Posts by RuthM

The God Who Dwells

The God Who Dwells

By on Feb 24, 2014 in Blog |

Most religions ascribe a dwelling place to their god or gods. In polytheist religions, a god could be the ruler of the sphere they inhabited, as Poseidon was the god of the sea. Temples were built and statues erected in which the god was seen to live. In contrast, the three monotheistic Abrahamic religions reject the idea of limiting God in space. Nevertheless, Muslims refer to their mosques as ‘bayt-allah’ or the house of God. The Jews believed that the presence of the Lord could be encountered in the Holy of Holies, whether in the Tabernacle or, later, in the Temple of Jerusalem. Although it is known, accepted and believed that God is omnipresent, man has a tendency to appoint a physical place where we can meet him. What of Christians? We don’t, for the most part, believe that God lives in our church building, or even that he is more accessible there than elsewhere. Encounters in special holy places are something we assign to the Old Testament covenant. We can all quote 2 Corinthians 6:16 “For we are the temple of the living God” (NIV) or a similar passage. It’s so simple: God lives in us, not in a building. But what does it mean for our body or for the Church as the body of Christ to be a temple? What do we mean when we say God lives in us? Isn’t it just another, more ‘spiritual’, way of giving God a place of residence? Jewish scholars have coined a term, adopted by Christians, to refer to the indwelling presence of God: shekinah. Although this word  is not actually used in the biblical text, it is derived from the verb shakan, which is found repeatedly throughout the Old Testament. According to Brown-Driver-Briggs, this translates as settle down, abide, dwell, tabernacle or reside. Thus, in Exodus 25:8, when the Lord says to Moses “have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them” (NIV), he is in effect offering to become their neighbour, a permanent presence in their midst. Similarly, the word used for the Tabernacle, mishkan, is also derived from the same root and simply signifies dwelling-place. It is easy for us, with our...

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