Category Archives: God

Mercy

O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath. (Psalm 6:1 ESV)

Scripture is filled with mystery. Perhaps the greatest spiritual mystery given us in Scripture is the eternal fact that God judicially covered the sins committed by His people against Him with the righteousness of His Son. How does God do this? Everything we do is bent by sin, the desire to control and be over God. We cannot know how He does what He does. We can know that He has covered us with Jesus’ righteousness because He tells us He has. Still, it does not make sense to our finite minds and corrupted logic.

This mystery captures the essence of God and of His Son. God reveals to us what He has done throughout Scripture. Isaiah tells us “he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed”  (Isaiah 53:5 ESV). Paul continues Isaiah’s prophecy by declaring, “for our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV). Jesus is the eternal Servant and ultimate Authority. The mystery of following Him encompasses our whole lives, our motivations, our words, our thinking and feelings. Jesus came in the likeness of human flesh (see Philippians 2:7-8) to ransom, which means to redeem and to liberate from a criminal sentence for crimes committed against God.

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28 ESV; see Mark 10:43-45)

In return for His righteousness we are made new and set apart for service and to have an intimate relationship with God.

This mystery is not cheap. God covering us with Jesus’ righteousness means God laid upon Him our sin. There are many illustrations of this truth but no one can know the depth of the cost and agony experienced by Jesus. We can imagine but must be careful in our imaginations. For we, as long as we are in this world, in this flesh, assaulted by the Deceiver, must rely upon the work of the Holy Spirit to know truth.

In the first verse of Psalm 6 we see a man begging for mercy. Our assumption is God’s wrath is justly exercised against the speaker because of their transgressions against His law and person. The writer of the Psalm was a sinful man. Yet, the writer of the Psalm is speaking for Jesus, who did not sin and lives in God’s eternal blessing. How then can Jesus beg for mercy? When God laid upon Him our sin He felt the full wrath of God. 

Throughout His life and ministry, Jesus set His face to go to Jerusalem, knowing His executioners awaited Him. He did not deviate from His course or linger in places to avoid facing His responsibility. He ministered for many years before His final journey to Jerusalem. His intent was purposeful, drawing people to Himself and teaching them the meaning of citizenship in God’s eternal kingdom. Then, when the time was right, according to the eternal will of God, He faced His death, offering to God His body, the sacrifice for our sin.

Read the words of Psalm 6:1 as coming from a righteous Man bearing the unrighteousness of all men. Rebuke means to decide, reason, chide and reprove, to judge, convince and convict. Discipline means to chasten, admonish and correct, to teach. Anger means nose or nostril, or face, and wrath means fever, heat, burning rage. God’s face reflects His anger and judgment toward sin, which He hates. “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.”  (Psalm 5:4-5 ESV). Those who sin, who cannot stand before Him, are driven from His presence. God’s anger toward sin is characterized as a snorting, burning rage, justly executed against those who rebel against Him.

Jesus did not rebel against God but felt and experienced God rage against sin. Jesus is the only righteous person who has ever lived, refusing to walk in the way of the world, accept the lies of the Deceiver, or allow His own flesh to tempt Him and move Him to rebellion. Hanging on the cross, He endured the just wrath of God against sin. “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Matthew 27:46 ESV; see Mark 15:34). Jesus was for a brief time, forsaken by God. This does not mean Jesus sinned, for He could not sin. Jesus is God in the flesh.

Jesus’ purpose for coming as a man was to take upon Himself the sins of man to bring people back into relationship with God. Peter also declares his understanding of why Messiah came as a man. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed”  (1 Peter 2:24 ESV). 

When Jesus took upon Himself our sin, He was, is and will always remain, sinless. He is eternally righteous. God, when He saw Jesus on the cross, saw His Son covered with our sin. Jesus bore the burden of the sentence for sin. Conversely, when God looks at the Christian, those who are in Christ, He sees the blood of Christ covering them, hiding the obvious sin they carry in their whole being. We are no more righteous than He is a sinner. What God declares He sees, because of the sacrifice of His Son, is Christ’s righteousness covering us as a cloak, a shield, surrounding us as a hedge and impenetrable wall, a refuge. He leaves us in this world to prepare us for eternity. While in the world, those who are His are safely held for eternity.

