where do you take refuge
Psalm 36:7 says
‘How precious is Your loving-kindness, O God! And the sons of men take refuge under the shadow of Your wing.’
I have been moved, very deeply, by the very essence of this verse over this last month.
As I studied the psalm and then shared its message this verse from the psalm made an absolute impression on me that I still can’t shake.
The message of Psalm thirty six can be summed up as the difference between those who are in close connection with the Lord, or fellowship, and those who are separated from God. Now we were all once separated from God because it is our sin, falling short of God’s standard as described in the law, which alienates us from Him. We cannot come near to Him and in truth we have no desire to. It is only when we have accepted Christ Jesus as our saviour, asking Him to pay the price for our sin, which was death, which He willingly did at the cross of Calvary, that we can have fellowship with God. That may not seem like much, but its not just any old friendship. The Lord of all creation made it possible for you and I, sinful beings, to be in His Holy presence because He wants us to be.
It is in this understanding that we were once His enemies and now we can be closer than brothers that verse seven really spoke to me. It begins by asking the question ‘how precious is this loving kindness’ and finishes by telling us what that loving kindness really is.
Churches up and down the land and all over the world talk about the love of God for all mankind and many try to show it. I have often wondered how is it possible to express, to those who don’t know the loving kindness of God, what it is.
I always believed and still do that random acts of kindness, rather than showing God’s love’ express that God’s love is random and unfair. Similarly the idea of meeting peoples personal or physical needs simply expressed God’s love as the same as Santa’s. Even the most far reaching social action isn’t far reaching enough. It was clear in my mind that if the Lord is Lord of all the universe then the Lord’s lovingkindness is universal and should be expressed universally. So how would it be possible to express, to a world that doesn’t know the Lord and His lovingkindness what that lovingkindness is.
The answer alluded me for some time but was staring me right in the face. Jesus had already answered this question and all of scripture testifies that it is God’s heart and nature. In a night time interview, the Son of God met with a teacher of Israel and proclaimed the Fathers heart and the Fathers love.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes on Him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God. John 3:16-18
I’ve probably just quoted to you the most famous verse in the bible yet it’s funny how sometimes we forget it. Right from the fall of man in scriptures such as Genesis 3:15 we see that the Lord had a plan to save the world, it was His heart. In rituals like the Passover we see a lamb who is slain and His blood brings salvation. This is also true of the sacrificial system of the law, which Hebrews tells us didn’t save people but pointed to what the Lord would do.
A universal sacrifice for all of the universe, even creation requires and groans for the restoration of God. So Jesus paid the price, a righteous man dying for you and for I. This is the loving kindness of God and it is universal, it is to all the world so that none should be condemned because the Lord doesn’t condemn anybody. The only person who condemns you is you, if you will not accept the gift of God in your life.
How precious is that loving kindness? Well it should be very special to us all because it didn’t have to be shown. It is an act of mercy and unmerited favour, the Lord chose to save you, even when you were His enemy.
I wonder church if we can fully grasp that the Gospel is the only universal message that expresses God’s infinite mercy and grace. Feeding the homeless, advising people on what to do when in debt, running fun days for your community are keeping you busy but they don’t show the loving kindness of God. In fact if anything the limits of our ability show God only really loves a limited few, yet that is in contradiction to the message of scripture, and the understanding of mercy. Isn't it about time you started to show the love of God and not flatter your conscience.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1 that the message of salvation is foolishness when looked at with the worlds eyes, but we should still share it because it is a hope to the perishing. All the world, rich and poor are perishing, only the gospel is the universal declaration of God’s love and care to save them.
When Jesus saw Jerusalem the shortest scripture was written. It says ‘Jesus wept’. He looked upon the city where His crucifixion would come but He didn’t weep because of what they would do but because they would fail to respond. Weep for people because their souls are destined to Hell not because they require a foodbank or are fleeing a war zone.
Looking on Jesus proclaimed that He wished he could gather them under His wings as a Hen gathers her chicks. Yet here in the psalm we understand we are welcome under the shadow of His wings. We have infinite protection knowing that our salvation cannot be taken from us whilst we dwell under them in safety. Do you understand that you’re not too bad, nor have you failed too many times. Only you can decide to walk away from the love of God because He won’t cast you away.
Let us be bold to do what is right, not what looks right and let us preach the gospel.