The Joy That is You

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“And many nations shall come, and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths:’ for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” Micah 4:2

This is exciting stuff here.  This isn’t something that happened yet at the time of Micah’s prophecy from You, Lord.  This was a promise of hope.  It was a promise of hope to the Israelites, to the people of God, and we must never forget that part of Your plan for the people of God was to be a light to the rest of the world so that they could become people of God.  Here we see not only that reminder, but that You will make that plan come to pass.

I’m pretty sure that the latter days started to come into place at the resurrection of Jesus.  And I’m pretty sure that we are still in the latter days.  But the latter days aren’t completed yet, and I don’t know if we only have hours or years or decades before they will be, but I do know this one thing, it will come.  It will be finished.  There will be a time when You have finalized Your plan.  I don’t just know that because of Micah.  Isaiah also affirms that by Your word.  “So shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)  So this is exciting stuff here!  Maybe if we open our eyes to look for what You’re doing, we’ll get to see it unfolding and be in the midst of that unfolding!

Now, I know we’re not totally there yet because of the position of Jerusalem.  She’s not yet high and exalted “above the hills” in the eyes of all people yet.  As a matter of fact, there are still a multitude of nations trying to squash her and debase her.  Sorry, but that’s not going to happen.  Try as you might, but you just can’t negate God’s plan.  Sorry, but you just don’t know better and you haven’t got that kind of power no matter how much you want it. 

So even today, we see all these nations fighting against God.  There are many people, Jew and Gentile alike, who won’t acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God, as our Savior and Lord, as God’s chosen One for the forgiveness of our sins and the redemption of HIs people.  But God hasn’t finished working or speaking yet.  And God is involved, intimately, with the affairs of men.  Your plan is for Israel to still be alight to the world, to draw nations to Your holy mountain.  But here’s what I think about that idea of coming to Your holy mountain and to Your house, the house of God, or the house of the Lord.

When I think about it, the house of the Lord has always been a place, a place that people could enter, a place where people came to be in the presence of the Lord.  First there was the Tabernacle that could move with the people wherever they went, from place to place, because God is always with us wherever we go.  There, I suppose, You were showing how You weren’t just with us wherever we went but You took us there and lead us there and stayed with us.  Your pillar of fire or smoke lead us on and guarded us.  It was more than a place to worship.  It was more than a tabernacle.  It was a relationship of You with Your people, one by one, and as a nation.  It was intimate.  You were involved.  You were there and so were they. 

Then You established a “resident” Temple on the mount in Jerusalem.  And it wasn’t that You weren’t guiding and protecting and walking with Your people any more.  It was that You were trying to remind them that they were to be a city on a hill, shining forth their light, the Light of You, to the nations, and inviting the nations into that same relationship with You.  I don’t think it was ever really about the building, but always to be about the relationship, the protection, the being drawn to You and the abiding and living in You. 

Think about it, nations are going to come, and haven’t they already started?  They are going to come and say, “Let’s go to the house of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths.” (Micah 4:2)  Now we haven’t come to the point of every man sitting under his vine and fig tree without fear but that day is coming.  So maybe we ought to figure out how to prepare for it.  And maybe that preparation has to do with understanding the nature of Your house.

What is the nature of the House of the Lord?  Let’s listen to Jesus’ words, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer?’” (Mark 11:17)  Let’s go back to Isaiah 56.  God is sharing about His house.  He’s not just talking about the children of Israel.  He’s inviting strangers, and eunuchs, and anyone who will turn and cling to Him and His ways.  And here’s the beauty of His plan and promise to those who come to Him in faith and trust and obedience.  “Even unto them will I give in My house and within My walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.  Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants, every one that keeps the sabbath from polluting it, and takes hold of My covenant; even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon My alter; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.”  This is what the Lord, who gathers the outcast of Israel, says about gathering other outcasts outside of Israel.  And this is what His house is all about.

Your house isn’t just a house or a temple or a church or a tabernacle.  It never was just that.  Your house is about family.  It’s about being a member of Your family.  It’s about being adopted because even Abram was like an adopted child, adopted out of the family of Ur and into the family of God.  Adam and Eve lived in Your house before there ever was a building as we know it because the building was already there.  Their building has always been You.  Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 5:1 “that we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”  And Paul explains in Hebrews 9 how Christ, who became our high priest, through a “greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands,” obtained eternal redemption for us through His blood.  Through Christ we enter into an eternal relationship with God that allows Him to dwell in us and allows us to dwell in Him.  By this relationship we are able to live in Him and for Him.

