11 March • Saturday of the Second Week in Lent
44. “Our fathers had the tent of witness in the wilderness, just as he who spoke to Moses directed him to make it, according to the pattern that he had seen. 45 Our fathers in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our fathers. So it was until the days of David, 46 who found favor in the sight of God and asked to find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. 47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him.
48. Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says,
49. “‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest?
50. Did not my hand make all these things?’
Acts 7 records Stephen’s magnificent speech to the high priest and the Sanhedrin.
Stephen’s message addresses the following topics: (1) the patriarchal period (7:2-16); (2) Moses and the law (7:17-43); and, (3) the tabernacle and the Temple (7:44-50). It concludes (7:51-53) with a searing condemnation of the Sanhedrin, who were repeating the sins of their forefathers.
In particular, Stephen criticises the idolatry of the Sanhedrin, their attempt to put God in a box, to reduce him to a manageable size. Hence, he reminds them that ‘the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands.’
However, this tendency to ‘downsize’ God—to envision him as a diminished deity that fits snugly into our religiosity—is not just the predilection of the ancient Israelites and the Sanhedrin. It is a danger which every Christian must be wary of.
There are many ways in which Christians can unwittingly ‘downsize’ God. They do this when they confuse sentimentality with spirituality by reducing God and his presence to the way they feel.
They can also diminish God by their theology—their understanding of God and his ways.
Take healing, for example. There are Christians who no longer believe that God can heal miraculously. And there are those who think that God only heals supernaturally, and never through medical science.
Both viewpoints are guilty of ‘downsizing’ and putting the Almighty God in a box.
When Christians diminish God in this way, they are in fact transgressing the second commandment (Exodus 20:4). They are rejecting the true God and worshipping a graven image formed by their own ideas of deity instead.
This passage warns us against the danger of confining the sovereign God to our human concepts (‘houses made by human hands’). It urges us to worship the true God, whose throne is in heaven, and who has made the earth his footstool (7:48-49).
Almighty God, forgive us for failing to acknowledge who You really are. Help us once again to appreciate Your greatness, sovereignty and learn to put our trust in You. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. Amen.
Prayerfully reflect on the passages of the Bible that speaks about the greatness of God.
Dr Roland Chia
Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine
Trinity Theological College
Theological and Research Advisor
Ethos Institute for Public Christianity