Mind the Presence of God.
The Bible begins and ends with the presence of God. In Genesis Eden is presented as Man’s home, but more importantly as God’s sanctuary, i.e. a dwelling place for His presence. In Revelation, We see Eden returning and being expanded into a New Heaven and a New Earth where God’s people enjoy God’s presence continually. (Rev 21:14). The presence of God is not simply just an aura or atmosphere, but an aspect of the nature of God. The bible teaches that there this a big difference between the omnipresence of God and his MANIFEST Presence.
In the account of Samson, the last judge of Israel before introduction of monarchies (Judges 13 to 16), we see his destiny explicitly being laid out by God even before he was born. Samson was given immense strength to aid him against his enemies and allow him to perform glorious exploits, such as killing a lion, slaying an entire army of one thousand Philistines with only the jawbone of a donkey, gathering three hundred foxes, and using them to torch the grain fields and olive groves of the Philistines, and destroying a temple of the Philistines with his bare hands and many other exploits. God supplied Samson's power because of his consecration to Him as a Nazirite, symbolized by the fact that a razor had never touched his head. In spite of his continued directive from God to fight the Philistines, Samson pursued a much more personal connection with them. He fell in love with a Philistine woman, Delilah, who was tasked by her people to find the secret of Samson’s strength. Three times she begged to know the secret of his strength, and three times he lied to her. Finally, after Delilah nagged persistently, he confessed: “A razor has never come to my head; for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, then my strength would leave me” (Judges 16:17). Sure enough, Delilah took advantage of this new information, lulling Samson to sleep and shaving off his hair. He immediately became weak and God’s power left him. "Samson woke up and thought, 'I will do as I did before and shake myself free.' but he did not realise that the Lord had left him." (Judges 16:20). What a horrible tragedy not to KNOW that God is not with you. His long hair had been cut off, the vow to the Lord was broken, and the Lord had left him. He was now as weak as other men, and helpless in the hands of his enemies. Delilah handed Samson over to the Philistines, who gouged out his eyes, and forced him work grinding grain by turning a large millstone in prison.
Remember King Saul? When he was anointed as king, the Bible records that the Spirit of God rushed to him (1 Sam 10:10). However, when he messed with the anointing, the Spirit of God departed from him (1 Sam 16:14). The tragedy was; he continued reigning as king for 15 more years after God withdrew His spirit.
We can no longer afford to take God's grace for granted. We cannot keep on abusing the mercies of God and keep on doing what we want and expect that God will still have our back. It is a sad thing for anyone or for a nation to end up in a place where God's hand is no longer on them. But it is more tragic to think that His hand is still on them when in actual fact it is not. Do not deceive yourself that God is still with you either, because you are not reaping immediate consequences of your reprobation, or you appear to be walking from blessing to blessing. The biggest forms of deception we are facing today are: the lies we tell ourselves, the facts we have chosen to ignore, the truth we have closed our ears to and the realities we have shut our eyes to... Lord have mercy on us! "Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me." (Ps 51:11).
The presence of God dwells in a Sanctuary. God instructed the children of Israel to make a dwelling place for His habitation. “Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” Exodus 25:8. We also see in the Sinai Covenant, that at the heart of it was the promise that God’s presence would dwell with His People. “Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.” (Exodus 29: 45 – 46). Sanctuary comes from the combination of the Latin word Sanctus and the suffix –ary. Sanctus refers to something that has been set apart from all other things; something that has been set apart for the express use or service to Jehovah God. The suffix –ary denotes something connected intimately to the word it modifies, and it especially refers to a place. A sanctu-ary is a place where you will find holiness, or a place that has been set apart as holy.
Where has God chosen to dwell in the New Testament? “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man” (Acts 17:24). This is the mistake that is made about “sanctuaries” under the New Testament. God specifically chose the tabernacle and, later, the temple in Jerusalem in which to dwell. It was God’s presence that made those places holy. God has not chosen any building to dwell in after the temple in Jerusalem. Where does God dwell? “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16) “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Romans 8:9). “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:1). We are “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:20-22). We are God’s temple. We are god’s dwelling place. We are the “sanctuary” in the New Testament.
I wish to conclude with the some words from a wonderful song written by John Thompson and Randy Scruggs (1982)
"Lord prepare me to be sanctuary
Pure and holy, tried and true
With thanksgiving, I'll be a living
Sanctuary for You"