How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling-place

The Hebrew word mishkan (מִשְׁכָּן) means literally “dwelling place.” When God commanded the children of Israel to build a moveable temple in the wilderness, He called it the mishkan: the place where He would dwell. Most of the times it appears in the Bible, the word is translated “tabernacle,” so it loses that association. But it’s worth remembering that every time the Israelites spoke of the tabernacle, they called it the mishkan, the dwelling place.

Psalm 84 opens with the exclamation, “How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts!” The author continues, “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.” The author concludes, “Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee” (Psalm 84:1-2, 4).

Book of Mormon prophets emphasized that “no unclean thing can dwell with God” (1 Nephi 10:21; see also Mosiah 2:37, Alma 7:21, Alma 34:36, Helaman 4:24). But they also taught that Jesus Christ can sanctify us so that we are able to “dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness” (Mosiah 2:41; see also Mosiah 15:23, Alma 28:12, Mormon 7:7, Moroni 8:26).

The fourth movement of Brahms’s German Requiem is a setting of Psalm 84, verses 1-2 and 4. The English translation of the German text used in the recording below is different from the King James Version: “How lovely is Thy dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts! For my soul it longeth, yea fainteth for the courts of the Lord. My soul and body crieth out, yea, for the living God. Blest are they which dwell within Thy house. They praise Thy name evermore.” I love the way Brahms emphasizes the words “soul” and “body” in the middle section, as the singers express their deep longing to be with God.

Today, I will be grateful that Jesus can make us clean, so that we have a hope of dwelling with God. I will be grateful for holy places on earth where the Spirit of God can dwell, and which can prepare us to be in His presence again.

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