Dwell in the Land
Dr. Joe Temple


We would like for you to turn to Psalm 37. I would like for you to follow in your Bibles as I read from the first verse. We begin with Psalm 37:

Psalm 37

1Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.
2For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.
3Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shall thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
4Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
5Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
6And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.
7Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devises to pass.

Shall we bow our heads together now and ask God to help us in our understanding of His Word?

Father, we are grateful that in thy grace it is possible for us to stand here fifty years after Thou didst give us this verse, and declare once again the faithfulness of God. I do pray, Father, because there will be personal references, that attention might not be focused upon me, but upon Thee. And I pray that hearts will be encouraged as they are reminded that God is faithful. Open the ears of those who listen. Anoint me that I might speak today in the power of the Holy Spirit, for I pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

The Secret of Rest

You probably noticed, when we began the reading of this passage of Scripture, that it begins with the word “fret,” and it closes with the word “rest.” Of course, you know that the word “fret” is just another word for “worry.” Between the word “fret” and the word “rest” is the secret of how the believer may rest.

God gave me this verse in 1939 as I began the ministry of the Word in the city of Abilene. As I have told you before, I was led of God to live a life of faith, and I had to depend on Him from day to day for very practical material needs such as the need for food every day. I had covenanted with God that I would not tell anybody what my needs were. I would trust Him to meet those needs.

When I was here alone without a wife and family, the year of 1939, it was no great problem. I could manage to stop in somewhere just about lunch time to visit with folk. Back in those days folk were not as busy as they are now, and most folk ate at home, and so I managed. Sometimes, when I wasn't able to do that, I had one special place that kept their overripe fruit for me. Now, other folk would call it rotten; I called it overripe. For example, I could get a whole dozen of bananas, overripe, for five cents. I learned later that potassium is good for your system. Some days that's all I had to eat, but God met my need, and I was blissfully happy in whatever way He decided to meet it.

Sometimes, when I would get so hungry that I just had to have something, I would go into a restaurant. As I ordered my food and thanked God for it, I'd say, “Father, you know I don't have any money. Send someone in to pay for this.” I wouldn't ask anybody to pay for it, but I'd ask my Father to do it if He was pleased to do it. Sometimes folk would say to me, “Wasn't that kind of silly? Suppose God didn't do that?” Well, I could have said I knew He would, but I'm as human as anybody else, so I had already made up my mind to wash the dishes if He didn't send anybody in. I can't begin to tell you the number of times that folk would come by the table, visit with me, and say, “Let me take that check.” And I never wanted to seem too eager, so I would always say, “Oh, no, no, no, I'll take care of it.” But they insisted, and I thought one refusal was sufficient.

Well, that was all right as long as I was by myself, but I was going to get married, and I expected to have a family. Incidentally, in passing, may I tell you that we asked God to give us seven children, and He did, and we thank Him for it. If you have problems with that, they are yours, not mine.

A Command to Stay Put

When I realized that I was going to have a family–a wife, and eventually a family–I asked God to give me more assurance that He was going to meet my need. Certainly I might be able to drop in myself somewhere at mealtime, but you can't take your family and do that. Certainly I might be able to stop in a restaurant and ask God to send somebody by to pay for my meal, but I couldn't do that with a family. Just like men who are in the business world and in the professional world, when they realize they are going to have a family, they ask their employer for a raise or a better job because of expenses. I talked to my Father, and I said, “Father, you've got to give me something more that what I've got.” And this is what He gave me, here in Psalm 37, with special emphasis upon verses 3 and 4:

Psalm 37

3Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
4Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

This Psalm was primarily given to the nation of Israel, relating to the place that God had for them and the things that they would do. That's the reason that God said to them, “Trust in the Lord, and do good. Dwell in the land.” That phrase, “dwell in the land,” was a command to the nation of Israel to stay in the place that God had put them there in the land of Canaan. More about that later, but at the moment let me reemphasize that every passage of Scripture has one interpretation and then as many applications as is consistent with the Word of God. This Psalm certainly was addressed to the nation of Israel by interpretation, but by application, God meant it for me, and I am sure multitudes of other believers.

