In Mark 13, Jesus begins to speak about the future. Interestingly, in each of the synoptic Gospels, Jesus mentions the point that the temple is going to be destroyed.
Mar 13:1 And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!
Mar 13:2 And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
I wonder at this point how many people took Jesus seriously. After all, the nation of Israel was part of the Roman Empire. The Romans were pretty good at protecting their own territories, so barring some type of natural disaster, I would’ve felt pretty safe about the temple standing.
However, after the Jewish rebellion and the siege of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the temple was torn down by the Romans. All that we have left is the Wailing Wall, and that was not even part of the temple. It was part of the wall that went around the temple. The temple was literally destroyed.
After Jesus said this, His disciples pulled Him aside and asked Him what He was talking about. When would all of these things happen?
I think that this is telling for all of us. We think about the institutions that are in the world today. We think about things that will always be there. We simply assume that they will always be there, but we don’t always know the time that God has planned. I would have assumed that the temple was not going anywhere. With the Roman Empire as a protector, no one would have expected that the same would have torn it down the temple approximately 35 years later. However, Jesus knew it was coming. That has to tell you something about His prophetic abilities.
In Zechariah 4, God presented a very testable prophecy. The angel told Zechariah that that the Temple was going to be completed under the rule of Zerubbabel.
Zec 4:9 The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you.
I emphasize this one part of the vision because the Bible is a book that can be verified historically. It describes real people who were a part of actual history. It describes actual buildings that were built, and it tells us about kingdoms that rose and fell.
The Bible has plenty of moral wisdom. It has plenty of statements about how we ought to live, but interspersed within these passages, we have history. The Bible could be just a collection of guidelines for good living. The problem with that type of list is that it would not be able to be put into a specific period of time.
We know that Paul went to Athens. We know that he spoke to philosophers there. That is consistent with everything we know about Athens. It was a real place that was very interested in philosophical discussions. What Paul taught is very important as well, but it is significant that he went to Athens and not Atlantis.
Coming to this passage in Zechariah, God encourages this type of test. He said that when Zerubbabel finished the Temple, it would be proof that God knew what He was talking about. I think that we can extend this to the Bible today. It is not just true because we say it is true. It contains historical data that we can verify. It then raises the question that if the Bible was accurate on the less important matters of history, could it possibly be right on the more significant issues of eternal life that the authors surely thought was more important?
As we read Haggai 2, it struck me that we can get far too wrapped up in material things. We can worry that our building might not be as nice as the building next door. In fact, this can occasionally creep in as competition between churches. Who has the nicest building or light display or projection system can become a source of rivalry. It shouldn’t happen, but I have heard of it happening.
For these people in Jerusalem, there were some that were concerned that the Temple that they were being told to rebuild was not going to be anywhere near what had been built by Solomon. Notice that that is not what God cared about.
Hag 2:2 Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and to the residue of the people, saying,
Hag 2:3 Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?
Hag 2:4 Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts:
Hag 2:5 According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not.
The people are advised to be strong, and God tells them to work because He is with them. He does not tell them to not bother trying. Obviously Solomon did build a beautiful Temple. Nobody would deny that. Nobody would also argue that the new Temple was a copy of the old one. It was not the same level of craftsmanship by any means.
It is significant however that God did not tell them to stop trying. Remember in the last chapter that He asked them why they weren’t dedicating their resources towards the Temple. The important part is the dedication to God rather than the size of the building. Maybe we need to remember that today as well.
We are now in Haggai, and it is interesting that in the first chapter the people are told to consider their ways two separate times. I want to focus on the second one.
Hag 1:7 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.
Hag 1:8 Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD.
Hag 1:9 Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house.
The people were wondering why life was not going so well for them, and God was asking them to reflect on their decisions. Where were they placing their priorities?
God’s house was in ruins. Keep in mind that this was in the Old Testament, and the Temple was incredibly important if the people of Israel wanted to remain obedient to what God taught particularly in Leviticus and other places. Sacrifices were performed there among other functions.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with people fixing their own houses. Obviously, any of you who are homeowners will understand that home repairs need to happen, and humans are designed to need shelter. That is not what is being condemned here.
The problem was that the people were putting their own concerns over obedience to God, and the house of God was a necessary part of that obedience in the Old Testament. The people were putting their own priorities ahead of the priorities of God.
The Temple is not quite the same today, but the concept is obviously applicable. Where are we putting our priorities? Have we considered our own ways lately? Have we thought about what is important to us and compared that to what we know is important to God? I hope they match up, but I’m not sure that mine always do.
Maybe that will be my new goal.
