December 6, 2013

Introducing the Why

When I was younger, I hated vegetables (cut to shot of parents nodding incessantly). Naturally, the green ones were my least favorite among the wide array of barely edible plants. But I certainly didn’t discriminate; I hated the dark-green broccoli florets and light-green (or whatever color they are) brussels sprouts equally.

Most evenings I was faced with a real dilemma: In order to get dessert, I had to eat my vegetables. The problem was the part about actually eating my vegetables. So I devised a few clever tricks to scam the system. Now, this may be “too much information,” but one of the things I used to do was to take a big bite followed immediately by a drink of water. You guessed it: The greens ended up, not in my stomach, but in the blue plastic cup that concealed my deviant behavior. I’m not sure I actually tricked my parents. Perhaps they were either impressed with my resourcefulness or just too disgusted to call me on it.

Overall, my mom tended to take a more proactive approach to the subject. It was like she was campaign manager for broccoli and cauliflower. She loved to rattle off such stuff as “Jimmy, you’re a growing boy; you have to eat your vegetables.” Or my personal favorite: “Your body is the temple of God; make sure you treat it right.”

I’m sure my mom wasn’t the first parent to quote 1 Corinthians 3:16 to guilt her kids into eating vegetables. Over the years I’ve used the sentiment to inspire myself to exercise, rest, and, yes, eat my vegetables.

But I recently discovered a deeper meaning behind those simple words.

God’s Real Sanctuary

What would you say if someone asked you when the sanctuary first appears in the Bible? Until a couple weeks ago I would probably have pointed to the wilderness tabernacle constructed by the children of Israel.

But that’s too narrow a view. We’re going to do a quick Bible study, so stay with me.

We know from both the Bible and the writings of Ellen White that God had an intimate relationship with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. In fact, right after the Fall God was “walking in the garden,” looking for His friends (Gen. 3:8). Eden, not the tabernacle in the desert, was the original sanctuary. We know this because in Exodus 25:8 God commanded Moses to construct a sanctuary so He could “dwell” among His people. That structure, in addition to foreshadowing the plan of salvation, provided a way for God to be with His people. Although sin forced a change in how this was accomplished, the tabernacle, in a sense, restored the Eden experience.

Although the sanctuary changed form three times in the Old Testament, the purpose remained the same: to provide a dwelling place for God on earth. But these buildings were meant only for a time.

In John 1:14 the apostle says that Jesus became flesh “and dwelt among us” (KJV). In New Testament Greek the word for “dwelt” means “to have one’s tent,” i.e., “to tabernacle.” Jesus was the true sanctuary, superseding any physical structure. That’s why He referred to His body as the temple in John 2:19.

After Jesus’ death the dynamic between God and humanity changed forever. There was no longer a need for an earthly Temple with a courtyard, seven-branched candlestick, and Most Holy Place. As Jesus prepared to ascend to heaven, He gave His followers a better way to connect with Him: the Holy Spirit.

I don’t know about you, but this has given me powerful perspective on Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 3:16. There’s no longer an Old Testament tabernacle, and Jesus isn’t walking in the flesh. But He’s still here, living among us, living in us. When we allow the Holy Spirit into our lives, you and I become God’s dwelling place, His home on earth. Our bodies are His sanctuary.

Preserving God’s temple should be our constant focus and affect every choice. And, yes, that probably means we should all eat more vegetables.