Take Refuge In the Lord

If I were to try to summarize the information that I want to leave with you, I would say that after the initial command or exhortation to trust, four words describe what God said to me in this portion of the Word of God. Notice there in verse 3 the word “trust.” Trust in the Lord. And then down in verse 5 the exhortation is given again, but with a little different emphasis: “Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass.” In verse 3, we are encouraged to trust ourselves to God. In verse 5, we are not only encouraged to trust ourselves, but our way, our plans, our work–everything that is related to us.

What does it mean to trust in the sense that the Spirit of God is speaking to us through this Psalm? There are a number of words for trust. One of the most commonly used speaks of an individual who realizes impending danger and runs as fast as he can to find refuge from the danger. That's not the word that's used here. The word that is used here I love very much, for it speaks of a person who quietly takes refuge in the Lord. The storm's approaching, the testing time is coming, yes; but there is no need to fear. Just get to the refuge and relax. The Psalmist has expressed it very beautifully in Psalm 27. The Psalmist said:

Psalm 27

1The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
2When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.
3Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this [ notice ] shall I be confident.

Underline that word in your thinking today, because it's the translation of the same Hebrew word that's translated “trust.” When God gave to me the general exhortation to trust Him, He said, “I want you to do what you do with full confidence that I will take care of things.” When you have the time, read what is recorded in Ezekiel, chapter 28. There you will find that God speaks a message against Tyre. He speaks a message against Sidon, and then He turns and speaks to His own people, Israel. After having described what terrible things are going to happen to these two nations because they have raised their heart against God, He said to his own people there in Ezekiel, chapter 28, verse 26.

Ezekiel 28

26And they [ you ] shall dwell safely therein, and shall build houses, and plant vineyards; yea, [ you ] shall dwell with confidence, when I have executed judgments upon all those that despise thee round about them; and they shall know that I am the Lord their God.

This verse is speaking of the time when the nation of Israel, her enemies all defeated, no longer fearful that she will not be permitted to stay in her land, shall dwell in confidence, knowing that God is going to take care of everything. When God said to me, back in 1939, “Have confidence in Me; have confidence in Me that I will take care of things if,” and He outlined four things that were necessary.

Duty to God's Commission

The first one I have used the word “duty” to fix in your minds. That is brought to my mind, going back to Psalm 37, by the words, “do good.” What was it He said? “Dwell in the land. Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land.” Look at those words “do good” for a moment. They speak of that activity which is well pleasing to God, but more personally, they speak of that which God has committed to you to do. This is not so much a matter of doing good acts and performing nice tasks; it is a matter of duty which God placed on you and expects you to perform. You see, He placed Israel in the very center of the earth, and the Word of God tells us that He placed her there so that if she stayed in that place, her beams of truth would go out over the whole world. That was her duty. She didn't do it. God said to me, “I have called you to this place. You do what I have told you to do.” Every person who is confident that God will meet his needs must be faithful in the thing to which God has called him. Whatever God has called you to do, do it. God had called me to teach the Word. At the time, He had not told me how to teach it, where to teach it, what method to teach, but teach the Word. And by His grace I have endeavored to do that for these fifty years.

The first requirement that God brought to my attention I was able to recognize and work at fulfilling. But notice the second word that I leave with you, the word “dwell.” That word is in the Scripture itself there in verse 3. “Trust in the Lord, and do good, so shall thou dwell in the land…” The phrase, “and thou shalt dwell in the land,” sort of leaves the idea that it's a blessing to be able to dwell in the land. In a sense, that's true, but the original text indicates just as certainly as you do good, you are to dwell in this land. You are to remain in the place that I have told you to be, and move only when I give the orders to move.

Dear one, if you are seeking God's will in your life, if you are seeking to please Him, you must decide if you are in God's will; and then you must let absolutely nothing deter you from staying where God put you. Yes, it will be hard. It will be difficult. I could take time for another message and tell you how discouraged I had become. In the early years, how I said, “Oh, God, let me leave here.” My precious wife, it was harder on her than it was on me, but we knew what we had to do–dwell in the land.

