King David acted like the king of Lilliput. That king’s hospitality toward the giant traveler, Gulliver, included providing a house that was many sizes too small for Gulliver. David wanted to erect a temple for God’s presence, but God said that He had no need of a house; dwelling in a mobile tent since Egypt had never limited Him.1 Elsewhere the Lord pointed out that He spans heaven and earth, so a human edifice could never contain Him anyway.
“Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool.
Where then is a house you could build for Me?
And where is a place that I may rest?
For My hand made all these things,
Thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord.
“But to this one I will look,
To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” (Isa. 66:1-2)
Like David, we love to build things for God. Sometimes they are physical structures; often they involve our creativity. We form teams and organizations to solve problems and undertake projects. Like David’s proposal, our offerings come from a desire to please God, and God condescends to visit these tiny temples.
Few of us really think that God resides exclusively in church buildings. But sometimes we act as though His presence is only valid in our Sunday services or other Christian activities. Some people invest themselves in those meetings as though they are the new temples. Now, church as a body of people certainly has a special place in God’s purposes and it’s not wrong to expect God to make Himself heard and felt in our activities. But God fills more than our meetings; let’s increase our expectations for God’s presence in “ordinary life” too.
Often we build temples of service. Our love for God readily spills over into new plans to glorify Him. We run to the altar steps to lay our lives before Him in missions or ministry.
As the practicalities of service unfold, the projects can easily begin to absorb us. Our self-esteem starts to rise and fall with the successes or setbacks of the project. We forget the spirit in which we first made our commitment. Our plans and visions were intended, like a temple, to glorify God, but such construction projects sometimes develop a life of their own. Instead, they distract us from God who, in reality, is bigger than our most worthwhile works.
We even mistake the inspiration and exhilaration of our visionary projects for the presence or anointing of God. I’m writing a book about growing in faith and relationship with God through His names. My Bible devotions often veer off course into planning and creativity for the book; the excitement of new ideas begins to substitute for God’s presence. I need reminding that I have drifted from the very intimacy with God that I am writing about.
Should we curtail our overdeveloped desire to “house” God? Absolutely not. Although God cannot be contained, He nonetheless chooses to dwell among us in our edifices, institutions, and activities. He loves our enthusiasm for Him. However, we should never forget that God’s presence in our meetings, His blessing on our ministries, and His glory reflected in our art and architecture do not suggest those human constructions are especially hallowed. After all, earth is merely a footstool.
In Isaiah, God says that He rewards humility. Humility frees us to break away from our absorption in tiny pet projects to pursue God as He really is in the infinite expanse beyond our homegrown temples. Even when we are engaged in thoroughly worthwhile and even fruitful ministries, we need to exit those “temples” regularly to encounter God in greater measure.
A wonderful thing happens when we encounter God outside our tiny temples. We realize that we need more of Him inside our writing projects, ministries, churches, missions, or whatever it may be. He can run them better than we do anyway. We need to fling the doors open and invite our great God in, so that His greater presence will fill and overflow them too.
Please share this devotion with others who might be blessed.
- 2 Sam. 7:5-7. [↩]