This is a brief outline for a Bible Study/devotion that I gave to one of our EuroTeam construction teams (check out their great team blog here). It’s purpose was to put their practical work into the context of God’s purposes for His Creation. I believe its application, however, is broad and needs to touch every domain where we exercise an activity that God has called us to.
In the Old Testament, much significance is given to the Temple (and the Tabernacles, but I’ll refer just to “The Temple” for simplicity when I mean both). The fact that it’s significant is plain to see in cursory readings of the OT. The theology of that significance is perhaps less plain to our modern, Western thought patterns. I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of this so I only offer some main points about that significance. (Here are 2 podcasts on Eschatology by Martin Scott where the symbolism of the Temple is more fully discussed: https://3generations.eu/blog/?p=928 and https://3generations.eu/blog/?p=941)
What I’d like to posit is this short study can be summarized in the following statements (most of which are a synthesis of observations presented first by others which have particularly resonated with me):
The desire of God with respect to The Creation/The Cosmos/”The Heavens and the Earth” is to fill it with His Glorious Presence and to rule it in intimate relationship with His People
- The Old Testament Temple is an intentional picture of God’s Creation
God’s manifest and abiding presence in the Old Testament Temple is an intentional picture of how God wants to fill all of Creation with His Glory
The planning, preparing, building and consecrating of the Temple are an intentional picture of how God desires to work with man and has chosen to do so in order to prepare a resting place for His presence
The coming of Jesus launched God’s “New Creation Project”
Our renewed Creation Mandate is to facilitate (in any way that God calls us to) the indwelling presence of God throughout all of His Creation
To this end, we can glean significance and understanding in our mandate based on what we see revealed in the Bible accounts of the Temple
Significance of the Temple:
- This was a physical location where the presence of God was continually manifested – In my understanding we’re talking about the “spirit realm” or “heavenly realm” or “God’s space” intersecting with the “natural realm” in tangible ways. For those of us who don’t easily sense things “in the Spirit”, I think we’d probably actually sense this! 😉
- This was a physical location where one could “meet God” – One went to the Temple to connect with God, to meet with God, to relate to God, to talk with God, etc. It was a place where relationship with the Creator of the Universe was fostered and facilitated.
Moses – spoke face-to-face with God “as a man speaks with his friend” – Exodus 33:11
Joshua – stayed in God’s presence even after his master, Moses, had left! – Exodus 33:11
David – he simply wanted to stay there all the time! – Psalm 27:4
God’s intention was to meet with His people there and to dwell with them – Exodus 29:43-46
- The physical Temple was a micro-representation of God’s Creation – In ancient temples in the Middle East, there is more than one example of the physical temple (of the god that they believed created everything) architecturally representing the cosmos created by their god.
Some of the connections between the Creation and the Temple in the Old Testament are as follows:
Job 38:4-6 – the Creation is seen in architectural terms. One could envision a Cosmic Temple with the words that God chose when responding to Job
Exodus 39-40 – In these chapters there are parallels with Moses setting up the Tabernacle in the Wilderness and God’s Creation in Genesis 1-2. Here are a few verses where the activity of the building of the Tabernacle alludes to the Creation:
Genesis 1:31 Exodus 39:43 Genesis 2:1 Exodus 39:32 Genesis 2:2 Exodus 40:33 Genesis 2:3 Exodus 39:43 Genesis 2:3 Exodus 40:9
Exodus 31:1-6 – Even in the building of the Tabernacle, God demonstrates an earthly example of how He created with Wisdom (Proverbs 8 ) when He calls out Bezalel and Oholiab, skilled craftsmen anointed with wisdom, to create various items in the Tabernacle.
Psalm 78:69 – The psalmist Asaph indicates that the design that God gave for His Temple makes one think of the majesty of Creation
Genesis 2:1-3 – Palace building is a common recurring theme in ancient Creation narratives. So :
gods build their palaces their palaces are their temples Israel’s temple is called The House of the Lord (over 200 times in the Old Testament) The Cosmos is God’s House (Isaiah 66:1), where He finds rest The 7th day of Creation, God finds His rest
1 Chronicles 28:2, Psalm 99:5, Psalm 132:7 – David and the people of Israel understood this idea of their Temple, on earth, being the footstool of the Lord. The footstool is a symbol of someone being in in their own home. They have authority there and they are at rest there. God’s just kickin’ back and enjoyin’ His handiwork!
Genesis 1:26-27 – The final activity in the construction of a temple was to install the statue or image of the god. This is exactly what happened in God’s Creation Temple on the 6th day.
