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Sunday, June 01, 2014

The House of God ( A Sermon for the 25th 0f May, 2014 )

During the Age of Shadows, the House of God, or the Temple, was indeed known as a building, made and fashioned by man, but the Promise of the Presence was that of 'a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens' ( II Corinthians 5:1 ). This House, or Temple, would be one 'whose builder and maker is God' ( Hebrews 11:10 ). This House found its fulfillment in the words of Jesus found in John 14:23, 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him'.
Among most or many Christians today, the House of God, much as in that former age, is a structure, an edifice built by the hands of man, with man's glory built into it. Remember how the disciples of Jesus, good Jews that they were, described the Temple and its accompanying buildings, in Mark 13:1, 'Then as He went out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!'. By the time of Jesus, most or many of the Jews had become so hardened that it seemed they had forgotten that these buildings were mere representations of the Reality, the Temple that was about to be revealed in and as the Messiah. Jesus, you will remember, dropped at least one hint, as we read in John 2:19, 'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up'. 
The True House of God is where God has chosen to dwell, not where man wants God to dwell! It seems that many Christians are happy to leave a man-made structure after worship on Sunday ( and maybe Wednesday ), so that they can ply their trade, or go fishing, hunting, watch football, or spend the day on the lake or river, whether it be floating, rafting, or just sitting in the boat drinking beer with 'the guys'. There is nothing wrong with any of these activities, in and of themselves; quite the opposite, in fact, but because some seem to think they can leave God at church, these have become so-called secular activities, and are thus set apart from our sacred worship!
You may have noticed that in the church listings section of our local newspaper, there is only one other congregation here in the area that, instead of just a picture of their associated building, includes their congregation in the picture! This is sad, that even though many still realize that it is the people who are the Church, they are still known by what manner of building they meet in!
We, the People of God, are the House of God! As we saw in our Scripture Reading for today, God promised, 'I will lay your stones with colorful gems, and lay your foundations with sapphires. I will make your pinnacles of rubies, your gates of crystal, and all your walls of precious stones'. This Edenic Promise was echoed in John's description of the New Jerusalem, which we read in Revelation 21:9-21.  
Please turn in your Bibles to Acts chapter 10. I will read the entire account for our Sermon Text today. This account, with which you're all more or less familiar, tells how God chose to build His House. Not with the wisdom of men, which held the exclusivity of Israel after the flesh, but with the Wisdom from Above, which included, as we will see, 'whoever fears Him and works righteousness'. 
Did you ever wonder why God showed Peter a vision of animals to make the point that Gentiles were welcome in the Kingdom? Why didn't He just remind Peter of Abraham's servant Eliezer, or of the mixed multitude who came out of Egypt? The Notable Woman of Shunem, about whom we read in II Kings 4, could have served as a reminder to Peter that the Jews weren't the only ones to benefit from the Blessings of the Covenant. Why animals?
Throughout Scripture, human beings are often represented by animals. Peter knew this very well, being a good Jew! One of the clearest representations in the Hebrew Scriptures is found in Daniel 4, where Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, was changed into a beast, for a season. It is interesting to note here as well, that he bore some of the characteristics of the birds of the heavens! 
In Daniel's prophecy, we also read of his fantastic visions of the Four Kingdoms, several of which are clearly represented by a singular beast, of which we hear echoes in the Revelation of Jesus the Christ. ( these can be found in Daniel 7 & 8 )  The Beast of Revelation was simply a literary tool used to represent men who were in opposition to the reign of Yahweh. There are many references to beasts in this manner throughout Scripture; for example, David wrote, in Psalm 49 ( 20 ), 'A man [ who is ] in honor, yet does not understand, is like the beasts [ that ] perish'. Another way to put this, I believe, would be that without The Breath of Life, or the infusion of the Spirit of God, man is simply a beast, and perishes like all beasts!
We read, in Ezekiel 39:17-20, that Yahweh invited 'the birds of the air' and 'the beasts of the field' to His Great Feast. This Great Feast saw fulfillment in John's vision ( Revelation 19:9-18 ) of The Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Their feasting on the flesh & blood of Israel was significant of the Gentile's participation in the Body & Blood of our Lord ( John 6:53 ). 
