So I’m getting a little behind on writing up my class notes for “God With Us: Being the Temple for the World” at Life on the Vine. Today I’ll be summarizing what we talked about two weeks ago. Hopefully on Friday I’ll post what we did this week.
The overall goal of our class on Sundays (and these posts) asks, “If Jesus told us to pray ‘Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,’ are there other examples of heaven coming to earth? The answers will be definitely, YES.
Last time we talked about a different way to think about God creating in Genesis One by looking at the functions of created things rather than their materials. We ended with the questions, “If creation has a function, then what is its overall purpose?” I hinted that “Day Seven” held the key to this in regard to Divine Rest.
The Cosmic Temple of Creation: A Dwelling…
But before we come to God resting on the Seventh Day we have to ask about where God dwells, where God lives.
In the ancient Near East if you asked, “Where is your god?” they would point to a temple. In one sense everyone knew the god does not actually lives in the temple like a material being, but in another sense, the god was especially available in the temple. And not just this, but the god ruled its kingdom from the temple. So the temple is a place of dwelling and ruling.
The question for us is this: Is creation itself thought of as God’s temple?
Creation: God’s Temple
Well before we turn to Genesis we hear God saying in Isaiah 66:1-2: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? 2 Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” Heaven being a throne and earth being a footstool indicate the royal aspect of God’s dwelling place. The allusion to a “house” always refers to a temple when in connection with God (we aren’t talking about a vacation home or anything).
And in Is. 6:3 we hear that the whole earth is full of God’s glory (the same glory that filled the tabernacle [Ex. 40:34] and temple [1 Kg 8:11]). Given these and other passages it seems clear that heaven and earth, and therefore all of creation, is in some sense God’s temple where he dwells.
In the Garden of Eden we also see indications and allusions that God has created a temple. Gregory Beale has summarized the material of his massive The Temple and the Church’s Mission in an article called “Eden, the Temple, and the Church’s Mission in the New Creation” (Download). There Beale outlines how God walking in the Garden, the lights of the heavens, the flowing rivers, the vegetation, the eastward facing entrance, and many other examples are all aspects mirrored linguistically and structurally in the Jerusalem Temple and other temple visions. This indicates that readers of Genesis 1 and 2 would have thought of creation/Eden as a temple-like place, full of God’s presence.
Creation: God’s Rest?
Lastly, when ancient readers see that God rested on the seventh day they would have immediately thought that everything preceding was a description of a temple-like structure because gods always rest in a temple.
That gods always rested in a temple is not something we would normally think of because in our post-industrial world we are so busy that when we think of rest we just thing of the ceasing of activity, so we can recharge and get ready for another burst of work.
But ancient readers would have known immediately that for God to rest means that he had taken up resident in his temple, and therefore the preceding 6 days refer to the creation, or more likely, the inauguration of his temple. The number seven is especially associated with temple construction: Solomon took seven years to build it. Gathered the people on the seventh month to inaugurate it. The celebrated it for seven days, and then seven more.
But to say that creation is temple-like still doesn’t exactly answer what this temple if for, and what the resting of God has to do with us.
That will be for the next post tomorrow.