Sermons and Articles | Ken Puls
Preparing a Place of Worship
Series: Thoughts on Worship
Call to Worship — Psalm 25
Throughout the history of the church God's people have met in a variety of venues—from humble homes to grand cathedrals, from prominent landmarks to hidden caves and catacombs, from school gyms and store fronts to ornate sanctuaries and lavish halls.
Some have been used out of necessity, some out of a desire to plant the gospel in places where it is sparse. Some look to what is practical and functional and efficient while others look to what is beautiful, aesthetically rich and pleasing.
So where is the right place to worship? Where is God most pleased to dwell?
What kind of place—what kind of worship space—could we possibly prepare that would most honor and magnify Him?
Open your Bibles to the last chapter of the book of Isaiah—Isaiah 66. We will be focusing this morning on the first two verses. As this chapter begins God makes a declaration and He poses a question. His declaration is about who He is; His question is about where He will dwell.
Let's read together, Isaiah 66:1-2. Hear the Word of God:
This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
If you are taking notes this morning, we will look first at God's declaration and then at His question.
I. His declaration—Consider who God Is
He begins in verse 1 by declaring—
God rules over all as the Sovereign One. There is none higher, none greater, none more glorious. Earlier in Isaiah the prophet is given a glimpse God on His throne—
Psalm 99 echoes this refrain—
God is exalted above His creation—the vast heavens are His throne.
All things are under His feet—He has all authority and power—All things are His. In Psalm 50:12 God says—
The earth—as His possession—is His footstool. And we on His footstool are called to worship.
God has all authority in heaven and on earth, and this authority is administered through the Son—the Lord Jesus Christ. When Jesus commissioned His disciples in Matthew 28, He tells them in verse 18—
God is placing all things at the feet of Christ as His gospel goes out in power. Psalm 110 begins with a promise about Jesus—
Hebrews 10 records the fulfillment—
Paul gives us more in Ephesians 1—
God is working out His purposes in creation, exalting Christ, glorifying His name.
God's throne is vast—the heavens.
His footstool is vast—the earth—all creation under His dominion and rule; all creation placed under the authority of the Son; all creation designed to radiate His glory and power.
II. His Question—Where will God dwell?
And so God asks the question at the end of verse 1 in Isaiah 66—
Where will such a God choose to dwell? In Heaven? On Earth? Everything in heaven and on earth God has made. They exist only because of Him.
What house could we possibly prepare for such a God? This is a question that has come up before in Scripture. In 2 Samuel 7 King David expressed his desire to build a temple of worship for God. At this time in Israel's history, you remember, God had chosen to manifest His glory in the midst of His people in a tent—a tabernacle with sacrifices, all rich in meaning to help instruct His people, and point them to salvation that Christ would ultimately accomplish on the cross.
When David wanted to build a temple for the Lord, God sent His prophet Nathan to David in 2 Samuel 7—
And even when Solomon, David's son, was allowed to build the temple in Jerusalem, he said—
God cannot be contained in a temple made by hands. Stephen, quoting from Isaiah 66, acknowledged this in his sermon—
And Paul, when he spoke in the Areopagus in Athens, told his hearers:
Our God does not dwell in temples made with hands. God cannot be confined to one place. He cannot be contained in a temple of stone, even the grandest and most glorious structure man can build. Concerning heaven and earth, God says at the beginning of Isaiah 66:2—
So where then is His dwelling place? Isaiah gives us God's answer in verse 2, and the answer is astonishing! Where can we find a right habitation for God? How are we to prepare a place?
We might think—
Let's get the best minds, the most skilled, the most successful—the wisest we can find.
Let's find the highest place, the most sought after possessions, the greatest palace…
But where do we see God turning His attention? Look at the end of verse 2.
Here God mentions three qualities of those who will be His habitation. God chooses to dwell with those who have been shamed, smitten and shaken by His Word. His habitation is with those who are humble, broken and trembling before His Word.
Hebrew is a very picturesque language. The word for "humble" in Hebrew means to be brought low in mind or in circumstances—to be shamed, poor or afflicted. It is a word found often in the psalms, describing those who are God's—
God looks with favor on the humble.
We see an example of this in the New Testament in the parable Jesus told in—
God makes His dwelling with those He has humbled—those who have seen He glory and holiness, and have seen their sin and wretchedness—and realize they are nothing before God—deserving only wrath and condemnation. Their only hope is that God would show mercy.
