Given as a Devotional for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 7/29/01
"And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst." (Ex. 25:8, RSV).
Today, July 29th, is a special day in the Jewish Calendar. It is Tisha B'Av, which means "the ninth of Av." Av is the fifth month of the Jewish calendar and generally corresponds with July or August on our calendars. I first read about this special day in a book given to us by our dear friends Harry and Jeri Fox, entitled, The Feasts of the Lord, by Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal. These authors have done a marvelous job of explaining how events in the Jewish calendar foreshadowed the life and work of Christ and the significance it has for us today.
On Monday of this week, I got an e-mail from a friend which included a prayer request, asking that all pray for Israel during Tisha B'Av, a time of mourning. The e-mail explains that "On this day of mourning, faithful Jews mourn the loss of the temple, their holy place, and the lifestyle that was lost in its destruction. During these days, there are no celebrations, no weddings, and no haircuts! Among the Orthodox, bathing is kept to a minimum and freshly laundered clothes are not worn. The intent of such practices are in preparation for coming to grips with Israel's sin which led to the loss of the Temple, not just once, but twice." Until this year, I never knew about Tisha B'Av. It really astounded me to learn that both Solomon's Temple and Herod the Great's Temple were completely destroyed on this same day of the year, some six centuries apart! I was talking to the Lord about this Tues. night, and He gave me an overview of the circumstances leading up to these cataclysmic events, which I want to share with you. So, buckle your seat belts for a quick flight over the "mountain peaks" of the bible.
In the beginning, God created man in His image and likeness (Gen. 1:26-27). Adam and Eve were spirit clothed in flesh whose joy was fellowshipping with God. They walked and talked with the Creator, which was His intention for them, and for us as well. They ate of the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, trying to be like God (Gen. 3:5), not knowing that they were attempting to accomplish with their own efforts, the very destiny which He had preordained for them from the foundation of the world. Their sin was trying to become what they already were! It separated them from fellowship with God and caused spiritual death for them and all mankind. "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Cor. 15:22, RSV).
Time rocked on. God appeared to Abraham, saying, "Follow me to a land which I will show you and I will make your seed a blessing to all nations" (Gen. 12:1-3). Abraham loaded up his camels, his wife and his nephew and left Babylon behind, heading for Canaan, the promised land. His descendants flourished. God saved them from famine and certain death by sending them to Egypt, where He had already sent Joseph to be their savior, protector, and benefactor. They languished under the whip of Pharaohs for 430 years (Ex. 12:40-41), until finally, in the fulness of time, God sent Moses as the deliverer to bring the people out of bondage and lead them back to the promised land. In the shadow of Mount Sinai, within days after telling Moses that they would obey all of God's commands (Ex. 19:8), they sinned grievously against God. Their punishment was swift and severe, but the ones who lived over it marched to the boundaries of Canaan, this land flowing with milk and honey (Num. 13:27), which God had promised would belong to Abraham and His descendants forever. Moses selected one man from each tribe to spy out the land. Only two, Caleb and Joshua, brought back a good report. The other ten said, "There are giants in the land. They are too big and too tall and too scary. We'll die if we go in because 'the land devours its inhabitants'" (Num. 13:28-33). This e-mail I received says that the spies returned with their pronouncements of doom in the year 1312 BC, on the 9th of Av. Theirs was a colossal sin of unbelief, which was to set the pattern for all their days of walking under the law.
