God was in this place.

Genesis 28:10-22 (HCSB)
10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. 11 He reached a certain place and spent the night there because the sun had set. He took one of the stones from the place, put it there at his head, and lay down in that place. 12 And he dreamed: A stairway was set on the ground with its top reaching heaven, and God’s angels were going up and down on it. 13 Yahweh was standing there beside him, saying, “I am Yahweh, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your offspring the land that you are now sleeping on. 14 Your offspring will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out toward the west, the east, the north, and the south. All the peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15 Look, I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go. I will bring you back to this land, for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! This is none other than the house of God. This is the gate of heaven.” 18 Early in the morning Jacob took the stone that was near his head and set it up as a marker. He poured oil on top of it 19 and named the place Bethel, though previously the city was named Luz. 20 Then Jacob made a vow: “If God will be with me and watch over me on this journey, if He provides me with food to eat and clothing to wear, 21 and if I return safely to my father’s house, then the LORD will be my God. 22 This stone that I have set up as a marker will be God’s house, and I will give to You a tenth of all that You give me.”

According to Rabbi Lawrence Kushner in his book “God Was in This Place & I, i Did Not Know: Finding Self, Spirituality and Ultimate Meaning”, the quote from Jacob in verse 16 is more accurately translated as “God was in this place and I, I did not know.” Note that the word “I” is used twice. “God was in this place and I” is said, then “I did not know.”

Also note that the angels were going up and down – not down and up. This is in verse 12. They are already here on earth, going up to heaven. They aren’t just up there, coming down to us. They are here, with us. God came down to be with Jacob and stood next to him.

God is here, with us. God sends messengers to be with us, intermediaries. They are already here, we just can’t see it.

Perhaps what Jacob was saying was that God was here with me, all along. I was unaware of it.

So Jacob (not yet named Israel) set up a rock – an altar. Because he was altered. His perception was changed. He wanted to remember – this place is special. God was here. Here was where I woke up.

Yet it became A place, rather than an idea that God is with you. Jewish tradition says that same place was where Abraham was called to sacrifice Isaac, many years before. It also says that it became the site to the Holy of Holies in the Holy Temple, many years later. It became a fixed place – not an idea. God’s presence was there, and only there, not everywhere. This is a very limiting and dangerous idea.

Let us see what Jesus said thousands of years later – This is when he calls Philip to be his disciple. Note at the end what he says to Nathanael, Philip’s friend.

John 1:43-51 (HCSB)
43 The next day He decided to leave for Galilee. Jesus found Philip and told him, “Follow Me!” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the hometown of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the One Moses wrote about in the Law (and so did the prophets): Jesus the son of Joseph, from Nazareth!” 46 “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathanael asked him. “Come and see,” Philip answered. 47 Then Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him and said about him, “Here is a true Israelite; no deceit is in him.” 48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you,” Jesus answered. 49 “Rabbi,” Nathanael replied, “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus responded to him, “Do you believe only because I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” 51 Then He said, “I assure you: You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Note that Jesus says in verse 51 that the angels will be “ascending and descending” – going up and down, exactly the same as Jacob. Jesus knew the scriptures well, and he too noted that God’s messengers weren’t just coming down to us. They are already here with us.

God’s presence is already here, with us, right now. Don’t set up an altar. Here isn’t the place. Everywhere is the place.

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Anna’s testimony

A prophetess named Anna was also at the Temple that day. She was a daughter of Phanuel, who was of the tribe of Asher. She was very old, and had been a widow for 84 years, having been married for seven years before that. She served God constantly with fasting and prayer, never leaving the Temple complex.

While Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, she also began to praise God and tell everyone that their long awaited Messiah had arrived.

LK 2:36-38

Simeon’s prophetic praise.

There was a righteous and devout man named Simeon who lived in Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit was with him, and he looked forward to the coming of the Messiah. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. Led by the Spirit, he entered the Temple complex when Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to dedicate him to the Lord, according to the Law.

Taking Jesus in his arms, Simeon praised God and said:

“Lord, now I can die in peace. For I have seen the Savior as you promised I would. In the presence of everyone you have prepared a light of revelation to the nations and glory to your people Israel.”

Joseph and Mary were amazed at what he was saying about their child. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary “Truly, this child is destined to unsettle many in Israel and to be a sign that will be spoken against. You will be sick at heart that people’s scheming thoughts will be made known.”

LK 2:25-35

What is the Church?

Let us look at what Jesus meant when he came to build his Church. When he was speaking to his disciples, he asked them who they thought he was.

Matthew 16:15-18
15 He saith unto them, But who say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jonah: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

The church is built up not of stones, but of everyone who the Holy Spirit reveals the truth to. The foundation of Jesus’ church was a human being.

After Jesus threw out the money changers in the Temple, the Jewish authorities challenged him. He turned around the idea of what the Temple is.

John 2:19-21
19 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. 20 The Jews therefore said, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou raise it up in three days? 21 But he spake of the temple of his body.

At Jacob’s well, speaking with the Samaritan woman, he told about how God is to be worshipped everywhere, not in a particular place. The Samaritan woman is talking in the first verse.

John 4:20-24
20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father. 22 Ye worship that which ye know not: we worship that which we know; for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth: for such doth the Father seek to be his worshippers. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

We are not to amass money.

Matthew 19:21
21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wouldest be perfect, go, sell that which thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.

Matthew 6:19-21
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 for where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also.

So church isn’t a building, or a place. It is us. We, the believers who have had the truth of Jesus revealed to us by the Holy Spirit, are to worship God in spirit and truth, wherever we are. We aren’t to spend our money to build cathedrals with gold and stained glass windows. We are to glorify God by our service to God’s children, our neighbors.

