God’s Desire to Dwell With Us

“Why God? Why?” I ask Him as I read verse upon verse about His desire to “dwell with” His people. What do I have to offer to the God of the Universe that He would simply long for and delight in my presence? Have you ever been away from a good friend for a time and you developed an ache simply to be with them? Perhaps not even to talk about anything of importance, but simply to be in their presence? Maybe that’s kind of like God’s longing for us…except that we are the most unfaithful, untrustworthy, backstabbing friends that exist. Hmmm… so I guess I’m back to the same question. Why God? Why is your desire to be with us?

Several religions speak of a god of love and mercy, and yet also see that god as somewhat distant. Though this god may be presented as caring, there is often a quality of “high and mightyness” that essentially says, “I’ll look down on you from here, where I am at home surrounded in my own holiness and maybe one day I’ll think about letting you be with me up here if you’re holy enough.”

When we take a look at the God of Christianity presented throughout Scripture – from Genesis to Revelation – however, we get a very different picture. First, we see God “walking in the garden” with Adam and Eve calling out, yearning to draw near to them (Gen. 3:8). A personal God. One who desires relationship. Of course, we know what happens next – in their choice to eat of the fruit, they partner with the evil one and sin makes it impossible for God to relate and dwell with His people in the manner He had originally desired.

This desire and longing is so strong, however that God finds a way to dwell with his people – even though they are broken, sinful, and idolatrous. We see it first in Moses’ days when the presence of God dwells in the tabernacle, specifically the ark. Even amidst the Israelites’ disobedience, God declares His desire to be with His people! “I will make my dwelling among you…And I will walk among you and I will be your God and you shall be my people” (Leviticus 26:11-12).

In the wilderness, David catches a glimpse of this deep longing of the Lord’s heart and says, “I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob” (Psalm 132:4-5). God calls David a man after His own heart for a reason – now get this: because God’s heart is to dwell with man and David is willing to do anything to make that possible! He ends up designing the temple, though He never gets to see it completed.

Once the temple is built, Solomon declares it “a place for (God) to dwell forever” (1 Kings 8:27). The temple is a more permanent physical dwelling place for God’s presence, built with precision and extravagance, yet it too is destroyed (a couple of times!) Will the presence of God find no lasting dwelling place among man? Will the desire of God’s heart go unsatisfied?

Then in the New Testament, God tries something new. He sends His presence in the likeness of sinful flesh – in the body of His Son Jesus to eat, sleep, live, and breathe among his people. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…” (John 1:14). His temple at that time is no longer a physical building, but the earthly body of His Son. Jesus says, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19).

God desires, however, that once Jesus ascends to heaven, He will still be able to dwell among men. The new mode He chooses do this is the most personal and intimate up to this point – though He no longer personally walks among people in the flesh, He decides to personally dwell with and in their flesh” through the Holy Spirit (John 14:17). Revolutionary. Through the cleansing blood of Jesus, now the people themselves “are the temple of the living God” (2 Corin. 6:16).

Now as we become like David, a people “after God’s own heart,” a desire for others to know Him is kindled and burns within us. Why? Because each new heart opened to Him is another temple where He can dwell. In co-missioning us to “Go and make disciples,” Jesus is essentially saying, “Go, and make more little temples where God’s presence and glory can dwell.”

Folks, this means we have the Shekinah glory of God residing in us! Just as it did in the tabernacle. Just as it did in the Temple. Just as it did in the body of Christ. Ha, but if I’m looking at my own life, I don’t know if I’d say this glory is what people see most of the time. BUT: This is not an opportunity for self-condemnation… to say “Woe is me, I’m so sinful and God’s light isn’t shining through me as it should.” It is an opportunity to rise to a fuller expression of the knowledge, glory, and beauty I already have living within me and that can’t wait to be released into the earth.

Listen though – this potential isn’t able to be realized until I participate. Did you get that? God has made my potential clear, but it requires my participation. It requires that I take initiative and claim authority over the ways that the enemy has been stealing, killing, and destroying God’s glory in me – whether it’s through sin, discouragement, bitterness, etc. Bottom line: whatever masks His glory in this temple cannot stay. (And just as Jesus overturned the tables of the money-changers in the temple, He will have zeal over anything that keeps me from perfect oneness with Him).

And why does He want this oneness? This “withness”?  I guess I’m back to my original question… Why does God desire to be with us? Though I don’t understand it fully, I suppose it comes down to this: He created us. He delights in us. And He loves us so much that He wants us to share in His glory. And we will when He returns, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling place of God is with men, and he will live with them…” (Rev. 21:3).

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