Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, (Psalm 91:9)
Whenever I read Psalm 91, I think of hinds’ feet on high places, and of the everlasting arms of God, of birds in nests covered by their mother’s wings, of green pastures and still waters. This is a psalm of assurance for every believer. It speaks of a security that the world cannot offer, one we do not and cannot ever earn, one which is a free gift of grace from a God who is both ruler of the universe and Abba to His beloved children. I recently had cause to consider Psalm 91 with new eyes and to rediscover the wonderful promise it contains within each of the equally wonderful promises the psalm lists for us. Spending a week on the road, in strange beds and unfamiliar bed and breakfasts, knowing no one and moving on each morning, I came to appreciate the concept of home with new eyes. I also understood – really understood – for the first time just what it means when we read that God is our dwelling place.
That God is our dwelling place is a spiritual reality which alters our physical reality and ushers in eternity.
At first, I thought it strange that the image of hinds’ feet on high places should project so strongly into the reading of this verse, but I then realised that this was the message the Spirit wanted me to see. It was an illustration of the spiritual reality that when God is our dwelling place, we walk not as creatures of the world but in the high spiritual places with Him. And yes, this does seem a little super-spiritual and impractical, but as we dig deeper, I believe that we’ll discover that it’s one of the most practical things we will ever encounter because it’s beautifully simple.
The concept that God is our dwelling place appeals, firstly, to a fundamental human need, that of home. No matter where we are or what we do, every single one of us has an innate drive, a need to put down roots, to belong, to find or create a place of permanence that becomes woven into our individual identity. Home is not so much a geographical location as it is an emotional location. Even in our Christian walk, our need for home manifests in finding a church where we feel we belong, where we feel safe, loved, and cared for, and where we can reciprocate.
‘Home is where the heart is’ remains a familiar adage, one we can all identify with, because it contains absolute truth. We may miss the actual physical location of home – a house, a town, an area – but we do so in terms of the memories and values it holds. The connection is essentially emotional. In just the same way, believers miss a previous church – not the building itself but the spiritual family and the wonderful memories tied in to past relationships. This is the message contained in the truth that God is our dwelling place. Our home, spiritually as well as in the world, is where our heart is. But there is one significant difference between the spiritual and temporal realities – if our heart is on Him, God is our dwelling place – one which supercedes and shapes every other ‘dwelling place’ where we may find ourselves in this world.
To understand it better – to transform it from a vague spiritual concept to a livable reality – I felt the Spirit urging me to consider the Israelites in the wilderness. If ever there was a group of people longing for a home, it was those early Jews. With slavery behind and only a promise ahead, it was little wonder that Moses was adamant that if God did not go with them, they would not go. Here was a man who understood, totally and completely, the absolute necessity that God is our dwelling place in this life. His faith was such that he knew that, unless they dwelt with God, they would remain wanderers and vagabonds, lost in the wilderness. Moses was not content with an angel to guide them. Nothing less than God Himself would do.
I had a small taste over those five days of what it was to be a wanderer. I’m not complaining, mind you. For me, this is the ‘great adventure.’ It’s a blessing, an incredible opportunity to work while I wander, to be paid to travel, to meet new people, to see places I have never seen, to discover the wonderful country I am blessed to live in, and to do ‘one the ground’ research for my books. Nevertheless, being equally blessed with a loving, caring family and friends, and a church family graced by God, being ‘out there’ all on my own was a major shift in every aspect of my life. A sense of ‘temporary’ was pervasive, even though I knew I had the blessed security of returning home at the end of it. But, in the midst of the temporary, I realised that one thing remained – God is our dwelling place, whether we are home or away, alone or in a crowd. Nothing in this world can alter that wonderful truth.
As we read Psalm 91, we may be tempted to look at our lives and wonder where all those promises are. Promises of safety, security, protection, and victory abound in this single wonderful psalm, but we would not be honest if we didn’t confess that sometimes, our lives just don’t seem to meet the mark. I believe that the ‘because’ in today’s verse is the key. Because God is our dwelling place, these things follow. Of course, we need to accept that there are two levels to this truth – the spiritual and the physical. All too often, we look only at the physical and see the ‘failings.’ But God works, first and foremost, in the spiritual. What happens in the physical is merely a reflection of what happens in the spiritual.
This is the significance of hinds’ feet on high places. The Bible often tells us that earth is not our real home. We are citizens of heaven and, as such, ‘foreigners’ or pilgrims, wanderers and temporary residents in the world. Salvation has this at the very centre of its relevance – it removes us to walk in the Spirit rather than in the flesh. When we fully identify with Jesus, we walk where He walks – in the high places of God. We are where He is. God is our dwelling place, for the Son is with the Father. Just as Jesus said that the Son of God had no place to lay His head – no home – so we have no real home here in this world. Our home is in God, in eternity, and our earthly dwellings are all temporary stops on the journey of life.
It’s a remarkable truth, one that liberates and provides security at the same time. I realised that trundling off into the unknown all on my own was merely a physical perception. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I take my real home with me. In a room in the back of beyond, God is there. When I set off on an unfamiliar road, God is there. He’s not just there as an abiding presence. I have the assurance that God is our dwelling place. Unlike the wanderers in the wilderness, with whom God abided as a visible presence in the pillars of fire and cloud, I now abide – which means live – in Him. Because of this, I walk in high places, I live according to the spirit, I have the absolute security of His everlasting arms and His eternal promises. Because I abide in Him, I am liberated from all fear and uncertainty. I can enjoy this adventure, this part of life’s journey, because my home is where my heart is – in Him. And I can go out in the assurance of knowing that this is part of His purpose, and that He may yet reveal other purposes that I have not yet seen.
The things of this world – the situations and circumstances – may seem to contradict this wonderful psalm at times, but in the spiritual realm they are all fulfilled. When God is our dwelling place, while we still have to live out our lives and walk on earth according to His purposes, His spiritual purposes are always fulfilled. We may endure hardships and loneliness, trials and temptations, difficulties and seemingly impossible obstacles, but they are temporary. They all have an end – eternity with God. Spiritually, though we are wanderers and strangers in a foreign land here in this world, we have already ‘come home.’ God is our dwelling place, the place where our heart is, and nothing this world can bring against us can alter the truth that no one can ever snatch us out of of His hand.
Thank You, Lord, for this awesome gift of grace – that we can dwell in You, not just with You. Help us to see this always, no matter where we are or what we do. Help us to walk in Your high places, to live in the spirit though we work in the world, to reveal Your eternal power and love to a world which sees only a one-dimensional reality.