Despite the chaos of our world, Mark Finley leads the reader to find refuge in the access we have to God. Also, in the refuge of Sabbath rest and our hope in a heavenly home. Taken from Mark Finley's 2021 Missionary Book "Hope for Troubled Times".
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Hope for Troubled Times
A Place of Eternal Security
Copyright © 2020 Middle East Publishers, Beirut, Lebanon
Hope for Troubled Times Series
8) A Place of Eternal Security
Authored by Mark A. Finley
Manuscript edited by GC Publishing Department
Translation by Adventist Commons
Cover and Layout Design by Adventist Commons
Cover Image by GC Publishing Department
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Imagine two young men in their 20s chopping firewood in the days of ancient Israel 3,000 years ago. Let’s call them Ehud and Eli. As they gather wood for the evening’s fire, they share stories, laugh together, and discuss their futures. Then it happens. As Ehud carelessly swings the ax with all his force, he misses his target slightly. The ax handle shatters, and the axhead flies with lightning speed and hits Eli in the throat. He is bleeding profusely, and there is little Ehud can do to save his friend’s life. Although it was an accident, Ehud recognizes that his life will be taken next. Eli’s father and brothers must avenge Eli’s death by taking the life of his killer—that is, unless Ehud can make it to one of Israel’s six cities of refuge.
There is no time to waste. Ehud begins to run, and as he picks up speed, he runs faster and still faster. His lungs are burning. He pants, almost out of breath. His legs ache. His heart is racing. Beads of sweat pour down his forehead. He forces himself to run even faster. In the distance he hears the galloping hooves of horses. Eli’s father and brothers are in hot pursuit. He knows that if he does not make it to the city of refuge soon, his life is over. Consumed with guilt for his carelessness, overcome with worry, and filled with anxiety, he rushes on.
There were six of these cities of refuge scattered throughout Israel. The farthest anyone could ever be from the cities of refuge was one day’s journey. The cities of refuge were established to give individuals who had accidentally killed someone a place of safety. The roads leading to these cities were kept in good repair, and there were signs posted all along the way pointing to the city with one word etched upon them: “Refuge.”
We read about these cities in the Old Testament book of Joshua:
“These were the cities appointed for all the children of Israel and for the stranger who dwelt among them, that whoever killed a person accidentally might flee there, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood until he stood before the congregation” (Joshua 20:9). Any individual who killed another accidentally could flee to the city of refuge, present a case, and have a safe haven.
Commenting on these cities of refuge, the book Patriarchs and Prophets states, “He who fled to the city of refuge could make no delay. Family and employment were left behind. There was no time to say farewell to loved ones. His life was at stake, and every other interest must be sacrificed to the one purpose—to reach the place of safety. Weariness was forgotten, difficulties were unheeded. The fugitive dared not for one moment slacken his pace until he was within the wall of the city” (p. 517).
As Ehud raced to the city, the gates opened wide, and he was welcomed warmly. Inside the city Ehud found refuge, security, peace, and sanctuary. What an illustration of the refuge and sanctuary Christ offers us. Chased by guilt, attacked by fear, pursued by anxiety, and sought after by worry, we too can flee to a place of refuge—our sanctuary.
The cities of refuge were accessible to all, so God has created a sanctuary of refuge accessible to all. Our High Priest, Jesus, dwells in the heavenly sanctuary, a place of refuge and security, inviting us by faith to enter in and find refuge, hope, peace, freedom from anxiety, and calm.
Catastrophic climatic events may shake this earth. Wars, international conflict, and national strife may ravage whole nations. Earthquakes may devastate entire cities, fierce tornadoes may destroy neighborhoods, floods may cause havoc with entire communities, pestilences may destroy the crops, and the coronavirus may spread with lightning speed around the world, killing tens of thousands. At times our hearts may quake with fear. We long for security. We want a safe place. We want to be sheltered from life’s storms. When it appears that there is no place to hide, Jesus invites us by faith to look away from earth’s trauma and find strength in heaven’s sanctuary—His city of refuge.
Writing in the book of Hebrews, the apostle Paul encourages us with these words: “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16). Jesus, the one who died for us, lives for us. He experienced all the trials, temptations, and trauma that we experience, but to an infinitely greater degree. There is nothing in our human experience that He does not understand and has not gone through. He invites us to come into His presence by faith in heaven’s sanctuary and find “grace to help in time of need.” Do you have a time of need? Do you long for a safe place—a place of refuge and security? Jesus invites you to come.