Exodus 40:34-35, 2 Chronicles 5:13-14, 2 Chronicles 7:1-2 – God’s desire to fill His Creation with His Glory, (which is His manifest Presence (which means where He dwells (which is His House))) is demonstrated in the consecration of both Moses’ Tabernacle in the Wilderness and Solomon’s Temple when the cloud of God’s Glory completely filled the house of worship and everyone was overwhelmed.
- The spread of the presence of God – God’s intention was that Israel take this “tabernacling presence” (John 1:14) of the one true God into all of Creation, that He would find rest or a dwelling place everywhere in Creation.
- Psalm 8:3-6, Hebrews 4:9-11 – God has chosen the pinnacle of His Creation, mankind, to be the “hinge” between Heaven and Earth so that we would find our rest or our dwelling place in Him and then bring His Presence to where we are.
- Romans 8:20-21 – Even the Creation itself was subject to this design of God that humans be the agency of connecting the Creation with Heaven so that God would have a “footstool” all over His Creation. The Creation groans and anxiously waits for God’s people to connect with this reality and get on with the task.
- God’s Glory – Again, this can be another way to speak of His presence, which is, in turn, a way to speak of where He dwells or abides.
Numbers 14:21 – God desires that the whole Earth be filled with His Glory
Isaiah 6:3 – Isaiah says that the whole Earth is filled with His Glory
Habakkuk 2:14 – Habakkuk shows us, however, that God is interested in people having an experiential knowledge of the fullness of His Glory in every place on earth
- Genesis 1:26-28 – If we truly are the image of God in His Creation Temple – His “temple statue” if you will – then our mandate is to facilitate places where the presence of God can rest or abide – where He finds rest – in His Creation and to disciple people to find their rest in Him.
- John 1:1-5 – Another way to look at this is that with Jesus, God launched a new Creation project to which He invites the participation of His “image bearers”. Accepting this invitation is to begin to walk with Jesus and to begin to create in the same way that God created in Genesis 1:
Bring light into dark places Bring order into chaos Bring life where there is no life
- Haggai, Ezra and the people of God – In the book of Haggai, we are taken to the time where Ezra led a group of Jews back from Babylon to rebuild God’s Temple. The work begins, but then it stops and 14 years pass with no progress. God sends Haggai with a prophetic message to the people of Israel that they need to get on with the project!
- Facilitating God’s Kingdom – What I like about the message of the book of Haggai in this context of rebuilding the Temple is that God’s people are admonished to apply themselves to physical, concrete labor to facilitate the intersection of Heaven and Earth; the abiding presence of God in a specific geographical context. What kind of practical activities would this temple re-building entail (not an exhaustive list)?
Demolition of the burned out remains of the old temple Separation of reusable and non-reusable materials Trash removal Establishing foundations and structure Lumber work and carpentry Stone masonry All types of finish work All types of decoration work
- 1 Corinthians 3:9-10,16-17, 1 Corinthians 6:19, Hebrews 3:6 – These sorts of tasks are what is required to prepare a place for God’s presence, both in terms of the individual spirit as God’s temple and in terms of a piece of physical geography; very practical; hard work required.
- God’s view of practical work – In Haggai 1:13, God says that He is with them in this important task. He even fills them with His Holy Spirit (Haggai 1:14) for construction work…Spirit-filled trash removal, Spirit-filled carpentry, Spirit-filled painting, Spirit-filled ditch digging, Spirit-filled architecture, Spirit-filled artistic design, Spirit-filled sewing, Spirit-filled metal-casting, etc.!
- God’s promises for our work – God promised to fill that house they were building with His Glory (Haggai 2:7) and His Peace (Haggai 2:9). He promised physical provision as a recompense for the work (Haggai 2:19). The final word in Haggai 2:20-22 is a prophetic word about God moving in judgment and the establishing of His Kingdom. There is, in my opinion, a direct correlation between the people getting on with the practical work of preparing a place for His Presence and God acting to establish His Kingdom…even elsewhere in the earth.
The book of Haggai shows us where God is saying to the people of Israel, “Have you forgotten what you are to be about? Come on! Let’s build together and I promise to be with you!” To then take this study further, there is the book Ezra, the contextual situation in which the book of Haggai actually resides. There is much to be discovered here as we take God’s admonition into all domains of society, family, work, education, arts, etc. throughout all of His creation. We are, after all, sub-contracting with the Master Architect of the Universe to create space for His abiding, glorious presence among us!