“O Jehovah, you yourself have proved to be a real dwelling for us during generation after generation.”—PS. 90:1.
1, 2. How have God’s servants felt toward the present system of things, and in what sense do they have a home?
DO YOU feel at home in the present world? If not, you are in good company! Throughout the ages, all who have truly loved Jehovah have felt like strangers, or aliens, in this system of things. For example, while moving from encampment to encampment in the land of Canaan, faithful worshippers of God “publicly declared that they were strangers and temporary residents.”—Heb. 11:13.
2 Likewise, Christ’s anointed followers, whose “citizenship exists in the heavens,” view themselves as “aliens and temporary residents” in the present system of things. (Phil. 3:20; 1 Pet. 2:11) Christ’s “other sheep” are also “no part of the world, just as [Jesus was] no part of the world.” (John 10:16; 17:16) Nevertheless, God’s people are not without a “home.” In fact, we enjoy the protection of the most secure and loving home imaginable, one that is discerned through eyes of faith. Moses wrote: “O Jehovah, you yourself have proved to be a real dwelling for us during generation after generation.”a (Ps. 90:1) How did Jehovah prove to be “a real dwelling” for his loyal servants in ancient times? How is he “a real dwelling” for his name people today? And how will he prove to be the only secure dwelling in the future?
JEHOVAH—“A REAL DWELLING” FOR HIS SERVANTS OF OLD
3. What topic, image, and point of similarity do we find at Psalm 90:1?
3 Like many word pictures in the Bible, Psalm 90:1 has a topic, an image, and a point of similarity. The topic is Jehovah. The image is that of a dwelling, or place of habitation. Jehovah has much in common with such a place. For example, Jehovah provides protection for his people. This is in harmony with the fact that he is the very personification of love. (1 John 4:8) He is also a God of peace, who makes his loyal ones “dwell in security.” (Ps. 4:8) Consider, for instance, his dealings with faithful patriarchs, beginning with Abraham.
4, 5. How did God prove to be “a real dwelling” for Abraham?
4 We can only imagine how Abraham, then Abram, felt when Jehovah told him: “Go your way out of your country and from your relatives . . . to the country that I shall show you.” If Abraham felt any anxiety, it no doubt melted away with Jehovah’s next words: “I shall make a great nation out of you and I shall bless you and I will make your name great . . . And I will bless those who bless you, and him that calls down evil upon you I shall curse.”—Gen. 12:1-3.
5 With those words, Jehovah took it upon himself to become a secure dwelling for Abraham and for his descendants. (Gen. 26:1-6) Jehovah fulfilled his promise. For example, he prevented Pharaoh of Egypt and King Abimelech of Gerar from violating Sarah and doing away with Abraham. He protected Isaac and Rebekah in a similar manner. (Gen. 12:14-20; 20:1-14; 26:6-11) We read: “[Jehovah] did not allow any human to defraud them, but on their account he reproved kings, saying: ‘Do not you men touch my anointed ones, and to my prophets do nothing bad.’”—Ps. 105:14, 15.
6. What did Isaac tell Jacob to do, and how may Jacob have felt?
6 Those prophets included Abraham’s grandson Jacob. When the time came for Jacob to take a wife for himself, Isaac, his father, said to him: “You must not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan. Get up, go to Paddan-aram to the house of Bethuel the father of your mother and from there take yourself a wife from the daughters of Laban.” (Gen. 28:1, 2) Jacob promptly obeyed Isaac. Jacob left the security of his immediate family, who were living in Canaan, to travel, evidently alone, hundreds of miles to the area of Haran. (Gen. 28:10) Perhaps he wondered: ‘How long will I be away? Will my uncle warmly welcome me and grant me a God-fearing wife?’ If Jacob had such anxieties, these no doubt melted away when he reached Luz, some 60 miles (100 km) from Beer-sheba. What happened at Luz?
