A Homebase and Hiding Place

Scripture: Hebrews 11:13, Genesis 7:23, Exodus 12:22
Date: 10/12/2002 
Many stories in the Scriptures speak of the desire of people wanting to go back home. This earth is really not our home as Christians. Our true home is heaven. The church is a foretaste of our heavenly home.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

First time I got up to preach, you’ll probably be happy to hear this, my hands were sweating, my knees were shaking. I was so thankful to have a podium in front of me to hide my knees. There were probably six people that were listening, but that's all it took I was so terrified. We want a welcome our visitors who may be here today. Some of our family we haven’t seen lately. This is our annual homecoming Sabbath here at Central Church. Theme today is going to be talking about a home base and a hiding place. I want to tell you a remarkable story. I looked this up and shared it as an amazing fact last week for our Bible answer radio program. In the spring of 1927, young woman named Lillian Alling who was living in New York City became very home sick and decided to return to her family in Russia. After two unhappy years among the teaming people in New York City this peasant girl knew life in the noisy town was not for her. Lillian was unable to save enough to afford passage across the Atlantic by boat but all she could do was keep thinking about going home. So this young slip of a woman about 25 years of age shows to walk the 12,000 miles to Russia, going west. Very timid, Lillian refused to accept rides from strangers. So supplied with a knapsack some hand drawn maps an iron rod for protection and a few dollars she began her at the journey on foot. Averaging 30 to 40 miles a day the frail girl passed through Chicago and on to Winnipeg.

Keep in mind back in 1927 there were no roads in the northwest and except for an odd trading post or telegraph station there was nothing but unbroken stretch of the world’s toughest terrain and wilderness. Even experienced mountain men thought twice before tackling this rough country. But Lillian walked on day after day across Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, mountain ranges. She slept in the open and during untold hardships surviving on a meager diet, of bread and wild berries and occasionally some tea. When she was asked where she was going her firm reply was, “I going to Russia. Please do not stop me.” When she reached Vancouver her ragged condition and lack of provisions caused great concern among the locals. To prevent her from continuing on she was arrested for vagrancy and thrown in jail. They were afraid she was going to kill herself if she kept going in the winter. She used her three months in prison to regain her strength and when spring came Lillian resumed her dogged quest across the Yukon and Alaska now. Telegraph station operators kept track of her progress. They gave her a few clothes and a dog. She wept when she learned that one telegrapher died in a blizzard while searching for her. Lillian spent part of another winter in Dawson city, but then she arrived in Nome, Alaska in July of 1929. She was wearing a different type of men’s shoe on each foot. This was only the halfway mark for her journey. Soon after Lillian left Nome she was last seen rowing a bolt from Cape Prince Wales across the thirty-six miles of open sea of the Bering Strait to Siberia. After this the story gets very sketchy about what happened to Lillian.

There is one report of a man who claimed he saw a girl on the Siberian coast in the fall of 1930. She was explaining to an astonished policeman that she had walked from New York City. We hope it’s true. We hope that Lillian made it home and lived a long and happy life. You must wonder sometimes what kind of obsessive craving would possess a person to endure those kinds of hardships and privation to walk for two years and that was only the halfway mark. That desire to be home. The Lord has planted in everybody’s heart a desire to go home. In the meantime we have a “home base”. The Bible story is a story of people trying to get home. You know in the very beginning when sin entered the world our first parents were evicted from their home. Their home was the Garden. And because of sin Adam and eve had to leave their home. The Bible is a story about how we get back to the garden, about how we get home. Indeed, you read in the Exodus experience, it tells about a people who were leaving their slavery trying to find a way to the Promised Land that for them would represent a home, and rest. A place of their own. The Bible is a story of people trying to get home. Maybe I should interject the definition here. What is a home? Well, different things to different people. A home is the native habitat of an animal or even plant. A home is in the physical structure within which one lives such as a house or an apartment. A home as a dwelling place, together with the family or social unit that occupies it, a household. A home as an environment offering security and happiness. A home is a valued plays regarded as a refuge (We’ll talk a little bit about refuge and sanctuary this morning.) or place of origin. A home is a place of one’s country or town where one was born or where he has lived for a long period of time. A home is a place where you can find your way around in the dark. Now that’s not in the dictionary definition. I put that in there. You ever notice? You ever wake up in a strange place and there’s no lights on and you get up and you’re stumbling around and you’re disoriented? In my home you could blindfold me, and I could find my way from room to room and find articles because I know where they are in the room and what drawer they’re in. How many of you can do that in your home? But if someone were to spin you around and put you in someone else's home you couldn't find a kitchen. Eventually, maybe. We all like that feeling of home. “Home is a place where the great are small and the small are great.”

