Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Building of the House of the Lord - The Place of His Presence

From the Driven Quill of an Evangelical Agnostic....

The Building of the House of the Lord - The Place of His Presence

A major part of my “evangelical agnosticism” stems from our tendency to pluck scriptures completely out of context - using them for purposes for which they were never intended. We move from context to proof-text which results in pretext - profaning the Word of God.

One passage that may well suffer this abuse more than many others is 2 Chronicles 7:14. I am sure that the mention of that reference triggers immediate remembrance of the words themselves - “If My people, who are called by My Name...” I will not quote the full verse for I believe it suffers from the contempt of familiarity. We have had so many campaigns, initiatives, programs, “words,” etc. with this verse as their raison d'tre, that its original intent and purpose have been eclipsed.

The context of this passage is the building of the House of the Lord under King Solomon - and the adversity that the Lord had brought upon His own people. “If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people,...” 2 Chronicles 7:13 NASB

Repentance - not Remorse

God is calling His people to authentic repentance, not just momentary remorse. They cannot just be sorrowful for the situation He has brought upon them - they must show a willingness to change patterns of behavior. To turn from their wicked ways means they must exhibit a lifestyle of change. It is not just enough to pray more, to sing more, to attend more solemn assemblies–God’s people must show forth fruitful deeds of repentance.

I was recently watching the webcast of a young worship team musically pleading with the Lord to “rend the heavens and come down.” Their passion and desire were undeniable. I do not want to take away from that, but do we sincerely believe that He will come because of what He hears us vocalizing or because of what He sees us doing?

The mortar that binds each stone together in the building of His House is expectant hope: “whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.” Hebrews 3:6 KJV If we are truly expecting Him, then how shall our actions be formed? “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” 1 John 3:3 NASB True Biblical hope produces commensurate actions. As we are being built together - one living stone fitly formed and joined together - we will encourage (provoke) one another to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:23-24).

As the people of God we are often well-meaningly exhorted to come together as a group and Hebrews 10:25 is given as the proof-text: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together,” KJV. One of the most insightful messages I have heard on this passage is called “Some Assembly Required.” We not to be just crowded together, but fit together with bonds of love - genuine relationships. As John Wimber used to say: “We can have a crowd, but not have a church.”

What is our anticipation if the Lord does see our humility and hears our cries? Will we do anything different? Here is the type of consecration that the Lord is looking for: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—” Isaiah 58:6-7a NIV

Another passage that also suffers from similar unilateral misinterpretation is Ezekiel 22:30. This is the “stand in the gap” exhortation through the prophet to the people of God. Although we can never take away from the importance of prayer, this charge is not just about praying more–but about correcting injustice. The House of the Lord is the place of His providence, yet a breach of self-indulgence was resulting in a lack: “they have wronged the poor and needy and have oppressed the sojourner without justice.” Ezekiel 22:29b If His people practice injustice, they will become the objects of His judgement: “So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done,...” 22:31

the Lordship of Great David’s Greater Son

Under Great David’s son the House of the Lord was fashioned by the hand of man. Now, under the Lordship of Great David’s Greater Son, the House of the Lord continues to be a reality, but it is no longer fashioned by the hand of man. Brick and mortar have been superceded by flesh and blood - living stones. “And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Ephesians 2:22 NIV The Father’s purpose is that the full stature of the revelation of His Son would be revealed in the community through the church (Romans 8:29, Ephesians 3:10; 4:13).

The Father is looking for faith-filled stewardship before He will release His resources required to transform society. His House must be built true - the plumb-line is righteousness and the level-line is justice. “And I will make justice the (level) line, and righteousness the plumb line;...” Isaiah 28:17 ESV

If the house has not been built level and plumb - just and right - it will be structurally deficient and will not be able to contain the blessing of the Lord. Should the Father begin to release His sufficiency, the resultant outpouring would be unsustainable–both the house and the blessing are lost. “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. The wine would burst the wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine needs new wineskins.” Mark 2:22 NLT We cannot keep doing what we have been doing and expect different results.

