Wednesday, May 22, 2024


In the beginning, God walked with man in the garden in the cool of the day. 

When Israel left Egypt and started walking toward the Promised Land, God led them in a pillar of smoke during the day and a pillar of fire during the night. 

When Moses met with God on the mountain, the holy smoke of the Lord covered the mountain so thoroughly that nobody could see anything but the smoke. 

After Israel built the Tabernacle and erected it in the wilderness, the glory of the Lord filled the tent in smoke, so much so that nobody else could enter it.

And when Solomon finished the Temple during his reign as Israel's king, that same holy smoke filled the holy place. The Lord was truly there. 

Over and over again, we see that the Lord fills the spaces that He inhabits, that His presence is not only sufficient, but satiating. That when God moves into a place, He inhabits every crevice, down to the tiniest little corner, and there's no space left empty by Him. 

Images like this help us to create this understanding that says that when we have God, we don't need anything else. We imagine ourselves, living temples of the holy Lord, filled with His holy smoke, and we think that with God inside of us, there's not room for anything else. At least, not anything else holy. Not only is there not room, but there's not need; every inch of our being is touched by His presence, and God is enough. 

Isn't He?

This is the same idea that we were looking at yesterday, when we saw that even though Adam walked in physical relationship with God, God still said the man was alone until the woman got there. Today, we're taking another image that seems to suggest that God is sufficient and that we don't need, necessarily, the fellowship of other believers, and we're looking at it to see if it can justify this movement that we have in our individualized faith that convinces us that we can properly nurture our relationship with God all by ourselves. 

The image I really want to look at today, though, comes from Nehemiah; the ideas we've looked at so far were just building up to this. 

Nehemiah was part of the rebuilding effort in Jerusalem. He was part of the restoration of the Temple. In fact, he was there when the work was complete and the Lord came to dwell in the Temple again. He was there when the presence of the Lord filled His holy place. He saw the smoke start creeping in and spreading out into every smallest crevice, every tiny corner. 

And then, he looked around and said, "Without the people of God here, this place seems empty." 

In spite of the fullness of the Lord, in spite of His glory filling the space, in spite of smoke so thick no one could see through it, Nehemiah saw into the Temple, where God was dwelling in His amazing glory, and he seems empty. Something's missing. There's an unfilled space in this place where the Lord's presence permeates every square inch. 

And that unfilled space was reserved for the people of God. 

Nehemiah's reflection takes my breath away. If the Temple of God can be restored to wholeness and filled with His glory and still seem empty because there aren't enough of His people who have returned to it, what does that say about a faith in my generation that says the people aren't really all that important? That the space God fills is enough? 

It says, to me, that maybe we need to rethink that. That's what it says. 

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