I remember reading a story one time about Doctor Albert Einstein’s secretary got a phone call and someone was inquiring. They said, “Can you please tell me where Doctor Einstein lives?” And the dutiful secretary said, “No, Doctor Einstein gets a lot of visitors and he wants us to respect his privacy so we don’t give out his home address.” And the voice was silent for a moment and then said, “This is Dr. Einstein. I can’t remember where I live.” True story. Home is something that must be also developed. Now you grow up in a home and sometimes some of us spend much of our lives in the same place. Karen and I are diametric opposites in several respects. They say opposites attract. I have bounced around my whole life from place to place. I have lived in so many different places. Karen’s parents are still living in the same house. She was what? One when you moved there? That to me is just so hard to imagine. And same school twelve years. I went to fourteen different schools. You know something really weird happened this year and I don’t think I’ve told this story here. You know my father died a couple of months ago and when Karen and I went back for the funeral I said, “Let’s drive around.” I don’t know if I told you this or not. And I took her to the island where my dad used to live, and I used to live there for a few years. I took her to my old school and we took some pictures but we went to the island and as we were driving by the house where dad lived on this island, called “Sunset Island #1”. It has a guard and I'm surprised. I just said, “I used to live here. Can I go in?” They let me on the island and I said, “This is where we lived.” And Karen says, “Well, pull in.” I said, “Well, people live there now. Dad doesn’t live there.” She says, “Well, just go in. Let me take a picture.” Her whole family was born with a camera as an appendage to their body. They just got pictures all the time.

Any of you remember Grandma Lammerding? All the time. So I said, “Alright.” So I pull in. It’s this big circular driveway and as I pull in she hops out of the car. I said, “Don’t get out of the car! Take it from…” She gets out. She’s snapping pictures and so the owner comes over. He says, “Can I help you?” You know you see people taking pictures of your house you wonder. I said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I used to live here and we just wanted to get a picture.” “Oh! What’s your name?” I said, “Doug Batchelor.” “Oh, you’re George Batchelor’s son? “Yes! Come on in!” I said, “Well, no.” “No, no, no! Come on in!” Real nice guy named Joe. And so Joe invited us in. He’s an accountant and evidently, it was the weirdest thing I have experienced this year. He bought the house from my dad furnished. He has not moved a thing in 30 years. I went into the house and I’ll tell you, friends, it was the most surreal feeling. First, I went in and I said, “You know are these just dejavu memories or is this the same pool furniture?” He said, “Yeah!” I walked and I said, “Is this the same picture on the wall?” “Yeah!” “Is that the same wallpaper?” “Yeah!” “That shelf and those knickknacks on the shelf, are they?” “Yeah!” He said, “You know I’m an accountant and I’m busy. I don’t have time to decorate.” So I’m walking around this house, and all these memories of my youth started coming back, and it was really strange because you’ve got all these experiences and that’s one of the things that makes a home feel like a home, is you’ve got all these memories, familiarity, these experiences. But for the most part Christians in this world are never really at home. One more thing I did is I asked Joe, he thinks I’m really weird.

I said, “Can I please slide down the banister?” Because when I left my bedroom upstairs I never used the steps. I sat down and I slid down the banister. And he said, “Help yourself!” So we sent him and his wife Fransua a think you note car letting us go around their house. It was really strange. But Christians are not at home in this world. The Bible tells us that we are pilgrims. I remember in the old hymnal there was a song, “I am a Pilgrim, I am a Stranger.” I don’t even know. Is it in the new hymnal? It might be. I remember in the old hymnal it was 666. It was easy to remember. That’s what hymn number it was. That’s why no one ever learned it. Let’s all sing 666 together! But it says, “I am a pilgrim. I am a stranger. I can tarry; I can tarry but a time.” And that’s what the Bible tells us we are. Somebody wrote, “A fugitive is one running from home, a vagabond has no home, a stranger is away from home, and a pilgrim is on his way home.” And we are pilgrims. We are on our way home. Hebrews chapter eleven, I’ve got some verses here for you. Speaking of the faithful the Bible says, “All these died in faith, not having received the promises but having seen them a far off, and were assured of them and embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” Are you a stranger and a pilgrim or is this world your home? “For those who say such things declare plainly they seek a homeland.” Are you looking for a homeland like Lillian Alling? Are you homesick for heaven? “And truly if they had called to mind the country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.” When Abraham left Ur of the Caldes he had no desire to go back. Matters of fact, he told his servant, “Do not let my son go back to the place of my nativity.” This world is not my home. I’m a pilgrim here. I will someday inherit the Promised Land in its fullness. If he wanted to go back to that country from which he was born he “had opportunity, but now they desire a better that is a heavenly home homeland, (a heavenly country) therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God for he has prepared for them a city.” It’s a different city that’s going to be our home.