Immediate Access to the Father
The central message of Jesus’ high-priestly ministry in heaven’s sanctuary is that through Him we have access to the Father. We have access to the Father because of Jesus Christ, who intercedes for us. There is no experience in life that we go through that our heavenly High Priest has not already experienced in kind and does not understand. Our High Priests understands us. Our High Priest identifies with us. Our High Priest has overcome for us. Our High Priest pardons us, releases us, and empowers us. Hebrews 7:25 adds, “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”
The Scriptures reveal that each one of us has a city of refuge. “Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of [seize or grasp] the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:17-20). By faith we enter with Jesus, our heavenly high priest, into the sanctuary on high. Echoing and reechoing down the corridors of time, these words speak hope to our hearts. By faith we can soar into eternity. By faith we can dwell in heavenly places in Christ. By faith we can find in the heavenly sanctuary a place of refuge and security.
Be gone, guilt! Step aside, fear! Move over, anxiety! Vanish, worry! I am encircled in His love, enraptured in His presence, and anchored by faith in His sanctuary. In Christ there is security. In Christ there is refuge. In Christ we dwell in heavenly places (see Ephesians 1:3). Through Christ we have access to all our heavenly Father’s love, grace, and power. Through Christ we enter the Father’s presence by faith in heaven’s sanctuary and find refuge. In all of life’s challenges these promises are ours:
“The eternal God is your refuge” (Deuteronomy 33:27).
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
“I have become as a wonder to many, but You are my strong refuge” (Psalm 71:7).
American Civil War Story of Access to the President
During the War Between the States, a young soldier in the Union Army lost his older brother and his father in the battle of Gettysburg. The soldier decided to go to Washington, D.C., to see President Lincoln to ask for an exemption from military service so that he could go back and help his sister and mother with the spring planting on the farm. When he arrived in Washington, after having received a furlough from the military to go and plead his case, he went to the White House, approached the front gate, and asked to see the president.
The guard on duty told him, “You can’t see the president, young man! Don’t you know there’s a war going on? The president is a very busy man! Now go away, son! Get back out there on the battle lines, where you belong!”
So the young soldier left, very disheartened, and was sitting on a park bench not far from the White House when a little boy came up to him. The lad said, “Soldier, you look unhappy. What’s wrong?” The soldier looked at the little boy and began to spill his heart to him. He told of his father and his brother being killed in the war, and of the desperate situation at home. He explained that his mother and sister had no one to help them with the farm. The little boy listened and said, “I can help you, soldier.” He took the soldier by the hand and led him back to the front gate of the White House. Apparently, the guard didn’t notice them, because they weren’t stopped. They walked straight to the front door of the White House and walked right in. After they got inside, they walked right past generals and high-ranking officials, and no one said a word. The soldier couldn’t understand this. Why didn’t anyone try to stop them?
Finally, they reached the Oval Office—where the president was working—and the little boy didn’t even knock on the door. He just walked right in and led the soldier in with him. There behind the desk was Abraham Lincoln and his secretary of state, looking over battle plans that were laid out on his desk.
The president looked at the boy and then at the soldier and said, “Good afternoon, Tad. Can you introduce me to your friend?”
And Tad Lincoln, the son of the president, said, “Daddy, this soldier needs to talk to you.” The soldier pleaded his case before Mr. Lincoln, and right then and there he received the exemption that he desired. Tad Lincoln, the president’s son, did not have to beg or plead to see his father. He didn’t have to knock on the door. He walked right in, and his father was happy to see him. Jesus has immediate access to His Father and takes us by the hand and leads us directly into His presence.
Looking to Jesus, we are secure. Where we look makes all the difference in our Christian lives. If we dwell on our past, we often will be filled with a sense of failure. If we look within our own hearts, we often will be filled with a sense of inadequacy. If we are overly concerned about the future, we may be filled with a sense of worry. Looking to Jesus in heaven’s eternal sanctuary, we discover our true sense of peace. By faith we rest in His love in heaven’s city of refuge. In His arms we are secure now and forever.
The Sabbath: A Quiet Refuge
In addition to the heavenly sanctuary that we enter by faith in Jesus to find a place of refuge and security in this broken world, our loving heavenly Father has created a place of security and refuge here on this earth. The Jewish author Abraham Heschel calls it God’s “palace in time.” Each week God invites us to experience rest and find refuge in the midst of this out-of-control, hectic world. We can leave the cares of life aside as we enter God’s Sabbath rest.
At Creation, centuries before the existence of the Jewish race, God set aside the seventh-day Sabbath. The first book of the Bible, Genesis, states, “And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Genesis 2:2, 3). In the book of Exodus the Word of God tells us that God “rested and was refreshed” on the seventh day at the end of Creation week (Exodus 31:17). When we enter God’s rest on the seventh-day Sabbath, as commanded in Exodus 20:8-11, we too are refreshed. The Sabbath is an oasis in time, a place of quietness, peace, and security in an out-of-control wild world.
