PC I have just a simple thought about the way in which what was on David’s heart in organising a habitation for God has been answered in the line of promises of God in a full way in the work of the Lord Jesus, and how this work is being carried on now as the house is being built. We refer, of course, to two different houses in these passages. One is a physical house that was actually built as a Temple, not by David, but by his son, as we know. And that house was meant in the exercise and desire of David to be God’s habitation amongst His people, as related to the centre of His promises in Zion, the place that God had chosen. The house that is being built now is not physical, nor localised in any particular place, but is made of living persons who have been put together by the Lord Jesus in His work. The Lord is building what will become, in true result, a habitation and pleasure of God. I thought that, following up what we had before us yesterday, and what we enjoyed together this morning, we could consider how God can find this habitation amongst His own, and how this can really be formed through what the Lord Himself is doing. I hope this thought can be developed by the brethren together.
MJC I think it is a very good line of enquiry. The psalm you have pointed out to us starts in verse 7 with, “Let us go into His habitations;” there is desire. Do you think that comes into it from our side?
PC Yes, desire is the first necessity to enter into the meaning of this. It is interesting that this desire is connected to worship: service was in view. It has been in the mind of our Lord; it was in service that He wanted to lead His own. So, is our desire in accordance with that desire of our chief Leader, our Lord Jesus?
MJC He would bring us to a place prepared. Here the thought was of God’s choice; verse 13, “Jehovah hath chosen Zion.” It is the place that God has in mind. “In My Father’s house there are many abodes; … I go to prepare you a place” (John 14:2). Do you link the two thoughts?
PC Yes, certainly. It is remarkable how the Lord spoke of it before ending His work. It is the same thought here, “Arise, Jehovah, into Thy rest”. The house still had to come, but David could see the completion of his exercise in a prophetic way. It was foreseen in the development of God’s plans.
PKL What is the Ark for us?
PC Well, it refers to the Lord Jesus, does it not? It is very interesting that it is called the Ark of the Testimony. That shows that it represented to the people everything that came from God for them. It was there as a witness, as a testimony of the interest of Jehovah in His people. So it is centred in the Lord Jesus now. What do you think yourself?
PKL There are two features of the Ark: there is the Ark itself, and the mercy-seat. The Ark speaks of the Lord Jesus Himself, in His deity and perfect humanity. The mercy-seat was the covering of the Ark, and that was of solid gold. It was where the blood was put once a year, speaking of the Lord’s work. The Ark was the focus for the Israelites, but now the Lord Jesus Himself has been revealed and He is our focus.
PC It is very important you point this out, because we can never separate the Lord Himself from His work. The mercy-seat involved His sacrifice and, for us, all that opens the sphere of justification. It is a holy matter: the Ark had to be treated with all the respect required by the holiness connected to it.
MJC So, for God to be able to enter into His rest, the house had to be built and the Ark had to be brought in there; because, in the verse you did not read, “we heard of it at Ephratah, we found it in the fields of the wood” – the Ark was not there in its right place. God’s rest could only be enjoyed once the Temple was built according to the pattern and the Ark was brought in.
PC That is right. It all started very sadly with the problems at Shiloh, and then it had to dwell in two different houses. But David had in view that there might be a proper place for it. This remembrance of the history of the Ark is very interesting because it shows what can be experienced with the Lord Himself.
MJC How does that work out today amongst His people?
PC Can you open up your question, please?
MJC I was thinking, very simply, as to the Lord having His place. The thought of the Ark being brought into the Temple is really that the Lord should have His right place enshrined. For us today it is enshrined in our hearts, and collectively, that the Lord should be the centre and focal point of our gatherings. We experienced it this morning, did we not?
PC I think it brings us back to the difference between what is individual, how in making way for our Lord He prepares and justifies us; and then how we collectively are related to Him as the Ark – as the centre before us, the service being in view. This song is really centred around service and what will be given to God, what will be available for Him if the Ark is in its right place.
PKL He speaks here of “the Ark of Thy strength,” quite an unusual expression, and, “For Thy servant David’s sake, turn not away the face of Thine anointed” (v10). David had a real link with God, did he not? He stands out, in the Old Testament, as one who, although he failed, had a real, true link with God, and that link was honoured by God.
