“One thing have I desired…; that I
May dwell in the house of the Lord…”
Psalm 27: 4
We often read and hear about the “house of the Lord.” We often speak of it, especially in connection with divine worship; even with reference to our material visible church home.
Really, what is the house of the Lord? It’s deeper, spiritual significance?
Is it merely a matter of gold and silver, purple and fine linen, wood and stone, pews and pulpits and beautiful fixtures? We know better!
That was not the case even in the old dispensation. That tabernacle in the desert and that magnificent temple of Solomon in Jerusalem were not per se the house of the Lord. True, there was a connection between these places and God’s house, closer by far than exists today, because of the typical character of the old dispensation. They were types and bore the name of the house of the Lord. David, certainly, was thinking about the tabernacle when he said, “One thing have I desired 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 again, “How amiable are thy tabernacles O Lord of Hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord.” Psalm 84.
However, tabernacle and temple as such was not yet the house of the Lord. When finally the tabernacle was dismantled and replaced by the gorgeous temple of Solomon, God’s house did not change. When later still that temple was destroyed by the Chaldean hordes, God’s house was not destroyed. Consequently, Israel could very well enter that temple without ever entering the house of the Lord. By the same token, they could be far from Jerusalem and yet dwell, essentially, in the house of God. How well Solomon saw all this when he said in his dedicatory prayer, “But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heavens of heaven cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built?”
The same is true today – God’s house is not a mere building of wood and stone. It is not true, that there are thousands of houses of God all over the world; that when a church burns down a house of God turns to ashes; that when you lose a church building you’re losing a house of God. Actually, you’re losing nothing. Nor is it true, that you cannot be in the house of God without being in the church. God’s house may be in a foxhole or on the high seas, at you lathe or office desk, in your home or in bed,-anywhere!
In fact, the house of the Lord is not even the formal, visible gathering of the saints for divine worship.
This comes closer, of course. David is certainly thinking also of these blessed assemblies of God’s people to serve and praise the God of their salvation. Divine worship occupies an important place in God’s house as we know and experience it in this present life. There God builds His church by His Word and Spirit, dwells in a special way with His own, reveals His beauties. There is the workshop of the Holy Ghost, where all the wonders of divine redemption are applied to the hearts of God’s elect. There God enlightens the understanding quickens in faith and hope, feeds and quenches unto eternal life; and there the Christian is refreshed and enriched in the grace of Almighty God. He, who doesn’t care about divine worship or knows no true desire when there, surely cannot speak of dwelling in the house of the Lord. Your interest in God’s house is measured by your interest in divine worship. The former cannot be greater than the latter.
Even so, this gathering of the saints for worship is not yet the house of God. You cannot
simply identify the two. It is entirely possible that you are present at the former without ever experiencing the blessedness of the latter. Besides, when the service is over and you return to your homes, are you no longer in the house of the Lord? How, then, can we speak here of dwelling in the house of the “all the days of our lives?”
What, then, is the house of the Lord?
It is the place where God dwells. Not where God is. God is everywhere. God is in hell too. However, hell is not God’s house. God’s house is the place where God dwells, in love and friendship.
It is God’s covenant, His everlasting family life, wherever God reveals Himself as our Father, lives in love and friendship with the creature, manifests His beauties and manifold perfections to the creature, bestows His covenant benefits on His creature. By the same token, it is wherever we may dwell with Him as His children, live with Him in love and friendship, experience His beauties and blessings, know and serve Him as His covenant servants forever.
Wherever you find these you find the house of the Lord, irrespective of time or place. For Jacob it was that place by the side of the road, where the Lord appeared to him in a dream. He called the name of that place Bethel – house of God. Why? He himself tells us, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not. This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” For us it is wherever the covenant of God, communion with God, is experienced, whether in church or at home, at work or on the street.
Understanding this, we also understand that and how the house of the Lord has always been, and will always be.
It was in Paradise, – in symbol and shadow.
Certainly, that was God’s house. There Adam dwelt with God and there the Most High established His covenant with man. There God lived in love and friendship with the creature, and there Adam knew and served his God as prophet and priest and king. He, too, could say therefore, “One thing have I desired 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.”
However, that first house of God was only a shadow, a far cry from that far greater blessedness that God had conceived for His people. In that first Paradise all was earthy and natural. Therefore it had to fall away to make room for the better house in Christ.
Of that better house we see the typical manifestation in Israel of the old dispensation. There God dwelt in and among His people. In fact, there God dwelt in and with His people in His Son Jesus Christ. All the types and shadows tell us that. Hence, Israel itself was the house of God, and when David says, “One thing have I desired…; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,” it certainly includes the desire for living fellowship with that people, through the typical Christ.
However, then all was only a type, still a far cry from the blessedness yet to come. Israel, Canaan, temple, sacrifices, prophets, priests, kings,-all were only types. The reality had not yet come; the Son had not yet become flesh; the Lamb of God had not yet been sacrificed for sin. Hence, the house of God was still only a type of better things to come. It was more than Adam had; less by far than we have now and will have in eternal bliss.
The central realization of God’s house is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and dwelling in God’s house is dwelling in living fellowship with Him. Not only does He dwell in God’s house as no else can. He Himself is God’s house, the tabernacle of God with us. In Him the Triune God dwells in our nature. In Him all the benefits of God’s covenant are realized; all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily; all the beauties of God are glorified. Through Him alone we draw near to God; to see Him is to know the Father; to know Him is to know the Father. In and through Him God dwells with us; in and through Him we dwell with God.
In living fellowship with the church is God’s house, that spiritual building whereof every believer is a living stone. Hence, not the structure wherein we assemble, but the living congregation itself is the house of the Lord. In that church God dwells in all the riches of His love and covenant friendship. As members of that church and in living fellowship with it, we dwell with the Lord our God. For us, that applies especially to the church as we may know it, see it, belong to it; and as it gathers together from time to time to worship and exercise the communion of the saints.
The final and highest manifestation of this house of the Lord will be heaven, of course; the living, redeemed church, under and with her living Lord, in the new heavens and the new earth. There all that is now in part will be made perfect. There we shall see face to face, and know as we are known.
That is the house of the Lord!
Next time: Dwelling in the House of the Lord.