Monday, September 1, 2014

"Building God's temple ... a preview of things to come ..."

Day #248:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - September 2nd

Scripture Reading:  I Chronicles 20 - 24 ...

Studying history is like learning a foreign language to most people.  We tend to live in the present, as though there was no connection with the past or the future.  Young people and older people alike see little, if any, importance in studying the Old Testament, but in God's timetable there is a direct line from all that we read in the Old Testament to our day today and then to the future that lies before us.  One of the deceptions of Satan in our world is the idea that the earth and some form of humans have been around for millions of years.  Such utter foolishness leaves people thinking that things just happen and nothing is planned by God, but once you understand that mankind has been on the earth for a mere 6,000 years and that God DOES have a plan stretching from man's creation to our final days on this planet, everything begins to come into focus.  Then what happened 3,000 years ago, in the days of David, has a direct connection to your life and mine today.

Such is the case with the building of the temple - a house for God.  Up until the days of David God had not had a "house" to dwell in.  In fact, as the Apostle Paul would write a thousand years later, "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands" (Acts 17:24).  Why then did God instruct Moses to build the tabernacle, and why did He give David and Solomon instructions for the temple?  It certainly was not because God wanted or needed a place to live!  Then why?  It was for Israel ... to show them that He was there, that He was with them.  The nations around them had their "gods," but they were just statues and superstitions.  Israel's God was different.  He displayed His presence and His power throughout the history of Israel in various ways and announced His judgment and the hope of the coming Savior through the prophets.

God was the Creator of Israel, the God of Israel, the Leader of Israel, the King of Israel and the HOPE of Israel.  God was Israel's God, not because Israel chose Him, but because HE chose Israel!  And He wanted them to know that ... thus, the temple.  When David was "incited" (tempted) by Satan to count his armed soldiers, the temptation was to trust in the number of his army rather than in his God.  This would ultimately be the downfall of the kingdom of Israel and later of Judah.  God's anger burned against David and He offered him the three options:  three years of famine, three months of military defeats or three days of a plague from the Lord (21:12).  David chose:  "Let me fall into the hands of the LORD, for His mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men" (21:13).

God sent a plague and 70,000 men were killed.  Then David pleaded with the LORD, his God, to stop the plague and God told David to go build an altar and to offer a burnt offering.  David humbled himself and obeyed God and He showed mercy on David and Israel and the plague stopped.  What lesson was to be learned from this experience?  GOD was the One whom David and Israel must depend on.  We say it often, but do we mean it:  "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31).  Israel's God is the ONLY true God, and He is able to help those who cry out to Him - ALWAYS!  Humility and obedience are the sacrifices God desires.

So what about the temple?  What is God teaching US, today, through the building of the temple?  Since the time of the Judges, the tabernacle of the LORD that Moses had made in the desert was being kept at Gibeon.  David had made Jerusalem the capital city of Israel and it was now called "the city of David."  David was King of a growing political power among the nations of the world, with an army of more than a million soldiers.  He realized now, however, that God would deal with HIM, just as He did with the nations, if David did not remember that he needed God's presence and power, as did the whole nation of Israel.

David began to make preparations to build the temple, but God told David that he was not the one who would build God's house because he had shed too much blood in wars.  God's temple was to be a place of peace.  David's son, Solomon, would build the temple, and God would place His Name there.  David said, "The house to be built for the LORD should be of great magnificence and fame and splendor in the sight of all the nations" (22:5).  When David was counting his army he was trying to make a name for himself; when he was preparing the materials for the temple he desired to make a name for GOD!!  God promised that Solomon would build God's house and God would grant peace and quiet during his reign (22:9).

Again, God reveals His wisdom and His plan as He speaks to David about Solomon ... and in so doing speaks of David's "greater Son," who would build the spiritual temple:  the Church!  "He is the one who will build a house for my Name.  He will be my son, and I will be his father.  And I will establish the throne of HIS kingdom over Israel FOREVER" (22:10).  David instructed Solomon:  "Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the LORD your God.  Begin to build the sanctuary of the LORD God, so that you may bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD and the sacred articles belonging to God into the temple that will be built for the Name of the LORD" (22:19).  God's Name would dwell among His people and all the world would know that HE is God!!

Has that happened yet?  Chapters 23 and 24 speak about the Levites and the priests, the descendants of Aaron.  God has a long memory ... because it is all present to God.  When the Israelites built the golden calf during the time Moses was on Mt. Sinai, it was the Levites who rallied to Moses when he came down from the mountain and asked who was on the LORD's side.  God made them servants at the tabernacle, and now at the temple.  But it was to Aaron and his descendants that God gave the priesthood ... those who would enter into the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies to bring the offerings of the people before the LORD, their God.

The building of the temple enabled the people to focus on the truth that their God was alive, that He was present with them, that He was holy and that the only way to approach Him was to bring a sacrifice, an offering.  Their sin separated them from their God and only through the Levites and the priests could they come to worship and draw near to God.  And even then, they were separated from God, for only the High Priest could enter into the Most Holy Place ... and that only once a year, on the Day of Atonement.  Payment must be made for sin and no one can do it for themselves.  Even the priests had to bring an offering for themselves, confessing their own sin.

At the present time there is no temple in Jerusalem.  That is because God is fulfilling His promise to build a spiritual temple, a house in which God dwells by His Spirit ... the Church.  The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 2 that Jews and Gentiles have been made ONE together in Christ (Ephesians 2:13-16).  To the Gentiles he says, "You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone.  In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit" (Ephesians 2:19-22).

What a glorious message ... the realization that the God of Israel not only lives among us, but within us.  Those who know Jesus Christ, who have been born again by His Spirit, are united to Christ and part of His eternal kingdom.  God will again, in the future, have a temple in Jerusalem for a time, but its purpose will be different.  Jesus will reign in Jerusalem and the nations will bring Him tribute.  With Isaiah we who believe can say, "Yes, LORD, walking in the way of Your laws, we wait for You; Your Name and renown are the desire of our hearts" (Isaiah 26:8).  By His Spirit God now writes His law on the hearts of believers and moves us to exalt HIS Name and to make Him known to the nations.

The building of God's temple was a preview of things to come, when the Name of the LORD, the God of Israel, will be known all over the world and all will know that He alone is God, there is no other.  Until then, it is the calling of the Church, the temple of the Spirit, to make Him known, to declare His Name to the nations and to exalt the Name of Jesus, God's true Son, the Son of David.  May we be about our Father's business and live to worship and praise and serve Him every day, for HIS glory!!

"O LORD, our God, You alone are worthy of praise and worship.  Your Name alone is to be exalted, for You alone are God, our Creator.  As You revealed Your wisdom and power through Israel in the days of David, so empower us today to declare Your glory to the nations, that those who are bound in the darkness may come to Your light and be saved, joining us in thanksgiving for Your grace and mercy.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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