God Our Home
Psalm 90:1-17
Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.…

There was a tradition among the Jews, although these traditions are not altogether trustworthy, that Moses, the man of God, wrote this psalm or prayer. And it has always been felt that the psalm seemed to have some special connection with, or reference to, the experience and the impressions of the children of Israel in the days that they were doomed to wander up and down in the wilderness without being allowed to enter into the promised land. And there is much in the psalm that corroborates that view. It is the psalm of a generation of men who felt themselves to be wasting away under God's wrath, consumed by His anger. They are spending their years as a tale that is told. The vanity and emptiness of life are pressed home upon them with great severity. At the same time, it is not a psalm of mere wailing and lamentation. There is the exercise of faith in it, not only in the first verse, but in the appeal to God to come and dwell with them as their case requires, and make them experience His mercy. Now, if we are to take this idea, and see.how far it will carry us through this psalm, we must remember this, that when the children of Israel were leaving Egypt they were very much exercised about the hope of a habitation. They were leaving one habitation — the land of Egypt. It was a house of bondage; still, a house is a house, even if it be a house of bondage, and it is wonderful how men often shrink from breaking up some accustomed state of things, not discerning well what is to replace it. But the objections of the Egyptian rulers and the hesitations of the people were mightily overcome, and by and by they found themselves on that famous march through the wilderness towards the land which God had sworn to give them for an inheritance. It was to be their habitation, and it was not only to be their habitation, but also God's habitation. The value of it was that He was to dwell in it with them, watching over them; and accordingly at the Red Sea they sang: "Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of Thine inheritance, in the place, O Lord, which Thou hast made for Thee to dwell in." Many thoughts about this wonderful habitation, many expectations about what it should prove to be, must have been in their minds. By and by there fell out that rebellion upon the report of the spies, which carried away the people as will a flood. One or two stood out against it, but the general cry of the people was to go back to Egypt. They despaired of that promised land, of that goodly inheritance. I think it would be a mistake for us to take it for granted that all those who had joined in this defection, all those who were involved in this unbelieving revolt from God, wore even then mere carnal and unbelieving men. It may have been the case that some of them were men and women who had some good thing in them towards the Lord God of Israel. It is not such a rare thing, unfortunately, it is not such a surprising thing, to find persons Who have the root of the matter in them and are believers, carried away by a stream of defection and by a sentiment of unbelief, as if they could not stand against it. And certainly we may suppose, when we look to the ends that God has in chastening, which is not for our destruction but for our salvation, that among those who were visited by this great disappointment some were brought to faith by the very chastening which was inflicted upon them. That agrees with the ends which God has in chastening. We are told that the people mourned greatly. They strove, as it were, to reverse the sentence which could not be reversed; but I should be disposed to believe that there might be among them persons who either were or came to be men of desire and men of faith towards the Lord God of their fathers. But if we are to open our minds to an idea of that kind, then what a tremendous disappointment fell upon those who belonged to this class, and how difficult it must have been for them to know what to say or do. As to the mere unbelievers, they were disappointed, of course; but they would perhaps turn to the ordinary avocations of the camp in the wilderness, prepared to make the best of it until the end of their pilgrimage had come. But those who had any trust in God and any longing for the experience of God's favour, how must it have been with them? All hope was over now of that habitation to which they had set out to go. No more dwelling with God in the land of which their fathers told them. Their children should go in; the very bones of Joseph should go in; but they were to be shut out. Indeed, one would say that they would turn to the duties that fell upon them in connection with daily life, unable to speak to any man the thoughts that were in them. It was so hard the feeling that all was over; and yet the deep longing in the heart protesting against its being all over. Yes, and yet, when we come to think of it, we may see how such souls were visited, and how they found their way to God through that experience. We may see how God brought good out of evil and light out of darkness. For still they were under God's care; still the manna was supplied to them and still the waters ran to satisfy their thirst. Still in the midst of their tents one tent arose which was God's tent, who was dwelling in the midst of them. He was providing for them, caring for them, and they could go to Him in His tabernacle with their vows and their free-will offerings; and no doubt in the month Abib they would draw together and remember that they were God's firstborn whom He had brought out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand and with a stretched-out arm. To those who had no care about God, all that would be nothing, but it might be a great deal to these who were ready to say with Jonah, "I am cast out of Thy sight, yet I will look again towards Thy holy temple." For what did it come to, after all? That God was their dwelling-place even now. In His shadow they dwelt, His food they ate, His protection was extended to them, and if He chastened them, might they not remember that as a man chastenteth his own son, so the Lord God chasteneth them? And if