IN THE DAYS OF HIS POWER SERIES.
TOPIC: LORD PREPARE ME A SANCTUARY!
Rev. Innocent Peace-Udochukwu
President Living Fountain Ministries Int’l LIFOM
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If any one destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are.”
“O Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary,
Pure and holy, tried and true.
With thanksgiving I’ll be a living
Sanctuary for you.”
In modern religion, “Sanctuary” conjures images of grand cathedrals with high pitched and domed or vaulted ceilings. While these buildings certainly are impressive, they were constructed and designed due to a misunderstanding of the word sanctuary. This word appears in the Bible 148 times, and , without fail, every time it is used it refers to a place. Granted, its use in Revelation 15:5-8 is certainly part of a figure, sign or symbol, but, within that vision, it is a physical place that may be both touched and entered. Where, then , is the misunderstanding of this word if it always refers to a place that is both tangible and accessible?
Sanctuary comes from the combination of the Latin word Sanctus and the suffix –ary. Sanctus refers to something that has been set apart from all other things; in religion, it applies to something that has been set apart for the express use or service to Jehovah God. The suffix –ary denotes something connected intimately to the word it modifies, and it especially refers to a place. For example, avi-ary is a place where you will find birds. A sanctu-ary is a place where you will find holiness, or a place that has been set apart as holy.
When we examine the Scriptures, this is the exact definition that is used over and throughout all of the passages where the word sanctuary appears. Exodus 15:17, the first time the word is used in the Bible, sanctuary refers to a place that is God’s “own mountain”: it is a place that God has made as “[his] abode”. Exodus 25:8 is even more explicit as it states the sanctuary will be a place where God will dwell in the midst of Israel.
What was the difference between The Tabernacle and all the other tents in Israel while the people wandered through the wilderness? Upon superficial examination, there would not be too much difference: The Tabernacle was made from fancier material and it had no roof. The real difference, however, was that people dwelled in the other tents and God dwelled in The Tabernacle. That was what made it special. The “holy of holies” is the sanctuary; it was the place where the only thing that is really, truly and purely holy dwelled: God.
Where has God chosen to dwell in the New Testament? Surely not the temple, since it was God who tore the curtain of the temple, which set the sanctuary apart from all other places, in two (Mark 15:38). In doing so, that place was no longer holy and God no longer dwelt there. We must learn to flush the images of buildings from our minds.
The apostle Paul tells us that Jehovah, “the God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:24-25). This is the mistake that is made about “sanctuaries” under the New Testament. God specifically chose the tabernacle and, later, the temple in Jerusalem in which to dwell. It was God’s presence that made those places holy. God has not chosen any building to dwell in after the temple in Jerusalem.
Where does God dwell? “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16) “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Romans 8:9). “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:1).
We 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. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:20-22). We are God’s temple. We are god’s dwelling place. We are the “sanctuary” in the New Testament.
We often connect these ideas to worship, devotion, and prayer; and, often, to how one behaves in their interpersonal relationships. If we listen to the prophets, we hear in their cry that worship and sacrifice is nothing but vacant, blathering words without actions that honor God by caring for people who suffer.
Pure and holy, tried and true, any who seek to be a living sanctuary for our Lord do so by feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, welcoming the outsider, healing the sick, comforting the downtrodden, and defying the forces that degrade human dignity. That’s sanctuary.
Those who want God’s fellowship must long for Him (by faith) and live in such a manner so as to be His holy dwelling place.
Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true.
With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living sanctuary for you.
It is You, Lord Who came to save the heart and soul of every man.
It is You Lord Who knows my weakness Who gives me strength, with Thine own hand.
Lead Me on Lord from temptation. Purify me from within.
Fill my heart with Your Holy Spirit, take away all my sin.
Saint Paul says, “each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it.” On the “Day” of Judgment, each of us will stand in front of God and present Him with our temples, as if we are presenting artwork for a class project. We are all familiar with these kinds of things, especially if we have children. We want to put forth the best project possible and be ready to make a presentation and answer questions. Similarly, we will stand before Christ, our judge, and make a presentation about our temples, how we’ve taken care of them, how we’ve furthered Christ’s message with them, and how well we let our identity as Christ’s temple define our lives. Just thinking about this motivates me to keep my temple cleaner, build my foundation stronger, and have my temple radiate God’s message of salvation better.
Remember that God’s spirit dwells in us and that when we live a very sinful existence, where we are not repenting or trying, that we are destroying God’s temple, and God will destroy those who have destroyed His temple. (I Corinthians 3: 16-17) Remember that God’s temple is holy, and because we are an extension of God’s temple, we are to strive for holiness as well.
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