The Temple of Creation

Daily Reading – Genesis 1-2

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth… And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds”… Then God made man in his own image… And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he Rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”

God is the author and source of all life-giving rest, and Rest is one of the themes that ties the Bible together from start to finish.

cosmic_squareThere are two elements essential to perfect Rest.

I. God and man must dwell together in perfect harmony where man is free from the curse of sin and enjoys unhindered access to God with no concept of fear or shame.

II. The second component of true Rest is a safe, ordered place for this unhindered relationship to exist. Think of arriving home to a perfectly clean house after a long, hard trip.

The first glimpse of this Restful existence is in Genesis 1-2. Creation is ordered, functioning just as it was designed to do, and God and man walk freely together.

Then comes the Fall of Man. The Creation itself and the relationship of man to God are cursed.

However, God begins a progressive series of promises that look forward to the REST-oration of the Paradise that had been lost.

The promises of God address both key elements of Rest:

I. The relationship between God and man

II. The geography where that relationship will take place

One example:

Genesis 17:7-8

“And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”

God promises his people Rest in the form of the everlasting possession of His Presence and Land.

God continues to add detail to his promise of perfect Rest-oration as the story unfolds during the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. Then comes a day when Israel seems to be on the verge of all the promises coming true.

Joshua 1:1-9

After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

After 400 years of slavery in Egypt and 40 years of wandering around in the desert, Israel is on the verge of having a country of their own. A beautiful land where they can kick back on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and relax after a long, hard trip.

However, they only found a shadow of the Rest that was promised. They experienced a time of national success, but quickly realized this was not the Garden of Eden or the everlasting paradise of the promise. Part of the problem was with Joshua. The conditions God placed on the promise were way too big for him to deliver. What God required of Joshua:

being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to ALL that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

The New Testament explains Joshua was never meant to be the one to keep the conditions, for all the promises of God find their Yes in Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:20) And God spoke of another day when Joshua’s namesake, Yeshua, would deliver on them.

Hebrews 4:8-9

For if Joshua had given them Rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath Rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s Rest has also Rested from his works as God did from his.

The people of Israel shared the same challenge Joshua was facing, for they were still plagued by the sinful nature that broke fellowship with God in the beginning.

Judges 2:1-2

Now the angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done?

Israel was prevented from freely living in the land with unhindered joy because of sin. But God had an answer.

Enter the Temple.

Although God’s presence once “dwelled” freely with man in the world, now His “indwelling” presence is limited to the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem. This is the place where man can approach God without fear of judgment through the sacrifice of atonement, allowing God and man to exist in perfect Relationship. Thus the Temple is the new place of God’s Rest, for the place where God dwells in right relationship with man is the place of God’s Rest.

Psalm 132:8-9, 13-14

Arise, O Lord, and go to your Resting Place,
you and the ark of your might.
Let your priests be clothed with righteousness,
and let your saints shout for joy.

For the Lord has chosen Zion;
he has desired it for his Dwelling Place:
“This is my Resting Place forever;
here I will Dwell, for I have desired it.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt God is omnipresent. However, there is a unique benefit for those among whom God “dwells.” These have access to God with no fear of judgment. God says to them, “I will be your God and you will be my people.” The presence of God means the hope of a future for these fortunate souls. And by extension, the Promised Land is the geography associated with all the people who benefit from his “indwelling” presence.

At this point, Israel is living in fairly well established geo-political borders in a land flowing with milk and honey with God “dwelling” among them through his presence in the Temple. Up to this time in human history, this is the closest any one has come to experiencing heaven on earth and true Rest since the Garden of Eden.

Despite their success, Israel learns the system of the Law and the building in Jerusalem are still insufficient for delivering the true Rest God promised, for “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” Hebrews 10:4

And the Temple and the gifts offered according to the Law were only a “copy and shadow of what is in heaven.” Hebrews 8:5 NIV

And the heavenly reality was about to be revealed.

John 1:14

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (Literally “tabernacled among us”)

John 2:13-22

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

From this point forward the heavenly reality is here and the true Temple is the Temple of Christ’s body. After his Resurrection, the body of Christ extends to include all members of the Church through the indwelling of the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:27

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Romans 12:5

so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

1 Corinthians 3:16

Do you not know that you (all) are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own

Ephesians 2:19-22

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 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. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

1 Peter 2:4-5

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, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

The heavenly reality of the Temple is found in Christ’s body, and the Church is the body of Christ. Therefore we are the Temple of God, and God’s Spirit “dwells” with men through the Temple of Christ’s body. Man is now able to approach the throne of grace with confidence. Hebrews 4:16

Through the temple of Christ’s body we have unhindered access to a relationship with God that is full of joy and Rest.

Matthew 11:29

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find Rest for your souls.

There is one promise remaining for the REST-oration of all things, the promise of Land. What was originally described to Abraham as the land associated with the Temple in Canaan is revealed to be the whole world.

Romans 4:13

For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the World did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.

For now, creation groans with the eager expectation that it will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. Romans 8:19-23

These promises will all come together at the return of Christ. And on that day we will not see a temple building in Zion, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its Temple. Revelation 21:22

On that day we will live in perfect Rest, with God and man dwelling together in the New Heaven and New Earth.

However today, as children of Abraham in Christ, (Galatians 3:29) we are sojourning by faith in a land that is not our home.

Hebrews 11:8-10, 13-16

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

This world is not as good as it gets. Our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20) and our inheritance lies just beyond the River of Judgment in the Land of Promise.

There remains the Promise of Rest for the people of God.

Take a moment to read these verses from Hebrews and reflect on how the hope of a future living at peace with God will affect the way you live today.

Hebrews 4:9-16

So then, there remains a Sabbath Rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s Rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that Rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

On Jordan’s Stormy Banks

On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand, 
and cast a wishful eye 
to Canaan’s fair and happy land, 
where my possessions lie. 

O’er all those wide extended plains 
shines one eternal day; 
there God the Son forever reigns, 
and scatters night away.

I am bound for the promised land,  
I am bound for the promised land. 

No chilling winds or poisonous breath 
can reach that healthful shore; 
sickness and sorrow, pain and death, 
are felt and feared no more.

When I shall reach that happy place, 
I’ll be forever blest, 
for I shall see my Father’s face, 
and in his bosom rest.

Samuel Stennett

The Emmaus Trail is a weekly devotional study that explores the theme of God reconciling himself to the world through the redemption of his Son which is found in all of Scripture. 

Luke 24

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. 

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