in 2019. Alcohol and substance abuse, and mental illness, are the main causes of homelessness. The spiritual roots of homelessness are evident in reports that those without connection to a faith community are 60 percent more likely to become homeless (Acton Institute).
Essentials for Dwelling
It is impossible for humans or any creature to live and flourish if they have no suitable place in which to dwell. Let’s explore the rich significance of what it means to “dwell.”
Many animals will modify a suitable habitat to create a dwelling—i.e. a den, hive, nest, or house. Humans also depend upon suitable habitats in which to dwell. There, we establish our homes, maintain our nutrition and health needs, and enjoy our family and friends. Our homes are where we can recreate and relax, laugh and cry, enjoy and encourage our loved ones, greet the sunrise and find satisfying rest at the end of the day. These blessings and many others are ours to share as we “dwell” in the place in God’s creation we call “home.” There are at least five essential requirements for a creature to “dwell.”
Dwelling Involves Stewardship (Oikonomia)
The Bible (NASB) contains the word “dwell” in some form 193 times. According to Judeo-Christian teachings from Scripture, God places a deep significance on the word “home” and “dwell.” He created our earthly home (Genesis 1) and saw that it was good (Genesis 1: 18, 21, 25, 31). Genesis 2 records how God specifically prepared a wonderful place, the Garden of Eden, suitable for humans to dwell. Here, Adam and Eve dwelt in harmony with creation and communed in personal relationship with God (Genesis 3: 8).
A Holy God Dwells with His People
When Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3), God expelled them from the Garden. However, God’s great love for mankind caused Him to set in motion His plan to redeem, or buy back, mankind from the curse of sin. The Old Testament of the Bible reveals how God chose Abraham to be the father of a special nation, the Jewish nation of Israel, through which He would unfold His redemptive plan. He gave Israel a moral code summarized in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). Then, God brought this nation to a suitable land in which to dwell—the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 27: 3). God also gave specific instructions for the construction of a physical structure, a tabernacle, a transportable sanctuary within which He would dwell among His people (Exodus 25: 8). Finally, God appointed a priestly order to intercede between Him as a Holy God and the rest of the people of Israel (Exodus 28: 40-43).
The Old Testament made clear that God yearns to dwell with mankind. He designated the tabernacle within which He would dwell and allow human access, but only under precise, physical, spiritual, social, ceremonial, and moral conditions. In Exodus 25: 8-9 we read,
Then, God instituted the Levitical priesthood to administer ceremonial festivals and sacrifices for an intercession between God and sinful man. The moral and ceremonial laws given by God gave a forceful message: God is holy and we must abide by His laws if we desire to dwell in His presence. The Scriptures support this principle as we can see by returning to our five essentials for dwelling:
(TAP on the table to ENLARGE.):
Although “the LORD would speak to Moses face to face” in the “tent of meeting” (Exodus 33: 7-11) and later manifest Himself to the High Priests within the Holy of Holies, most of the Israelites viewed God as a distant god. According to Thomas Nelson Bibles, “The Spirit came upon certain judges, warriors, and prophets in a way that gave them extraordinary power: for example, Joshua (Num. 27:18), Othniel (Judg. 3:10), Gideon (6:34), Samson (13:25; 14:6), and Saul (1 Sam. 10:9, 10). However, the Spirit later departed from Saul because of his disobedience (16:14).”
with God-- beyond Dwellings
If you were an Old Testament follower of Jehovah God, what would you think when you considered your relationship with Him? What emotional and spiritual response did God desire from you? We must understand that, as Jesus would later explain, God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4: 24). Jesus spoke these words to a woman who thought she must go to the right “place” to worship God. One thousand years earlier, King Solomon had exclaimed worshipfully:
But will God indeed dwell on the earth?
Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You,
how much less this house which I have built! – 1 Kings 8: 27
The prophet Isaiah conveyed a similar declaration from God:
Heaven is My throne and the earth is the footstool for My feet.
Where then is a house you could build for Me?
And where is a place that I may rest?
For My hand made all these things,
So all these things came into being, declares the LORD.
But I will look to this one,
At one who is humble and contrite in spirit, and who trembles at My word.
Although “place of worship” is important, the integrity of our hearts is most important.
Both David and Solomon demonstrated in their writings in the Psalms and Proverbs what it meant to dwell with God. For example, consider how the beloved Psalm 23 touches on every aspect of what it meant to David to “dwell with God:”
(TAP on the table to ENLARGE.)
God's Most Intimate Dwelling
We have considered what it means to “dwell with God” and “He with us” through abundant reference to God’s Word in the Scriptures. Yet before the coming of Christ, most Israelites had focused on only two of the five “essentials for dwelling with God”—namely, LOCATION and CONDITIONS. Even in these, the Israelites were wrong. Although place of worship, priestly intercession, and ceremonial cleanness were all important, God expected more.
From the Scriptures above, we see that God desires people of integrity who worship Him in spirit from humble, repentant hearts. Amazingly, through the Old Testament Scriptures beginning in Genesis 3: 14-15, God had already begun to reveal His plan. He would draw even closer to His creation and to mankind through the promised coming of Immanuel, meaning “God is [dwelling] with us:”
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and she will name Him Immanuel. – Isaiah 7: 15
Seven hundred years after this prophecy, the Apostle John wrote (John 1: 14):
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us; and we saw His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The Law chiseled in cold stone came through Moses, but Jesus Christ came into the world, “full of grace (God’s unmerited favor) and truth.” This Good News of the Gospel reveals our sin and alienation from God, and our need of Christ if we wish to dwell with God, and God with us. In “Choices for Troubled Times – 2. DWELL 2.0,” we will consider how God’s provision of a Savior makes possible a more complete path of faith for us to dwell with God and He with us.
Now It's Your Turn
We hope this survey of what it means to “dwell with God, and He with you” from the Old Testament Scriptures has been meaningful to you. We also hope you will continue to study and meditate on this theme in the Bible. Try a search using the word “dwell” in an online Bible study aid such as Bible Gateway. Then read the verses (and their context) for a rich insight into how much God loves you and wants to dwell with you, and you with Him. If you have a “Comment” or question, just click on the “Comment” link below, or write to us at email@example.com. Thank you for reading.