when God dwells on earth


10402816_790350641014469_2937347822416183909_nAs I have written before, the temple was at the heart of Jewish theology. To the Jews, the temple was God’s own conduit to Earth. The temple had existed from the time of Moses when God commanded Moses to build Him a sanctuary:


Exo 25:8 And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.

This first building is a tent. This is particularly useful for a mobile nation. God was thought to have traveled with Israel through their wanderings. Moses even commands that people bury their poop, such that God does not see and/or step in it:

Deu 23:12 “Also you shall have a place outside the camp, where you may go out;
Deu 23:13 and you shall have an implement among your equipment, and when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and turn and cover your refuse.
Deu 23:14 For the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and give your enemies over to you; therefore your camp shall be holy, that He may see no unclean thing among you, and turn away from you.

The people take comfort in having God so close:

Deu 4:7 “For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the LORD our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him?

But at times, God threatens to abandon Israel:

Exo 33:2 And I will send My Angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanite and the Amorite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite.
Exo 33:3 Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”
Exo 33:4 And when the people heard this bad news, they mourned, and no one put on his ornaments.
Exo 33:5 For the LORD had said to Moses, “Say to the children of Israel, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. I could come up into your midst in one moment and consume you. Now therefore, take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do to you.’ ”

Exo 33:14 And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Exo 33:15 Then he said to Him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.
Exo 33:16 For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth.”
Exo 33:17 So the LORD said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.”

In this passage, God had already pardoned Israel. But God cannot stand Israel. God’s new plan is to send an angel to accompany Israel instead of God. But to this, Moses and the people object. God commands them to show penitence, and from what they show, God will decide how to act. The people comply. Moses engages God again. God grants Moses’ request. The remaining part of Exodus 33 is the infamous scene in which Moses requests to see God.

In Exodus 40, God enters the temple. This is described as visibly looking as if a cloud is descending. The cloud itself is not God, but seems to obscure the vision of God’s glory. This may be because Exodus 33 states that no man can see God’s face and live (Exo 33:20):

Exo 40:34 Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
Exo 40:35 And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.

The temple remains a tent until the time of David. David proposes to build a more solid structure (paralleled in 1 Chronicles 17):

2Sa 7:5 “Go and tell My servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Would you build a house for Me to dwell in?
2Sa 7:6 For I have not dwelt in a house since the time that I brought the children of Israel up from Egypt, even to this day, but have moved about in a tent and in a tabernacle.
2Sa 7:7 Wherever I have moved about with all the children of Israel, have I ever spoken a word to anyone from the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd My people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?’ ” ‘

God claims that He dwelt in the tent and traveled around with the tent, from the Exodus until David’s time. God seems satisfied with the tent and wonders why David is intent on a temple. God does not refuse the building, but instead God passes the responsibility to David’s son to build the new temple:

2Sa 7:13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.

But David starts gathering resources to build God’s house, despite God’s command. God then specifically tells David why David cannot build the house: David has killed too many people. Solomon will have to build the temple.

1Ch 22:8 But the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build an house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight.
1Ch 22:9 Behold, a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about: for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days.
1Ch 22:10 He shall build an house for my name; and he shall be my son, and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever.

Solomon does build a house for God (this is the First Temple):

2Ch 6:1 Then Solomon spoke: “The LORD said He would dwell in the dark cloud.
2Ch 6:2 I have surely built You an exalted house, And a place for You to dwell in forever.”

God inhabits it:

2Ch 7:1 When Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the temple.
2Ch 7:2 And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD’s house.

Absent is the cloud of smoke from Exo 40:34. Instead the transmission of God into the house is either by fire or unrecorded. Again, the glory of God stops individuals from entering the place.

But then God leaves it in Ezekiel:

Eze 10:18 Then the glory of the LORD departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim.
Eze 10:19 And the cherubim lifted their wings and mounted up from the earth in my sight. When they went out, the wheels were beside them; and they stood at the door of the east gate of the LORD’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them.

Eze 11:22 So the cherubim lifted up their wings, with the wheels beside them, and the glory of the God of Israel was high above them.
Eze 11:23 And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain, which is on the east side of the city.

