She became known as “The Ship That Launched a Nation” by transporting more than 4,500 war-torn Jewish refugees from Europe to their ancestral homeland. I’m talking about the ship named Exodus 1947.
In 1946, the Haganah purchased the ship and began secretly refitting her to carry Jewish refugees from a French port to the port of Haifa in Palestine, despite a disallowance from the British.
Jews from all over Europe, with what possessions they could carry in their hands, streamed to the French port of Sète where they boarded the Exodus 1947. This floating refugee ship left the harbor bound for Palestine—but was trailed by five British warships that were under orders not to let them dock in Haifa.
On July 18, 1947, the ship tried to outrun the British. Just as Moses and the Hebrew slaves had to flee the Egyptian army in the first Jewish exodus, these refugees saw themselves repeating that history—three thousand years later.
But they never made it. The British surrounded and boarded the Exodus 1947 off the coast of Haifa. After a desperate defense, refugees were loaded onto British prison ships that sailed back to a French port. But the Jews refused to leave the ships. So the British sailed to the port of Hamburg, Germany, forcing the refugees off the ships and into detention camps. This indignity sparked a firestorm of protest in the worldwide media as it brought to mind the Nazi concentration camps from a few years prior.
The United Nations was forced to take action. A plan for a two-state solution—Arab and Jewish states in Palestine—was proposed and adopted. Britain no longer had any say over Palestine, and the Jews were allowed to resume their arduous pilgrimage toward freedom in the new state of Israel in the spring of 1948.
What Is a Refuge?
There is not just one word that encompasses the idea of refuge in the Old Testament. There is a maoz, a manos, a mahseh, a misgav, and a seter. But they all mean the same thing: a place of safety and protection.
The biblical writers also used the idea of a physical refuge as a metaphor for God: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
This is a reminder that God is the One who holds our hope—and is our ultimate Refuge.
Why Is God Our Refuge?
It’s doubtful that any of us will ever experience the weariness felt by the Jews aboard the Exodus 1947. But like the European Jews, we sometimes feel exhausted, worn out by the winds of trouble that blow across our life. When that happens, we must find our refuge in God. He alone can assuage us in the present and assure us of our future.
Think of the characteristics of an Old Testament refuge, stronghold, or hiding place. When you think of those in human terms, God is the only One who qualifies.
A refuge is safe. “Because you have made the Lord, who is [your] refuge . . . no evil shall befall you” (Psalm 91:9-10). You are safe in God, never separated from His love.
A refuge is strong. “A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you” (Psalm 91:7). Numbers do not matter when it comes to God’s strength. God and you are greater than any opposing force.
A refuge is secure. “You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day” (Psalm 91:5). People who are secure in God do not live in fear of what might happen in their life.
A refuge is solid. “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust’” (Psalm 91:2). Think of the solid walls of a mighty castle or fortress. God is like that—solid, immovable, indestructible.
A refuge is a shelter. “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1). A shelter is a covering, something over our heads. When you dwell under the shadow of God, you are covered by Him forever.
If you need a safe place, you need God. He is the only Refuge—our true Refuge—that we have which will never disappoint.
David Jeremiah is the senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church and the founder and host of Turning Point for God. For more information about Dr. Jeremiah or Turning Point, visit www.DavidJeremiah.org.
Hope! We feel it as cold, blustery days turn to warm, sunny ones each spring. While we revel in the hope we find as the seasons change, we are reminded of an even greater hope—the spiritual hope we have because of Easter! Prepare your heart for Easter this year and for years to come with David Jeremiah’s new book, Season of Hope. This book is designed to encourage you as you anticipate the celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead and the indescribable hope that it brings to our lives. This new resource is filled with devotionals, articles, and other content to fill you with hope each Easter season.