they were enabled to get so far, if they were enabled to look upward out of that desolate condition of theirs and to claim a relation to God in which He was their dwelling-place, then they would not only be able to look upward, but to look forward too. I dare say it was one of the thoughts in their hearts, when they set their faces to go out of Egypt to that promised land, that when they came to die, as die they must, their tombs would be in that land on which God looked from the one year's end to the other. That was over now; there was nothing for them now but to leave their bones lying anywhere, wherever they might drop in the wilderness. Yet even so, they might believe that God's promise would hold and that God's goodness would not fail, and that when the great days of the fulfilling should come, they also, wherever their nameless grave might be, should not be altogether forgotten or left out of the blessedness of His people. And if God was their dwelling-place, how natural that their prayer should take this course of appealing to God to make them feel their interest in Him, to make them feel God's interest in them. The pledges that they had once looked to see fulfilled had been swept away, and they stood face to face with God, and if they were to live a life of faith in God they required help. "O satisfy us early with Thy mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad according to the days wherein Thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil. Let Thy work appear unto Thy servants, and Thy glory unto their children." How that sentence on their lives expressed the vanity of their lives, they could make nothing of them; they would lead to no result. "And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us; and establish Thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish Thou it." We also are passing through our pilgrimage to the land which God has set before us, and in the case of many of us our experiences are very different from those of which we have been thinking in connection with this psalm. But there are others of us whose experience prepares them to join in some of the reflections and especially in some of the prayers of this psalm. Perhaps there are some who cannot see the use of their lives. Their expectations in life have been crossed; sorrows have come where they hoped to have prosperous and progressive times. They have difficulty in understanding any Divine purpose in their lives, or any human purpose that a person could follow out with cheerfulness, with a sense of accomplishment and success. And they are apt to feel that God is not thinking about them. Such persons deserve the sympathy of all those who have not been so tried as they have been. Perhaps there have been circumstances in their lives, temptations and failures that lead them to feel that this failure of their lives, this want of an outlook and an upward prospect before them, has been duo to their own sin, and their own foolishness, which has perplexed their heart, and which has brought upon them the experiences which often do follow sin and folly — and it may be so. But it is true that you need a dwelling-place, and so also it is true that through these many experiences of yours you may be enabled to find your way to the faith that God is your dwelling-place; that He has not been forsaking you, but has been sweeping away treasures that were too lightly contemplated, and too lightly held, to make room for His coming in Himself into your lives, with a new manifestation of His grace, with a new sense of your own sin and unworthiness, and at the same time a new experience of His goodness. We have all homes, or have had homes, and what idea do we associate with the home, the dwelling-place to which we naturally belong? First of all the idea is of protection. A little child feels sure of protection in its own home, and it is right; there are people there who would die rather than let it come to harm. Then there is provision — wants met; forethought exercised that we may be provided for. Then there is a sense of peace, a sense of familiar surroundings, of being at home, at peace with all that is around you. There is also a sense of enjoyment, a sense of love and gladness that make a cheerful and happy place. We need this, and in a measure it comes to us in our own homes, but they may pass away. They are to teach us that we need the true home, and the Lord must be our dwelling-place, in whom is protection — "He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep"; in whom there is provision, "Bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure." And then there is gladness. Some of us, perhaps, cannot realize true, simple, childlike gladness in connection with religious faith or experience, but that is not because there is any doubt about the gladness, but because we are not far enough on. And, therefore, if I speak to any who find a difficulty in the experiences of their life is recognizing the Divine care and goodness, I would say to you, Is your case worse than the case of those men and women of whom I have been speaking? And if this was the very way in which God taught them what He was and what He could be to them, and enable them to say, "Lord, Thou art our dwelling-place," then should we not learn the same lesson; learn it when sorrows and perplexities and troubles come to us, to go to God for deliverance, and for a knowledge of what it is to yield ourselves to God, and our members as instruments of righteousness unto God. It is a sad business to think of those who are living in happy homes, in homes which have much happiness, and many elements of good about them, and yet have no outlook further; as if when by and by the materials of that earthly home fall away, they will pass out into eternity houseless and homeless. That will not do; we are very clearly told that if we are to find that blessedness we must seek it now.

(R. Rainy, D.D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: {A Prayer of Moses the man of God.} Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.

WEB: Lord, you have been our dwelling place for all generations.

God as a Dwelling-Place
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