THE CHURCH GOD'S DWELLING PLACE
By Tim McIlwrath
From the beginning God’s desire was to dwell with man whom He created. In Genesis 3:8-9 it reveals the Almighty God desiring to fellowship with our first parents:
"And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?"
Here God calls out to man whom He had made, and man hides in his sin, which consequently broke that communion with Holy God. However, God’s desire to dwell with man did not diminish. Through the fall of man, Gods eternal redemptive work would be manifest, and the desire of God would be revealed in the person of the Eternal Son, Jesus Christ as the only way that man can again have intimate fellowship with the Almighty. God’s desire to dwell amongst men is fully revealed throughout the gospels as we witness the Saviour, born of a virgin, the God Man, in the midst of fallen man. His purpose, - to die on a tree for the sins of humanity, that through the precious blood of Jesus we could be brought near. God’s desire was to find a resting place, that through the blood, a people, the church, would be the dwelling place through the third person of the trinity. After Christ ascended and was glorified, the will of the Father would be revealed, through a blood-bought-church, baptised in the Holy Ghost. God’s eternal plan was and is a church, an assembly of believers, displaying to a fallen world, Jesus Christ, not in word only but in power and demonstration.
No earthly scheme, no man-made system, no man-centred religious gathering, will ever fill the longing in hearts for God to again dwell and manifest His Glory in His church. NO matter how great or grand, no matter how humble and small, no matter how great the singing, the splendour of our modern sanctuary’s, no matter how great and polished or slick the sermons have become, none of these things fill the longing in hearts for the Glory of God!
Let’s look back and see throughout history God’s desire was to dwell amongst His people. The Old Testament mentions three tabernacles; the first was erected after the sin of the golden calf. It is known as the provisional, or called the ‘Tent of Meeting’
"And Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the congregation. And it came to pass, that every one which sought the LORD went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp. And it came to pass, when Moses went out unto the tabernacle, that all the people rose up, and stood every man at his tent door, and looked after Moses, until he was gone into the tabernacle. And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the LORD talked with Moses. And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door. And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle."
Gods desire was to be in the midst, but God’s people had turned aside quickly out of the way that God commanded them. They erected a ‘Golden Calf’ and cried “These be our gods” they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.
But God was not in the midst. How many Golden Calves are erected in the church today? How many Golden Calves are in our lives? Some are so blatant and obvious but many have slipped in unawares. And we cry out for revival, we cry out for the power of God, we long for Him to come, and He cannot, because in the midst is the great sin of the Golden Calf. A simple tent was erected, a meeting place, outside the camp, reminding us of Calvary, God came down and met Moses there, Israel looked on from their own tent doors, God’s desire manifested to dwell with man. How long will we stand at our tent doors and gaze at His Glory? God desires to fill us with His Glory!
Heb.13:12-13 "Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.
But greater was still to come!
God’s desire was manifested again through the Sinaitic Tabernacle; in Exodus chapters 35-39 we see the preparation and the provision made under instructions given to Moses by God. The tabernacle proper, fully functioning after the pattern, fully fitted out, and furnished. In Christ every provision has been made for the dwelling place of God. Where Jesus is, the Holy Spirit will descend like a dove and rest in that place.
Christ finished the work. The Holy Spirit came down at Pentecost and filled all.
"…So Moses finished the work. Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys: But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys."
This tabernacle moved from outside the camp to the very centre of it. God’s desire for a dwelling place is evident in this move. He desired to be at the heart and centre of every day life of Israel. Their lives would revolve around Him, He would be the centre, He was not part of their lives but that God was their life!
But greater was still to come!
The Davidic Tabernacle would eventually become a permanent structure. The Davidic Tabernacle was specifically erected to accommodate the Ark of the Covenant. A type of the Lord Jesus Christ. David was aware, that without the ark being absolutely central in the life of Israel, their enemies would overcome them. Every preparation must be made for Jesus to take His place. King of our lives. The enemy fears one thing, Jesus Christ manifested by the Holy Ghost through the church.
"And David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals. And when they came to Nachon's threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God. And David was displeased, because the LORD had made a breach upon Uzzah: and he called the name of the place Perez-uzzah to this day. And David was afraid of the LORD that day, and said, How shall the ark of the LORD come to me? So David would not remove the ark of the LORD unto him into the city of David: but David carried it aside into the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. And the ark of the LORD continued in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months: and the LORD blessed Obed-edom, and all his household. And it was told king David, saying, The LORD hath blessed the house of Obed-edom, and all that pertaineth unto him, because of the ark of God. So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the city of David with gladness. And it was so, that when they that bare the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed oxen and fatlings. And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet. And as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal Saul's daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart. And they brought in the ark of the LORD, and set it in his place, in the midst of the tabernacle that David had pitched for it: and David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD."
Religion despises a Holy Ghost filled church, but God desires to dwell in the midst of His people. A noise came out of Israel that day that even the Philstines knew, that the Almighty was in the midst of Israel. Surely, again, we need nothing more, or nothing less, at all cost, His manifest presence among us, God dwelling in the midst!
But Greater was still to come!
Solomon would erect a temple, a permanent structure, The House of God, taking seven and half years to build. His father David received the plans and Solomon would build this House for God to dwell in.
Solomon on his knees, before the great altar, with his hands raised to heaven prayed and when he finished God’s desire was manifested again-
"Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the house. And the priests could not enter into the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD's house. And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the LORD upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever."
Throughout all generations God gave a promise to His people-
2 Chron.7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
But greater was still to come!
We know, that throughout the years that followed, as God’s people turned from Him and disobeyed His Word, terrible sufferings came to Israel, their enemies were raised up and plundered the temple, the kingdom was divided, the Chaldeans would eventually destroy the temple, Israel would be led away captive. Prophets cried out, only to be stoned and sawn asunder. Some wept when they remembered Zion. Babylon never quenched the longing for the Glory of God. The world never quenches the desire for the Glory, yet God’s desire still burned throughout the generations, through the prophet Jeremiah, God promised to visit again!
God’s eternal redemptive plan would be revealed through the prophet John, after 400 years of silence, a voice crying in the wilderness. God’s desire for a dwelling with man was manifested through the birth of Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten.
Greater than the tent of meeting, the provisional tabernacle, the Davidic Tabernacle, the Temple which Solomon built and the various structures that followed, was when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son!
Once and for all, Christ died, that we might have fellowship with our Heavenly Father. Words cannot express and convey the awful price that was paid. God’s desire for a dwelling place, with man, whom He loved.
The wonder of it all is the church. The dwelling place of God. Vessels cleansed by the blood and filled with the Holy Spirit. God’s desire and plan unfolded. Through the death and resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, something awesome would happen.
Luke 24:49 "And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high."
God’s desire for a dwelling place in the midst of His people.
Acts 2:1-4 "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."
Whatever ‘Golden Calf’ whatever sin, whatever in this modern world, full of religion has hindered the Holy Ghost, surely we can see, that greater than our desire is God’s desire to be in the midst. Let us get right with God.
Isa.66:1 "Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?"
2 Chron.7:14 "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."