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PASTOR’S CORNER: Searching for God’s presence

By Rev. O.L. Johnson

Religion Columnist

Some passages of scripture seem to defy understanding. I know you’ve experienced this just as I have.

How many times have you asked, “what does that mean” after reading one of these confusing jewels? Then, on the other side of the coin, there are passages that seem so easy to understand that we just can’t believe it. Can it really be that easy? Well, maybe not.

A case in point is Psalm 15, only five verses written by David, where he asks God two simple questions: “Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?” In the following verses, David seems to say that only the godly people of the world will be allowed to abide and dwell in God’s tabernacle and in his holy hill. Easy to understand, right?

Well, it would be, except for one thing; if we accept this as the meaning of the verse, then we are accepting the idea that God summarily has prohibited all ungodly people from ever crossing the threshold of his “tabernacle” or, in today’s world, his church building, which includes them all. If this idea of God is verifiable in scripture, I haven’t found it.

A prohibition like this one is contrary to his character. He would never deprive anyone of an opportunity to enter his house for praise and worship, regardless of their lifestyle. That’s the one place above all others where godliness is taught and modeled. So, what seems obvious in this Psalm, probably is not. What then is David talking about? Let’s delve a bit and find out.

The key to understanding this passage is vested in the references of two words: “tabernacle” and “holy.” Tabernacle in the Hebrew lexicon is described as “the appointed place where God’s presence was most felt.” Holy identifies that place as the “holy of holies” in God’s tabernacle. So the presence of God is the topic of discussion, rather than an actual physical location.

This Psalm shows us how anyone can be assured of God’s presence in his or her life. It’s simply a matter of living a godly life characterized by walking upright, working righteousness, speaking truth in the heart, condemning vile people, honoring those who fear God, admitting personal faults and changing not in one’s walk.

For all who meet the requirements, God has promised to be a present force in their lives, 24 hours day, seven days a week. He’s not there just because he wants to “hang out” with us.

He wants to be that “force” in our lives that guides us, blesses us, heals us, prospers us and ensures our eternal destiny. His presence is full of benefits. Don’t miss out on a single one.

Rev. O.L. Johnson, a retired LAPD lieutenant, is an associate pastor in his home church, Greater New Zion Baptist, 501 W. 80th St. in South Los Angeles.

 Pastor’s Corner is a religious column that looks at the relevancy of scripture in life today. The column will appear monthly in The Wave and on its website,