PC It was his heart’s desire to build a house, and it is interesting to notice how this exercise was carried on and worked out in Solomon, the one who could build this Temple. But Solomon was of David’s line, so that the line that God had in view has been fulfilled in His choice: Judah was chosen and David was anointed.
SGP What is the significance of the presence of God as represented in the Ark?
PC Well, I suppose it is the fact that we can know God only through the Lord Jesus, do you not think?
SGP Yes, I do.
PC It is the only way in which we can approach. It is the way in which God has revealed Himself. It is wonderful that this way is open to us. But it is, as we said before, a very holy matter.
SGP I was thinking, when it comes to John’s vision, “the Ark of His Covenant was seen in His temple” (Rev 11:19). So we have some clear indication that God’s presence will eventually be known; the Person of the Lord Jesus, as you say, is the One Who has secured it.
PC It was the way in which the people were aware of God’s being with them. But, of course, that was the old dispensation. For us it is all in the Lord Himself.
MJC There is the side of great privilege that we see in this psalm, and then we see, too, the side of responsibility. I think that in everything with God’s things, there are these two great matters. Responsibility is seen in verse 12, “If thy children keep My covenant, and My testimonies.” So there is the side of our responsibility. But there is also great privilege.
PC It shows how God was indicating to David the way in which things could be developed. The point is that the exercises there were going to be worked out. But we need the Lord Jesus in order to be able to work it out, because He is the only One Who makes us fit for this kind of privilege and service. We would not have that possibility for us from our side otherwise. I think this is another experience we had together this morning. We are in the temple serving, and yet we are still here on earth.
MJC The power of the Holy Spirit is a very wonderful matter.
PC Certainly the side of responsibility that you stress is to weigh on our hearts. It is part of the instruction that we find in the Epistles. We thought yesterday of Timothy, and that is a Scripture that makes us aware of how serious the position is, and how we have to be aware of our responsibility before our God and before the Lord.
PJC You have mentioned the desire of David a number of times. I wondered if you saw a parallel between that and the desire of the Lord Himself that there would be a place, a building. He speaks about that, “On this rock I will build My assembly” (Matt 16:18). Say something about whether you thought there was a parallel there.
PC Well, it is very affecting to see how the Lord attracts the disciples around Him and makes that little gathering a working gathering; how He unfolds truths to them and He shares things with them. I think this is carried on at the present time in all the believers that belong to the Lord. It is not always visible to us on account of earthly limitations and difficulties. But the assembly that the Lord is building is made up of every true believer. The Lord desires to have them for Himself. I think it is stimulating to our hearts.
PJC I was struck with how David’s desires were really transferred to Solomon. In the same way, do you think the Lord’s desires are something for us to pick up on and work out, in the light of the fact that they are from the Lord Himself?
PC I am sure that is very good. There are two sides in the building: there is what the Lord is building, and then the apostle also speaks of how we ourselves are building. Our building has to be related to the way in which the Lord is building. Not that we are building a church ourselves, but that this is what we put into it, which derives from desire.
PJC The Lord will try the work that we build, but with His work there is perfection.
PC Yes, that is very important; it brings out the side of responsibility again.
DJB What do you think about the reference in Hebrews 3, verse 6, to Christ “as Son over His house?”
PC Are you thinking of the fact that He is pointed out as the One Who is over all things, He is the One Who is doing the building in that sense?
DJB In connection with what you have been saying, the first thing, I suppose, is that “every house is built by some one; but He Who has built all things is God” (v4). That would set the pattern, would it not? We might be used by God, but it is all His work. And then the supreme place is given to Christ, as Son over His house. It is a bit later in Hebrews that you come to the Lord as Minister of the sanctuary. I just felt that the authority of the Lord is established over everything that is for God. Do you think that?
PC Yes. Being over the house reminds us of His position and the importance of the fact that He is our Ark.
TJP It was drawn attention to earlier that the psalm talks about the Ark of His strength. The strength embodies God’s power, do you think? We were talking earlier about the work of building. From an outward perspective it appears to be weakness, but when we look at it from God’s side, we just see the strength of what is there.