In this House the Son - the Firstborn - is both the cornerstone/foundation (Matthew 16:18); of the building as well as the capstone/keystone. Each living stone is being fit together - one with another. The sound of the tools of man cannot be heard, for the architect and builder is none other than God Himself. It is upon the Rock of Revelation that He is continuing to build His Church - a prevailing Church. And it is also this Church of which He is the Head and by which He will accomplish the fullness of His purposes in the earth: “not only in the present age but also in the one to come...and appointed him to be head over everything for the church...the fullness of Him who fills all in all” Ephesians 1:21-23

His resources are His very presence. The House of the Lord is the place of His All-Sufficiency. He is looking for the place of His habitation in our communities. It has been said that we are not looking for revival, but arrival - not just reformation, but habitation.

If our anticipation is that when He shows up, He will merely bless what we are already doing and we will just do more of it - then we are sorely mistaken, for when He comes He will transform everything. He will start first and foremost with the manner in which we live out our community in Him and our witness before the world: the Church. If we are not ready for Him to begin with us, then we need not be praying for His arrival - for we will not recognize Him when He comes.

As they were returning from the Feast of the Passover, Christ’s earthly parents thought that He had become lost. But He was not lost–He was found, for He was about His Heavenly Father’s business. The NKJV says: “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” Luke 2:49. Other translations such as the NASB and NIV have it this way: “Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” These versions are not contradictory, but complementary. Most literally He was saying that He had to be about the affairs or things of His Father. The House of the Father is the place of His divine activity among men–this is His business. “But they did not understand what he was saying to them.” Luke 2:50 NIV Will we understand what He is saying to us or will we continue to do what we have always done?

a priestly function

His House is a holy priesthood. It is not for a holy priesthood. “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be (italics added) a holy priesthood,” 1 Peter 2:5a NIV This passage is not just prepositional, leading to something else - it is the sum total of the Father’s activity in our lives as a community of believers. It is linked inextricably with the great “I Am” (to be) statements of the Word of God. That this is strongly indicative of responsibility is inescapable. He is the living Stone (NIV), we are living stones. He is the Firstborn, we are His many brethren being conformed into His image - “and The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being,” (Hebrews 1:3).

We are being called together to a priestly function. Representation of the One who is the All in All is our essential function in our communities. “that you (all) may show forth the excellences of Him who did call you (all) out of darkness to His wondrous light;” 1 Peter 2:9b Modern Young’s Literal Translation. The House of the Lord is now dynamic, not static. It is about relationship, not real estate.

It is the driving conviction in our community that in Him, everything we need for transformation, has already been supplied. It is only about stewardship - the function of a royal priesthood who will do justice and righteousness. As this priesthood arises the Lord will build them together into the place of His habitation. This position is a place of intercession.

"Intercession is more than prayer, but it always starts as prayer. Christ's crucifixion was an act of intercession; His prayer, 'Father, forgive them,' (Luke 23:34) was perfectly united with his sacrificial action. God will give us intercessory actions that are the consequences of our intercessory prayer life." Pastor Francis Frangipane This is the divine activity of this House: “offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:5b NIV

true worship

This is the true worship that the Father is seeking (John 4:21-24). When He hears its harmony, smells the fragrance of its incense and sees in it the beauty of His Son - He will come. These are the things that attract His Presence. Our Lord is adamant that this worship - in spirit and truth - is not about a static location, but about a dynamic attitude. “Have this attitude in (among) yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 2:5 NASB This mind set of the Savior compelled Him to leave the security of the Father and become one of us–thus He is always living in intercession for us that He might save us to the uttermost and present us to His Father wholly (holy) and complete in Him.

