Sermon for March 10, 2019

Readings: Deuteronomy 26:1-11 • Psalm 91:1-2, 9-15 • Romans 10:8b-13 • Luke 4:1-13

This week’s theme is Our Home Is With God. In Deuteronomy, the Israelites are told to settle where God planted them, and to always remember who it was who brought them home. In Romans we are reminded that all can find their home in Christ—Jew and Gentile. Luke shares the story of Jesus in the wilderness—he knew this was not his home; his home was with the Father. This week’s sermon goes through Psalm 91 and reminds us to dwell in the shelter of the Lord.

Our True Dwelling Place

Psalm 91:1-2, 9-15

Introduction: Talk about some of the places you’ve lived. Maybe show pictures of homes around the world to give an overview of what dwelling places look like.

What is your dwelling place? It would be normal for us to answer that we live in a mobile home or in an apartment on the 3rd floor of a housing complex. Maybe a condo, townhouse or single-family home in a residential area. Whatever the case, these are our homes. It’s where we live.

Whatever the kind of house you grew up in, or place you called home, aren’t they tied into a location or a physical structure? But a dwelling place is more than a plot of land, four walls, stucco, bricks or siding and lathe and plaster.

The Psalmist said this:

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust” (Psalm 91:1-2).

I’ve never really trusted in my homes. So many things can hurt a home: fire, flood, earthquake, tsunami, wind, termites, rodents, mildew, mold, neglect, war, or other people. Our home may be where we temporarily live, but as the Psalmist reminds us, it is not really where we dwell. It’s not where we put our trust. It’s not where we find true rest.

Rest, refuge and eternal protection are found only in the presence of our Lord. This is where God wants us to dwell, it’s where he invites us to dwell—in his presence. And truly, it’s where we need to dwell. Every other place is temporary, and most often, much less than desired.

Why then do we often find ourselves living as though there is no true refuge and fortress? The truth is, it’s easy to get swept up in those hard times of life when we lose sight of and connection with God’s never-ending presence. All of us experience life struggles and hard seasons.

The Badlands

There is a region of barren plateau in the western U.S., mainly in southwestern South Dakota and northwestern Nebraska, that is noted for its harsh terrain. Mostly barren of vegetation, and with large tracts of heavily eroded, uncultivable land, the place is often difficult to navigate by foot. This extreme environment is called The Badlands.

Have you ever been through a “badland” where life was tough, extreme and hard to manage? Of course you have; you may be going through a badland right now. It is when we are in these badlands that we can start to believe the lie that we are alone, that there is no refuge and no place to land. We aren’t the first to fall for that lie.

The nation of Israel was birthed out of a long “badlands” experience. The children of the promise—of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—found themselves in slavery and servitude in Egypt for hundreds of years. They believed they were alone, that God had forgotten them. They saw Egypt as their temporary home—but it wasn’t their dwelling place. God had other plans. He used Moses to lead them out of the badlands of Egypt and into a land of promise—a peaceful and safe place to dwell. Right before entering this promised land, God reminded them that he had a plan all along. They entered Egypt as a large family; they left as a large nation—a nation upon whom God was pouring out his favor. Notice Moses’ words:

Then you shall declare before the Lord your God: “My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous.  But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, subjecting us to harsh labor (Deut. 26:5-6).

This people group went through some very hard times—you can read the first five books of the Bible to read the story of Israel. They did become a great nation. God’s goodness was ever-present, leading and guiding them to a place prepared for them, a land flowing with milk and honey. Okay, not literal rivers of milk and fountains of honey. But a place of God’s abundant provision, sustenance and grace. He was with them all along. Their tough circumstances, troubles, trials and tribulations were not because of God’s absence. He was with them all along. He is with us, all along the journey. Over the bumps, bruises and broken hearts. Through the pain, sorrow, suffering and grieving. It’s not a stretch to say that we all have been through hard times. But it is also not a stretch to say we all also have the promise of love from God—yesterday, today and forever.

The rest of Psalm 91 speaks of the blessings of making our dwelling in Christ. But let’s not take it so literally that we think we will never have suffering or conclude that hardships and suffering is a sign of God’s displeasure.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent (Psalm 91:9-10).

Wait a minute, weren’t we just talking about being in the badlands and suffering? Doesn’t the New Testament tell us we will suffer with Christ? Haven’t good people gone through harm and disaster? Absolutely. Israel went through suffering, the apostles faced harm and suffering, Jesus faced harm and suffering. But none of it overtakes the promise. None of it affects our eternal dwelling place. Through it all, God is with us.

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent (Psalm 91:12-13).

Does this sound familiar? This is what Satan quoted to Jesus in the wilderness. Like many, the enemy misinterpreted what the Psalmist was saying.

Let’s read on:

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation” (Psalm 91:14-16).

Christ understands our pain and suffering, he went through it. He had his own badlands experiences. The ultimate, of course, was the crucifixion. Remember what happened right after Jesus was baptized and the dove descended telling him that he was God’s beloved.

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness [the badlands, if you will], where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry (Luke 4:1-13).

In that badlands experience he showed us how to go through and navigate the tough times: trust God, remember his word (scripture), speak truth and look to Father, Son and Spirit for strength, courage and peace.

God doesn’t take away all our suffering—he walks through it with us. Sometimes he carries us because we lack the strength to move forward. When our dwelling is in Christ, we know the badland experiences are temporary. And we know they cannot and will not determine our future, for God has already secured our future for us. And in that dwelling, nothing can harm us.

Conclusion:

The Israelites went through a lot of “badland” experiences. But they were given hope for a better way of life and living. God – Father, Son and Spirit – offer the best way of life and living. They called it the Promised Land. There, as long as they dwelled with the Lord, they had multiple blessings. When they turned from that dwelling, they experienced a lack of blessings – we call these curses.

The apostles went through a lot of badland experiences, but they have all received their Promised Land—eternity with Father, Son and Spirit.

We also go through badland experiences and we look forward to our Promised Land. Our Promised Land is not a geographical location, or a physical territory, however—our ultimate dwelling place is a person, and his name is Jesus. Dwell in him. Read his words of truth to you. Take time to pray over those words and ask for insight and clarity. Share with him your desire to dwell in him. Ask him to show you how he is your true dwelling place. Let friends and family know they also have a safe dwelling place—in Jesus.


Small Group Discussion Questions

  1. When you hear the phrase, “dwelling place,” what do you think of? Share the kind of house/home you grew up in.
  2. The Israelites wandered around a lot, and even though they were in Egypt for hundreds of years, that was not their home. They went through hard times. Name a time that has been tough for you (health, finances, family, career, school, etc.)
  3. Though they went through painstaking experiences, the Israelites were promised a land “flowing with milk and honey.” Even in times of trouble, God was with them. Share a time when, even in the midst of a hardship, you knew God was with you.
  4. Jesus was in a time of temptation and trial (a “badland”) (Luke 4:1-13). What can we learn from how he navigated that experience?
  5. When thinking of a “dwelling place” as a spiritual location (as opposed to a physical one), where do you spend your time? What (where) is your dwelling place?
  6. What are some of the next steps you will take to reside in the dwelling place of the Lord on a daily basis?
  7. Read Romans 10:8-13: What does it mean to you that all who call on the name of Jesus will be saved? What does this have to do with our dwelling place?
  8. As you read  Deuteronomy 26:5-6, what stands out to you?

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