The question was asked in a national survey: "Why do you attend the church you do?" The answers were very interesting. It seems many people go to churches because it suits them, it is convenient, their family has always gone there or because it is where their friends are.
In Exodus 20, we read that God desired to have a place, even in the wilderness, for Him to dwell and be remembered. In Exodus 29, we see that God determines this place is in the midst of the camp. This is where the tent of meeting was found, and there God met with His people on the basis of the burnt offering. But in Deuteronomy 12, with the wilderness journey virtually over, the people find themselves on the fringe of the land. In the land there is not to be a camp.
The question arose, "Where in the land will this place be?" Where could they serve the Lord in the Promised Land?
Where is the place He would cause His name to dwell? In this important chapter of Deuteronomy the Lord gives instruction as to where they could come together.
He makes it clear that in the Promised Land there is one place for worship. There are many features of this place of worship that correspond to what is revealed in the New Testament.
It is mentioned 14 times in Deuteronomy 12-16 that this place is chosen by the Lord, and 6 of those 14 times are found in chapter 12. This is most essential. It was not up to the people to choose the place. They could not go into the land, look around, and choose the most suitable place to come together. It was the Lord who had to choose this place; it was not up to man. How important this principle is for us today.
Many dear and well-intentioned Christians fail to follow this principle; they come together using human institutions and organizing who will preach, and so, end up eating in their own gate,(verse 17). Not all "eating in our own gate" is wrong; certain things may be taken up privately. However, when it comes to the place of gathering, and where the Lord chooses to place His name (to dwell among His own people) it cannot be according to our own ideas. This is very important in a practical way. Many people ask this question: "Where should I go on Sunday?" How easy it is to give a street address and a town name. But the Lord never does that.
The answer is to search the New Testament and read it from beginning to end; look for everything the Lord says about how He wants His people to gather in His name, and where He chooses to be in the midst; then find that place.
The next question is, are there Christians who take heed to those principles? The important thing is to find that place the Lord clearly describes in His word (verse 5). God did not say that this place would be Jerusalem; He said: "you have to seek it." You have to search for it. It took Israel 400 years for them to find the place, since they were not looking very diligently.
It is good to note that the name the Lord causes to dwell among His people in the New Testament is the name of the Lord Jesus. We gather to His name (Matthew 18:20). Also, we have the name of the Father. "For by one spirit we have access to the Father," Ephesians 2:18. It is important to see that obedience is most vital. We find in Deuteronomy 11 the proper motive behind obedience. Verse 1 states, "therefore love the Lord your God and keep His commandments;" verse 13, "...to love the Lord your God and serve Him with all your heart;" verse 22, "to love the Lord your God and walk in all His ways." These are the real reasons behind seeking.
We should have a love for this place where the Lord is in the midst of His own. Therefore, if we really love the Lord, the first thing we seek after is the place where He chooses to place His name.
In Psalm 132:5, one gets the idea of seeking; David wants to find a place for the Lord, the mighty one of Jacob. Please note that David did not look for this place when he became king or When he was an old man. He said, "Behold we heard of it in Ephrathah," verse 6. He was in EPHRATHAH not when he was a king, but when he was a young man with the sheep. There are many things that young people think about: What job will I have? Where will I go to school? What will I do in the future? Some might even be active in preaching the gospel. But one would like you to have the love David had when he was a young man. This amazing young man was contemplating God's dwelling place.
Young people should be thinking the same today. Where is the Lord dwelling in the midst of His people? In Psalm 132, David is referring to the ark. The ark had been hidden in the house of Abinadab for 20 years. Apparently no one cared and all had forgotten about the ark. But there was a young man in the field with the sheep and he cared. He knew that it was not the right place for the Lord to be, because the ark was the representation of His presence among His people. He was a young man who never guessed he would be king. He cared about the ark and wanted to find the proper dwelling place for the Lord. He was seeking for it.
The next question is, where did he find it?
When he became King and conquered Jerusalem, he did not know this was the place God had chosen. 1 Chronicles 21 makes it clear that this was a very humiliating time; a time of confusion.
Today is a similar time - a time of ecclesiastical confusion. In David's time there was a plague from the Lord; today there is a plague in Christendom - a plague of our sinful condition. In verse 28, David saw that the Lord answered him from the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, and he sacrificed there. In 1 Chronicles 22:1, and in 2 Chronicles 3: 1, one finds the answer to Deuteronomy 12. It took 400 years to find that answer (1 Kings 6). One hopes it does not take you so long to find the place David referred to as the house of the Lord God. It was only a threshing floor, yet he knew this was the answer.
"This is the house of the Lord and this is the altar of the burnt offering for Israel." One sees the basis for this place in Exodus 29, with the burnt offering; the basis now is the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross in a state of humiliation. This is a most important lesson for us. To go outside the camp is very humiliating, because it means a condemnation of much of what we see in Christendom.
In Matthew 18:20, we read, "For where two or three are gathered together unto my name, there am I in the midst of them." We find:
1. the divine place (where)
2. the divine number (2 or 3)
3. the divine center (His Name) where his rights and authority are maintained.
In Luke 22, we follow the man carrying the pitcher of water (the Holy Spirit of God applying the Word of God). He gives direction to the place of gathering in the upper room where the Lord finds a resting place among His own. In John 1, the Lord asks the two disciples, "What seek ye?" They pass the test; they were not seeking a thing, they asked, "Where abidest thou?"
In the Song of Songs chapter 1:7, there is a similar question, "Where do you feed your flock?" She mentions "the flock of your companion," who are the friends of her beloved. There are many Christians who love the Lord but have their own flocks. However, she did not want to be with any flock; she had only one interest - where you feed your flock. One does not want to wander around from one place to another.
Do I want to be where He is? There is no street or house number. "Come and see," if you do not know, you should. Do not follow the footsteps of the flock, follow the man with the water pitcher. Let us get hold of that. Let us look for that place.
Let us get a sight of the One that makes this place so precious. It is not just any place. There is only one place where the Lord is pleased to make His name DWELL.