The small, rural town of Keenesburg, Colorado is home to a place called The Wild Animal Sanctuary. This 720-acre refuge is the largest carnivorous wildlife sanctuary in the world, hosting over 450 rescued animals. At The Wild Animal Sanctuary, sympathetic staff work year-round to give these once abused or abandoned animals a second chance at life.

Animal sanctuaries are different than traditional zoos. According to National Geographic, zoos are created specifically to exhibit animals to the public whereas sanctuaries promise to take in and care for animals that have been abused, neglected or abandoned. Once they have been rescued and rehabilitated, these animals get to live and roam freely within natural habitats for the rest of their lives.

The Oxford Dictionary defines the word “sanctuary” as a “refuge or safety from pursuit, persecution or other danger,” and “a place where injured or unwanted animals are cared for.” But the word also has biblical implications.

“Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary; who is so great a God as our God?” – Psalm 77:13

According to the KJV Dictionary Definition, the biblical Sanctuary was “a sacred place; particularly among the Israelites, the most retired part of the temple at Jerusalem, called the Holy of Holies, in which was kept the ark of the covenant, and into which no person was permitted to enter except the high priest and that only once a year to intercede for the people.”

Hebrews 9 teaches us that the Earthly Sanctuary of the Old Testament was only a copy of the Heavenly Sanctuary. It is in the Holy of Holies, in this Heavenly Sanctuary, that Jesus intercedes on our behalf in the presence of God the Father. Jesus is our Advocate, our High Priest and our Intercessor. Jesus Himself is the ultimate Sanctuary for the endangered species of humankind. He is a place of refuge, a place we can run to when we are wounded, abused or abandoned. He offers us a place of safety and rest where we can flee to escape the hectic worldly pace. And He promises to care for us and restore us to wholeness. He will save to the uttermost all who come to Him in faith.

“But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:5

Remember that Oxford Dictionary definition of sanctuary? “A refuge or safety from pursuit, persecution or other danger . . . a place where injured or unwanted animals are cared for.” Remarkably, Christ was also pursued, persecuted and placed in mortal danger. He came to Earth to receive His own but was left injured and unwanted (John 1:11). Yet for those who do receive Him, our bodies have become the temple of God.

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” – 1 Corinthians 3:16

A popular praise song highlights this idea with the following lyrics:

Lord prepare me
To be a sanctuary
Pure and holy
Tried and true
And with thanksgiving
I’ll be a living
Sanctuary for You

Songwriters: Randy Lynn Scruggs / John W Thompson
Lord Prepare Me To Be A Sanctuary lyrics © Full Armor Publishing Co.

As incredible as it may seem, we are a sanctuary for God — a safe place for Him to dwell, free of abuse and abandonment. Our bodies are a place where His Spirit can find refuge and rest from a rebellious world. And a sanctuary, as we learned in the biblical sense, is a place of sacrifice. Therefore, Paul writes:

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” – Romans 12:1

As living sanctuaries, it is vital for us to care for ourselves and each other because our bodies play an incredible role in our relationship with Jesus. This is why, at AdventHealth, we focus on your whole health and give you the tools, resources and support you need to enjoy a lifetime of happiness. God wants you to feel whole in body, mind and spirit.