Day 327

Where is God?

Wisdom Psalm 132:1–18
New Testament 1 Peter 2:4–25
Old Testament Ezekiel 43:1–44:31

Introduction

Elie Wiesel was born into a Jewish family in Romania. He was only a teenager when he and his family were rounded up by the Nazis and taken first to Auschwitz, and then to Buchenwald. In his book, Night, he gives a terrifying and intimate account of the increasing horrors he endured – the death of his parents and eight-year-old sister, and the loss of his innocence by barbaric hands.

In the foreword to the book, François Mauriac writes of his encounter with Elie Wiesel: ‘On that most horrible day, even among all those other bad days, when the child witnessed the hanging (yes!) of another child who, he tells us, had the face of a sad angel, he heard someone behind him groan: “For God’s sake, where is God?” And from within me, I heard a voice answer: “Where He is? This is where – hanging here from this gallows.”’

François Mauriac goes on, ‘And I, who believe that God is love, what answer was there to give my young interlocutor... What did I say to him? Did I speak to him of that other Jew, this crucified brother who perhaps resembled him and whose cross conquered the world?

‘Did I explain to him that what had been a stumbling block for his faith had become a cornerstone for mine? And that the connection between the cross and human suffering remains, in my view, the key to the unfathomable mystery in which the faith of his childhood was lost... That is what I should have said to the Jewish child. But all I could do was embrace him and weep.’

His words point to the most profound answer to the question, ‘Where is God?’ God is in Christ. He was on the cross bearing our sins in his body. Now the crucified is among his people. Not only has he suffered for you, but he now suffers with you.

In the Old Testament, the tabernacle (and later the temple) was the place where people went to meet with God. This was God’s home as we see in our Old Testament passage for today (Ezekiel 43:5).

The message of our New Testament passage though is that the glory and presence of God is to be found supremely in Jesus. It is at the very moment that Jesus is rejected and crucified that God’s presence among people is finally and fully realised. From that point on there is no need for a physical temple. The only church building the New Testament speaks about is a building made of people (Ephesians 2:20–22), founded and built upon Jesus, the chief cornerstone. The holy temple in the New Testament is one made of ‘living stones’ (1 Peter 2:5) – in other words, people like you and me. This is God’s new home.

Wisdom

Psalm 132:1–18

Psalm 132

A song of ascents.

    1 Lord, remember David
        and all his self-denial.

    2 He swore an oath to the Lord,
        he made a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob:
    3 “I will not enter my house
        or go to my bed,
    4 I will allow no sleep to my eyes
        or slumber to my eyelids,
    5 till I find a place for the Lord,
        a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.”

    6 We heard it in Ephrathah,
        we came upon it in the fields of Jaar:
    7 “Let us go to his dwelling place,
        let us worship at his footstool, saying,
    8 ‘Arise, Lord, and come to your resting place,
        you and the ark of your might.
    9 May your priests be clothed with your righteousness;
        may your faithful people sing for joy.’”

    10 For the sake of your servant David,
        do not reject your anointed one.

    11 The Lord swore an oath to David,
        a sure oath he will not revoke:
    “One of your own descendants
        I will place on your throne.
    12 If your sons keep my covenant
        and the statutes I teach them,
    then their sons will sit
        on your throne for ever and ever.”

    13 For the Lord has chosen Zion,
        he has desired it for his dwelling, saying,
    14 “This is my resting place for ever and ever;
        here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it.
    15 I will bless her with abundant provisions;
        her poor I will satisfy with food.
    16 I will clothe her priests with salvation,
        and her faithful people will ever sing for joy.

    17 “Here I will make a horn grow for David
        and set up a lamp for my anointed one.
    18 I will clothe his enemies with shame,
        but his head will be adorned with a radiant crown.”

Commentary

Find God’s home

The desire of David’s heart was to honour God and to put him above all material comfort: ‘I’m not going home, and I’m not going to bed, I’m not going to sleep, not even take time to rest, until I find a home for God’ (vv.3–5, MSG).

