By Pastor Robert L. Donnelly
As usual, I come to the Book of Hebrews (... Hebrews solves a lot of problems ...) – We have “a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, which enters the Presence behind the veil” (Hebrews. 6:1819).
That's the ultimate protection – the only absolute protection there is. The provision of “cities of refuge” in Old Testament Israel was far in advance of anything that any surrounding nation had. Other nations were most insensible to judgments carried out.
But, we learn from Scripture that the Law has no power to forgive. The Law never can forgive trespass or iniquity. It can judge and pass sentence, but cannot forgive. That’s true of any age or dispensation. People who come before a magistrate, charged with any crime whatsoever, find that he has no power to forgive them. He can be lenient, or severe in passing judgment; but he can’t forgive. In fact, if you examine the whole structure of jurisprudence, you're bound to see that forgiveness is a Divine prerogative. Only God can forgive – and God shares His capacity to forgive with us; putting it in our hearts so that we too can forgive.
I'm quite impressed that the idea of "protection" is found in so many places in Scripture. (I had no idea it was so prominent.) If you read the Psalms, you'll run into the idea of "protection" over and over again.
Psalm 91:1-2 says, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my Refuge . . .” Psalm 57:1 “. . . in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by."
All through Scripture we find this showing up. And not only in Scripture, but also in our Hymn Books. A lot of our singing has to do with protection – with shelter. For example
: – Under His wings I am safely abiding . . .
– Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee . . .
– Jesus Lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly . . .
One morning last week I was praying, almost unconsciously, over and over again, “Cover my defenceless head with the shadow of Thy wings." We need protection!
Jesus, lover of my soul,
Let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll,
While the tempest still is high.
O my Savior, hide,
Till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide;
O receive my soul at last.
Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone,
Still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed,
All my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head
With the shadow of Thy wing.
Wilt Thou not regard my call?
Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?
Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall
Lo! on Thee I cast my care;
Reach me out Thy gracious hand!
While I of Thy strength receive,
Hoping against hope I stand,
Dying, and behold, I live.
Thou, O Christ, art all I want,
More than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint,
Heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy name,
I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am;
Thou art full of truth and grace.
Plenteous grace with Thee is found,
Grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound;
Make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art,
Freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart;
Rise to all eternity
. [by Charles Wesley - 1707-1788]
Now, we can argue the pros and cons of the death penalty, and all that belongs to the problems of human society; but, the real truth is – the ultimate truth is – that we desperately need to be protected.
On the global scene, at this point in time, the idea of refugees – people seeking refuge – is colossal. It's staggering! I'm safe in saying there are tens of thousands of people world-wide who are refugees. Seeking protection. Seeking a place where they can live safely. Driven from their homes because they don't have the proper political views, or they don't entertain the right neighbors.
Think of what's going on in Central America – in Chile – in Ethiopia . . . I say, there are tens of thousands of people – refugees, seeking refuge. (I don't know what you think about what Canada ought to do about it. I'm inclined to think we should be generous. I'm inclined to feel we ought to give all the care we can. And the stirring story of the boat-people, showing the absolute heartlessness of man, in causing literally millions of people to be uprooted from their homes and driven out. All because of a political view. It's just absolutely insane! And it's not ending. It seems to be getting worse. But I'm rather of the persuasion that in Canada we could afford to be generous. I'm in flavour of that. You know which way I'm going to vote on the subject, if I'm asked.)
This idea of "protection" is built right into the story of Salvation – into the Gospel. Never can we step out to meet the problems of the day, but what we need protection. For there are influences, temptations, testings . . .
I like Hebrews 6:19 “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, which enters the Presence behind the veil.” We have an anchor right in God’s throne-room; in the inner veil, in the inner sanctum. The place is absolutely secure! No power in heaven, earth, or hell can touch it. That's where our hope is, so we can confidently say: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:1). We need protection!
We read it again in: Romans 5:1 - Dr. BONAR, a very godly, talented man from the beginning of this century, wrote these words:
I see the last red bloody sunset;
I see the dread avenger's form;
I hear the Armageddon onset:
But I shall be above the storm.
I hear the weeping and the wailing;
The teardrops' heavy fall;
A thousand agonies of dying;
But I shall be above them all.
remember, years ago when we used to sing:
Oh my loving brother, when the world's on fire.
Don't you want God's bosom to be your pillow?
Oh my loving brother, when the world's on fire
Don't you want God's bosom to be your pillow?
When the world's on fire, you'll need a Savior . . .
One of the early Methodist Hymn Books had this line in it:
Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness my beauties are, my glorious dress.
Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed with joy shall I lift up my head.
Think of that. When the worlds and the elements are on fire! But, if our hope is in Jesus, we're safe. There is a safe place – we can confidently affirm and declare – there is a place of security. Absolutely! And it's the throne-room of the KING.
Blessed LORD! Oh LORD, there are refugees all around us. People seeking refuge from the raging storms – because of guilt, or because of innocence – it doesn't matter. They're seeking a place of protection – of safety. We pray Thee, LORD, may the Gospel message today assure men everywhere that the “City of Refuge” is open. They can enter in and find protection. In Jesus' Name, we pray. Amen. Amen.
Thank you very much, everyone.