Read Ascent Psalm 132 (preferably from the MESSAGE translation).
“I am not going home, and I’m not going to bed, I’m not going to sleep, not even take time to rest, until I find a home for God, a house for the Strong God of Jacob” (Psalm 132:3-4).
God truly wants us to find a soul-room, a refuge, a chapel where we can recognize the presence of God. King David worked hard to bring the Ark of the Covenant home to Jerusalem. Later, though God did not give him permission to build a temple because of all the warring in his life, David supplied all the provisions for his son Solomon to build God’s temple. A “house for God” was important to David. Yes, God loves to show His divine presence in human settings. God is the builder of His home in our hearts.
The story of Jacob is a classic example. Jacob cheated his brother Esau and lied to his father Isaac. He left home feeling every bit of the culprit he was. Out there in the lonely wilderness, God came to Jacob in his dream of a ladder where angels were going up and down. Jacob was sleeping with his head on a stone pillow. Some would have nightmares or headaches. However, there Jacob met God. When Jacob woke up he exclaimed, “Surely God is in this place and I did not know it…How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God” (Genesis 28:16-17). He called that sacred place Bethel meaning “house of God.” I find it fascinating that right then and there Jacob also promised a tenth of all he had for God! He was so grateful!
The heart that needs God and is found by God is a grateful heart. Like Jacob, our sinfulness produces great guilt. To discover God’s mercy, grace and forgiveness in the midst of that guilt brings overwhelming joy and gratitude. Churches, chapels, cathedrals or temples are places where we trust God’s forgiving presence is felt. However, places for God’s sanctuary are really found in our hearts. His altar is present whenever we experience and believe Jesus died and rose again for all our sins. That moment of trust is a “Bethel” (a house of God) for the forgiven sinner! Therein is God’s blessing.
Dear Jesus, I love the places that are called God’s houses. Every community needs them. Thank you that even the lonely spots in our existence can become your dwelling place. Even a hard old stone can become your altar!