Which Mountain is Your Refuge?

Scripture Readings: Psalm 11:1-7 (text); Luke 21:20-24

September 26, 2010 Download and print sermon (PDF)

Read bulletin with Scripture readings and songs (for singing along) here.

Mountain RefugeIn the Old Testament, God’s people took refuge in the Temple at Mount Zion. In the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, believers heeded Christ’s words to flee to the mountains of Pella. Today, when crises come, to where do you flee with confidence? And when that great day of tribulation comes, to what mountain will you flee?

“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written.”—Luke 21:20-22

“For when the city was about to be captured and sacked by the Romans, all the disciples were warned beforehand by an angel to remove from the city, doomed as it was to utter destruction. On migrating from it they settled at Pella, the town already indicated, across the Jordan.”—Epiphanius, 4th century Christian historian

In his Wars of the Jews, Josephus describes the Roman invasion of Palestine that was provoked by the Jewish rebellion against Rome in A.D. 66-70. In the year 68, Vespasian, the Roman general in Palestine, eventually surrounded Jerusalem, and prepared his final attack on the city. However, the Roman empire was plunged into civil war after the death of Nero, and Vespasian then ceased military operations against the Jews while he awaited the outcome of the civil war. Eventually, Vespasian was appointed emperor and had to return to Rome. He turned over the operations against the Jews to his son Titus, another Roman general, who finally breached the city walls and burned it to the ground, including the Temple. The Romans even took the Temple’s golden candlestand and paraded it, together with the captives, before the people of Rome. Most of the tens of thousands of Jews inside the city were killed, including those who took refuge inside the Temple.

The period of calm during the siege by Vespasian was God’s providence to allow Christians trapped in the city to escape to the mountains of a place called Pella. Although the historians Eusebius and Epiphanius both wrote that an angel warned the Christians to flee the city, it is more likely that they remembered the words of Jesus in Luke 21:20-21 when they saw the Roman legions encamped around the city, “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies… then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”

Our text also begins with David answering a similar warning to him when his enemies threaten to kill him. Like Jesus, David’s counselor also tells him to flee from his godless enemies. The counselor’s warning even has a mocking tone: “When all your defenses are down, can you protect yourself from the arrows of your wicked enemies? Can God now be your refuge from your evil pursuers? There’s nothing you or your God can do, so flee like a bird to your mountain refuge!”

The Christians during the time of the Roman invasion of Jerusalem trusted the words of Jesus their Lord and Savior. But the righteous psalmist also expresses his trust and confidence, not in his own earthly mountain refuge, but in God’s heavenly mountain. This afternoon, we must answer the question, “Which mountain is your refuge?” Is it your own mountain? Or is it God’s heavenly mountain?

To read the rest of the sermon, click here.

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