It's A Sanctuary But Don't Stay Too Long
A sanctuary is a place of safety or a place of protection. When a baby is inside the womb of the mother, it is in a protected place. But if the baby stays in that safe haven too long, the child is in danger of losing its life and the mother's life is also at risk.
There is a time to be hidden and there is a time to come out of hiding. Ecclesiastes 3:1 declares that "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:"
It is vital that we recognize the spiritual seasons of our lives so that we conduct ourselves accordingly. Some lyrics from Kenny Rogers' song "The Gambler" come to mind:
You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.
These lyrics express a biblical truth: Know What Time It Is! The only way we know what action is appropriate is through the leading of the Holy Spirit. It is imperative that we develop, nurture and maintain a secure and relevant relationship with Him so we are sensitive to His direction. Sometimes we linger in a place because it is familiar and comfortable but neglect to realize it is no longer productive or beneficial.
Here are three examples where people sought sanctuary:
Genesis 12:10 And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land.
Abram instructed his wife Sarai to say that she was his sister when they went to Egypt. Sarai was at least 65 years old at this time but was an unusually attractive woman. Therefore, Abram feared that the Egyptian men would kill him and keep her for themselves. Eventually, the truth was found out and Egypt was no longer a place of refuge for them.
Genesis 12: 14-20 14 And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair.
15 The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house.
16 And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels.
17 And the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram's wife.
18 And Pharaoh called Abram and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife?
19 Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way.
20 And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had.
The second example is also partially orchestrated because of a famine.
Genesis 42:1-2 Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another?
And he said, Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die.
Genesis 45:5 Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.
For many years all was well for Jacob, Joseph and their family. But the tide turned after Joseph died:
Exodus 1: 5-11 5 And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already.
6 And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation.
7 And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.
8 Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.
9 And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we:
10 Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land.
11 Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses
The third example is Jonah. He sought to run from the presence and the instruction of God. He thought his sanctuary would be in the city of Tarshish. Instead the belly of a fish became his hiding place.
In all three examples we see how important it is to flow with and trust God. Not only is the out-of-place person in peril but other people are adversely affected as well.
Abram and Sarai's deception brought sickness and unrest on Pharaoh and his household.
The Hebrews lost the favor they enjoyed during Joseph's lifetime. Where once they had been honored and respected, they later became enslaved and abused.
The men on the ship with Jonah feared for their lives and tossed much of the cargo into the sea in an attempt to stay alive and keep the ship from breaking apart.
But we do know that just because things aren't going well is not always an indication that a person is not where they should be. David suffered tremendously because of Saul's jealousy and insecurity not because David wasn't where he was supposed to be. Unprovoked controversy is often used by God to build character in us. It helps to develop virtues like patience and humility.
We do not see as much of this kind of activity in the New Testament where people are caught in an unproductive or dangerous place because of disobedience. Most of the major incidents in the NT involve people who are either filled with the Spirit of God or are seeking Him. When we obey His voice or His unction, we will always be current with the Lord. We won't always understand what is happening but there will be a sense of peace and calm within us.
Insecurity, fear and/or mistrust fostered the panic in each of the three examples. Abram feared for his life and didn't trust that God would protect him. The king of Egypt feared that the Hebrews would develop an alliance with Egypt's enemies and turn against them. Jonah didn't trust that the Lord knows best and is absolutely correct all the time.
When we know our Father, we will trust Him and follow His instructions without fear. Abram panicked and crafted a lie. Pharaoh panicked and abused and enslaved a peaceful group of people. Jonah panicked and put other men at risk through his disobedience. Panic produces pain...to ourselves and others. Let's trust God and be at peace within and without.