The Pastor, Vicar or Priest welcomes the congregation into the house of God and encourages everyone that today they have come to meet with the living God. This encouraging invitation to worship has a measure of truth in its statement but at the same time falls short of the reality of life in the Spirit.
It’s hard for people to break away from traditions and firmly established views of God and that was just as much a reality in the lives of the people of God in the Old Testament as it is today.
The peoples of ancient times viewed the deity as being high up above the people and they sought to worship and offer sacrifice on the high places, hills, mountains and man-made platforms. This belief that coming close to your God was best achieved by climbing up to a high place was a common factor amongst all the nations of the time.
The God of Israel was also worshipped in this manner, but He always intended for His people to worship Him in “Spirit and Truth” not being confined to a traditional practice that had no basis in the truth of God’s desire to be amongst His people.
There was a continual struggle to break the people free from the use of the high places and we see this repeated throughout the book of Kings.
1 Kings 22:43 He walked in all the way of Asa his father; he did not turn aside from it, doing right in the sight of the LORD. However, the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burnt incense on the high places.
2 Kings_12:3 Only the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. (repeated 2 Kings 14:4 – 2 Kings 15:4)
2 Kings_15:35 Only the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. He built the upper gate of the house of the LORD.
We see that even when God had established a prescribed place for worship, the Temple in Jerusalem, the people still clung to the high places and we read that a King could love the Lord and still fall short by seeking God at the High Places.
1 Kings 15:14 But the high places were not taken away; nevertheless the heart of Asa was wholly devoted to the LORD all his days.
1 Kings 3:3 Now Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.
Eventually, for Israel at least, the high places became less popular as the Temple became more prominent. But the temple was not the ultimate place for the Spirit of God to reside. There would come a time when the temple would be removed and no longer the place to meet with God. In the gospel of Matthew and Luke we read of the temple being left by God desolate to the leaders of Israel.
Matthew 23:38 “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!
Luke 13:35 “Behold, your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you will not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’”
Jesus had already spoken of a time when this would become a reality and directed the woman at the well to a time when God would have true worshipers who would worship Him, not on a high place or in a temple and dare I say it even in a church building.
John 4:21-24 Jesus *said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshippers. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
God’s intention has always been to dwell and not just amongst but within – a higher state than even Adam and Eve experienced.
Jesus spoke of the true house, not a church building, but the body of Christ made up of many individual dwelling places, the people of God
John 14:2 “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you”.
We find in the writings of many believers the realisation that God is to be found within rather than high above or in some sacred location.
The realisation that God dwells by His Spirit within is not a reality that we find easy to maintain for much of our present day religious system tells us to “Look Here” or “Look There”. The very language we use in our worship songs reveals a belief that He is to be found in some sacred place other than the depths of our very being.
Luke 17:21 neither will they say, ‘Look, here.’ or, ‘Look, there.’ for the Kingdom of God is within you.”
And though we love Him we find ourselves drawn to the High Places of buildings and holy places.
His patience, tender mercy and love waits for us to come down from our high place. Will you come down to seek the Kingdom within.