Hiding place

You are my hiding place.
You always fill my heart
With songs of deliverance;
Whenever I am afraid
I will trust in You.

Believers of my generation can hardly hear the words of that well-known song without thinking of the late Dutch evangelist Corrie ten Boom. Her biography, The Hiding Place, told the harrowing story of her ordeal as a political prisoner of the Third Reich. During World War II, she and her family protected Jews from the Nazis by hiding them in a secret room in their home. A spy uncovered their secret, and the family was arrested.

In the concentration camp at Ravensbruck, Corrie and her sister Betsie organized worship services and shared the gospel with others. Betsie, unfortunately, died of illness. Soon after, a grieving Corrie was released.

But she found out later that she had been released by mistake. Had that clerical error not happened, she would have been sent to the gas chamber a week later.

Corrie knew: God delivered her to preach the gospel. She would never forget, even if it meant having to be a light to former SS guards who had tormented her.

. . .

The “hiding place” — a secret place of shelter — is a frequent metaphor in the Psalms for God’s protection. The inspiration for the title of Corrie ten Boom’s autobiography came from Psalm 119: “You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word” (vs. 114, NRSV). Similar statements can be throughout the Psalter:

  • “For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble” (27:5a);
  • “In the shelter of your presence you hide them from human plots” (31:20a);
  • “Let me abide in your tent forever, find refuge under the shelter of your wings” (61:4);
  • “You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust'” (91:1-2).

In all of these texts, the psalmists use the same word to describe finding shelter in God. The same is true of Psalm 32, where God is again revered as the psalmist’s hiding place:

Therefore let all who are faithful
    offer prayer to you;
at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters
    shall not reach them.
You are a hiding place for me;
    you preserve me from trouble;
    you surround me with glad cries of deliverance
. (vss. 6-7, NRSV)

The context, as we’ve seen in recent posts, is the psalmist’s gratitude for God’s forgiveness. He had tried, for whatever reason, to keep his sin from God, and suffered greatly because of it. But when he gave up the pretense, he was released from his burden.

In the verses quoted above, he no longer seems to be talking about confession, leaving some scholars to wonder if these words are part of the original composition. But it may be that his experience of such welcome relief simply renewed the faith he already had: When you’re in trouble, whatever it may be, run to God; he will protect and rescue you. He tells his story so that the faith of others will also be renewed.

The psalmist’s wisdom, in other words, is not just about the confession of sin. It’s about faith. It’s about prayer. Pride or foolishness regarding his own sin kept him from doing what he should have done all along: run to God for shelter in his time of distress.

For a time, he lost his grip on what he already knew: God is a gracious God of steadfast love.

And as we’ll see, he wants to help others to not make the same mistake.