"God Himself is present: Let us now adore Him, And with awe appear before Him. God is in His temple: all within keep silence; Humbly kneel in deepest rev'rence. He alone on His throne is our God and Savior. Praise His Name forever!
"God Himself is present: Hear the harps resounding; See the hosts the throne surrounding. 'Holy, holy, holy!' Hear the hymn ascending, Songs of saints and angels blending. Bow Your ear to us here: Hear, O Christ, the praises, That Your church now raises."
The psalmist wonders, "Where shall I go from Your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from Your presence?" (Psalm 139:7). He could never escape the presence of God, even if he wanted to do so. God is present everywhere: "Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD" (Jeremiah 23:24). Yet throughout the Old Testament, God established places where He would be present in a special way to meet His people. At Mount Sinai, the Lord descended in cloud, thunder, and lightning, and the people trembled in fear in the divine presence. God later instructed His people to build the tabernacle in the wilderness, the tent of meeting. When a cloud descended and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle, the Israelites gathered to stand before the God who was present.
Centuries later King Solomon built a temple in Jerusalem, a house for the Name of the Lord. When the ark of the covenant, the symbol of God's presence, was placed inside in the Most Holy Place, a cloud filled the temple. The priests could not even carry out their duties because the glory of the Lord filled His house. In the prayer of dedication, Solomon acknowledged the inadequacy of the magnificent temple: "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You; how much less this house that I have built!" (1 Kings 8:27).
When the time was right, the God whom highest heaven cannot contain chose to dwell on the earth. Jesus Christ, God the Son, was born among us. Jesus said of Himself, "I tell you, something greater than the temple is here" (Matthew 12:6). In Jesus, God Himself was present as never before, greater than the temple, greater than the sacrifices offered in the temple. Jesus, our great High Priest, "appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Hebrews 9:26b).
When we gather to worship, our crucified and risen Lord is present as we hear His Word. In His Holy Supper, He is present in His body and blood, given and shed for the forgiveness of our sins. With humility, awe, and reverence, we come into the presence of the God whom heaven cannot contain, the God who chose to dwell on earth for the sake of our salvation. Something greater than the temple is here.
THE PRAYER: God and Savior, hear and accept the praise I offer in Your holy presence. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Carol Geisler. It is based on the hymn "God Himself Is Present," which is number 907 in the Lutheran Service Book.
1. Do you get something out of worshipping at church that you don't find elsewhere?
2. Is there a part of the church service you find most meaningful, most relevant?
3. What is it about your church you like to share with others when you invite them?
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