1 Peter 1:1-2; Ephesians 2:19-22
Pillar of cloud by day, pillar of fire by night, ark of the covenant
Tabernacle, temple, holiest of holies
Glory beyond description, holiness beyond explanation, presence beyond expectation.
. . . Amazing!
God making himself known to the Israelites in many ways
Escape out of Egypt, water out of a rock, manna from above
“I carried you on eagles’ wings” (Ex 19:4).
. . . Beautiful!
The temple, God’s presence on earth—the embodiment of deity—ramped up to the highest level
The glory of the Lord filled the temple (1 Kings 8:11); “I have put my name there forever, my eyes and my heart will always be there” (1 Kings 9:3).
. . . Powerful!
Yet in somber tone God declared, “Now if my people turn away from me and do not observe my commands and decrees and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will reject this temple and it will become a heap of rubble. All who pass by will scoff and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this temple?’People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the Lord their God’” (1 Kings 9:6-9).
. . . Frightening!
Sadly, it happened (2 Kings 25:8-17)
The glory of the Lord departed from the temple (Ezek 10:18)
“My house remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house” (Hag 1:9).
. . . Disheartening!
The sadness continued; in somber tone Jesus declared,
“You have made my house a den of thieves” (Matt 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46 KJV)
“Look, your house is left to you desolate” (Matt 23:38; Luke 13:35).
. . . The temple missing in action!
The rest of the story? Was there no hope? Jesus predicted . . .
“Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” But the Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” However, the temple he had spoken of was his body! (John 2:19-21).
. . . Promising!
Paul asked, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple?” (1 Cor 3:16)
He also noted, In Christ the whole building is joined together to become a holy temple (Eph 2:21).
. . . Challenging!
Life Application Questions
Doubling down hope dreams of a different life. The first part of the double involves faith’s named patriarch. “…for he [Abraham] was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”
Then, in today’s passage, the double’s second half reminds all disciples: “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Hebrews 11:10 and13:14). Disciples wisely and selectively examine the future.
However, and meanwhile, disciples living outside the City of God must not become so heavenly-minded as to be of no earthly good. Much of following Christ means we are vitally connected with this world’s turmoil and confusion. We do not approach this world’s life as unimportant. Herein is the challenge. Disciples live in this tumultuous life while remembering “…our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20).
Christ calls his disciples to the challenge with these examples: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matthew 25:35-36).
Looking forward to the full benefits of the City of God? Yes, disciples look forward. Engaged with the challenges of people’s daily needs? Yes, disciples are also engaged in doing all that we can, for as long as we can, providing for as many as we can. Profound decisions these choices in living toward the City of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
When picturing a city whose builder and maker is God what images come to mind?
Can you describe ways in which WL seeks to live toward our current cities and the City which is yet to come?
Are there specific actions that you believe would help disciples live faithfully in both realities as redeemed human beings and citizens of the City?
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country. (Hebrews 11:8,9.)
In my childhood days, I remember the pastor encouraging our church to share testimonies of what God had done in our lives. He quoted Psalm 107:2, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.” This is a segment of my story of faith.
It was a year of major disruptions in our home. It is not exaggerating to say, “life was a roaring sea.” (Psalm 107). Then (I) cried out to the Lord in (my) trouble, and He brought (me) out of (my) distress. I had not been employed since having triplets, since they were still preschool age. My husband had not lived in our home for many months. I had been praying earnestly for direction and in my Bible reading, the Lord led me to follow Esther’s request for her people to pray. After the designated three days, God showed me I needed to move.
That surely wasn’t the direction for reconciliation in my opinion. However, that Sunday, Jeff Gill, our pastor at the time, preached about Abraham going to a country not knowing where he was going, in faith. And so, following God’s direction, in faith I moved away as the Lord led and provided.
It is faith that moves us to follow an uncharted direction, and it is faith that God blesses. Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1) I didn’t know what tomorrow would bring, but the closest jobs near where we lived were 45 minutes away (without rush hour traffic conditions). So, we had to move.
As with Abraham, when we stepped out in faith there was no global positioning system to guide us. Every step of the way we relied on God. And He showed us the way. There were many uncertain days, wondering how would our needs be supplied. Suffice it to say, we lived three years by faith before divorce papers were delivered and a job came, but God… Oh yes! But God was never late on His promises (or early). But our bills were always paid and our tummies were fed and God received the glory as three pre-school children learned how God is faithful. (As did a mommy.)
Life Application Questions
Take a moment to listen to “Take Another Step” by Steven Curtis Chapman. A few of the lyrics follow.
