Thanksgiving is coming up soon. As Christians seek to approach God with their gifts, it is important to know what God desires of his people. God desires our heart, not our goods. This idea has a big history through the Tabernacle and Temple. Read on to learn more!
An Altar of Simple Stone
God reinforces the idea of “simple” as Abel, Noah, Abram and others are called to worship Him. God instructed men of old to build a simple altar and common sacrifices. They built their altar of unhewn stones. The sacrifices were common animals: pigeons, goats and bulls.
“Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’ So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him.
From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.” (Genesis 12:6-9)
A Humble Place of Worship
In the Wilderness God asked Moses to construct a Tent as a place to worship.
”Then the LORD said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites this: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven: Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold. Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you. If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it. And do not go up to my altar on steps, lest your nakedness be exposed on it.” (Exodus 20:22-25)
The lesson here is that God did not want us to worship the Building … but to worship Him. The Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths are different than many others. Idols and objects of worship are discouraged. Every object in the Tabernacle is functional.
But … Bigger is Better
Man’s problem is that we are never satisfied with simple. We want show. Instead of looking to God, too often we want people to see what our hands have made. We see this in the Bible when King David desires to construct a Temple for His God.
“That night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying: “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’” (2 Samuel 7:4-7)
Affluence Demands More
As the nation of Israel grew and developed, they desired a larger place of worship. At first the place of worship was in the Tabernacle or Tent which the people brought out of their wilderness experience. But after King David and his son Solomon built their palaces, they felt guilty, and desired to build a palace for the Lord also. The dimensions of this building were double the size of the Tabernacle; with rooms to the side and a porch was built in the front. Instead of one Menorah there were ten.
The Temple was extravagant. Its beauty became famous all over the world! “[The Queen of Sheba] said to the king, “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard. How happy your men must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! Praise be to the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the LORD’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king, to maintain justice and righteousness.” (1 Kings 10:6-9)
Later, King Herod built an even more elaborate Temple. The original tent was 15 feet high. The Temple of Solomon was 45 feet high. Herod’s Temple was 172 feet high!
God Desires More
But affluence and opulence are not what God desires. God desires the heart of man. His first and foremost command is: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deut 6:4-7)
The construction of great buildings does little more than stoke our pride, which brings the glory to us … not to God. The Lord said, “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.” (1 Sam 15:22-23; See also Micah 6:6-8)
God said, “Love the name of the LORD, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant– these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Is 56:6-7)
God desires Man’s Heart
God owns all the cattle and gold in the world. What God wants most is our Love. We often fight over buildings. God does not want us to fight over whose building is bigger and best. God does not want us to stand in awe of buildings or man made objects. God wants our desire to be for Him. God Himself should be the object of worship.
“Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.” (Psalm 95:2-7)
What kind of Temple does God really desire? Does the Bible give the design or a hint?
In the beginning and end we find the Temple which God desires. For God loves us and God desires our love. In the book of Genesis we read: “the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day…” (Genesis 3:8) and “Enoch walked with God…” (Genesis 5:24) and “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.” (Genesis 6:9).
In the end we find: “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.” (Rev. 21:22-25)
“A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24)