Psalm 84 “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!”
“My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord…”
“For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.”
The Psalmist is singing about what the Israelites considered to be “church.”
He’s singing about the temple.
I don’t normally say, “My soul longs, yes, even faints for church.”
What made the temple so attractive?
It must have something to do with where it was, what it was, what was in it, and how you entered.
It was believed to be built on the spot where God made Adam in the garden of Eden, where Abraham went to offer Isaac, who was everything he had hoped for. It was the spot where David confessed his sin and offered to suffer for Jerusalem; the spot where his son would be crucified by, and for, Jerusalem, on a tree in a garden. It was the spot where the Old Jerusalem would be destroyed, and the New Jerusalem would descend from God.
What it was, was a stone tent—the tabernacle.
What was in it was what God had carefully stipulated to Moses.
In the heart of the temple, on the foundation stone, was a coffin (the word is also translated ark.) In the Ark was the “knowledge of good and evil” written on stone—the law.
On top of the Ark, was “the Mercy Seat,” on which the high priest would sprinkle blood; It was a Mercy Seat, a judgment seat, and a throne.
On either side of the seat were two cherubim, like those that guard the way to the tree of Life.
It was the Covenant of Law, literally encased in the Covenant of Mercy.
It was laws, contained in the story of Grace.
Standing on that throne, John saw the Passover Lamb, our Lord Jesus.
We took the Life of the Good (God alone is good) on a tree in a garden just outside the temple walls, and everything died.
But the night before we took the Life, the Good gave his Life at dinner. He fore-gave his Life, and everything began to live. In fact, “It is finished.”
Jesus is the Life and the Good; He is Love lost and Love that finds.
Just outside the Holy of Holies and a drawn curtain were lots of flames and knives, like the flaming sword that turned every which way guarding the way to the Tree of Life. And outside of that Holy place was a courtyard with an altar for sacrifice. And outside that courtyard, an outer courtyard for worshipping and feasting.
In Leviticus God makes it clear that anyone who eats meat makes a sacrifice… to something. The Jews were commanded to bring all meat to the tabernacle, so the priests could offer the blood to God. The Life is in the blood. Sacrifice is surrendering the life we take, to the one who constantly gives. The Temple was like a heart circulating blood in one giant lovely body.
It’s our ego that tells us the Life is our own and so dams the river and ourselves.
It’s the Judgment of God that cuts the false from the true, un-dams the river, and teaches us to lose “our lives” and find them in God… Life is a decision to Love.
Every story is the story of Love lost and Love that finds.
To enter the temple, one often travelled through Gehenna, and then the outer court, and then, through intermediaries, into the inner court, holy place, and finally, the Holy of Holies.
It was a journey, not only to a place, but a time, or all time in one place; Scripture tells us that it represents the age to come. And it’s inside was bigger than all the outside; it is the New Creation. It was the Beginning, and the End, and the Way from one place to another. It was—actually, is—the Plot to the Story, that is all things.
Once you trust the Plot, once you see that “It is finished,” the plot transforms every moment of the Story; A day in His court gives meaning to a thousand elsewhere.
Stories store meaning. Stories reveal persons. Stories unite people. Stories tell us who we are.
When my children were little, every night they would say, “Daddy, tell me the story of the day that I was born.”
Stories tell us who we are, and they make us who we are.
The Story of Superman, for instance, is not a story that a little boy can create.
But it’s a story that creates little boys and turns them into men.
It’s not a story of what the boy “needs” to do, but what the Superman has done.
The boy loses himself in the story, and finds himself in the story, for the story has found a place in the boy.
You can only live your story, by trusting the story that’s been written.
Entering the temple was entering a story.
Entering most churches is like entering a classroom.
We want “knowledge of the Good,” so we can do good, and make ourselves good.
The Gospel is the story of “the Good” knowing us, and making us, good.
The Gospel is: “God saves you from yourself!”
But we take the law out of the coffin, and try to rewrite the story, to make it depend on ourselves; There’s a reason it was kept in the Ark, covered in Mercy.
We turn, “God saves you from yourself” into, “You save yourself from God.”
We literally crucify the Plot, “God saves,” and everything dies.
To enter the temple was to enter “The Story,” The Story of Love lost and Love that finds; the story of the eschatos man, the Superman, Jesus, which means “God saves.”
The Story is not dependent on us; we are utterly dependent on the story.
The Story of Grace creates a heart of faith.
Maybe that’s why we “Go to Church?”
To be known by the Word of God.
To hear the story of the day we were, are, and will be born.
We are born through a torn curtain.
This is the sixth day of Creation and the seventh day is your home.
God is your home and you are his.
“How lovely is my dwelling place,” declares the Lord.