No doubt, it is difficult for us to imagine what life was like in ancient times – especially from the comfort of stable and prosperous Australia.
We give little thought to safety for the most part. We might be careful to lock our doors or not walk down certain streets alone after dark. But we don’t give a moment’s thought to the safety of the city as a whole.
And neither should we need to. The prospect that a hostile force would invade Melbourne and carry us off into captivity is so minuscule that we needn’t waste mental energy worrying about it.
Not so in days gone by, though. The city – small as it may have been compared to modern cities – was the place of refuge, safety, security. And that safety was provided firstly by a thick and high wall that surrounded the city, creating a virtually impregnable fortress for the citizens within.
The walls of Jericho were thick enough to have houses built into them, such as the one Rahab lived in [see Josh 2:15]. Archaeologists have found ancient cities with perimeter walls 20m thick. You don’t breach that in a hurry id you are an invading army.
With a secure water and food supply, a city could withstand attack for years. Some have held up for multiple years before being finally overrun – 22 years, in one instance.
Of course, the protection of thick walls was not the only benefit of city living in ancient days…
The king over that city would station watchmen on the walls to warn of any danger. No less important to the citizens than thick walls and watchmen was the presence of their king, whose duty it was to protect them and provide for them. And he would fight for – and fight with – his people when under attack.
But it mattered not how much turmoil and strife was going on outside the city walls. As long as the walls held, and as long as the water supply and food was available, the citizens were safe and secure within.
Just so, Psalm 46 tells of a secure refuge for believers, as Mike showed us this week. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea…”
The Psalmist sang of this city, “God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
There can be no greater security for the Christian than to find himself or herself in this city, and in this God, who is Himself our refuge and strength.
In fact, God is even now preparing a city of refuge for His people – “the New Jerusalem… prepared as a bride adorned for her Husband” [Rev 21:2]. This city will be the dwelling place of God with man for all eternity. Its walls will be high and impenetrable [Rev 21:12].
They will be 144 cubits thick [Rev 21:17] – around 200m, if we were to take this literally. (But being the book of Revelation, we know it to be figurative language: 12×12 = complete and perfect.)
And to ensure the safety and health of its inhabitants, there will be a River of Life running through the middle of this city, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb. And either side of the river will be the Tree of Life, providing a never-ending source of food for its citizens [Rev 22:1-2]. There will be no more trouble, no more threat, no more curse in this city [see Rev 21:3]. Yes, our God truly is our refuge and our strength – our fortress – now and forevermore.