This lesson is part of a series we’re calling, “Hello, My Name Is… A Series on the Names of God.” You can find the latest when you follow Tara’s author archive. We’ll add links to the whole Bible study once it’s complete.
Lesson Twelve: Refuge, Fortress
Main Idea: When we trust in God our strong refuge and fortress, he keeps us safe in scary situations and saves us from our sins!
Memory Verse: “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12
- Read lesson, Scripture references, Psalm 91, Psalm 31, Nahum 1:7, Proverbs 14:26-27, and 2 Samuel 22:1-4
- Gather: Bible, lesson plan, dry erase markers or chart paper and markers, large boxes, markers, scissors, tape, glue, construction paper, stickers, washable paint, paper plates, sponges, paper towels, paint brushes and water cups, scrap construction paper.
- To help keep track of the names of God learned over this series, write each lesson’s name of God on the board along with the main idea. Tape a strip of paper over the name, and one over the main idea. Use this to review the lesson as you go. Alternatively, use large flash cards with the name of God on the front and the main idea on the back. Create one of these every week and review with the class as you go.
- Take time to meditate on this lesson and apply it to your own life. Kids can often feel unsafe and in need of sanctuary. They are young people facing a big and often scary world. As adults, we have found ways to cope with the world. It isn’t likely that you have the exact same fears as your students. You probably don’t need a night light to sleep and you aren’t afraid you’ll fail the spelling test on Friday. We may think we have outgrown such “little” fears. Remember what it was like to be a child who was afraid of the dark or of the monster under the bed. It is often easy to rely on our own wisdom and abilities to keep us safe. Although much of our world is war-torn, chances are you personally don’t live under the fear of bomb threats. This can make running to the Lord as our refuge every day a bit difficult, can’t it? We can easily slip into the mindset that we don’t need the protection of a strong fortress. We can face the big meeting and the traffic jams on our own, thank-you-very-much. And then you get the dreaded call from your doctor, or you find yourself without a job and without enough cash to make it through the end of the month. It is easy to run to God when life gets scary or tough. The problem is, it’s hard to run under a burden when you are not in the habit of running. Make running to God your strong fortress a daily practice. Although you may not see it, we are in a spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:12), and you must run to the Refuge every day for protection. So, dear teacher, wait for the Lord. Pour your heart out to him. Rejoice in him, and he will protect you through every battle, both great and small.
- Proverbs 18:10
- Psalm 46:1-2
- Psalm 31:19-20
- John 3:16
- Psalm 62:5-8
- Psalm 91:1-4, 10a, 14-16
- Psalm 28:7
Game: Build a Fortress, Tag
If you can get your hands on large boxes, such as refrigerator boxes, do so. In advance, cut out doors and windows in the boxes. Set out decorating supplies such as markers, stickers, paper and glue sticks. Have the class go crazy decorating their own castle. If you can’t get a hold of boxes, or if you have an energetic class, play a good, old-fashioned game of tag. Be sure to designate a spot as “base,” so the kids have a safe place to which they can run.
Message: Open in prayer, then say, can you believe how much we have learned about God through this study on his names? We have learned that God is our strong creator. He has always existed and always will. He is our Lord and our Father. He is Jealous for us, and fills us with Perfect Peace. He is our King, our Rock, our Judge and our Shepherd. Every time we learn a new name or title for God, we learn more about who God is and about how he loves us. Today we will hear some awesome descriptions of God.
Tell me, what do you do when you are scared? Or, what do you want to do when you are scared? (Allow students to answer. Be sure your class remains considerate and accepting as their friends answer. If a student says they cry when they are scared, there is no reason for others to laugh. Model good listening skills and give supportive feedback as your students share. If need be, gently remind the students that your class is a safe place to share feelings without the fear of being judged or laughed at. Only loving words are allowed in your class.) Thank you all for sharing what you do when you are scared. Sometimes being scared makes us scream or cry. Or we may want our parents. We may hide or run away. Today we will learn how God wants us to react when we are scared or in trouble or sad or… anytime, really!
Let’s have a sword drill to discover what God wants us to do when we feel scared or in trouble or in danger. Take all fingers and bookmarks out of your Bible and hold them above your heads. When I say go, turn to Proverbs 18:10. Go! (Read, or have a student read, Proverbs 18:10.) “The name of the LORD is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe.”
When we are scared, we sometimes want to run. Well the place to run is to God! When we trust in God, he keeps us safe. The first part of this verse says, “The name of the LORD is a strong fortress.” When it says “The name of the LORD,” it doesn’t just mean what we call God. It means God’s reputation, his character. In all the studying we have done on the names of God, we have learned a whole lot about him. When we are scared or nervous or even a little unsure, remembering what God is like and running to him will keep us safe. (On the board write, “strong fortress.”)
What does it feel like to be safe? What do you do when you know you are safe? (Allow students to answer.) When you feel safe, you feel like you can do anything! You feel strong and confident and brave. This is exactly how everyone who believes in God should feel. Psalm 46:1-2 says, “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.” Even when the world is literally falling apart, God is our refuge. He will help us. (On the board write, “refuge.”)
