December 3rd, 2020

Immanuel: God with us

By Submitted Article on October 24, 2020.

House of God

Last of three parts

Jacob M. Van Zyl

The coronavirus closed places of assembly: schools, churches, stadiums, restaurants and auditoriums. We had to adapt to virtual church via YouTube.

In a way, we returned to the home-church situation of the first centuries. It may also be a trial run for the end-time when the Antichrist will force the church into hiding. Church buildings may remain empty or even be destroyed.

Then, we will have to redefine church and house of God. It will become clear that the church does not consist of buildings but of people. Worshiping in secret in an inner room or somewhere in nature will make that place the house of God, our Bethel.

When the virus is under control, and while we still have freedom of assembly, we should cherish the privilege to come together as believers, supporting each other while we praise our Saviour.

Luke recorded that Jesus went to the synagogue on the Sabbath “as his custom was” (4:16). His main goal was to give, not to receive. There, he preached and healed.

When the crowd became too large for the synagogue, he had open-air meetings: the audience standing on the shore while Jesus preached from Peter’s boat. He transformed that spot to a house of God – a place where people felt the presence of the Eternal One.

When the first temple was inaugurated, King Solomon said in his prayer: “The heaven of heavens cannot contain you. How much less this temple which I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27).

Nevertheless, God honoured man’s small effort by making his cloud descend and fill the temple, and by igniting the burnt offering with fire from heaven (2 Chron. 5:13-14, 7:1).

Almighty God, omniscient and omnipresent, came down to our level when his Son was born in Bethlehem. The stable became the house of God at the most vital point in history.

Jesus promised that when two or three come together in his name, he will be in their midst (Matt. 18:20). He turns the most modest place into a glorious house of God by his endearing presence.

Our homes, too, can be houses of God, if we give time and space for family and personal worship there. Like Mary of Bethany, we can enjoy sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to his words and enjoying his company. The work can wait for a while, as Jesus told Martha; we will do the work better after we have been nourished by Jesus’ bread of life.

The most important place we should dedicate as a dwelling for the Lord is our hearts. Jesus promised that he and the Father will dwell in believers through the Holy Spirit (John 14:23). Immanuel, God with us (Matt. 1:23, Rev. 21:3).

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

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