I long to dwell in your tent forever

I long to dwell in your tent for ever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.

Psalm 61:4

tree-sparrow-with-chicks-in-nest_w725_h485There are times in life when we all feel under tremendous pressure. It might be due to moving house, or planning a big celebration, or a marriage, or a divorce. As a teacher, one of the most stressful situations that I have ever encountered is the OFSTED inspection. The notice of their impending arrival is enough to send even the best teacher in the world into a state of fear and paranoia. An inability to sleep due to the worry, plus the sense that lessons must be planned to the nth degree, and the fear that pupils might say or do something silly in a lesson all lead to a particularly difficult and troubling time.

The Psalmist in Psalm 61 brings a message of peace and hope to all those people who find themselves tired to the core, stressed, exhausted and worried. In verse two he tells God that he is calling to him “from the ends of the earth.” He is at his wit’s end and feels close to breaking point. He explains that his “heart is growing faint.” He is nervous, he is exhausted, he needs rest, and he needs deliverance from his enemies. He understands, though, that if he places his trust in God, God will look after him and protect him.

In verse four we get a real insight into the Psalmist’s mind. He knows where he can get true rest – in the tent of the Lord. He tells God that he longs to dwell in his tent forever, to be his perpetual guest in his kingdom. He knows that God looks after his guests as no ordinary person could do; God is the perfect host. He understands that when he is in God’s dwelling place he will be protected from his enemies and all of his needs will be meet. Not only that but he will get the rest that he clearly so urgently needs – deep, spiritual refreshment to invigorate his soul as well as his body and mind.

The next section of the verse illustrates the care that the Psalmist knew he would receive from God. He had clearly observed how birds look after and protect their young, by sheltering them under their wings. The refuge that God can provide him is similar. A young bird is protected from predators and the elements by their parent’s wings. They are in a warm and comfortable place, next to their parent’s beating heart. The Psalmist understands that if he draws close to God he will protect him and look after him. What a tremendous image this is!

How does the image the Psalmist has of God match up to your understanding of your Father in heaven? Do you see God as the perfect host who protects and provides for his children? Do you think he provides a warm, protective refuge for all his children? This is the picture of God that I turn to when I am tired, stressed and under pressure. I always find it a tremendously encouraging image, and one that helps me no end. Why not try and picture God as this verse portrays him today, and seek to draw close to him, to take refuge under his wings?

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