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Does It Really Matter? (4)

Does it really matter where we worship God?

One has heard of a child of God who said that he could worship God just as well sitting alone in a public park as he could in any other place or circumstances. It is conceivable that a person in such a place as a public park or a garden, seeing around him impressive evidence of the creatorial power and wisdom of God may feel his inner being bowing before God in adoration and praise. It is indeed proper and desirable for a child of God to worship God as an individual, but the Scripture's show that a prominent purpose in God's dealings with men and women is to have a people who will render to Him collective worship. The revelation of this purpose insists upon the recognition of the truth that God chooses the place where His people will worship Him.

When the children of Israel were gripped in the bondage of Egypt the Lord sent to their oppressor, Pharaoh, the command, "Let My people go, that they may serve Me" (Exod. 8:1). The service here referred to is that of worshippers. One of the purposes for which God wanted to release the Israelites was that He might have a people to worship Him. In the book Exodus we have recorded how the Lord delivered them and constituted them a people in conditional covenant relationship with Himself. It was in God's purpose that His people should enjoy many personal blessings because He wanted them to be happy and grateful in their personal, family and tribal experiences. But in the matter of their national, collective responsibilities as a kingdom of priests God made it very clear in His law that the people would worship Him in the place of His choice. There would not be places of worship. There would be one place for all Israel. Moses instructed, "Unto the place which the LORD your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put His Name there, even unto His habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come: and thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings..." (Deut. 12:5,6). "Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which He shall choose..." (Deut. 16:16). This insistence by the Lord that His people would come to the one centre of gathering is repeated many times. He was establishing very definitely in the minds of His people that there would be one place of worship, His house, the place where His Name would be put. So it does really matter where we worship.

In its day the portable tabernacle, wherever by divine leading it was sited, was the house of God, the place of the Name, the place of worship. Later, in the land to which He brought His people, God chose Jerusalem as the place where His house would be built. When a remnant returned from the captivity in Babylon to rebuild the house of God (the history of that work will be found in the book Ezra) it was to Jerusalem that they came: and when the Lord Jesus Christ was on earth the house of God was in Jerusalem. That house was destroyed in the siege of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., but in the glorious coming millennial reign of Christ a material house of God will again be erected, and the chosen site will be Jerusalem. To that appointed centre not only the Israel nation but also all the nations of the earth will flow to worship God (see, for example, Zech. 14:16).

What about the present time? God does not now dwell in a material temple made by men's hands. But God's purposes for this dispensation still contemplate a house on earth, a temple. This building is a spiritual one composed of human beings who having accepted Christ as their Saviour have received eternal life, and who as living stones have been built up according to divine plan "a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 2:5). "Whose house are we, if we hold fast our boldness and the glorying of our hope firm unto the end" (Heb. 3:6). Observe the "if' and the "unto the end".

Does it really matter today where we worship God? We believe that collective worship of God is still associated with His house, His habitation in the Spirit. Those who constitute His house constitute the holy priesthood for the offering up of spiritual sacrifices. The place of worship for those who today are in God's house is the sanctuary in heaven, the holies into which Christ after His resurrection entered to discharge His functions as the appointed great Priest over the house of God. The house of God is on earth. The holies are in heaven. Into that heavenly place the holy priesthood of the house of God enters with holy boldness to worship the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. It does really matter where we worship God.