14 Pentecost, August 26
“Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the most holy place, underneath the wings of the cherubim” (1 Kings 8:6). The Lord so filled the house with a cloud of glory that the priests were unable to stand and minister. King Solomon alone faced the smoke and fire of Almighty God, stretching out his hands to heaven. “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants who walk before you with all their heart” (1 Kings 8:23).
Even as he prayed in gratitude for “this house” where the name of God would be not only for Israel but for foreigners who come and pray toward this place, he knew and did not deny that God cannot be contained. “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27). The Ark of God in the temple of God is not God.
To be human is to stand before this presence with outstretched arms, to sense the magnitude and majesty and power of the source of all being. To be human is to long and faint for the courts of the Lord, to feel the power of life and love and judgment hidden in courts, sacrifices, smoke, law, winged cherubim, and the empty space of divine presence. You, O God, made us worthy to stand before you, and so we stand before holiness and wonder. Your glory is a vestment: a belt of truth, a breastplate of righteousness, shoes for the gospel of peace, a shield for faith, a helmet for salvation, and a sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:14-17).
Standing before God, we become strong and ready, able to quench the flaming arrows of the evil one. We are not, however, merely shielded from attack. The glory of God protects, but also infuses with power. The God who is greater than heaven and earth deigns to give food and drink as the flesh and blood of our being. Christ is the lamb and the blood and the heartbeat of his people (John 6:56-69). This is wonder-working power. To stand before God in Christ is to be fully alive.
What does it feel like? God comes as the Most High, the Most Excellent, the Most Powerful, All Powerful, Most Merciful and Most Just, Most Hidden and Most Present, Most Beautiful and Most Strong, Stable and Incomprehensible, Immutable, Changing All Things, Never New, Never Old, Renewing Everything, Abasing the Proud, Protecting, Creating and Nourishing, Perfecting All Things (adapted from Augustine’s Confessions). “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath” (1 Kings 8:23).
This is one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Having gathered all things at the foot of the cross, Jesus brings even the most vulnerable to the bosom of his Father. The sparrow finds a home, the swallow a nest, every living thing a place to be in Christ. The guilty are forgiven, the weak strengthened, the sick healed, the dying comforted. God is Most Powerful and Most Merciful. In this presence we stand and stand firm (Eph. 6:13). O, the mercy of God. O, the love of God. O, the power of God.
Jesus will not crush a bruised reed. He will not quench a dimly burning wick. He will not lift up his voice. And yet he is power!
Look It Up
Read Ephesians 6:13-17 and John 6:65.
Think About It
Put on Christ; ingest your being.