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WHY AM I, OR WHY SHOULD I BE, IN THE HOUSE OF GOD?

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

23 August 1992

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Psalm 84:1-12
Jeremiah 28:1-17

Have you ever asked yourself, "Why do I go to church?"

Or, perhaps the reverse, "Why don't I go to church regularly?"

Perhaps we wondered about others, also, as to why they come or don't come into the house of God.

In Psalm 84, we hear the reasons why the sons of Korah came to the house of God, and probably it is the best reason.

1. How lovely are Thy dwelling places,
O Lord of hosts!

2. My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord;
My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.

Is this the reason we are here this morning?

I pray it is!

For if we long to be in the presence of the Lord and other believers, and our whole being anticipates the blessings to follow, then we indeed will be blessed, for this is the way of God.

As we open our heart and soul to the Lord, and unload the things that are not of God, it is as if we are washed clean by the Holy Spirit and we have a new, refreshed feeling.

Have you ever done a lot of heavy, dirty work and been all sweaty and grungy? Your clothes stuck to you, and they didn't smell very good. Then you came in and took a nice long shower and put on clean clothes. Didn't you feel really good?

Coming to church should make us feel at least that good, and this is the state of being that the sons of Korah are expressing to us.

3. The bird also has found a house,
And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young,
Even Thine altars, O Lord of hosts,
My King and my God.

4. How blessed are those who dwell in Thy house!
They are ever praising Thee.

The sons of Korah expected animals to come into the House of God, and for some of them to dwell there, even upon the altar.

They considered them very blessed for they didn't have to leave.

Furthermore, their songs and cries are considered to be praise to God.

Mary and I believe the same way, as we hope you do also.

This is one of the reasons you have seen me welcome an animal into our congregation and lift them and others up in prayer, as we do a person.

5. How blessed is the man whose strength is in Thee;
In whose heart are the highways to Zion!

We can all accomplish more when our strength is in God, and not limited to ourselves; when the goal of our task is beyond ourselves; when our desire extends beyond our present time, even into heaven itself.

6. Passing through the valley of Baca [or weeping], they make it a spring,
The early rain also covers it with blessings.

7. They go from strength to strength,
Every one of them appears before God in Zion.

No matter how bad a problem we may have, God can turn it into a blessing.

And again, I believe that the psalmist is expressing that this blessing is for both people and animals, as they appear before the Lord in His holy temple here on earth or in heaven.

We are to remove all man-made limits to the way or manner we think God will respond.

All too often we have seen sensitive people belittled or ostracized because of their compassion for animals, and because they refuse to harm or eat them.

And when this happens, the church has placed their man-made limits before the ways of God.

We must cast off these limits.

We must just come before the Lord, trusting Him to forgive us and to fulfill all His promises.

8. O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
Give ear, O God of Jacob!

9. Behold our shield, O God,
And look upon the face of Thine anointed.

We who come in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Messiah, our Anointed One, are ourselves anointed; and as we reach out in prayer and praise, the Lord our God shields us and blesses us in such a way that we can actually feel His peace rising up within us.

It is at times like these that we can fully understand what the psalmist says next:

10. For a day in Thy courts is better than a thousand outside.
I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God,
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

11. For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
The Lord gives grace and glory;
No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.

12. O Lord of hosts,
How blessed is the man who trusts in Thee!

All of this is true.

But in order to receive and understand, we must put our whole being in the hands of the Lord.

We can't hold back, and we can't come forth on false pretences, pretending to be someone we aren't, or trying to attract attention to ourselves.

We must come in love and trust, just as we are.

And we cannot let any doctrinal differences we may have stand between us, for to do so is to say that we don't fully trust in the Lord.

Unfortunately, not everyone who enters the house of God comes with the right attitude.

In Jeremiah 28, during the time of the exodus to Babylon, we are told of such an occurrence. Let's turn there, beginning at verse 1, and see what happened.

