It was my son’s fortieth birthday, and he wanted to celebrate by climbing Mt. Haystack in the Adirondacks. When we arrived at the base of the mountain, it was late evening-time to set up camp. Joel took a tent from his backpack, laid it out on the ground, threw me a bundle of rods and said, “Help me get these together.” In fifteen minutes our dome tent was all set.
They've come a long way since the heavy canvas I used as a young kid, but though they are lighter, easier and faster to assemble, they’re still tents. And for forty years in the wilderness, over three hundred and fifty years of Joshua’s Conquest and the Period of the Judges, and the reign of Saul and King David, Israel’s God, the LORD of the Universe, lived in a goatskin tent.
Now, Stephen was on trial for supposedly blaspheming the Temple in Jerusalem-a place the Sanhedrin viewed as the most holy ground. So in his review of his people’s history he reminded his Sanhedrin judges that God had turned desert ground around a burning desert shrub into a holy place.
At Mt. Sinai he took a barren, desert mountain and turned it into the holy place where Moses received the divine tablets, and then before they entered the wilderness for forty years, the Lord gave them instructions on how to build his traveling quarters.
“Our forefathers had the Tabernacle of the Testimony with them in the wilderness. It was constructed exactly as the One who spoke to Moses had directed him to build it. He followed the exact pattern he had seen. Having received this Tabernacle, our forefathers under Joshua’s command brought it with them when God drove out the nations from before them until the time of David.
Now David found favor in God’s sight and asked to provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. But it was Solomon who built a House for God.” Acts 7:44-47
Solomon did get to build the glorious Temple that replaced the Tent, but today as I let Stephen remind me about the burning bush and the Tent in the wilderness, I’m challenged again. The Living God just isn’t impressed by physical buildings. In Acts 2 when his Spirit came at Pentecost, he didn’t fill the Holy Temple the Jewish leaders were so keen on defending. Instead, the Spirit took up residence in the bodies of those who believed in Jesus.
How will these religious leaders who were so intent on defending the Temple where they think God lives, treat a place genuinely filled with God’s holy presence?
LORD, what a gift that your Holy Spirit has taken up residence in all of us who have simply believed in your Son. In a world where men and women and children are still dying in the battles over sacred ground, help us to get out the news that you care a lot more about worshipping, obedient hearts than about some physical real estate.
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