In prayerful contemplation the lilt of a classic charismatic chorus found its way into my mind: “We bring the sacrifice of praise into the House of the Lord and we offer up to You the sacrifices of thanksgiving...” This refrain takes its origin from the Word of the Lord through the Prophet Jeremiah concerning the days of restoration: “and of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD. For I will cause to return the captivity of the land, as at the first, saith the LORD.” 33:11b KJV In that same pronouncement the Lord says: “I will cause a righteous Branch of David to spring forth; and He shall execute justice and righteousness on the earth.” 33:15B NASB We cannot escape the obvious here that this fullness has not yet occurred in the earth and that is inextricably linked to the restoration of His covenant people - His House.

Where there is true worship, the Lord will provide for Himself. As Abraham prepared to sacrifice the son of the Lord’s promise to him, he said to his attendants: “I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” Genesis 22:5b To Abraham the place of sacrifice - of returning back to God what was given to him - was an altar of worship. The lad inquired of his father: “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” The father answered with an answer that by faith still speaks: “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” 22:8 NASB He will resource His activity and His alone.

“And Abraham gave that place the name Yahweh-yireh: as it is said to this day, In the mountain the Lord is seen.” Genesis 22:14 BBE It is upon this mount that Solomon built the House of the Lord. It is here that the Lord will be revealed, for it is from here that He hears and answers prayer. And in our day, from this place of the eschatological expectation that all things will be made good once again - He is revealed to mankind for this House of living stones is His dwelling among men. “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them (and He will be their God),” Revelation 21:3 NASB

There is no true worship without a sacrificial offering. Paul charged the Church at Rome: “I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” Romans 12:1 NASB As society is permeated by the House of the Lord - true worship takes place. If we are not willing to sacrifice - to see the House of the Lord come into its fullness - then we need not pray!

No longer will we be content with worship services–instead we will have services of worship. Then when we are assembled together we will celebrate the goodness of the Lord. The offering of Christ’s body was required. In identification with Him as a royal priesthood no less is expected to “fill up” that which remains. “But a body You have prepared for Me;...Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come (In the scroll of the book it is written of Me) To do Your will, O God.” Hebrews 10:5b, 7 NASB This is the manner of sacrificial offering that characterizes His House and it is this that attracts His attention.

Profoundly, the New Testament scholar F.F. Bruce comments: “Christianity is sacrificial through and through; it is founded on the one self-offering of Christ, and the offering of his people’s praise and property, of their sacrifice and their lives, is caught up into the perfection of his acceptable sacrifice, and is accepted in him.”

Isaiah 28:16 Therefore thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed. NASB

He presides from His House

The House of the Lord is not just the place where He abides (for He cannot be limited in this way); it is the place from which He presides among men. “But it was Solomon who built a house for Him. However, the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands; as the prophet says: (Isaiah 66:1-2)” Acts 7:47-48 It is here that heaven and earth intersect–the foretoken of the Consummation of all things: “Jesus Who died shall be satisfied, And earth and Heav’n be one.”

As we are being built together into an holy habitation in our community, we look back to this prayer of Solomon - a royal priest - with hopeful anticipation: 1 Kings 8:29 “that Your eyes may be open toward this house night and day, toward the place of which You have said, ‘My name shall be there,’ to listen to the prayer which Your servant shall pray toward this place. 30 Listen to the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place; hear in heaven Your dwelling place; hear and forgive.” NASB

And looking forward in expectation to the one thing that will not fail - the love of God: “and, being true in love, we may increase to Him [in] all things, who is the head–the Christ; from whom the whole body, being fitly joined and held together, through the supply of every joint, according to the working in the measure of each single part, the increase of the body does make for the building up of itself in love.” Ephesians 4:15-16 Young’s Translation

Then we - His Church in our Community - will have a new name: “you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”

This is my Father’s world, should my heart be ever sad?
The lord is King—let the heavens ring. God reigns—let the earth be glad.
This is my Father’s world. Now closer to Heaven bound,
For dear to God is the earth Christ trod.
No place but is holy ground.

All the sons of Israel, seeing the fire come down and the glory of the Lord upon the house, bowed down on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave praise to the Lord, saying, “Truly He is good, truly His lovingkindness is everlasting.” 2 Chronicles 7:3 NASB