The (His)tory / (Hi)story of God’s Dwelling Place

* I highly recommend reading John Walton’s book “The Lost World of Genesis One”

When God created the heavens and the earth, he had made for himself a dwelling place.  This is obvious from within the basic story of Genesis 1 & 2 itself, and becomes even more obvious after a basic exegesis of that text.  “Sabat” is the Hebrew word for rest in Genesis 2:2, and it has nothing to do with “disengagement from responsibilities”.  It means, rather, “engagement without obstacles.”  That God rested on the seventh day of creation means that he could engage his new cosmos with great pleasure, without obstacle or problem.  In other words, the creation, the heavens and the earth, the “good” cosmos of God was the first temple.

This is, after all, what Temple means.  Ancient Hebrews meant exactly this when they wrote the word temple in their literature.  It literally means the “habitation, dwelling place, or resting place of God.”  Again, resting place is not a place of disengagement or laziness.  It is a place of beautiful engagement devoid of obstacles.  This is what God does in his Temple.

But something had happened with his glorious temple.  It now had an obstacle – sin.  And that sin was giving birth to more obstacles, the sum total of which could rightly be named “evil.”  So God, rather than being physically present in his temple of creation (as he was apparently in Genesis 1 – 3), enjoying the favor and fellowship of his beloved “very good” humanity, now had become separated from his temple, his creation, his cosmos.

But God would not abandon his creation, though it was fallen.  So he planted the seed of his presence again.  He called from among the nations his own nation, through Abraham.  And among his people, he had a temple for himself.  God’s presence has returned to his beloved “good” creation, even granting some renewed glimpses of favor and fellowship with his “very good” people.

Thus began the long history of God’s people with their God, the presence of whom was made known in the temple.  Sometimes they were exiled, so they longed for the temple presence of God again.  In the deepest droughts and driest deserts of their temple absence, there arose some prophets to declare God’s Messiah was coming.  The Messiah had two jobs: (1) to drive away the enemies of God, the obstacles and, (2) to rebuild the temple so that God could be present with his people again.

So along came this man. His name was Jesus.  And he claimed to be this Messiah, which meant he would accomplish what God promised through his prophets.  This Jesus would defeat the enemy, remove the obstacles.  And this Jesus would re-establish the presence of God.  The people were excited.  This was good news.

But God’s people, the Jews, just like me and you, just like all people, had in their minds a much smaller vision of glory than God did.  God would not just defeat the enemy of the Jews (and certainly not in the way they hoped he would, as with military might), rather he would defeat the world’s enemy – evil itself.  And God would not just rebuild the temple, the one with bricks and gold and stones, made by human hands, rather he would restore the first temple – all of creation.

So Jesus ushered in God’s reign and rule in a way that is even more present and powerful within this world than the days of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem.  He is tabernacling his presence all over his world.  Again, it doesn’t happen the “way” we hoped it would, and not by the means of the usual weapons we entrust our hopes to.  Rather he is tabernacling his presence where-ever there is surrender and weakness (Please read Marva Dawn’s “Powers, Weakness & the Tabernacling of God).

And this renewed presence of the Creator God is not in buildings made with human hands, but it is like the wind or the breath… it is by the Spirit.  It is difficult, no, impossible to contain.  It is God’s force, at work in the world.  Doing what?  Restoring all things.  Through what means?  Through the continued building up of his kingdom.  Through whom?  Through his Spirit-empowered community/people.  To what end?  To this end:

Then I saw a new heavens and new earth, for the first heaven and first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’ And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.  Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be  their God and they will be my children.” (NRSV, Rev. 21:1-7)

Hitch your trailer to the wagon of the new age, the age to come, where all things are made new.  Work toward that end.  Store up treasures for yourself in that future.  For the old order of things is coming to nothing.  God had a holy intention when he made the heavens and the earth, and though he was interrupted by evil, he will not be denied.  We are going back, back to the restoration of all things. (Acts 3:21)

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