Special Places, Special People

Memory Lane

Some places have been locations for special, meaningful events in my life. I recall:

*Orange Memorial Hospital–where I was born [1]

*First Baptist Church, Bloomfield, NJ–where I first understood the Gospel and received Christ as my savior

*The little house in McCaysville, Georgia where my mother’s parents and grandmother welcomed our extended family for southern hospitality over the years.

*The campus of Florida Bible College–where I surrendered to God’s call on my life

*The church in Feasterville, PA where Linda and I were married

*Peoples Church of Montreal, Quebec–were I was ordained to the Ministry

*Winona Gospel Church, Ontario–where I was privileged to baptize our children.

*The Grace Fellowship International office in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee where I have seen God touch peoples lives through biblical counseling

As you walk down memory lane, what special places do you recall in your spiritual journey? Although God is omnipresent, He has chosen to manifest His revealed presence in special places.

Special Places

For example, God gave the design of the Tabernacle to Moses on Mt. Sinai. This portable structure was sanctified as a special place of worship that was central to the Old Covenant’s sacrificial system. To show that this special building and its courtyard were accepted by God as a place of national worship, He sent fire from heaven as a sign: “And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of meeting, and came out and blessed the people. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people, and fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces” (Lev. 9:23,24). This became a special place!

Several hundred years later, King David showed deep concern for the establishment of God’s House. He moved the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and made provision for the building of a more permanent worship structure. However, because David had been a man who had shed much blood in military campaigns, God did not give him permission to build the Temple; this honor would go to David’s royal son, Solomon.

Near the end of his kingship, David sinned greatly against the LORD by numbering all the troops of Israel. God sent a plague against the nation as judgment for violating His sovereignty in this matter.[2] When David cried out for mercy, God’s compassion halted the angel’s destruction. The location of this episode was a threshing floor in Jerusalem. David immediately purchased that plot of land and obediently offered sacrifice to God: “And David built there an altar to the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called on the LORD; and He answered him from heaven by fire on the altar of burnt offering” (1 Chron. 21:25,26). It was at this special, sanctified spot where Solomon would build the Temple.[3]

After seven years of a well-coordinated and skillful building project, Solomon’s temple for the LORD was finished. The Most Holy Place was overlaid with over 20 tons of gold, yet neither precious metal nor exquisite craftsmanship could make this building worthy of the true and living God.[4] However, the LORD condescended to manifest His presence at this special place. After the king’s public intercessory prayer to dedicate this building, God demonstrated His approval: “When Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD’S house” (2 Chron. 7:1,2). A special place indeed!

Thus, at the Tabernacle in the wilderness as well as the Temple in Jerusalem, God demonstrated His glory by sending fire from heaven.[5]

The Special One

In the New Covenant age, an even more glorious temple was given–the birth and ministry of the God-man, the Lord Jesus Christ. In John’s Gospel we read of His deity: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Notice how Jesus’ humanity became the unique and ultimate temple: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt [literally ‘tabernacled’] among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).[6]

The Father’s public recognition of Christ’s divinity and redemptive mission occurred at His baptism: “When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased'” (Matt. 3:16,17). Whereas the physical buildings in the Old Testament era were sanctioned with fire from heaven, the Son of God was blessed with the special anointing of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. Thus, God’s special place was incarnate in this Special Person.[7]

Special People

In about AD 33 Christ was raised from the dead. In A.D. 70 the Roman army destroyed the newly-renovated Temple in Jerusalem. [8]

Did God leave Himself without a sanctified temple on earth after His Son ascended to heaven (Acts 1:9-11)? No, His redeemed ones around the world are now His special place and His special people! Believers in Christ are the temple of God in the New Covenant dispensation. Paul made this amazing declaration to the church: “Do you not know that you [plural] are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16). When believers are gathered together in God’s name, He is present in a special way (see Matt. 18:20).

If that isn’t glorious enough, realize that true believers are also the temple of God individually! “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you [singular], whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Cor. 6:19).

The heavenly authentification of this dwelling place is not literal fire or a visible dove; instead, it is the presence of God Himself by His Spirit (Eph. 1:13; 2:22; 3:17; 4:30; 5:18). God’s holiness is like a consuming fire. His peace and purity are like a gentle dove (Heb. 12:29; Exod 24:17; John 1:32; 1 Cor. 12:13).

This dignity of being in Christ brings a special responsibility: “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:20). Fellow believer, your new heart is now God’s special place!

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). May we rise to the calling to live as God’s special people by His indwelling presence.

[1] About 8 years later I had a tonsillectomy there but never got over getting Jello afterward instead of the much-anticipated ice cream 🙂

[2] 1 Chron. 21:1 identifies Satan as the source of David’s temptation to number Israel’s army. (2 Sam. 24:1 acknowledges that even this was under God’s mysterious providence.) The census was sinful because of David’s presumption (as if these armies were his alone) and his pride (the source of his confidence being placed in man, instead of the Ultimate King of Israel–God.)

[3] Mt. Moriah, on the north side of Jerusalem, was where (a millennium earlier) God directed Abraham to offer his son, Isaac (Gen. 22:2).

[4] Solomon recognized that the temple could not fully contain or restrict God’s presence: “But will God indeed dwell with men on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!” (1 Chron. 6: 18,19).

[5] God also demonstrated His sovereignty to Elijah on Mt. Carmel by sending fire from heaven to consume His sacrifice. This discredited the prophets of Baal and summoned King Ahab to repent (1 Kings 18:38).

[6] This explains the meaning of Christ’s famous prophecy of His crucifixion and resurrection: “So the Jews answered and said to Him, ‘What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ Then the Jews said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’ But He was speaking of the temple of His body” (John 2:18-21).

[7] “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9).

[8] The Jewish leaders rejected Jesus as the Messiah by shouting to the Roman governor, “’Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar!'” (John 19:15). As a judicial consequence for this crime of unbelief and hatred, Jesus had prophesied the destruction of the temple (Luke 19:43,44;21:5,6).

Copyright 2006 by John Woodward. 2nd edition. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non-commercial use if credit is given the author and GraceNotebook.com. Scripture quotations (unless indicated otherwise) are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.