The word for contrite is word that literally means "crippled" or "lame." It is used only two other times in the Old Testament (2 Samuel 4:4 and 9:3) both in reference to Jonathan's Son.
One who is contrite in spirit is one whose spirit has been broken or smitten. It cannot rise on its own. It has no strength or vigor of its own. Our God favors a contrite spirit.
The contrite heart is the choice dwelling of God.
In this verse (57:15) Isaiah uses a different word for "contrite" —a word meaning "crushed (to powder or dust), destroyed or pulverized."
And Scripture promises—
God makes His dwelling with those He has humbled and those He has broken. Jesus promised in—
To "tremble" is to be shaken or fearful. To tremble at God's Word is read it as God's truth, a matter of life and death, a matter of utmost importance and weight. Because God is holy and we are all together sinful; because God alone is righteous and we are stained and shamed and smitten with evil—we are in ourselves without hope. God's Word spells out clearly judgment for the wicked—judgment we deserve—as well as hope and salvation for the humble and contrite of heart.
Do you see what God is saying through Isaiah? The dwelling place of God is not with those who "have it all together" or have an outward show of religion, success, charity or piety. God dwells where His Spirit and His Word have penetrated and broken the dominion and blindness of sin. This is God's work!
Jesus said in—
God chooses to dwell with those He has humbled and those He has broken and those who submit in reverent fear to His Word.
Turn for a moment to Acts 4. I want to show you one example of what this looks like in the New Testament. In Acts 4 Peter and John are arrested in the temple and brought before the rulers and elders and scribes in Jerusalem. Peter declares that they are serving Jesus and boldly proclaims—
After threatening them and letting them go, the council lets them go, and Peter and John return to the church. We pick up the account in Acts 4:2—
God is here in the midst of His people—in the power of His Spirit as they humble themselves and desire to boldly preach His Word. This is the essence of what Jesus said about worship in
God chooses to dwell with those He has humbled and those He has broken and those who tremble at His Word.
So what then are the implications of this?
There are many, but I want to mention just two.
It is not a structure or a building, though buildings can serve as useful tools. God's promise is to dwell with us—Emmanuel—God with us. God has made this clear all along—
Jesus humbled himself and came to tabernacle among us. And God is fulfilling this promise through Christ's body—the church. The temple of God is now the hearts and lives of His people.
And this will be our joy through eternity—the reward of heaven. The tabernacle and temple of the Old Testament were physical structures that pointed toward this greater spiritual truth—God with us. In the final nine chapters of Ezekiel, the prophet is given a vision of God's temple and city in perfection—portraying the people of God dwelling with God in glory.
John announces the fulfillment of God's purposes in—
God selects the broken and downcast—those who understand that they have no hope in themselves. These are the stones that God makes alive and places in the walls of His temple. Not those who are out to make a name for themselves or vindicate themselves—not those who think they can take on the world by themselves, not the self-satisfied and self-sufficient. There are no self-made men in the Kingdom of God.
He has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; and what is weak in the world to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27).
If you are here this morning and know your life to be broken and brought low—if you know yourself to be sinful and needy—if you are wondering how you are going to make it tomorrow and realize that there is no way you can do it on your own—then there is good news! You are just the kind of person that God chooses to enfold in His mercy and lift up by His grace. God is full of power and He is at work rescuing and redeeming those who cry out to Him for help.
He is at work, bringing us low and breaking us, breaking us from the stranglehold of the world, removing all that would distract us and dissuade us from pursuing our greatest need and deepest longing—to know and love the One who has made us for Himself. God is at work shaping and fashioning us according to His will and His purposes, fitting us together as His people for His dwelling place.
Our God chooses to dwell in a temple made from the rescued lives of His people—those whom He has redeemed and fit together for His glory.
If you do not know Him, my prayer for you today is that you might seek and find Him.
Pray that he will make you poor and of a contrite spirit, one who trembles at His Word. Only as the Spirit comes with the preaching of the gospel can your heart be conquered and made a fitting habitation for God.
Keep yourself under the preaching and reading of God's Word. Tremble and rejoice before it. God uses His Word to guide us, direct us, revive us and shape us. It is our light against all darkness and our lamp for every trial.
Let us pray.
©2011 Ken Puls