We’ll talk about that in just a moment. The Bible tells us that we are pilgrims and we are strangers, you are looking for home. Now let me tell you what I’m going to say then I’ll say it then I’ll summarize by telling you what it was that I said. They say those are the three important components of a good message. I would like to implant in your hearts or strengthen in your hearts and minds the concept of two things. One is, you’re never going to be satisfied until you get home. Ultimately that home is going to be heaven. I hope that you are homesick for heaven. Secondly the foretaste of that heavenly home is the church. My message today is not about family homes. My message today is about church families. How the church is a home base and a hiding place and there’s a lot in the Bible that bears that out. I pray that the Lord will increase and intensify your yearning for home in this message today. Now the Bible tells us that we all need sometimes to have a hiding place. A few years ago somebody made a lot of money. I guess people were getting into these meditation modes and somebody developed what they call an isolation chamber and they’ve had a couple of different varieties of this. One of them was a room that had polyurethane walls that were insulated you know like two and a half feet and it was guaranteed to shut out all sound on the outside. A person could go in there, they could have their own office and you could, if you lived in a city, you could shut out the sensation of all outside noise and feel like from the temperature control, from the sound that you were all alone. Sometimes people want to be isolated, insulated like that. I noticed a big difference. Karen and I did some home upkeep this last year. We finally replaced our single-paned windows to try and save a little bit on our heat bill and we put in these dual-paned windows. How many of you have done this to your home in the last few years? The main thing I noticed was an unexpected blessing. Only is the house a little cooler in summer and warmer and winter, it’s quieter. I could always hear the neighbors’ dogs. I could always hear the train going by.

I could hear the kids at American River when they filled the stadium. I can’t hear it anymore. It makes you feel a little more secure. Well, you know Bible tells us that God has had sanctuaries on earth that are not just to isolate but to save, and probably one of the most prominent examples of that was Noah’s Ark was a sanctuary. Only those in the Ark were saved. Genesis 7:23, the Bible says that God had clearly warned everybody because of the wickedness of man’s hearts, unless they repented and went into the Ark there would be no hope. There was only one way of escape for all life. Genesis 7:23, “So he destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground both man and cattle creeping things and birds of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. Only Noah and those who were with him in the Ark remained alive. Only Noah. The Ark was the hiding place. The Ark was the sanctuary. It was the only place of escape. Any of you ever played “hide and go seek”? They’ve got a home base and if you want to survive the game without being out or without being “it”… nobody wants to be “it” when you play those games. Whether it’s tag or hide and go seek you don’t want to be “It”. “You’re it!” “No! You’re it!” Am I the only one that played these games? None of you can relate to this? OK. “Allye allye all come free!” You all you that? “One one-thousand, two-one thousand.” These are memories I have. I thought I shared with you. I guess I wasted this illustration, huh? But that was home base. That was the only way of escape. And the Bible tells us that the Lord shut them in. Now notice what happened here. When they were shut in they were secure, but when they were shut in the others were shut out. And even though life went on for seven more days and the people on the outside mocked those on the inside, they were saved. They’ve were sealed. Probation was closed. If you are in God’s sanctuary you may be mocked, but it’s the only place of salvation.

What do you think it was like those seven days before the rain started to have the crowd on the outside mocking, and the animals on the inside bellowing and bleating and trumpeting and roaring? And it probably had some aromas that went along with it. And then when the boat started rocking I heard one preacher say that it’d probably be the last place in the world that Noah wanted to be, but the only other alternative was to be out in the flood. Sometimes the church may feel that way. These sanctuaries can sometimes be places that are uncomfortable. There might be difficulty. God’s church sometimes is like a family where there’s family feuds and squabbles and disagreements, but it’s still the hiding place the home base in the storm. Amen? During the Exodus experience a series of plagues went through the land of Egypt and only those who were in the house with the blood on the door were spared. Let me read to you from the book of Exodus chapter twelve verse 22. “And you’ll take a branch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that’s in the basin and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that’s in the basin and none of you shall go out of the door of this house until morning.” That house was a refuge. It was a safe home as they say. It was a hiding place. A sanctuary. Verse 13 of the same chapter says, “The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood I’ll pass over you and the plague will not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” They had to be in the house where the lamb’s blood was. Sometimes it meant that they might invite some of their relatives. You know it said that the family could have the patriarch of the family and there were probably aunts and there were uncles and there were cousins and it’s very clear if you read chapter twelve that numerous families might come together in one house. Would it be safe to go out in the street on that fateful night?