Please don't interpret what I'm saying right now that God never changes His plans for you. People have come here to the Abilene Bible Church through the years, and have moved off to other places of service; and though we didn't like to see them go, we rejoiced that they were in the leading of the Lord. So don't misinterpret what I'm saying. What I'm saying is, once you know that God wants you in a place, don't leave until God tells you to leave. Do good. Dwell in the land.

Dependence Upon God's Provision

The third word I want to leave you by way of summary is “depend.” Duty, dwell, and depend. That word comes to my mind from the last statement of verse three where God says, “Verily, thou shall be fed.” Truly thou shall be fed. What God said to me that day is, “You are in the place that I have called you to be. You do the thing that I want you to do, and depend on me to take care of your needs.” I don't want to suggest that the only needs we need to depend upon God for are material needs, but you can't escape the fact that you need them, you young people, especially. Why I lived in a day, as I mentioned a moment ago, when you could get a dozen of overripe bananas for five cents. You can't get one now for twenty-five cents hardly. Things are different. You have a difficult time before you, but here's what I want you to realize: After fifty years of God's faithfulness, God is the same. Situations change; customs change, but God remains the same. When God brought these words to my attention, “Verily thou shall be fed,” He said to me, “Joe Temple, you stay where I put you; you do what you ought to do and depend on me to take care of the bill.” I believed that, and God did.

Illustrations of God's Provision

I want to give you two illustrations, because we're talking about food; we're talking about material goods. “Verily thou shall be fed.” Was God really talking about that to Israel? Yes. Do you remember all the trouble that Israel got into down in Egypt? It was because they didn't believe God's Word. God said, “You stay here in the land of Canaan, and I'll take care of you no matter what kind of famine.” But Jacob got scared and went to Egypt. Now God in His mercy and His grace used that, as you know. He always does that, thank God. I'm so glad that when we make our mistakes, He doesn't say, “That's it!” He doesn't write us off. He overrules in His mercy and in His grace.

After my wife and I married, we were still just a few weeks from our marriage date, and we received word that a young couple whom we knew were coming through town on their honeymoon, and they wanted to spend some time with us. Well, we were in this phase that I mentioned of overripe bananas to a degree. When we came home from our wedding in Georgia to Abilene, the folk had an old fashioned pounding for us. They all brought groceries of all kinds. I don't remember everything they brought except one thing, potatoes. I've said there must have been a sale on potatoes in town. My, the potatoes we got! Well, we used the potatoes with the rest of the food, and by and by all the rest of the food was gone. There was nothing but potatoes, and we ate potatoes every way imaginable. Finally we just ate them, as we used to say, with the jackets on. I don't think people know what that means now. That is, you boil potatoes with the skin on. We didn't have butter. We didn't have anything. We got down to the bottom, and we were deliriously happy! I started to say “in the early days of our marriage,” and I'm not going to say that because, thank God, by His grace it lasted until the day that my wife went home to be with the Lord. So you'll understand what I'm thinking, in the early days of your marriage it doesn't make much difference whether you eat anything or not, so it can't hurt to eat just potatoes. We didn't mind. We didn't feel we were put upon.

But when these folk came through, Cricket said, “Honey, we can't feed these people potatoes.” I said, “Well, I don't know what we can do about it.” And she said, “Well, why don't we ask God to give us something?” I said, “Well, Honey, what can we ask Him for? You can't cook that much.” We made out a menu of everything we would have if God provided it. The thing that I remember most about that menu was hamburger, because she thought she could make a meat loaf. We put a table in the middle of our living room. We had one of those efficiency apartments. The kitchen was here, the living room was here, the dining room was here, and the bedroom was here, and you pulled that down out of the wall. It was one of that kind of apartments, so we put a chair right down in the middle of our living room, and we got down on our knees on each side of it, and we laid that menu on that chair, just like Hezekiah laid the letter that he got from Zerubbabel before the Lord. That's scriptural, you see. Be practical. We laid it there, and we held hands, and we said, “God, if it can please you, meet this need.”

Well, those folk were coming in town at eleven o'clock that day, and I said I would meet them at the radio station at 11 o'clock, because at that time we broadcast at the Windsor Hotel, way up on top of the thing. There was no such thing as tapes then. I said to these folk, “I'll meet you there,” so I met them there. Eleven o'clock was the time of the broadcast, and naturally you'd expect to eat around twelve. Well, I said, “We've got a lovely little city here, (Abilene was only 25,000 people) and you must see it.” I drove around; I showed them everything I could show them. Finally the man said, “Joe, we're hungry. Why can't we go have dinner and see this some other time.” Well, there wasn't any reason I could stay away any longer, so we went.