7. By means of a dream, how did God reassure Jacob?
7 At Luz, Jehovah appeared to Jacob in a dream, saying: “Here I am with you and I will keep you in all the way you are going and I will return you to this ground, because I am not going to leave you until I have actually done what I have spoken to you.” (Gen. 28:15) How those kind words must have reassured and comforted Jacob! Can you picture him thereafter striding along, eager to see how God would fulfill His word? If you have left home, perhaps to serve in a foreign land, you likely understand Jacob’s range of emotions. No doubt, though, you have seen evidence of Jehovah’s care for you.
8, 9. In what ways did Jehovah prove to be “a real dwelling” for Jacob, and what can we learn from this?
8 When Jacob reached Haran, his uncle Laban extended a warm welcome to him and later gave him Leah and Rachel as wives. In time, though, Laban tried to exploit Jacob, changing his wages ten times! (Gen. 31:41, 42) Yet, Jacob endured these injustices, confident that Jehovah would continue to care for him—and He did! Indeed, by the time God told Jacob to return to Canaan, the patriarch possessed “great flocks and maidservants and menservants and camels and asses.” (Gen. 30:43) Deeply appreciative, Jacob prayed: “I am unworthy of all the loving-kindnesses and of all the faithfulness that you have exercised toward your servant, for with but my staff I crossed this Jordan and now I have become two camps.”—Gen. 32:10.
9 Yes, how true was Moses’ prayer of reflection: “O Jehovah, you yourself have proved to be a real dwelling for us during generation after generation”! (Ps. 90:1) Those words apply equally today, for Jehovah, with whom “there is not a variation of the turning of the shadow,” continues to be a warm and secure dwelling for his loyal ones. (Jas. 1:17) Let us consider how.
JEHOVAH—OUR “REAL DWELLING” TODAY
10. Why can we be certain that Jehovah continues to be a secure dwelling for his servants?
10 Imagine this: You are testifying in court against a global criminal organization. Its leader is a very intelligent, powerful, and ruthless liar and murderer. How would you feel when you stepped outside the court at day’s end? Safe? Hardly! Indeed, you would have good reason for requesting protection. This scenario illustrates the situation of Jehovah’s servants, who boldly testify for Jehovah and fearlessly expose his vicious archenemy, Satan! (Read Revelation 12:17.) But has Satan been able to silence God’s people? No! In fact, we continue to thrive spiritually—a reality that can have only one explanation: Jehovah is still our refuge, “a real dwelling” for us, especially during these last days. (Read Isaiah 54:14, 17.) That said, however, Jehovah cannot be a secure dwelling for us if we allow Satan to lure us away from our dwelling place.
11. What lesson can we learn from the patriarchs?
11 Once again, let us learn a lesson from the patriarchs. Although they lived in the land of Canaan, they remained separate from the people of the land, whose wicked, immoral ways they hated. (Gen. 27:46) They were men of principle who did not depend on a long list of dos and don’ts to guide them. What they knew about Jehovah and his personality was sufficient for them. Because he was their dwelling, they did not want to get as close to the world as they could. Rather, they stayed as far away from it as possible. What a fine example they set for us! Do you strive to imitate the faithful patriarchs as to your choice of associates and entertainment? Sadly, some within the Christian congregation give evidence that, at least to a degree, they feel comfortable in Satan’s world. If you feel that way even a little, pray about the matter. Remember, this world is Satan’s. It reflects his cold, self-serving spirit.—2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:1, 2.
12. (a) How does Jehovah provide for his spiritual household? (b) How do you feel about these provisions?
12 In order to resist Satan’s machinations, we need to take full advantage of the spiritual provisions that Jehovah makes for his household of faith, for those who make him their dwelling. These provisions include Christian meetings, family worship, and “gifts in men”—shepherds appointed by God to comfort and support us as we struggle with life’s challenges. (Eph. 4:8-12) Brother George Gangas, who was a member of the Governing Body for a number of years, wrote: “When I am among [God’s people] I feel at home with my family, in a spiritual paradise.” Do you feel the same way?
