In my devotions last week I was struck by the juxtaposition of two very distinct chapters in the Bible: Numbers 14 and Hebrews 11. I have followed for a number of years Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s Bible reading plan. The plan he developed hundreds of years ago takes you through the Old Testament once in a year and the New Testament and Psalms twice. The plan leads one to read four chapters of the Bible daily in different Bible books.

Last week’s devotions took me through Numbers 14 after Moses had sent twelve spies into the Promised Land. The spies came back and reported on the land. Ten spies discouraged the people of Israel from believing that God would give them the land promised. Only two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, believed that God would fulfill his promise. The result, fear overcame faith. The people rebelled against God. And God spoke judgment upon them. None of the adults who witnessed the miraculous redemption from Egypt (plagues, Passover, parting of the Red Sea, destruction of Pharaoh’s army, manna, water from a rock, etc.) would enter into the Promised Land. Instead their judgment would be 40 years of wilderness wandering.

In contrast, Hebrews 11 is the great faith chapter of the Bible.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

The author of Hebrews lists example after example of faith in the Old Testament. Unlike Israel in the wilderness, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Joshua, Rahab, and on and on, took God at his Word and believed. Their faith was commended, while the unbelieving Israel was judged.

The contrast between the two chapters is striking.

The contrast got me thinking about my own Christian life. Too often my faith (or lack thereof) is like Israel in the wilderness. I’ve witnessed God’s greatness, his redemptive work, his mercy, and his provision over and over again. Yet when faced with an obstacle or an opportunity, I have failed to believe.

As I read and thought about these two poignant chapters of the Bible, the Holy Spirit convicted me. He convicted me about my faith.

What we need to understand is that believing in God is not some sort of blind leap (like Kierkegaard proposed). God does not expect us to close our eyes, shut off our reason, and believe irrationally. No, God’s invitation to believe is based on his Word and his Works.

Consider Israel, they witnessed miraculous intervention after glorious miraculous intervention for weeks and months. Yet when God gave them the opportunity to believe and take the Promised Land, they failed to believe. It was not blind faith they lacked. Rather, they looked at their surroundings (the walls and the armies and the Canaanites) and feared what could happen. They did not look at God, nor what God had done, nor what God had said.

The great examples of faith in Hebrews 11 are different. They were not more holy or more deserving of God’s intervention. It was not their holy lives that were commended, though many did reflect their faith in acts of obedience. They were commended for their faith: their belief in God based on what he had already done and what he had said.

So in my next moment of crisis (obstacle or opportunity), here’s what I’m going to try to remember and what I’m going to ask you to remember.

  • Read what God has said about himself and about us. God’s Word is our primary source for God’s character, purposes, and interventions in our lives (his works and his words). Who God has always been is who God is today (see Hebrews 13:8).
  • Remember what God has done in your own life. Remember God’s redemption of your soul, how he’s protected, defended, helped, and cared for you over and over again. Look back at God’s work in your own life and let his faithfulness undergird your faith.
  • Reflect on God and on his Son. I’m convinced that my own failures in faith are because I’m looking around me or looking inside me. If I look at circumstances, I’ll fear. If I look at my own capabilities, I’ll faint. If I look at God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, then I’ll have faith (Hebrews 12:2).

Friend, this reminder is why we need God’s Word, prayer, and the gathering of believers in corporate worship. When we read the Bible, pray, and testify together in song and sermon about God and his goodness, we build our faith muscles.

Will you join me this week in exercising your faith?

1 In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;
    let me never be put to shame!
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
    incline your ear to me, and save me!
Be to me a rock of refuge,
    to which I may continually come;
you have given the command to save me,
    for you are my rock and my fortress.

Psalm 71:1-3

In the ancient world, villages, peoples, and armies sought protection in a refuge or a fortress. If you’ve read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, or seen the movies, think Helm’s Deep. The fortress was a place of retreat and defense. It was a shelter.

The psalmist affirms here that the Lord is our refuge, our rock, our fortress.

It is easy for our circumstances and situations in life to overwhelm us. Cancer, covid, catastrophes, raising teenagers, job difficulties, death, disease, interpersonal conflicts, or any number of other events and circumstances can trouble us.

In David’s case, he spent years wandering from rock to cave hiding out from King Saul who wanted to take his life. And David sought the Lord’s protection, and the Lord protected David. Time and again David trusted in the Lord, and the Lord delivered.

Whatever your frustration or concern, your worry or fear, your enemy or your challenge, take refuge in the Lord. But how can we seek refuge in the Lord?

  • Seek refuge in the Lord’s Words. When you make time to read, study, meditate, memorize, and apply God’s Word, you are taking in God’s thoughts. Much of our frustration, worry, and fear derive from a worried mind and burdened thoughts. So dwell on God’s thoughts. Think on his promises. Find refuge in his Words.
  • Seek refuge in the Lord’s presence. Many of us like to solve problems. We like the challenge of navigating a situation, figuring out the next steps, and planning for success. But often we remain stressed and frustrated because we are seeking refuge in our own answers. Pray. Bring your situations to the Lord specifically and intentionally. Seek his presence through prayer.
  • Seek refuge in the the Lord’s people. While our final and ultimate hope cannot be in others and must be in God alone, God did not create us to be alone. God created us for community. He created us to encourage and support one another. Find a friend you trust who is spiritually maturing and share your burden with them. Just someone else aware of your burden and praying for you can aid you in finding refuge in the Lord. Also, intercessory prayer for each other is a heavenly means of experiencing refuge in the Lord.

When we are in need, we need to find refuge in the Lord. Our situations and burdens are not for us alone. God grants them to us or allows us to experience them precisely because he wants us to seek refuge in him. He also wants to use our experience of seeking refuge in the Lord as a means of testimony to others.

Note how the psalmist closes this hymn:

17O God, from my youth you have taught me,
    and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
18 So even to old age and gray hairs,
    O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
    your power to all those to come.

19 Your righteousness, O God,
    reaches the high heavens.
You who have done great things,
    O God, who is like you?
20 You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
    will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth
    you will bring me up again.
21 You will increase my greatness
    and comfort me again.
22 I will also praise you with the harp
    for your faithfulness, O my God;
I will sing praises to you with the lyre,
    O Holy One of Israel.

23 My lips will shout for joy,
    when I sing praises to you;
    my soul also, which you have redeemed.

24 And my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long,
for they have been put to shame and disappointed
    who sought to do me hurt.

Psalm 71:17-24 (emphasis mine)

After David sought refuge in the Lord, he promised to testify of the Lord’s goodness to the next generation (v. 18), to praise the Lord’s faithfulness (v. 22), to respond with praise and song (v. 23), and to tell of the Lord’s righteous help “all day long” (v. 24).

When God comes through, we don’t need to remain silent. This is another important reason for God’s people to be apart of our search for refuge. They are witnesses to our situations as well as witnesses to God’s provisions. God’s people are also part of our audience for declaring his praises and his interventions.

So, think back to how God has been your refuge. Share that praise with someone! And by all means, seek the Lord for refuge today.