The Sabbath beautifully represents a forever relationship with God. It stretches from the Garden of Eden at Creation to the garden that God will make of this planet at the end of time. It stretches from Paradise lost to Paradise restored. We need that kind of forever in our lives. We need a place that reassures us that we are in an eternal relationship with the heavenly Father. We need a “palace in time” where that assurance can sink in deep, a place that says our heavenly Father will always be there for us. In the Sabbath we can find a sense of contented rest. Mental health specialist Torben Bergland has reviewed studies from a variety of sources on the impact of crisis and especially economic recessions on mental health. The research indicates that these societal catastrophes lead to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide. Dr. Bergland then makes this insightful observation: “It’s time for a time-out. We live in a world that is so rushed and high-paced that every second may be filled with something. Many are busy producing or consuming, one or the other, almost every waking moment. This leaves little time to think, to reflect, to meditate, to feel, to talk, to connect. As many things now stop, we need to slow down. To allow spaces to open up, to pause, to question, to evaluate, to reconsider. Don’t stuff open spaces with whatever is at hand. Allow reflection to enter. Am I living the life I want to live? What are the real values and priorities of my life?”
This is precisely the reason we need the Sabbath experience at this moment in time. It is a time to reflect, to meditate on the purpose of life, to get in touch with our Creator. On Sabbath we connect with our roots as children of God. We can grow and mature there. Yes, we need that kind of forever place that ties the whole of our lives to an eternal relationship with God. The Sabbath calls us from the things of time to the things of eternity. The Sabbath reminds us that we are not merely skin covering bones. We are not a genetic accident. We did not evolve. The Sabbath reminds us that we are not alone on a spinning globe of ash hurling through space at 67,000 miles per hour on a journey to nowhere. The Sabbath is a weekly reminder that we were created by God and that we can rest in His care.
It calls us to enter His heavenly rest. It calls us to experience a foretaste of heaven today. It calls us to a relationship with our Creator that will continue throughout eternity. The Sabbath is in actuality an advance on eternity. There is much more coming, but in the Sabbath we have the first installment. Is it possible that in the busy-ness of life, filled with anxiety and consumed with stress, we have missed one of God’s greatest blessings? Is it possible God is calling us to something deeper, something broader, something higher, something larger than we have ever experienced before? Is it possible God longs for us to see a new depth of meaning in the Sabbath? Is it possible God yearns for us to experience genuine peace this Sabbath?
Entering true Sabbath rest is by no means some Old Testament legalistic requirement. Sabbath rest is a symbol of our rest in Christ. We cease trying to create salvation on the basis of our own efforts. God has saved us in Christ.
When Jesus voluntarily poured out His life on the cross, He died the death we deserve. He gave His perfect life as a substitute for our sinful life. The Sabbath is not a symbol of legalism. It is rather an eternal reminder that we rest in Him for our salvation. The Carpenter from Nazareth built a special dwelling for us. We can find refuge there. We can be safe there. His work is complete. It is finished. We can know that in Christ we are accepted by our loving heavenly Father. When we rest on the Sabbath, we are resting in His loving care. We are resting in His righteousness. Sabbath rest is a symbol of a faith experience in Jesus. It is a graphic illustration of our trust in Him.
All week we work, but on the seventh day we rest. We turn from our works to a total rest in Christ. In Jesus we have someplace to belong. We need not stressfully work out our own salvation. Our lives need not be filled with guilt and fear and anxiety. The Sabbath reveals the restful attitude of total dependence on the Christ who created us and redeemed us. Salvation comes only through Jesus. We do not deserve it. We cannot earn it. We rest and receive it by faith.
Here’s another reason God gave us the Sabbath. It shows that the Lord is the one who sanctifies us. How is that? Well, that’s what God did to the seventh day. It was an ordinary slice of time just like any other at the end of Creation week, but God set this day apart. He sanctified it. And through the Sabbath, God tells us, “That’s what I want to do for you, too. I want to set you apart as My special child. I want to pour Myself into you. I want to sanctify you. I want to share My holiness with you.”
The Sabbath reminds us of where we develop character—in relationship with our heavenly Father and with Jesus Christ. The Sabbath is a continual living promise of God’s ability to help us grow through all the ups and downs, tragedies and triumphs, of our lives. We need that distinctive time with the heavenly Father. We need Sabbath quality time with the God who sanctifies us, the God who helps us keep growing. The Sabbath has continued in the weekly cycle from the dawn of Creation until now. The Sabbath began in the Garden of Eden, and the Sabbath will be celebrated when this earth is renewed after Christ’s second coming. It is the very basis of all worship. Writing in the Bible’s last book, John states, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” (Revelation 4:11). We exist by the will of God. We are not some random assortment of molecules or some haphazard arrangement of cells. Sabbath worship is a glorious testimony of the love of our Creator God who has given us the gift of life.