So let’s stop to think for a minute. What is a strong fortress? (Allow students to answer.) When you think of a fortress, you probably think of a great big castle, with huge, thick stone walls surrounded by a moat, and a tall tower right in the center of the walls. That tower was the safest place to be if enemies attacked. That is the sort of thing you should picture when you think of God as a strong fortress. He is the absolute safest place to be in times of trouble. A refuge is the same sort of idea. A refuge is any safe place. It can be a castle, or your home or school, or even an umbrella when you’re outside in the rain. A refuge is where you go to stay safe. God is our refuge and our strong fortress. He keeps us safe. (On the board write, “God keeps us safe.”)
Let’s look at Psalm 31:19-20. “How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world. You hide them in the shelter of your presence, safe from those who conspire against them.
You shelter them in your presence, far from accusing tongues.” There’s a lot going on in these two verses. Let me sum it up for you. When we fear God, he protects us and keeps us safe from our enemies. He does this because he is the good and loving God. (On the board write, “protects us from enemies,” and “God is good and loving.”)
When this passage says “fear” God, it does not mean that God is scary to us. Think about all the names of God we have learned lately and what all those names mean. Think about how very HUGE God is. It makes me feel so very tiny. I can’t even wrap my brain around how awesome God is. He is so perfectly holy. And we are sinners. We have no right to run to God for safety. But because God loves us, he sent his one and only Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our sins, so we can run to God and live forever in heaven with him! We hear that all the time in church. John 3:16 says, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” We hear this so often that it almost loses its meaning, like saying a word over and over again. Banana. Banana, banana, banana, banana, banana, banana, banana, banana, banana, banana, banana, banana, banana, banana, banana, banana… you see what I mean?
Listen closely, because this is so important. We can’t let the wonderful truth of God’s love for us just start sounding like meaningless nonsense. To fear God means to remember the truth. We don’t deserve to know God. We can never, ever, EVER earn the right or be good enough to run to God for safety. But because he loves us so much, he wants us to run to him. To fear God is to worship him with a holy reverence, a holy and special respect that we have for God and God alone. (On the board write, “worship God with a special respect.”)
It is so easy to make other things in our lives more important than God. We get distracted by our school work, or Pokémon, or our swim meet, or our family camping trip. These things are all great, but nowhere near as great as God. And none of these things can save us.
Turn with me to Psalm 62:5-8. Please follow along as I read. “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.” Only God is our rock. Only God is our salvation. Only God is our fortress. Only God is our refuge. God is the only one who can keep us safe, and more importantly, God is the only one who can save us. He saves us when we put our hope in him, when we trust in him. I love this passage. It’s such a good reminder to wait quietly. When I am scared, when I feel like enemies are attacking me, the last thing I want to do is wait quietly. But this is exactly what God wants us to do. When we trust in him, our hearts can be calm and he will keep us safe. (On the board write, “ONLY God is our refuge and fortress.”)
We’re about to wrap up but first I have to make something clear. Only God keeps us safe, and sometimes he uses people we love to help. If you are being bullied by a kid at school, or if there is ever a situation anywhere, ever, where you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, then TELL AN ADULT YOU TRUST. Yes, pray about the situation and know that God is listening to you and protecting you. God can use the adults in your life to help keep you safe. I am a safe adult. Your parents are safe adults. If you ever feel unsafe, please, please, talk to us and let us pray with you and help you.
Let’s look at Psalm 91:1-4. “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.” I wanted to look at this real quick because I have seen this Psalm used wrongly before. It says that God will rescue us from every trap and protect us from every deadly disease. I have heard people say that this means if we trust God, we will never get sick or hurt. Now that simply isn’t true. Christians get sick too, and we get hurt and have bad things happen to us and we sometimes feel unsafe. The important thing is, the bad things don’t win. The first part of verse ten of this Psalm says, “No evil will conquer you.” This means that in the end, God wins! Psalm 91 ends like this: “The LORD says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.” If we trust in God and call on him to help us, then he will save us from our sins and let us live forever with him! Doesn’t that make you want to shout and jump for joy? (On the board write, “God rescues us from scary situations AND from sin.”)
Psalm 28:7 says, “The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” We can burst out in songs on praise and thankfulness, because when we trust in God our strong refuge and fortress, he keeps us safe in scary situations and saves us from our sins!
Close in prayer.
Craft: Stamp Painting Castle or Castle Collages
Give everyone a large sheet (12×18 inches) of light colored construction paper. On several paper plates, pour small amounts of shades of brown and grey paint. Cut sponges into thirds and put the small rectangles into the paint. Students will use these to sponge paint a simple castle onto their paper. Once they finish sponge painting their castle, they can use other colors of paint to add details to their castle. If you would rather avoid paint, use scraps of paper to create castle collages. At the top of their paper, have them write, “God is my Refuge.”