged finances, belligerent co-workers, dysfunctional family relationships, acts and slander committed against you. These are but a few of the troubles we face regularly. There are any number of reasons why we’re going through them: wrong choices, bad thinking and planning, bad economy, and sinful acts by others that are out of our control.

So when you call out to God during those troubles, He is there. He will encourage, comfort, and deliver. What that all looks like is very different than what we expect it to be. Often, though, the biggest encouragement we can get in our troubles is peace. It’s the peace described in Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” It’s this peace that we so desperately need to rule in our hearts. It’s the true peace that will comfort.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

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Patience and One Day

but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to blot out their name from the earth. Psalm 34:16

With a verse like this and with so much true evil in the world, you’d think that evil would have been eliminated long ago. But we all know it’s not, so what’s going on here?

First of all, God is patient, much more patient than we are. Even when we do not think He is at work in the hearts of people, He is. We forget about His patience because we want results now. Better yet, He could have prevented it, could He not? Let’s just say that theologians, scholars, pastors, and teachers have been debating and wrestling with “the problem of evil” for centuries. Must like yesterday’s devotional, the answer is “we really don’t know.”

Secondly, I continue to repeat this theme but, One Day all the wrongs will be righted. All injustice will be gone. The names of the wicked will be but a byword. That day could be tomorrow or a thousand years from now, but one thing’s for certain: the Day will come, and sooner than we expect.

Words: Finnish Folk Song
Music: Lost in the Night | Arranged by Fredrik Melius Christiansen

1. Lost in the night doth the sinner yet languish,
Longing for morning the darkness to vanquish,
Plaintively heaving a sigh full of anguish:
O, Christ is coming soon! Christ is coming soon!

2. Light o’er the land of all sinners is beaming;
Rivers of life through its deserts are streaming,
Millions yet sigh for the Savior redeeming.
Christ is coming soon! Christ is coming soon!

3. Must he be vainly awaiting the morrow?
Shall we no light and no comfort him borrow?
Giving no heed to his burden of sorrow?
O, will not day come soon? Will not day come soon?

Will not day come soon? Will not day come soon?
He is coming soon. He is coming soon.

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And Waits

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are attentive to their cry; Psalm 34:15

After reading this verse I am left with an honest question: if he sees and hears the cries of the righteous, why do bad things still happen to them? Can’t He stop it from happening? I have two answers, a long and short one. First, I don’t know why that happens. And secondly, I REALLY don’t know why that happens.

Based on this verse alone, you would think that nothing bad happens to those who are righteous, but you and I both know that it’s not the world we live in. Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. If you said, “it’s not fair” I’d agree with you completely. I’m certain there’s at least a dozen or more theological answers that explain why these bad things happen. But ultimately we have to answer the question ourselves. It’s not fair or just or right.

Sometimes He intervenes, but often He doesn’t. I have no explanation for when that happens or why. God obviously has an infinitely larger picture of the world than we do. And yes those events work together for the person’s good (Romans 8:28) but that’s sidestepping the question a bit.

The only plausible response to this is the Russian proverb I am fond of quoting: “God see everything and waits.” Does it explain the atrocities that happen against people? Absolutely not nor is it intended to do so. So, in a literal sense of the verse, yes He hears and sees, and I will add “He waits.” Essentially as a Believer it takes faith to believe that in the midst of bad things happening all around us.

Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,—
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own –James Russell Lowell

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