I screeched to a halt in my blue-green Camry and ripped the iPhone from its audio jack. Darting up a weedy hill, I began snapping awesome angled shots of the rock outcropping, reservoir and valley below. It was a brisk February morning in Colorado. Presently, something peculiar caught my eye. A clump of cactus grew out of a tiny ledge in the rocks. Just deep enough to catch some precipitation and just rugged enough to suit the prickly species, it had nicely established its own little colony. This picture would get my wheels turning.
In life, I often wonder “now what” after closing in a bold prayer or request. Sometimes, it’s like the calm before a storm, maybe even the death stare before getting mauled by a ravenous mountain lion. I’m no novice when it comes to asking God to work his will in my life. His plans will undoubtedly not play out the way I had entertained. So why keep asking? Why spill my heart desires before the king of kings?
The Psalmist, too, did such a thing. And surprise! His deepest desire was followed up with an acknowledgement of trouble.
Psa 27:4-5 “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple. For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me upon a rock.”
What is God up to? Is the psalmist being redundant when he says “he shall hide me in his pavilion” and “hide me in his tabernacle?” In each phrase, the Hebrew words used here are different from each other. So first we have a deeply beautiful heart desire, then a statement of the trouble which may precede or follow this request. It’s as if the writer knows there is no honor without struggle. Take a closer look at the progression of words he chooses. This blew my mind.
“For in the time of trouble, he shall HIDE me in his PAVILION. Hebrew tsaphan and cok. Tsaphan, interestingly, is the same word used to describe when Moses was hidden three months as a baby. It’s painting a picture of (to quote the concordance) treasuring up and laying up, to hide from discovery. This first hiding is where God is causing us to yet be obsolete to the world, learn of him and treasure up his image in our minds. Did you know newborns do this? They treasure up a thousand images of how mother treats them, reacts to them and loves them. This is what their subconscious grabs to remind them how much they’re supported when, later as toddlers, they begin branching out to more uncomfortable situations. Next, this word cok translates thicket, lair, booth. It’s a very temporary dwelling and meant to be, ultimately, abandoned. Not to mention, lair is a death bed. See any similarities… “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Col 3:3 (this gave me goosebumps.)
In the second phrase of this verse, “in the secret of his TABERNACLE he shall HIDE me,” the words intensify in depth of relationship. First resides the word ‘ohel. ‘Ohel means tent, dwelling, home, tabernacle. Here tabernacle depicts a nomads dwelling, and although still somewhat temporary or movable, it has a sense of comfort and value. ‘Ohel is a worthy meeting place to learn of God (like when Moses talked to God in the tabernacle Exo 33:9) and it’s a place to camp out while maturing, learning life skills (as when the Lord appeared to Abraham on the plains of Mamre and told him Sarah would finally have a child, Gen 18:1). Cathar, the second kind of “hide,” is used 82 times and mentioned also here in Exo 3:6 “And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God”. Most of the times this is translated, it’s in context of being more intimately known, having had an existing relationship with or hiding out in a place well-known to the concealed person.
I’m beginning to see a progression of maturity and learning the heart of the Lord. Think about it- what meaningful relationship have you developed that hasn’t had its troubles? Look back on the times you hid out in your friend’s secret spot and spilled your guts about grueling life circumstances. Tell me that that didn’t change your friendship.
Back to the verse. After being hidden as a babe, dying and being raised with Christ, hiding out in the secret place of the Most High and learning of him into your maturing years, there arrives a time of revealing. This brings us to the last part, “…He shall set me up upon a rock.”
You could very well re-script this per the Bible definitions, “He shall grow me up and exalt me there upon the cliff.”
Now do you see the picture? The Psalmist asked to dwell in the presence of God, and inquire in his temple (an UNmovable home by the way.) God knew the progression of events that would give him wisdom and make his experience rich. Here. Die and have your life hidden in Christ, mature in my tabernacle and then you will be ready to behold my beauty. In fact, I’ll even lift you above your enemies.
Listen to the very next verse. “And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord.”
It seems I find myself in this entire process over and over again. I don’t think it necessarily because I haven’t learned my lessons, (perhaps) but perhaps more so because God wants to share with me a still more intimate part of his heart which can only be heard in the secret place, in the quiet clefts, in his tabernacle, moving from valley to heights, from rivers to desserts. One day, it will all lead to the other side of this life.
One day, we will behold the beauty of the Lord face to face. I hope until then, we will never give up on asking our one deepest desire.