My friend had an experience last week that I just can’t shake. She was at a church for a particular meeting. The meeting was fine. She reported that people were genuinely touched by the Lord during the service but there was something bothering her. Both on the way in and again on the way out, the Lord spoke the same words to her.
He said, “I cannot rest here.”
As soon as she said it, I felt this sadness in the pit of my stomach. I knew God was grieved. I thought about the words, “I cannot rest,” and wondered exactly what He meant. There was nothing overtly wrong with the message at this meeting. It wasn’t anything like that so I turned to the scripture and found this:
2 Chronicles 6:41-42
40 “O my God, may your eyes be open and your ears attentive to all the prayers made to you in this place.
41 “And now arise, O Lord God, and enter your resting place.
along with the Ark, the symbol of your power.
This was King Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple. The temple is a representation of both our personal temples (our bodies) and our collective Body (the Church). Most of us who are on this journey really want God’s presence and power. That is exactly what Solomon prayed. The word “arise” in Hebrew carries the idea of coming in power, then he asks God to rest, to stay and fellowship with them. It seems that God wants the same thing we want. He really wants to come in power and rest, dwell or stay among the people. Then, the question must be asked, why is it that He can’t and why doesn’t it happen more often?
Obviously, the problem is not with God. It’s us. So what are we doing wrong? What did Solomon do they we haven’t done? I think the answer is in the story of building the temple. Everything was done either to God’s exact specifications or at least the knowledge of who He is and what He is like and what He would permit in mind.
When we come together collectively, sometimes, I think , we forget who the target audience is. We reason that God loves the lost (and He does!) so we adjust things to attract the “seekers”. We know He loves children, so we do things to attract children. We know He wants to bless families so we make sure families feel comfortable. We don’t want singles to be left out so we try to make a place for them too. Once we’ve started down this road it’s endless because God loves everyone so we end up trying to have something for everyone except the only one that it matters if He shows up. We do it personally as well. We can so easily make our lives accommodating to everyone around us, or to our own preferences and neglect making ourselves ready for God.
Here is the really sad part, we can do all of this and think we are pleasing God and that we have His presence because in His love and mercy He will come as much as He can, yet He is still grieved because He doesn’t want a place to pop in every now and then, He longs for a place to rest.
So what are the things that make God able to rest among us. It’s not really complicated, but it’s also not easy. First, and this seems obvious but it is really hard to live, we have to make Him our God. He has to be in charge and given the final say…on everything. He is holy. Sin cannot be tolerated or ignored. We have to allow Him to deal with our hearts. Finally, He has to be the focus both personally and corporately. The focus cannot be on drawing people in, selling the next teaching series, or how awesome the music sounds. The focus must simply be on bringing pleasure to the heart of God. That is irresistible to Him. He will come and He will stay when His children simply seek to love Him.