Thursday, March 11, 2010

Destruction of the Temple

Today's post may be a bit long; I hope you'll stick with me!

During the reign of King David, he wanted to build a Temple to host God's presence, but God denied him that privilege because he had shed too much blood in wars. God instead would allow David's son, Solomon, to build the Temple.

I want to give you some details about the Temple so that it's majesty really registers.
- 30,000 woodcutters
-70,000 carriers
-80,000 stonecutters
-301 tons of gold
-591 tons of silver
-679 tons of bronze
-3,775 tons of iron
-Inner sanctuary was 30' square and completely overlaid with gold
-Took 7 years to build
-Total amount of bronze used could not be measured
-Items made of gold: altar, table, 10 lampstands, basins, wick trimmers, sockets, sprinkling dishes, burners, censers
-Three stories
-Held the Ark of the Covenant

All of those details are magnificent, and there are building in the world that would far surpass it. But there is something special about the Temple that no other building can lay claim to: it was filled with the glory of the Lord. God actually made this building His home. In Solomon's prayer to God, he made it the home of their faith. It was their touchstone. Every festival was to be celebrated in it. Sacrifices were made on its altar daily, and when the people turned away from God, they were to pray facing the Temple to demonstrate their repentance and receive His salvation.

Many of the rules in Leviticus are specific for worship at is at that time the Tabernacle and will later become the Temple. Rules for different types of sacrifice, for the clothing of the priests, etc. It was obviously incredibly important to God how they would worship in this building because it would be his home.

The Temple was far more than just a church. The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem is all that's left of what was the Second Temple (more on that later), and that is considered a sacred place not just in Judaism, but in other faiths as well. It's a holy place because of its connection to God. The rebuilding of the Temple is said to be one of the signs of the coming Apocalypse.

After the reign of Solomon, the country of Israel quickly disintegrated. His son, Rehoboam, was so abusive that the tribes separated into two countries: Israel and Judah, each with their own king. Israel formed their own places of worship and traveled down a road of idolatry and evil. Judah had good and bad rulers during this time, some better than others, but during that time the respect for the Temple eroded.

1 Kings 14:25 In the fifth year of King Rehoboam's rule, Shishak king of Egypt made war against Jerusalem. He plundered The Temple of God and the royal palace of their treasures, cleaned them out.

1 Kings 15:18 Asa took all the silver and gold that was left in the treasuries of The Temple of God and the royal palace, gave it to his servants, and sent them to Ben-Hadad son of Tabrimmon, the son of Hezion king of Aram, who was ruling in Damascus, with this message: "Let's make a treaty like the one between our fathers. I'm showing my good faith with this gift of silver and gold."

2 Kings 12:17 Joash king of Judah countered by gathering up all the sacred memorials—gifts dedicated for holy use by his ancestors, the kings of Judah, Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, and Ahaziah, along with the holy memorials he himself had received, plus all the gold that he could find in the temple and palace storerooms—and sent it to Hazael king of Aram.

2 Kings 16:7 Then Ahaz robbed the treasuries of the palace and The Temple of God of their gold and silver and sent them to the king of Assyria as a bribe.

2 Kings 16:17 Then King Ahaz proceeded to plunder The Temple furniture of all its bronze. He stripped the bronze from The Temple furnishings, even salvaged the four bronze oxen that supported the huge basin, The Sea, and set The Sea unceremoniously on the stone pavement. Finally, he removed any distinctive features from within The Temple that were offensive to the king of Assyria.
2 Kings 18:14 The king of Assyria demanded tribute from Hezekiah king of Judah— eleven tons of silver and a ton of gold. Hezekiah turned over all the silver he could find in The Temple of God and in the palace treasuries. Hezekiah even took down the doors of The Temple of God and the doorposts that he had overlaid with gold and gave them to the king of Assyria.

2 Kings 21:1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king. He ruled for fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Hephzibah. In God's judgment he was a bad king—an evil king. He reintroduced all the moral rot and spiritual corruption that had been scoured from the country when God dispossessed the pagan nations in favor of the children of Israel. He rebuilt all the sex-and-religion shrines that his father Hezekiah had torn down, and he built altars and phallic images for the sex god Baal and sex goddess Asherah, exactly what Ahaz king of Israel had done. He worshiped the cosmic powers, taking orders from the constellations. He even built these pagan altars in The Temple of God, the very Jerusalem Temple dedicated exclusively by God's decree ("in Jerusalem I place my Name") to God's Name. And he built shrines to the cosmic powers and placed them in both courtyards of The Temple of God. He burned his own son in a sacrificial offering. He practiced black magic and fortunetelling. He held séances and consulted spirits from the underworld. Much evil—in God's judgment, a career in evil. And God was angry.
It's amazing to think that when the Babylonians showed up to destroy the city that there was actually anything left worth taking considering how the kings had used the Temple treasures as their own personal bank account for centuries. Manasseh's idolatry is especially disturbing, and for God it was the last straw. Even though Josiah, his successor, was a good king and destroyed all of the pagan altars within the Temple and restored it as a holy place, God had enough. When Josiah's son became king, the Babylonians came and captured the city.

2 Kings 25:8 In the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, on the seventh day of the fifth month, Nebuzaradan, the king of Babylon's chief deputy, arrived in Jerusalem. He burned The Temple of God to the ground, went on to the royal palace, and then finished off the city—burned the whole place down.

The Temple that had existed for hundreds of years and been the core of Jewish life was no more. And with its destruction, looked like the destruction of its people as well. They were taken captive and moved to Babylon. Their captors moved other nations into Israel. But the Jewish people held tight to their faith and eventually returned to God. When they did, God heard their pleas for rescue and restored them. They were allowed to return to their country and rebuild not just their city but the Temple as well, under order of King Cyrus.

I know I just threw a ton of history at you, but I have a reason for it. Ask a child, "Where does God live?" and they'll give you one of two answers: in Heaven or in my heart!

Just like the Temple was God's dwelling place in ages past, he lives in our hearts today. In Ezekiel 36:24-27, God says, "I'll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I'll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that's God-willed, not self-willed. I'll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands. You'll once again live in the land I gave your ancestors. You'll be my people! I'll be your God!"

He's giving us the most generous of gifts, to live in us! 1 Corinthians 6:19 adds: Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own!

Now that you are thinking about your heart as being the dwelling place of God, consider again the destruction of the original Temple. We are just as guilty as the Judean kings of wasting its resources and leaving it open to destruction. Like I said in a previous blog, we love silly things. We love wrong things. We give our hearts away and waste the gifts God has given us. We also fill our hearts with idols. Money, sex, clothing, food, our family, we are always cluttering up our hearts.

The Israelites had forgotten God, and the only way for Him to get their attention again was to completely destroy the heart of their worship: the Temple. I think sometimes he has to do the same to us. God breaks our hearts so that He can rebuild them in His image, the way He wants it to be.

So if you are in a time of change when you feel like your heart is being broken again and again, maybe it's time to return to the Lord. Turn your face to Him to show your repentance.

Or maybe you aren't there yet, but you can feel God nudging your heart. Pray for Him to expose any idols you may be harboring or places you are wasting your resources.

God wants to make your heart His home, are you up for it?