The prophet Isaiah talks about a time God will make the “new heavens and the new earth.” He says, “ ‘It shall come to pass that from one New Moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh shall come to worship before Me,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 66:22, 23). Every Sabbath in the earth made new we will enter the joy of worship with the entire universe. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will lead us in a symphony of praise in New Jerusalem’s city of refuge. There we will be secure forever.
The New Jerusalem: The Ultimate City of Refuge
God can encourage us in remarkable ways when we are experiencing trials. The apostle John was exiled on the rocky, barren isle of Patmos off the coast of Greece. Imagine his loneliness. He was separated from his family, friends, and Christian brothers and sisters. Loneliness often leads to discouragement. But John was not alone. Day by day he spent time with Jesus in prayer and meditation. Then one day the glory of God overwhelmed Him. The angel of the Lord descended from heaven and revealed the future in amazing symbols of prophetic imagery. John wrote down the visions the angel gave him so that we can read them today. They are in the Bible’s last book, Revelation. These prophetic revelations reveal that God is in control of the destiny of this planet. The book of Revelation climaxes with the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, descending from heaven to earth. Deep within our hearts we long for security. We long for a better world, where heartache and sorrow are over. The New Jerusalem is our final safe haven. It is God’s eternal city of refuge. Here in the presence of Jesus we will be eternally secure.
Writing about this city, the apostle John says, “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away’ ” (Revelation 21:1-4). The apostle saw the final act in the great controversy between good and evil. Wickedness, evil, and sin will be finally and fully destroyed. The Holy City, New Jerusalem, will descend from heaven. Planet Earth, which has been so consumed with conflict, strife, war, natural disasters, crime, sickness, and disease, will be made new again. The earth will be created in Edenic splendor. This planet in rebellion will become the center of God’s new world. The tabernacle of God, the very dwelling place of God, will reside in the earth made new. God will dwell with His people. Love will reign. Joy will fill our hearts. Disease, disaster, and death will be gone forever.
One day wickedness will give way to righteousness. One day war will surrender to peace. One day sickness will be eradicated, and our bodies will flourish in abundant health. One day evil will be defeated, and goodness will reign. One day poverty will give way to plenty. One day the devil will be finally destroyed, and Jesus will be Lord of all and King of kings. Although evil seems so strong, wickedness so great, and sin so powerful, the faithful and true witness, the resurrected Christ, the ruler over the kings of the earth—the true King of kings—is really, truly coming again, and we will live with Him forever and ever and ever and ever.
One day when George MacDonald, the great Scottish preacher and writer, was talking with his son, the conversation turned to heaven and the prophets’ version of the end of all things.
“It seems too good to be true,” the son said at one point.
A smile crossed MacDonald’s whiskered face. “Nay,” he replied. “It is just so good it must be true!” (Philip Yancey, Disappointment With God, p. 97). The old preacher was right. No human mind could dream up an ending to the conflict between good and evil that would be so glorious. The joys of heaven are far beyond our comprehension. Our heavenly Father has something prepared for us that will satisfy every need of our hearts. Most of all, we will be content because we will be with Jesus throughout all eternity. He is the source of our joy. He is the wellspring of our happiness. He quenches the thirst of our souls for a deep, lasting love that never ceases. We were made to be loved, and throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity we will experience more and more of His love.
Christ’s unconditional, unending, unfathomable love will continually find new ways to bring joy to our hearts and make us happy. We will discover in the world made new that the heavenly Trio, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, find Their greatest delight in bringing joy to heaven’s inhabitants.
Would you like to experience joy unspeakable, happiness without measure, a peace beyond human understanding, and a divine love that overflows from your heart to those around you? Would you like to have abundant health, boundless energy, and unending vitality? Would you like to develop every talent, explore unnumbered worlds, travel to vast civilizations that have never fallen by sin, and continually discover new mysteries of the universe? Would you like to fellowship with the greatest minds that have ever lived, and develop relationships that are deep and lasting? Heaven is not too good to be true; it is too good not to be true. All of this is for you. Heaven is your home. Why not right now open your heart to the living Christ and surrender your life fully to Him? Accept His love. Receive His forgiveness. Ask Him for the power to live a new life, and rejoice that you are a child of God who one day will be secure in His love forever in the New Jerusalem.
At times our heart may quake with fear. We long for security. We want a safe place. We want to be sheltered from life’s storms. When it appears that there is no place to hide, Jesus invites us to enter His place of refuge for us.
8. A Place of Eternal Security
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