“…Then the lightning flashed the thunder crashed
It began to rain and everybody ran
Then the sky went black as midnight
And you couldn't see
Paralyzed by what you just can't understand
And now here you are
You're afraid to move
You don't know where to go
You don't know what to do
Take another step, take another step
When the road ahead is dark
And you don't know where to go
Take another step, take another step
Trust God and take another step…
1 Thessalonians 1: 4-7
People and plants appear to have some things in common. They both need to be nurtured and noticed. Life did not appear to be possible. The plant’s leaves dropped. The May bloom had long faded in June’s drought. The lonely plant sat forgotten on the store shelf. Other plants had been scooped up in the Mother’s Day rush. Gardeners had cleared the shelves by Memorial Day. This bedraggled plant had been forgotten by the store clerks’ inattentive watering. When you see a bedraggled plant on the store shelf, how do you respond? People can feel as abandoned as that plant that was left behind. God’s Word addresses the weary, the lost and the forgotten with a message of hope.
The weary mom balancing the diaper bag, a baby on her hip, and gripping tightly the toddler’s hand made her way into the church. Her kids’ faces held the remnants of breakfast and mom’s shirt had a mysterious stain on it. The mom seemed eager to drop off the kids and plop into a seat. Her weary eyes closed and people chose seats on the other end of the row. She was bedraggled and forgotten like the abandoned plant on the store shelf. How do you respond to the weary mom that you don’t know at church?
The spring bloom had long since left the cheek of the eighty year old. They leaned heavily on their cane to catch a breath as the church’s youth streamed around them, rushing to their classes. Their gnarled hands shook as they took uncertain steps to find a seat in the auditorium. No one noticed them. They weren’t signing up to teach in the preschool class or hurrying off to make the coffee. They had nothing to offer, like the abandoned plant, they felt so useless and unwanted. Have you ever felt like you were invisible, like you had nothing to offer?
As a child of God, no matter your status in life, or the struggles you face, God has not abandoned you. “For we know brothers and sisters, loved by God that He has chosen you…”
(1 Thessalonians 1: 4-7) For the weary mom: God sees you, loves you, chose you. For the one who feels invisible with little to offer to others: God sees you and has chosen you for such a time as this.
The tiny, wizened plants, discounted for a quick sale always found rebirth in Sherie’s home. She chose them, nurtured them and they bloomed as they were intended to. She saw the spark of life in their drooping spirit. Paul saw the heart of the Thessalonians and the spark of the Holy Spirit in them. The Thessalonians “…welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with joy, given by the Holy Spirit.” (1Thessalonians 1:6) Who do you know that needs the message of hope and love and how will you share it with them?
"To God's elect, exiles scattered throughout. . ." (1 Peter 1:1). “. . . we know that God causes everything to work together for the good . . . " (Romans 8:28).
Our new sermon series, CHOSEN, from First Peter reads almost as if Peter had 21st century Christians in mind. “To God's elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces . . .” (1:1). Those 1st century Jesus-followers must have wondered why God had scattered them. Today we wonder what God’s purpose is for his people, especially refugees from the Middle East and the persecuted church everywhere. The answer is hidden in the mystery of the sovereignty of God.
What do you understand about God’s sovereignty?
John Piper offers this helpful thought: "We need to think of God's sovereignty not simply as powerful, but as purposeful." The Apostle Paul made it clear that God has purpose in his plan for his people. He wrote, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Our good is part of God's greater "good" plan for all mankind.
These two passages present one of the great mysteries of our faith: how the sovereign will of God (including the scattering of his people) and the purpose of his sovereignty (the good of those who love him) work together. Throughout history, God's chosen people have lived in situations that belie the phrase "for our good." Whether then or now, in God's providence, it is for our good.
What comes to mind as you see desperate people clinging to the outside of a plane or handing their babies over a fence to an unknown savior in an effort to escape?
As we consider what's happening in the world at this very moment, we may be tempted to wring our hands in despair. But part of the good that God is doing through the suffering and inequities in our world is that he is drawing people to himself. We are told that the fastest growing movement to Christianity today is happening in Islamic countries and places where the church has had to go underground. Praise God!
What difficulty is God allowing in your life right now? Is it causing you to question God's goodness?
In a more personal way, you may be going through a time in your life that is so difficult that you cannot see how anything good could possibly come from it. Paul explains it this way: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29).
Thank God today that you have been chosen to be one of his own, and he is allowing “things” in your life to make you more like Jesus. jbd & gmd