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August’s Verse

Sometimes I have a problem with Bible verses. That’s a strange thing for a pastor to say, but it’s true. In particular I have a problem with verses that are dislocated from their context. These appear scattered over cards and calendars, bookmarks and billboards. For some verses it doesn’t matter, for they are self-contained nuggets—take the very famous John 3:16:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

That’s more or less self-contained—it tells you all you need to know. Other verses, when dislocated from their context, start to sound like fortune cookie promises, for example:

“God is love” – does that mean he won’t punish sin? Is he only love, or is he also Holy?

“With God all things are possible” – For whom? What sort of ‘all things’?

Such verses are part of an organic whole; they cannot be wrenched from their place and expected to have a life of their own. We need to know who the promise applies to, and what conditions are attached.

This month’s verse is like that:

“The eternal God is your refuge” Deuteronomy 33:27

Who doesn’t want a refuge? This world is a place of storms; storms of doubt, fear, illness, tragedy, heartbreak and many other storms. We need a place of refuge—one that outlasts all those storms, including that great final storm of death and of judgment. So it is a great relief to find that this particular refuge is eternal, for it is found with the eternal God. That also means that the refuge is a personal one, not a case of finding a cold dark cave to shelter in, but rather a warm and tender father to stand guard over you—always.

That sounds fantastic, and it is—if it applies to you.

As it turns out, when we look at the surrounding verses, this isn’t a blanket promise to all, but rather a specific promise to God’s people. This wonderfully comforting statement of eternal refuge is true, but it needs you to first ask God to make you one of his people through Jesus. In fact, that’s what John 3:16 is saying—he perished so you could have an eternal refuge, once you put your trust in him. Once Jesus is your saviour, you will find God a refuge from life’s storms.