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The Meeting Place of God

20 Aug
Tabernacle-1

from Google Images

Jesus told his disciples immediately after Peter confessed he believed Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, that he would build his church upon that rock, and not only so, but the gates of Hades (death) would not prevail against it (Matthew 16:16-18).[1] The place of Jesus’ revelation was Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13), in whose coasts we would find the springs of the Jordan River. I believe the Lord brought the disciples there, because it was common knowledge that the waters of the Jordan watered the Promised Land, but every drop emptied into the Dead Sea, never to flow again. The Jordan dies in the Dead Sea.

Jesus told his disciples that this would not happen to his Church. He is its Fountain Spring (Jeremiah 2:13), and, although at this point in time Jesus began to tell his disciples of his inevitable death (Matthew 16:21), the river of his mighty Spirit would continue to flow and give life to the people of his Kingdom. Nevertheless, the question arises, even if Jesus was victorious over his enemies in his resurrection, what’s to say the river won’t be consumed in a lifeless Hades (viz. Dead Sea) yet to appear? What can we draw from Jesus’ words?

Jesus told his disciples that the gates of Hades would not prevail (G2729) against his Church. The only other time this word is used in the New Testament is in Luke 23:23 where the voices of the chief priests and the crowd prevailed against Jesus. I think Jesus intended the disciples to understand that there would be trouble ahead for them. The outcome might often look bleak, but the life of the Church would not be snuffed out like his was—the gates of Hades (death) would not prevail against them. In other words, danger lay ahead—sometimes very dangerous times lay ahead, and I think it is worthy of note that the danger in Jesus’ times came from the religious authorities. What were they doing, and why was Jesus a threat to that?

I find it interesting that the chief priests were afraid that, if Rome took Jesus seriously, the Romans would take away both the Jews’ nation and their Place (John 11:48), and so conspired to kill him (John 11:49-50). They were afraid the Romans would destroy their Temple or Place. It may also be worthy of note God never asked anyone to build him a permanent dwelling place (1Samuel 7:5-7), and does not dwell in temples made by men (Acts 7:48; cp. Isaiah 66:1-2). Why would that be? I think we get a hint of it from Genesis 11 when men built a tower (temple) to make a name for themselves (Genesis 11:4). The same Hebrew word used for tower there is used in Nehemiah 8:4 for the pulpit upon which Ezra stood to teach the people. With this in mind, when the chief priests conspired to kill Jesus in an effort to save their Place, they were also referring to the foundation of their authority. Once the Romans did destroy the Temple in 70 AD, the chief priests lost their purpose and had no basis for power. In other words, in Jesus’ day the chief priests sought to preserve their power over the people by fighting against the Son of God.

What does this mean for us today? Wherein is the powerbase for our efforts in God’s service? Probably, most of us have heard the praise course: “Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit sayith the Lord!” (Zechariah 4:6). This scripture, of course, aligns perfectly with how Jesus taught his disciples concerning their power base and how one enters his Kingdom. The Gospel of the Kingdom wasn’t spread through the wealth of others. Although some people were called to support the daily needs of Jesus and the disciples (Luke 8:2-3), others were told to give to the poor (Matthew 19:21). With this in mind, I wonder how effective our wealth is today, as it pertains to spreading the Gospel of the Kingdom. Other than supporting those who have given themselves to the word of God, our wealth should be going to the poor, at least according to the examples we see in the New Testament.

Not once does Jesus, Peter or Paul ask for funds to spread the Gospel, or to build a large and/or expensive meeting place. Yet, today I seriously doubt that the sun sets on the pulpit that asks for funds for either larger or more comfortable surroundings or for the spreading of the Gospel. If it is not by might or by power, why do we need to ask for money? If we are seeking to follow Jesus, why do we need larger and more comfortable meeting places? Does our desire for such things have more in common with Jesus at Caesarea Philippi or with the folks in Shiner in Genesis 11:4? If a great name keeps one from being scattered abroad, how does this help us serve God by going into all nations?

At what cost do we build the expensive meeting places throughout Christian history, and at whose command? Our ancient Christian ancestors were criticized for helping the helpless and not of their own benefit, as though they did something unwise. It is not for me to criticize what sort of building we meet in today, but I do wonder about how well we serve the Lord, if we are tied down to large building projects. Are more of our lives and service to God spent in maintaining the structures we build—things which make our names great (Genesis 11:4), rather than in those things the New Testament shows Christians doing? God wants us to take care of the poor and to spread the Good News that he loves us. He meets with those who do such things no matter what building (or lack thereof) we meet in. He confuses the works of those whose fruits build up their own names, while preventing them from scattering abroad with the Gospel (Genesis 11:8; cp. Acts 8:4).

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[1] As I said HERE, this current theme about the person of Jesus is based upon the book: The Jesus Style by Gayle Erwin. They are my thoughts about his book. He may or may not agree with the impression his book has made upon me, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading what Gayle wrote and recommend his book to anyone who is looking for a good read about Jesus.

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Posted by on August 20, 2015 in Jesus

 

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