Where does God live?
This is a question I’ve asked and been asked in the past. God is the God of heaven and earth, the seas and all that is in them. But where might a God like that live? We have this image sometimes of God being distant and far away in some other realm all holy and far away and stuff like that. But is that where He actually lives?
In the book of Exodus, God instructs Moses to construct a Tent of Meeting also known as the Tabernacle. It was a portable worship center. It was to be carried by a select group of people known as the Levites who were led by priests. It was basically one gigantic camping tent where the people would carry with them as they walked through the wilderness for 40 years. God led the people of Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Each time the pillar of cloud would stop, the Levites and priests would stop and set up the Tabernacle and then the cloud would descend upon it and there Moses would meet with God and speak to Him as one might a friend. Seriously.
That’s where God would meet with Moses and instruct His people where they wold worship Him but that’s not where He lived per se. Throughout the book of Numbers, God would do this. He would lead the people in the wilderness as a pillar of cloud or fire and then stop. Each time He would meet with them and the people of Israel would worship God. This would also happen during the book of Joshua and when the people were supposed to enter into the Promised Land. In the book of Judges people did what was right in their own eyes and didn’t worship God at the Tabernacle. It was set up in the town of Shilo and people would go to other places to try to worship God but wouldn’t respond. His Tabernacle was in Shilo but not His presence.
King David brought the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle into Jerusalem but did so dancing and singing and not as God had commanded how the Tabernacle and he Ark of the Covenant was to be treated. And someone died. David wanted to build God a huge temple for God to live in but God didn’t want that at that time. King David’s son, Solomon was the one to build the temple to God. And when it was completed per God’s specifications, then God entered into it like a cloud as he did with the Tabernacle. God dwelt among His people as He did in the wilderness but he didn’t live there. God would meet with the priests and Levites and prophets at the temple but He didn’t live there.
Fast forward centuries. For a long time God was silent. He wasn’t in His temple meeting with His people. His people were scattered across the known world. A non-Jewish people, known as the Romans, occupies the Promised Land and God’s people were merely living in it. The temple had been destroyed in 586 BCE and then rebuilt but God’s presence was never described as entering it. Then we read something interesting in the Gospel of John:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” John 1:1, 14
Jesus is the Word. Now here’s the cool part. The Greek for “made his dwelling” is eskaynosen. It’s actually where we get the English word scene from. Back in Ancient Greek theater, they would paint backgrounds on material meant for tents. The word here is actually tenting. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, the word was used for the Tabernacle of God. In other words, Jesus came down like God did in the wilderness and tabernacled with us. Jesus is the dwelling place of God on earth made in the flesh.
Weird? Yes. But it gets better. Jesus lived. He taught. He taught about turning from living life against God’s word and living for God. Jesus was crucified and raised again and ascended to Heaven (where that’s at, we don’t know). Jesus, truly God, left. But we received a gift. God’s Holy Spirit. Also true God. A bit confusing, yes, but here’s the kicker: Whomever is a believer in Jesus is a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.
Paul says this in 1 Corinthians 3:16
“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”
Rewind to the book of Numbers…God would dwell with His people in the wilderness when they would set up the Tabernacle…then fast forward to Solomon building the temple and God dwelled among His people…fast forward again to Jesus and that He came down and tabernacled with us. And now, now all who believe in Jesus are a temple to God where by His Spirit He dwells with them in their midsts.
Looking over this, all the “you’s” in 1 Corinthians 3:16 should be translated “all y’all” and not just “you.” Paul is talking to the church as a whole that is in Corinth (a city in Greece at that time). Believers of Jesus are temples of God. Believers of Jesus are to make up the church as a whole, the Church universal that is. We who are in the church are to be temple communities.
A temple community is where God promises to dwell and sends His Spirt to live with His people. The local church, the small church, the large church, all churches, are to be temple communities where God lives by His Spirit. The church, each church, is to act, live, be as a representative of God, of His presence in the community that surrounds each church.
You see, when God led Israel through the wilderness as a pillar of cloud and fire, it was for two reasons. The first was that the people of Israel would know that God was with them but also so the nations would know that God was there. The temple was built not just so that the people of Israel could worship God there but that all nations might one day come and worship God there. Jesus came and tabernacled with us not just for Israel but for all peoples to come to Him. As a temple community, it’s not for us but for all peoples.
As a temple community and as a dwelling place for the Spirit of God, we are not for ourselves but for all peoples, all nations to know Jesus, to know God and His grace and love found in Jesus.
Where does God live? He lives in the hearts of followers of Jesus. He lives in His temple in us.
“The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” Habakkuk 2:20