THE DWELLING PLACES OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-6-64 8:15 a.m.
You are sharing with us the early morning services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message. The first time that God chose a place to dwell in the earth was in the tabernacle. In the days before, the Lord came down to visit the man in the garden of Eden [Genesis 3:8], and Enoch walked with God [Genesis 5:24], and Noah walked with God [Genesis 6:9], and Abraham was the friend of God [Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23]; but the first time that God chose a dwelling place was when He gave instructions to Moses to prepare Him a sanctuary [Exodus 25:8-9].
Then you had the building of the tabernacle, God’s dwelling place [Exodus 25-26]. Then you had the building of Solomon’s temple, God’s second dwelling place [1 Chronicles 28:1-21; 2 Chronicles 3:1-7:22]. Then you had the dwelling of God in the life and the Person and the body of Jesus. "And the Word was made flesh, and tabernacled among us," as the Greek says, "tabernacled among us, dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father" [John 1:14]. Then God dwells in His church, in the hearts of the individual members who are the temples of God [1 Corinthians 6:19], and in the congregation, in the church of the Lord [1 Corinthians 3:16]. Then God’s future dwelling place in the glory that is to come, the vision of John, "Behold the tabernacle of God is with men" [Revelation 21:3].
Now this Sunday morning, we are going to look at some things that are common in all five of those dwelling places. And by looking at those things, we are going to learn this morning about God. Just like you could see somebody, get acquainted with them, there are certain things about them, each person, so there is about God, about what God does. God is a person. He is somebody and there are characteristics of God. He does things in certain ways. He reacts to certain things in certain ways. So this morning, we are going to take those five dwelling places of God, and there are certain things that are characteristic of all five of them.
All right, here is the first one. In each instance, God fills His dwelling place according to a very definite pattern. And when I look at that, and you’ll see it in all five of them, there is a certain and definite and real characteristic of God. Whatever God does, He does according to a plan, a pattern. The Lord does not do things aimlessly, haphazardly, adventitiously, purposely, but God works through definite plans, and by definite patterns, and follows very definite outlines.
Now a man may be helter and skelter, hit and miss, try and fail, off and on, hot and cold; but not God. The Lord always has certain full and definite purposes and a plan to achieve those purposes. And God works according to a definite pattern, always, always. If the Lord God is going to make a beautiful rose, He will do it by a definite pattern. First this, and this, and this, and this; He doesn’t just make a rose, doesn’t just snap His finger and there’s the flower, but He will make it according to a very definite rule and procedure. So it is with a bird. The Lord doesn’t just bring things into being, but He makes them, and creates them, and shapes them, and brings them into reality by a very definite course, a very definite pattern; so with the plan of salvation.
There is a plan of salvation. There is a pattern. There is a course. There is a purpose. The Lord is reaching out and achieving a definite result; so with the hand of God in history. To us it may look aimless and purposeless, but not to God. There is the hand of God working back of all of the developments in your life and in the combined lives of humanity that make up the history of the human race. So I say, as we look at this thing, characteristics of God, here’s one. Whatever He does, He does according to a definite plan and pattern.
So let’s look now at these five dwelling places. First: all five of them are made according to a very definite pattern. In the twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Exodus and the eighth verse, the Lord says to Moses, "And let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof" [Exodus 25:8-9]. Then in the last verse, He admonishes Moses: "And Moses, look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shown thee in the mount" [Exodus 25:40]. In the ninth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, the twenty-third verse, the author of Hebrews uses the Greek word for "copy" [Hebrews 9:23]. You are to make this a copy. And as I said last Sunday morning, the original was the beautiful temple and tabernacle of God in heaven [Hebrews 8:5]. So when the Lord says to Moses, "Now you are to make this dwelling place of Mine, look," He says, "that thou make it after the pattern that I showed thee in the mount" [Exodus 25:40], a very definite thing, a definite way, every piece of it according to the measurement and plan of God.
Now, in the building of the temple, Solomon’s temple, I find the same thing again. In 1 Chronicles, the twenty-eighth chapter, the eleventh verse, "Then David gave to Solomon his son the pattern," [1 Chronicles 28:11]. In the twelfth, "and the pattern of all that he had by the Spirit, David gave to Solomon" [1 Chronicles 28:12]. Now look in the nineteenth verse, "All this, said David, the Lord made me understand in writing by His hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern,[1 Chronicles 28:19] God will be with thee; He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work" [1 Chronicles 28:20]. So, in the building of Solomon’s temple, David says that God gave it to him by writing the pattern, the plan of everything by which the temple was to rise up for the glory of God [1 Chronicles 28:19].