I've said often that if I live to be a hundred, in fact, during the millennium, I don't expect to smell anything any better than I smelled when I came to the bottom of the steps of that apartment. We lived upstairs. It was one of those inside hallways with an apartment on each side. The aroma was terrific. If you've been six weeks or more on nothing but potatoes, your sense of smell is sharp. So I bounded up the steps. I said, “Come on.” I ran into the kitchen and Cricket was finishing up the meal. I put my arm around her, and I said, “Isn't God wonderful?” She turned to me and there were tears running down her cheeks, and she said, “Honey, I'm disappointed. You and I agreed that we would not tell anybody ever what we needed, and you had to go tell somebody.” I said, “But honey, I didn't.” She said “Well, you had to. A grocery man delivered what's in the box, and everything that we had on that paper was in that box.” I said, “Well, you didn't have any more faith than I did. I didn't think that He was going to do it, and you were sure that when He did it, He didn't do it.” That's the way we are, you know. But sure enough, everything we had on that menu was in that box, and so we praised the Lord, and the folk said, “My, you folk eat well.” And we said, “Yes, we do.”

Well, sometime later I was in a meeting, and I told this story somewhat like I have today, and a lady came up to me afterward. She said, “You know, that story was a great blessing to me. It encouraged me so much.” I said, “Well, I don't like to tell too many stories, but sometimes I feel led to, and I'm glad that it helped you.” I said, “God does answer prayer.” She said, “I'm not talking about that. I'm the lady that sent you those groceries.” And she said, “You know what happened? When I ordered those groceries–I just phoned them in–I ordered T-bone steaks, and then I went back, and I didn't have any rest. I just didn't understand it, so I went back and phoned the grocer and told him that he'd better take those T-bone steaks out.” He said, “Well, what shall I put in?” And I said “Well, just put some hamburger meat in.” She said, “Oh, you've taught me something today. We need to listen to the voice of the Lord.” And I said, “Well, He's taught me something today. Never again will I be satisfied with hamburger when I can have T-bone steaks.” God keeps His Word. “Dwell in the land, and verily thou shall be fed.”

The Never-empty Freezer

Now, I want to add just one more little story. I don't think I've told very often the story of what I call “the never-empty freezer.” You've heard of the well that never runs dry? Well, we had a freezer that never was empty. I use the word “freezer,” because you are familiar with this. When God did this, not too many people had freezers. They had lockers down at the ice plant. Well, the folk here at the church one Christmas gave us a quarter of a beef and put it in the locker down there and my, we just were having just such a good time, all those steaks and all the rest of it. I'd go down there and get the meat when it was necessary. One day I went down there and got some meat and I noticed it was nearly empty. The man who is in charge said, “You know, those other two lockers are overflowing with meat, why don't you use some out of them too?” And I said, “What other two lockers? I only have one key.” He said, “Well, here are two more.” And I went to those other two lockers, and they had chickens in them; they had hams; they had roasts, steaks, everything you can imagine. I went back to him and I said, “There must be a mistake.” He said, “No, you are Joe Temple; those are your lockers.”

Some of you remember the Thornton's Store which used to be where the city police offices are now. They had a big butcher shop there, and he said, “That man from Thornton's comes up here periodically and gets the key and looks in your locker. If it looks like it's getting empty, he fills it up.” That kept up for a long, time, and every time I went there was meat in it. I had no idea who was doing it. I thanked God for it, and I said, “God, I want you to bless whoever is doing that. I would like to thank them, and would thank them if I could, but I just don't know who they are. Bless them.” It was a great many years before I found out that a lady in San Antonio, Texas, who heard us on the radio, was blessed and prayed about what she could do, and God put it in her mind to keep our locker filled with meat. Now, you've heard of the well that never runs dry. You've heard of a locker that never got empty. I say that to you to remind you that you can depend on God.

