Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You. Psalm 16:1 (English text)
Take Refuge – Do you really want God to give you shelter? Guess what? Unless you are Jonah, you will have to do something in order for that to happen. David doesn’t cry out and then sit around waiting for God to show up. David takes refuge. The verb is chasah. If you look at Judges 9:15, you’ll get the idea. On a hot summer day in Israel, it’s very nice to seek the shade of a tree, but you’ll never feel cool if you stand in the sun asking God to move the tree.
David takes refuge. How does he do that? We skip right over this verb because we are so anxious to have God’s commitment for our rescue. But preservation contains obligation. God preserves because David takes action. What does David do? He does what any Hebrew would do. He aligns his life with God’s instruction book. Then God protects.
David may be king, but he is still a citizen of God’s commonwealth. The constitution of Israel is determined and revealed by God. No parliament voted in the laws. God gave them on Sinai. God obligates Himself to provide, protect and secure Israel. Israel obligates itself to keep (shamar) God’s instructions. This covenant has mutual obligations. Any citizen who seeks preservation and protection must demonstrate fidelity and loyalty to the Sovereign. Chasah is the same verb used to illustrate this obligation in pagan worship (see Deuteronomy 32:37). Why should the Lord offer preservation or protection to those who do not take refuge in Him? They don’t belong to His kingdom. He is not their Sovereign. Their cries fall on deaf ears because there is no mutual obligation. Crying out to God without submission to His constitution is useless and stupid. It assumes that God is not a king but rather a customer service agent.
We have often made the point that God’s redemptive action on our behalf is completely independent of our effort. God rescued Israel before He gave them the constitution of their government, in the same way that He rescues us before we align our behavior with His commandments. We are carried out of bondage in Egypt prior to becoming citizens of His nation. But once we agree to citizenship, our behavior choices must change. He is our sovereign Lord and we are expected to act according to His will. This is not legalism for legalism is always an attempt to earn the favor of the ruling authority. John tells us that we love Him because he first loved us. This is not legalism. It is the recognition that my well-being is most fulfilled in His direction. This is what it means to take refuge. I get as close as I can to Him because I need to be preserved. Amazingly, He is more than willing for me to get as close as I can. He wants to preserve me.
What a privilege it is for us to draw close to God! This is certainly not the case with the gods of myths. They are offended by the human condition, by weakness and by placating behavior. Imagine, if you can, that the God of all creation actually delights in you and desires your company. Astounding! No wonder David was overwhelmed at the thought that God treats us as His children in spite of our insignificance in such a very big universe.
Topical Index: refuge, chasah, covenant, obedience, well-being, Psalm 16:1