King David: “I will build you a house instead of a tent.”
God: “I have been just fine in a tent. I don’t need a house.”
King David: “But I want to do this for you.”
God: “Fine. Do it, but remember, it is not for me, it's for you.”
Through the narrative of Scripture, we see a strange exchange between the Lord and King David. David has become wildly successful by the grace of God. He is in a majestic palace and looks out and see the Ark of the Covenant, where the Spirit of the Lord remains, in a tent. He thinks to himself, “This is not right. I should not be in a palace while the Lord is in a tent. I will build a temple for the Lord.” The fact that David thought that the Lord needed a temple revealed a misunderstanding of the Lord. And God let Him build the temple, but then gave him very strict instructions on how to build it and what it would look like. There were very details plans for every piece of furniture in how it was made to where it was placed. The Lord let David plan and his son, Solomon, build the temple because the people needed a place to worship.
We need a place of worship. We need a place where we gather together in holy convocation to lift up the name of our Lord and to remember all He has done for us. This is what the Lord established through the Sabbath. The people would come together and shout, sing, pray, and offer sacrifices in thanksgiving to the Lord. But when they became their own nation spread out from one another, they needed a place to come together for worship. The Lord made the Temple the center of all Jewish life. There were daily sacrifices and prayers. Incense had to burn continually. Sacrifices were doubled on the Sabbath. Daily people went to the Temple to pray. God declared that three times a year, every man, no matter where they lived, had to stop their life and travel to Jerusalem for the Festivals of Booths, Weeks, and Unleavened Bread. Jesus, on the 8th day of His life was taken to the Temple to be redeemed as the firstborn. At 12 years of age, he was there listening to the teachers. As He began His ministry, He returned to the Temple and taught from the prophet Isaiah. God didn’t need the Temple, but He made it the focal point of society because the people needed a place to gather and worship. But why?
As a pastor that invites a lot of people to church, I hear this all the time, “I worship all the time. I worship in my car, in the shower, at home watching John Hagee. I worship all the time even though I don’t go to church.” Well, that is good. The Bible says that our own bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. He is always with us. But the Lord could have instructed each home to build their own altar and to offer their own sacrifices and prayers at home. But the Lord did the opposite by declaring the Temple as the only place that offerings would be acceptable to Him. Why? He didn’t need the Temple, but the people did…and still do.
The precursor to the Temple was the Tent of Meeting. When the Lord led the people out of Egypt into the desert, He instructed them on how to construct the Tabernacle, which was a mobile Temple that would be moved as these nomadic people moved. The Lord said this that He would put His name at the Tent of Meeting. What’s in a name? The name represents the person. If you hear the name “Lee,” you might begin to think of someone you know who is named Lee. If you happen to think about me, you will immediately think about my bald head and how much I love Blue Bell ice cream. My name represents who I am. When the Lord said He would put His Name at the Tent of Meeting, He was telling us that He was going to represent Himself through the place known as the Tent of Meeting.
If you remember when Moses would go into the Tent of Meeting, a cloud would come down over the top of it and envelop it. The people understood this as the cloud of the Lord. It also led them in their travels. When the cloud moved, it was time for the people to move. The cloud also gave them protection from the sun of the desert. This cloud represented God’s leading, protection, and love for His people. The Tent of Meeting became the same. When Moses went into the Tent of Meeting, all the people would stand outside of their tent and wait for Moses to return. This place, the imagery and makeup of it, taught the people the character and personality of the Lord. The place helped them to understand who He was. The Temple was the same way.
It was made of wood, but the wood was covered in gold outside and inside. In the same way, the Lord left the golden realms of Heaven to come and live on Earth and die on a piece of wood, then He returned to the Heavens. He was wood covered in gold. Gold had to be purified and so does our heart. The purification takes place through the exchange of life for death. In the Temple, people brought their lambs to sacrifice. When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God.” The sacrifices represented God’s mercy to exact justice on the innocent lamb to release the guilty man. The sacrifices had to be given that the people would understand that God has blessed them first, then they give in thanksgiving for what God has already done. The Lord gives out of love, even before we deserve it, and we give thanks and honor to Him and this process purifies our heart like gold.
