DO WE REALLY GO TO GOD’S HOUSE FOR WORSHIP?
From the earliest of times, as chronicled in Near East documents, Egyptian writings, Hebrew Writings and even in the Acts of the Apostles, temples were understood to be temporary residences of the gods. King David certainly had that in mind when he bemoaned the fact that his palace was one of luxury, but Yahweh had no place to dwell. It was also understood, that an earthly temple was a symbol of, or even a shadow of, that particular god’s heavenly abode. That is why many temples were made as ornate as possible, so they could reasonably compare to the real temple in the cosmos. But never was a temple considered as a house of worship. The worship was most often done at an altar in front of the Temple. Prayers were said in front of the image at the Temple. It served as a bond, or link, or portal between heaven and earth for the god to use. This would provide a place for the god to go once he left his celestial dwelling place to visit earth. That would prevent him from having to roam or be homeless without a place to dwell.
So, when their god was present in his or her temple, then the people could come to the shrine and worship them. That’s why we call our church a “House of God.” This means that the house belongs to God. That’s why we go there to worship Him. However, Jesus said that all true worshipers must worship God in “spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24.) That is, true worship takes place on the inside, in the heart or spirit of the worshiper, it does not require a building (cf. Psalm 45:1; 103:1-2). In order for our worship to be pleasing to God, it must be genuine and transparent, offered with a humble and pure heart (Psalm 24:3-4; Isaiah 66:2.), not merely visiting a building. Therefore, we gather there to praise Him and pray to Him. When we go, we should already have the mindset that God is meeting us there at His house.
Although the following are beautiful melodies, I sometimes wonder why we sing, “Holy Spirit, thou art welcome in this place,” or “Holy Spirit You are welcome here, come flood this place and fill the atmosphere.” The Jews had a different perspective. Habakkuk said in 2:20, “The Lord is in His holy temple, so the whole earth should be silent in His presence and show Him respect.” We must remember, the earth is not the center of our galaxy, the sun is. Likewise, we are not the center of our spiritual universe, the Son of God is. And did not Jesus say in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am with them.” Would it be out of line if we sang, “Holy Spirit make us welcomed in this place,” or “Holy Spirit we feel welcomed here, you flood this place and fill the atmosphere.” I believe that if more people thought this way, they would act differently, dress differently, and conduct themselves differently in God’s house. You are not there for your sake; you are there for His sake. He did not come because you drew Him there, you came because He drew you there. – Dr. Robert R Seyda