Ezekiel watches a fiery chariot ascend into the heaven. With the chariot departs God. But Ezekiel gives the reader hope. For one day God would return and inhabit the temple again:

Eze 43:4 And the glory of the LORD came into the temple by way of the gate which faces toward the east.

Eze 43:7 And He said to me, “Son of man, this is the place of My throne and the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel forever. No more shall the house of Israel defile My holy name, they nor their kings, by their harlotry or with the carcasses of their kings on their high places.
Eze 43:8 When they set their threshold by My threshold, and their doorpost by My doorpost, with a wall between them and Me, they defiled My holy name by the abominations which they committed; therefore I have consumed them in My anger.
Eze 43:9 Now let them put their harlotry and the carcasses of their kings far away from Me, and I will dwell in their midst forever.

When God does inhabit the temple, God would take up rulership. God would protect and judge Israel from His throne. God would stay forever.

The temple is rebuilt. Some 66 years later the construction starts by allowance of Cyrus (Ezr 1:3). Construction is finished under Darius (Ezr 6:14). The prophet Haggai presses the people into action. Haggai claims that God is angry because His house is in ruins.

Hag 1:8 Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,” says the LORD.
Hag 1:9 “You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?” says the LORD of hosts. “Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house.

Haggai then claims that God will reinhabit the temple:

Hag 2:5 ‘According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!’

Hag 2:6 “For thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land;
Hag 2:7 and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the LORD of hosts.

But God does not reinhabit this temple, at least not as recorded in the Old Testament. It is probably due to this that apocalyptic literature abounded in 1st Century Judaism. God had left, but had not returned. Instead, Israel was oppressed constantly by foreigners. The Jews were expecting God to return and save them from their oppressors. The Jewish hope was that God would one day return to Earth and then He would stay, ruling the Earth from His holy city.

All the prophets claimed that God would return to the temple or Jerusalem and rule the world (echoing Ezekiel 43):

Hag 2:6 “For thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land;
Hag 2:7 and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the LORD of hosts.

Hag 2:9 ‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the LORD of hosts.”

Zec 8:3 “Thus says the LORD: ‘I will return to Zion, And dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth, The Mountain of the LORD of hosts, The Holy Mountain.’

Zec 8:7 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Behold, I will save My people from the land of the east And from the land of the west;
Zec 8:8 I will bring them back, And they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. They shall be My people And I will be their God, In truth and righteousness.’

Zec 8:23 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.” ‘ ”

Zec 14:9 And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be “The LORD is one,” And His name one.

Zec 14:16 And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.

Isa 2:2 Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD’s house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it.
Isa 2:3 Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
Isa 2:4 He shall judge between the nations, And rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore.

Isa 4:4 When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning,
Isa 4:5 then the LORD will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night. For over all the glory there will be a covering.
Isa 4:6 And there will be a tabernacle for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and rain.

Zep 3:15 The LORD has taken away your judgments, He has cast out your enemy. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; You shall see disaster no more.
Zep 3:16 In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Do not fear; Zion, let not your hands be weak.
Zep 3:17 The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”
Zep 3:18 “I will gather those who sorrow over the appointed assembly, Who are among you, To whom its reproach is a burden.
Zep 3:19 Behold, at that time I will deal with all who afflict you; I will save the lame, And gather those who were driven out; I will appoint them for praise and fame In every land where they were put to shame.
Zep 3:20 At that time I will bring you back, Even at the time I gather you; For I will give you fame and praise Among all the peoples of the earth, When I return your captives before your eyes,” Says the LORD.

This is the theology which John the Baptist teaches. This is the theology that Jesus preaches, the coming Kingdom of God. James, Peter and Paul all await this coming apocalypse. The Bible ends by reaffirming this idea:

Rev 21:2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
Rev 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.

But for John, because God, Himself, rules the city there will be no more need for a temple. The temple will be obsolete:

Rev 21:22 But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.

About christopher fisher

The blog is meant for educational/entertainment purposes. All material can be used and reproduced in any length for any purpose as long as I am cited as the source.
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4 Responses to when God dwells on earth

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