Now, the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s third dwelling place: in the first chapter of the Book of Hebrews, in the third verse, is an unusual expression, "Our Savior, God’s Son, being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, the express image of His person" [Hebrews 1:3]. Now we can pause here and talk a long time about the meaning of that verse. The word charakter, just exactly like you’d spell it in English, "character," translated here "the express image." The Greek word charakter was the impress of a die or a mark or a stencil or a sharp cutting stone; the impress of His person, hupostasis, that which stands under, the underlying meaning and actuality and reality, the essence of a thing.
Now when our Lord came into this world, God took the form of an express image, of an express character; and that character was an expression of the essence of God. The Lord Jesus Christ was made according to a very definite pattern. If a man were a mechanic, you could translate that word character "die." When a mechanic makes a die, then he uses that die to stamp out all of the rest of those pieces by which they make an automobile, or a big piece of machinery.
Well, our Lord Jesus was the die of God, the stamp of God, the very definite pattern of God. When you looked at the Lord Jesus, you were looking at God. "He that has seen Me hast seen the Father" [John 14:9]. That is the pattern of God. What He said, what He did, that is the way, and the rule, and the will, and the plan, and the pattern of God.
Now, our church and our people are to follow a very definite pattern: in the fourth chapter of Ephesians, he says, "God gave us these prophets, and apostles, and evangelists, and pastors and teachers . . . till we all come into the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" [from Ephesians 4:11-13]. We also have a pattern until we all come to that mature man, the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. We have a plan to go by, a pattern to follow, a likeness to pray that we might achieve; and that is the fullness of the measure of the stature of Christ.
And then of course the pattern of the glorious abode of God that is yet to come: Ezekiel saw it in heaven [Ezekiel 40-48]. And in the Revelation the angel measured it, and it was made according to a very definite pattern [Revelation 11:1-2].
All right, before I go on, may I make a little side comment here? Now you listen to the Word of the Lord. It is not for man to innovate. It is for us to be obedient to God, period. It is not for man to philosophize or to speculate. It is for us to be humble servants of the Lord.
A preacher, if he’s a true preacher, is nothing but a voice. He’s just a herald. He’s not thinking thoughts of his own. He is thinking the thoughts of God and telling the people what God has to say, not what he thinks. What he thinks doesn’t matter to a row of pins but it’s what God says. And if a man is a true minister of Christ, he is nothing but a reflection, and a herald, and an announcer, and a proclaimer, "Thus saith the Lord God."
Now, that thing is also true in the building of our church and the work of our people. It is not for us to speculate about the ordinances of God for example. The Lord says we are to be buried in the likeness of His death and raised in the likeness of His resurrection [Romans 6:3-5]. We’re to be baptized [Matthew 28:19-20]. Well, the man philosophizes, "That may be what God says, but I think that to be sprinkled a little water on top of your head or to pour a little water over the baby," I think that’s just,but that’s not what God says. And the man is not to innovate, nor is he to contrive, nor is he to change. We are to be humble, obedient servants of the Lord. And if the Lord says upon a profession of faith, I am to be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit [Matthew 28:19], that settles it, that settles it.
Where’s that aisle I can go down? Where’s that baptistery and that preacher? I want to be baptized according to the Word of the Lord. Same way about the Lord’s Supper; it doesn’t belong to us. It’s the Lord’s Supper. And what God says about the observance of the Lord’s Supper is final for us, and so it is with all of the life of the servant of God [Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29].
In Romans 1:1, in Titus 1:1, in Philippians 1:1, Paul says, "Paulos ho doulos of Jesus Christ; Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ." That’s what we ought to be, doing things according to the plan, and the pattern, and the purpose, and the will of God. And that settles it for us. What does the Lord say about it? What does God say? That’s the end of it for us. That’s a very simple way to live, too. What God says, that settles it. Now we must hasten.
A second thing about God: not only does God do things by definite patterns and plans, achieving a set and known and stated purpose, whatever He does by a pattern, there’s a second thing that I notice as I look at these passages, and that is whenever God does a work, He makes full and ample preparation for it. Now you would think that God, being autocratic and omnipotent and unchallenged, that He might do things facetiously, just on the spur of the moment. But God doesn’t do that. Sometimes God will take thousands of years to prepare a family for the achievement of a chosen purpose; remarkable what God does, preparing, preparing.
Now let’s look at all five of these in God’s preparation for them. Now the twenty-fifth chapter of Exodus starts off:
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take My offering.
And this is the offering which ye shall take; gold, and silver, and brass,
And blue, and purple, and scarlet,
Onyx stones, and precious stones to set in the ephod, and in the breastplate.
