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Nesting in the Altar

As we prayed Psalm 84 together last Sunday, it seemed to me a wonderful song to sing as we enter into 2021.

How lovely are your dwellings,

O LORD of hosts!

My soul has a desire and longing to enter into the courts of the LORD;

my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

We are those dwellings of the Lord! Through His Holy Spirit, God has taken up residence within the people of Immanuel. And regardless of what happened last year and what this year brings, the location of our hope and joy is in the living God. He Himself is our primary desire.

Indeed, the sparrow has found her a house, and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young,

even your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God

Blessed are they who dwell in your house;

they will always be praising you.

“A daring and telling image,” writes Alec Motyer. “Such is the safety to be found in Yahweh’s altar that birds would dare to nest there and expose their young to the undying flame!” For us, Jesus is Yahweh’s altar. We can bring ourselves and our precious ones to nest with him, in the presence of his undying flame of love and care for us. This is where we take up residence.

Blessed is the one whose strength is in you,

in whose heart are your ways,

Who going through the valley of misery uses it for a well;

indeed, the early rains fill the pools with water.

These lines in particular resonated with me. 2020 has been a long walk through “the valley of misery.” The literal rendering of these words is either “the Valley of Baca” or the “Valley of Balsam” – a dry place of tears and trials on a pilgrim’s journey to Jerusalem. And yet for the one who seeks strength from Yahweh, and in whose heart are the “highways of the Lord,” that very valley becomes a source of life. What would it be for us to look back on this past year and ask Jesus to show us the wells he has provided through this difficult journey? And how those wells are to sustain us in 2021?

Because here comes the promise for this year:

They will go from strength to strength,

and the God of gods shall be seen by them in Zion.

What seems dry and death-dealing to others “can become in God’s hands all gift, true joy, abiding contentment, and good life. Why? Because this is Jesus’s way. Where Jesus is our portion and desire, we lack no true treasure” (Zack Eswine). God wants us to see Him, to know Him, to be with Him. Like Jesus clearing the temple, He is zealous to clear the path of all obstacles between Himself and his people.

I look forward to journeying with you through 2021, going from strength to strength together, seeing the God of gods among us here in Northern Virginia.

Your Pastor in Christ,


P.S. Yet again, I am humbled and deeply encouraged by how you continue expressing your love and gratefulness to me and my family. I tried googling synonyms for “blown away,” but none of them quite fit for communicating the heartening surprise we felt when we opened the envelope presented to us this past Sunday. Thank you so very much for your unexpected, extravagant Christmas gift! We love you too.


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