The Guidance of Light and Truth
“Send your light and your truth,
Cause them to guide me;
They will cause me to enter into your holy mountain,
And into your dwellings.”
The psalmist not only speaks of the truth of God leading him, but he also speaks of the “where” to which he is being led. In the context of the passage, he sees this place as a place of refuge to which he can be brought and made safe from his enemies. One of the things worth noting is just how often scripture speaks of God being a place of refuge (Psalm 2:12, 5:11, 7:1, 11:1, 14:6, 16:1, 17:7, 18:2, 18:30, 25:20, 28:8, 31:1-2, 31:4, 31:19, 34:8, 34:22, 36:7, 37:40, 43:2, 46:1, 57:1, 59:16, 61:3-4, 62:7-8, 64:10, 71:1, 71:3, 71:7, 73:28, 91:2, 91:4, 91:9, 94:22, 118:8-9, 141:8, 142:5, 143:9, 144:2 in the Psalms alone!). This refuge takes place on a spiritual level in that God provides us the strength to resist temptation and sin and he gives us the serenity of prayer at the foot of his throne in times of trouble. Yet, this refuge is also a physical thing as well. God provided safety for his people from the Egyptian army as they waited to cross the Red Sea, God defeated the enemies in the wilderness and in Canaan as well as those who would plunder and destroy his people in the land. God sent an angel to liberate Peter from prison and preserved Paul on his various missionary exploits. He even preserved his people through history, sometimes in the face of the executioner and sometimes from the hand of those who would destroy his church. God used princes to protect Martin Luther from a sure kidnapping and likely execution at the hands of the Roman Catholic church and he provided safety for John Calvin in Switzerland. Even today, Christians know the mighty hand of God to save not only their souls, but also their bodies from times of trial. All too often we embrace the one but ignore the other—God will deliver us in both cases.
With this in mind, the psalmist speaks of God’s “Holy Mountain” as the place of refuge to which God will bring him. Now, certainly, we will not all be brought to the same geographical place for refuge, but it can be suggested that the language of God’s holy mountain provides the paradigm by which we can understand all of the places to which God brings us as he provides us sanctuary.
So, what does the psalmist mean by God’s Holy Mountain? There are three candidates that would qualify for this reference. The most common reference to the Holy Mountain found in the Old Testament would be Mount Zion in Jerusalem (Isaiah 27:13). This is the place of the Temple and the center of worship, but more importantly, it is the place where the glory of God’s presence dwelled—God with his people. What is interesting is that in the New Testament there is only one to the Holy Mountain of God, but there it is not in Jerusalem. Rather the Mountain of Transfiguration is spoken of as the Holy Mountain (2 Peter 1:18). This transition shouldn’t be too great a surprise to us as Christ is the Glory of God (Hebrews 1:3) and if it is the presence of the Glory of God that makes the Holy Mountain Holy, then with the absence of the glory from the Temple and the presence of that glory in Christ—revealed to Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration.
The third candidate is Mount Sinai (or Horeb), where the Ten Commandments are given. More importantly, it is on this mountain that Moses was given the privilege of seeing the glory of God (Exodus 33:17-34:9). In addition, there is a cave here in which God held Moses secure as he passed by. Many years later, Elijah would also be brought to this mountain and this very same cave (1 Kings 18:9-18) both as a place of refuge from Jezebel as well as a place to see the glory of God.
So, what can we apply to our lives today? The first thing that should be noted is that the place of refuge in the Holy Mountain of God should be understood not only as a place of security, but as a place to be close to God. All too often, when in trial, we think only in terms of the safety of our skin, but in light of this, we also need a place of safety for our soul, where God can draw our attention toward himself—indeed, that is the more important of the two, but without the safety from the threats of the world, we will not be able to focus on eternal matters.
In turn, this suggests that our place of refuge (in light of the Holy Mountain) is not bound to geography, but is a place to which we can flee from the oppressors and distractions of the world and that we can rest in God. For many, that is a place or a time in their own homes where they can be alone with God and free from the dangers of life. Historically, many have set aside a small room as a prayer closet to which they can go and be alone and quiet with God. I have known others who have gotten up several hours before the rest of the family will awake, so that they have a quiet and still home to themselves. Regardless of the geography, so long as the principle is met, that indeed can be our place of refuge.
An important side-note of this principle applies to how we view national Israel today. There are some who would argue that Christians have a stake in protecting Israel because God has reserved the physical tract of land around Mount Zion (Jerusalem) for end-time events as well as seeing the fulfillment of Genesis 12:2-3 in the national state of Israel. Is Israel a special place? Yes, historically it is the region where most of the Biblical events took place. For that reason and that reason alone, it ought to be preserved. Politically, Israel is also America’s primary ally in a very dangerous part of the world; again, that means we must have an interest in the political well-being of the nation. But, to argue that the refuge of Christians lies in Israel or in the reestablishment of the temple is a gross misunderstanding of the Biblical teaching both here and in other places. In fact, the author of Hebrews refers to the Church as the Spiritual Mount Zion to which believers come in faith (Hebrews 12:22-24).
The bottom line is that our hope and our refuge is found in Christ, not in a particular piece of real estate. And, beloved, we ought to rejoice in that, for when the world falls against us, we have a ready and sure refuge to which we can run: Jesus Christ.
“Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you perish on the way;
For his anger will burn quickly.
Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.”