Psalm 23 Series, Part 12

Our Eternal Home

“I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” —Psalm 23:6

THE green pastures, still waters, rod and staff, and the valley of the shadow of death, as well as the other details mentioned by David in the 23rd Psalm, made up the daily experiences of sheep under the care of oriental shepherds. When possible, the flock was led into a sheepfold at the close of the day, where they could dwell safely for the night. Thus to David this safe and desirable conclusion of the vicissitudes of life as experienced daily by sheep served well to symbolize his own daily rest in the Lord, and his future place in the divine arrangements.

While David greatly rejoiced in what this illustrated to him as one for whom Jehovah cared, it’s meaning to us is still more significant; for in a very special sense the psalm was written for the Christian church. To us there is a daily dwelling in the house of the Lord, and also a glorious hope of being actually with our Lord Jesus in that place in the Father’s house which Jesus went away to prepare.

Jesus said to his disciples, “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” (John 14:2) The word mansions as here used is a translation of a Greek word meaning ‘a staying’, or ‘a place to stay’, ‘a residence’. It is used only twice in the New Testament, and both times by Jesus in this 14th chapter of John. In Jesus’ second use of the word, the King James Version gives us the English word ‘abode’ as a translation. It is in the statement, “If any man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”—John 14:23

Here, as we have noted, the word abode is a translation of the same Greek word that is translated ‘mansions’ in verse two of the chapter. This verse might well be translated, “In my Father’s house are many places to stay, many abodes.” In the 23rd verse Jesus is saying that both he and his Father find a place to stay in the hearts of those who love him and are obedient to his words. It also means that the Father and the Son dwell together with those who love them; that their dwelling place becomes ours, and that where we live in our innermost hearts and minds they also live.

The Father’s house might be understood as the entire vast universe which he has created, and in this house are many places to stay, many abodes. As human beings there is only one of these abodes that would be suitable for us, and that is the earth. But our Creator did not confine himself to the creation of human beings and a home suitable for them. The Scriptures indicate that there are other orders of beings, and that these are adapted to live under circumstances quite different from those prevailing on the earth. There are angels, principalities, and powers. The plane of life on which these live is their abode, their place to stay. In Noah’s day many of the holy angels sinned by leaving “their own habitation.”—Jude 6; I Pet. 3:19,20; II Pet. 2:4,5

While there are many places to stay, many abodes, in the Father’s house, there was none suitable for the bride of Christ, hence Jesus said to his disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go, … I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am there ye may be also.” (John 14:2,3) This indicates that the place, the abode, the future dwelling place of the church did not exist prior to the Lord’s First Advent. The Father’s house contained many abodes in which dwelt the various orders of intelligent beings originally created by him, but there was no place for the church. Together with Jesus, her heavenly bridegroom, the church, the bride of Christ, was to be a New Creation, hence it was necessary that a new abode be prepared.

There is a special sweetness to this promise of Jesus—“I go to prepare a place for you.” It is as though he were saying to his disciples and to us that while there were already many mansions in the vast expanse of his Father’s house, none of them was good enough for his bride, hence a special mansion was to be prepared. “And if I go, … I will come again,” Jesus said, “and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” It is impossible for us to grasp with any degree of clarity what conditions will be like in that place which Jesus has prepared for us, but we can have some idea of what it will mean to be with Jesus, to dwell where he dwells, and to share his home.

The Apostle John found it inconceivable to fathom the great heights of glory to which the faithful overcomers of this age will be exalted. He wrote, “It doth not yet appear what we shall be,” but there was one thing John did know, and in this he saw a marvelous manifestation of divine love. “We know that … we shall be like him,” he wrote, “for we shall see him as he is.” (I John 3:1-3) John, as a disciple of Jesus who walked with him while he was in the flesh, was quick to grasp the implications of what the Master said on matters of this kind. It was John who recorded Jesus’ promise of the place to be prepared in which the Master and his followers would dwell together in glory. It was John who recorded the Master’s prayer in which he said to his Heavenly Father, “I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.”—John 17:24

There was no doubt in John’s mind that this prayer of the Master would be answered. In this prayer Jesus also asked that the Father bestow the same love upon his followers that he had displayed toward him. John realized what a great love this was, and wrote, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” And it is these sons of God who are to be made like Christ and dwell together with him.

