YHWH, who will sojourn in Your tent, who will dwell on Your holy mountain? Psalm 15:1 (Translation: Robert Alter)
Sojourn / Dwell - David asks the ultimate housing question. Who qualifies to live with God? Robert Alter’s translation emphasizes the transition from temporary quarters (sojourn in a tent) to permanent structure (dwell in Zion). The transition is important. Once we were alien residents of the King. We lived in the battlefield, moving from place to place according to His orders. But the day will come when we will be called to the holy mountain to reside permanently with Him. We must keep in mind that we are in transition. Permanence is not part of the present geography. So, don’t get too comfortable. You’re not home yet!
The first verb is gur. It is the perfect description of the life and attitude of Abraham because it not only portrays living as a foreigner but it also explains what it means to seek hospitality. Abraham knew both. In spite of God’s unwavering promise, Abraham never owned any land except his grave, but he offered hospitality to all who came under his care. Our journey is Abraham’s journey. The first steps are learning to rely on the goodness of God as strangers in a strange land. Citizens of the Kingdom, fellow-heirs with the Son, we are nevertheless wanderers with purpose. Abraham learned to sojourn. Lot decided to dwell. The difference between the two is world’s apart.
The second verb is shakan. There are three nuances to this verb, each one illuminating something we need to know. The first is the simple idea of settling down. No more wandering. The second implies lying down to rest. There is a sense of safety and peace here. Finally, the verb can mean to abide. At last we find permanent stability.
Do you find something remarkable here? If you had to pick a Hebrew verb for the translation of the Greek found in John 15 (“I am the vine”), could you choose a more appropriate one than this? In Yeshua, all three nuances apply. We are settled, no more to wander as lost and empty vessels. We rest, sheltered in His care and protection. We abide in Him and He in us. Residence becomes permanent.
With this in mind, we will do well to reflect on David’s answer to the question, “Who qualifies?” The rest of this psalm gives us the residence qualifications. Not a single one has anything to do with forgiveness of sins, worship or religious ritual. Every qualification concerns the way that we treat other people. In other words, residence permits are issued to those who demonstrate love for their neighbors in the fullest sense of that commandment.
Since Yeshua used shakan in His discussion of the vine, do you suppose that He overlooked this startling message of David? I doubt it. Perhaps we need to take another look at our own residence application. The qualifications aren’t quite what we might think.
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