PC In the old days the word was, “Rise up, Jehovah, and let Thine enemies be scattered” (Num 10:35). That was the strength of God working. It is not that question here, it has already been solved. The Lord has done that work, and being the Son over the house reminds us that His work has been accomplished. He is there in full authority. But the power is there in order to give us strength.
MJC Peter and Paul both saw a building going on so that God could be served. And that is the purpose of it, is it not?
PC That is very good, because it shows how the assembly is made formed: all believers, as you pointed out. Paul was addressing a group of believers and Peter the saints of the Dispersion, but they were all together forming the same building.
MJC It helps us if we see the purpose of the house of God.
PC It also requires faith on our side, because we have to see that the building that is being built includes all believers. But we are able at the moment to walk with some, and that is because we can share this kind of exercise together. The two things have to be taken in faith.
TJK There are two different thoughts in this psalm: habitations, which are tabernacles, and then Zion, which, I suppose, is the Holy City. And then this is a song of degrees, and in the last one of those it talks about the house of Jehovah (Ps 134:1). Do you see any distinction between the house, the city and the tabernacle?
PC Well, I suppose they are thoughts that help us to see the full display of God’s plans. They are different aspects of what God has in view. The tabernacle would remind us that God wanted to dwell with His own. But we require the Lord Jesus’ work for us in order that we may be in the right state for that. And the house is what is going to be completed. And I suppose the city is in view of the final display of things. Am I right?
DJB Yes, I thought that comes out in Ephesians 2. The first thing is, “Ye are no longer strangers and foreigners, but ye are fellow-citizens” (v19). That is the city, is it not? It moves inward to the “habitation of God” (v22), which is within the city, is it not? It is a great thing first to learn that we all belong there.
PC Yes, that is good.
MJC We see it in display in Revelation 21: we get the thought of the city (v10 onwards), and then there is the temple within the city (v22).
PC Say more.
MJC Well, I was thinking of what has just been said, and what our attention has been drawn to. Zion is the place of God’s sovereign choice. God has chosen Zion; not because it was a better, bigger, higher mountain or any of that, but it was where He desired to put His name. When we come to the day of display, the Holy City coming down out of the heaven from God, we see that it is a city that is a fulfilment of the type of Zion.
TJK We can be even closer than that, because this psalm envisages the present time: the “servants of Jehovah who by night stand in the house of Jehovah” (Ps 134:1), whereas by Revelation 21 there is no temple – “I saw no temple in it; for the Lord God Almighty is its temple.” So is there a blessing now as well as a blessing to look forward to?
PC Yes, certainly, the blessing is there for us in our pathway here. We are formed in order to get towards what is in view. It is a matter of growing, as we find in the Epistles. It is a building that is growing.
MJC It is what is being worked out on earth today. And that, really, is what your exercise is, that we should come into the fuller enjoyment and, as taking a part in responsibility, be able to serve God better.
PC Yes. What David had in view was related to Zion, because he understood that Zion had been chosen by God. So, if we realise what God has chosen in Christ and what Christ is going to work out, we are then on the good way in order to be on that line in service.
MJC I think that is very helpful. We cannot understand God’s sovereignty, but as accepting it, we come into the gain of it.
TAH I was just thinking of Peter’s similar passage to Ephesians (1 Pet 2:4‑5). And one day we shall be in the Father’s house, according to John 14 (vv2‑3); that is where we shall be in the day to come.
PC Yes, God’s dwelling with His own is in view. It is remarkable how Peter has that impression as well. It is a very fine passage, because he speaks of being “built up a spiritual house.” It is really an experience that had to be in their hearts.
MJC Do you have some thought as to the priests being clothed with salvation and “Her saints shall shout aloud for joy” (v16)?
PC Well, salvation is necessary for deliverance from anything that might be contrary. That is a very good link with the side of responsibility that you spoke of. We have to be aware that we need salvation. A priest had to do something for himself before he could do something for the others in a practical way. We are still in these earthly conditions, and we experience that the work of the Lord and the help of the Holy Spirit make us fit for this kind of service. And then joy can open up and spring up.