While this new dwelling place prepared for the New Creation will be different from any of the other mansions already existing, it will be in the Father’s house; that is, within his vast universe. Hence the psalmist could write prophetically of the church that we will “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” All the various planes of being created in the image of God and remaining obedient to him are properly said to be dwelling in the house of the Lord. The restored human family, living in perfection on the earth, will dwell in the house of the Lord forever, their particular mansion being the earthly Paradise. But the church, dwelling with her Lord and heavenly Bridegroom, will occupy the grandest of all the mansions, the dwelling place especially prepared by Jesus for her.

The apostle explains that even now those who believe do enter into rest. (Heb. 4:1-3) This is a rest of faith in the finished work of Christ, a peace of heart and mind which transcends all our trials and difficulties, and which is based upon our assurance of the Father’s love and our confidence in his ability to supply all of our needs according to the riches of his grace in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:19) And then, in addition to this present resting place of faith and hope, we have the assurance of an abiding place, a mansion which Jesus promised to prepare for his faithful disciples. (Heb. 4:9) It is this thought of our present association with the Lord through his Word, and our future living with him in glory that Jesus discusses in the 14th chapter of John, where first he speaks of the abode, the mansion, which he would go away to prepare, and then adds that he and his Father would even now make their abode, their mansion, with those who love and obey them.

I will dwell in the house of the Lord, David declares, not shall. This suggests the possibility that his own determination to dwell in the house of the Lord would have a great deal to do with attaining this much desired position in the divine arrangements. And it is true of the Lord’s people in every age that their own willingness and desire to be in harmony with God and to be part of his household is a necessary prerequisite to their enjoying such a high position of favor. God does not compel anyone to dwell in his house.

In Psalm 27:4 David wrote, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.” Here David is concerned with dwelling in God’s house all the days of his life, whereas in Psalm 23:6 he declares his determination to dwell in the house of the Lordforever.” The one would seem to be contingent on the other. Certainly those who have no desire now to dwell in the house of the Lord and who spend their lives in alienation from him will not be prepared to dwell in the mansion Jesus promised to prepare for those who love and obey him.

‘The house of the Lord’, as David used that term, is probably a reference to the typical Tabernacle. David desired to build a better house, a temple, in which he could inquire of the Lord but he was not permitted to do so. The Tabernacle—the house of the Lord as viewed by David and by typical Israel—was a shadow or symbol of the real house of the Lord in which the church of this Gospel Age finds a dwelling place, and in which, ultimately, all mankind will find a haven.

The Most Holy of the Tabernacle typified God’s own dwelling place and the center of divine authority. This is on the divine plane, inhabited only by those possessing the divine nature. Originally God was alone on this plane. Jesus was highly exalted to this plane when raised from the dead, and the church is promised the divine nature if faithful unto death.—I Pet. 1:4; James 1:12; Rev. 2:10

The first Holy of the Tabernacle, as well as the Court surrounding the Tabernacle, symbolize the present dwelling place of those who are sacrificing their human nature in order to enter into the Most Holy to dwell with the Father and with his glorified Son. If we think of the prophecy of Revelation 21:3 where we read that the “tabernacle of God is with men,” then the camp of the Israelites surrounding the typical Tabernacle would represent the condition of the redeemed and restored world of mankind, the men with whom God will dwell; and they in turn will dwell with him; that is, they will be members of his household, living in the earthly abode or mansion created for them.

When David, speaking prophetically, declared his desire to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life, the reference is to the great privilege enjoyed by the saints during this Gospel Age of offering themselves in sacrifice in the antitypical Court, and enjoying the rich blessing of spiritual communion with the Lord in the antitypical Holy. In verse 6 of the same psalm, David speaks of offering the “sacrifices of joy” in the Lord’s tabernacle. And what unspeakable joy is ours as we realize the privilege we have of presenting our bodies a living sacrifice in the assurance that God will accept them and beget us to the divine nature.

