2 Chronicles 5:1-14 – Without the Presence of God, A Church Is Just Another Building!

Posted: July 13, 2020 in 14-2 Chronicles

2 Chronicles 5:1-14

The Ark Brought to the Temple

Opening Illustration/Comments

Have ever thought about how a church is just a building built by men? What makes a church holy ground? It is not the bricks chosen, or the metal framing, or the wood planks (depending on how your church was constructed). These bricks, the steel beams and metal framing, or these wood planks could have been used by someone else for some other purposes depending on when the orders were placed with the supplier who provided them. It is not the wiring that is holy for the same reason. If you church has pews or if your church has the more modern, more mobile and more easily configurable cushioned chairs, if your church is closed, these chairs don’t go to church equipment museums or retirement homes. Old pews are now often used by chic women to decorate their homes. They distress them and make them look old and they help give that farmhouse feel that’s all the rage these days. The chairs in the educational building’s classrooms are not in and of themselves holy and anything, any piece of personal or real property associated with our churches is not in and of itself holy. What makes these ordinary objects, then, any different from the very same things being used in non-church, secular settings?

The easiest, and most direct answer is absolutely nothing. There is nothing special about any of these things that they cannot be repurposed for some other use if a church dies and its property is sold, or a church remodels and replaces the older stuff. Even a pulpit, a baptismal font or pool (depending on your denominational leanings), all of these things in and of themselves can be repurposed and reused after their usefulness within a church is complete. Thus, then, what makes these things special when they are collected together in a church. The only thing that will make them special is the presence of God, the presence of the Holy Spirit in this place. When these things are brought together and the church is filled with people that are passionate, truly passionate, about two things – (1) deepening the relationship of God among the faithful members of that local fellowship of believers and (2) interacting with the world around the local fellowship such that new believers are constantly being drawn into the midst of the fellowship. And these two primary objectives of the church are not contradictory but rather complementary. In other words, the church exists to reach people for Christ and to disciple them to maturity in Christ. Both evangelism and discipleship are crucial, and they must be practiced in unison with each other. It is the “wash-rinse-repeat” cycle of shampoos. We draw people unto our midst so that they will hear and be saved and then we mature them in Christ daily, weekly, annually so that they will be sent back out into the streets to spread the gospel with ever increasing effectiveness and then the cycle is repeated, over and over. That brings the presence of God. That brings the favor of God upon the artifacts that make up the personal and real property of the church. When the things are being used by spirit-filled believers, they are blessed and sacred as a result of the favor of God being upon His passionate people.

These things, these articles, can become just things when God withdraws his blessing and favor from a church. Before we get all confused and divert off into a losing our salvation conversation, let us remember that we are taking favor and blessing here not about God omnipotence and ever-presence in our lives through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling in a saved soul. I am talking about His blessing upon his people. Blessing and favor of God can come and go based on whether we are doing His will or not. If we are not about His business in this world then our church, and all the things in it are no longer blessed. That’s when churches begin to die – when they are no longer doing God’s will in this place that God allowed your church to exist. When we are not about His purposes that’s when His favor wanes. When we are not about seeing discipleship happen, His favor wanes. When we are not about serving the world around our church in real, meaningful, and self-sustaining ways, His favor wanes. When we are not about using these service opportunities to share the gospel with those who do not know Jesus Christ as their Savior, then, His favor wanes. When we are not about corporate ways of doing these things together as believers to set examples for each us individually, His favor wanes. When we are not individually as representatives as saved souls and as representatives of our local collection of believers sharing the gospel with those we encounter through discourse or through individual acts of love and kindness and justice, His favor wanes. When His favor wanes because of our unwillingness to give Him glory through doing these things, churches begin to die and our things become just things.

When our churches become about what’s comfortable to us, about what’s easy for us, and what entertains us, about us in here and not them out there, God will withdraw His favor from our churches. He will withdraw His favor and the church will die. God has withdrawn his favor before. God has withdrawn his viewable manifestation of His presence before. The slightest sliver of manifestation of His presence was withdrawn from the Temple when the people of Israel were no longer obedient and no longer faithful to God in carrying out His purposes for them in this world. He withdrew His presence. The Temple then became just a building. The Temple then became something that could be destroyed because nothing in it was no longer covered by the presence of and the blessings of God.