Who is to build the Temple? Not Solomon.

King David thought that he should build the Temple, but God told him otherwise through his prophet Nathan. God tells Nathan to tell David that the Temple, the holy House of God, will be built after David has died.

These verses are at the end of Nathan telling him to stop his plans –

1 Chronicles 17:11-14
11 And it shall come to pass, when thy days are fulfilled that thou must go to be with thy fathers, that I will set up thy seed after thee, who shall be of thy sons; and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He shall build me a house, and I will establish his throne for ever. 13 I will be his father, and he shall be my son: and I will not take my lovingkindness away from him, as I took it from him that was before thee; 14 but I will settle him in my house and in my kingdom for ever; and his throne shall be established for ever.

Note that God says God will “…set up thy seed after thee” after David has died. Clearly, this is not referring to his son Solomon, who was already alive at this time. God is talking about a descendant of David who will be born after David has died.

David seems to understand this when he talks to God a little later.

1 Chronicles 17:16-17
16 Then David the king went in, and sat before Jehovah; and he said, Who am I, O Jehovah God, and what is my house, that thou hast brought me thus far? 17 And this was a small thing in thine eyes, O God; but thou hast spoken of thy servant’s house for a great while to come, and hast regarded me according to the estate of a man of high degree, O Jehovah God.

Note David’s words in verse 17 – “…for a great while to come”. He is aware that this is in the far distant future.

Then David, like Abraham, tries to take matters into his own hands. Either he misunderstood what he seemed to understand earlier, or he just thought he’d get a head start on things.

1 Chronicles 22:6-10
6 Then he called for Solomon his son, and charged him to build a house for Jehovah, the God of Israel. 7 And David said to Solomon his son, As for me, it was in my heart to build a house unto the name of Jehovah my God. 8 But the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build a house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight. 9 Behold, a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about; for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days: 10 he shall build a house for my name; and he shall be my son, and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever.

At no point did God tell David why he didn’t want him to build the Temple. Being a man of war wasn’t the reason he was prevented. It just wasn’t time yet. Solomon can’t be the one that God wanted to build it, because God talked about bringing forth a seed of David (a descendant of his) after David had died. Also important to realize is that at no point in the intervening chapters did David hear from God directly – it was always through a prophet, either Nathan or Gad.

David keeps telling himself this story, and it keeps being wrong. This is a little later –

1 Chronicles 28:5-7
5 And of all my sons (for Jehovah hath given me many sons), he hath chosen Solomon my son to sit upon the throne of the kingdom of Jehovah over Israel. 6 And he said unto me, Solomon thy son, he shall build my house and my courts; for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father. 7 And I will establish his kingdom for ever, if he be constant to do my commandments and mine ordinances, as at this day.

God didn’t choose Solomon. David did. David wanted the Temple built, and he wanted to make sure it happened.

Let’s go back to the beginning.

1 Chronicles 17:4-6
4 Go and tell David my servant, Thus saith Jehovah, Thou shalt not build me a house to dwell in: 5 for I have not dwelt in a house since the day that I brought up Israel, unto this day, but have gone from tent to tent, and from one tabernacle to another. 6 In all places wherein I have walked with all Israel, spake I a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to be shepherd of my people, saying, Why have ye not built me a house of cedar?

If God wanted a house, God would have asked for one. God would have made it happen. God was happy dwelling in a tent or a tabernacle. God was happy being free and not stuck in one place.

But David wouldn’t listen, and made sure that there were plenty of materials ready. He didn’t leave it to chance, but most importantly, he didn’t leave it to God.

1 Chronicles 22:2-5
2 And David commanded to gather together the sojourners that were in the land of Israel; and he set masons to hew wrought stones to build the house of God. 3 And David prepared iron in abundance for the nails for the doors of the gates, and for the couplings; and brass in abundance without weight; 4 and cedar-trees without number: for the Sidonians and they of Tyre brought cedar-trees in abundance to David. 5 And David said, Solomon my son is young and tender, and the house that is to be builded for Jehovah must be exceeding magnificent, of fame and of glory throughout all countries: I will therefore make preparation for it. So David prepared abundantly before his death.

Interestingly, some of the materials that were used for the Temple were gotten from David waging war. In 1 Chronicles 18 we learn that David went to war against the Philistines, the Moabites, and the Syrians. From those spoils came a huge amount of brass, which Solomon used to make the brass reservoir, pillars, and vessels. So much for not wanting David to build the temple because he was a man of war!

God does what God wants in God’s time, and in God’s way. We keep acting like it is all up to us to do. We have to wait patiently, knowing that God is in charge.

(All translations of the Bible are from the American Standard Version, which is in public domain.)

Poem – Temple

The Temple has been rebuilt.
It isn’t in the ruins.
It isn’t blocks of stone.

It is here.
Where you are.
You, yes you
are the centerpoint
the axis
the hinge.

We all are.
There is no second coming
happening from the skies.
The second coming is private.
It won’t be televised.
Just like the first one wasn’t.

Just like the first one it
will be
quiet, and unexpected
and sudden
and joyous and scary
at the same time.

Just like the first one
it will be in a backwater town
on the edge
on the verge.

It happens every time
someone wakes up
to the Light
and invites it in
to stay.

The second coming is now
and it’s all around
you.

Slowly the lights are coming on
all over.

God cannot be contained
in a building
made by human hands
which can be
broken into.

The only safe place for God
is everywhere.

Don’t follow any person
who says they’ve got it
and you don’t.
Because if they say that,
they don’t have it
at all.