They had to be in the house covered by the blood to be spared. That house was a hiding place and a Homebase—it was a refuge and a sanctuary. One of the stories that I love in the Bible that is a great illustration of this principle is the story of Rahab and I’m going to spend a little more time on this. Let me give you the background. The children of Israel are being led into the Promised Land after 40 years of wandering by someone named Jesus. That’s the Greek way of saying Joshua. His name was Joshua. He was Moses apprentice. He was anointed as the general, the leader of the people who was going to bring them into the Promised Land. The beachhead for the conquering the Promised Land was a city right by the Jordan River that was the border, called Jericho. But you remember when the children of Israel first came out of Egypt they sent twelve spies to look at the Promised Land that those twelve spies brought back a negative report. Joshua was one of those twelve spies, wasn’t he? Now 40 years has gone by. They’ve not seen the Promised Land so now Joshua sends some spines but he hand picks them according to their character. These are men of faith and courage. They’re not going to bring back a discouraging report. He remembers what happened the first time. And he tells them specifically what to do. They are to go and they’re going to case the city of Jericho. So these two spies come and as they enter into the gates not far from the entrance they are checking out the city they’re looking at the fortifications and maybe by their accent, maybe by their clothing, their demeanor someone recognized that these were Israelites. That was making the people of Jericho very uneasy. Keep in mind from the massive walls of Jericho they could look across the Jordan River not far away and clearly see three and a half, 4 million people camped. Do you think you could hide that? They saw them go out in the morning and gather bread from heaven that only fell on their side of the river. They saw at night their camp was glowing with the glory of God coming up from the temple and they knew that their intentions were to take the Promised Land.

Now if you were a Canaanite living in Jericho would you be uneasy to have these people like locusts on the other side of the river saying, “That’s our land and we’re coming after it.” And to see all the evidence of god’s blessing. Well, pretty soon a rumor reached the King that couple of Israelites were in the city spying things out and are they were already at… what do they call it now when our homeland is on guard? They’ve got these different color codes. Red alert? They’ve got orange, they got yellow, they’ve got red alert. They were on red alert for homeland security. And the two men checked into a bed and breakfast that was owned by the matron named Rahab. And she knew that the guards were beginning to search the city for them and she could easily turn them over, but she knew that Joshua was going to take the land. And in order to preserve her life and the life of her family, she wanted to be saved, she said, “Look, I’ll save you, but you need to save me. I’m going to protect you.” She brought them up to the roof of her house, hid them among the flax. They used flax to make rope and garments and probably they had a family business of making cord and rope because she got ready to use a piece of rope. And she made a covenant with them and she said, “When you come into the land you need to spare me because I’m saving your life.” You can read about it here in the book of Joshua chapter two. I’ll read verse 17 on to nineteen. “So the men said her, ‘OK, it’s a deal. When we come into the land you bind this line of scarlet cord…” There must have been some red cord up on the roof there somewhere. “…in the window through which you let us down and unless you bring your father and your mother your brother and all your father’s household into your home so it will be whoever goes outside the doors of your house into the street his blood shall be on his own head and we will be guiltless."

Please notice the emphasis. In Noah’s day they had to be in the Ark, couldn’t be going back and forth. You miss out when the doors shut. During the Passover they had to be in the house. And here these spies are emphasizing they’ve got to be in your house. Now she let them down from the wall with this red cord and I think it’s interesting, it’s significant that a red cord is a symbol of salvation. They were saved by this rope. They had to be in the house with the rope of salvation if they were to be saved. Finally you get to chapter six and it tells us that when Joshua came with the soldiers you know when they marched around the city he declared, “The city is doomed by the Lord.” After six days, on the seventh time of marching they marched seven times around city they shouted, blew the trumpets, the walls fell down Joshua said, “The city is doomed by the lord to destruction end all that are in it. Only Rahab, the harlot, shall live. She and all who are with her in the house.” Who was going to live? Only Rahab and all who are with her in the house. Real as a symbol of the church. All through the Bible God seems to identify his church in the book of Hosea as a prostitute that went bad and came back. In the New Testament you’ve got Mary Madeline who is the first one who declares Jesus is a live. It’s a symbol for the church. The church is comprised of people who were unfaithful but he makes us like virgins, the hundred and forty-four thousand. And Rahab became a mother in Israel and a progenitor of Jesus, an ancestor of Christ. She's a symbol of the church. They had to be in the house where the red rope was. And it might not have been just her father and her mother.

Joshua said anybody with her in the house they will be saved. Now what is the church called? What don’t you know that you are the temple of God? Not just your body, but Paul uses that two ways in the Bible. Your body, yes, is the temple of God. Also you collectively are the temple of God, we collectively are a living stones. We are a royal priesthood and so the house of God is the church of God. We are the body of Christ and we must be in Christ and I’ll talk more about that in a few moments. Only those who are with you in the house. Now here’s something I want you to think about. I want to stretch this a little further. When do you think Rahab brought the people into the house? Do you think she waited until Joshua and the men shouted on the seventh time around the city on the seventh day? Here’s a quiz, a little trivia for you. How many times did they march around the city? Thirteen times. I hear people say seven times. They marched around it one time six days then on the seventh day seven times. How many is that? Thirteen times. How many were at the last supper? Thirteen. Okay, just something to think about. When you think she invited people into the house? The last time? No, she invited people into the house probably when she saw that Joshua was coming. When you think Noah and his family got into the Ark when the rain started or before the rain started? When did the children of Israel get the lamb and sprinkle the blood? When they saw the angel of death roaming through the cities? Or before? When do you need to be in the house? When you see the heavens split and Jesus coming or now? So many people are thinking are that they’re going to wait to get into this place of refuge, to be in Christ, to be in the house at the last minute. No, friends, all the stores are telling us today, now is the time us to be at home base. Which brings me to my next picture, the horns of the altar.

