The Reverence We Need
Robert Wurtz II
“Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil.” (Ecclesiastes 5:1 ESV)
“I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:14–15 ESV)
Throughout the Old Testament, the term House of God meant the Temple or the place where God met with His people. The Temple and the Wilderness Tabernacle pattern was made from the design shown to Moses in the Holy Mountain and was later expanded by Solomon. The inner sanctuary was a picture of the Garden of Eden after the fall, with the embroidery of Cherubim guarding the way back to the presence of God.
After referring to the House of God as His Father’s House in John 2:16 and as the House of Prayer, Jesus finally turned this House over to the unregenerate in Matthew 23:38 and Luke 13:35, referring to it as “Your House.” They sold and changed money in the Temple until it was evident that God’s presence would not return there, but rather the Temple would be the assembly of the Saints (ekklesia) itself where worshippers worship in Spirit and truth without respect to location (John 4:21-24).
The New Covenant Temple
In the New Testament, the assembly (ekklesia) or church is the House of God. Therefore, we are the Temple (1 Cor. 3:16, 6:19, 2 Cor. 6:16). Jesus is the Great High Priest who cares for the lampstand (Revelation 1-2). Furthermore, He instructs each church regarding their behavior and condition by telling them to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to them (Revelation 2-3). These realities and many more were foreshadowed in the Wilderness Tabernacle and Temple.
When Solomon wrote, “Guard your steps when you go to the House of God,” it was true of the Temple and also applies to our gatherings today. Remember that there were no church buildings as we know them today until the 300s, so Paul’s words “(…) you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God” was valid no matter where the assembly gathered for worship. When God’s presence is near there must be reverence and acceptable behavior.
When the writer to the Hebrews wrote, Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 10:19), it did not mean come carelessly or irreverently. On the contrary, the Greek word for boldly means confidently or with permission to speak freely. This is why Paul gave Timothy instructions regarding how one must behave in the House of God.
God told Moses to put the shoes off his feet when He appeared as the burning bush. Why? Because the ground where he stood was holy. Why was it holy? Because God was there in His manifest presence. God needed to teach Moses that He is a Holy God, and removing shoes in ancient times was done to show reverence. Perhaps it was a prelude to Solomon’s words, “Guard your steps when you go to the House of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil.”
When we gather as the Saints, we turn our hearts and thoughts to God in reverence. Christ is in the midst. Yet there have always been those who didn’t or don’t understand this fact. Reverence for God and the things of God is a lifestyle. If a person is irreverent in the church, it’s because they live irreverently. People behave foolishly inside and outside the church because they are unaware of God. They don’t fear God.
G.W. North once said, “we bring a week’s worth of living into a meeting.” Moreover, in the Old Testament, a priest was a priest all week long; he didn’t trade in his priestly robes for a clown suit from time to time. Likewise, a 19th-century preacher reminded us that God never uses a jester to search consciences. Why? Because it’s hard to take a jokester or a buffoon seriously, and the things of God are life and death serious.
Returning to Reverence
Paul told Timothy, “if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” He expected Timothy, though a young man, to behave respectably and respectfully of the things of God. We should never joke about the things of God. People must take God seriously, but that will never happen if his ministers won’t get serious about the things of God.
If the Saints don’t “keep their foot” when they come to the church, the unbeliever will never see reverence for God. If God were honored for who He truly is, there would be much more honor and reverence for Him in His House. Maybe that’s why so many people were struck dead in the Old Testament and the book of Acts.
The old timers used to say, “God’s presence withdrawn means judgment has been delayed.” This meant that God withdrew His manifest presence when He encountered sin or irreverence in His House or among His people rather than smiting the guilty person (s) dead. So maybe this is how we know that God’s presence isn’t truly near as we often claim. People act foolishly, irreverently, and sinfully and live to tell about it.
If God poured out His Spirit as in the book of Acts, we are likely to have some funerals or hospital visits (Acts 5:5-10, Acts 12:22-24, Acts 13:8-12), but we would also have a wholesale return to reverence for God and the things of God. The fraudulence, fakery, and foolishness would be vanquished, worldliness a thing of the past, while irreverence and dishonor would be no more. People might come into our meetings guarding their steps and knowing how they ought to behave.