Comic strips are probably the most common & familiar way in which we make this comparison in today's culture! You could not count, with all your digits, the comic characters out there who are representative of human society. I mean, do you think that Mickey & Minnie Mouse are actually supposed to bring to our minds thoughts of cute little fuzzy creatures with pea-brains, scurrying all over?! Of all the comic strips, old & new, that we look forward to laughing at in the daily newspaper, how many are dominated by animals that think talk and act, JUST LIKE HUMANS?!
When we begin to understand the Hebrew mindset, and their literary style of writing, the pages of Scripture are opened to us in a way that may have been dark to us before! Understanding that a man without understanding, or illumination by the Holy Spirit is 'like the beasts that perish' helps us to make real sense of the Story and of the Reality of The Breath of Life! It is not this physical existence which is in view in the pages of Scripture, although in a very real sense, application must be made to our physical existence, but rather it is the Reality of the Presence, the Spirit within us, which is the Subject & Object of the Story of Israel; it is how the Son of Man, as Well as the Beasts of the Field, became the Son of God!
Here a just a few passages that show how God would use both man & beast, so to speak, to build His Kingdom & His Temple.
Romans 9:6-9, 'It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son. 
Isaiah 44:24-28, 'Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and He who formed you from the womb: “I am the Lord, who makes all things, Who stretches out the heavens all alone, Who spreads abroad the earth by Myself;   Who frustrates the signs of the babblers, and drives diviners mad; Who turns wise men backward, and makes their knowledge foolishness; Who confirms the word of His servant, and performs the counsel of His messengers; Who says to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be inhabited,’ to the cities of Judah, ‘You shall be built,’ and I will raise up her waste places;  Who says to the deep, ‘Be dry! And I will dry up your rivers’; Who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, and he shall perform all My pleasure, saying to Jerusalem, “You shall be built,” and to the temple, “Your foundation shall be laid.”’' 
Isaiah 45:1-7, '“Thus says the Lord to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held—to subdue nations before him and loose the armor of kings, to open before him the double doors, So that the gates will not be shut: ‘I will go before you and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze and cut the bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the Lord, Who call you by your name, AM the God of Israel. For Jacob My servant’s sake, and Israel My elect, I have even called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known Me.  I am the Lord, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me. I will gird you, though you have not known Me, That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting That there is none besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other;  I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things.’'
Romans 2:28 & 29, 'For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.' 
Paul, as a good Jew, was primarily concerned with his own countrymen, Jews according to the flesh, but we should realize that it was prophesied throughout the Scriptures that this Good News of the Kingdom was not concerned with the Jew alone, at least not those who were born according to the flesh. This Good News was to the Gentile as well, he who could not claim physical descent from Abraham!
Isaiah 66:1, 'Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest?'
Just as King David, a Man of War, thought to build a House for Yahweh, so man, ever since, has thought in his ignorance, to build a House for his God. We need to realize that we ARE that House, as the apostle Paul wrote, 'a dwelling place of God in the Spirit'!
How should we then live?
Because of the Rest that has come upon the People of God, we can and should live without fear, knowing that we are inhabitants of the Kingdom of God, and as His Royal Priests, we have the authority to govern our own lives. As a wise man once said, 'if you wanna be free, be free'!
We are free from the bondage of sin & death! We have become His New Temple! We ARE the House of God!
Let us live as the House of God, as Vessels of that Holy & Heavenly Presence, and let us remember in our living that we carry with us that Essence of Divinity, by which people can clearly see & say,

 'there goes a Son of the Living God; I want what He has!'

Blessings,
Charles Haddon Shank


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