Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life…
In the classic film, The Wizard of Oz, it took a trip over the rainbow before Dorothy could appreciate the home she had and the people she loved. When she earnestly proclaims “There’s no place like home” she is finally able to return. For us, a home with God might seem like a place we’ve never known. Yet, it’s the place we were always intended to be.
One way to look at the Bible is to see it as the story of God desiring to make a home with his people. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. On earth, he created a beautiful garden in which he could dwell with humanity. He desired to share his infinite love and goodness with his creation. But humanity rejected God’s guidance and provision and were exiled outside of his presence.
If heaven is wherever God dwells, then for a time, the Garden of Eden was heaven on earth. Later, God instructed the Israelites to build him a tabernacle, or “dwelling place” in Hebrew. God had made a covenant with Abraham and his descendants to be their God and his hesed, or steadfast love and commitment, was with his people. Because God’s glory dwelled in its center, called the Holy of Holies, the tabernacle represented the place where heaven overlapped with earth.
Later Solomon would build the Temple based on the same design. It was the house of God, a symbol of God’s heavenly throne room from which he ruled and reigned. It was where God’s glory shown and his divine presence was experienced. The earliest readers of Psalm 23 would have likely envisioned the Temple when they heard “and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
The Temple was built at Jerusalem’s highest point. Whenever the Israelites journeyed to Jerusalem for the annual feasts, the Temple would have risen into view on the horizon while they were still a ways from the city. It was an enduring symbol of God’s ultimate desire to dwell with his people.
Of course, an imposing, bloodied altar stood at the entrance to God’s house. A sacrifice had to be made before the priest could approach the Holy of Holies and atone for his people. One day, Jesus the Messiah would come and be the once and for all sacrifice that achieved atonement for all who call upon his name. At his death, the curtain that divided the Temple was torn from top to bottom, demonstrating that the barrier between sinful people and a holy God had been brought down by the sacrifice of the eternal Son (Matthew 27:51).
God’s presence would dwell with his people in a whole new way. After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, at the feast of Pentecost, The Holy Spirit came on all of Jesus’ disciples. From that moment on, the Spirit would come to dwell in the heart of anyone who trusted in Jesus and committed to following him. The Apostle Paul calls our bodies temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). God’s presence rests in as individuals and as communities of believers. The Apostle Peter says that we are like living stones being built into God’s spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5).
Though we experience him now, at the end of days, after Jesus returns and banishes all of God’s enemies, including Satan, sin, and death, we will truly and completely dwell with God in a New Jerusalem in a New Heavens and New Earth. This city won’t need a temple, because all of creation will be God’s dwelling place, just as he always intended. At last, we will find ourselves home.
Our eternal destiny is assured by the goodness and love of our Creator who has rescued and redeemed us. The end of our journey will be a new beginning because we will dwell in the presence of the Lord forever.
What does it mean to you that you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever? How should that impact the way you live now?
What does home mean to you? It’s more than a place, isn’t it? It’s wherever you feel most secure, most loved, and most accepted. As you go before the Lord in prayer, reflect on what it means to find your home with God.