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Heaven [is] my throne, and earth [is] my footstool: what house will you build for me? says the Lord: or what [is] the place of my rest? (Acts 7:49)
It is hard to imagine a question as profound as the one Stephen quoted in Acts 7:49b — given by God — in Isaiah 66:1b, “what [is] the place of my rest?“ The verse implies that God is at rest in some places, and He is not at rest in others. Perhaps we could use the language “at home” to describe what He means by “at rest.” Where is the place where God is “at home”? Where will God come to take up residence? This is the subject I wish to address in this important entry.
In Acts 7 Stephen preaches to a wide variety of synagogue worshipers and leaders what is certainly one of the greatest expositions of scripture and the mind of God ever delivered. He recounted every major step that God took in the Old Testament to draw near and dwell among His people. In fact, God embarked on a process of reconciliation as soon as Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden. He wanted to draw near and tabernacle with man. Nevertheless, though He would strive with man; man was always resisting Him.
In spite of the stubborness of the masses, the eyes of the LORD ran to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart was perfect toward him (2 Chronicles 16:9). God found such a man in Abram (Abraham) and called him out of Ur of the Chaldees into the land that He swore unto him. God appeared to Abraham and started a process by which He would slowly bring man back into fellowship with Himself. God had to deal with man’s sin debt on the one hand, and a rebellious nature on the other.
People typically want to be left alone to do their own will unthwarted. Nevertheless, God went forth searching until He found someone He could reveal Himself to. Abraham was that person. When God began to speak to him, he built altars and became a praying man. He sought the face of God in the mountain and from place to place. It was his desire to please God and do what was right. When God spoke, Abraham responded in obedience and became the heir to the righteousness of God that is by faith.
Conversely, Abraham’s nephew Lot, travelled with him as he lived by faith. In time it became necessary for the two families to separate. Abraham gave Lot a choice of the land, so he pitched his tent towards Sodom. This was the most evil city on the face of the earth. In fact, they were on the brink of being destroyed by God for their wickedness. These people hated God utterly. When the children of Israel came into the promised land they pitched their tents towards the Tabernacle; where God dwelled. When they stepped out of their tents at night the first thing they saw was the fire of God — the manifest presence. During the day they could step out and be met with the cloud. Nevertheless, all that Lot saw, who had pitched his tent towards Sodom, was the madness of sin.
While Abraham was walking with God, Lot moved into the city to walk with those who hated God. He could not help but weary his heart and mind with the vexing torments of other people’s sins. It goes without saying that God could never be at rest in such a person’s life. As a result, Lot never knew the closeness of fellowship with God that Abraham knew. He wanted compromise in his life, and God could not walk with him, as a friend, as He did with Abraham. Lot could have chosen the path Abraham took. He could have shared in his altar experiences. Nevertheless, Lot seemed to want just enough of God to keep Him on retainer. He would never experience a close relationship with Him as did Abraham. Lot’s life ended in disaster beyond words. The consequence of his compromise would be felt for thousands of years. Each of these men had to come to their own personal decision to serve God.
Stephen was never allowed to finish his sermon. They stoned him first. In fact, he only quoted a portion of Isaiah 66 to them. Undoubtedly, many knew the rest of the passage and understood the implications of what he was saying. Consider the full context of the passage.
The first man that God tabernacled in was Jesus Christ. Many have been filled with the Spirit, but Jesus was the Temple of the Living God when He walked the earth. (John 2:19) He is quoted as making this statement in Mark 14:58; I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands. They totally missed the point. Another temple made without hands? Herod’s Temple (made with hands) was on borrowed time. Forty years to be exact until the Roman conqueror Titus would annihilate it. However, the Temple of the Body of Christ (made without hands) was made possible by His death and resurrection.
To this one will I look, even to they who are of a poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word (Isaiah 66:2b)
This verse contains what God is looking for in a residence. He is at rest in a person who is humble and that trembles at His word. This is two things. Pride is a stench in the nostrils of God unlike anything else. In fact, it was the snare and condemnation of Satan. Jesus Christ, the first living temple of God, was meek and lowly in heart (Matthew 11:29). Paul goes into great detail in Philippians showing the extent of His humility.
Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6–8 ESV)
It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
I suggest that the prime reason why so many revert to Old Testament thinking is that they have not considered what Stephen preached. If one wants to be a place where God resides, they have to follow His requirements. There is no side-stepping them. Otherwise, we risk going without His presence and even entertaining counterfeits. For the ages Stephen preached it. It has not changed since. This is the way for us to consider and walk in. As if the world wants to know, “what [is] the place of my rest?” God tells us plainly. To this one will I look, even to they who are of a poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word.