Welcome to Micah chapter 1. According to my commentaries, he was an approximate contemporary of Isaiah. I find it really interesting that whenever God is going to bring severe punishment to the people of Israel and Judah, one thing that always seems to be emphasized is the fact that the false idols are going to be destroyed.
Mic 1:6 Therefore I will make Samaria as an heap of the field, and as plantings of a vineyard: and I will pour down the stones thereof into the valley, and I will discover the foundations thereof.
Mic 1:7 And all the graven images thereof shall be beaten to pieces, and all the hires thereof shall be burned with the fire, and all the idols thereof will I lay desolate: for she gathered it of the hire of an harlot, and they shall return to the hire of an harlot.
I think that this is important to recognize because it helps perhaps point out a purpose in all of these problems. For example, what might have happened if all of this punishment had come, but the people still were worshiping the false gods? There might still be some ambiguity for the people. By demolishing the idols, there was no doubt who remained.
Think about the difference there. Certainly, there was a temple that was used as a worship place for God, but the Jewish people understood that God was not just a statue. In fact, it wasn’t like there was a God statue. When the Temple was destroyed, it didn’t mean that God was destroyed. The Old Testament is rather clear about that point that God is independent from His creation. God existed before anything else was created.
Compare that to the idea of a graven image that is worshiped. Often times, it seems as if the idol itself is the object of worship, so when you trample that, what do you have left? It is much more symbolic to tear down something that is actually a graven image. That meaning probably would not have been lost on the people of Israel.
To answer my previous thought, it seems to me that God was using these times that would’ve been difficult for the people of Israel as a way to help bring them back to Himself. By tearing down the idols, it would have pointed out that these are graven images are inadequate. It would challenge the people think about when was the last time any God came through for them. I know of one that met their needs for their entire history.
Ezekiel 48 shows us an interesting shift from Old Testament Israel to this vision of the Temple. As you recall, the tribe of Levi did not receive any land because the Lord with their portion. In this vision though, there is some land given to the priests.
Eze 48:9 The oblation that ye shall offer unto the LORD shall be of five and twenty thousand in length, and of ten thousand in breadth.
Eze 48:10 And for them, even for the priests, shall be this holy oblation; toward the north five and twenty thousand in length, and toward the west ten thousand in breadth, and toward the east ten thousand in breadth, and toward the south five and twenty thousand in length: and the sanctuary of the LORD shall be in the midst thereof.
Eze 48:11 It shall be for the priests that are sanctified of the sons of Zadok; which have kept my charge, which went not astray when the children of Israel went astray, as the Levites went astray.
Eze 48:12 And this oblation of the land that is offered shall be unto them a thing most holy by the border of the Levites.
I want to put this back into the context of the vision that we have been building every chapter. Again, Jesus Christ is the Temple. That is on this piece of land, and the priests will dwell around it. However, this is still a transition because there was no land in the original system for the Levites. Obviously they lived somewhere, but it was not specifically laid out like this.
This seems like a pretty strong indication that the ministers we have today who are doing their job as shown in verse 11 are the ones who are dwelling near God. They interact with God closely and spend their time learning more about who He is so that they can pass on that knowledge to those of us who are not given that calling.
On the other hand, there are many people who claim to be pastors yet preach messages that are not found anywhere in the Bible. They would not be in this portion as shown in verse 11. They have not kept their charge.
I’m not trying to imply here that pastors are somehow above all the rest of us. In fact, the point that they now have actual territory makes the similarities greater. They are a tribe with land just like every other tribe. However, I think that there is something to the fact that the Temple is in the middle of their piece of land, and I think that that shows is their responsibility to draw near God and to use their abilities to help a fallen world.
Ezekiel is over!
The imagery that we have been developing this entire time is incredibly important as we move into Ezekiel 47. Again, Jesus Christ is the ideal Temple, and now we have a situation where there is water pouring out of the Temple and making saltwater fresh.
Eze 47:8 Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed.
Eze 47:9 And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh.
As you read these chapters, the progression seems to make sense. We now have this ideal Temple that we could not build ourselves but only through the power of God, and there is water pouring out of it. The water is healing the land. Wasn’t that pretty much what Jesus did?
He came into our world and totally transformed people. Just like the ocean cannot make itself fresh, we could not make ourselves clean. It is only through the saving power of God that we can have this salvation.
Interestingly, not everyone will be transformed.
Eze 47:11 But the miry places thereof and the marishes thereof shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt.
I think that is also indicative of our world. Clearly, not everyone is living in the way of Christ. There are some who have not found the healing water of Christ. Again, this is very strong imagery again.
It is amazing to have this gift of refreshment from Jesus Christ.
