… And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever

referencing The Lord is my Shepherd…

So far we have looked at all the verses that make up the 23rd Psalm. My husband describes all the statements as a confession or declaration of who God is to us and the benefits of this shepherd-sheep relationship.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,he leads me beside quiet waters,he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff,they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and [mercy] will follow me all the days of my life… Psalm 23:1- 6a NIV

The psalmist is enthralled by everything God is to him and it leads to a response and a commitment to God: I will dwell in your house forever! What is the house of the Lord? Where is the house of the Lord?

In the old testament, the house of the Lord was the temple of God where the Israelites worshiped. It was not uncommon for people to live in certain quarters of the temple and dedicate their lives to the service of God; case in point: Samuel. But…

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples made by human hands. Acts 17:24 Berean study bible

But God no longer dwells in buildings, he dwells in hearts and we know from previous posts that the house of the lord represents the presence of the Lord. So if Jesus lives in your heart, then you are the house of God and you carry the presence of God.

So what exactly is the psalmist saying when he says “and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”? The psalmist is making a lifelong commitment to live in the presence of God. Many times, we carry ourselves as if to say the presence of God is found in a place and when we go to that place we go into the presence of God. For some, it is a church building. For others, it is in assuming a certain position to pray or during personal devotion or times of fasting that the presence of God is felt.

Through this series, we have learned that Jesus our shepherd, promises us his abiding presence. He is always with us.  But it takes another level of commitment to make the presence of God a dwelling place. It means you constantly live in God’s presence. You don’t visit. God’s presence is home. For those that like abstract proverbs it is not only buying the milk; It is buying the cow.

When my husband and I were dating, we spent so much time together but at the end of the day, he went back to his own place or I, to mine. It was not until we got married that his presence became a constant in my life. The psalmist is making a pledge to God very much like in marriage. The psalmist is saying, God,  I promise to always be with you always just as you promise to be with me always.

And I will dwell in your house forever…

  • Is a commitment to be more aware of the presence of God and be intentional about living with that consciousness and practicing presence.   It is a commitment to inviting Jesus into your heart every day and with every time you say this psalm so that you can be a carrier of His presence wherever you go. It is a commitment to being comfortable enough in the presence of God to be your authentic self because that’s what you do when you are home. You don’t put on a facade for anyone you are yourself.
  • Is a confession when you are struggling with the notion of being in God’s presence. It may be that you don’t feel worthy to be in God’s presence. Or you feel disappointed with life or with God. This psalm serves as an encouragement and perhaps a self-talk that you are going to strive to live in God’s presence no matter what. When you don’t feel like being in God’s presence you will be in God’s presence.
  • Is an assurance of the hope we have in the afterlife. It is common knowledge that we come into the world naked and take nothing out of it. When you have a shepherd-sheep relationship you take the presence of God with you. Not only will God’s presence be with us on earth but it will be our companion into the afterlife and forever thereafter. Jesus did not take lightly the promise: “lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). You can be confident that eternity will be an easy transition because you will be “home”- in the presence of God; a home you will recognize because you’ve experienced it on earth.

So dear friends, I conclude the Psalm 23 series with a prayer for you:

Holy Spirit, You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence, Lord

…For you are with me

referencing The Lord is my Shepherd…

Psalm 23: 4 says “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…” (NIV) 

In this  series I have used the phrase, “the abiding presence of God” so many times that it has almost become a byword and a cliche. So what does the abiding presence of God really look like? What does it mean when we say that God is with us? How do we conceptualize the word ‘Emmanuel’? I recently heard a sermon that connected the dots for me and I’d like to share. Shout out to Pastor Kirk Cowman.

In the previous lesson we encounter David in Gath running away  from King Saul right into the hands of his enemies, the relatives of Goliath. He was literally in the valley of the shadow of death (Gath is in a valley!) and this is what he says:

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? Psalm 56:3-4 NIV

David’s trust is anchored in the fact that God is with him always. He is cognizant of the abiding presence of God and he goes on to say:

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. Psalm 56: 8 NLT

This is a perfect illustration of God’s presence with us always. Do you know how attentive a person has to be to keep track of every time you are sad or sorrowful? Even my husband does not know of every time I am sad or sorrowful and we spend a lot of time together. Oh and do you know how close in proximity a person will have to be to you to catch your tears in a bottle? This is who God is to us. He is so close and always present. Whether it is on a mountain high or in the valleys low He promises to be there. He will never leave us neither forsake us. The psalmist describes this phenomenon like so:

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you. Psalm 139:7-12 NIV

We’ve heard countless times that God is with us. This week, my challenge to you and to myself is to practice the presence of God. What I mean by practicing the presence of God is to be fully aware, to fully embrace the notion that God is with us every second; of every minute; of every hour; of every day; day after day after day. He is always there. Through our highs and through our  lows… through the sun and through the rain…. He is there. When we are happy and especially when we are sad, He is there… ready with his bottle to collect and record every tear drop. Practicing presence means internalizing and having a consciousness of the fact that God is with us. Practicing presence means living our lives with that assurance that God is with us and  so “What can mere mortals do to us?” Practicing presence also means that we are intentional in living godly lives because we know that if God is really that close enough to catch our falling tears, then He is close enough to see all those secret sins.

My prayer is that today you experience the glory of God’s presence all around you and within you and be intentional in living out your faith!