Lord, I love the house in which you dwell and the place where your glory abides. Psalm 26:8 If we expand on the word “dwell” this passage of Psalm might read something like this; Lord, I love the house in which you live, think, speak and linger. The house becomes a place of activity in constant motion, refreshing itself throughout time as it lives to love God and neighbor as self, thinks on the true, noble and pure, speaks truth and holds to the presence of being. It is a house that lingers because of the joy, pleasure and glory of being connected to its builder, strengthened by its faith and justified by its works.
…just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead. James 2:14-26
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 1Corinthians 3:16
There is a really good story that comes out of WWII Poland, about a man who was well known for his care and compassion for others and who was deeply loved because of his radical hospitality to villagers and strangers. When the man died, the villagers prepared his body for burial and proceeded to the village church where they asked the Priest to perform the burial service and to bury the man in the church cemetery. The priest, who also knew and loved the man, agreed to conduct the funeral service – but despite many pleas from the villagers, he could not bury the man inside the hallowed ground of the church cemetery because he was not baptized.
Insisting that the rules of the faith were clear and could be not be broken, the priest came up with what he thought was a compromise. He would bury him on church land but just beyond the fenced consecrated grounds of the cemetery. During the night after the grave had been filled and the stone placed, the fence that surrounded the cemetery had been moved by some of the villagers – so that it now took in the grave in which the man had been buried.
We have to be very careful that we don’t build the kind of house that David wanted to build based on the self-perceived elevation of his own glory, or the kind of house that the physical church in this small village became. I believe that God did not intend for his presence to be forever ruled by “walls” but rather guided by the heart. The house that God wants us to build is our relationship with him, so that others may see and have access to this household of faith through his son Jesus Christ, the cornerstone of God’s covenant of promises and faithfulness. Just as the villagers expanded the fence, which enclosed hallowed ground to include the grave of the man whom they loved – so God, through Christ, expands the boundaries to include those who believe in him. We now are the dwelling place for God’s presence, a house without walls, not a house built to divide, judge or exclude, but a house which reconciles us to God and to one another.
2 Samuel 7:1-14a I will raise up your offspring after you,… and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
Psalm 89:20-37 I will not break my covenant, nor change what has gone out of my lips. His line shall endure forever…It shall stand fast for evermore…
Ephesians 2:111-22 …remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel…But now in Christ Jesus …have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall…
We know that King David is anointed by God in every physical way, yet he becomes a bit over- zealous in his rise to the throne, and in 2 Samuel we find he is now wanting to build a house for the ark of God which at the time merely dwelled in a tent. David didn’t want to build any house but a house of cedar as elaborate as his won. Cedar is an aromatic wood that is found in varieties all around the world. Perhaps primarily due to its fragrance, cedar was known to the ancient Israelites in their places and practices of worship. Apparently, this was David’s idea of bringing God’s standard of living up to meet his own. What I find amusing and which brings me back to my own self-perceived rise, was God’s “child please!” response to David’s newly self-proclaimed status and place in God’s plan for his people. Perhaps David believed, that he somehow had been elevated to a place of glory that was higher than God! I believe this is one of David’s first real encounters with the physical, which can be seen (a beautiful dwelling place), challenging the spirit of God (measure of faith) that was within him. I believe what David and we particularly today, quickly forget, is that the tabernacle and tent are physical reminders of God’s presence. His spirit makes its dwelling place in the heart of those who believe in him as he did with David, and us also, who in turn responds according to God’s spirit. Can you imagine the Israelites carrying around a house of cedar? Is it even possible for us today to build walls to hold the spirit of God?