I’ve noticed in my Bible reading lately the word “dwell” keeps appearing. This word appears over four hundred times in Scripture. This morning I decided to do a short word study to see what ways this word can be applied to my current life situation. This is what I found in regards to a definition of the word:
1.(v. i) to delay; to linger
2. (v. i) to abide; to remain; to continue
3. (v. i) to abide as a permanent resident, or for a time; to live in a place
4. (v. t) to inhabit
The first three definitions are intransitive verbs. This means the verb does not require and object to complete its meaning. Meaning four is a transitive verb. It requires an object. One can linger or continue and leave it at that and the meaning is understood. However, if I say I am going to “inhabit”, the next logical question would be, “Inhabit what?”
A quick disclaimer—my life is very much like many others’ lives. No one walks through this world unscathed by the troubles and heartaches that exist here. My scathing may come in a different form than yours, but rest assured, we all have been dealt hands at one time or another that were difficult to play. Because of this universal fact, even though my struggles are inherently part of me mainly due to illness and yours may stem from something outside of you, the fact remains that life is often hard no matter what we try to do to avoid difficult circumstances.
The verse that started my searching came from the book of Psalms. This will not be much of a surprise to you if you have read much of what I have written. The Psalms comfort me through many difficult days. I actually accepted a challenge that our pastor put forth last fall. His premise for the challenge was the theme he chose for the ministry year titled “One Degree”. Simply put, one small change carried out over time has the potential to radically change our lives. This is true in all areas of life—not just spiritually. A change of diet with added exercise will cause a body to drop pounds, BUT this regimen has to be carried out over time. One week of change will not result in much transformation. The one degree of change I chose was to memorize Scripture. I decided that memorizing whole Psalms would be a good starting point given that I spend so much time in there anyway. The first Psalm I chose was Psalm 91. The first verse of that Psalm?
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”
This seems to me to be a conditional statement. IF I dwell—linger, remain, continue in—the presence of God, I am assured a rest that God gives. This rest is found in His shadow. Israel has a warm, subtropical climate. The average temperature in January is 53° F. Summer temperatures rule the region from April to October with an average temperature in June, July, and August hitting 86°F. Shade is a welcome source to escape the heat of the sun. The Psalmist, himself an Israelite, understood how refreshing a break from the heat of the sun could be. The Psalmist knows if he is overheated while tending to his work outside, a break in the shade is just the ticket for renewed strength to finish the job. The implication is clear…are you overheated? Have you been out in the sun too long? Seek out some shade. Take a break from the oppressive heat of the blazing sunshine and cool off a bit in the shade. Even a small break from the heat can do wonders for the body and mind.
Life can be oppressive as well. The day to day tasks coupled with the problems caused by living in a fallen world can sap one’s strength and beat one down to the point that the will to continue is hard to muster. God knows we need time of refreshing from the “heat” of this world. He wants us to find rest and rejuvenation in Him. But, the Psalmist goes beyond just rest and rejuvenation. A worker, seeking shade from the sun for a while to rejuvenate, eventually has to go back to his work. He cannot dwell in the shade and keep his job. The Psalmist instructs us, though, to dwell in the shelter of God…to stay, continue, to inhabit it! We are to live there—set up camp, move all our things and make this a new address. Five minutes with a devotional app on a smart phone does not for dwelling make. To have the rest of the Almighty God—to have the strength to face the daily battles—means we need to always be with God. Obviously, this does not mean we quit our responsibilities and move to a cave alone to spend every waking minute in prayer. What it does mean is that our mindset must always be on God—our thoughts should always turn to Him, our emotions should always be of Him, etc. It is only when we make a conscious choice to dwell with God that we will have the rest from the cares of this world—even as those cares rage around us.
It is an amazing concept actually. All around us life is happening and even though we are a player in the game, if our hearts and minds are dwelling with God, we are not being driven by the game. Instead, we are resting in the coolness that only the shadow of God can provide. I want to find my place there more and more. I want to learn to dwell with God and experience His rest among the cares and chaos of this life.