The people said, ‘Let us go to his dwelling-place; let us worship at his footstool – arise, O Lord, and come to your resting place… For the Lord has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling’ (vv.7–8,13). God said, ‘… this will always be my home’ (v.14, MSG).

Prayer

Lord, I long for your presence. It is so good to worship at your footstool. Thank you that on the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit of God was poured out, your presence came to live in and among your people.

New Testament

1 Peter 2:4–25

The Living Stone and a Chosen People

4 As you come to him, the living Stone —rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says:

    “See, I lay a stone in Zion,
        a chosen and precious cornerstone,
    and the one who trusts in him
        will never be put to shame.”

7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,

    “The stone the builders rejected
        has become the cornerstone,”

8 and,

    “A stone that causes people to stumble
        and a rock that makes them fall.”

They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.

9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Living Godly Lives in a Pagan Society

11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

18 Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

    22 “He committed no sin,
        and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Commentary

Find God in Jesus

Jesus changed everything.

He is the cornerstone of the new home, which is made up of people: ‘As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by human beings but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house’ (vv.4–5a).

Jesus is either the chief cornerstone or he is the stumbling-block (vv.7–8). Many today still find Jesus a stumbling-block. But if you make him the cornerstone of your life and put your trust in him, you ‘will never be put to shame’ (v.6)

Peter is saying, to all who believe, that we are called to be the living stones that make up the spiritual house that is built around Jesus. I have been struck recently by this image of the church as the household of God. When you encounter Jesus, you come home.

These verses have a whole string of descriptions of this transition: ‘But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you – from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted’ (v.9, MSG).’

In light of this, live differently to the world around you – ‘friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it’ (v.11, MSG).

We are the people of God. You have received mercy (v.10). Now you have a battle on your hands. It is very real. You have to abstain from sinful desires that war against your soul (v.11).

Do not be surprised at the accusation of wrongdoing (v.12). Seek to live a life that glorifies God. This will include respect for authority (v.13, MSG), doing good (v.15), treating everyone you meet with dignity (v.17, MSG), love for your spiritual family (v.17, MSG), non-retaliation (v.23), suffering for doing good (v.20) and trusting ‘in him who judges justly’ (v.23).

How is this possible when we are sinful human beings? Peter’s answer is to point to Jesus: ‘He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing’ (v.24, MSG).

Jesus changes everything. Peter draws from Isaiah 53, which prophesies the way in which the Messiah will die in place of his people. This is what it meant for the cornerstone to be rejected, this is the foundation stone of your faith, and this is how you are brought back into the presence of God. At the cross, the place of suffering has become the place of salvation.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the new spiritual house you are building where I can experience the presence of God.

Old Testament

Ezekiel 43:1–44:31

God’s Glory Returns to the Temple

43Then the man brought me to the gate facing east, 2 and I saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east. His voice was like the roar of rushing waters, and the land was radiant with his glory. 3 The vision I saw was like the vision I had seen when he came to destroy the city and like the visions I had seen by the Kebar River, and I fell facedown. 4 The glory of the Lord entered the temple through the gate facing east. 5 Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple.

6 While the man was standing beside me, I heard someone speaking to me from inside the temple. 7 He said: “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place for the soles of my feet. This is where I will live among the Israelites forever. The people of Israel will never again defile my holy name—neither they nor their kings—by their prostitution and the funeral offerings for their kings at their death. 8 When they placed their threshold next to my threshold and their doorposts beside my doorposts, with only a wall between me and them, they defiled my holy name by their detestable practices. So I destroyed them in my anger. 9 Now let them put away from me their prostitution and the funeral offerings for their kings, and I will live among them forever.

10 “Son of man, describe the temple to the people of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their sins. Let them consider its perfection, 11 and if they are ashamed of all they have done, make known to them the design of the temple—its arrangement, its exits and entrances—its whole design and all its regulations and laws. Write these down before them so that they may be faithful to its design and follow all its regulations.

12 “This is the law of the temple: All the surrounding area on top of the mountain will be most holy. Such is the law of the temple.

