Tazri'a & Mezorah
For the week of April 25, 2009 / 1 Iyar 5769
Torah: Vayikra / Leviticus 12:1 - 15:33;
Bemidbar / Numbers 28:9-15
Haftarah: Isaiah 66:1-24
We Cannot Contain God
Thus says the LORD: "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word." (Isaiah 66:1,2; ESV)
One of the themes of the book of the prophet Isaiah is the contrast between the futility of idols and the reality of God. An idol is made by human hands, has no inherent ability, and is simply an object that exists within the normal confines of time and space. God, on the other hand, is the creator of all things, does whatever pleases him, and is not limited nor contained by the material world. In the beginning of the last chapter of Isaiah, God himself speaks of the irony regarding his own temple in Jerusalem. While he decided in some sense to dwell within this man-made structure, did people really think that this was his true home? Did they think that they possessed a building that was actually God's resting place? Did they really think that the God of Israel, the Creator and Master of the Universe, was contained within his temple in the same way idols of the pagan world were contained within theirs?
The answer is obviously "No!" God is beyond our comprehension and control. That he would allow himself to have anything to do with human beings is based solely upon his own self determination. There is nothing we can do to manipulate him into action. Yet throughout history it has been so easy to misinterpret his desire to bless us with the notion that he is putting himself under our control. His presence among us is wrongly taken to mean that we now somehow possess him. His prior blessings become the justification of current wrongdoing. What was meant to represent the reality of God in our midst to remind us to submit to his will becomes a trophy to which we appeal in order to justify our own desires.
The temple was to demonstrate God's desire to dwell among his beloved creatures. He chose Abraham and the nation of Israel as part of his plan to restore our right relationship with him which was lost in the Garden of Eden. That the temple like just about every other token of blessing God bestowed upon us would become our focus instead of God himself served to show our inability to properly relate to God. This was all in preparation for the coming of the Messiah, who, through his sacrificial death and his resurrection, would provide all that was necessary to restore us to God.
Yet, those of us who have come to know God through Yeshua the Messiah repeat the same mistake of God's people of old. We mistakenly confuse his expressions of mercy, kindness, and love to think that he is now under our control. We somehow think we have him under lock and key within our definitions, denominations, and ministries.
Isaiah's words are clear that God does give his attention to people, but to whom exactly? God says through him, "But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word." God doesn't dwell within man-made structures, whether they be physical buildings or theological and philosophical ideologies. God regards humble people who fear his every word. This is not to say that physical buildings and theology have no place as some people think. Just because knowing God is first and foremost a matter of the heart doesn't negate the need for the effective use of facilities nor does it undermine the importance of theological truth. For any man-made system, whether they are ancient traditions or post-modern apparently unorganized chat sessions, easily degenerate into idols of human control, unless we remain in a posture of humble submission to God's word.
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