There’s No Place Like Home

Psalm 23:6

Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Dear Friends in Christ,

How about a little trivia quiz to start my sermon this morning?  See if you can identify the name of the movie in which these words were spoken:  “There’s no place like home…there’s no place like home…there’s no place like home.” Those words were spoken by Dorothy in the classic movie, “The Wizard of Oz,” as she followed the instructions of the Glinda, the good witch of the South, to get back home to Kansas and clicked her ruby shoes together while speaking those words and holding her dog Toto in her arms.

And you know what?  She was right.  There is no place like home.  There’s no place like home after you’ve been to a district convention like I’ve attended over the years and you’ve heard pastors arguing and bickering with one another for several days.  There’s no place like home after you’ve been gone on a week long vacation and you’re tired of sleeping in strange beds with flat pillows.  There’s no place like home after you’ve spent several days or weeks in the sterile environment of a hospital recuperating from an illness or injury or surgery.  And according to David, there’s really no place like the home he speaks of in our text for today as he ties a ribbon around this precious Psalm that we have had the privilege of studying throughout much of this year.  What comfort David gives us when he lifts his eyes heavenward after talking about all the ups and downs of living in this earthly vale of tears and he says, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  Let’s unpack this verse word by word and savor what it has to say to us today.

David begins with the word “I.”  Throughout this Psalm he has described his heavenly Shepherd as a personal Shepherd, as one with whom he had a very close relationship.  Just notice the personal pronouns that David employs throughout this Psalm.  “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.  He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me.  Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.  Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies; Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Seventeen times in those 6 brief verses David uses the pronouns I, me, and my, thereby conveying to us that our Heavenly Shepherd is not some distant being who is way out there beyond our reach or who has no interest in our lives.  On the contrary, he is a personal Shepherd, a Shepherd whom Jesus once said “knows his sheep.”  On another occasion Jesus said that this Shepherd even knows how many hairs we have on our heads.  That simply means that no detail of our lives escapes his notice.  Consequently, he knows when you’re hurting.  He knows when you’re struggling with your finances.  He knows when you’re having problems with your spouse or your children or your boss.  But he doesn’t just know.  He cares.  That’s the message that is woven like a scarlet thread throughout the pages of Scripture.  Your Shepherd cares so much for you that I’ve often said if you were the only person alive when he walked this earth in the person of Jesus Christ, he still would have gone to the cross for you.  He still would have died just for you.

And because he was willing to do that for you, the next word that David uses in this Psalm becomes so important.  He says, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  Notice there’s no hesitating, no wavering on David’s part when it comes to his eternal salvation.  He doesn’t say, “I might dwell in the house of the Lord forever,” or “I hope I’ll dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  Rather he uses the word “will.”  Though that word represents the future tense of the verb it also comes across as something that is definitive, decisive, conclusive.  In other words, there is no doubt in David’s mind that when his sojourn on this earth is over, he will find himself dwelling in the house of the Lord forever.

What about you, my friends?  Are you certain of the same?  Are you absolutely sure that if you were to die tonight you would be in heaven with the Lord forever?  I’ve asked that question of many people over the years, lots of whom have been Christians all of their lives.  And I must say that I’ve been shocked at how so few of them will actually come out and say, “Yes, I know I’m going to heaven when I die.”  Now it’s quite possible that some of these people won’t say that because they feel that to do so is being presumptuous.  In other words, they don’t want to sound like they’re bragging.  And indeed it would be wrong of them to say it if they were basing their hope for heaven upon themselves and what they’ve done in their lives.  But listen, my friends, if you’re basing your eternal salvation upon the completed and sufficient work that Jesus Christ has done on your behalf, then you know what?  You can be sure beyond the shadow of a doubt that when the Lord calls you out of this life, you will dwell in his house forever.  Listen to these words of the Apostle John in the 5th chapter of his 1st epistle, the 13th verse.  He says: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”  Isn’t that great?  We can know that we have eternal life so long as we base it upon the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  Let me tell you something. You can’t find any better news than that!

