Dr. Henry B. Waiters: Reverence for the house of God
References to the building in which the Church or Body of Christ meet are: church house, sanctuary, tabernacle, and most often, church. ‘Tabernacl is the first-used reference of a place where God’s people could assemble (enclosed) and He meet and dwell with them. After Moses led them out of Egypt, they wandered in the wilderness. In 1491 B.C. God instructed Moses: “And let them make Me a Sanctuary; that I may dwell among them” (Exo. 25:8). He also told them how to regard this dwelling place: “Ye shall keep My Sabbaths, and reverence My sanctuary: I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:30; 26:2). God also said of things dedicated to His service: “Every devoted thing is most holy unto the Lord” (Lev. 27:28).
When Moses met God at the burning bush, God said: “Draw not nigh hither; put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground” (Exo. 3:5). The presence of God made the place holy. Wherever God meets with His people, that place is holy: “Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Exo. 40:34).
The Bible says all should show respect for the house of worship: “The Lord is in His holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before Him” (Hab. 2:20). A failure to recognize this fact, and many other Scriptural admonitions, leads too many to treat the house of worship without due respect. Nothing seems more appropriate to divine worship than that a sense of awe and silence should pervade the place of worship, and that only the sounds of prayer, praise, preaching and thanksgiving to God should be heard within its walls. Both upon entering and just before leaving the house of God it is highly appropriate and a most excellent practice for each worshiper to bow the head for a few minutes in silent prayer.
Christ manifested His regard for the sanctity of God’s house: “and they came to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers, and the seats of them that sold doves; and would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And He taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? But ye have made it a den of thieves” (Mark 11:15-17).
This cleansing occurred at the close of Christ’s public ministry. There was a similar cleansing also at the beginning of His ministry (John 2:13-17). The two cleansings of the temple by Christ shows that God is particular in regard to the worship and conduct of the worshipers in His house. No performance or exercise should be permitted in any church or building especially dedicated to God’s service which is not in keeping with its sacred character, or conducive to reverence for God and for holy things. It should not be made a place for feasting, visiting, or worldly entertainment and amusement, or secular meetings.
We are exhorted to have grace: “Wherefore we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28, 29).
David described how he would worship: “but as for me, I will come into Thy house in the multitude of Thy mercy: and in thy fear I will worship toward Thy holy temple” (Psa. 5:7).
Solomon’s instructions were: “Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil” (Eccl. 5:1).
God’s words spoken by Isaiah in 712 B.C. were spoken by Jesus during His public ministry: “Even them (the songs of the strangers) will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifice shall be accepted upon Mine altar; for Mine house and their sacrifice shall be accepted upon Mine altar; for Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people” (Isa. 56:7).
The 56th chapter of Isaiah contains a prophecy relating to New Testament times. It is plain, therefore, that Christ enunciated a general principle, applicable to all houses dedicated to God’s service, when quoting this prophecy, He said that God’s house should be a house of prayer for all nations. Christ is present in all assemblies meeting in His name: “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20).
God requires extravagant respect, and reverence for the sanctuary must be unchanging. The sanctuary is described as a sacred place of worship, set apart for the service or worship of God. It is synonymously referred to as hallowed, divine, sanctified, and devoted exclusively to one service or use.
“God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be held in reverence of all them that are about Him” (Psa. 89:7).
Dr. Waiters can be reached at 704-636-3369.