Advertisements

COVERED

For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield. (Psalm 5:12 ESV)

God blesses the righteous. In Psalm 1, God blesses a righteous man. “Blessed is the man who walks not …”  (Psalm 1:1 ESV). This opening statement of the Psalms points to the One Man who has never done anything wicked or sinful. There is only One. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. If anyone else is righteous before God it is because they are found in Christ. They take refuge in Him. God blesses those in Christ because He blessed Christ and what happens to the Son of God happens to those in Him. “Therefore, the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:5-6 ESV).

How does God bless the Righteous One and those found righteous in Him? He will cover Him, which means to surround and to give a crown. Not only does God protect Him, spreading His “protection over them” (Psalm 5:11), those in Christ, but He gives Him a crown, seating Him in Zion. “As for men, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill”  (Psalm 2:6 ESV).Where God’s King is, so are His citizens.

Favor  is goodwill, acceptance, delight and pleasure. A shield  is a buckler and can also mean something piercing, a hook or barb. A shield is a defensive weapon designed to stop any attack without qualification. God does not even allow an attack to occur but hooks those who hate Him and leads them away from His presence.

God will allow nothing into eternity that conflicts with His ultimate will and purpose. His presence is enough to keep all protected from sin, from the Deceiver, and the world that draws people away from Him. There is no danger in His presence. There is peace and rest given to all whom he draws to Himself. Those found in Christ are protected and secure in their being and place before Him.

Throughout Jesus’ last week, after He entered the Temple and violently drove out those who desecrated His Father’s house, He challenged and was challenged by the religious leaders. They questioned Him, His authority, and His reason for acting violently against them. He challenged them, telling them parables meant to convict and draw out their sin so they might see their sin and repent. Just before launching into a long, multi-pronged accusation of them, Jesus asks them a simple question. Whose son is the Christ? “Jesus asked them a question, saying, ‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?  They said to him, ‘The son of David’” (Matthew 22:41-42 ESV). They rightly answered. Messiah, the anointed One, the Son of God, known as Christ, is a descendant from the lineage of King David. He is a Man, as God originally created Man, without sin and with the character and personality of a servant, as Adam was created. 

Jesus then asks them other questions. “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him, Lord, saying, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” (Matthew 22:43-45; see Psalm 110:1, Acts 2:34-35, Hebrews 1:13). How can Messiah be a son of a sinful man? How can Messiah be a man at all?

They were confounded. “And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions”(Matthew 22:46 ESV). They challenged God to debate. They sought to impose their traditions and will upon Him whom they are designed to serve. They refused to accept the words and works of the Man standing before them aware of the miracles He had performed, doing that which only God could do. Messiah was standing before them and they rejected Him.

David wrote the Psalms as prophecies of Messiah, of Christ. David’s heart reflected the thinking of the heart of Jesus. Though they hated Him and put Him to death, He fulfilled God’s ultimate, eternal purpose, and lives, reigning in eternity over His kingdom. His citizens are with Him. God’s blessings are on them because of Jesus. His blood covers them with His righteousness, protecting them. Christ’s blood is the only defense against sin, stronger than any fortress, impenetrable, a shield of God’s favor and protection.

Refuge

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them,  that those who love your name may exult in you. (Psalm 5:11 ESV)

When threatened people stand and fight, shake in fear, paralyzed and unable to move, or flee to a protected place. A refuge  is a trusted place where those who belong to God flee from danger, knowing His protection is guaranteed. However, God’s refuge is not a physical place. He does not take people out of the world when they are in danger. Those who are in Christ are hidden in His Son, filled with His Spirit, and guaranteed eternal life. God blesses those in Christ because He blesses Christ, the only One who lived a full life in the flesh and never sinned. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers” (Psalm 1:1 ESV). Those in Christ are in God’s refuge. “Blessed are all who take refuge in him”  (Psalm 2:12 ESV).

Finding refuge in God through Christ brings eternal joy, even when surrounded by temporal chaos. They not only rejoice, which is to make glad, but they ever sing for joyEver  means from ancient times into eternity, indefinite and unending. To sing for joy means to give a ringing cry out of perpetual gladness. Those who face the wrath of the world because of their relationship with God in Christ will endure persecution for righteousness’ sake. 