GKB Is there not another side also in verse 9, “Let Thy priests be clothed with righteousness?” There are moral conditions necessary with me if there is to be this practical dwelling together.
PC Very good, yes.
GKB That comes home to us all the time, every day – ‘24/7.’
DJB I think the Acts of the Apostles is a help to us in regard of the distinction you made between what is material and physical in the Old Testament, and what is spiritual in the New. You begin with them gathering in the Temple. But then there comes a point when it says, “The place in which they were assembled shook” (Acts 4:31). The feature there was that they were assembled. I was feeling that it was a liberating moment at Ephesus when they could no longer meet in the synagogue and they moved to the school of Tyrannus, where there had been nothing of a spiritual kind at all; they were confirmed in discovering that their links and the dwelling place of God were of a spiritual kind.
PC That is very helpful, because it shows us that we can really be linked with the Lord as we are here. It is an impression that goes beyond whatever is the actual physical surrounding. It is the way in which we are together. The fellowship they experienced was the fellowship under the Lord’s hand. It was not related to a system, but is related to the way in which they felt the Lord’s presence and made way for it.
DJB Yes. While we largely look to the apostle Paul for ministry about this, it is very helpful to see that Peter was on exactly the same line, as our brother has pointed out. It was a mark of apostolic service to bring the Lord’s people and those who were converted to the enjoyment of what was spiritual. Perhaps you could help us more as to what “a spiritual house” is.
PC Well, first of all, to make it clear for the younger ones, it is not a house made with bricks and mortar. It is a dwelling place in which we can be under the Lord’s guidance. I think that what is spiritual derives from how we depend on the Lord.
DJB One very simple question: is it dissolved when we go home from the meeting? Is the house of God gone when we go home?
PC I do not think so, do you?
DJB No. So it must be a house that exists whether the Lord’s people are gathered or not.
MJC. Does Peter help us? In 1 Peter 2 the house is formed of “living stones” (v5). It is people.
DJB So once we are built in, we are always part of it.
PC That is our exercise: to keep ourselves in such a way that we can feel our belonging to it. It is an important exercise; the righteousness that was referred to, and salvation, would work to that purpose. But it is certainly the fact, as you pointed out, that the house is always there; we are part of it, and we have the privilege of enjoying that part every time we manage to depart from the usual occupations of life.
PKL Jacob came to it that “this is … the house of God” (Gen 28:17). He was not in any place where there was a temple or an altar or anything. He came to it that God had followed him; at the end of his life he speaks about “the God that shepherded me all my life long” (Gen 48:15). So could you distinguish between the assembly, the vessel that is being formed, and the house? We are all part of the assembly. We are always in the assembly once we are in it; we cannot get out of it, can we?
PC No. I think we have been taught that the assembly is where God dwells now on this earth. As far as I understand He has no other dwelling place on earth. But that does not give us any importance, because it is all believers together that make it. I think the house would have in view what is related to the finished work that is there and the service that can be carried on. But I wish the brethren to help me on this question.
DJB What you say seems well confirmed by 1 Timothy 3, “How one ought to conduct oneself in God’s house, which is the assembly of the living God” (v15). As far as what is on earth goes, they are one and the same, the place of testimony to the work and dwelling place of God. But then the assembly does have a heavenly calling as well, does it not? I was just thinking of the Lord’s word, “I desire that where I am they also may be with Me, that they may behold My glory” (John 17:24). It would seem that that is where the Lord’s glory is fully and finally seen, do you think?
PKL Would the house be for this time? In the Scripture in 1 Timothy they are the same thing, but the assembly is going to be translated, not exactly the house.
DJB Well, I do not know that I had thought about it, but it does seem to me that when we come to what is heavenly, it is very much the Church, or assembly, that is spoken of. There is a place of testimony down here, and it is a very wonderful thing that God in His grace would take up converted sinners and build them into a habitation of God. There is a very beautiful note in Ephesians 2 – I am sure the brethren all know it – as to how the Ephesians themselves were being built into that habitation of God.
GKB Scripture refers to our bodies as being temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19), so there are two things: the individual side and the collective side are very closely connected.