I didn’t want to leave out this illustration. Any of you play baseball? I see none of you played hiding go seek. Anyone play baseball growing up? Baseball is an interesting sport. It’s very different from football. The terminology in football is sort of like war: offense, defense, tackle! All is going home, sacrifice, safe. You know that is very different terminology. I don't like watching baseball because it seems boring to me. I enjoy playing and even then sometimes it’s boring. Any of you ever stood out there in the field so long that finally when the ball does come to you it hits you on the head? When I went to military school I had a friend whose last name… I remember his name! He was like ten years or eleven years old James Donnelly. He caught a ball in his mouth because he was just… it actually bounced out of his mouth but it knocked his two front teeth back because it got so tired of waiting for it to come to him he wasn’t paying attention. So you know you can wait. But the idea is of course you’ve got to get to the base and if you get to the base before he tags you your say. And of course home base. And then hide and go seek you get to the tree or whatever it is whatever you declare home base… Problem is whenever we played hide and go see they kept bending the rules. They’d say, “The couch is home base.” You’d get to the couch. “No, no! The tree outside is home base!” you know or wherever they happen to be, “This is home base.” You ever have friends play like that? Keep switching the rules? Peeking when they count? In the Bible God had the sanctuary. In the sanctuary it appears that they understood that the altar was a safe zone from punishment.

You can see at least a couple of examples in the Bible where somebody was guilty of a serious offense. Adonijah tried to become king and King David said, “No, Solomon is going to be king.” Well he had already let the cat out of the bag and when Salomon was coroneted Adonijah realized he was a threat he ran to the temple. I Kings 1:50, “He feared because of Solomon. He arose he went and he caught hold of the horns of the altar. They would get a hold of the horns of the altar in the temple and that was to supposedly keep them safe. Again Joab later, you can read about it in I Kings 2:28. “Joab fled to the tabernacle of the Lord and he held onto the horns of the altar,” and you were supposed to be safe from judgment there. Now keep that in mind when you read this verse in Hebrews, “We might have strong consolation who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope that is set before us.” What is the modern equivalent today of the Old Testament altar? What happened on the altar in the temple? The lamb was offered. What is the modern equivalent of that place? The cross of Christ. What is it that we lay hold of to be safe from judgment? Solomon was the son of David, he was going to judge Adonijah and Joab, and when Adonijah took hold of the horns of the altar he at least found temporary protection. We need to lay hold on Christ and the cross to find refuge that’s why we flee to the temple, we go boldly before God’s throne, in that way. That of course is Hebrews 6:18. Another example in the Bible of how important it is for us to go to this place of refuge is found in the story of Peter. Now I shared this with you not too long ago, but it pops up again in a different dimension here. In Acts 12 you read the story where Peter was in prison and the angel of the Lord comes to his prison and sets him free. The church is gathered together in the upper room, probably the house of John Mark’s mother. They’re in this room. They’re praying continually for Peter.

This is all in Acts chapter 12. Peter is in a hopeless situation. He’s chained between two guards; other guards are guarding him, three gates on the way out, top security cell, no way of escape, but God sends his angel to Peter’s prison. He sends light to his prison cell. He breaks the chains. The chains just fall off and Peter gets out. The doors open up their own accord and Peter makes this miraculous getaway. Then he’s out on the streets of the city. The Bible says in chapter 12 verse 12, “When he considered this” that this was not a vision, it really happened, that he had just broken out of… The most mighty power on earth was Rome. He had just broken out of the Roman top security cell escaped from death row. He was to be executed the next day. Would it have been saved for Peter to just stay in the streets? Where did he go when he got out of prison? Now let me read it to you. It says here, “So when he considered this he came to the house of Mary the mother of John whose surname was Mark where many were gathered together praying.” What do you call a lot of Christians together praying in a house? It’s called the church. And of all things they’re praying for him, and I don’t want to miss this opportunity to remind you as a church that we should be praying continually for those who are on death row that God will set them free and they will come. Amen? He didn’t stay out on the streets because the Roman soldiers were going to soon be swarming all over the streets looking for this escaped inmate from death row. He needed to get to somewhere safe. And you know when he first came to the door they wouldn’t open up because they were busy with their prayer meeting. Sometimes you meet with resistance even coming into the church the people on the inside don’t open up as quickly as they should. But the Bible says, “Peter knocked at the door and he continued knocking until they opened up.”

