The temple is not for man

1 Chronicles 29:1
Furthermore King David said to all the assembly: “My son Solomon, whom alone God has chosen, is young and inexperienced; and the work is great, because the temple is not for man but for the LORD God.”

Why do we go to church? Why worship, pray, sing holy songs, and listen to the preaching of God’s Word? Why do we make offerings of money, time, and service to the Lord our God? Too often, attending church becomes about what it does for US. “I really enjoyed the service today,” we hear many say as they leave the church building on a Sunday. “I’m so glad I came today, because I needed that,” we hear others say. And from those who choose not to attend but who are asked to go anyway, we hear, “What’s in it for me? Why should I bother?”

“Doing church”–going to services, participating in programs, making offerings, sharing God’s Word, going on missions, etc.–has become about what it does for our own lives. We do it because we feel we grow and are made better by it. We see going to church as a requirement for our faith, or else we claim we are doing it as a natural response to our salvation. But some folks–and if we ask enough people we will find them–attend church for a different reason. They attend not for themselves at all, but for GOD. They gather with other believers not for their own edification but for the glorification of the Lord. They attend not for their own quest for peace or healing but because they seek the kingdom of God. They “do church” simply because it pleases God.

In today’s verse, we capture a moment from the end of King David’s life, a day when he came before the elders and people of Israel to lay upon them the burden of following his son Solomon as the young king would go forward to build the temple. And here, right at the beginning of his speech, David tells us what church is all about: “the temple is not for man but for the LORD God.”

Psalms 107:31-32
31 Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness,
And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
32 Let them exalt Him also in the assembly of the people,
And praise Him in the company of the elders.

The temple in those elder days and the church even today are not about us but about the Lord our God. We don’t have huge church buildings and a myriad of missions and ministries just for our benefit. We have them for the glory of God, for the worship of the One who is mighty to save. We assemble because we are called out from among the people to be God’s children, and so we bring glory and honor and praise to Him through being of one mind and one heart for Him. Always FOR HIM.

Psalms 22:3
But You are holy,
Enthroned in the praises of Israel.

Matthew 18:19-20
19 “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.
20 “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

We go to church, gathering together for worship and teaching, not to get closer to God but to bring God closer to us! We sing His praises and find Him enthroned in our exaltation. We speak together as one body in prayer and supplication, and we find Him in our midst. The church is not for man but for the Lord God.

Leviticus 26:11-12
11 “I will set My tabernacle among you, and My soul shall not abhor you.
12 “I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.”

Why was Moses directed to build the tabernacle? Why was David directed to gather materials for a permanent temple? Why was Ezekiel shown the plans for a new temple? Was it for the benefit of the people, or was it for the glory of God? Do you see what the Lord said to them in these verses? “You shall be My people.” He comes down in the midst of us–Emmanuel, “God with us”–so that WE can be HIS, not so that He can be ours. God does not belong to anyone; we belong to Him. He puts His name in our churches and temples for His glory and through His grace. Any benefit we may receive from that is secondary to just His sheer presence in the midst of His children.

2 Chronicles 7:15-16
15 “Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place.
16 “For now I have chosen and sanctified this house, that My name may be there forever; and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.”

God sanctifies the church so that His name may be among us forever. And having been sanctified by the blood of Jesus, having been called out from among many peoples to be the people of God, having been adopted as sons and daughters of the Most High God, and having gathered in His name wherever we may be, we find that His eyes and His heart are perpetually here.

Zephaniah 3:16-17
16 In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Do not fear; Zion, let not your hands be weak.
17 “The LORD your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”

Even as we gather in His name, even as we rejoice in our salvation, even as we cry out in the assembly of believers, we find that HE is rejoicing over US. The Lord our God is in our midst because He has set His name upon us. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

Revelation 21:3
And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.”

The tabernacle, the temple, the church–these are not about us coming to be with God, but about GOD coming to be with US.

Psalms 149:4
For the LORD takes pleasure in His people;
He will beautify the humble with salvation.

Why do we go to church? Yes, we may gain some small benefit from being in the assembly of believers, and we may find ourselves edified and uplifted. We may hear a word we needed at that time, and we may find healing in the midst of our brokenness. We may even be the one offering that encouraging word, that uplifting prayer, that strong shoulder upon which someone will lean in their weakness. I am not saying we should not seek and offer those things, but all of that is not for our benefit but for God’s glory, “because the temple is not for man but for the LORD God.” Let us therefore reflect upon why we attend church, why we have these buildings and these places we call “the church of God.” Let us take a step back from contemplating our own needs and instead look to God’s pleasure. If we can just get off our high horse long enough to humble ourselves before God, to gather IN His name and solely for the GLORY of His name, then we will find that He will be and has always been with us. Yes, our natural response to our salvation ought to be worship and praise in the assembly of saints, but that assembly–that church or temple or cathedral or basement meeting–is not about us but about the Lord our God who desires to dwell among us. “The temple is not for man but for the LORD God.” We would do well to remember that.

Holy and Most High God, I do not always understand why You have chosen us to be saved and to serve You. I know that in Your abundant love and mercy, You sent Your Son to be our righteousness so that all the world through Him might be saved. But why me? I join David in asking, “Who am I, O LORD God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far?” Who am I? I am Your child, known by You before I was even born, knitted by You in my mother’s womb, born into sin and depravity but saved by Your grace alone. Therefore, Father, let me come together with others who seek Your face, gathering in Your name only, so that we all may know Your presence in the place where You have set Your name. Let all we do in this thing we call “church” be ever and only for Your glory. Amen.

About Glenn Pettit

I am a deacon at The Well of Iowa, and a father and grandfather. Called to teach and to preach, I write fresh messages about the Bible every now and then.
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