PC It is the living stones that are being built together.
AJC When will this building be complete?
PC I think it is finished when the Lord Himself comes. It is wonderful how the Lord can view it already complete now, but we have to wait for the fulfilment of God’s plans.
MJC I think that is right. It is the Rapture that is the completion, is it not, as far as the assembly is concerned? And then you get it in display in Revelation 21. You get the thought of the bride adorned for her husband, and the thought of the city.
DJB The hymn puts it very simply: ‘Some guest will be the last’ (Hymn 70)!
GKB “He shall bring forth the headstone with shoutings: Grace, grace unto it!” (Zechariah 4:7). That would be the completion of the building, would it?
TJK The headstone would be like the keystone of an arch, having the fitting bit to make it all strong and permanent, I suppose.
PC We have access by this one Spirit now, and that gives us an impression of what will be complete, even if it is still to come.
SGP It was Jerusalem where the Ark was finally laid to rest. Is that right? Because it was at Shiloh, was it not? But did it go to Jerusalem?
MJC Well, we see in 1 Samuel that the Ark was captured by the Philistines (ch 4:11), and then it came back to two houses (ch 7:1; 2 Sam 6:10) and eventually it was brought into Jerusalem (2 Sam 6:12). I think what is in your mind is the bringing in of Christ into His right place as in the midst of His people, His own. We had a sense of that this morning, I feel. We had a sense of the Lord being in the midst as the One Who is to be celebrated.
WRT King David celebrated when the Ark was brought up to Jerusalem. The house had not been built, but he was still enjoying the fact that the Ark was brought home to Jerusalem.
PC Yes, he was looking on to its being in its proper place. In that way it fulfilled his exercise. Despite that the Temple was not built, he could manage to get the Ark there. In some ways we reach the final results now through the Spirit. We have been called, as Ephesians reminds us, in order to enjoy these things. But, too, as was pointed out, we have to await the time when everything will be completed. That will be the full display.
WRT We can still rejoice now, just as David did.
DJB Would you enlarge on your thought about verse 18 of Ephesians 2? I would like, myself, to understand rather better what access is, and what it means for it to be “through Him.” What would you say, please?
PC I was impressed by the way in which the access to the Father has to be through the Lord Jesus, but also by the Spirit. It is not – to use a human term – an automatic matter, but knowing the Lord Jesus, we have access to the Father. It is going to the Father through the Lord. But we have to do it under the Spirit’s influence. So in that way it is the same thing as the spiritual experiences that we have together. I do not know whether that is what is in your mind?
DJB Yes. If you look back to the previous verses, they relate, in a sense, to the gospel as setting us free and bringing about one new man before God. But then when he speaks of “through Him,” it seems to be more current. It is the present power of access into the presence of the Father relying upon the Lord Jesus Himself, do you think?
PC Yes. It is really the way that has been opened to us in the Lord Himself. And as He has opened it, it is really available for us now. The work has been accomplished, the aim is in view, but in the meantime there is access to the Father. That is where the Ark is important because “Arise, … and the Ark of Thy strength” means that the Ark is there for us.
MJC Do you think the thought of “through Him” – through the Lord – is our suitability? We are made suited to the divine presence through Christ, through His work. But we still need power, and that is where the power of the Holy Spirit is so essential. We are dealing with spiritual things. The problem is that many materialise Christianity and speak about a physical church building as the house of God. It causes terrible confusion.
PC As you know, I come from a country where that is a very real matter. There are beautiful churches, beautiful architecture, but no meaning for God in it. It is a matter of what is built inside the heart. I am sure there are true believers in each of those churches, but the Lord is building His own building that has nothing to do with those stones.
MJC It is living stones.
PC And that is why the service of the Spirit is so important, because what is living is maintained in life through the Spirit.
MJC We are becoming more aware of, and thankful for, and dependent upon the Person and power of the blessed Holy Spirit!
PC It has been very much on our hearts at home, because in our reduced conditions numerically, you have to be aware that you are making space for the Lord and for the Spirit. That is the only way to be connected with the system of service that is being carried on.