Then we come to the 3rd word of our text, the word “dwell.”  My computer Thesaurus gives the following synonyms for that word: occupy, reside, abide, stay.  That’s something a lot of people don’t do anymore in our society. We have become a country of movers.  Recently I heard that people nowadays move an average of every 7 years.  Some a lot more often than that.  I remember when Marilyn and I got married, we first moved into a small house in Campbell Hill where we lived for 3 months.  Then we moved to Ft. Wayne where I was to begin my studies at the seminary.  Then after 2 years there we moved to Bradenton, FL for our year of vicarage.  Then we moved back to Ft. Wayne for my final year at the sem.  Then we moved to our first parish at St. Paul, Shobonier.  That was 5 moves in 4 years!  Is it any wonder we’ve been here for 25 years now!

Some of you can probably relate to that to a greater or lesser extent.  And because we’ve become such a mobile society, so many people don’t have roots anymore where they establish deep relationships and deep connections within a particular community.  But in heaven all of that will change.  In heaven we will dwell.  In heaven we will stay put. We will find the house of the Lord to be a stationary, permanent, abiding residence where we shall have our every need, our every desire, our every longing met and satisfied in ways that go far beyond our ability to comprehend right now.

And that leads into the next part of our text where David says, “I will dwell,” where?  “In the house of the Lord.”  Can you imagine what the house of the Lord must look like?  When my family and I lived in Naples, Florida, we saw some absolutely incredible homes.  One of our favorites belonged to the chairman of our congregation – a $3½ million mansion complete with elevator, marble floors, beautiful swimming pool, meticulous landscaping, and, oh yes, a $600,000 boat out back.  Often times when we’d have family visit for the first time, we’d take them over to see this home and go for a ride in the boat, cruising the waterways in that area and seeing homes that were much larger and much more expensive.

But imagine what God’s house must look like.  Revelation chapters 21 and 22 give us a picturesque view of what that house is like, though it really exceeds our ability to comprehend.  For who among us can imagine streets of gold and gates made of a single pearl each and a 12-layered foundation made of the most precious stones imaginable?  Who among us can conceive of a place that needs no sun or moon or stars or any other kind of light because the glory of God permeates and radiates and illuminates everything.  Who among us can envision a house so large that it could comfortably accommodate every believing child of God who has ever walked the face of this earth?  Who among us can visualize a place that Billy Graham’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, describes for us in her book on heaven when she says: “In what way are you suffering? Are you suffering physically, emotionally, mentally, financially, materially, relationally, socially, spiritually?  One day God himself will take your face in his hands and gently wipe away your tears as he reassures you that there will be no more suffering in my Father’s house.  No more pain or hospitals or death, funerals or grief, or walkers or canes or wheelchairs.  There will be no more suicide bombers, fiery infernos, broken homes, or broken hearts, broken lives, or broken dreams.  There will be no more mental retardation or physical handicaps, muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis, blindness or lameness, deafness or sickness.  There will be no more Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, diabetes or arthritis, cataracts or paralysis, no more cancer or strokes or AIDS, no more guns in schools or car bombs or terrorists or missiles or air strikes.  No more war.  You can look forward with hope because one day there will be no more separation, no more scars, and no more suffering in my Father’s house.  It’s the home of your dreams.”

But you know what, my friends?  All of that that I’ve just read would be empty and lacking were it not for the most important part of our Father’s house, namely, that of finally seeing Jesus face to face.  Over the years I’ve gotten a small taste of what I’m talking about when I’ve returned home from a conference or a men’s event like a Promise Keepers gathering that I really enjoyed, only to come home to an empty house because Marilyn may have gone to see her parents or sister for the weekend.  And that was tough because you have so much to share after one of those events and naturally you want to share it with the one who means the most to you.

That’s why I say that heaven would be so empty and incomplete if the One who means the most to us, our Good Shepherd, were not waiting for us there when we finally arrive.  But he will be.  And I don’t know exactly what that moment is going to be like when we finally come into his presence, but I love how one artist has tried to portray it in this picture many of you have probably seen on the Internet at some time or another.  It shows Jesus with arms wrapped around one of his precious blood-bought children, a hint of a smile and a look of relief on his face.  And though we can’t see the face of the person he’s embracing, we can only imagine the joy and relief that must be etched on it as their journey through this life is finally finished and they can now rest and dwell in the house of the Lord, for how long? Forever!  That’s what’s waiting for us, my friends.  You see, that’s you in that picture.  That’s me – provided we have placed our faith and hope and trust in Jesus.  So no matter what kind of a home you live in now, you can be sure that one day you will inherit and inhabit the home of your dreams as you dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  And when you say, “There’s no place like home,” you will mean in ways far greater than you’ve ever meant it before that there really is no place like this home!  Amen.