The Bible talks a lot about being in Christ, dwelling in God, abiding in Him, making Him our shelter, our refuge. There are promises aplenty for those who dwell in Him, promises of protection, peace, joy, wisdom, and more (e.g., Psalm 91:1-4; John 15:4-5; Psalm 1; John 15:7). But what does being in Him truly mean?
Is it thinking of Him? Engulfing ourselves in things of God like scripture, praise, worship, church, and godly company? Acknowledging Him in all of our ways? Being present with His Spirit, recognizing His constant presence? Perhaps it's all of these things and more. This is a rich and complex subject, and I'll save the full exploration for another article. But if you're curious about how to truly walk with God or eager to grasp Him in the midst of tumult, it's wise to first discern where you are.
Where Do You Flee?
If you're wondering how to be in Him, it might reveal a fear that you are outside of Him, outside of His covering. It's easy to question that when things aren't going our way. That's what led me to delve into just one of the words given to us to encourage us to abide in Him: refuge. A refuge is a safe place, and to take refuge means you are fleeing from somewhere unsafe.
So, where do you flee when you are uncomfortable? When you feel insecure or under attack? Do you find twisted comfort in being vengeful? Does pride puff you up with a hollow sense of security? Perhaps you ironically find solace in complaining? Or escape fear, anger, sadness, or anxiety through food or television?
Where do you take refuge? Where do you flee?
A Challenge to Reflect
Ask yourself these questions honestly. Understanding how and when you fail to take shelter in God can illuminate what it means to truly find refuge in Him, guiding you in practicing this essential aspect of faith. Meditating on these ideas and seeking deeper understanding can break misperceptions, strengthen your resolve, and empower you to act rightly once you know better.
I invite you to dive with me into a deeper revelation of the word refuge which holds profound symbolic meanings and revelations in the original Hebrew language, the very language in which much of the Old Testament was written. Together, let's explore the ancient Hebrew pictographs for two words that reveal God's profound call to us - a call to find safety, security, and purpose within His loving embrace.
In Psalm 91 where it says "I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust," the word for refuge here is "מַחֲסֶה" (machaseh). It's a noun that means a place of refuge or shelter. It's rooted in the verb "חָסָה" (chasah) which is one of the Hebrew words often translated as trust, especially in trusting in God's protection. The Blue Letter Bible defines it as "to seek refuge, to flee for protection."
These words carry an awe-inspiring portrayal of God's protective nature and the profound implications of seeking refuge in Him. As we delve deeper, we'll draw upon the beautiful, wisdom-laden symbolism of the ancient pictographs for chasah and machaseh.
I'm currently meditating on Psalm 91 during a turbulent period in my own life, and it's this immersion in scripture that inspired me to embark on this exploration. It's my prayer that through this exploration, you will be drawn into a deeper intimacy with our Heavenly Father and experience the comfort, protection, and revelation that come from making Him our refuge.
The Protection and Revelation within "חָסָה" (Chasah)
Psalm 91:1-2 (NIV) begins, "Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'" The Hebrew word for refuge here is "מַחֲסֶה" (machaseh). Let's start with it's root word, "חָסָה" (chasah), to unfold an understanding of what it means.
The Tent Wall of Protection
The first pictograph in chasah, Chet, is the tent wall. It signifies a place of protection and safety. It's a powerful reminder of theprotection we find in God, akin to the sturdy walls of a tent that shield us from external threats and adversities. Just as a tent wall separates the inside from the outside, God's refuge is a sanctuary of peace and security, a place of separation from the world's troubles.
Reflect on this: In what areas of your life do you need to trust in God's protection right now? Imagine yourself stepping into His tent, safe from the storms outside.
The Thorny Shield of God's Care
The next pictograph, Sin, is the thorny shield. It beautifully illustrates God's protective nature. It represents a shield made of thorn bushes that surround us with divine defense, warding off harm and danger. Thorn bushes were used by shepherds to build a wall, or shield, to enclose their flocks during the night to protect them from predators. Like a shield, God's refuge is a barrier that deters potential threats and keeps us secure in His care.
Consider this: What external adversities are you facing? Remember, God is your Thorny Shield, protecting you from harm.
