THE HOUSE OF THE LORD
by Wayne S. Walker
“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the LORD'” (Psalm 122:1). Psalm 122 is identified as “A Song of Ascents. Of David.” Some believe that a “Song of Ascents” was intended to be sung by the Israelites as they made their journey or “ascent” to the place of worship on the three feast days (Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles). If the phrase “of David” indicates Davidic authorship, the “house of the Lord” at that time was the tent-like structure known as the tabernacle. It had been built in the wilderness, set up at various places in Israel after the conquest, and finally moved by David to Jerusalem and brought the ark of the covenant there (2 Samuel 6:1-17).
David wished to build a more permanent “house of the Lord” or temple to hold the ark of the covenant but was not allowed to do so because he had been a man of war (2 Samuel 7:1-17). However, David’s son Solomon did go on to build a house for the Lord, the temple in Jerusalem. Yet even he understood that God did not literally dwell in such a house. “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27). This temple was later destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, rebuilt by Zerubbabel and Jeshua, defiled by Antiochus Epiphanes IV, rededicated by Judas Maccabbeus, and enlarged by Herod. This was the temple which stood in Jesus’s day (Matt. 21:14-15, 26:55). It was totally destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70 as Jesus predicted (Matthew 24:1-2).
Today, we should understand with both Solomon and Paul that the Lord “does not dwell in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:24). Yet, God still has a “house” today. It is “the house of God, which is the church of the living God” (1 Timothy 3:15). It is not a structure of stone and wood but a spiritual edifice made up of people who “as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5). Paul told the Ephesian saints that they were built upon the foundation of which Jesus is the chief cornerstone, “in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:22). Hence, when we “go into the house of the Lord,” it is not necessarily to a physical building but simply to an assembly of the saints, whether it is in a church building, a storefront, a rented facility, a home, or even under a brush arbor. And we can be glad!