Monday, May 4, 2020

‘Shelter in Place’ is Hardly a Brand-New Concept

One of the novel concepts in addressing this novel coronavirus pandemic has been the “shelter in place” restrictions, at least theoretically keeping people within the confines of their homes except for emergencies, buying groceries and receiving necessary medical treatment. 

Driving around on occasion, however, I’ve been amazed to discover how many “emergencies” have been dealt with at places like Lowe’s and Home Depot. Their parking lots have been jammed. Could it be that with the great toilet paper shortage, folks are turning to mulch instead?

Because of COVID-19, we can’t assemble for worship, but gatherings in the tool section or the garden store are perfectly fine. That’s what I like about government – every edict makes so much sense.

Where do you go for shelter?
Okay, lest I start getting political, I was just thinking that this shelter-in-place notion isn’t exactly a 21stcentury innovation – or even a special invention for 2020. We can go back to 1918, when the Spanish flu pandemic ravaged much of the world and similar restrictions were imposed. But sheltering in place goes back before then – way back.

A familiar psalm opens with the assurance, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust” (Psalm 91:1-2).

Later in the same psalm it says, “If you make the Most High your dwelling – even the Lord, who is my refuge – then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent” (Psalm 91:9-10).

The idea is presented elsewhere in the psalms: 
“How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you. In the shelter of your presence you hide them from the intrigues of men, in your dwelling you keep them safe from accusing tongues” (Psalm 31:19-20).

In Psalm 61:1-4, King David offers this vulnerable plea: 
“Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, my strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.”

This idea of shelter in the Scriptures is not limited to the Psalms. Speaking of God’s promise to safeguard His children, the prophet Isaiah writes: 
“Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over all the glory will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain” (Isaiah 4:5-6).

Later the prophet states, “You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat” (Isaiah 25:4).

Most of us have complied with government-mandated shelter-in-place orders, but there was no guarantee of health or safety. At best, they were reasonable guidelines and safeguards. But the promises our Lord gives us in His Word are ironclad, assurances that He is with us, sheltering us through storms of many kinds, and will deliver us through them. 

It's been said that God doesn’t waste pain. He doesn’t promise to always keep us from illness, natural calamities, economic struggles, or even death. But we do have the assurance that “God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). That’s something no shelter-in-place government directive can promise, no matter how well-intended.

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