This summer, I inadvertently have been getting in shape. Somewhere along the line, I decided to take a walk this summer with my daughter before she went on a nannying trip with family friends to the Caribbean. Walking at the local arboretum full of lush, natural landscaping, rolling hills, abundant wildlife and old brick structures whispering long forgotten secrets about Virginia history, I found a new desire to get my middle-aged self moving.
Day after day I returned, in sun and shade to add my daily run/walk to my phone app. It felt great to find new strength that I thought had passed me by with age and time. The familiar path wound through 2 daily miles of familiar plants and trees. I always looked forward to running through the tall Cedars of Lebanon Allee. With the heat index always in the 90s, this is a refreshing end to a 2 mile workout. One day, when walking with my youngest, I stopped to take a picture.
Hmmmm. Cedars of Lebanon, cedars of Lebanon…. that sounds familiar. Then I read this sign:
Wow. I suddenly remembered something incredible. Wasn’t Solomon’s Temple built with the Cedars of Lebanon? If it was, this would mean that these very trees could distant descendants from trees that were felled to build the most holy structure to ever be erected on earth, the Temple of God.
I touched the tree and closed my eyes.
My hand was so small next to its stature. My life is so short compared to the life of one of these great pine trees. What if it’s true? What if the seed of this tree actually came from a seed that generations ago came from one of the original trees that Solomon used to construct the temple? In some way, I thought if I touched it, I would be closer to God or history, or both!
Then, a still small voice spoke to me. “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.”
When Solomon dedicated the temple he took 7 years to build with the most careful and greatest craftsmanship, he prayed, “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! Yet give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, O Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day. May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My name shall be there,’ so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear forgive.” 1 Kings 8:27-30
How can a temple hold God, much less a temple made of wood and gold? But, somehow, God, in his mercy, because he chose Israel to be his own and to reveal his heart, will and salvation to the world through them, came to indwell the temple.
“When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple.” 1 Kings 8:10-11
How silly of me. I was standing in awe of a great cedar tree. Indeed, it is an awe-filled thought that these great trees were used to build God’s Holy Temple. But, what the still small voice of The Holy Spirit of God was saying to me was this: “My end game, my ultimate goal is to live in you.”
The temple was temporary. It was established in an eternal covenant with God that the Israelites couldn’t keep. Hundreds of years later, after they completely turned away from the Lord to idolatry, sin and the sacrificing of their children on an altar of blood, God allowed The Babylonian and Assyrian Empires to destroy this beautiful temple. He had told Solomon, “But if you or your sons turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject the temple I have consecrated for my Name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. And though this temple is now imposing, all who pass by will be appalled and will scoff and say, “Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the Lord their God, who brought their fathers out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshipping and serving them-that is why the Lord brought all this disaster on them.” 1 Kings 9:6-9
God’s heart all along was to live with the people he loves, to be among them and commune with them. Now, through God’s Son Jesus, the Holy Spirit dwells inside of those who profess their faith in Christ and repent of their sins.
Here I was, marveling that the tree my hand was on could have a genetic ancestor whose branches formed the beems for the Holy of Holies, while my heart, my spirit is now the Holiest place. I carry God everywhere I go in this body. Every step of my run transports the anointing and power of God to people who need him. And not only me, but all believers.
How easy is it to marvel at things that are bigger than we are, yet ignore the beautiful truth of the presence of God in my house.
Everywhere I go, everything I do I take The Lord with me. So, I need to keep this temple in shape and healthy, but I also need the Lord to cleanse me of all darkness to make sure I am not, as Jesus called it, a white washed seplechur full of dead man bones.
I stood there for a moment, unsure of what to do. I smiled and began to worship. God, teach me this truth. Teach me to value the things you value. Speak to me Lord about the mystery of your Spirit inside of me!