There is so much I love about camping. Waking up with trees a step away. Looking at a sky full of stars. Wandering around nature trails observing God’s creation. Listening to the crackle of a fire at night.
There are other parts I could do without. The sleeping arrangement that leaves me with a sore back. The food that requires extra planning and preparation. The bug bites that drive me insane.
That kind of nomadic existence was the story of the Israelites for decades. First they wandered in the desert. Then they set up encampments in the Promised Land. During this time of wandering, even their worship took place in a tent, called the Tabernacle.
As time passed, the Israelites became established in the Promised Land- they defeated new enemies and gained territory. But they still did not have a center- a capital city- until King David conquered Jerusalem. After that
David then took up residence in the fortress, and so it was called the City of David. He built up the city around it, from the terraces to the surrounding wall, while Joab restored the rest of the city. And David became more and more powerful, because the LORD Almighty was with him. – 1 Chronicles 11:7-9
Finally, a real establishment. A place that provides security, identity, and a home for them.
Yet, as King David reflects, something is missing.
After David was settled in his palace, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under a tent.” – 1 Chronicles 17:1
David thinks that if God’s people are truly putting down their roots in Jerusalem, then Yahweh should have a temple there.
But God has something greater than the temple in mind. He speaks to Nathan
“Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD says: You are not the one to build me a house to dwell in… I declare to you that the LORD will build a house for you: When your days are over and you go to be with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him, as I took it away from your predecessor. I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever; his throne will be established forever.’” -2 Chronicles 17:4,11-14
David’s dream of building a temple is admirable. It does eventually get accomplished through his son Solomon. And it holds a great significance to the people of Israel.
But God lets David know that something much grander than a temple is coming. A Messiah. A Messiah that will be born from David’s family line. A Messiah who will build a house for the Lord, and reign over it forever.
Many years later, Jesus says
I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. – Matthew 12:6
A temple is, in a sense, an upgrade from a tabernacle. But it is still a place made by humans hands, meant to be home to the presence of God. When Jesus is born, God takes up a new residence, greater than the temple.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. – John 1:14
With the Messiah, God does not reside among the stones of a temple but among the bones and skin of a human. And now, if we believe in Jesus, the His Spirit resides in us. We are the house He builds.
As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 2:4-5
The Messiah is greater than the temple. He is a real establishment. A place that provides security, identity, and a home for us.