Stephen spoke on the subject of sanctuary last night. Sanctuary is ‘a place of refuge from pursuit, persecution or other danger’ and is also thought of as ‘a holy place, a temple.’ The roots of the word are from the Latin ‘sanctus‘, meaning holy. Over the years, sanctuary has been associated with a holy place of refuge.

In the Old Testament, God’s presence was represented by the ark of the covenant kept in the Holy of Holies in the Tent of Meeting. During the wilderness journeys, God’s presence in the form of the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night hovered above the Tent as a symbol to the people of where they should be; only when the cloud or pillar of fire moved did the people move on to the next stage of their journey. Later, God’s presence became associated with other places (such as Mount Zion or the temple.)

God is the source of our refuge and help. Ps 20:2 says ‘May He send You help from the sanctuary.’ Psalm 15:1 says ‘Who may dwell in Your sanctuary?’ In Ps 114:2, we read that Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel His dominion.

People still associate God’s presence with a place (often a church building). But God’s presence has never been restricted to four walls, to one particular building. He is not restricted by any geographical constraints. Ezekiel 11:16 reminds us that God as sanctuary was present even during the exile. God is here, with us, wherever we are and wherever we go. When we leave a church building, do we leave God’s presence? Do we believe He can only work in that place?

Jesus reminded the people of the greater temple that was His very body (see John 2:19-22). The way to Christ is through His death and resurrection. The curtain was torn in two because of His sacrifice for us and opened the way for us to approach the holy presence of God. God’s presence is with us all the time. It doesn’t matter where we are. We can live in the knowledge of God with us every moment of every day and know His presence with us to guide and to help, to offer refuge and sanctuary.