As usual, there are numerous themes we can life from the Bible readings. The first one that I’ll focus on for today concerns physical representations of God. Can we construct God? The dim light of ancient human history reveals objects and art with religious themes and purposes. No less today, people make artsy statues and idols with which they invest divine significance. It’s not that God is literally being created but certain objects suggest a divine presence. No less is it the case in today’s passage from 2 Samuel describing King David’s desire to build a house for God. The Almighty replies by saying that he had never asked for a house, but that he would allow one to be built by David’s son and heir (2 Samuel 7:12-14a).
Does God live in a house? Ancient Judaism supplies a split personality in this regard. One the one hand, there are strict commands against idols and other images that try to capture God’s likeness. On the other hand, the single most revered object in all Judaism was the Ark of the Covenant, a chest-sized, gold-adorned box containing the Ten Commandments and other sacred objects. On the Ark were carved mini-statues known as the winged cherubim, representations of angelic-like beings.
The magnificent Temple was God’s earthly focal point, much like an earthly king might have a palace. The Temple (i.e., God’s house) was meant to by symbolically identified with God. The problem with sacred symbols is that people are prone to confusing God’s essence with a constructed representation. God was cultivating a sense of holiness in the Temple, but even marble and ornate decorations were poor substitutes.
Now, on to the biblical book of Ephesians, wherein Paul provides a different meaning. Here, we have Jesus referred to as the Christ, the cornerstone of God’s household. In this case, it is a person rather than a stone Temple that represents God. Obviously Jesus is not a literal stone, but he is referred to as the foundation of our faith. In this way, Jesus is like an architect of our spirituality, constructing for us not only a heavenly home, but encouraging us to forge a close-knit community of believers on earth.
Lastly, scripture teaches us that we are the living Temples of God’s Holy
Spirit. Rather than merely stone and cedar, the vessel of our bodies houses
the essence of God via the Holy Spirit. We no longer need to emphasize our racial, ethnic or cultural differences. We who were once alienated—separated—from God are now joined in one body, Jew and Gentile, as we share a common Spirit. This is a difficult thing to strive for in a world that seems to share more hostility than faith.
Although we don’t literally construct God, we do act as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, united and joined in one through Christ. As children of faith, we are like walking temples, filled with God’s Spirit. No longer strangers or aliens, we are constructed through faith as God’s dwelling place.