Setting The Table Ep. 1 | A Restless Refuge
"1… 2… 3… 4......ty-eight… 49… 50."
"Ready or not, here I come!"
Whose voice carried those words to your ears? How did you respond?
Did you panic and run or did you hold your ground?
Most of us played “Hide and Seek” as children. One player closes their eyes and counts while the others hide. When the counter finishes, they hunt. They seek until they find.
“Ready or not…” was always yelled, to ensure all players heard the warning. Most of the time, I did. At least once, I did not. I remember hiding, holding my breath, wondering if my pursuer was still counting. My relentless little sister was determined to vanquish me, and I was a sitting - albeit hidden - duck.
When was she coming for me?
This time, my hidey hole was an old clothes dryer, disconnected and languishing in the backyard, awaiting disposal. I was in there so long, I wondered if the game had ended. But eventually, I was found…and I was in big trouble! I remember a harsh parental scolding about safety and not climbing into machinery. All I’d wanted was to hide, and win, but instead I'd found danger and correction.
We’re all grown up now, but has much changed? I certainly never expected to be playing a sudden, years-long “game” of Hide and Seek with the entire world! The questions we asked as children ring true even now.
Will I be found?
Is it safe to come out now?
This time, it's much bigger than a childhood game.
Am I hiding or being hidden?
Am I secure or am I scared?
Am I protected or am I abandoned?
Have I won or am I lost?
Valid questions. Thankfully, there are answers.
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
It’s amazing, how God knows what He wants to say through us before we even know it. Just after we selected the inaugural themes for our podcast and blog, Mesa Church began its Ezra sermon series. We learned about the Israelites returning to Jerusalem after their 70 years of Babylonian exile and 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. In Pastor Pete’s message, “The Flip Side”, he spoke of God’s chosen people rebuilding the altar and celebrating the Festival of Shelters, as God commanded, just before they began reconstructing the temple (Ez. 3:3-6). Despite fear of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, they obeyed (vs. 3).
The word “shelter” in the original Hebrew2 actually correlates directly to the word for “refuge” used in Psalm 46 (our podcast passage)3. Intriguingly, the words for tabernacle and booth are also identical4 as they appear in Ezra 3:4 and Nehemiah 8:145. There, in Nehemiah 8, the Israelites rediscover the Law of Moses and God’s forgotten command to observe the festival. As before, they immediately abandon their plans and obey.
Could the Israelites have responded differently, though? A command alone does not guarantee obedience. They could have succumbed to fear and withdrawn from the promised land. They could have let resentment fester and weariness prevail, blocking any spirit of celebration. They could have touted victory over humility and ignored God’s commands. But, in this pivotal moment, they chose to obey. They acknowledged and celebrated God as their refuge and strength - their deliverer.
The Israelites aren’t the only ones who have faced exile. We have numerous examples in history where a refuge - a hiding place - was absolutely crucial. During World War II, Corrie Ten Boom bravely sheltered Jewish refugees. Anne Frank, a mere child, chronicled her family's experience hiding from the Nazis. During the American Civil War, Harriet Tubman delivered slaves to freedom. We remember these heroic women for their bravery in the face of evil. They hid and preserved human life, bringing encouragement and awe to unending future generations. They took on devastating rounds of “Hide and Seek” they never asked to play.
Now, in what we pray is the tail end of a pandemic, our hearts and prayers turn toward Ukraine and the war raging there. How many survivors now desperately seek refuge? In the face of disaster, we learn with certainty the value of God’s deliverance and protection. We understand how badly we need to be hidden by Him, like David seeking shelter from his pursuers (Ps. 27:5).
With our world upended,
we too become wanderers seeking shelter.
Psalm 91 is full of truth for us to hold onto when we're tired. I urge you to read all 16 verses, because I've struggled to select only one portion to share with you. This chapter is beautiful, and so needed.
"Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him." (Ps. 91:1-2)
The Israelites were certainly weary. Their waiting must have felt unending. In fact, a whole generation missed out on the Promised Land (Num 14:20-23)! Yet, isn’t it fascinating that after spending decades in temporary homes with a temporary place of worship, the Israelites joyfully followed God’s command to celebrate using the very shelters they were leaving behind? Why not burn those booths and say “Good riddance?! God has delivered us from these huts!”
Instead, they built an altar and offered the commanded sacrifices. They spent days rejoicing in their nomadic state (Ez. 3:4-6) - in their shelters - and this feast is now a fixture of the faith. God commanded the Israelites to remember, not forget, their rescue from captivity and the wilderness. Only then could they truly celebrate their deliverance!
Our God is a God of altars, memorials, covenants and promises. Over and over, we see the command to look back and see His faithfulness. David and his appointed Levites led Israel in worship in the presence of the Ark singing “Remember the wonders he has performed, his miracles, and the rulings he has given” (1 Chr. 16:4-12). In Joshua’s final words to Israel, he said “Deep in your hearts you know that every promise of the Lord your God has come true. Not a single one has failed!” (Josh. 23:14).
Whether you are deeply hidden or emerging from your refuge, remember to remember - and rejoice! In the face of joy and in the face of tragedy, rejoice! In clarity or confusion, rejoice (Phil. 4:4). This moment, this season, is not the end of the story. With Christ, our hope is eternal and He is continually building a history for us to cherish and cling to. The past informs our present and future because of Christ's faithfulness alone (1 Pet. 1:3-9).
God does not leave us alone, either!
Long after the pandemic has passed, our present troubles resolve, and we move into our new church building, let us never forget this sheltered season of waiting. It’s a faith-filled season of wear and tear, of generous giving, of patience, determination and trust in God’s faithfulness. It's a time of bonding as we actively await things to come.
Ladies, we are sisters in Christ. You are not alone! At Mesa Church, we are passionate about community and we urge you to reach out to one another. Share each other’s joys and bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). We are Christians - like Christ - extensions and expressions of His love, His covenants, and His promises. We are created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27), so we reflect the refuge He is for us. Let us honor Him by becoming a shelter - a hiding place - for one another. What a beautiful thing for us to be!
Mesa Women, we love you, and we love this journey we are on together!
Setting the Table is Mesa Church's podcast and blog series, created by women for women. We would love to connect with you. Here are a few ways to do so!
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- Strong’s H4268 from H2620
- Strong’s H4268 from H2620
- Strong’s H5521
- Strong, J. (2007). Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Updated and Expanded Edition. Hendrickson Publishers.
Thank you for this subject on God’s Shelter. Excellent. In my devotions I was thinking about Ecc 3 “There is a reason for every season……”
And the Serenity Prayer. God has a plan and He has our back. Very excited out our women too meeting together at the table….together…
Thank you Liz! Hide and Seek was a favorite game when I was a kid. I loved how you tied in a favorite kids’ game into the idea that God provides Refuge for us and what that Refuge may look and feel like. God will never leave or forsake us!
Amen This was powerful, how long was I hiding, will I ever be found, is it safe to come out.