Sanctuary! Sanctuary! Sanctuary!

May 13, 2008

I often look at the temple that David built as a place for worship, a place for slaughtering of animals and where the priests get to hang out; I’m sure they play hearts and gossip to each other while they sit around in their robes. But that point is neither here nor there; I was reading in 1 Chronicles and came upon this passage in the 28th chapter:

1 Chronicles 28:10 “Realize now that the Lord has chosen you to build a temple as his sanctuary. Be strong and do it!”

I was thinking about this sanctuary that is built; it is a mighty building with fortified walls and with much splendor inside of it. It is one of the central places within Jerusalem and something that the Jews must have often looked towards. And for the Jewish people this building was the place where the Lord resided.

Exodus 25:8 “Let them make for me a sanctuary, so that I may live among them.”

My mind got to thinking though about the Psalmist use of the idea of a hiding place, a fortress for them to go to, about God being his Rock and Strength, his Strong Tower, his sanctuary. And I wondered, these ideas floating around in the Old Testament, how integral the temple really was for these people. When they say things like, “You are my hiding place; you protect me from distress. You surround me with shouts of joy from those celebrating deliverance” (Psalms 32:7) I wonder how much the temple plays into things like that. If the Lord is a hiding place, and his residence is in the temple, maybe things like this aren’t just a figurative thing but a real literal meaning as well. They could hide in the presence of the Lord because the temple was a strong tower, a literal hiding place. And maybe when they were building the temple it was not just merely a building, but as David put it, a “temple as his sanctuary.” Maybe the Jews had this understanding that this wasn’t just a place to worship but also a sanctuary, a place of safety and rest, a literal place where they could go and hide away from their enemies. Maybe it meant something to the Psalmist when he talks about going to the Lord for shelter; he knew the literal place that he was talking about.

And maybe I’m just reading into things too much, but it seems like when the Jews used this idea of a sanctuary, a Rock, a might fortress, they didn’t just mean figuratively but that there really was a place where they could go and hide in the presence of the Lord, a place of refuge. They had a temple that enveloped all of these attributes. And they wholeheartedly believed this was a place of refuge. Maybe we need to start reading those words differently.