This past Sunday in Legacurry was our annual Tearfund service. As part of the service, we heard stories about families who had been displaced from their homes due to war or persecution. Stories like these resonate with us because for most of us, our homes are a safe place, and we can’t imagine being forced to leave them. When we’re home, we can relax, we can unwind, we can be ourselves. Even for the past year when most of us have spent more time in our homes than we’d like to, there’s something about being home that feels right.
When home isn’t home
Yet, isn’t it the case that sometimes, even when we’re ‘home’, that things don’t feel quite right? We can be at home and still feel lonely or isolated. We can be at home and still feel like life isn’t the way it’s meant to be. We can be at home and feel like something important is missing.
The New Testament makes it clear that for the Christian, this earth is not our home. Jesus tells his disciples in John 15 that they are not of the world because he chose them out of the world. Peter in his first letter calls his readers strangers and exiles. In 2 Corinthians 5:8 Paul speaks of his desire to be home with the Lord. We are made, ultimately, to dwell with God, to call home wherever he is.
Augustine explains it this way:
“The promise of dwelling in God’s house is God’s ultimate purpose to which our hope aspires so that when we reach it we shall look for nothing further nor ask for anything more.”
Getting Home in the Psalms
The Psalms make it clear that the end of the Good Life, the conclusion or the place where we are ultimately headed, is God’s House. It’s to dwell with him. The Good Life leads to a destination, and it’s the house of the Lord. Throughout the Psalms, God’s people are often far from home, or in exile. As they long for home, however, it’s not primarily for comforts or familiarity, but it’s to be where God is.
The most familiar Psalm to us that picks up on this theme is Psalm 84. Psalm 84 paints a picture of the scattered Israelites pilgrimaging to Zion, to the temple, to be in the place where God dwells. And how does the Psalmist describe God’s house?
How lovely is your dwelling-place,
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God…
… Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you …
…Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
This theme that the end of the Good Life is dwelling with God in his house is seen throughout the Psalms.
The city on most high in Psalm 46 is only a refuge for God’s people because God is within her. Psalm 73 speaks of the different paths people can take in life but concludes that it is good to be near God and to make refuge in him. Psalm 122 speaks of the joy that God’s pilgrim people find in going together to the house of the Lord. In Psalm 137 the Israelites are in exile in Babylon. Yet note how they long for home:
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
my highest joy.
Remembering Jerusalem is tied to remembering God – they’re inseparable.
Finding Home in God
If the Good Life is the life that is orientated on God then it follows that the end, or the ultimate destination, of the Good Life will be God’s House — will be to dwell with him. As we read the Psalms this Easter, we will see that for the Christian, home is ultimately being with God. It is good to dwell in God’s house because it is good to dwell with God. We were made to know and love him.
This is particularly helpful for us to think about at Easter time, because we see this emphasis in Jesus’ words to his disciples as he prepared them for his death, resurrection, and ascension in John 14:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Where do you feel most at home?
We read in the Psalms that for those of us who seek to live our lives with and for God, home is ultimately found not in four walls, or a city, or even this world. Home is being with God. At Easter we are reminded not just of the death and resurrection of Christ, but also his ascension. We are reminded that he has gone ahead of us to prepare a place for us. We are reminded that home, ultimately, is waiting for us with God. So even when our earthly homes disappoint us or don’t feel just right, we look forward to a day when we will join together with all of God’s people in the lovely dwelling-place of the Lord. As you read the Psalms let them point you to our ultimate home, and to say with the Psalmist: I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’