January 22nd, 2021

In their midst but separate

By Submitted Article on October 10, 2020.

House of God

First of three parts

Jacob M. Van Zyl

The first thing toddlers learn to draw is a house: a square for the walls, a triangle for the roof, and maybe a door and window. As their skill with pencil or crayon grows, they may add a yellow sun, a green tree and a blue stick-man next to the house.

The exterior of a house contains and protects the interior home, the living space of the family. In the morning, all go their separate ways to work and school; but in the evening, all are grateful to go home, like birds returning to their favourite tree to roost.

To have a roof above our heads means to be out of the cold of winter and the heat of summer, to be covered against rain, hail, snow, wind and blood-sucking bugs, and to be with people we love and where we feel safe and happy.

For millennia, from Adam to Moses, there was no physical “house of God.” Believers built outdoor altars with stones, made fire on it, and sacrificed an animal to thank God for his mercy and plead for his blessing (Gen. 12:7, 13:18, 22:9, 26:25, 33:20, 35:7, Ex. 17:15, 24:4).

When Jacob fled from Esau, he slept in the open and had the dream about a ladder, reaching from him to heaven, with God at the top, and angels ascending and descending (Gen. 28:12-19). God promised to give the land to Jacob’s numerous descendants. When he woke up, he called the place Bethel (house of God). There was no building, but his awesome experience made that spot a place where God’s presence was felt.

A famine forced Jacob and his whole family to move to Egypt, where their descendants became a nation in slavery. God used Moses to lead them out of bondage to Mount Sinai, where God gave them his Law and specifications for building the Tabernacle, the first house of God for Israel.

Because they moved from place to place, this house of God was a portable tent. It could be folded up and carried by the Levites to the next site.

The layout of the Tabernacle stressed God’s holy separation from sinful man, as well as his reachability through the right means and attitude.

The Levites camped around the Tabernacle, forming a barrier between the other tribes and God’s house (Num. 1:50-54). The court fence separated the Levites from the Holy part of the Tabernacle, where only priests could go. The veil separated the Holy from the Most Holy part, where only the high priest could go once a year.

When Christ paid the price for salvation on the cross, the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom. God removed the separation (Matt. 27:51, Heb. 6:19-20, 9:11-12).

Jacob Van Zyl of Lethbridge is a retired counsellor and the author of several faith-based books.

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