Welcome to a series here at Patheos to follow up on my post How to Stop Being Afraid with wisdom from Psalm 46.
No. “In God we trust” did not make its first appearance upon US currency. Psalm 46:1 says that “God is our refuge.”
The psalmist makes this incredible claim that the infinite God is our defense at the start of Psalm 46 to help us to stop being afraid. Building on the simple yet deeply profound statement that it all starts with remembering God, we now get personal. The God of the universe (Just Who Is This God?) is our defense, our refuge, our strong tower in whom we can hide.
We live in an era where towers aren’t thought to be all that safe anymore. On 9/11, we watched brave men and women run into the two towers — and never return. Once thought to be invincible, towers now seem to some as the last place you’d want to run when in danger. But in Biblical times, towers were the only place you could run for safety when times got tough. (See also entire cities of refuge God set aside for a special purpose.)
By the time of the writing of Psalm 46, the concept of towers as the last citadel of an ancient city was firmly embedded in the culture. We read in Judges 9 that the citizens of the cities would run to the tower to wait out an attack once the walls were breached. In a very real way, it was their final line of defense — their last, best hope. By the time of the Biblical kings, the towers had become a little more formal, but the concept remained the same.
When all other hopes failed, you’d run to the tower. Your final refuge. And wait.
Well, you could fight back, of course, as you were able — a few arrows fired, a well-placed millstone or maybe some boiling tar dropped from above might speed things along. But, for the most part, you’d hide out in the tower until help could come. Maybe not the most effective strategy by today’s standards, but the only one they had at the time. The tower was your place of refuge when there was no more hope.
The Psalmist draws on that tower image to say God Himself is our refuge when we are under seige and feel like all hope is gone. He only is our infinite, impenetrable fortress who depends on no one and nothing to protect us. There will be no one scaling the walls without His consent. There will be shortage of supplies while we wait. No one will be smoking us out of His care. And you can forget the tar, you won’t need that either.
Towers of Our Own Making
All too often, we have towers of our own making, places of refuge we run to when we get afraid. Here’s partial list of a few that may look all too familiar to you:
- Doctors and therapy.
- Unofficial “medication” i.e. alchohol, drugs, etc.
- Food. Comfort food.
- Health and fitness.
- Intellect, reason, or talent.
- Money. Or gold.
- Guns. And emergency supplies.
- Political parties or leaders.
- Social status, position, or Facebook friends.
- Career Title.
- Escapist entertainment (video games, television, films).
That’s not to say that all the items on the list are wrong in moderation. But when the pressure is on, where do we put our trust? It may be comforting to remember that “even though we’re often under pressure, God never is.” (Tim Elmore)
A Few Thoughts on Towers of Refuge
Here are a few simple lessons we can learn from viewing God as our tower of refuge:
- Position yourself to rise or fall with the tower. Let’s face it, if the tower didn’t stand up as a place of refuge, those hiding in it we’re screwed. It should be the same way with our trust in God. If He is all we believe Him to be, we’ve got nothing to worry about. “God calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.” ~ Francis Chan [See my post Is What You Are Attempting for God Too Big to Fail?]
- You’re either in or you’re out. Funny thing about towers, they’re only safe places if you’re all in. Hapless souls who half-heartedly trusted the tower to help them, probably didn’t find it to be of much use. Maybe they hung around outside for a while, left a door open around back just in case they chose to bolt. I just can’t see how that would have ended well. The only ones who had any hope of survival were those who had placed their trust completely in the tower as their refuuge. So it is with us and God.
- If you’re in, everyone knows it. It seems simple enough, but if you were in the tower back then, it was pretty obvious — both to your friends and to your enemies. Same as when you chose to stay outside the refuge of the tower. Not smart, but obvious. Same with us. When we place our trust completely in God as our refuge, everyone will likely know it. We boldly step into the tower because it’s our only hope for survival when overcoming fear.
Do you view God as your first and only line of defense? What towers do you tend to turn to instead of the One who cannot fail? Leave a comment to help us all increase our faith.