[Thought questions for Heaven on Earth October 9, 2013]
Prayer, like incense, ascending to God
1. Corporate prayer. Offering incense may have been a once-in -a-lifetime experience for Zechariah. He would spend a week ministering in the temple. It was in the temple that he would burn incense. The smoke would go upward as a reminder that the prayers of the people would go to the dwelling place of God. Zechariah had a special prayer that he and other righteous people prayed. He prayed that the Messiah would come. Little did he know that this prayer was about to be answered. As he was trained, the priest performed his duty while looking toward the mercy seat. Zechariah added his personal prayer to those of the people. All was silent during this ceremony. (Rev. 8:1-5) Then he saw him! An angel standing on the right side of the altar of incense! Why do you think the angel appeared to Zechariah in the temple during prayer? Have you ever had an experience with God in church? Why do we call prayer in church “corporate” prayer? Do you feel closer or further away from God when you pray corporately? What about with a prayer group? A prayer partner? Why?
2. Within you. Bionic implants are said to improve the life of the wearer or user. Cochlear implants improve hearing and speech. A brain patch restores mobility to damaged and alienated limbs. A heart pacemaker assures your heart a regular life-pumping beat. With all of these implants, something ‘outside’ the human is introduced to the body to improve their earthly lives. Do we give our spiritual life the same priority? We have Someone who wants to “dwell within us.” (1 Cor. 3:16) Can we trust such a clearly superior force to improve our lives and help us to reach our potential as the temple of God? Do we consider the request for the Holy Spirit to be a priority or a risk? How will others know that the Spirit is dwelling within us?
3. Eden the meeting place. Gardening takes on a new dimension in Genesis 2, when God Himself plants living vines, trees, and other plants in a special part of Eden for Adam to call home. Provisions were made for nourishing those plants, for a river ran through Eden. There God walked in the cool of the evening, communicating with man. Can you imagine Adam’s joy when he sees his old home again in Eden restored? When he sees the one with whom he conversed so long ago?
4. The earthly sanctuary. In contrast to the garden of Eden, the earthly sanctuary was not constructed of living plants and trees. However, the same desire from the Creator accompanied this sanctuary as well-the desire of God to dwell among men. One of our most beloved Bible verses tells us that Jesus is preparing a place for us (John 14:1-3). In faith, we may say to a friend in parting, “I will see you on the corner of Blessed Boulevard and Love Street!” Given the descriptions we have of Eden, its garden and the Holy City with its surrounding countryside, what are we expecting? What part does the Creator have in our expectations? What of His desire to dwell among us? Do you believe this desire will be fulfilled at last?
5. The language of the sanctuary. With a little study we can see that the architecture and physical structure of the sanctuary resembles the magnificent buildings of the heathen Canaanites. Is it surprising to you that God would use pagan sources of harmony and beauty in designing a place where He could meet with His people? Wouldn’t this have been an ideal time to introduce a new style of design? Why not? Why does God use symbolic language throughout Scripture? What can we learn by studying this symbolism? Will we speak and learn of God in symbols throughout eternity? Why or why not?
6. The temple of heaven. Where was John when he looked for the temple in the New Jerusalem and there wasn’t one? What reason did he give for the absence of a holy temple in heaven? (Revelation 21:22). How does the New Jerusalem qualify as the eternal temple of God? Does God even need a temple through eternity? Doesn’t He reside in all of the universe and the countless universes He has created? Will we be seeing God with such advanced insight that will no longer rely on symbols to understand Him? Or will symbols multiply as we study God’s laws forever?