O LORD, who may abide in Your tent? Psalm 15:1
Tent – Once again the English creates a detour. Yes, the word ‘ohel does mean tent. But “tent” is hardly the appropriate sense of the word when it comes to the place of God. In fact, ‘ohel is used in Numbers12:5 to describe the tabernacle, the dwelling place of God. So, as long as we realize that we are dealing with the sanctity of the tabernacle, we won’t think of this as camping accommodations. But that isn’t quite the end of the story.
There is another use of ‘ohel in Hebrew thinking that makes this word even more important. In Hebrew thought, a human being is not a collection of parts. When the Greek culture speaks of being human as body, mind and soul, this conception is utterly foreign to Hebrew thinking. For the Hebrew, Man is a unity. Hebrew uses the word nephesh to describe this unity of will, emotion, thought, spirit and action. But Hebrew does recognize that this unity of human being has an outer representation and an inner character. In fact, the goal of obedient living is to bring the outer exhibition into perfect harmony with the inner character so that what I appear to be to others is exactly what I am in relation to God. Hebrew thought describes this outer appearance in terms of a tent. My inner person is surrounded by an outer tent (my embodiment). What I strive to achieve is transparency, so that there is no difference between what happens inside the tent and what you see outside the tent.
Let’s put the metaphor to use in this text. God dwells in a holy tabernacle (tent). There is absolutely no discrepancy between God’s character and His actions. If I am going to sojourn in His presence, I must strive for the same kind of unity. My inner life must be perfectly in line with my outer actions. You will see how David develops this idea in the next few verses where David’s approach to holiness is focused on outward behavior. When we apply the metaphor to our own existence, we see that our embodiment in the world, the “tent” that we occupy, needs to be as transparent as the place of God’s presence. In other words, when other people look at my outer behaviors, they should be able to see that I am sojourning in the presence of the Holy One of Israel. They should see God through me.
Who can enjoy the gracious hospitality of the Lord? That’s the same as asking who occupies the present earthly tent in such a way that God shines right through it. Our bodies are to become invisible shelters for God’s presence. Now, if that sounds a lot like Paul’s description of the body (the tent) as the temple of the Holy Spirit, you shouldn’t be surprised. The secret to sojourning with God is reciprocal hospitality. It is to invite the owner to occupy the foreigner’s tent – to invite God to take up residence in my temporary tent while I am living in His land.
Today is probably a good day to examine the fabric of your life. Can others see right through it? When they look, do they see God inside?
Topical Index: New Man