When the people came out of Egypt, they didn’t really know Jehovah, the Lord. They worshipped the gods of the Egyptians. Therefore they constructed a golden calf to worship even after they departed Egypt. The Lord was trying to bring them into Canaan, the Promised Land. And the propensity of the people to worship the gods of the people groups around them was a big threat to their relationship with the Lord. The Lord told them that when they entered the Promised Land, they had to go and smash, bash, and destroy every place where the false gods of the Canaanites worshipped. The Lord said this needed to be done so that ‘they don’t worship the Lord their God their way.” In other words, the Lord wanted to make sure that the people did not worship the way the Canaanites did, but use His name. It is true, we do tend to worship as the Canaanites did. We still do it today.
The Canaanites worshiped many gods, but the two greatest were Baal and Asherah. Baal was a male god, the head of all gods. Asherah was his mistress and he had a few. Asherah was the goddess of fertility. The people believed that when Baal and Asherah were sexually intimate in the spirit world, the power of their fertility would cause the Earth to produce great harvests. They also believed they could inspire or motivate Baal and Asherah into sexual behavior by having orgies themselves. They had temple prostitutes who were there for people to come and beg the gods for a good harvest and then participate in unbridled hedonism. Then they expected the gods to do the same and produce great crops for the people.
Well the people of Israel were going to be coming out of a desert. There was no fertility. Everything came from the Lord whether it was manna from Heaven or water coming out of a rock, it was from the Lord. But the Lord knew that if the people went into Canaan, they would easily believe that this fertility, of the likes they had never seen, was because of the religion of the Canaanites. After all, the Lord had been with them, but they had not seen fertility like this in forty years, so they might think that the fertility of the land must be the result of Baal and Asherah.
It was for this reason, the Lord said, “Tear down every place they worshiped, and I will choose a place and set my Name there for my people to worship.” This is the purpose of the church. When the Body of Christ comes together, we are surrounded by things symbolic, the Word of God through Scripture, a strong presence of the Holy Spirit, and a group of people seeking the Lord with all their hearts. These are all interwoven into a place that reveals the character of our God. Specifically, we learn that while we were yet sinners, He died for us. We did not have to perform to get Him to bless us. He blessed us because He loved us. The people did not offer Him sacrifices to get Him to do anything. They did it to give thanks for what He had already done.
When we lose our habit of attending church, we easily fall into worshiping the wrong gods while using the right name. We ask the Lord for something and we may try to go to church some, read the Bible, or listen to Christian music, but then we expect Him to act because of our performance. We may not want to admit it, but when we get angry or frustrated with what God has allowed in our life and what He has prohibited in our life, it reveals an expectation we had that the Lord should do something. And why do we expect it? We expect it because we feel it is owed to us; because we have earned it; because we have performed like a Christian. But when it doesn’t happen, we behave in a way that harms our own spirit and those who may be around us when the frustration is released. We lash out. We deny people our love. We withdraw our love because of our own sadness or offense. When the Canaanites still did not get a good harvest after all of their lewd behavior, they would go further and start throwing their children off cliffs trying to move Baal and Asherah. We may not be throwing people off a cliff, but we are damaging their hearts out of our disappointment and frustrations because we have not received what we feel is right.
The Canaanite people responded to their gods like a prostitute to a pimp. They performed in the hopes that they could earn the good fortune of these gods who did not love them. But the Lord does not want us to worship Him like this where our religious activity is attached to expectations. If we do this, we will tend to go to the Lord when we are desperate and when we think things are going ok, we will not go to Him. It becomes an abusive relationship. God is not our pimp that we must earn protection and provision from. He is our Husband who has loved us with an everlasting love.
The Lord continually invites us to meet with Him, not to get something from Him, but because we love Him, and we know that He loves us. Imagine what your marriage would be like if every time you invited your spouse to sit down with you, to cuddle, to be intimate, they only accepted the invitation when they needed something and when they didn’t, they declined your invitation. This is the religion of the world, the religion of the Canaanites. We must not fall into the trap of responding to the Lord as if He is our pimp.
The Temple of Solomon was a place where the Lord set His name so that the people could understand He was nothing like Baal or Asherah. Our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Jesus referred to His own body as the Temple. Heaven is a Temple. The church is the body of Christ or the Temple. There are many places the Lord chooses to meet with His people and we need all of them. When we neglect any one of these places He has chosen to meet with His people, we will be vulnerable to responding to the right name, but in the wrong way. There is no other god like our God!
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