When David was fleeing from King Saul, ‘he went … and dwelt in the strongholds of En-gedi’ (1 Samuel 23:29).
The Song of Solomon 1:14 reads: ‘My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms in the vineyards of En-gedi’.
En-gedi is a beautiful oasis, half-way along the Israeli side of the Dead Sea. Its name means ‘fountain/spring of a kid’, and its springs, waterfalls, lush vegetation and greenery stand in stark contrast to the arid desert wilderness round about. The date-palms at En-gedi are a sight to behold.
But what are the spiritual lessons of En-gedi?
En-gedi is an oasis in the wilderness. A constant supply of fresh water makes it stand out from the general deadness of the wilderness around it. Spiritually, this world is dead and barren. ‘Change and decay in all around I see’, says the hymn.
Yet to know the Lord Jesus is to know an oasis of life, in this world and the next, for he promises living water to all who believe in him. ‘Jesus … proclaimed, If any one thirsts let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water”’ (John 7:37).
Just as En-gedi is an oasis of life amidst death, so Jesus is the giver of eternal life, and enables us to live fruitfully to the glory of God.
En-gedi was also a place of refuge. It has many caves, in one of which David hid from Saul’s threats against his life.In the same way, Jesus provides the believer with a place of safety. He has delivered us from the most fearful and ultimate danger of all, namely the wrath of God against sin. ‘Jesus … delivers us from the wrath to come’ (1 Thessalonians 1:10).
Only the cross of Christ, and the Christ of the cross, can bring eternal safety — deliverance from the penalty of sin and deliverance from an eternity in hell. As soon as the sinner cries ‘Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee’, he gains eternal safety.
But where can the believer find refuge from earthly trouble? None of us is exempt from pain and perplexity. We suffer losses and crosses, stresses and distresses. Where do we go when we are hurting and troubled inwardly? Is there an En-gedi for us amid the burning heat of this world?
Well, the Christian life not only begins but also continues by seeking refuge in God. It will do so until we enjoy the unblemished refuge and safety promised by God when this life is over.
The believer enjoys refuge in a person, not a place — in God himself. ‘The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble. He knows those who take refuge in him’ (Nahum 1:7).
Psalm 57 was actually written by David ‘on location’ — in a cave at En-gedi. It is a psalm that we can make our own when troubles come our way. It begins: ‘Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in thee my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of thy wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.
‘I cry to God Most High, to God who fulfils his purpose for me. He will send from heaven and save me, he will put to shame those who trample upon me. God will send forth His steadfast love and his faithfulness.’
En-gedi is a place of life amid death, fruitfulness amid barrenness, and safety amid danger. God in Christ is all these things — and more — to the believing soul. For in Christ we have eternal and earthly refuge, safety and salvation.
How vital it is, therefore, to make our abode in the spiritual oasis which is Jesus Christ. As Charles Wesley wrote:
Thou hidden source of calm repose,
Thou all-sufficient love divine,
My help and refuge from my foes,
Secure I am, if thou art mine.
And lo! From sin, and grief and shame
I hide me, Jesus, in thy Name.
In want my plentiful supply,
In weakness my almighty power,
In bonds my perfect liberty,
My light in Satan’s darkest hour.
My help and stay whene’er I call
My life in death, my heaven, my all.