The number of people migrating into Europe is reported to have increased rapidly over the last year, a situation widely described as a crisis, as EU countries have struggled to manage the problem. The news media have been full of distressing reports showing how hard and dangerous the migrants’ journeys are, sometimes ending in tragedy.
Many of the migrants are refugees fleeing from war and violence in Syria and elsewhere; others may be trying to escape from hardship and poverty, seeking a new life with greater opportunities.
A place of safety
The Bible records many examples of refugees migrating in the history of God’s people. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Elimelech all sought refuge in foreign lands because of famine. Others fled to escape violence, such as David, Joseph and Mary, and the ecclesia at Jerusalem.
All of these were refugees, seeking asylum in places of safety.
However, true safety and security are not to be found by travelling to another place. David beautifully describes the true source of safety in Psalm 57:
”Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in you; and in the shadow of your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by. I will cry out to God Most High, to God who performs all things for me. He shall send from heaven and save me; he reproaches the one who would swallow me up” (Psalm 57:1–3 NKJV)
The heading of this Psalm says that it refers to the time when David fled from Saul into a cave. Though he had very sensibly taken refuge there, his trust was in God’s protection.
Jesus assures us that his disciples enjoy the same blessing:
”Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29–31 NKJV).
However, he made it clear that God’s protection does not guarantee physical safety in this life, exhorting us to take up our crosses and follow him. The refuge God provides is not for the present but for the age to come:
”… he who loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39 NKJV).
So for now we are all asylum seekers, travelling towards the safety of God’s Kingdom. Like the refugees of this world, we face danger and hardship along the way, but unlike them we can be sure of reaching the refuge we are hoping for, no matter what happens to us on the way, even death, as long as we stay faithful to the One who has offered us His protection.
A “city of refuge” for us all
God’s provision of asylum for his people is foreshadowed in the Old Testament of the Bible by the law of the cities of refuge in Numbers 35. Six cities in the Promised Land were to be designated as places of safety to which anyone who had killed another accidentally could flee, where they could not be killed by the ”avenger of blood”.
In the letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament of the Bible, we find the same language used to describe our own salvation:
”Thus God… confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:17–18).
We are all fleeing in fear of death, desperate to escape our natural sinful, mortal state. Our preferred ‘destination’ should be a place in that world-wide kingdom of God, with Jesus as its king in Jerusalem. By His promises God has given us a “strong consolation”, the sure hope of finding refuge very soon when that kingdom comes.
There we will be safe, not only from war, persecution and danger, but even from death itself.