It is that idea of the presence of God making things holy is what I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 5:1-14, once again. Let’s read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

Chapter 5

1 So Solomon finished all his work on the Temple of the Lord. Then he brought all the gifts his father, David, had dedicated—the silver, the gold, and the various articles—and he stored them in the treasuries of the Temple of God.

The Ark Brought to the Temple

2 Solomon then summoned to Jerusalem the elders of Israel and all the heads of tribes—the leaders of the ancestral families of Israel. They were to bring the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant to the Temple from its location in the City of David, also known as Zion. 3 So all the men of Israel assembled before the king at the annual Festival of Shelters, which is held in early autumn.[a]

4 When all the elders of Israel arrived, the Levites picked up the Ark. 5 The priests and Levites brought up the Ark along with the special tent[b] and all the sacred items that had been in it. 6 There, before the Ark, King Solomon and the entire community of Israel sacrificed so many sheep, goats, and cattle that no one could keep count!

7 Then the priests carried the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant into the inner sanctuary of the Temple—the Most Holy Place—and placed it beneath the wings of the cherubim. 8 The cherubim spread their wings over the Ark, forming a canopy over the Ark and its carrying poles. 9 These poles were so long that their ends could be seen from the Holy Place,[c] which is in front of the Most Holy Place, but not from the outside. They are still there to this day. 10 Nothing was in the Ark except the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Mount Sinai,[d] where the Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel when they left Egypt.

11 Then the priests left the Holy Place. All the priests who were present had purified themselves, whether or not they were on duty that day. 12 And the Levites who were musicians—Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and all their sons and brothers—were dressed in fine linen robes and stood at the east side of the altar playing cymbals, lyres, and harps. They were joined by 120 priests who were playing trumpets. 13 The trumpeters and singers performed together in unison to praise and give thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and other instruments, they raised their voices and praised the Lord with these words:

“He is good!

    His faithful love endures forever!”

At that moment a thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord. 14 The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple of God.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that we have visited this scene before in 1 Kings so, then, we want rehash the symbolic importance of the Temple to the people of Israel. However, we will think about one unique feature of this passage that is symbolic as well that we might otherwise gloss over. Did you notice that the priests were able to go into the Most Holy Place, the room designed to hold the Ark of the Covenant, that is within the Holy Place, the room in which the people of God could worship. The Most Holy Place after this date could be entered into only once a year by the High Priest, after an extensive cleansing ceremony, on the Day of Atonement. On this unique occasion, however, several priests had to enter the Most Holy Place to carry the Ark to its new resting place. Why the difference? The key to understanding this difference is the final verse of this passage. Prior to this moment, the presence of the Lord was not in the Most Holy Place. Prior to this moment, it was just a room. After this moment, it was an extension of God’s visible existence to His chosen people.

Life Application

This passage has two obvious implications for us as believers. First, we as churches must be about God’s business. We must not be about serving ourselves, entertaining ourselves, or doing just enough to satisfy ourselves that we are doing God’s work. We must not be about giving God our leftovers of our time, talents, and resources. We must not be about traditions becoming more sacred than God. We must not be about objects within our churches becoming more sacred than God. What we need to be about is doing God’s will in the place that God has planted our church. What we need to be about is the unending cycle of evangelism-discipleship-more evangelism-more discipleship. Our purpose is to glorify God by drawing people unto a soul-saving relationship with Jesus Christ and to disciple each one into an ever-deepening relationship with Jesus Christ. If we are not about those two things, then favor is withdrawn. The church then just becomes a building. God has withdrawn His presence from it. God has withdrawn His favor over it. It’s just a building and the things within in it, just things. What makes it holy and sacred is God’s favor over the people gathered together within it that are doing God’s will. That’s what makes a church a holy place. That’s what makes a collection of believers blessed with passion, fire, and growth, both spiritually and numerically. It is the favor of God that brings these things. If we are not growing, we must examine seriously as to whether God has withdrawn His favor from our churches. Are we doing God’s will? Or are we playing church? Or are we entertaining ourselves? Or are we a country club where only we can be here? Let us examine ourselves as to why our church now talks more about whether we are going to survive rather than where we are going to put everyone on Sunday morning?

This is God’s wake-up call. Are we living out God’s intended purpose for the church in the world? His presence will be in that church. He will bless that. There’s an old saying from a movie I saw years ago, “You better get busy living or you need to get busy dying!” Let us get busy living by doing God’s will and living out His purpose for our church and so have His favor and His presence upon and in our church. Otherwise, we need to get busy dying.

Amen and Amen.

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