[Exodus 25:1-4, 7]
Well, they were poor slaves. Where would they get any gold and any silver and any gems to offer to the Lord for the building of His tabernacle, where? All right, if I were teaching a class, I’d have a volunteer. Somebody tell me where Israel had the gold and the silver and the precious stones to offer to God in the building of His sanctuary. Well, there wouldn’t be very many of you that would stand up and say, "Preacher, why, that’s as simple as one plus one." But some of you would. Now where’d they get those things? Way back yonder, while they were slaves, the Lord God said to Moses:
Now you tell My people Israel that I am going to give them favor in the sight of their oppressors; and you tell them, every man to borrow of the Egyptians all kinds of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and all those things. And so the Egyptians were moved to look with favor upon these slaves, and they gave them all that asked.
[Exodus 11:1-3; Exodus 12:35-36]
Then when the time came years and years and years later for the Israelites in that barren wilderness to build a sanctuary for God, they had so much gold, and so much silver, and so much blue and purple and scarlet and so many precious stones that when Moses took it up, he said words saying, "Do not bring any more. We have an abundance and do not know how to use the abundance that we already have" [Exodus 36:3-7].
Isn’t that a remarkable thing? God did that here because He knew here they were going to have a wonderful opportunity in an unusual way to make this glorious offering for the Lord, so the Lord prepared for it [Exodus 25:1-9].
Now when you turn to the building of Solomon’s temple, there is that same marvelous preparation. David spent the latter years of his life getting ready for it, and even I myself, as much as I read the Bible, every time I look at it I find something new. Do you know how much David prepared? I just can’t believe my eyes. In the twenty-second chapter of 1 Chronicles David says:
Now, behold, Solomon, in my trouble I have prepared for the house of the Lord an hundred thousand talents of gold, and a thousand thousand –
that is a million –
talents of silver; and brass and iron without weight; in an abundance: timber and stone have I prepared; and thou mayest add thereunto.
Moreover there are workmen with thee in abundance, hewers and workers of stone and timber, and all manner of cunning men for every manner of work.
Of gold, and silver, and brass, and iron, without number. Arise therefore, and do it.
[1 Chronicles 22:14-16]
Do you know how much a hundred thousand talents of gold is? Brother Zim Hayes, according to how much that is, the Republic Bank is just doing business in the Woolworth’s store. Oh, I don’t know how much that is! A talent is a weight, not a sum; and as I have told you before a talent is how much an ordinary grown man could carry.
Now David, beside what Solomon did, David prepared for the house of the Lord a hundred thousand talents of gold; that is, if you had a hundred thousand men carrying all the gold that they could carry, that’s how much he prepared of just gold for that house of God. And a thousand thousands, ten-hundred thousand, a million talents of silver; if you had a million men going by and each one of them carrying all the silver he could carry; that’s how much,oh, it’s beyond me, it’s beyond me!
And David repeats that over and over again through this story. In the twenty-ninth of 1 Chronicles, "Now I have prepared with all my might for the house of my God. I have prepared for the holy house" [1 Chronicles 29:2], and on it goes. And when the time came for the building of that glorious house, the Book says there was not the sound of a hammer, or of an ax, or of an iron tool [1 Kings 6:7]; but it was raised silently and gloriously, everything was beautifully and meticulously prepared.
Well, in the life of our Lord, in the tenth chapter of the Book of Hebrews and the fifth verse, "A body hast Thou prepared for Me" [Hebrews 10:5]. Jesus came down here into this world, God’s Son, and He had a house, a dwelling place, a prepared body. "A body hast Thou prepared for Me . . . Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me,) to do Thy will, O God" [Hebrews 10:5, 7]. So down came the Son of Man into a body prepared for Him. And you know how that was done: in the womb of a virgin, by the Holy Spirit [Matthew 1:20-25; Luke 1:31-35, 2:1-7], a body prepared for Him [Hebrews 10:5].
Now in His church, in the ninth chapter of the Book of Romans in the twenty-third verse, "that the Lord might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He hath afore prepared unto glory, Even us, even we of the Gentiles," [Romans 9:23-24], then he goes on. We are a people being prepared for the glory of God, a people whom He hath beforehand chosen us before we were born, prepared unto glory. And then, of course, in the final home of the Lord, he "saw New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven, prepared as a bride for her husband" [Revelation 21:2].
Now I want to make a comment there before I go on hastily. I want you to notice in the work of the Lord, I want you to notice that when God does anything, first, if He asks anything, God is going to do something and He asks of us, before God asks He will put it in to our hands so we can give it to Him. And that is the Old Testament meaning of the word "consecration." It is taking from God’s hands, it is filling our hands from God’s hands and then dedicating it back to the Lord.