They’re in there praying for Peter and they say, “Don’t bother us, we’re busy.” And he is outside knocking. It’s just a great story in the Bible. But he wouldn’t give up until they let him in. You know I’ve been to Hawaii a couple of times and on the big island of Hawaii they’ve got something that’s known as “the city of refuge” or “the place for fleeing”. And any of you been to the big island of Hawaii? Some of you there. They’ve got this, the Hawaiians had, there’s a word for it. Put that picture up on the screen, Ken. I want to show them that picture of “the city of refuge” in Hawaii. I can’t say it unless I see the words. Panapumi… yeah, there you go. The Puahonaua. Oh, Doug Hill knows how to say that. How do you say that? Clarence and Ruth? Puahona. There’s a place of refuge and they’ve got this big platform. There’s a picture of it there up on the left. Where they actually had a law that if you broke one of the Hawaiian ritual taboos, and they had some strange taboos like, “Don’t pick bananas fishing.” I don’t know. They had some strange taboos, and if you broke one of these. If you had stepped on the shadow of the king or different things the penalty was death unless you could flee and get to this home base, this place of refuge. You know the Bible tells us that God had some of these home bases, cities of refuge in the Bible. The first one, where do you think it appears? It’s in the book of Genesis. The angels came to Sodom and they told Lot, this is chapter nineteen of Genesis verse 22. “Haste thee. Escape thither for I cannot do anything,” meaning destroying the city, “‘until thou become thither.’ Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.”

The word Zoar means little. The place of refuge may only be little, but God can still save you there. “The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered Zoar then after Lot entered Zoar the Lord reigned fire from Sodom and Gomorrah and brimstone from out of heaven.” This little city in the plain became a city of refuge for Lot. Now ultimately he and his daughter’s moved up into the mountains. When they saw what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah they didn’t want to be in any city at that point. But God spared one city to be a place of refuge for them. Then as they entered the Promised Land the Lord designed that there should be six cities of refuge in the territories, and the seventh city of refuge was the place of the temple. God said, “I will put my name there” and that’s where the temple was built. That’s Jerusalem. They were the cities of the priests. The priests would live around these cities of refuge. And it was the custom for the prophets and the judges to visit the cities of refuge because when there were people who had court cases, you know our counties have a court seat. In the land of Israel the cities of refuge were sort of the county court seats of government where the judge would go from place to place. You remember Samuel, if you’ve read your Bible, he would go on a circuit visiting the different cities of refuge. Doesn’t always call in that but it identifies them when they settled the Promised Land. Numbers 35:11, Moses said, “Then you will appoint your cities to be cities of refuge for you the best layer might mean that there who kills any person unaware.” If you’re out in the woods and you're cutting firewood and the moll handle slips off the shaft and bonks your neighbor in the head and morally kills him, its an accident. We call that second degree murder or manslaughter rather. You could say, “Oh no, the family might kill me because they’re so overwhelmed with grief even though I had no malice!” and they flee to the city of refuge and once you get there you were protected, you could appeal at the gates and say, “I killed somebody by accident. Please forgive me and have mercy on me.” And you would flee there.

Now, Ken, you’ve got the picture of the Zoar and Lot up. Put up the picture of the city of refuge that I did. There we go. That's the one I wanted you to see. And so they would go to these cities and they would find refuge. Matter of fact, don’t forget the point I made that it was surrounded by the priests. What are we biblically? We are nation of kings and priests. What is the church? Isn’t the church supposed to be a city of refuge? The Bibles says, “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” Exodus 19:6, “You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a nation.” And if Christians are a kingdom of priests then where is the city of refuge on earth right now? Do you know according to the law of most lands that churches are sanctuaries? How many of you have heard stories of illegal aliens that sometimes sneak across the border and maybe they can’t get to an embassy so they go to a church and the government cannot arrest them in a church because its legal sanctuary. How many of you have heard this before? It happens a lot more frequently if you get to El Paso and some of those places along the border. But a church is supposed to be a legal sanctuary. You remember when the Palestinians had this uprising in Jerusalem or Bethlehem. Where did they go? Church of the Nativity and they had a big standoff. They couldn’t go in and get them. It’s sort of an understood international law that the church is a sanctuary, it’s a refuge. Now is that just true for people who might be illegal aliens or fugitives or is it still true that the church is a place of refuge and sanctuary for Christians? We’re under a death sentence. We’re guilty of murder. You and I are guilty of the blood of Christ unawares. We are the manslayer. We need to flee to the city of refuge. We need to get into the temple. We need to lay hold of the horns of the altar to find mercy. It doesn’t make any sense to want to stay out there in the streets where all the danger is. God has provided for you and me a home base and a hiding place. Ultimately that city of refuge on earth is a symbol for the ultimate city of refuge in heaven.

