Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A Place of Refuge

In you, O Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your righteousness deliver me.
✜ Ps 71:1-2a

Psalm 70 ended with a very impatient prayer: "Don't delay." And about the opening verse of Psalm 71, Calvin says that the one "whose mind is in a state of constant fluctuation, and whose hope is divided by being turned in different directions, in each of which he is looking for deliverance, or who, under the influence of fear, disputes with himself, or who obstinately refuses the Divine assistance, or who frets and gives way to restless impatience, is unworthy of being succored by God." 

But wasn't "restless impatience" the whole point of Psalm 70:5?

I suppose the answer is Yes and No. Impatience, yes. But the impatience was single-minded. It was focused on God alone, and if the prayer were not answered as immediately, the psalmist's mind would not flit off to some other possible source of help. It was God or nobody.

So the impatience was far from restless. It had a place to rest, a place to take refuge: in God alone. In older translations (such as the Geneva Bible and the KJV), the first part of Ps. 71:1 is translated as putting trust in God. But that's more of an interpretation, and it conjures up no sure image. The Hebrew word, חָסִיתִי, can mean to place trust in, but it more explicitly means to flee to for refuge. The first place it's used in the Bible is here:

O Lord my God, in you I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers, and deliver me, or like a lion they will tear me apart; they will drag me away, with no one to rescue.
Psalm 7:1-2

And this gives us more of a sense of urgency, and a more vivid picture not just of a place of refuge, but of the true meaning of Psalm 71:1.

This prayer is not being prayed by someone who thinks they're deserving. Apparently there are those who would shame them. But it is not their own righteousness they're using as a basis of worthiness to make this request, but God's own righteousness.

O God, my own strength cannot save me, but to you I may flee for refuge. And my own righteousness will never be sufficient, but in yours I need never be ashamed. Save me, both now and in the future, in Jesus' Name, who taught me to pray...

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea:

A great high priest whose Name is Love,
who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on his hands,
my name is written on his heart.
I know that while in heaven he stands
no tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
and tells me of the guilt within,

upward I look and see him there
who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
my sinful soul is counted free,
for God the just is satisfied
to look on him and pardon me.

Behold him there, the risen Lamb,
my perfect spotless righteousness,

the great unchangeable I Am,
the King of glory and of grace.
One with himself I cannot die,
my soul is purchased by his blood,
my life is hid with Christ on high—
with Christ my Savior and my God!
Charitie Bancroft (1863)