I remember the first time I heard this verse.
I was about 16 or 17 and a fairly new Christian. I was at Soul Survivor and sat outside in the setting sun, in the ‘overflow’ venue from the showering pavilion. (For those in the know, this is years before it was big enough to require the massive Big Top they use now.)
I even remember the main passage that the woman speaking was talking about.
But then, just in the middle, she mentioned this verse from Deuteronomy:
“Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for He shields them all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders.”
She pointed out that to be between someone’s shoulders you would either be literally embraced in a hug or enjoying a piggyback, or you would be metaphorically held in someone’s heart.
Any of those options work for me.
This verse was originally the blessing offered by Moses to the people of the Tribe of Benjamin.
Benjamin holds the unique position of being born to Jacob after he had been renamed and reaffirmed by God. So although he was the youngest of the children of Israel, he was the first and only child born to Israel.
Benjamin went on to become a small tribe and they were given really quite a little section of the land following the allocation in Joshua. Yet although the territory was tiny, it contained the city of Jerusalem, where God’s temple was built.
The first King of Israel (Saul) came from the Tribe of Benjamin, yet when the Kingdom divided a few generations later, Benjamin remained loyal to the House of David and formed the Southern Kingdom of Judah with the (much larger) tribe of Judah.
The biggest persecutor of the early church (another Saul) was from the Tribe of Benjamin, yet he became one of the most prolific apostles (Paul).
Benjamin is a bundle of paradoxes.
There’s even a bit of a paradox with this verse from Deuteronomy because although most translations phrases it with the beloved resting between the Lord’s shoulders, the Hebrew could be read another way: as the Lord resting between the shoulders (in the heart) of the one He loves.
If you take it this way then some people have considered that it is about Jerusalem and God’s temple resting in the centre of the land of Benjamin. Which is a nice image. And very cool because at the time it was given, the temple hadn’t even been imagined in the human mind.
Although God knew of course.
Whatever any of this means, I wasn’t aware of any of it when I first heard this verse as a teenager.
At that point, this verse gave me strength and comfort, and moved me a little bit further along in my walk with God.
Knowing the stuff about Benjamin is fascinating and reminds me that God is in the detail and has far-reaching ideas and understandings. He continually surprises me with these little puzzle pieces of interest and it makes me want to know more and grow more.
But some days (well, most days if I’m being honest) I still love to remember that image of being literally embraced by my Heavenly Father or offered a piggyback when I’m weary – and it’s such a joy to know that I am in His heart and He is in mine.
I love that this verse can immediately grab your attention
with a promise of comfort and then draw you in further with a fresh revelation
of God’s attention to detail.
It’s about intimacy and information; it’s about seeking closeness and finding knowledge.
I love that He meets me and teaches me in both ways, even though that might also be a bit of a paradox.