When Jacob left home I don’t think he expected to find God. A wife perhaps, but not God. After all do any of us really expect to find God when we’re out and about? Usually I’m just hoping to find a sucker or two in the bottom of my purse. Encountering God would be an incredible bonus! But in all seriousness don’t we tend to categorize God? He’s here (because I’m doing good) but not over there (because I don’t want him there). Or we imagine him in places of grandeur, as he undoubtedly deserves. Holy spaces dedicated to just Him. Churches. Little white ones with steeples and mega ones with coffee bars. Places where people gather to worship and pray and recite Scripture…that’s where God is right?
Devotional Scripture: Genesis 28:18-22
Key Verse: “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:5
So when Sunday rolls around we spruce up! And not just in the areas of hygiene. Hearts, minds, mouths…it all looks a little different come church time. Because we be visitin’ the house of God! But does God dwell in a church building? Do we have to go to church to find God?
It certainly seems logical in light of the Old Testament. When God needed a place to dwell among the Israelites He said to Moses “And let them build me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst” (Ex. 25:8). Then after establishing themselves in Canaan the Israelites (i.e. Solomon) built the temple. Giving God a permanent residence. Solomon actually calls it God’s house in 2 Chron. 2. He adorned it with precious stones and overlaid everything with gold – “it’s beams, its thresholds, its walls, and its doors” (2 Chron. 3:7). Just as one would think God’s house should be.
Now vying these examples it seems perfectly reasonable that God would dwell in a church building. A place where we can go and worship and meet with God. Even Jacob made a correlation between God’s presence and the need for a house. Waking from his dream he proclaimed, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” (Gen. 28:17).
He even named the place Bethel, meaning house of God. He also took the stone he had used as a pillow “and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on top of it.” Saying, “and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house” (v. 22).
God’s house? What did Jacob know of God’s house? There was no tabernacle yet. No temple. No one particular place to go and sacrifice. In all honesty I’m a bit taken back by Jacob’s proclamation. But what really blew my hairs out is the similar use of wording in 1 Peter 2:5. Writing to believers under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Peter states, “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house.”
Jacob may have set up a stone to be God’s house. But in Christ we are the stones of God’s house! Us! Believers! Anointed not with oil, but with the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16).
We are His house! Not a little white building with a steeple. Or a large one with a coffee bar. Us! Please tell me your hairs just blew out! I pray we are not bored with this idea. It’s truly amazing! God went from Beersheba, to Bethel, to the intricately woven tabernacle, to the gold over layed temple, to us! I just…I mean…there are no words. Me – his dwelling. You – his house. Not a tent or a building or a place – us!
So is God at church? Indeed! If you are in Christ and you are at church. But when the building is empty…it’s empty. We are his house! A mind-blowing revelation with mind-blowing responsibility. What’s the one thing that always went on in God’s house? Sacrifices. Constantly. At the tabernacle, and the temple, and even at Bethel. If we jump ahead to Genesis 35 we see upon his return to Canaan, God told Jacob to go back to Bethel and make an altar. If you’re gonna call it my house then go back and do what’s necessary for it to be my house.
And Jacob did. He went back and offered up his sacrifices. Do we? Not physical bloodshed, Jesus took care of that. But spiritual sacrifices. Like offering our lives to God (Rom. 12:1). And our stuff (Phil 4:18). And our praise, “the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Phil 13:15). Striving to live a life of holiness, at whatever the cost, because He is in us and we are in Him. 1 Peter 2:5 goes on to call us a holy priesthood. And what did the priests do? They took care of God’s house.
Maybe…I mean I’m just wondering…if we got a little housework to do. And I’m not talking about the endless parade of Fruit Loops under the kitchen table. I’m talking about God’s house. I’m talking about us. “For we are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor. 6:16).
Contemplate and Evaluate:
Would God be proud to call you his home? Why or why not?
What evidence is there of spiritual sacrifices in your life?
2 Corinthians 6:16 says “What agreement has the temple of God with idols?” Anything we set between us and God is an idol. Anything we hold in higher regard than him. Are there idols in your “house” that need to be removed? If you aren’t sure ask Him. I know it might be scary, but I promise it will be well worth the effort.
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