Ezekiel 46 lays out the ordinances for how this Temple is to be used. This is the ideal Temple that any human effort to build fell short. It is what I would argue in the model of the ideal Christian life that conforms to the model laid out by Jesus Christ. Now, in Ezekiel 46 it is shown that there should be a significant portion of time reserved for the worship of God.
Eze 46:1 Thus saith the Lord GOD; The gate of the inner court that looketh toward the east shall be shut the six working days; but on the sabbath it shall be opened, and in the day of the new moon it shall be opened.
Eze 46:2 And the prince shall enter by the way of the porch of that gate without, and shall stand by the post of the gate, and the priests shall prepare his burnt offering and his peace offerings, and he shall worship at the threshold of the gate: then he shall go forth; but the gate shall not be shut until the evening.
Eze 46:3 Likewise the people of the land shall worship at the door of this gate before the LORD in the sabbaths and in the new moons.
Again, if I am interpreting this appropriately, then if this ideal Christian life involves significant worship, shouldn’t we make sure that we give God sufficient worship?
Please don’t misunderstand how I am using the word sufficient. I am not implying in any way that we can confine all of our worship to Sunday morning and forget about the rest of the week. I am not saying that there is some kind of percentage that we can satisfy and then give up on worship for a period of time.
We are told to worship God with everything we have. Psalms 150 is a good one for this. We praise God with whatever we have, and we praise him for being all that He is. We do know that God is awesome, and we do know that worship is an important part of our Christian lives. Sufficient worship is all-consuming worship.
In Ezekiel 45, we are now receiving some more instruction about the division of the land and fair weights and measures during the time of this new Temple. I want to focus on this idea of weights and measures.
Eze 45:9 Thus saith the Lord GOD; Let it suffice you, O princes of Israel: remove violence and spoil, and execute judgment and justice, take away your exactions from my people, saith the Lord GOD.
Eze 45:10 Ye shall have just balances, and a just ephah, and a just bath.
Again, it seems to me that the new Temple is referring to the person of Jesus Christ, the perfect model of the Temple that no one could design on earth. This then implies to me that those of us who are in Christ are called to practice business the right way. Our weights and measures need to be fair and just. We cannot take a little bit extra off the top to put in our own pockets.
I know that there are plenty of people in different jobs who have opportunities every day to do the wrong thing. You can be a business owner who does not treat his or her employees fairly. You can be an accountant and skim a little bit of money off the top without much problem especially in businesses with little control over these processes. Unethical business practices are on the news every day, and it might be easy to justify going along with the crowd. Everybody else is doing it, so why can’t I get rich along with them?
However, that isn’t how we are called to live. In this life that we are building under the instruction of Jesus Christ, we cannot separate out how we act at work and how we act at home. All of our life should be life for God. We do business in the right way because God calls us here in Ezekiel, among other places, to be fair.
Ezekiel 44 takes us back to the outside of the vision of the Temple. The people of Israel have been rebellious at this undefined future time (surprise!), and here is what the offense was.
Eze 44:6 And thou shalt say to the rebellious, even to the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; O ye house of Israel, let it suffice you of all your abominations,
Eze 44:7 In that ye have brought into my sanctuary strangers, uncircumcised in heart, and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in my sanctuary, to pollute it, even my house, when ye offer my bread, the fat and the blood, and they have broken my covenant because of all your abominations.
Eze 44:8 And ye have not kept the charge of mine holy things: but ye have set keepers of my charge in my sanctuary for yourselves.
Eze 44:9 Thus saith the Lord GOD; No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into my sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel.
This seems to go along with what I had written yesterday regarding the Temple of the perfect design. Yesterday, we talked about the idea of how it was interesting that the Temple the people had built for themselves could not match up to the ideal design of what God Himself had laid out. I suggested then that perhaps this shows how the human life is not up to the standard that God been set for us. This is powerful commentary on sin nature.
Today expands on that. It seems to suggest that there are people in the Temple who are uncircumcised in heart and flesh. To me this kind of sounds like a lack of orthodoxy and orthopraxy. In the heart, there is not the right attitude. Their beliefs and their orthodoxy had fallen apart. However, they also are not living right in the flesh. Their actions are also not physically right. They’re not living the way they should.
I think this points out some very important things for us. It is a combination of life and belief. I certainly think that salvation comes through faith alone and not by works, but I also believe that a life that is transformed by a true belief will demonstrate the actions that are the consequence of that belief. That is where the right practice comes in. It is the argument for the fruit of the spirit. It comes about from living in the way of Jesus. By living out a life following the principles of Christianity, certain actions and lifestyle choices should come forth.
These have been difficult chapters for me. I am not a professional in Old Testament prophecy, but I’m just being straightforward with you. Interpretation is a difficult job, and I will be happy to get back to more straightforward content, but I hope this might provide at least a little bit of food for thought.