There is something exciting about traveling to significant places. When I saw the Statue of Liberty in person I was amazed at how huge it was. (I wasn’t thrilled with climbing the narrow staircase inside, but everything can’t be impressive, right?) Someday I would like to visit the town that one of my ancestors founded. He was a pioneer for the US government and settled in Texas. I don’t know why exactly, but it feels like I would be connecting with something bigger, a meaningful part of my history. This seems like a common desire—traveling to see historical locations, visiting wonders of the world, or even places that just mean a lot to us personally.
The Spiritual Pilgrimage
We see this in religion as well. Before the Jewish temple was destroyed in 70 AD, Jewish people traveled to Jerusalem for the high holy days to participate in the rituals of their faith. This was a necessary trek for anyone who wanted to participate because these rituals only happened in Jerusalem. But religious treks aren’t always out of necessity. I know Christians who have traveled to Israel to walk where Jesus walked. I’ve never been there, but I imagine they find a deeper level of meaning by traveling to Israel and seeing the land with their own eyes. We are fortunate that this trip isn’t required to practice our faith. As a community, God is with us in the same way that he was in the temple. The letter to the Ephesians mentions this in chapter 2,
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God” (Eph. 2:19-22).
Built Together Into a Temple
Together we are being built into the temple of God. We don’t have to travel somewhere to worship God, he travels with us. This reminds me of the original way God traveled with his people in the tabernacle. This was a portable structure that allowed the people to have a holy place wherever they went in which to worship God. I can imagine this would also be a visible reminder to the people that God was with them. When David declared that he wants to honor God by building a house for him, God gave a message to Nathan the prophet for David which included this statement,
“I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’ ” (2 Sam. 7:6-7).
But God honored David’s desire and gave instructions to David’s son, Solomon, on what specifications he should use for building the temple.
We Have Access
Now that Jesus has made peace for us through his atoning sacrifice and resurrection, we “have access in one Spirit to the father” (Eph. 2:18) This passage is written to a community of Christians and that’s important to keep in mind. Together we are the “dwelling place for God” and it is alongside the Christian community that we practice our faith. A trip to the promised land may add another dimension to our understanding of the Bible, but our access to God can happen as soon as we pray and it can be as close by as the next worship service we attend. It was always God’s plan to journey with us. Let’s utilize the privilege we have to share our journey with him and with each other.
All scripture quoted is the NRSV translation
Picture credit: by Onkundi Nyabuto on Unsplash