October 21, 2015

God inhabits His Temple

Ezekiel 41:1–42:20, Revelation 20:7–21:8, Job 38:34–41

God is transcendent, omnipresent and rises above all human description. He cannot be put in a box, yet He decided to create humanity, people who could know Him and fellowship with Him. He does not need us because He is complete in Himself, yet here we are.

Today’s readings are not only connected, but challenge my imagination. The Old Testament devotes many pages to descriptions of temple construction. Ezekiel describes in great detail a temple not yet built:

“Facing the twenty cubits that belonged to the inner court, and facing the pavement that belonged to the outer court, was gallery against gallery in three stories. And before the chambers was a passage inward, ten cubits wide and a hundred cubits long, and their doors were on the north. Now the upper chambers were narrower, for the galleries took more away from them than from the lower and middle chambers of the building. For they were in three stories, and they had no pillars like the pillars of the courts. Thus the upper chambers were set back from the ground more than the lower and the middle ones. And there was a wall outside parallel to the chambers, toward the outer court, opposite the chambers, fifty cubits long.” (Ezekiel 42:3–7)

A proper response to God is awe. This elaborate and beautiful temple was to accentuate that response. This passage does not mention God’s presence, but Ezekiel will later describe the return of God to the sanctuary.

Revelation also focuses on the presence of God, not in the temple but with His people. John’s vision was a new heaven and a new earth. “The first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’” (Revelation 21:1–4)

While God cannot be ‘contained’ He does speak of living with His people. First He revealed Himself inhabiting the OT tabernacle and then the temple. Then He came to earth to reveal Himself in the man, Jesus Christ. Astonishing as that is, God also choose to reveal Himself through His people by dwelling in us through the Holy Spirit. The problem with that is the way I often block vision of Him by making the external container more important than the treasure inside. How foolish.

I’ve been wondering if the OT descriptions of the tabernacle relate to the NT declarations. Some suppose that the tabernacle and temple describe Christ, or that they point to the heavenly dwelling place of God. I wonder if these also point to the church, even to individual Christians. The Bible does not say. It asserts only that Christians are God’s temple.

I am curious about this, but God puts a question to Job that settles my curiosity. He asked, “Who has put wisdom in the inward parts or given understanding to the mind?” (Job 38:36)

Of course the answer is God Himself. If I need to know the answer to my wondering, I can trust God for the wisdom and understanding needed. If He says nothing, then I need to simply trust Him.

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