A single object can be a source of comfort to one person and a source of fear to another. The same object can make one person breathe a great sigh of relief and another to recoil in terror. The one holding tight to the grip of a gun feels very differently about this firearm than the one who is staring toward its business end. The one who is being robbed feels very differently about the sound of approaching sirens than the one who is robbing him. It all depends on perspective.
All throughout the Bible, God reveals himself through the use of metaphors, pictures that are meant to tell us what he is like and how he relates to us. One of the images that appears repeatedly is that of a fortress or a tower, a castle or a stronghold. “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,” says the Psalmist, “my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2). “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I,” he prays, “for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy” (Psalm 61:2–3). “The name of the LORD is a strong tower,” echoes the Sage, “the righteous man runs into it and is safe” (Proverbs 18:10). Like a castle upon a hill or like a tower upon a giant rock, God offers safety, refuge, and comfort to those who are his.
And often we find great encouragement in this word picture. When we are in times of fear and uncertainty, we understand that God offers safety and stability. When we are facing trials and even persecution, we claim the truth that God offers us refuge, the conviction that no matter what may happen to our bodies, our souls will be kept safe. God is the strong castle we run to for defense, for shelter, for protection. And what a blessing to know that he is present, that he cares, and that he takes action on our behalf.
But what about those who are not his, those who are his enemies instead of friends? When this is the case, the metaphor is one of fear rather than comfort, of terror rather than relief. For a castle or stronghold is there to defend you if you are on the side of its King but to destroy you if you are not. A tower brings joy to the heart if it offers a place of safety but dread if it offers a place of destruction. For how many have died attempting to storm a castle, attempting to scale its walls, attempting to break through its gates? How many armies have been broken and smashed against castles and strongholds?
Our God is a fortress, a tower, a citadel. Yet as we know, a single object can be a source of comfort to one person and a source of fear to another. How you relate to this metaphor all depends upon your position. If you are a friend of the King and have been welcomed inside the walls, there is no greater blessing, no sweeter comfort. If you are an enemy of the King and remain outside the walls, there is no greater curse, no more bitter terror. The Lord is a refuge—the righteous man runs within its walls and is safe while the unrighteous man is dashed against its walls and is destroyed.