Psalm 68:6 “God gives the desolate a home to live in.”
Ideas about home are on my mind these days. In two weeks I’ll be moving to a new home in a new town and going to a new kind of job in a new place. In my growing-up years, I lived in the same Rhode Island farmhouse until I left for college. Then, once I graduated, I returned to that same property and, for four more years, rented the apartment where my grandmother had lived. In the 21 years since, I have moved eight times across six states. This will be move number 9.
Unlike some children, I grew up with a very definite sense of “home.” The family stayed together, we lived in the same house on the same land, and the house is there still. But I’ve moved enough in adulthood to re-think what constitutes a home. For awhile, “home” was where my husband was. But then he left, and I was alone. Can you be at home by yourself? The passage from Psalms above (quoted here in the NRSV) is translated differently in the King James. In that version it says, “God setteth the solitary in families.” I looked up the Hebrew word used in the verse. It is bayith which means both “house” and “family.” When English translators encountered this verse, they had to make a decision about what “home” meant. In 1611, those who translated the KJV defined “home” by the presence of a family. The modern translation took a more neutral stance.
But as I think about it, I have found both translations to be true for me. When I found myself desolate after a divorce with no place to live, a woman I had worked for invited me to house sit during her extended stay in another state. I had a free roof over my head for the months I needed. God provided physical shelter in my fiscal desolation. And as I found myself alone and 1200 miles from my mother and brother, God set me within a church where I found people who took me in as their own family. Those deep bonds remain to this day. God both gave the desolate a home and put the solitary in a family…the house God gave me didn’t belong to the family God gave me, but both things were provided.
My experience of God’s provision in those days has helped me each time since when “home” has changed. God is not indifferent to my needs. In fact, just this week I learned that a colleague I am quite close to is changing churches in July. Like me, she is also moving alone. She has been newly appointed to a church just five miles from my new home. It was God’s provision for both of us.
In our mobile society, more of us change our physical homes than in days gone by. And even when the house stays the same, families are too often broken by death, divorce, and estrangement. As you struggle in those times, my personal witness is that God does give the desolate a home to live in and God does settle the solitary in families. It may not be the house you thought. The family may not be related to you at all…you may not even have met them yet. But the one whose eye is on the sparrow is watching over you as well.
Thank you, God, for providing a home. Amen.
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