God’s House

Scripture: Psalm 23:6b and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever

(With reference to John 10:7-10)

 

Title: God’s House

 

Structure:

  • Introduction
  • The house of the Lord
  • Jesus is the gate
  • Conclusion

 

Introduction:

For most of this year we have been journeying through the 23rd Psalm together, exploring some of the ways it points to Jesus

–         Who can tell me the overarching message of Psalm 23? [Wait]

–          That’s right, the Lord is my security

–         And what are the two main metaphors that David uses to describe the Lord? [Wait]

–         That’s right, the Lord is a good shepherd and a generous host

 

In all of us there is a yearning for home, for a secure place to dwell – a place to belong, to put roots down and be sustained

 

And yet we live in a world which is highly mobile

–         People are more transient on the whole than they once were

–         We might travel a lot for work or move cities & countries for another job, leaving behind family, friends and community

–         Add to that the millions of displaced people in the world – those who are forced to shift by circumstance – the homeless and refugees

–         There is much in this life which works against our longing for home

 

Today we conclude our sermon series by focusing on the last half of verse 6…

–         And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for the length of days.

–         This verse speaks to the ache in our heart for home

 

Before we get into it though let’s read the whole Psalm together…

 

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,

He leads me beside still waters

He restores my soul

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake

Even though I walk through the valley

of the shadow of death 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 goodness and mercy will follow me

all the days of my life

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord

For the length of days

 

May the Lord illuminate his Word for us

 

The house of the Lord:

In Maori culture when you are formally introduced to someone, they usually tell you where they are from

–         They might say, this is my iwi (or tribe), this is my hapu (or sub-tribe), this is my awa (my river), this is my maunga (my mountain) and so forth

–         Traditionally Maori feel a deep connection with the land and with their ancestors

–         So the place you’re from – both your geographical home and your biological house (your family) – are very important

 

In this way Maori culture is fairly similar to Jewish culture

–         Land and family are really important to the Jews as well

–         Where you are from, your house, your tribe & your piece of dirt, matters

 

What then does David mean by that expression house of the Lord?

–         Is he talking about a specific building?

–         Or is his emphasis more on being part of God’s family – his household?

–         Or is it both / and

 

Well, we might think the house of the Lord refers to the temple in Jerusalem

–         Just like we might think of this church building as God’s house

–         While God’s house can refer to a special building consecrated for worship (like this auditorium) it is not limited to this meaning

 

One of the problems with equating the house of the Lord (in Psalm 23) specifically to the temple in Jerusalem is that during David’s time the temple hadn’t been built yet

–         The ark of the covenant was housed in a tent or a tabernacle

–         And it wasn’t suitable for people to dwell in – it was a sacred space

 

The other problem with associating the house of the Lord with the temple or the tabernacle is that God cannot be contained in a building or a tent

–         He is far too big for that

 

In ancient Hebrew thought God fills the earth and indeed the universe with his presence

–         So the whole cosmos is God’s temple – not just this building, not just the Vatican in Rome or the temple in Jerusalem

 

Therefore, when David says, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord, what he probably means is that…

–         ‘I am at home with the Lord wherever I go. There is no escaping God’s presence’

–         In other words, David’s sense of belonging is not connected to a building or a specific location – it is connected to the Lord himself

–         ‘Wherever you go Lord, that’s my home’

 

Billy Joel has a song called “You’re my home”

–         There’s a great line in the chorus where he says…

–         “I never had a place I could call my own, but that’s all right my love because you’re my home”

–         The Lord God is David’s home – wherever he goes

 

And that’s quite striking when we remember how important the land and a sense of place is to the Jewish people

–         It’s like David is saying, ‘my river, my mountain, my turangawaewae, my ground of being, my security, is God

–         Or to use another illustration, it’s like David has taken the welcome mat at the front door of his home and turned it around so that it is facing out

–         Every time he walks out the front door he is reminded that he is at home and welcome with God wherever he goes

 

To make the point, if dwelling in the house of the Lord, means being at home with God anywhere in the world then David’s home would be a camper van – a mobile home

 

If dwelling in the house of the Lord in David’s mind also means, being in God’s family, belonging to God’s tribe, then this too is striking

–         Most kings in the ancient world (and in the contemporary one) are interested in making a name for themselves

–         Doing something to be remembered, creating a dynasty – leaving a legacy

–         But not David – he is more interested in God’s name than his own

–         Again it’s like David is saying, ‘my iwi, my tribe, is Ngati Yahweh

–         I belong to God’s household – his whanau

 

So dwelling in the house of the Lord means being at home with God anywhere

–         And it also means being part of God’s family

 

This idea that God is David’s home and his family would have been a tremendous encouragement to the Jewish people, especially when they were cut off from their land and had lost family, after the exile to Babylon

–         And it can be a tremendous strength to us also

–         Land & family can be taken from us, but no one can take God from us

 

What about the last part there?

–         And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for the length of days

 

Most of us are probably more familiar with and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever

–         But for the length of days is actually more accurate, even if it is more ambiguous

–         For the length of days can mean for the rest of my earthly life

–         But it can also mean forever – as in, for eternity with God in heaven

–         Heaven is of course God’s eternal house – otherwise known as the Kingdom of God

 

Whichever way you want to slice it, David’s point seems to be…

–         ‘I am at home with God, both in this life and the next. Because of the Lord my future is secure.’

