Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Psalm 84:1-7 Finding Strength in God's Presence

KEY TEXT: Psalms 84:1-4 How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise!

KEY THOT: The psalmist speaks of a longing for the presence of God. He considers it a privilege and a pleasure to be in God’s temple, which is the “dwelling place” of the Lord of hosts. In the New Testament, the temple of God is no longer a physical structure, but the temple is made of living stones: "As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house" (1 Peter 2:4-5). So the church is not the physical building we meet in every Sunday, but is instead the people of God wherever they are gathered.  In Ephesians 2:19-22, Paul speaks of the church as “citizens”, “saints” and “members of the household of God” who are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, “Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” And he went on to say that “in him you are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” 

So, in the NT,  the dwelling place of God is not the physical building we call “church” where we gather once a week. The dwelling place of God is the people of God wherever they may happen to assemble—in the homes as a small group, in the church building as a congregation or even in workplaces, prisons and community halls where believers come together to worship the Lord. In fact, the word "church" in Greek is ekklesia, a common word used in NT times meaning "assembly" or just a town-hall gathering. It's not a reference to any physical building. (The idea of the church as a physical building came three centuries later when Emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion in the fourth century.)  The presence of God is found wherever God’s people gather in his name: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them" (Matthew 18:20). Paul and Silas were in prison when they decided to have a praise and prayer meeting. They became God's dwelling place and God’s glory descended upon that place and shook up the whole prison, breaking the bond of every prisoner inside there (Acts 16:25-26).

That is why it is so exciting to be in God’s presence. Not only are our spiritual longing and hunger satisfied by God’s Spirit, but we also experience his power to set us free from all spiritual and physical bonds holding us as prisoners. In God’s presence, we find freedom and experience renewed strength and rest as the joy of the Lord fills our hearts again: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalms 16:11). Wherever the true church gathers, there we will find the dwelling place of God. There we will experience God's presence and power.

Thank You Father that You have made us worshipers because You have made us Your dwelling place. May our praise to You be filled with joy as our hearts and flesh cry out to You our Living God! Amen.

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