The Great Altar Restored

13 “These are the measurements of the altar in long cubits, that cubit being a cubit and a handbreadth: Its gutter is a cubit deep and a cubit wide, with a rim of one span around the edge. And this is the height of the altar: 14 From the gutter on the ground up to the lower ledge that goes around the altar it is two cubits high, and the ledge is a cubit wide. From this lower ledge to the upper ledge that goes around the altar it is four cubits high, and that ledge is also a cubit wide. 15 Above that, the altar hearth is four cubits high, and four horns project upward from the hearth. 16 The altar hearth is square, twelve cubits long and twelve cubits wide. 17 The upper ledge also is square, fourteen cubits long and fourteen cubits wide. All around the altar is a gutter of one cubit with a rim of half a cubit. The steps of the altar face east. ”

18 Then he said to me, “Son of man, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: These will be the regulations for sacrificing burnt offerings and splashing blood against the altar when it is built: 19 You are to give a young bull as a sin offering to the Levitical priests of the family of Zadok, who come near to minister before me, declares the Sovereign Lord. 20 You are to take some of its blood and put it on the four horns of the altar and on the four corners of the upper ledge and all around the rim, and so purify the altar and make atonement for it. 21 You are to take the bull for the sin offering and burn it in the designated part of the temple area outside the sanctuary.

22 “On the second day you are to offer a male goat without defect for a sin offering, and the altar is to be purified as it was purified with the bull. 23 When you have finished purifying it, you are to offer a young bull and a ram from the flock, both without defect. 24 You are to offer them before the Lord, and the priests are to sprinkle salt on them and sacrifice them as a burnt offering to the Lord.

25 “For seven days you are to provide a male goat daily for a sin offering; you are also to provide a young bull and a ram from the flock, both without defect. 26 For seven days they are to make atonement for the altar and cleanse it; thus they will dedicate it. 27 At the end of these days, from the eighth day on, the priests are to present your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings on the altar. Then I will accept you, declares the Sovereign Lord.”

The Priesthood Restored

44Then the man brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, the one facing east, and it was shut. 2 The Lord said to me, “This gate is to remain shut. It must not be opened; no one may enter through it. It is to remain shut because the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered through it. 3 The prince himself is the only one who may sit inside the gateway to eat in the presence of the Lord. He is to enter by way of the portico of the gateway and go out the same way. ”

4 Then the man brought me by way of the north gate to the front of the temple. I looked and saw the glory of the Lord filling the temple of the Lord, and I fell facedown.

5 The Lord said to me, “Son of man, look carefully, listen closely and give attention to everything I tell you concerning all the regulations and instructions regarding the temple of the Lord. Give attention to the entrance to the temple and all the exits of the sanctuary. 6 Say to rebellious Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Enough of your detestable practices, people of Israel! 7 In addition to all your other detestable practices, you brought foreigners uncircumcised in heart and flesh into my sanctuary, desecrating my temple while you offered me food, fat and blood, and you broke my covenant. 8 Instead of carrying out your duty in regard to my holy things, you put others in charge of my sanctuary. 9 This is what the Sovereign Lord says: No foreigner uncircumcised in heart and flesh is to enter my sanctuary, not even the foreigners who live among the Israelites.

10 “‘The Levites who went far from me when Israel went astray and who wandered from me after their idols must bear the consequences of their sin. 11 They may serve in my sanctuary, having charge of the gates of the temple and serving in it; they may slaughter the burnt offerings and sacrifices for the people and stand before the people and serve them. 12 But because they served them in the presence of their idols and made the people of Israel fall into sin, therefore I have sworn with uplifted hand that they must bear the consequences of their sin, declares the Sovereign Lord. 13 They are not to come near to serve me as priests or come near any of my holy things or my most holy offerings; they must bear the shame of their detestable practices. 14 And I will appoint them to guard the temple for all the work that is to be done in it.

15 “‘But the Levitical priests, who are descendants of Zadok and who guarded my sanctuary when the Israelites went astray from me, are to come near to minister before me; they are to stand before me to offer sacrifices of fat and blood, declares the Sovereign Lord. 16 They alone are to enter my sanctuary; they alone are to come near my table to minister before me and serve me as guards.