But what of this house of prayer?  This is essential to understanding.  I think of Hezekiah, that king who became sick to the point of death.  And he prayed fervently to the Lord for life.  And God heard and answered. (2 Kings 20:5)  But what made prayer special?  Was it just Hezekiah’s desperation? The Hebrew word for prayer is tefilla.  It has to do with “discernment, judging, intercession, and reflection.”  It’s also associated with the word naval in Hebrew.  Naval means to fall.  Is that what I think about when I think about prayer?  Do I think about falling?  Do I think about falling before You “and feeling [Your] presence on an intimate level…falling before [You], feeling [Your] love, sensing that one is never alone, that [You are] near and caring”? (Avraham Weiss)

I think of the story Jesus shared of the Pharisee and the tax collector who came to the temple.  The Pharisee came because of tradition and to extoll his goodness.  He had no relationship with You.  It wasn’t even about You.  It was all about him and his goodness.  He knew nothing of Your mercy and compassion for others or even how it had been extended toward himself.  He was coming to a house where he paid tribute to it’s Owner in his way by blessing it with his own presence.  But the tax collector, well, he was different.  The tax collector knew the Owner of the house.  He knew he was a sinner standing on ground that had been made holy by the One who prepared it.  He knew he wasn’t just in a building.  He wasn’t just in a house.  He knew he was in the presence of the Owner.  He knew what mercy and compassion it took to let him even come in the house.  That’s what the house of the Lord is about.

It’s not about what we think about the Lord.  It’s about what He has shared that we can know about Him.  It’s not about understanding everything.  Or else we wind up on the outside looking in like the Pharisee.  It’s about falling down before You and letting You reveal Yourself.  It’s about falling down into Your word.  It’s where I’m not in control of You, but You are in control of me and what I think and what I do and how I feel.  It’s when my words aren’t enough, like now.  It’s when I haven’t got it all but You do.  It’s when I’m empty unless I have You.  And I can’t just have You in my mind, I have to experience You.  This is what the house of the Lord is about.  It’s about a relationship.  It’s about entering into the intimacy that resides within the family of God.  It’s a real family with a real Father, and a real everything that we need.  It’s where we come to learn to live and feel and be.  This is the place of trust and life.

I’m pretty sure Abram went there all the time even though he didn’t have a tent or a building to enter.  That first tabernacle was just a pattern according to God.  It already existed in Him before Adam and Eve and before Abram.  And it still exists today.  In Revelation 7:15 we hear of how God shall spread His tabernacle over those before the throne.  And the great voice declares, in Revelation 21:3, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He shall dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God…”

And thinking on these things brings me to David’s thoughts in Psalm 27:4, “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: 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 meditate in His temple.”  Do you hear what David is saying?  He got it.  Who would want to dwell in the Lord’s house all the days of his life if You weren’t present there, God?  I want to draw into Your presence like that.  I want to behold Your beauty.  I want to see You as You are, full of kindness, and favor, and pleasantness.  And I get to see it, just like David, by just being there, present, with You, by Your permission.   But I have to choose to meditate on You, by seeking and studying You.  I have to be involved in real prayer, real searching of Your word, really looking for security in You. 

What David was asking for was what the priests got to do.  But he was a warrior, a king, whose hands were stained with blood.  But his greatest heart’s desire was “to be in God’s holy presence and experience favor. David’s song is a pipe dream.  It is also my pipe dream.” (Skip Moen)  His obligations, whether important or trivial, prevented him from total absorption in You, in Your presence and being absorbed in Your word.  Don’t our obligations today have a tendency to do the same?  And like David, the permission isn’t ours to grant to come.  But the permission is Yours to grant, Lord.  And if we seek, and ask, and let ourselves fall, You invite, and You come, and You draw us to You.  It’s like Mary, who took flack from Martha, but You said she made the right choice.  I want to make that right choice.  I want to sit down, or fall down, and just be in Your house, in Your presence all the days of my life.  So help me, Lord, because You’re the One who can.  And help me to bring other family members into Your house so we can dwell together in the joy that is You.

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