The end of the Psalm is a beginning. Everything we have considered so far in this Psalm prefigures what these final few words reveal.
From the start of the Psalm, the Lord is presented to us as a shepherd who leads us. Throughout our lives, the shepherd leads us to places of rest and restoration, and through the valleys of deep darkness; on paths of righteousness, and through trials and tribulations. Throughout, he is leading us deeper into shalom where everything is in the right place and nothing is in the wrong place.
But as we considered in the previous reflection, these are necessary for this age because we still live with the presence of evil and death, and our mortal bodies are subject to decay along with the whole of creation. Shalom does exist in this age and is accessible to us in this life, but one day shalom will be our ‘natural’ state.
Throughout this age; throughout our short mortal lives; the Lord leads us to and through all these places and situations to create for us an awareness of what it is to live in shalom. It’s as if he is giving us a taste of what is to come; a limited experience of a future full reality; a partial glance of what we will one day fully see. As Paul puts it,
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.
Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
(1 Corinthians 13:12)
In all the ways the Lord leads us, he is pointing us to a future that will be forever.
All roads lead to home
As we have journeyed through this Psalm, we have applied it to the journey of our lives. The culmination of this Psalm finally presents us with a destination. The Lord who is my shepherd is leading me home.
Since the beginning, when the Lord created all things, his dwelling place was with man. He spoke with his children and walked in the garden he created to share with them. When Adam and Eve chose to be like God, their idolatry was an act of adultery in the Lord’s own house; they had to leave. Since then, the Lord has been working his plans and purposes to find a human capable of covenant faithfulness to once again unite him with his people. Many showed faith, but none were faithful — except one.
The father’s own son left his heavenly home to take on flesh and blood and become a man — Jesus. He was the faithful human; he is the faithful human. Through him all mankind finds its redemption, and its right to return home.
We cannot live the life of faithfulness in our own strength, but if we follow Jesus, all roads lead to home.
Heaven on earth
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said,
“Behold, I am making all things new.”
When the Psalm says that, “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever,” for David, the house of the Lord referred to his heavenly dwelling here on earth. In the beginning it was the Garden of Eden; following the Exodus it was the Tabernacle in the wilderness; then it was the temple in Jerusalem which David wanted to build, but was built by his son Solomon; finally it was Jesus himself — Immanuel, God with us.
In John’s revelation, we see that at the end of this age, heaven and earth will once again be joined, this time forever. The dwelling place of the Lord will be with man, forever. Previously, the dwelling place of God on earth was the temple, but not so in the new Jerusalem —
“For its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.”
The ‘house’ of the Lord is revealed to be the Lord himself; the God who is spirit, and the God who is man. The destination the shepherd leads us to, is not a place, but a presence. We are being led not to a residence but a relationship. Our minds struggle to make sense of what this might look like, or how it might be, but when we finally reach the ‘house of the Lord’ we will know we are home and it will all make perfect sense.
When we look ahead to this new reality, we discover here in the present that shalom is living in the presence of God all of the time, in our true image, with our true identity, always life in its fullness. As we become increasingly aware of this, our hearts long with a sort of ‘homesickness’ to be at home with the Lord.
Every wrong righted
As we draw these reflections to a close, we end where we began, with an understanding that shalom means everything is in the right place and nothing is in the wrong place. We have considered all the ways in which this applies to the multifaceted mystery that is our life in this age. We have recognised that in all these dimensions of our soul, the Lord who is my shepherd is putting right all that is wrong so that we can live in shalom.
Here at the end of the Psalm, and the end of these reflections, we look ahead to that future age, beyond the horizon as we await the dawn of that new age. In the here and now, we can picture the gentleness of our king Jesus as he wipes away every tear from our eyes; his graciousness as he looks upon us as his beautiful bride and calls us his beloved; his compassion as he takes away all our sorrow and pain; his majesty as he declares,
“Behold, I am making all things new.”
We can take heart now that all that is old and passing away will be replaced by that which is new and permanent. The Lord is a God of justice and he will ensure that every wrong is righted — his covenant faithfulness is our guarantee, as is his Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
In that day our heart’s greatest desire will be to live in the presence of the Lord who is my shepherd always.
Therefore, “I shall dwell in the House of the Lord forever”
May you live in Shalom, and know the Lord who is your shepherd is leading you home.
May you know his house is your house and he has gone to prepare a place for you.
May you know that every wrong will be righted and you shall dwell in shalom forever.