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The Place Of The Name

When Israel, the people of God, were about to enter the land of promise they were commanded to destroy all the places of worship used by the nations they were to dispossess. In Deuteronomy 12 we find the Lord's command that His people were not to offer Him service in a multiplicity of places throughout the land, nor were they to choose the place where He would be worshipped.

But unto the place which the LORD your God shall choose... 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, and your sacrifices (vv.5,6)

The title of this article is a condensation of the expression "the place which the LORD your God shall choose... to put His name there". It states a very important and arresting idea: that the great God of heaven would choose a place on earth which He would recognize as His habitation and to which His earthly people Israel would come and render Him worship and sacrifice. It is very important for us to understand that in the Old and New Testaments God has given clear instruction on how He must be served in a collective way by those who are His own according to the divine pattern.

The Divine Pattern

God chose Israel "to be a peculiar people unto Himself, above all peoples that are upon the face of the earth" (Deut. 7:6). This relationship was to be conditional on their obedience to His word (Ex. 19:5). Of this people, so chosen, God said "Let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them" (Ex. 25:8). In the tabernacle in the wilderness and in the house that Solomon built in Zion we see the implementation of this most wonderful desire that God should have a dwelling place on earth amongst men. It was in association with the house of God that the people of God were to render Him collective service and the manner of that service was defined in detail by the Lord Himself and written in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy by the faithful Moses.

Now it is of the greatest importance for us to recognize that all these matters have a clear counterpart in the New Testament Scriptures. 1 Peter 2 speaks of the people of God, the house of God and the priesthood service of

the people in the house. There we see that the house of God in New Testament times is built up of living stones, believers in Christ who have come to acknowledge the Lordship of Christ (vv. 3,4) and are placed in a conditional relationship with fellow disciples on earth which God recognizes as His house. In 1 Timothy 3:15 the house of God is described as the church of the living God and is the aggregate of all the churches of God on earth at one time. According to 1 Peter 2 and Ephesians 2:19-22 all the churches of God together express the visible fellowship and unity for which the Lord prayed on the night before Calvary (John 17:21-23). In God's pattern, individual churches of God are not autonomous; they are a fellowship, so that the whole is described as a holy nation (see also 1 Corinthians 1:10; 4:17 and 7:17). This conditional unity of disciples and churches is not the same thing as the Church the Body of Christ, which of course consists of all believers in Christ, whether or not they are in any visible fellowship with one another on earth.

We are entitled to conclude that the idea of the Place of the Name finds its New Testament expression in 1 Peter 2 and related scriptures. It is not surprising to find that as in the Old Testament so also in the New, separation is an indispensable condition of the Place of the Name. The people of God were instructed to maintain religious and social separation from the nations around them. There was to be no intermarriage and no common worship with them (Deut. 7). The position of the New Testament people of God is made clear in Hebrews: 13:12-14, "Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered without (outside, NIV) the gate. Let us therefore go forth unto Him without the camp". Also 2 Corinthians 6:1618, "They shall be My people. Wherefore come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord". Collective service by the people of God according to His will requires separation from the world. Does this principle of separation have a valid application to church fellowship? To answer this question it is helpful to examine the importance of exact obedience.

Obedience

"Moses is warned of God when he is about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith He, that thou make all things according to the pattern that was shewed thee in the mount" (Heb. 8:5). David, referring to the detailed specification of the house of God that Solomon his son was to build, said "All this have I been made to understand in writing from the hand of the LORD, even all the works of this pattern" (1 Chron. 28:19). Deviation from the divinely given pattern of the house or its service was not acceptable. Men must always approach and serve God in His way and not according to their own ideas. Failure to recognize this has been a besetting problem in the entire history of mankind's attempts to please God.

We see this from the beginning in the case of Cain and Abel. Cain's offering might have seemed very logical and appropriate but it was not God's way and so it found no acceptance. Not very long after the setting up of the divinely appointed service in the tabernacle, Nabad and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, offered strange (unauthorized, NIV) fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them and they lost their lives because adherence to the divine pattern is not a minor issue (Lev.1O). In later times there was progressive deviation from the divine order as successive kings and priests introduced new arrangements, furniture and forms of service to God's house, so that when the good king Josiah came to purge the Place of the Name he found it an enormous task to remove the cumulative results of human choice and innovation in the service of God (2 Kings 23).

The same failings are apparent in the history of the people of God in New Testament times; so that today we see a multitude of practices and forms of worship in the many denominations, and a widespread departure from the simple order set out in the teaching and practice of the Lord and His apostles. In all of this well meaning diversity of collective Christian service it is sobering to reflect on the Lord's word, "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice" (1 Sam. 15:22). Now the reason we stress this point so much is that it lies at the root of the need for ecclesiastical separation.

Ecclesiastical Separation

It is impossible to give expression to the New Testament pattern of collective service today without having clear separation in a corporate way from the many churches and sects which have deviated from the original Scriptural pattern. This is so for two reasons. First, because it is important not to be associated with these deviations from the God-given order. But also because the house of God is intended to be an ordered and visible structure, composed of disciples gathered in clearly identifiable churches of God which are linked in fellowship together to form a community. Lack of separation would mar the structure and ultimately obliterate the divine pattern. We have tried to show how serious it is to spoil the pattern, or to implement it inexactly. The spirit of this line of truth is well expressed in the words that God put in the mouth of the prophet Balaam as he gazed at the orderly encampment of Israel, "Lo, it is a people that dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations" (Num. 23:9).

The Place of Glory

Separation is often an unpopular idea and it exacts a price from the disciple, but it is not an end in itself. It is no more than an essential prerequisite to carrying out the Lord's will. There is, however, a very positive aspect to the separated position. This is expressed beautifully by David. "LORD, I love the habitation of Thy house, and the place where Thy glory dwelleth" (Ps. 26:8). "One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in His temple" ~s. 27:4). David was a man after God's heart and he loved the Place of the Name. The revelation that God had a place on earth in which He would dwell with His people was more precious to

David than anything else. In the light of it he was able to appreciate more fully the beauty of the Lord and as his spirit was stirred by the splendour of the divine presence, the sweet psalmist of Israel exclaimed in awe and wonder, "The place where Thy glory dwelleth".

How much greater must be the interest and the pleasure in this subject of our blessed Master Himself, who is the Son over God's House (Heb. 3:6). Of Him it is written: "The zeal of Thine house shall eat Me up" (John 2:17). When we reflect that the whole Being of the Son of God is consumed with desire for the Place of the Name, how could we be indifferent to it or regard it as a truth of lesser importance or beauty? Anything that is of special value to the Lord will of course be under continuous attack by the adversary. Satan hates the Place of the Name and labours to obscure its significance in the minds of God's children, but the matter of collective worship and service in the right way is important and church fellowship is a vital subject. The Lord does have a pattern for that fellowship and that service and blessed are they that find it and follow it.