17 “‘When they enter the gates of the inner court, they are to wear linen clothes; they must not wear any woolen garment while ministering at the gates of the inner court or inside the temple. 18 They are to wear linen turbans on their heads and linen undergarments around their waists. They must not wear anything that makes them perspire. 19 When they go out into the outer court where the people are, they are to take off the clothes they have been ministering in and are to leave them in the sacred rooms, and put on other clothes, so that the people are not consecrated through contact with their garments.

20 “‘They must not shave their heads or let their hair grow long, but they are to keep the hair of their heads trimmed. 21 No priest is to drink wine when he enters the inner court. 22 They must not marry widows or divorced women; they may marry only virgins of Israelite descent or widows of priests. 23 They are to teach my people the difference between the holy and the common and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean.

24 “‘In any dispute, the priests are to serve as judges and decide it according to my ordinances. They are to keep my laws and my decrees for all my appointed festivals, and they are to keep my Sabbaths holy.

25 “‘A priest must not defile himself by going near a dead person; however, if the dead person was his father or mother, son or daughter, brother or unmarried sister, then he may defile himself. 26 After he is cleansed, he must wait seven days. 27 On the day he goes into the inner court of the sanctuary to minister in the sanctuary, he is to offer a sin offering for himself, declares the Sovereign Lord.

28 “‘I am to be the only inheritance the priests have. You are to give them no possession in Israel; I will be their possession. 29 They will eat the grain offerings, the sin offerings and the guilt offerings; and everything in Israel devoted to the Lord will belong to them. 30 The best of all the firstfruits and of all your special gifts will belong to the priests. You are to give them the first portion of your ground meal so that a blessing may rest on your household. 31 The priests must not eat anything, whether bird or animal, found dead or torn by wild animals.

Commentary

Find God in ‘the house’ of the Lord

The Spirit of God makes Jesus real to you: ‘Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple’ (43:5).

Jesus Christ is the glory of God: ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14).

In his vision, Ezekiel sees Jesus, ‘the glory of the God of Israel’ (Ezekiel 43:2). ‘His voice was like the roar of the rushing waters and the land was radiant with his glory’ (v.2). Where Jesus is, everything around becomes radiant. In Jesus’ presence, all we can do is fall down and worship (v.3): ‘I looked, and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord, and I fell upon my face’ (44:4, AMP).

Every time God’s people gather in worship, for example at a Sunday service, expect ‘the glory of the Lord’ to fill the house. This is why church should be exciting, powerful and life changing.

As you read in the Old Testament of all the sacrifices they had to make for their sins, remember that the book of Hebrews tells us that this is an illustration (Hebrews 9). These were ‘copies’ of the heavenly things (v.23). They were a ‘shadow’ of what was to come (10:1). They had to make a sin offering (Ezekiel 43:19) with blood (v.20) to purify and make atonement (v.20). The goat had to be without defect (v.22).

This all foreshadows Jesus’ perfect sacrifice for your sins (1 Peter 2:24).

The holy priesthood of Ezekiel 44 foreshadows the holy priesthood described in 1 Peter 2:5. This now is the task of every Christian. Your first duty as a ‘priest’ is to be holy yourself, to keep yourself pure so that you can be used by the Lord. Your second duty is to help others to do the same by your teaching and by your example (Ezekiel 44:23).

Where is God now? He lives in you by his Spirit. He is there when we gather in his name and fall before him in worship, adoration and praise.

Prayer

Lord, thank you that I am a holy temple in which you live by your Spirit. I desperately need your help to live a holy life.

Pippa adds

1 Peter 2:24b

‘… by his wounds you have been healed.’

All the hurts we pick up in our lives can be brought to the cross and given to Jesus. We don’t need to hold on to the past. Jesus suffered and died that we might be healed physically, emotionally, spiritually.

Verse of the Day

1 Peter 2:24

‘He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross… by his wounds you have been healed.’
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References

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission.

Elie Wiesel, Night (Penguin, 1985), p.xxi.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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