My Dwelling Place

“The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut. 33:27a). A dwelling place. This phrase has been rolling around in my brain the past few days. The word means “habitation” or “den,” like the home of a lion. It is both a place to live and place of safety. But what exactly does it mean for God to be my “dwelling place”?

This must have been an image of God that appealed to Moses as he uses it in his psalm as well: “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations” (90:1).  I suppose this makes sense; after all, Moses lived without a home basically his entire life. Remember his upbringing? Because of the new Pharaoh’s paranoia about the number of Israelites in Egypt, Moses was nearly the victim of infanticide, saved only by his mother’s desperate ingenuity. He became the son of the Pharaoh’s daughter and was raised in the palace. Of course, I’m sure this felt like home—I mean, he did live there for 40 years– but he also must have felt that he didn’t really belong there. That’s why he killed an Egyptian in defense of an Israelite slave (Ex. 2:11-12). Obviously he identified more with his ethnic group than with the Egyptians. From there he fled to Midian where he would get married and tend his father-in-law’s sheep for another 40 years. Again, he probably did have a home to go back to when he wasn’t driving the sheep, but he must have spent many nights away, protecting the flock. That, of course, was what he was doing when God called to him from the burning bush (Ex. 3:1-2). He would never know another home. The final 40 years of his life would be spent in the Sinai desert, leading a bunch of stiff-necked rebels, dining on manna, and fielding complaint after complaint. No wonder he relished thinking of God as his dwelling place.

My life has not been so much like Moses’. I never moved as a kid, and have done it as infrequently as possible as an adult. I enjoy being at home, where my family, coffee, and books are. It’s comfortable. It’s safe. In fact, as I type, I’m outside enjoying a late-summer afternoon on my front-porch swing. This is my dwelling place. Here. These four walls. How then am I to see God as my dwelling place? Sure, it’s picturesque to say, but how am I to live it?

Here are three not-so-novel ideas…

  1. Source of protection—This is perhaps the most obvious characteristic of a good dwelling place. The school where I used to teach closed six times for weather-related reasons last winter, meaning that I got to sleep in and stay at home—cozy and protected from the elements.  Though my house is nothing spectacular—a 107-year-old cottage in a tiny Minnesota town—it did its job last winter. On nights when the temperature plummeted well south of the 0-degree mark, I was toasty warm. And on days when snow fell and fell and fell and fell and—well you get the idea—the dog and I remained dry and comfortable. Not only does our house protect from the elements, but it protects our belongings from theft as well. While we don’t have a fancy-pants security system, even our low-tech locks give our valuables much more protection than something without walls and doors would. Our humble dwelling place protects us.

    Likewise, God, our dwelling place, protects. Psalm 91 puts it this way: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!’ For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark” (vv. 1-4). But what does God protect me from? After all, Christians are hardly impervious to disease, poverty, or misfortune. God’s protection is much greater. In the Lord I find protection from the enemy who prowls around like a roaring lion, waiting to snap me up and devour me (1 Pet. 5:8). In my Dwelling Place I’m protected from the lies hurled at me by the father of lies (Jn. 8:44). In my Refuge and my God, I’m safe from the wrath of God. That’s right, in God, I’m saved from God. What an amazing paradox that when I run to God for shelter from the penalty my sins justly deserve, I find asylum from the very God whose wrath I’ve earned (Rom. 5:9). I am safe in my Dwelling Place.
  • Source of comfort—My home is not merely a place of protection; it’s also a place of comfort. If you’re like me, you love the familiarity of your pillow, your bed, your couch, your shower, your coffee pot, etc. We find great comfort in our dwelling place. Likewise, we find comfort in God. Paul, in his second epistle to the Corinthians, calls Him the “God of all comfort (1:3, emphasis added). That means that no comfort comes to us—ever—apart from the God of comfort. Thankfully, we don’t serve a distant, disconnected God. We serve a God who knows the heart-wrenching grief of losing a child, the pain of betrayal, and the wounds of hatred. He knows them not only as God, but as man also. Jesus came as the “Man of Sorrows,” one well-acquainted with grief (Isa. 53:3). The author of Hebrews assures us that our High Priest is not clueless about our struggles the way a gluttonous rich man is about hunger. No, we have a High Priest who is sympathetic, who has been tried in all the ways we have! (Heb. 4:16) And not only that, but we have God within us, the Holy Spirit, whom Christ Himself called the “Comforter” (John 14:16, KJV). (So, in one of Scriptures nifty ironies, not only is God our dwelling place, but we are His as well.)  Yes, in our Dwelling Place we can know comfort that no La-Z-Boy, MyPillow, Keurig, husband, friend, or sister could give.
  • Source of energy/renewal—Finally, at least for introverts like myself, home is a place of energy and renewal. While I look forward to going out to coffee or heading to a friend’s house for a game night, I always love coming home. I (generally) enjoy being with people, but it can be exhausting; so coming home to a safe and comforting place renews me. The same is true in God. Our strength must come from Him. He is the God who fights for us (Josh 23:10), who renews the strength of the weary (Isa. 40:31), who strengthens us to do battle against the “spiritual forces of wickedness” (Eph. 6:10-17). Not only that, but when I come to the Word of God, I find life. Three times the author of Psalm 119 repeats the refrain “revive me according to your Word” (vv. 25, 107, 154). If you’re feeling drained or zapped, perhaps it’s because you haven’t looked for renewal in the Living Word. In our Dwelling Place, we’re re-energized for the work to which He has called us.

Are you vulnerable? Weak? Tired? Wounded? “There is none like the God of [Israel], who rides the heavens to your help, and through the skies in His majesty. The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut. 33:26-27a).

“Wonderful, powerful, my hope and my defender
Mighty God, Emmanuel, my dwelling place forever.”

-“My Dwelling Place”
by Kelly Minter, Chris Eaton, Keith & Kristyn Getty, Stuart Townend

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