I went camping once.
I didn’t get it. I’m a typical first-world person: if there are perfectly good houses to sleep in, why would I intentionally chose to give that up and sleep in a tent on the hard ground? But as I reflect back on that, I consider what it was like for those in some of the early Old Testament times when they lived in tents during the forty years of wandering in the desert.
It’s actually from this imagery some of the Psalms draw. Their lives involved two tents. In one tent, they ate, slept, and visited with family and friends. The other tent, however, was not casual. In these tents was the meeting place of God. In these tents was the Ark of the Covenant. In these tents, the Lord Almighty lived with His old covenant people.
When the ancient Israelites would see this tent, they had a tangible realization of God’s eternal presence. With that in mind, we read this in Psalm 91:1-4:
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.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
Whoever wrote this Psalm (some say Moses, but we really don’t know) brought to mind the two places where a person of God lives: their earthly home and the altar of their heart. In a real sense, we also have two tents.
In one tent, we move through our world. We get up in the morning, interact with family and friends, go to work, interact with people there and then come home. This “tent” is our earthly dwelling. It’s in this tent our world relates with us.
But it’s in the other tent where we relate to God. “God is spirit,” Jesus said to the Samaritan woman in John 4:24, “and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” It’s in the sanctuary of our souls where we meet with our Refuge and Fortress. It’s in the solitude of our hearts where the Holy Spirit resides and resonates with us when we center our heart’s affection and our mind’s attention on Him.
It is in this second tent where the Lord spreads His wings over us and protects us. It’s so easy for us to misapply these verses and make them a promise from God that we will never have problems. Not only do we know that’s not true by experience, we also know Jesus said we are to expect trouble (cf. John 16:33).
But this trouble, whether big or small, should not cause us to lose faith or get weak knees. On the contrary, these moments are when we can “lean in” and rest against our shield and fortress. We can go into our “tent of worship” (if you will) and gain strength from Him so we can face life in the first tent.
Dear one in Christ, never forget we are beings of two tents: the tent of the hard world and the tent of meeting with our Savior and Lord. And spending more time in the second tent makes life richer and infinitely more valuable in the first.