13. What important lesson can we draw from Hebrews 11:13?
13 Another quality of the patriarchs that is worthy of imitation is their willingness to stand out as different from the people around them. As noted in paragraph 1, they “publicly declared that they were strangers and temporary residents in the land.” (Heb. 11:13) Are you resolved to stand out as being different? Granted, doing so is not always easy. But with God’s help and with support from your fellow Christians, you can succeed. Remember, you are not alone. All who want to serve Jehovah have a fight on their hands! (Eph. 6:12) Still, it is a fight we can win if we trust in Jehovah and make him our secure dwelling.
14. Jehovah’s servants awaited what “city”?
14 Also important is this: Imitate Abraham by keeping your eyes on the prize. (2 Cor. 4:18) The apostle Paul wrote that Abraham “was awaiting the city having real foundations, the builder and maker of which city is God.” (Heb. 11:10) That “city” proved to be the Messianic Kingdom. Abraham, of course, had to await that “city.” In a sense, we do not. It is now ruling in heaven. What is more, mounting evidence indicates that it will soon take full control of the earth. Is that Kingdom real to you? Does it influence your outlook on life, your view of the present world, and your priorities?—Read 2 Peter 3:11, 12.
OUR “REAL DWELLING” AS THE END APPROACHES
15. What future awaits those who trust in the present world?
15 As Satan’s world nears its end, its “pangs of distress” will get worse. (Matt. 24:7, 8) Things will definitely get worse during the great tribulation. Infrastructures will collapse, and people will fear for their very lives. (Hab. 3:16, 17) Out of sheer desperation, they will, as it were, seek refuge “in the caves and in the rock-masses of the mountains.” (Rev. 6:15-17) But neither literal caves nor mountainlike political and commercial organizations will afford any protection.
16. How should we view the Christian congregation, and why?
16 Jehovah’s people, however, will continue to enjoy the safety of their “real dwelling,” Jehovah God. Like the prophet Habakkuk, they “will exult in Jehovah himself.” They “will be joyful in the God of [their] salvation.” (Hab. 3:18) In what ways will Jehovah prove to be “a real dwelling” during that tumultuous time? We will have to wait and see. But of this we can be sure: Like the Israelites at the time of the Exodus, the “great crowd” will remain organized, ever alert to divine direction. (Rev. 7:9; read Exodus 13:18.) That direction will come theocratically, probably by means of the congregation arrangement. Indeed, the many thousands of congregations around the world appear to be linked to the protective “interior rooms” foretold at Isaiah 26:20. (Read.) Do you value the congregation meetings? Do you act promptly on the direction Jehovah provides through the congregation arrangement?—Heb. 13:17.
17. In what way is Jehovah “a real dwelling” even for his loyal servants who have died?
17 Even those who might die faithful before the great tribulation begins remain secure with Jehovah, their “real dwelling.” How so? Long after the faithful patriarchs had died, Jehovah said to Moses: “I am the God of . . . Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” (Ex. 3:6) After quoting these words, Jesus added: “He is a God, not of the dead, but of the living, for they are all living to him.” (Luke 20:38) Yes, to Jehovah, his loyal ones who have died faithful to him are as good as alive; their resurrection is a certainty.—Eccl. 7:1.
18. In the new world, how will Jehovah prove to be “a real dwelling” for his people in a special way?
18 In the new world just ahead, Jehovah will become “a real dwelling” for his people in yet another sense. Says Revelation 21:3: “Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them.” Initially, Jehovah will reside with his earthly subjects representatively by means of Christ Jesus. At the end of the thousand years, Jesus will hand the Kingdom over to his Father, having fully accomplished God’s purpose for the earth. (1 Cor. 15:28) Thereafter, perfected mankind will no longer need Jesus as an intercessor; Jehovah will be with them. What a wonderful prospect lies before us! In the meantime, then, let us strive to imitate the faithful generations of old by making Jehovah our “real dwelling.”