God’s desire to dwell among his people

Throughout our long history as God’s people, we have periodically seen and heard God affirming that he is with us. Think of Christmas time when we often hear the words (referring to Jesus): ‘Emmanuel: God with us’ (Matt 1:23). John’s Gospel begins with the tremendous affirmation that ‘the Word dwelt among us and we have seen his glory’ (Jn 1:14). As the people of God wandered for 40 years in the wilderness before entering the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, they were guided by the presence of God revealed in the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. The Ark of the Covenant which was housed in the tabernacle, accompanied Israel and into the promised land where it was the focus of national religious life. Eventually David brought the Ark of the Covenant into his new capital, Jerusalem. Despite his desire to build a temple, a more permanent structure, he was prevented by the LORD. David had shed blood. It would be his successor Solomon who would build it. Today’s reading in 1 Kings 8, this achievement and affirms God’s desire to dwell among his people. But Solomon’s temple eventually misled Israel into thinking that its mere presence would protect them against disaster or conquest by their enemies (Jeremiah 7:3-14). Trust in God had shifted to trust in the building and it became in effect, an idol. Another problem was that it reduced God to a particular locality and they lost sight that he was a universal God, who more than filled heaven and earth. This is why it had to be destroyed. But something better replaced it: God’s indwelling Spirit, not in a temple of stone, but in the Church and also our bodies (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19). See also Acts

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