What a reading! Today was all about Solomon’s dedication of the temple. What struck me was the incredible mystery of having God be specially in a human location. Solomon was no fool. He was aware that “even the skies and the highest heavens cannot contain you, much less this Temple I have built.”
But still, God – the timeless one – finds a way to be specially in some locations.
“Even the skies and the highest heavens cannot contain you … and yet you have and answered my request … this place you promised to live in.”
“And yet” – what an incredible qualifier! The God who lived in timeless state before time existed, creates a universe that obviously cannot contain him. God isn’t “a thing”, a physical object. Any good philosopher or theologian worth his salt knows this. This has been widely known for thousands of years!
But the Christian tradition qualifies the statement. In fact, the entire sacred scripture and tradition is one endless qualification to the God of the philosophers. “AND YET”.
- AND YET He speaks in an audible human voice from a mountain top.
- AND YET he inhabits a cloud.
- AND YET he fills a temple.
- AND YET he takes on flesh.
- AND YET he dies.
This isn’t some obscure point about God. It’s incredibly relevant. Because it means that God can be present in a special way in bulidings that you frequent.
The altar at your church.
The altar in your home.
The eucharist celebration.
And what does it mean? What does it mean that God could be present in your home? It means the highest mystery may be played out each day in your home. God almighty, present there. And that is something you cannot take for granted. Make that location sacred and holy. Set it apart. If you have a candle there, let it be lit only during prayers. Don’t clutter the surface that holds the Bible and an icon. make it sacred. And be careful, if God’s presence is there in a special way – it is the highest honour and the highest responsibility. God doesn’t come fill a place and have no impact.
- Its a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
- God punishes sin where he lives (he chastens the child he loves)
- God holds those around him to a higher standard.
His presence is not something you can take for granted. FAR FROM IT! Did you see what happened when the glory of God filled the temple?
- David spent a life time gathering tens of millions of dollars of treasures for the temple, and then donates tens of millions more on his death bed. (1 Chronicles 29)
- David’s final inspiring speech leads the leaders of Israel to donate over nine figures worth of treasure for the temple.
- Solomon spends 7 years building it. (1 Kings 8)
- Israel gathers and performs over 100,000 sacrifices
What preparations would you take, if monarchy was coming to your home for afternoon tea. Would you spend time preparing? Of course you would. The locations where we dedicate for meetings with God are Holy Places! God’s incredible gift to indwell our hearts, does not obviate the need and existence of holy places.
Note that the wise King does not take God’s presence for granted:
“May the Lord our God be with us as he was with our fathers; may he never forsake us. May he give us the desire to do his will in everything, and ot obey all the commands and instructions he has given our ancestors.” (1Kings 8:57)
Salvation is surely not earned. That’s a fact that is not debated. But, and this is a qualifier that is not as widely used, God’s presence is something you invite. That presence is not equally in every home or every life. Nor is God’s presence equally in every room of every building you enter. Nor is God’s fullness guaranteed to stay there in the presence of unconfessed sin. When hearts cease to search for him in that place.
Is God omnipresent? Yes! But, as I said, the whole tradition of Christian (and Judaism) is one great qualifier to that statement! God does become present in special ways. That presence is a grace, that you must treat with the most intense and reverent respect. Create an altar of worship in your home. A place where your daily prayers are performed. Have a candle. Have an icon. Make it beautiful. Make it the place where you meet God. Do not quench his Spirit. Do not grieve it. Sanctify your homes by how you act towards each other, and don’t muddy those homes with lies, cynicism, pornography, selfishness.
In your home, strive to walk in ways worthy of a child of God, as an ambassador of the king. Don’t be a fighter. Don’t be crass. Don’t be an angry man or woman. Be loving. Be pitiful to your spouse. Be a gracious host. Master your mouth. Think on pure things. When you fail, cry out to God for mercy and forgiveness:”Take not your holy spirit from us.”
Is God present in physical location dedicated to his service in a different way than places he is not? Of course! Why else would have priests come and bless family altars? Does God presence grow in a home as it grows in grace? How could it not? Does 7 years of dedication, of prayers and sacrifices prepare for a time of great filling? Of course it could! We can’t control God like a machine. His presence is a gift he choose to give. But we can prepare our homes, our hearts, our lives. We can sanctify the Lord God in our hearts. We can dedicate locations to be special places of worship. We can dedicate our prayers and worship from a location – and they can come before him as “incense” (in the words of Revelation). Remember, God is said to “inhabit the praises.” We can gather together as living stones and invite God to be present in special ways.
In our daily prayers, when you read what can seem as an innocuous statement, remember the incredible audacity of this request. Remember the great qualifier that must exist for this to make sense. Remember the incredible price that was paid to make this possible. Remember, the urgent privilege and demand such a request makes. Remember the mystery and wonder of such a seemingly oxymoron “the presence of God”:
The Lord be with you
and with your spirit.
What a request! This presence is something that is present in believers. That is a whole different story. But for now, focus on this incredible mystery: our homes and churches can be places where the God of the Universe can be present in unique ways. It is described as “filling” a place. Sanctify God in your mind and hearts. May he be present in your homes. And may you never take that presence for granted.