You know there is one story… let me tell you one more story that’s in the Bible you may never have understood. There were six city of refuges throughout the land of Israel. How many? Seven total. What was number seven? Jerusalem. Do you remember there was a man who cursed David? His name was Shimeai. When David fled from Saul and Shimeai cursed him and threw rocks. After David came back to the kingdom Shimeai was very embarrassed. When David died he told Solomon, “You'll know how to deal with him.” And you know what Solomon told Shimeai? “As long as you stay in Jerusalem you are safe. If you ever leave the city you are doomed.” Two of Shimeai’s slaves ran away. They went down to one of the Philistines cities Ekron. And he thought, “Well, it’s been three years I’ve been in Jerusalem. I’d sure like to get out of town. Nobody even remembers what the King said anymore, I think I’ll sneak away. No one will notice.” He made the fatal mistake of leaving Jerusalem, got his slaves, brought them back. Solomon heard about it. You can’t keep anything from Solomon. He brought in. He said, “Didn’t I tell you? Didn’t you understand the rules? You left the city of refuge.” He was killed. Now what is the significance of that? The new Jerusalem is our city of refuge. II Corinthians 5:1, “We have a building from God, a house made in the heavens, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” You and I have a home in heaven. Hebrews 10, I’m sorry, Hebrews 11:10, “For he waited for the city that had foundations whose builder and maker was God.” Jesus said, “I’ve gone to prepare a place for you.” Where is that city whose builder and maker is God?

That’s the New Jerusalem in heaven. Revelation 20:9, now here is where it gets hairy. Where do you and I go when Jesus comes? He's going to take us home. Are you a pilgrim? Is your home the New Jerusalem to be in those mansions with Jesus? At the end of the 1000 years the New Jerusalem comes down to earth. What happens to the wicked then? All the wicked who ever lived are raised. What do they try to do? You read it here. They go up, verse 9, chapter 20. “They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints about the beloved city.” What city is that? Who’s going to be in that city? Me! I heard somebody say the saved. I hope you said, “Me.” Is that your home? It needs to be our home. But the wicked are going to surround the city. We’ll be safe in the city. “And fire comes down from God out of heaven and devours them.” And that same fire that comes down from heaven surrounds the city of God and it causes a lake of fire outside the city, but just like the Ark in the storm, that city in the flames is somehow insulated by God. Can you say amen? It’s a good thing that the walls are 214 cubits, no, 144 cubits, 214 feet thick. It’s going to insulate us against the conflagration that’s going on outside. It’s going to be a hiding place in the storm, a sanctuary. The Lord is the temple in it now and we will be safe in this city. Now what does this all mean? How do we tie this together? Psalm 61:3, God is our shelter.

The Lord is our refuge. Verse 3, “For you have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in your tabernacle forever. I will trust in the shelter of your wings.” Isaiah 32 this was our opening scripture. “Behold a king will reign in righteousness and princes will rule in justice. A man will be as a hiding place.” A man will be as a hiding place. How do you hide in a man? Well, the Bible tells us. Matter of fact, it was probably one of the favorite phrases of the apostle Paul. He talks about… You know these glasses are great! I can see you in the balcony now. Really! Some of you I didn’t know you’ve been here all this time and I’m glad to see you’re here. The Bible tells us one of the favorite phrases of Paul was, “In Christ.” In Christ. Are we in Christ? A man shall be a hiding place. I Peter 5:14, Peter uses it once. “Peace to all of you who are in Christ Jesus.” Paul says in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the spirit.”

We’re not condemned when we’re in the hiding place. Let me summarize a few thoughts for you quickly. The Bible tells us, let me read it to you. Hebrews 10:24, “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works not forsaking the assembly of ourselves together.” Now, I’m preaching to the choir because you’re assembled today. Some have forsaken the assembling of ourselves together. Some are spending too much time outside of the Ark, outside of the Passover home, outside of Rahab’s house, outside of the church where Peter fled, the New Jerusalem. Now we’ve got to come in. It says, “not forsaking the assembling our ourselves together as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another.” That’s what I’m doing today. God told me to do this. He says we should exhort, encourage one another, remind one another not to forsake the “assembling of ourselves together and all the much more” the so “much more as you see the day approaching.” Now how many of you see the day of the Lord approaching? If you see the clouds gathering why would you want to linger at the door of the Ark? Get inside! If you see Joshua is marching across the Jordan, why wouldn’t you go to Rahab’s house? If you see that angel of judgment looming above Egypt wouldn’t you want to be in the home with the blood above the door? If you hear the Roman soldiers that are beginning to clatter their armor around the streets of Jerusalem and you’re Peter and you’ve just escaped aren’t you going to go to the upper room?

If you know that Jesus is coming soon don’t you want to be in Christ now? And you know how you are in Christ? What is the church called? The body of Christ. “What don’t you know you are the temple?” You are the body of Christ. Finger cut off doesn’t live long. You might reattach it and it’ll survive, but in order to be alive we’ve got to be together. Even though some parts of the body may not appreciate or recognize other parts of the body we’re all one body. We’ve got to be together. It’s the only way for us to be safe in the coming storm. Christ is our sanctuary. We must be in Christ. You know there is a story I want to read to you in closing here. How many of you know that on the tenth of April in 1852 a man died in Tunis, Africa? Thirty-one years later as an act of gratitude the United States dispatched a government ship, a man of war, to the African coast of Northern Africa. I’ve been to Tunis, Africa. They went to exhume the remains of this individual, brought him back on the battleship to North America. I bet not too many people here know who I’m talking about yet. When this individual was brought back to North America he was welcomed by the firing of guns in the fort, by the display of flags at half-mast. His remains were carried to the nation’s capital on a special train.