Now hastily; in the twenty-ninth chapter of the first Chronicles, why, you have all of those things that are needed; the gold for things of gold, and the silver for things of silver, and all manner of things for the hands of the artificers. "Who is willing to consecrate his gift, and his talent, and his service, this day unto the Lord? [1 Chronicles 29:5]. Got needs," says Solomon, "have need for all of these things. Who is willing?" says David and Solomon, "to give all of these things to the Lord?" All right, now listen to David as he prays:
Now therefore, our God, we thank Thee and praise Thy glorious name.
But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of Thine, and of Thy hand have we given Thee, and of Thy hand have we given Thee.
[1 Chronicles 29:13, 14]
Whatever we give, the Book says, God placed it in our hands in order that we might devote it to Him.
Now may I make this comment, I say, in passing? Did you know, according to this Book, if God asks us to give, God will first give it to us that we might consecrate it to Him? He will not ask us for it until first He gives it to us Himself. Now, you who pray about tithing and stagger at it and stumble at it, let me tell you by the Word of the Lord, if you will trust God, God will give you the money to give back to Him a tithe. He will do it. God will give it to you. You try it, you trust Him; that’s what it says, and that’s what the word "consecration" is. "For all things come of Thee and of Thine hand have we filled our hands that we might give unto Thee" [1 Chronicles 29:14]. And if it is of the Lord, the Lord will give it to you that you might consecrate it to Him. That’s the preparation God makes for His work.
All right, briefly now two other things; and I haven’t time to follow them through the Bible. I shall just speak of them myself by summary. There are two other characteristics that I see in these dwelling places of God.
Here’s one. Wherever you have the dwelling place of the Lord, there you have the cloud, you have the cloud. Now that is a marvelously interesting thing, and if we had another hour or two, we’d just talk about that cloud. After they had done with the tabernacle, the cloud of the Lord, the shekinah glory of the Lord came down, and they could not enter it because of that cloud, the glory of the Lord [1 Chronicles 5:13-14].
And when the beautiful Solomon’s temple was finished, the cloud of the Lord, called a cloud in the Bible, the shekinah glory of the Lord came down, and the priests could not enter because the glory of the Lord [1 Kings 8:10-11]. And when the Lord Jesus came down, He was transfigured before the disciples, "and a bright cloud overshadowed them; and a voice out of the cloud saying, This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" [Matthew 17:5]. The cloud; "And when He was ascended up into glory, a cloud received Him out of their sight" [Acts 1:9]. Isn’t that a remarkable thing? "And behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him" [Revelation 1:7], the glory, the burning, the shining, the brightness of God.
All right, one other thing and then I am through; another thing that characterizes all five of God’s dwelling places is this: the gold. Now every board in the tabernacle was covered with pure gold [Exodus 36:34]. The lampstand was made of solid gold, the table of showbread, the golden altar of incense, the ark of the covenant, the mercy seat, and the cherubim, all of it wrought of solid gold [Exodus 37:1-28]. In Solomon’s temple, quote, "And there was no stone seen" [1 Kings 6:18]. It was covered within and without with pure and solid gold.
And the Lord Jesus Christ, "And they brought unto Him gifts: gold, and frankincense, and myrrh" [Matthew 2:11]. And the gold shone through in the miracles that He did, in the marvelous words that He spake, in the glorious transfiguration [Matthew 17:2]. "I counsel thee, said the Lord to His church, to buy of Me gold tried in the fire" [Revelation 3:18]. And then that final and beautiful dwelling place of God; you listen to this. In Solomon’s temple it says "And the floor was covered with solid gold, and the priests stood upon it" [1 Kings 6:30]. And in that beautiful city of God and the streets thereof are pure gold, and we stand upon it [Revelation 21:21].
And that gold always is a picture and a symbol of the Lord God Himself, the Lord everywhere, standing on the promises of God, looking upon the glory of the Lord, living in a place in a city worshiping in a house, covered with pure gold; the glory of the presence of God, everywhere, everywhere. Ah the wonder and the marvel that the Lord hath as He speaks to His people: "Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for those who love Him" [1 Corinthians 2:9]. He has revealed it to us by His Spirit, we who pause to listen, who love this Word, and who rejoice in its revelation, in its promise, oh so rich, so full, and so deep!
Now let’s sing our song. And while we sing it, somebody to give his heart to the Lord, somebody to put his life in the church, somebody you, a family you, or one somebody you, come down this aisle; give the pastor your hand, "I give my heart to the Lord." Would you this morning? While we stand and while we sing.