Do you feel trapped? Hemmed in? Caught in a cycle of depression or self-destruction? Stuck in a life you don’t remember choosing? I think everyone struggles with these feelings because we are living on the battlefield between good and evil. Suffering is a result of the battle going on around us and within us and comprises all the forms of pain: physical, mental, and spiritual. The suffering on earth, though intense, is temporary; we are only waiting to be released from this fragile shelter, this thin skin that holds us here to spend eternity elsewhere. As an eternal creation, you have a choice. Even during our life on the battlefield, we can experience an existence that transcends the suffering here if we live in God’s temple.
This Sunday, Habakkuk 2:20 caught my attention: “But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.” My first impression of that verse is of a powerful figure seated on a throne in a heavenly temple far above all the hubbub of our stormy lives, like Zeus on Mt. Olympus. This is such a typical, human picture of God. Nothing can be farther from the truth. God is with us. He takes part in our suffering, not as the cause of our suffering (which is always evil) but as our refuge and our salvation from our relentless foe.
God in a Box
We want to put God into a box. David’s chief desire was to “dwell in the house of the LORD” (Psalm 27:4-5), and David’s big dream was to build a temple for God’s dwelling place. Nathan tried to explain God’s vision to David (II Samuel 7:1-13), “the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house.” (v. 11) Nathan insisted that God never asked for a permanent physical structure, merely a symbolic, portable one that would move where God’s people moved.
Nathan’s prophecy, which David understood to be about his son Solomon, was fulfilled both by Solomon and by Christ. Solomon built a temple for God, but it was unable to withstand the ravages of war. Solomon was just a poor foreshadowing of Christ who is the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy, “He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” (v. 13)
God’s Eternal Temple
Christ was the embodiment of God’s temple while he was on earth. (John 2:21) The moment Christ died, the destruction of the physical temple in Jerusalem began during the earthquake that followed his crucifixion, and in less than 70 years, it’s destruction was completed by the Romans. Christ’s body, on the other hand, continues to expand.
Christ is the foundation of God’s temple (I Corinthians 3:11), and we are its living stones filled with God’s glory. This permanent structure spans the globe and all of time and eternity. “For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
’I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.’” (II Corinthians 6:16)
Paul discusses Christ’s body, the church, when he says, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. ForGod’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” ( I Corinthians 3:16-17) It’s important to read this in context: you is plural and refers to the church as a united body. In addition, each member of Christ’s body is also a temple of the Holy Spirit. (I Corinthian 6:19).
God’s Place Has Lots of Space
God’s temple is a vast place, unlike the box where we often want to keep God. God’s temple is completely unlike the prison cell where Satan wants to keep us — trapped, imprisoned, hemmed in, captured, fettered, enslaved, oppressed, and beaten. God planned for us to be free, to live with Him in an open plain where we know we are safe. In Christ, God is with us.
“He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the LORD was my support.
He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.” (Psalm 18:16-19)