There was suspension of all business and adjournment of all departments of government. As the funeral procession passed down Pennsylvania Avenue the president, vice president, members of cabinet, congressmen, judges, supreme court, officers of the army and navy and a mass of private citizens rich and poor stood with their heads uncovered to pay their respects as the carriage went by with the remains of this man who was brought back from the coast of northern Africa. Do you know who it was? The man who they expressed all this honor for was a man who had lived as a composer in Italy and northern Africa. He had worked as an architect but he had written a play with an opera called ‘Cleary’ that had a song in it called “Home Sweet Home.” The man’s name was John Howard Paine. And you recognize the words “Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam, be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home. Home, sweet home.” All of this honor was given to someone who had written a song that had become so beloved in North America because he died away from home. And they said, “How can we leave him away from the place of his nativity?” And at such an investment they brought him back to North America. Lillian Alling was willing to walk from New York City to Russia to get home.

The United States was willing to send their army to bring the remains of this man to bring him back to his country and show this great honor. Are you a pilgrim? Is Jesus going to forget about you? Do you have the blood over your door, the red rope in your window? Do you see the importance of being in Christ, of being in the church? It’s our sanctuary. It’s our safe zone, our home base, our hiding place. And yet so many of God’s children have become indifferent, careless, risking their eternal destiny by hanging outside the ark as the clouds are gathering. Friends, we need to come back to God. We need to run for home. We need to flee to that city of refuge. Find that man who is a hiding place and a strong tower. That’s Jesus. If that’s your desire turn with me to our closing hymn. “I’ve wandered far away from God. Lord, I’m coming home.” 296

This is a good message to close with an appeal. There may be some of you here today, you may have been in the church for years, you may have wandered in for the first time by God’s providence. Some of you may have been slipping in and out of the church and need to get rooted again in the family, but if you do not have that assurance that you are in Christ, if you have become too comfortable in the world and forgotten that you are a pilgrim and you’d like to renew that commitment, refresh that perspective and make a decision today to come to the Lord and say, “Lord, today I’m coming home. I want to be in Christ when Jesus comes. I want to be under the blood when the Lord returns.” We’d like to invite you to come to the front as we sing verse two and we want to have special prayer for you. Come.

Before we sing the last verse. This is also an appeal for some of us who maybe are realizing that our commitment to the church, the consistency that we need to be in the church, to gather together when the Lord is here, it’s been getting thin. It’s so easy for the devil to say, “Aw, it’s been a long week. Just sleep in today.” “Oh, there’s company.” Or whatever it is. The devil has a thousand ways for us to erode that relationship. I’ve said before, if we don’t have enough faith to get us to church once a week then how are we going to have enough to get to heaven? If you had a car that only started two times out of four would you get it fixed? If people are coming two weeks out of four in the month to church is that a healthy relationship? Friends, we need to be consistently in Christ. We need to want to know that we’re there. Someday the Holy Spirit is going to get poured out in Pentecostal measure. Wouldn’t it have been a shame for Peter to have stayed home that day in the upper room when the Holy Spirit was poured out? We want to be gathered together when that happens, friends. It’s so important. Maybe the Lord is speaking to you and you know that you need to strengthen your commitment to be part of the family, to be in Christ. Come as we sing the last verse. We’ll pray with you.

I want to go home! I’m not talking about 4911 Lexan Way. I want to be with Jesus, don’t you, friends? To feel at home with him there then we need to be at home with him here now. We’re just pilgrims in this world. I want my home to be there. In the meantime you’re my family. “Though your father and mother might forsake you the Lord will take you up.” He who turns his back on the things of this world to follow Christ he might have lost his earthly family, but Jesus says, “You’ll get a hundred fold more in this life and a home in heaven through eternity in the world to come.” Amen? We’ve got a family here. This is a taste of our home there. I want to be at home until we are at our ultimate home sweet home. How about you?

Father in heaven, Lord, we’re thankful for this teaching in your word that tells us that you’ve gone to prepare a place for us. Though we are pilgrims and strangers now, someday we can join our first parents in the Garden of Eden and gather as a family around the Tree of Life and have that sense of security and familiarity and peace that only comes at home. And, Lord, I pray that right now we can help this to be a priority. Help us to know that your church is a home on earth. It is a sanctuary, a hiding place, where we can come and be sheltered from the storms of live. I pray that this church can be that, Lord. I pray that our experience with you will be one that will also welcome others into this family so bless us to this end, Lord, and help us to be with you in the New Jerusalem. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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