David was both warrior and worshipper. He started with a sling and a harp, and he finished with an army and the blueprint for a temple.
All his life he’d longed to build a house for God – something majestic and glorious. The thought thrilled him. As it happened, though, God had other ideas. ‘You are not to build a house for my Name,’ he told David, ‘because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight. But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest…He is the one who will build a house for my Name’ (1 Chron. 22:8-10). David’s long-cherished plans for building the house of God had to be projected into the future.
Many generations before David, Moses had felt similar yearnings for the house of God. Crossing the Red Sea, he’d sung that God would bring his people into Canaan and plant them on the mountain of his inheritance – the place he made for his dwelling, the sanctuary his hands established (Ex. 15:17). Moses’ prophetic vision extended through the ages. He realised that God was going to have a city, Zion, and a house in the midst of that city.
Many years after Solomon’s reign, the people of Israel backslid and were taken into captivity. The temple fell into ruin and decay. Later the exiles returned, committed to rebuilding it. Haggai, the prophet, encouraged them to build the house for two God-given reasons: that God might take pleasure in it and that he might appear in his glory (Hag. 1:8).
A house to please God
David wanted to have a place where the ark of God and the glory of God might dwell. God’s house is built for his pleasure, not to suit our preferences.
Of course, the New Testament house of God is a temple made not of bricks and mortar but of ‘living stones’ who are ‘being built into a spiritual house’ (1 Pet. 2:5). We’re the living body of Christ, God’s house, his ‘dwelling place’ in the Spirit. Some of us need to make changes in our churches, because they hardly seem to be ‘spiritual houses’ at all. Instead, they’ve become monuments to ritual and formality rather than centres of spiritual activity. A church where God’s presence is never felt is a church not worth attending.
A house for God’s glory
Not only does God want to take pleasure in his house, he also wants to appear there in his glory. ‘I will fill this house with glory,’ he told the exiles through Haggai. God inhabits the praises of his people. So whenever outsiders come into our church buildings and see us worshipping together, they should be aware of the Lord’s presence – not just seeing people being religious, but coming face-to-face with something awesome and wonderful.
In the last few years the church has experienced a little of the glory of God, but he has much more to give us. It should be the desire of all Christians that when they gather week by week they’ll encounter the glory of God in the house of God. If we exist for him, gathering for any reason other than to meet with him is a waste of time and a total failure to understand our identity. David longed for the house of God, and the Lord Jesus was consumed with zeal for his Father’s house. How do you feel about it? Ask yourself, do you love your church or do you merely attend its meetings? Have you progressed beyond a self-centred attitude to your salvation, realising God has a larger plan for fulfilling his own purpose? Do you realise that you have the privilege of being included in this plan?
A house with a goal
The church is the centre of all history. Paul Bilheimer, in his book Destined for the Throne, gives us a vivid insight into God’s perspective of the church. He takes us on an imaginary tour from the conception of a new car to its production. He visualises offices full of men bent over plans, acres of factories, paint shops, conveyor belts and vast machines cutting metal, riveting panels, and fitting tyres. He sees thousands of people performing innumerable tasks to get the job done. At the end of the day, the only thing that gives sense to everything else is the car that rolls off the end of the assembly line. Without the finished product, all the energy and industry means nothing. Bilheimer concludes, ‘What is lasting at the end gives you the clue to everything that went before.’
God tells us in the Bible that on the last day He will wrap up the heavens and the earth and will cast them aside. As we look at the world and the heavens, at the unfolding of history with its heroes, villains and countless thousands of unremembered others, what will last forever? What’s going to come out at the end? Here is the answer: the bride of Christ! God is seeking a bride, a people to fill a kingdom that will never pass away. This one thing ties all history together. Everything, knowingly or not, is working toward this end.
Many historians say that history teaches us nothing, that it has no pattern or purpose. But the Bible tells us that this is God’s creation. The whole thing belongs to Him and when he has finished with it, he will take out his bride – the city of God, the house of God and parade her for all to see.
‘The highest expression of the will of God in this age is the church which he purchased with his own blood. To be scripturally valid any religious activity must be part of the church. Let it be clearly stated that there can be no service acceptable to God in this age that does not center in and spring out of the church. Bible schools, tract societies, Christian business men’s committees, seminaries and the many independent groups working at one or another phase of religion need to check themselves reverently and courageously, for they have no true spiritual significance outside of or apart from the church.’