Our Dwelling Place

By Scott Armstrong

I travel a lot: around 80 days a year actually, not including our home assignment, which is a state of permanent flux anyway.  Being able to visit so many cultures and share with fellow Christians from other nations is an enormous blessing! At the same time, at the end of a trip there is nothing like arriving home.

Sometimes I wonder what it was like for the Israelites to wander in the wilderness those 40 years.  Sure, we know from Numbers 14 that they brought it on themselves with disobedience and lack of faith.  Still, I cannot imagine four decades of life (!) spent without ever feeling at home.

Moses was the leader of that wandering brigade.  And he starts one of his psalms with a profound statement of praise:

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations” (Ps. 90:1).

It is likely that he wrote those words during the last forty years of his life. The years without a home, waiting for the Promised Land he would never experience.  So how can he testify to having a “dwelling place”?

A dwelling place is not just a house.  It’s possibly an even more cozy term than “home.” Some versions translate this Hebrew word as “refuge”, and God is certainly that. But for God to be Moses’ dwelling place is to say he feels safe not just with Yahweh, but in Him.  It is to declare that he does not just receive rest from Yahweh, but in Him.

Safe. At rest. In God.

living-room-690174_960_720.jpg

In the Christian tradition I grew up in, we talked a lot more about God, through Christ, living in us.  After all, how could you be a true believer if you had never “asked Jesus into your heart”? While Christ living in us is a biblical concept (Rom. 8:9-11, Eph. 2:22, Col. 1:27, etc.), we frequently neglect the reality also mentioned often in Scripture: us in Him. 

In Colossians 3:3, our lives are described as being “hidden with Christ in God.” God is that secret, safe place where we huddle up with Jesus.  When Paul addressed the Athenians on Mars Hill, he explained that God is not far from any of us, “for in Him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).  God is a home for His people, and it is a spacious place where we can relax and move about with freedom.

We are not invited to be guests of God.  We are not invited to be live-in servants in his palace.  No. The invitation is to make our home in Him.

We can be the recipients of copious and undeserved amounts of hospitality as we travel. But the one place we will feel truly ourselves is at home.

And home is not as much a place as it is a person.

Abba.

From past to present, men and women have been kicking off their shoes, leaning back, and putting up their feet in the cozy living room named Yahweh.  And now my prayer is that for generations to come, my kids and grandkids and great-grandkids would know that they can play and laugh and cry and sing and veg and love and eat and relax in Him.  I want them, too, to dwellin their Lord and find true home in Him.

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
–Augustine of Hippo

 

Advertisements

Joseph of Arimathea

By Scott Armstrong

There are always those within any institution that, after the institution has become outdated and ineffective, choose a different path. They work within the establishment and respect all of its levels of hierarchy and protocol. However, they steadily clash with the great monolith in order to jumpstart a movement. They are often criticized for their positions.

And so we find Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the Sanhedrin, offering to bury Jesus Christ, the very threat to the Jewish government.

On one occasion this Jesus had stood in the synagogue and read from the prophet: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” A lot of nodding heads that day, until the Proclaimer issued an audacious proclamation: “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Joseph’s contemporaries went ballistic at that, and he was offended, too. But there was an almost-forgotten hope in Joseph that leapt up and took his breath away as well.

Jesus-before-Sanhedrin.jpg

There was something about how he gave dignity to women who had been forgotten, looking at them lovingly, with no agenda. There was something about the way he laughed with children that caused Joseph to think, “What if Yahweh is different from what I was always taught?”

Even when Jesus was lambasting Joseph’s own leadership council, there was something about his words that rang true to Joseph. Could he be the Messiah?

Thus, in the chaos of all that was happening in Jerusalem, this same Joseph obeyed the stirring in his heart after the crucifixion of Jesus and went boldly to Pilate to ask for the body. It takes courage to go to a corrupt ruler like Pilate and make any request, but especially for the corpse of the man who had caused the whole city to riot. And yet, Joseph’s boldness was even greater due to the barrage of hatred he was to receive from his own religious Council. His reputation in tatters, his influence called into question, tradition tells us he was later imprisoned and beaten for his actions.

Even as he perhaps foresaw the sacrifice his own decision would entail, the sacrifice of the man he started to lower from the tree began to weigh heavily on him. Jesus’ bloody feet and hands blotched Joseph’s comfortable clothing. Tearfully he cleaned the wounds and honored the deceased by wrapping him carefully in new, linen cloth. As hard as he tried, the fabric still stuck to the wounds, and the crimson stains soaked through the pure linen.

The emotions of the moment overwhelmed Joseph.

He had wanted to honor Jesus, and yet, for the first time in his illustrious life, he truly felt honored.

He had come to help, and yet, he had been helped.

He had longed in his sorrow to know the Christ, but he also ended up being known by the man of sorrows.

And as he mournfully hurried to prepare the body for burial before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea met Jesus of Nazareth for the first time.

There was no need for secrecy anymore. He who had removed Jesus from the cross decided to take up his own.