True, the offering of sacrifice is not in itself joyous, but rather the reverse, for it is contrary to the desires of the flesh. Nor is the sacrifice of the saints pleasing to the world. Because of it, the Lord’s people often find that the world hates them. A truly consecrated Christian is not at home in the world. David’s own experience illustrated the position of the Christian in the world, particularly that of Jesus, our exemplar. David prayed to God, “Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty.”—Ps. 27:12

Then David added, “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (vs. 13) How true this is of the saints of the Gospel Age. While we are not serving the Lord for a reward, nevertheless, the assurance that God’s love, his goodness, will yet be revealed to us in all its glorious fullness, and that ultimately his glory will be revealed to all flesh, is a compensating portion which sustains us through the hours of trial involved in laying down our lives in sacrifice. Just as the joy that was set before Jesus enabled him to endure the cross and to despise the shame, so it is with us. We know that the valley of the shadow of death through which we are now walking will yet be transformed into the land of the living, and that there, the goodness of the Lord will be revealed to all mankind. (Isa. 40:5) It is our confidence in the final outcome of this plan, and the joy that is set before us of cooperating to this end, that helps to keep us from fainting and becoming discouraged during the present time of trial.

David wrote that he desired to dwell in the house of the Lord in order that he might behold his beauty. The beauty of the Lord is seen in the glorious attributes of his character, his wisdom, his justice, his love, and his power. This beauty of divine holiness is discerned and appreciated only by those who are in covenant relationship with him and who are enlightened by his Holy Spirit. These are begotten through the Holy Spirit of truth, and enjoy spiritual vision. Through the Word of truth, they see the outlines of the divine plan for human redemption and salvation. Through that plan, they see the glorious attributes of God working for the eternal blessing of his creatures and to his own glory.

In the Holy of the typical Tabernacle were three pieces of furniture—the Golden Table which bore the shewbread, the Golden Candlestick, and, the Golden Altar. Each of these is symbolic of the church. As the table, the church holds forth the bread of life. As the candlestick, she radiates the light of the Word, and in the Golden Altar we see the church as a sacrificing body, and her sweet-smelling savor of sacrifice ascending into the presence of God. Recalling Jesus’ words saying that he and the Father would make their abode with the church, we realize that the glory of the Lord is to be seen only by those who are part of the church, and who participate in the fellowship of the “Word of God as he makes that Word known to his people, through his people. What high favor is thus shown to us of the Gospel Age in being permitted to dwell in the house of the Lord, where, through the channels of his own providing, we can see his glory displayed. Surely it should be our desire to dwell in this house of the Lord all the days of our life, even as David expressed concerning himself.

As we noted in the beginning, the thought of a daily dwelling in the house of the Lord was illustrated by the daily experience of the sheep in being led to a safe resting place. But in the larger picture, that final scene can well represent our actual dwelling with the Lord beyond the veil. And what a glorious ending this will be to all the trials and heartaches of the narrow way! Nor tongue nor pen can describe the joys of that blest day!

It will be a day when all our labors and trials will be over. There will be no more sorrow, no more sighing, no more tears. However, while our labors and trials will be past, there will be work to do. And this is an especially blessed thought for the people of God now, for we are living in that time mentioned in Revelation when the death of the saints will mean that they will rest from their labors, but their works will follow them. That is, they will not need to remain asleep in death.—Rev. 14:13

And think of the glorious works the saints will enjoy when dwelling in the house of the Lord as members of the divine family! They will be joint-heirs with Jesus as reigning kings over the earth for a thousand years. They will be associate judges with him in dealing with the people of that day. They will share the mediatorial work of the messianic kingdom. Yes, they will be co-workers with God and with Christ in the restoration of the human race to at-one-ment with the Creator and to perfection of human life. We cannot understand very clearly the glories of the divine nature; but we can visualize to some extent the blessedness of the privileges which will be ours, if faithful, of sharing in the kingdom work assigned to those who will be found worthy to dwell in the special place prepared in the house of the Lord for these overcomers. And it is the joy of this anticipation that spurs us on to renewed zeal in the doing of God’s will.

The work of the saints beyond the veil is again referred to by the prophets when they speak of the “mountain of the house of the Lord.” (Micah 4:1-4; Isa. 2:1-4) This is the kingdom of the Lord, and it is made up of those who dwell in the house of the Lord. In these prophecies, the thought of household is included, for the kings in the divine kingdom will all be members of the divine ruling family, or house.

How all-comprehensive, then, is the prophetic utterance of David, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” And this wondrous possibility, this glorious hope, is the inspiration of all those who from the heart can say, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” May we, as his sheep, follow ever more faithfully the leadings of our Shepherd; feeding in the green pastures into which he leads us; drinking the refreshing waters which he provides; and, by recognizing all the ways in which he cares for us, be assured that his goodness and mercy will pursue us all the days of our life, and that we truly will dwell in his house forever.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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