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.   (Matthew 5:10-12 ESV)

Living in the world and facing persecution does not feel like having God’s protection. Trust, which is part of the description of a refuge, is an emotional response to the sure promises of God and integral to a healthy, whole faith. He has promised those who are His eternity with Him, where there is no sin. “Evil may not dwell with you” (Psalm 5:4 ESV). In the refuge of His eternal presence is His protection, a hedge or fence, woven together, strong beyond comprehension. Nothing that is not of God gets through this barrier. “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory”  (Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV).

God protects those who love Him. We often do not see His protection. When He allows us, those who are His, to feel the brunt of persecution for righteousness’ sake, it may seem He has withdrawn His refuge and abandoned us to the world. Yet, being in Christ means that what happens to Christ happens to us, and what happens to us happens to Christ. Jesus endured the cross for our sake and bids us take up our cross, which is, in reality, His cross, and follow Him. “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27 ESV). Our identity with Christ is complete. Our obedience to God is a natural result of our being in Christ. He who raised Christ from the dead will also raise us and bring us into eternity with Him. Nothing this world can do will separate us from Him.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?   (Romans 9:31-35 ESV)

When Jesus entered Jerusalem on His way to cleansing the Temple, a crowd of people filled with children sang out “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9 ESV). Some Pharisees standing there told Jesus to rebuke His disciples and stop them from singing out to Him. “He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out’” (Luke 19:40 ESV). After driving out the people desecrating His Father’s House, the children continued to sing “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Matthew 21:15 ESV), causing the indignation of the chief priests. Those who love God cannot help but sing out in joy. They exult in Him, which is to give glory, rejoice, act triumphantly, and take the greatest pride. He is everything. 

Sentencing

Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out,(Psalm 5:10 ESV)

When Jesus entered Jerusalem the last week of His earthly ministry, He went to the Temple, His Father’s house, and cleared away the vendors and moneychangers. He disrupted Annas’ Bazaar, violently driving them from the Temple grounds. In the Gospel of John, at the beginning of His ministry when He did the same, He accused the authorities of turning His Father’s house into a market. “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade”  (John 2:16 ESV). Now, the second time, He accuses them of thievery. They are stealing from the people and from God.“It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers” (Matthew 21:13 ESV; see Mark 11:17, Luke 19:46). Jesus acts angry.

Following this scene, Jesus confronts and is confronted by the spiritual leaders of Israel, who are leading the people away from God, not toward Him. Yet, the people come to Him, especially those who need healing. Children cried out, exclaiming over Him.

And the blind and the lame came to him in the Temple, and he healed them.

But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the Temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” 

And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there. (Matthew 21:14-17 ESV).

The next day, Jesus again entered the Temple. There is no indication Annas’ Bazaar was still there. Immediately, the chief priest challenged and questioned Jesus’ authority. Jesus asked them about John’s baptism.“The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” (Matthew 21:25 ESV). They refused to answer. “And they discussed it among themselves, saying, ‘If we say, “From heaven,” he will say to us, “Why then did you not believe him?” But if we say, “From man,” we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.’” (Matthew 21:25-26 ESV). They were not interested in knowing the truth. All they wanted was political power. “For there is no truth in their mouth” (Psalm 5:9 ESV).

Jesus confronts them and their rebellion using two parables. “When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet” (Matthew 21:45-46 ESV). Jesus used His stories to convict them of their guilt and wrongdoing.

Jesus’ first parable was of the two sons. A father had two sons. He told them both to work in their vineyard. One son declared he would, but did not. The other son said he would not work, but went and worked. One son claimed obedience but lied. The other son rebelled but then obeyed. The Father is God. The sons are the children of God. 

Which of the two did the will of his father?” 

They said, “The first.” 

Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.   (Matthew 21:31-32 ESV)

Jesus second parable is of the tenants of a master who built a winepress then traveled to a distant country. The tenants mutinied against him, killing the servants of the master sent to gather the profits of the winepress. The master sent his son, whom they also killed. They believed by killing the son they would then be rid of the master and have full control of the winepress. The Master is God. The tenants are the people of God. The servants are the prophets of God and the son is Jesus.

When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”

They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”  (Matthew 21:40-41 ESV)

Their own words condemn them. “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits”  (Matthew 21:43 ESV). They will bear their own guilt. They will fall by their own counsel. They rebel and sin against God and He will cast them from His presence.

Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. (Psalm 5:10 ESV)

Rebellion Judged

Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. (Psalm 5:10 ESV)

God does not tolerate rebellion against His will. From Adam and Eve to the present and into the future until time ends, people mutiny against God. Those who strive against Him, who disobey His will, are finally separated from Him. God told Adam to not eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil “for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17 ESV). God actually said, “die die.”  Eat this fruit and you will die spiritually after you die physically. Spiritual death is separation from Him who gives spiritual life, while continuing to exist. To exist eternally without spiritual nourishment is hell. Psalm 5 is God warning people of the consequences of rebelling against Him.

People do not commit just one sin. Those who are enslaved to sin can only sin. Everything they do springs from the thinking of their hearts, which is corrupted. Every thought, emotion and motivation is against God. Jesus tells those who would believe in Him the truth about sin and salvation. Everyone sins because it is their nature and are therefore under the judgment and wrath of God. In Jesus, God sets people free from the eternal consequences of sin. “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34-36 ESV). Instead of accepting freedom from sin people chose continued bondage.

One sin brings separation from God. One act of righteousness brings God’s grace and forgiveness to all. “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men”  (Romans 5:18 ESV; see Romans 5:12-21). After there is an understanding of what God has done, and God’s grace is rejected, only one sin is enough to separate the unrepentant sinner from God.

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. (Hebrews 6:4-6 ESV)

God gives everyone His image because He wants a relationship with everyone. It is the image of God, through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, which draws people toward God, commanding them to turn away from sin. Those who reject the prompting of the Holy Spirit disobey the command of God. They continue to mutiny and fight against God.

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.  (Matthew 12:30-21 ESV; see also Mark 3:28-29, Luke 12:8-10, 1 John 5:15-16).

God does not ask for obedience, begging those who are His by creation to stop sinning and be holy. He commands obedience. God never ask any to obey. He expects obedience because He is God. For any to continue to rebel, after knowing what God expects and demands, is an in-His-face act of insubordination.

People are without excuse in their rebellion. Those who are enslaved by sin are given the opportunity of freedom and choose continued slavery. It is the image of God in each person that is the catalyst for change. This change is ignited by the Holy Spirit, who wants relationship, who shows all their place before God. Choosing sin over God means separation from God.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:18-21 ESV)

The Narrow and Straight

Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.(Psalm 5:8 ESV)

There is a spiritual pathway that leads to God’s Kingdom. It is narrow, sometimes meandering, straight in other places, steep in some, and impossible to traverse without the leading and direction of the Holy Spirit. People start their journey along this route carrying everything they deem valuable. As they walk, they lose stuff that has no eternal value. At the end of the path is a gate, small and narrow which allows only the traveller called by God to enter. They may carry nothing through that gate which belongs in the world. Their old self cannot enter, either. 

“Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:23-24 ESV; see Mark 10:24-25, Luke 18:24-25)

In the world is a highway leading away from God. It is fast and wide, and accommodating to all. As people move along this freeway they pickup stuff, adding to their burden, refusing to abandon anything they deem valuable and necessary to their life. Surrounded by many, who jostle and fight for position, they move en mass toward anything that is not God. At the end of the road is a gate, wide and inviting, going to a place where God cannot be known by any who enter. 

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”(Matthew 7:13-14 ESV)

Jesus cleared the Temple at the beginning of His ministry and then again just before His crucifixion and resurrection. He made Himself known, angering the Jewish religious leaders because of His brazen actions and outrageous claims. They were His enemies, foes and rivals, opponents and antagonists. They were against Him in everything He did. It was common knowledge among the people of Jerusalem that the religious leaders wanted to murder Jesus. “Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, ‘Is not this the man whom they seek to kill?’”  (John 7:25 ESV). Everything Jesus did rankled and irritated those who hated Him. Even when Jesus healed sick and maimed people, they became enraged.

Surrounded by such malevolence, Jesus sought God’s will. He prayed for God’s righteousness. This Psalm speaks to Jesus’ desire to know God under the harshest circumstance. “Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me” (Psalm 5:8 ESV). To lead, or to be led, means to be guided, to bring to a place with purposeful intent. Righteousness is the rule of law of the King and Sovereign, God’s decrees founded on God’s eternally pure character. Straight means level and smooth, to be perfectly right according to law, directed without mistake or purposeful deceit. Before me means face, presence, person, in front of, as in leading by the hand someone who cannot lead themselves. Jesus is praying that God prepare the way, clear the obstacles which would trip or hinder, and direct His words, actions and motivations, to ultimately bring Him before God, the destination of every spiritual journey.

