I remember living in Atlanta the first time we had a tornado strike nearby. I was about to leave the office and go home to put the car in the garage (they’d forecast large hailstones as well) when the weather report said the twister was about to touch down very close to us. I called my wife and told her to take cover in the closet under the stairs in the lower level of our house. She did so, taking the dog, the cat, the phone, a flashlight and her nail polish with her. She finished doing her nails while calmly talking to her dad in PA, our perplexed pets lying beside her.
Taking shelter isn’t usually that casual a process, and often doesn’t end happily. In Psalm 31, David repeatedly uses that motif when he speaks of taking refuge in the Lord and hiding in Him, and of God being his “rock of refuge” and “strong fortress”. In verses 19 and 20, after a shocking petition to send the wicked silently to Sheol, David breaks out in praise:
“Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of men! In the cover of your presence you hide them from the plots of men; you store them in your shelter from the strife of tongues.” (ESV)
The verbs used here, “store up” in verse 19 and “store” in verse 20, are the same word in Hebrew: tsaw-fah’, which evokes the image of hiding, reserving, keeping in secret, or even hoarding. What is interesting is that God does this both with His abundant goodness and with his needy children. Furthermore, He hides us in the same place where He hoards His goodness–in His own presence.
Imagine a little boy being told he needs to take refuge in the closet because a storm is coming. Now, imagine the closet is a pantry, filled with everything little boys love to eat and drink. Taking refuge would be a treat!
That’s the way it is with God–He hides us in the pantry of His presence, where He stores His abundant goodness for us to enjoy as the storm passes by.