For the LORD will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will
conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock. Now
my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his
tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD.
There are times when we don’t know what to do, how we will cope, or where we will turn in the day of trouble. These can be times of stinging personal attack, financial meltdown, the loss of someone close, or becoming worn down by life’s daily blows. We are fortunate that Israel’s greatest king and psalmist, David, left us record of how he faced down life’s giants and won. David tells us how we might also find help in our day of trouble by coming into the tent of the Lord.
In telling how to find help for our troubles, David draws upon his culture’s language of hospitality for the stranger. In response to nomadic life the people of the ancient orient evolved a well-defined and elaborate code of hospitality. Hospitality was indispensible to their survival, and was esteemed as one of the highest virtues.
A wonderful example of their etiquette of hospitality is found in Genesis 18:1-8 when three strangers approaching Abraham’s tent afford him the opportunity of showing hospitality. When Abraham sees the strangers approaching his tent, he literally runs to them begging for the honor of serving them. Abraham pleads with them: “My lord, if I find favor with you,, do not pass by your servant.” According to custom, Abraham washes their feet and hastens to prepare the fatted calf for the strangers.
In Biblical times this kind of hospitality was regarded as a right for any stranger who presented himself to someone’s tent. Not to show generous hospitality to the stranger would result in shame falling on the entire encampment or village. Even one’s enemy was to be welcomed as a guest once he laid his hand on the flap of the tent. Any tribal or personal hatred had to be put aside so that the stranger could be welcomed and cared for as a friend.
The host would signify welcome by washing the stranger’s feet and anointing his head with oil. In order not to insult the guest, or dishonor the host, the meal prepared for the stranger would be the very best that the host had to offer. The guest would be given the place of honor at the host’s table and addressed as “lord” throughout his entire stay. His host would thank him for the honor and pleasure of having him in his tent. Such was the traveler’s expected right as he journeyed the ancient world.
David tells us that when he was in trouble he would present himself at the tent of the Lord; there he would find God’s generous hospitality and protection. Perhaps David early in life learned about God’s hospitality as he wrote: “If my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up” (Psalm 27:10). David lived and served in the confidence that in the day of trouble the Lord would provide for him and protect him.
In the beloved Shepherd Psalm David revels in the overflowing hospitality of the Lord as he is surrounded by enemies:
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely* goodness and mercy* shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever (Psalm 23:5-6).
David delights in the hospitality that the Lord shows him throughout his life’s long journey, and knows that he will “dwell in the house of the LORD forever”. Even when his closest friends and family fail him, the Lord always welcomes and cares for him.
In today’s Scripture text David is inviting us to also present ourselves at the Lord’s tent “in the day of trouble”. The Lord runs to welcome any who will come to Him. He will even treat His enemy as His friend if he comes to Him. There in the presence of the Lord He will hide him “in his shelter” and conceal him safely “under the cover of His tent”.
Let us turn to our God and trust in His provision and protection:
“For you are my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy.
Let me abide in your tent forever,
find refuge under the shelter of your wings” (Psalm 61:3-4).
Grace and peace–Tim
Photo by andrew and hobbes