9th June 2018

Where is Today’s ‘Sanctuary’?

“Taste and see that the Lord is good;blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”
Psalm 34:8 

A Sanctuary is a place made holy. A place designated for God. Throughout the history of the western world humanity from peasant to monarch has sought refuge in the sanctuary of ecclesiastical buildings. Pursued by accusers and avengers, desperate people have banged on the door of sanctuaries seeking protection. God knows the heart of man and his lust for revenge, which is often not linked with justice. In ancient Israel He instituted cities specifically for refuge. There the high priest would act as an advocate for the perceived miscreant. A forerunner of what was to come, as our High Priest, Jesus, intercedes for us.

In medieval England monarchs and their dependents were saved from certain death by receiving refuge in sanctuary—their crime often being that of belonging to the wrong royal line. Drama and intrigue, fear and flight were all part of the lives of those who sought refuge in sanctuary. Lives were saved, royal lines restored, crimes were pardoned upon repentance under the scrutiny of the Abbot in charge.

Holy places of refuge were abolished in England in the 16th century. The belief now being that the law would give protection to the innocent with the onus of proof lying with the accuser. Today, sadly, there are many judicial cases which attest to the fallibility of this belief. Calumny and perjury too frequently pervade the perceived hallowed halls of justice. Despite this, we are required to be law-abiding and law-respecting citizens – the alternative is anarchy. As Christians is this cause for despair?

Despite the ancient Israelite cities of refuge, King David sought a higher source of refuge. He knew the inestimable value of the ultimate refuge of God. He wrote in Psalm 5:11, “But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them that those who love your name may rejoice in you.”

There are times in life when the feelings of nowhere to turn to, no-one to understand or care, can be very powerful emotions. This is a dark place, a place of loneliness, a place of desolation. Take heart—King David has been there, so too has our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Has there ever been a more solitary location than the garden of Gethsemane as Jesus prayed before his crucifixion? Yet Christ sought refuge in His Father and our Father. Indeed it was Christ Himself who invited us to come with our heavy burdens and bring them to Him (Mathew 11:28). It was He who condemned the legal experts of His day with a dire warning, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them” (Luke 11:46).

We have the greatest Advocate of all time, Jesus, mediating with our Father in heaven on our behalf (Hebrews 3:1). In our darkest moments we are not alone—our refuge is assured. We have a sanctuary to flee to, shelter in the storms of life, arms to embrace us when all feels lost, and this is the very throne of God. There is no higher authority, no greater mercy and no greater love.

Loving Father, you know how often we fall in our spiritual journey –it is the shelter of your love that rescues us from ourselves, you pick us up and clean us by the blood of Jesus, forgiven and renewed, and all we can say is thank you.

Study by Irene Wilson


About the Author:
Irene Wilson is a Deaconess in the Watford Congregation of the Worldwide Church of God UK, where she also serves on the Pastoral Council.

Local Congregation:
Worldwide Church of God Watford
St. Peter’s Church
61 Westfield Avenue
Watford, Herts.
WD24 7HF

Meeting Time:
Saturday 11AM

Local Congregational Contact:
George Henderson
Phone: 01923-855570
Email: george-sue.henderson@tesco.net

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