Scripture is Holy Spirit inspired. Therefore it teaches us not only about God’s plan for man, but also how brilliant He is. Let us look at God’s desire to be among His people:
The pattern of God being among His people begins in Genesis 2, ‘Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day….’ 1
# The Fall
- When Adam and Eve were driven away from God’s presence, He still desired to be among His people.
- Note the word ‘His.’ God is well aware that there are people who don’t want to be in His presence, but want to go their own way. He will never force Himself on an unbeliever, because He respects every one’s free will. So the thread of God’s presence with His people, through the Bible, applies only to those who make a covenant with Him.
# The Tabernacle
- When the Israelites, His people, were freed from slavery under the Egyptians, God said to Moses, ‘…have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them….’ 2 It was basically a tent, called the tabernacle, the ‘tent of meeting.’ 3
- Later during times of apostasy the tabernacle was destroyed. David brought the ark that survived to Jerusalem. 4
# The Temple
- Solomon’s Temple. David wanted to build a ‘house’ for God. His son Solomon built it, and God was again in the midst of His people, in the capitol city, Jerusalem, ‘When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it.’ 5 Because of the people’s idolatry, God left the temple. 6 Solomon’s temple was destroyed by the Babylonians.
- Herod’s Temple. However, after the exile, the second temple was built. Later Herod extensively improved it, so it was called Herod’s temple. God’s promise was, ‘The glory of this house will be greater than the glory of the former house….’ 7 This was the temple that Jesus frequented. Herod’s temple was destroyed in 70 AD because of unbelief in Jesus and to point to God’s New Covenant.
# The Holy Spirit
- Still God wanted to be among His people. With the New Covenant, God’s plan became individual. When Jesus ascended, He sent the Holy Spirit. As God’s representative the Holy Spirit would live inside believers.
- This time, no external factor can destroy God’s desire to be among His people. The promise is that the Holy Spirit will be with us eternally, ‘The Spirit and the Bride….’ 8
# The new Eden / new heaven and earth
Finally, God Himself will descend from heaven to be eternally among His people, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them, and be their God.'” 9
Glory to God for His persistence to establish His Family by His grace. His people will enjoy His presence eternally. Atheists can relax! They will not be subjected to the ‘injustice’ of God’s presence for all eternity. God respects people’s free will.
- Genesis 3:8
- Exodus 25:8
- Exodus 33:7-9
- 2 Samuel 6
- 2 Chronicles 7:1-2
- Ezekiel 10
- Haggai 2:9
- Revelation 22:17
- Revelation 21:3
Atheists can give us some valuable lessons. Take the case of Richard Dawkins. He equates the Bible with the works of Shakespeare or Milton. He also claims that God is a myth like Jupiter or Zeus.
# The difference is history.
- Strangely enough he never mentions the differences between the Bible, Shakespeare and Milton’s works, or Jesus, Jupiter and Zeus. The difference is history. God called Abraham, and promised his descendants the land Canaan (Israel). If God is real, then we should find a country like Israel with Abraham’s descendants living there. It is there for all people to see and experience.
- That is why Dawkins is silent about the extraordinary historical character of the Bible. If he mentions it, people will understand that his comparison between God and Zeus or Milton is ridiculous. Everybody knows Zeus left no books behind, no country and no historical facts. What historical truths did Shakespeare try to convey, and in which country did he let the historical events take place? Only a very deluded person can claim that God is a myth like Zeus.
# People might claim that it is easy to write a book like the Bible.
Sweet, but where are the books? Why is there no other book like the Bible? Some claim the Koran is in the same category. Where did its original history take place and where did Allah reveal himself? The Koran has some historical references, but the majority come from the Bible. Then again, why is Jupiter or other mythical figures (that are supposed to be equal to God), impotent to give us a historical revelation in a book that is thousands of years old?
# Dawkins is on a mission.
Dawkins doesn’t mention Israel and its Biblical history, because he is on a mission. That mission is to lead people away from God’s Kingdom, straight into hell. Can we claim that Dawkins is deluded?The Word of God tells us, ‘They perish [unbelievers] because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.’ 1 Dawkins, who wrote the book, The God Delusion, is severely deluded himself. Unless he changes his life course and repents, he is in for some serious trouble.
What do we learn from Dawkins’ silence on the Bible and Israel? Followers of Jesus will do well to read their Bibles with the help of a Biblical atlas. When you see where King David ran away from Saul, where the apostle Paul travelled, how Jesus walked between Galilee and Jerusalem, it just brings the reality and truth of the Bible home.
1. 2 Thessalonians 3:10b-11
Atheists love to question and criticise the Bible. For example, in Genesis 19:1-29 the men of Sodom came clamouring at Lot’s door to have sex with the two angels who stayed in his house for the night. Lot refused, but offered them his two virgin daughters. Our immediate thought is, ‘What a terrible thing for a father to do!’
Atheists think the same. They are appalled that the God of the Bible sanctioned Lot’s inhumane sacrifice of his virgin daughters. Therefore they reject God as righteous. Since the Bible is an integrated unit of 66 books, let’s look further for an answer. 2 Peter 2:7 says, ‘…He [God] rescued Lot, a righteous man…).’
Why is Lot described as ‘righteous if he offered his daughters?’
- Lot must have suspected that his two visitors were not ordinary men, because he insisted strenuously that they do not spend the night in the public square. 1 Initially they resisted, they most probably knew what would ensue at Lot’s house.
- When the Lord and the two angels visited Abraham earlier that day, Sarah baked bread for them from fine flour. 2 At Lot’s house, he (not his wife) baked bread without yeast. Bread without yeast signifies that he realised they were holy men (angels).
- When the Sodomites demanded to have the two men to rape them, Lot had to make a very difficult decision: the two holy men, or his daughters? It seemed to him like a lesser danger to offer his two daughters to men interested only in sex with men. They ignored the girls, and threatened Lot with dire consequences. Lot’s guests struck them with blindness, proving they were not ordinary men. They most probably would have prevented the men from violating the girls.
We believe that Lot is called righteous because he recognised the men as supernatural and did his utmost to protect them. Instead of leaving them in the square, he endangered himself and his family to bring them to his house.
What is the moral of the story?
The Bible says that atheists cannot understand Scripture, ‘The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.’ 3 Atheists generally only scrutinise the Bible to find episodes that they can use to heap scorn on God.
The moral of the story is that sin will be judged. It is a message some don’t like to hear.
- Genesis 19:2
- Genesis 18:6
- 1 Corinthians 2:14