Delight In the Lord

One last word. I said there were four: duty, dwell, depend, and in verse 4, delight.

Psalm 37

4Delight thyself also in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

What does it mean to delight in the Lord? In Proverbs, chapter 8, verses 30 and 31, you have God's definition of what it means to delight in the Lord. It talks about the Lord Jesus Christ Who was in the presence of His Father with great delight; and when He decided to come to the earth, He was going to come because “His delights were among the sons of men.” And the word “delight” means, by usage as well as by translation, “to be satisfied” with your relationship. You take delight in a person; you want to be with them. You take delight in a person; you want to do what pleases them. You take delight in a person; you never want to hurt them. You want to delight yourself in the Lord.

God said to me, “I'm going to give you some dessert.” I call this my dessert verse. In the previous verse, He said, “I'll feed you,” but He went a little farther and He said, “If you'll delight yourselves in me, I will give you the desires of your heart.” Now I don't have time to talk about desires becoming your desires because of the Lord's desires; this is a testimony. I took that at it's face value. At different times I would say to the Lord, “Now Lord, you know I don't need this, but oh! I would love to have it.” God, in His grace, answered prayer. I said this one time, and someone said, “Don't you think that's dangerous to tell people that? They might do something foolish.” Well, maybe it's foolish, but that's what I did.

When we bought the property that this church sits on, it was not like it is now. It was a big, old furniture store running from Butternut all the way back to the alley. We had services in it, and we lived in it. We had a bedroom, at first, and a bathroom and a kitchen. Then as the children, came we would find some way to move a partition. And we lived there until the children were older, but all the time we asked God to give us a house, and one day He did, and that's a story within itself. But then I said to God, “God, I'm ready for my dessert.”

Here was this lovely home. Tim and his family are living in part of it, and I'm living in another part of it. It had 15 rooms. It was our family home. Here was this lovely home, anything anybody could want. Central heating system, and in those days that was something. I don't know what people would do without central heating now. I don't know whether they'd know how to light a gas stove, but in those days you didn't have it. If you had it, you really had it. And here I was with central heating, and I said, “Lord, I want a fireplace.” There is no way in the world you can justify a fireplace in the house if you've got central heating. As a matter of fact, it would be more economical not to have it. But I wanted a fireplace, and I wanted it for this reason. I wanted it for my children. Parents, let me pass this on to you as an aside. I wanted my children to enjoy being at home, to enjoy being at home so much that they didn't want to be anywhere else, and they would bring their friends there. And I could just visualize them gathered around that fireplace roasting marshmallows, and so forth, and so I asked God. God supplied everything but that fireplace. Just one thing after another, but I was confident in the Lord. I said to the builders, “You leave a place right here in the front. No point in building it in and then tearing it out again. Leave it.” They put black building paper over that space. Everything was nearly finished and no fireplace. A lot of folk said, “Well, it doesn't look like God is going to just give you everything you want, does it?” I said, “He will.”

One day a lady drove by. Folk had heard about the house. The town was much smaller then, and people knew everybody. A lady drove by there to see the house, because we spoke of it as an answer to prayer. She said to someone who was there. “What's that big old black paper there for?” This man, who is with the Lord now, said, “That's Joe's dessert.” And she said “What do you mean, that's Joe's dessert?” So he told her, “He's praying for a fireplace.” He told me that her eyes filled with tears, and she said, “I've been wondering what God wants me to do about all this. I'm going to build that fireplace.” And he said, “Well, ma'am, I don't know if you can build the one he wants or not, because he had a man in the church draw up plans for it, and he's not just going to have any old fireplace.” She said, “It doesn't matter.”

God gave me my dessert. Now you say, “Isn't it dangerous to talk like you're talking.” No. Remember this. The Holy Spirit said, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done for you.” The only reason God can trust you with a promise like that is if you abide in Him, and His words abide in you, you will not ask anything that will not bring glory to God.


Thank you, precious Lord, once again for this opportunity of sharing Thy wonder and Thy grace. Thou dost know, Lord, who is gathered in this place today with some very real needs. They don't know, Lord, just how these needs are going to be met. I ask Thee today, that Thou will turn their hearts toward You and be confident that You will meet their needs. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

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