“And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.”
Yesterday morning during our worship service, there was an eight-year-old girl who wrote a checklist of the things she was going to do that day. With little checkboxes next to each item, she had written:
• Sunday School
And at the bottom of her list was a big heart with a cross in the middle of it. When I saw this list, I had to smile. What a way to begin the day, in the sanctuary of God! Of course, that got me to thinking about what it means to be in God’s sanctuary–and what it means to BE a sanctuary for God’s Holy Spirit.
In the book of Exodus, once the Israelites had been freed from Egypt and were on their way to the Promised Land, they stopped in Sinai and Moses received the tablets of the Law. Once Moses and the elders of Israel had confirmed their commitment to follow the ways of God, then the Lord called Moses up to the mountain to instruct him in how to construct the ark of the testimony, the tabernacle, and the instruments of sacrifice and worship. And this Lord God–whose glory was “like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel”–He instructed them to make Him a sanctuary–Hebrew “miqdâsh,” a holy or consecrated place–so that He might dwell among them.
What a comfort that must have been for the Israelites, to know that this mighty God who had brought them out of Egypt would choose to dwell among them, to always be present with them. And as they went forth on their journeys, His presence went before them as a cloud of smoke or a pillar of fire, to guide them on their way. (Exodus 13:21-22) Everywhere they went, when they were faithful and when they called upon the name of the Lord, then He was with them, defeating their enemies and opening the way for them to possess that which He had declared for them. Because they had given God a place in their camp set aside only for Him, He was ever in their midst, setting them aside from all the peoples around them and making them His chosen race.
Because the Israelites placed the sanctuary of God in their midst, they could call on Him at any time. And once the temple had been built in Jerusalem to house the ark of the testimony, then they could turn to that place and call on the name of the Lord, for He continued to dwell in their midst. But when they departed from Him and profaned the sanctuary of God, when the Israelites gave themselves up to other gods and fleshly pursuits, then He gave them over to the result of their sin: trouble, warfare, slavery, and death.
1 A Psalm of David When He Was in the Wilderness of Judah.
O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.
2 So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.
Like my young friend at church, David sought God in His sanctuary early in the morning, starting his day with worship and praise for the Lord who alone is mighty to save. David knew that God alone would slake his thirst for salvation, that God alone could redeem him from the hand of his enemies, that God alone is worthy of all praise and honor and glory.
25 “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you.
26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.
27 “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
28 “You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I.”
With the coming of Christ, something new was given to us, a new way for God to dwell among us. First, of course, was “Emmanuel”–Jesus Himself, literally “God with us.” For a short span of time, God physically dwelt among the people of Judea and Galilee, ministering and teaching, healing and saving the lost, and discipling men who would continue His work. But Jesus’ earthly ministry was always meant to be temporary, so that the Holy Spirit could come and dwell with us.
24 “For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land.
25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.
26 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
27 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.
28 “Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God.”
As in the days of the Exodus, God would dwell among His people, and they would know His presence, but the difference is that He would dwell inside the sanctuary of each heart, that His Spirit would guide us and keep us each individually.
1 Corinthians 3:16
Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
What a blessed thought, to know that the Holy Spirit of God dwells within us! He is no longer hidden in some sanctuary at the edge of our camp, not holed up in some back room in a temple in Jerusalem. The veil has been torn from top to bottom and the holy of holies is now open to all men. (Mark 15:38) Every believer can now call on the name of Jesus Christ and know that their plea is heard, that Jesus will be their mediator, that God will hear and will forgive and will act on behalf of His people. (1 Kings 8:37-40)
Despite the storm raging outside my window right now, and despite the troubles I have seen and will see, I know that God is near, that He is faithful and mighty, that He will never leave me nor forsake me. (Joshua 1:5) And I need go no further than my own time of fasting and prayer to speak to Him, to call upon His Spirit who dwells within me. His sanctuary is right here in my own heart, and when I read and study His Word, when I cling to the cross of Christ, when I love the Lord my God with all my heart and soul and mind, then I truly know He is with me. If I would but quiet my own heart, His voice is never too small for me to hear. If I would but focus on Him, then His presence is well known. If I would but act in His name and to His glory, then others can know that He is near, too.
Seek the LORD while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.
If we believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, then we may seek God in the sanctuary of our own hearts, and we will find Him there. And then we can get on with the rest of our day.
Holy Lord, thank You for preparing my heart to be a sanctuary for Your living presence, for Your Holy Spirit. Thank You, Lord, for being the One who saves and the One chooses to dwell among us. Thank You for making us Your holy people, Your race of royal priests who minister in Your name and bring You all glory and praise. All that I ask, Father, is that I may seek You in Your sanctuary each day and find You there, gracing me with Your holy presence for all my life. Amen.