1. Now it came about in the same year, in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the fourth year, in the fifth month, that Hananiah the son of Azzur, the prophet, who was from Gibeon, spoke to me [Jeremiah] in the house of the Lord in the presence of the priests and all the people, saying,

2. "Thus says the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, 'I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon.

3. 'Within two years I am going to bring back to this place all the vessels of the Lord's house, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon.

4. 'I am also going to bring back to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and all the exiles of Judah who went to Babylon,' declares the Lord, 'for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.' "

That's quite an uplifting promise the prophet is delivering, isn't it?

But is it the truth?

Since God had previously ordered the exodus, is He here changing His mind? For the people have not turned their hearts back to serving the Lord their God. They are still doing their own thing.

And if it isn't true, why is Hananiah saying this?

Note what Jeremiah does:

5. Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and in the presence of all the people who were standing in the house of the Lord,

6. and the prophet Jeremiah said, "Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord confirm your words which you have prophesied to bring back the vessels of the Lord's house and all the exiles, from Babylon to this place.

7. "Yet hear now this word which I am about to speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people!

8. "The prophets who were before me and before you from ancient times prophesied against many lands and against great kingdoms, of war and of calamity and of pestilence.

9. "The prophet who prophesies of peace, when the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then that prophet will be known as one whom the Lord has truly sent."

Jeremiah knows the purpose of being in the house of God, and he knows God's intent.

He also knows Hananiah's intent, and it isn't to serve God; but he doesn't confront him directly in the temple.

He simply announces publicly how wonderful it would be if it all came to pass as Hananiah said; but he does add that final point of confirmation of God's word through his prophets.

Jeremiah is for peace.

And in that peace, he offers Hananiah a way of repentance; but Hananiah's pride would not let him accept it.

10. Then Hananiah the prophet took the yoke from the neck of Jeremiah the prophet and broke it.

Jeremiah had placed a wooden yoke upon his neck to symbolize that those who remained in Judah and Jerusalem would be taken captive to Babylon.

11. And Hananiah spoke in the presence of all the people, saying, "Thus says the Lord, 'Even so will I break within two full years, the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all the nations.' " Then the prophet Jeremiah went his way.

The house of God was being turned into a mockery, and Jeremiah wasn't going to add to it by debating with Hananiah or the others.

And we have seem many sensitive, Godly, people also leave the Church because of the hardness of heart they encountered.

Everyone present in the Temple really knew the truth in their hearts, but they pretended otherwise, just as we believe many people in the church do today.

12. And the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, after Hananiah the prophet had broken the yoke from off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, saying,

13. "Go and speak to Hananiah, saying, 'Thus says the Lord, "You have broken the yokes of wood, but you have made instead of them yokes of iron."

14. 'For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, "I have put a yoke of iron on the neck of all these nations, that they may serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and they shall serve him. And I have also given him the beasts of the field." ' "

If our heart is not truly set upon the Lord our God, and we have “more important” agendas, then we make our future worse that it would have been.

But the reverse is also true; for if we sincerely serve and love the Lord our God, including the whole of His creation, with all our heart, soul, and might, then our future will be better.

But it is up to us, collectively, to make up our minds as to whom we will serve.

So, let's see what Jeremiah does next.

15. Then Jeremiah the prophet said to Hananiah the prophet, "Listen now, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie.

16. "Therefore thus says the Lord, 'Behold, I am about to remove you from the face of the earth. This year you are going to die, because you have counseled rebellion against the Lord.' "

17. So Hananiah the prophet died in the same year in the seventh month.

Hananiah died just two months after making his false statements.

Note also that Jeremiah didn't confront him publicly, but privately, so as not to cause more strife and confusion.

Every time I read a passage such as this, I come to the conclusion that we bring upon ourselves most of the troubles we have in the world.

Thus, if we and others were more like the sons of Korah and like Jeremiah, we would have a world filled with much more love and peace, and there would be far less famine and hunger and killing.

So, the question – “Why am I or why should I be in the house of God?” – becomes a very personal question for us all to ask ourselves, for the answer we live can affect the lives of many others.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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