The Open Door of Revelation
The last pictograph, Hey, signifies "behold, look, breath, sigh, reveal, and revelation." It embodies the revealing nature of seeking refuge in God, as we open the door to knowing Him intimately. In trusting Him, we're led to revelation upon revelation of His character and His loving nature.
Ask yourself: Are you opening the door to God, allowing Him to reveal Himself to you?
The Profound Implications of "מַחֲסֶה" (Machaseh)
Adding the letter "מַ" (Mem) to "חָסָה" (chasah) in the word "מַחֲסֶה" (machaseh) yields deeper layers of meaning.
Seeking Shelter from Chaos: The Deep Waters of Refuge
The Early Semitic pictograph for mem is a representation of waves of water, symbolizing the concepts of liquid, water, sea, mightiness, chaos, and the unknown. This association with water and chaos paints a vivid image of the turmoil that often drives us to seek refuge.
In the Hebrew mind, the sea was often a place of fear and uncertainty, and mem is even used in question words like who, what, when, where, why, and how. This alludes to the search for something unknown, which complements our understanding of refuge as a place we seek when faced with uncertainty, fear, or chaos.
The use of mem in the word for refuge, therefore, adds layers of meaning, reminding us that to take refuge in God is not just about physical safety. It's about finding stability, calm, and certainty amidst the chaos of life's storms. When we take refuge in God, we are fleeing from the unknown and the fearsome, seeking a haven where we can find peace and assurance.
In our lives, we often face the tempests of doubt, insecurity, anger, sadness, and anxiety. The question then becomes, "Where do we take refuge?" The ancient pictograph for mem, with its connotations of mighty waves and an unruly sea, reminds us that taking refuge in God means seeking shelter from the chaos of life and finding comfort and empowerment in His presence.
But wait, there's more! The letter Mem has 2 forms: open מַ and closed ם. The open form of Mem (pesucha) used in "מַחֲסֶה" (machaseh) represents the revealed truth of God. Seeking refuge in God involves entering into a place where God's truth is disclosed and made known to us. In His refuge, God reveals His character, promises, and plans, providing us with a deeper understanding of His love, grace, and wisdom. This revelation brings clarity and reassurance, helping us to trust God more fully and find refuge in His unwavering faithfulness.
Trusting in God’s Protection with Chasah
Psalm 57:1 (NIV) reads, "Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge (chasah). I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed." This verse reflects the spirit of chasah - taking refuge in God's protective care and trusting Him in times of trouble.
Finding Security with Machaseh
Psalm 62:8 (NIV) instructs, "Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge (machaseh)." Here, machaseh conveys the idea of a secure shelter in God, a refuge that brings peace and trust.
Trusting in the Unseen and Finding Rest in God's Refuge
The ancient Hebrew pictographs beautifully illuminate the realities of making God our refuge. They portray God as a sturdy wall of protection, a thorny shield that guards us from harm, and a doorway to revelation and intimate knowledge of His character. Trusting in God's refuge means placing our faith in the unseen, trusting in His spiritual defenses, and finding rest and comfort within His loving embrace.
The idea of taking refuge in God implies seeking a place of rest and comfort in His presence. Within the shelter of His refuge, we find solace for our weary souls, relief from anxiety, and peace in the midst of turmoil. As we trust in God's protection, we can let go of our reliance on temporary comforts and immediate solutions and find true rest in the abiding presence of our Heavenly Father.
So, I invite you to meditate on Psalm 91 and ponder these revelations from the ancient Hebrew pictographs. As we do, let's open our hearts to experience the profound peace, rest, and revelation that come from seeking refuge in God.
Prayer to Find Refuge in God's Presence
Holy, unchanging God, you are always here. You have always been. Make the knowledge of your presence surround me. Remind me that home is within you. Cover my mind and my heart in the truth of your loyalty. I wish I never left this place of assurance, but sometimes, without even knowing, I find that I've wandered. Teach me the way back to you. Show me the way, paint a picture in my heart. I want to be here with you, forever. If I wander again, I will look for you and I know I will find you here, waiting for me with incomprehensible love and eternal provision. Words may never be enough to thank you. I love you.