Strength and Shade.

“For you have been a refuge for me, a strong tower in the face of the enemy. I will live in Your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.” Psalm 61:3-4.

David, the great poet-warrior-king of Israel, penned these words. Once more, his warrior past is evident in his poetry as he uses the imagery of battle to illustrate his point. This psalm, which praises God for the security we can find in Him, reminds us that we are safe in God’s presence, no matter what circumstances we are facing.

David was a prolific author; many of the 150 psalms in the Bible were penned by him. In a decent amount of his psalms, David refers to God as being a refuge. A refuge is a place where a person can go and feel safe and secure; a place where the troubles and worries of this world do not bother them. David experienced the refuge that God provides numerous times in his own life– either in his ordeal with Saul, or just a sense of security that he felt while in battle. David compares God to a mighty tower that remains strong and secure, even when it is attacked by our enemies. In ancient and medieval times, cities and castles would have thick defensive walls surrounding them. On top of these walls, there would be towers, from which defenders of the city or castle could try to repel any attacking forces. Usually, there would be a very narrow opening in wall of a tower, just big enough for an archer to shoot an arrow through without being exposed to danger himself. David, being a warrior who attacked many cities, understood the advantage that towers provided to the those inside them. As long as the wall stood strong, and the soldier remained in the tower, he was safe from harm. The same is true for us with God; He is a strong tower that will always stand firm and as long as we remain in God, He will protect us from even the strongest and most overwhelming onslaught.

But we do not have to be in battle or facing a crisis to experience the refuge that God can provide us. David also speaks of the refuge God gives us in times of peace. David says he will dwell in God’s tent forever, meaning that he will always seek to be close to God. In David’s day, there was no Temple in Jerusalem–it had not yet been built. There was a large tent–called the Tabernacle–that God commanded the Israelites to build when they left Egypt, and this is where God “lived” in the time following the Exodus up to the time Solomon built the Temple. The purpose of both buildings, the Tabernacle and the Temple, was to constantly remind the Hebrews that their God lived among them. He was not far off in some very distant corner of the universe, He was right there among them; He was always present with His people. It is David’s desire to be as close to God as possible, so much so that he would live in God’s tent with God, and find refuge in the shade of God’s wings.

Now, God does not have wings; that is merely an example of poetic figurative language that David used to illustrate his point. However, there is some truth to be found in what David was trying to say. When we seek to be close to God, so close that we are lost in His “shadow,” we are not overwhelmed or worried about the problems of this world. We find peace and serenity; we experience overwhelming calm. Imagine you are outside on a hot day, and you are being beaten down by the heat of the sun, until you come to a large tree. This tree is big and its branches are wide and filled with the most dense and lush green leaves you have ever seen. Beneath the branches, there is shade; the suns rays cannot penetrate through the dense foliage of the tree’s limbs. You sit beneath the tree in its shade, and you instantly find relief from the oppressive heat of the sun. You experience a sense of calm and tranquility. The tree’s shade is your refuge from the sun’s heat. That is the same sense of refuge David is alluding to. Just as the tree shades you from the heat of the sun, God shades us from the cares of this world. He is our escape from the endless worries and cares of this world. As long as we seek to be as close to God as we possibly can be, we will always find comfort and refuge in His shadow.

As long as we seek and serve Him, God will give us security in all of life’s situations. He will be our tower of strength and protection, and He will give us shade and shelter. We must praise Him for that and make it our hearts’ desire to dwell in His tent forever.

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