Was there really a god in Israel? Did we not hear from Yahweh that the effect of his personally accompanying the Israelites on the journey to Canaan would be destruction? We have to believe that the Lord himself was not present until the second temple. The third temple, sometimes associated with Ezekiel’s vision, is yet future, and is problematic because, for one reason among many, its services include an offering for the prince’s sins (Ezekiel 45:22). The prince in a third temple cannot be a sinner, especially not after the divine presence in the second temple.
Second temple glory
The temple of the restoration period was not much to see when compared to Solomon’s construction project. The older individuals made the comparison and saw the second temple as “not much”.
Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?
It was this house/temple (bayit בית) that God promised to fill with glory.
And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts.
Malachi reports this same progress, identifying the house and the One with the glory.
- John the Baptist, my messenger
- Yahweh, the one sought, the covenant messenger
- His house, Yahweh’s
- behold, (=”mark it”)
Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.
The Present God with Benefits
There is a saying in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians that teaches us that character change occurs by observing. The saying takes the lie with dog rise with fleas proverb to a realistic level by registering intelligent thought and not just presence. It is a special kind of self-reflected viewing with Christ as the essential window, mirror or eyepiece. Without Christ people can not expect to acquire holiness.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18
We might also recall that in ancient Israel, lepers and widows, representing the depths of anguish and poverty, did not get the privilege of a visitation by either God or a messenger.
Remember too the cloud and fiery pillar and the intermittent conversations with Moses in a particular place can hardly called residence. It is a long held position that there are sacred spaces in every land, and people are warned about the sacredness of churches and other buildings for religious purposes.
And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.
1 Kings 18:27
No change no God
Thousands of years hanging with Yahweh ends in failure to show he was not there. America’s spacious skies are polluted with idolatry, and the amber waves of grain are weeds planted by the enemy.
There is no God in any human institution but he certainly lives in the hearts of those who have come to God by faith in Christ. This is the ultimate configuration of God living with humans, and is confirmed as permanent by the very gift of the Holy Spirit.
who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Ephesians 1:14 (compare 2 Cor. 1:22, 5:5)
The fertility of a land is not proof of divine presence. Let’s remember that even the desert is beautiful for what it contains and what it goes through. Dates from the Republic of Iran, mangoes from Mexico and pomegranates from Israel are produced by the same natural processes and for the same purpose. God is no more present in the Middle East than he is in Glasgow. God has blessed the earth and seas and feeds humanity from their bounty. There is no need for an elitist land – ultimately because true worship has no fixation on any location. The earth is still beautiful everywhere. Ask the people on every continent.