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"What Manner Of House?"

"Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool: what manner of house will ye build unto Me? and what place shall be My rest? For all these things hath Mine hand made, and so all these things came to be, saith the LORD.: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at My word" (Isaiah 66.1, 2).

The thought of God communing with His creature, man, can be traced from Genesis 3.8 to Revelation 21.8. There can be no doubt that God desired sweet and happy fellowship with man, for He loved him whom He had created. The entrance of sin was the death-blow to such fellowship as had previously existed. Adam sold himself under sin by his disobedience, but God did not abandon His purpose of having communion with man. His loving heart devised the means and made the way plain for man to return to Him, and for communion to be restored.

First comes redemption by the shedding of blood; then follows separation which is followed by covenant obedience. Such were the steps God indicated in the past in bringing a people near to Himself (see Exodus 19 and 24). In Exodus 25.8 God says to Moses concerning

"His redeemed people, with whom He had entered into covenant,

Let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them."

He could easily have made His own sanctuary, but that was not His way. He condescended to use human instrumentality and gave the pattern to Moses with instructions that all had to be made according to that pattern (verse 9).

Willing hearts were stirred to respond to this opportunity and willing hands brought the necessary material, and Moses saw that all was done "as the LORD had commanded, even so had they done it: "and Moses blessed them" (Exodus 39.48). Well might the LORD witness of Moses-" He is faithful in all Mine house" (Numbers 12.7). Thus there came to be that dwelling-place for God in the wilderness, erected according to the divine pattern. "So Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle" (Exodus 40.88, 84). God thus manifested His approval of what His servant Moses and His people had done, by taking up His abode between the cherubim.

Alas! a day was yet to come in their history when God would forsake His dwelling-place and "Ichabod" would be written over it because of their departure from Him. The time came when their confidence was placed in the ark of God instead of in the God of the ark, as is so graphically described in 1 Samuel 4 and sadly recorded thus in Psalm 78.58-60

"For they provoked Him to anger with their high places,

And moved Him to jealousy with their graven images.

When God heard this, He was wroth,

And greatly abhorred Israel:

So that He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh,

The tent which He placed among men."

What a comment on the sin and unfaithfulness of man, even although placed in the most favourable circumstances! But remember 1 Corinthians 10.12.

On Mount Moriah, which God loved, we see yet again a dwellingplace for God, not now a tent, which speaks of pilgrimage, but a great building composed of great and costly stones and precious metals and timber; The kingdom was now firmly established and that magnificent temple with all its wealth and splendour marked the kingdom's grandeur.

Great and wonderful was the work of Solomon in building a house for God! It was God Himself who moved him so to do. What God had denied to David He committed to Solomon his son, and the house was finished and everything set in order.

"It came even to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD saying, For He is good: for His mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God" (2 Chronicles 5.18, 14).

What a chequered history the temple of Solomon had, bound up with the lives of the kings of Judah!

We think of Hezekiah, who to his lasting honour cared for it, and of Ahaz, who suffered it to be robbed, defiled and shut up to his shame. It is remarkable to observe that its chequered history closed with the reign of Zedekiah, and 2 Chronicles, the book which in its beginning describes the magnificence of the house, at its end relates its ruin. That ruin is summed up in the lamentation of Asaph in Psalm 79.1,-

"0 God, the heathen are come into Thine inheritance

Thy holy temple have they defiled:

They have laid Jerusalem on heaps."

The heathen-spoilers of that temple, like the Philistine-captors of the ark, were the instruments God used for punishing His people for their sins. Kings, priests, and people, all had turned aside, transgressing very much, polluting the house, mocking God's messengers and despising His words until His wrath arose against them in fulfilment of 2 Chronicles 7.19-21."But if ye turn away, and forsake My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and shall go and serve other gods, and worship them: then will I pluck them up by the roots out of My land which I have given them; and this house, which I have hallowed for My name, will I cast out of My sight, and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And this house, which is so high, every one that passeth by it shall be astonished, and shall say, Why hath the Loan' done thus unto this land and to this house?"

Consequently, later on Judah was carried away into the Babylonish captivity, there to learn the bitter lessons that come with disobedience to God. Again we think of that remnant whose spirits the LORD stirred up after so many long years in captivity in Babylon, so that they rose up,. determined to leave that land where there was no city of God, no temple of God, no collective worship of God.

The "Songs of the Ascents" may graphically describe that going up from Babylon to Jerusalem. They did not leave Babylon and then stay where it would be convenient for them to return. No, there was not only the definite leaving of Babylon, but also the very definite Coming to Jerusalem, as was the will of God they should do.

God spoke most comforting and encouraging words to them in regard to the building of the house which lay in ruins and the repairing of the walls which were broken down.

"I am with you, saith the Loan of hosts ... My Spirit abideth among you: fear ye not" (Haggai 2.4, 5, R.V.M.).

Zerubbabel and Joshua are strengthened by that assurance, and with God's realized presence the house is built and the people rejoice (Ezra 6.).

Further encouraging words were given in Haggai 2.7, 9

"I will fill this house with. glory, saith the Lord of hosts ... The

latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former ... and in this

place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts."

Years rolled on, and the builders of this house passed away, and their descendants were such that God could find no pleasure in them on account of their selfishness, formalism and hypocrisy (Malachi 1.10) but, thank God, there were a few who thought upon the Name of their God and spake one with another. Despite the general declension of the remnant they feared the LORD and to them He hearkened.

The day came at last when the promised Seed that was to bruise the serpent's head arrived (Genesis 3.15; Galatians 3.16). God became manifest in flesh and tabernacled amongst men. Simeon held Him in his arms in the temple, and all heaven rejoiced because the GLORY of the Lord, the ONLY Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth had come to His house as the Babe, the Child Jesus. He came to His Father's house with zeal to cleanse, grace to heal, and diligence to teach (Matthew 21. 12-14; 26.55). Few were they who could say, "We beheld His glory." The vast majority were a generation of vipers, blind, wicked, adulterous, excelling the rebellion of their fathers in the rejection of Jehovah's message and guiltier than they in that they refused it from the lips of the Son of God Himself. Then came the momentous day when they heard Him say, "Your house is left unto you desolate"; dire judgement because they had rejected the God of the house.

In Acts 17.24 the very definite statement is made that "God dwelleth not in temples made with hands," so the questions arise, "Where then, in this dispensation of His grace, is the house of God, His dwelling-place, and what manner of house does He possess?

The moment God saves a sinner that sinner's body becomes a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6.19). The church of God in Corinth is called in 1 Corinthians 3.16, 17, temple of God, and there were many churches of God in the beginning of this dispensation. Ephesians 2.22 and other scriptures make plain that saints have to be builded together in order to be " a habitation of God in the Spirit." They were God's building, being builded together according to divine pattern through human instrumentality (1 Corinthians 3.9). We also read in 2 Corinthians 6.16, "We are a temple of the living God:

even as God said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people," and are by Him constituted

Church of God" and "Temple of God." "Ye are God's building," says the apostle in I Corinthians 3.9, and in Ephesians 2.21 his words a~" Each several building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord." Here is God's house, His dwelling-place, a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ who is Great Priest over God's house (1 Peter 2.5; Hebrews 10.21).

Holiness is that which becometh the house of the LORD (Psalm

93.5). Lowliness of mind, a contrite spirit, reverence and trembling at God's word should characterize all therein. May the heart-cry of each exercised soul be as was David's !"On" thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after; That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple"

(Psalm 27.4).