 

Jesus is the gate:

Please turn with me to John chapter 10, verse 7 – page 132 toward the back of your pew Bibles…

–         Psalm 23 points to Jesus

–         Jesus is the good shepherd and the generous host that David spoke of

–         It is through Jesus that we are able to dwell in the house of the Lord for the length of days. From John 10, verses 7-10 we read…

 

So Jesus said again, “I am telling you the truth: I am the gate for the sheep. All others who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever comes in by me will be saved; he will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only in order to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come in order that you might have life—life in all its fullness.

 

May the Spirit of Jesus illuminate this reading for us

 

This is a picture of a predator proof fence – like you might see at Zealandia

–         It’s not designed to keep the birds in – rather it is designed to keep the predators out (rats, stoats, opossums and so on)

–         If you are a native bird then you want to be inside the fence, especially at times when you may be vulnerable, like nesting or breeding season

–         But there is nothing to stop the birds coming and going otherwise

 

In John 10, Jesus (the good shepherd) refers to himself as the gate for the sheep

–         What does he mean?

 

Kenneth Bailey, who has been so helpful in this series, sheds light on what Jesus is getting at in John 10 [1]

–         He explains how in the Middle East, towards the end of the year and before the winter rains, when it is very dry, the shepherd must lead their flock further and further from the village to find pasture

–         This means it is harder for the flock to return to the relative safety of the village each evening – so they stay out in the wilderness overnight

 

To protect the flock, and get some sleep, the shepherd builds a rough enclosure using stones in the field

–         They might also put thorns on the top of the brick fence, like razor wire to keep the predators out

–         The enclosure doesn’t have a roof and there is no gate

–         The shepherd acts as a human gate by lying across the entrance way

–         If a predator or thief tries to enter the shepherd is woken and can protect the sheep from harm

 

Jesus is the human gate to God’s house (God’s kingdom)

–         He lets the sheep in, where we can have sanctuary, and he keeps evil out

–         All who enter by Jesus are saved

 

Verse 9 says, those who enter will come in and go out to find pasture

–         This verse speaks of the freedom and sustenance we have in Christ

–         Salvation does not mean the shepherd feeds the sheep from the safety of the barn or the stone enclosure

–         Rather, salvation includes freedom to go in for protection at night and out to the fields during the day to find nourishment for your soul

–         Like the birds at Zealandia who can fly in and out of the enclosure

 

But the main point here is that Jesus is the key to dwelling in the house of the Lord – he is our home security

–         Jesus is the good shepherd who provides sanctuary and acts as a human gate to God’s kingdom, wherever he may lead us in the world

–         So we can abide in Christ anywhere – even in the wilderness

 

On the night before he died Jesus said to his disciples, “Abide in me”

–         Trust me, dwell in me, remain in me, make me your home

–         When you do that you will be sustained and fruitful – like a branch connected to the vine

 

There’s a programme on Friday nights called, ‘The NZ home’

–         It’s a documentary type series looking at the history of NZ architecture

–         Last Friday they were covering the 1990’s when a lot of leaky homes were built

–         They took the cameras inside one of these leaky homes and the mould was so bad they had to wear suits and breathing masks

–         The house had become toxic and the occupants had been forced to leave

–         Really sad stuff

 

Our soul, our heart & mind, our inner person can dwell in damp, mouldy toxic conditions, like the leaky home

–         Or we can abide in Christ who sustains our life

 

What then does it mean to abide in Christ?

–         Let me give you some examples…

 

You can abide in the opinion of others – always a slave to what they think (which is toxic to the soul)

–         Or you can abide in the acceptance that Jesus offers (which is life giving)

 

You can abide in guilt & shame – always carrying out an autopsy on your mistakes, always trying to justify yourself

–         Or you can abide in the forgiveness that Jesus offers

 

You can abide in worry about the future – always anticipating the worst, always planning your escape

–         Or you can abide in the hope that Jesus offers

 

You can abide in loveless duty – always driven to do what you think you ought to do, not what you really care about

–         Or you can abide in the freedom that Jesus offers

 

You can abide in a fantasy world – always avoiding pain, grief & confrontation

–         Or you can abide in the truth and healing that Jesus offers

 

You can abide in bitterness – always feeling sorry for yourself, always taking offence where none was intended

–         Or you can abide in the grace to let go, that Jesus offers

 

You can abide in temptation – always looking over the fence, always imagining that you are missing out

–         Or you can abide in the simple contentment that Jesus offers

 

You can abide in your own abilities and cunning – always looking over your shoulder, always seeing your neighbour as a competitor, a threat

–         Or you can abide in the friendship that Jesus offers

 

You can abide in a treadmill of activity – always on the go, never able to be still long enough to enjoy anything

–         Or you can abide in the peace that Jesus offers

 

We could go on but you get the point – we can dwell in something toxic or we abide in Christ who is our life

 

Jesus says, “Abide in me” – trust me, make me your home

–         Jesus doesn’t leak

 

Conclusion:

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for the length of days means that God is our home and our family (our security), both in this life and the next

 

On the night before his crucifixion & death Jesus also said to his disciples…

 

Do not be worried and upset. Believe in God and believe also in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house and I am going to prepare a place for you. I would not tell you this if it were not so. And after I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to myself, so that you will be where I am.

 

These verses are often read out at funerals because they talk about our eternal home in God’s house

 

Jesus is the good shepherd who travels with us through the wilderness of this life – giving shelter and sustenance

–         He is also the good carpenter who goes ahead of us into the next life to build a home for us with God

 

https://soundcloud.com/tawabaptist/14-august-2016-gods-house

[1] Kenneth Bailey, ‘The Good Shepherd’, pages 220-224.

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