A Time To BuildExodus 25:8: “And let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.”
God tells Moses to tell the people to “build a temple”. Some of you may say that is “Old Testament” (some of you refer to it as “Old Covenant”) thinking. You will argue, that in the New Testament (New Covenant) Jesus was the “temple”. And today, you will continue to press, that “we who believe” are ourselves the temples as God comes to dwell “in” us. Fair enough; I buy your arguments. We cannot, however, get around the fact that here in our passage God wants a sanctuary to be built or that much of the Old Testament is about the physical “temple” and that a portion of the life of Christ in the New Testament involves the “temple”. So, how do we reconcile our divergent thoughts concerning the value of a physical temple, sanctuary, or church today?
I would suggest that the answer lies in the rest of verse 8. God wanted them to build and have a temple for Him. And He wanted that temple, for Himself, in order that He “may dwell among them.” This request of God’s was as much all about us as it was all about Him. God knows His people. He knows our need for community and for corporate worship. He loves us and wants us to succeed. He knows we need the arms of others to do so. It is in the church that we can get that support.
God’s purpose in this request of His people reminds me of a grandfather who when asked what he wanted for Christmas, replied, “I would like us to get together regularly not just Christmas; to enjoy each others company, learning to rely on each other when life becomes a challenge; to have a safe place to go to and a welcoming community.” What he wanted was ultimately what his children and grandchildren needed. That’s love.
Unfortunately, though, when it comes to our churches, many of us today focus on the fact that “we built it; it’s ours”. And it turns out, as evidenced by our behavior, we didn’t build it “for Him” at all, but rather for us. And when He comes to dwell there, He is only allowed in to watch, not to participate.
And perhaps, from a human perspective, under those circumstances, it would be best if we never had a temple. But that is not God’s preferred choice for us. It’s a cop-out. God uses the church in its full spiritual sense to accomplish His work on earth and most often that work of helps to others is facilitated through the physical aspect of the church building. He wants a physical temple, for Him, to dwell among us.
And in no way am I, by saying this, implying that He does not dwell “in” us and that we are the “temple of God” – for He does and we are. What I am suggesting here is that we should not throw out the baby with the bathwater. If we believe God does not change, then we must believe His desires do not change either. The problems with the physical church and its buildings today are not they are no longer necessary, but rather that we’ve done a poor job of utilizing them for God and His Kingdom. And as humans, we find it easier to eliminate the problem (by getting rid of the church), rather than fix the problem, which often involves fixing us. But let’s not try to re-engineer God’s desires for us.
If nothing else, I pray you will see your church differently the next time you are in it. Seek God at your church, for He is there as well.
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