One of the major themes of the Psalms is the confrontation of those who are righteous against those who are unrighteous. God blesses the man, Jesus Christ, and all who take refuge in Him, because He, and they, do not walk “in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers”   (Psalm 1:1 ESV). His enemies conspire against Him, teaching and training those under their authority to actively rebel against God. They surround Him. But He is not afraid, even when the intent of His enemies is His murder. “I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around” (Psalm 3:6 ESV). He challenges them in the thinking of their hearts. “O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?” (Psalm 4:2 ESV). His resurrection is the ultimate victory over their rebellion. “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled” (Psalm 2:11-12 ESV).

Jesus does not just pray this for Himself but for all who are identified with Him. “Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:12 ESV). Those who trust Him, that He will deliver what He has promised, are hidden in Him. What happens to Him happens to them. Where He goes they are. God’s house is in eternity. As Jesus walks toward God’s house, a spiritual path, those who are in Him go with Him into God’s presence. God gave Jesus the purpose and task of drawing those who love Him into His life-giving presence. We carry nothing with us but, for a short time, His cross, which is our cross.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?  (Luke 9:23-25 ESV)

Entering God’s House

But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy Temple in the fear of you. (Psalm 5:7 ESV)

We enter God’s house only because He draws us to Himself.

God built a house, a Temple and a place where His people would worship Him, in Jerusalem, the City of David. Solomon spent seven years building the Temple (see 2 Kings 6:38). Jesus went to a Temple built by Herod the Great, still under construction after 46 years (John 2:20). Solomon’s Temple was destroyed in 586 BC and its contents carried off to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. God used Nebuchadnezzar to punish His people because of their sin, as He continuously warned them He would do. In AD 70, Herod’s Temple was destroyed by Titus, who attacked Jerusalem because of the rebellion of the Jewish nation against Rome. 

God is not contained in a physical place. He does not live in a physical house. Solomon knew this as he dedicated the Temple he built to God.“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27 ESV). God created the heavens and the earth. He transcends heaven, filling the earth with Himself, holding the universe in His hand.“Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD”(Jeremiah 23:24 ESV). We build places of worship for ourselves. Our purpose is to know God intimately, the reason He created us in His image. God wants us to worship and know Him.

Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?  All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”(Isaiah 66:1-2 ESV)

Abundance means multitude and greatness. Steadfast love means goodness, kindness and faithfulness. Fear is not terror caused by an eminently dangerous circumstance but the greatest respect, reverence and piety brought on by the awesome and terrifying presence of God. To bow down is to worship and prostrate oneself before God. God draws the worshipper into His presence because of His eternal love for the person created in His image. In response, the individual offers true worship to the God of the universe with an intimate understanding and knowledge of Him who is above all.

Jesus entered the Temple at the beginning of His ministry and violently drove away those who desecrated the House of God. He challenged those given the responsibility to lead God’s people in truthful worship. He knew the Temple would be destroyed. Herod’s Temple was a magnificent structure, which impressed all who saw and entered. 

“Jesus left the Temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the Temple. But he answered them, ‘You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.’”(Matthew 24:1-2 ESV)

 God’s Temple is the body of Christ, which Jesus said they would destroy and He would raise again in three days.“He was speaking about the Temple of his body”(John 2:21 ESV). He is the eternal Temple of God built with the living stones of those who belong to Him. 

“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”(1 Peter 2:4-5 ESV)

God’s house is in eternity. Jesus did not come to preserve a sinful world, to fix it or make it better. He came to draw to Himself, into His presence for eternity, “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6 ESV), who have abandoned themselves to Him.“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24 ESV).

We are surrounded in the world by God’s enemies. We are separated from the world for Him who created the world, while still living in the world. We are here as a witness to them of the love God has for them, shown through the life, death and resurrection of His Son. Also, He is preparing us for eternity with Him. Our place is both as a witness in a courtroom and a student in a classroom.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.(1 Peter 2:9-12 ESV)