AKD This building will be far more wonderful than what we can imagine. It speaks here of the breadth and length and depth and height (Eph 3:18). It is beyond our thoughts, is it?
PC It is indeed the result of the Lord’s work: that is why it must be beyond our understanding and what we can imagine. I was struck with the disciples receiving the Lord among them living, when He said, “I also send you” (John 20:21). He was sending them in service in order that what was going to be formed would be the effect of what He had worked Himself. And we are part of that result.
PJC Could you expand on the thought of the Lord as the Cornerstone?
PC Well, it is a sure Rock for us, but it has the other side that it can be a stumbling stone if we do not believe. It is a serious, solemn matter; it is based on the fact that He is the One to Whom we are going to be attached. “On this rock,” the Lord said to Peter (Matt 16:18), and Peter had to realise what being attached to the Lord meant. Do you have a thought yourself?
PJC It just struck me that, the way Paul presents it, the whole building takes its character from the Cornerstone. I just wondered if that gives the building a very special meaning, as it becomes the place where God can dwell and it is all perfectly aligned with the Lord Jesus Himself.
PC It would be what keeps the building united and solid. That is viewed in a spiritual way: it is only the Lord Jesus Who can do that.
PJC That is what I was thinking.
MJC Do you have some thought as to the building “being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets?” Our attention has been drawn to the Lord as Cornerstone giving character, but the Lord presents the Church as being built upon Himself in Matthew 16, whereas here it is on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets.
PC Well, I suppose that the Lord was indicating that through the prophets there had already been many hints and types about His Person, and about His service: it was all there. The people had not listened to them, but if they only listened to them they would have understood and recognised the Lord Jesus, and then the apostles were those that were around the Lord who could carry on His teaching, which He had passed on to them; He had actually sent them. The apostolic power was unique to them in this way. It is not to be confused with what some churches try to make of it, but it is what was there in what the Lord had given them to carry on.
MJC The twelve were foundational to the building of the assembly, because the Lord had chosen them and He had given them a very special role. It is shown in its finality in Revelation 21: you have the twelve foundations there (v14). But then you have the prophets; they are the New Testament prophets, are they not? Because the prophetic word was brought in with Paul and others. You get various prophetic words in the New Testament in relation to building – “Let each see how he builds,” says the apostle to the Corinthians (1 Cor 3:10). Certain things were being built at Corinth that would have to be burned up.
PC In all the service that was carried on and is presented in the New Testament, there are applications of the truth of the Old Testament that were to be understood. That is very important because it says that when the Lord explained it to the disciples, He started from the Prophets (Luke 24:27,44‑45). But, of course, the New Testament prophets could not do without what the Lord had shown them.
MJC The Lord says, “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory? And having begun from Moses and from all the Prophets” (Luke 24:26‑27).
PJC The wonderful thing to me is that we are included in this building. Certainly the apostles and prophets are worthy to be there, but the fact that you and I are there! Is that not marvellous? I think that is what Paul was emphasising to the Ephesians, “Ye also are built together.” I think it extends to us – it is just marvellous to think that we have a place there as well.
PC The reality of these thoughts affected our hearts also in the previous occasion. It is the way in which we are part of the working out of God’s plans, which have not finished with the work – which was absolutely complete – of the Lord Jesus, but are still operational now. God is still working, and the Lord is still working, to build this building, and the fact that you and I, and all those that belong to the Lord, are part of it is really a privilege, and stresses also the importance of the understanding of our links together.
SGP Is it good for us to recognise that this is not just the few that we know, but it is everyone who is redeemed by the blood of Christ?
SGP Earlier in this chapter we get – verse 13 – “But now in Christ Jesus ye who once were afar off are become nigh by the blood of the Christ.” He is writing to the people who have been made nigh by the blood of the Christ. So he can positively speak to them as being built in. No others would be suitable, and we are not suitable in ourselves, are we?
PC I think it is very important, to remember that all those that belong to the Lord are part of it. The other side of it is that we find some with whom we can walk. That is really what has been before us yesterday: if we gather to the Lord’s name, there is a lot of responsibility involved. Therefore we have to make sure that the conditions in which we gather are suitable to this kind of building and this kind of service.
11 August 2013