God had chosen Israel for Himself, motley crew though they were at this point. He had said to them through Moses, "Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex. 19:5-6, RSV). He intended for Israel to be a Theocracy, a nation with God as it's head, its leader, its king. Instead, they came to Samuel and demanded, "We want a king, like all the nations round about us" (1 Sam. 8:5). Samuel went to ask God about this, "And the LORD said to Samuel, "Hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them" (1 Sam. 8:7, RSV). Samuel told them what an earthly king would do to them, how their sons and daughters would be pressed into service for him; and that he would burden them with heavy taxes (I Sam. 8:11-18), but they persisted, saying, "Give us a king" (1 Sam. 8: 19). So, God gave them Saul, a very flawed man indeed. It was like He was saying to them, "You want a king? I'll give you one you won't soon forget." The absolute power of the monarchy corrupted him quickly and completely and soon, Samuel was sent by God to anoint David, a shepherd boy, as the once and future king of God's people (1 Sam. 16:13). David was a man after God's own heart (1 Sam. 13:14), who loved the Lord with all his mind and soul and being, and God said unto him, "'I will establish your descendants for ever, and build your throne for all generations'" (Psalms 89:4, RSV. See also Jer. 33:17). His son Solomon built the first Temple in 968 BC. It was lavish, expensive, and slathered all over with gold.
During the reign of Solomon's son, Rehoboam, God sent Shishak, Pharaoh of Egypt, to Jerusalem to punish them for their sins. Shishak looted the gold treasures of Solomon's temple and "carried everything away" (2 Chron. 12:9), including the Ark of the Covenant, which had been the symbol of the Lord's presence, both in the tabernacle (Ex. 25:20-22), and in Solomon's Temple (2 Chron. 5:5-9). In those days, the only thing left in the Ark of the Covenant were the tablets of stone on which the hand of God had written the Ten Commandments (2 Chron. 5:10). There was so much wickedness and sin in Israel, so much whoring after other gods, that they never even missed it. Finally, with Israel's sin ever before Him, God took His vengeance by "sword, famine and plague" promised by the prophets. (See. Jer. 32:28-35). Accordingly, he sent Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to conquer Jerusalem and destroy Solomon's magnificent temple (2 Kings 25:3-4, 9; Jer. 52:13), in 586 BC on the 9th of Av.
After 70 long years of captivity, prophesied by Isaiah (Is. 23:17), and Jeremiah (Jer. 25:11-12; 29:10), God finally sent the weary captives back home to build up the walls of Jerusalem and rebuild the temple under Zerubbabel's leadership (Zech 4:9). Compared to Solomon's glorious Temple, this one was a poor replica, a homely shadow of the original. Ezra reports that "...many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers' houses, old men who had seen the first house (Solomon's Temple), wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy; so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people's weeping, ....and the sound was heard afar" (Ezra 3:12,13, RSV). The Lord shared with me that pitiful though it may have appeared to the old men, this homely temple satisfied Him more than Solomon's glittery, gold encrusted one, for it represented the outpouring of penitent and contrite hearts (Ezra 9:6-15). In sorrow for their sin, the children of Israel built a place to worship the living God and they made a new attempt to live by the law God gave to Moses (Ezra 8:35; Chapter 10). Though wars raged on and conquerors came and went, that temple was never destroyed.
Now, we fast forward the story to the time of Herod the Great, about whom the Lord said to me that "He was a bastard, who cared nothing for God or his fellow man, but only for his own glory and political ambitions." In the book, The Holy Land, Etty Boochny reports, "The beauty of the temple was repeatedly mentioned by Josephus and other historians; even the Rabbis said, 'whosoever has not seen Herod's building [the Temple] has never seen a beautiful building.' John's Gospel suggests the total project took forty-six years to complete (Jn. 2:20)." Luke has this account of Jesus' prophecy: "Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, 'As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down'" (Lk. 21:5-6, NIV). And the prophecy came to pass on the 9th day of Av, when this magnificent structure was completely brought down, destroyed by Titus and his Roman hoards. According to the notes in my NIV Study Bible, Solomon's temple lasted some 382 years, from 968 BC to 586 BC. Herod's Temple, not completely finished until AD 64, only stood for 6 years until Titus completely destroyed it in AD 70.
Jesus often blasted the Pharisees and religious leaders, accusing them of teaching for commandments the doctrines of men (Matt. 15:9; Mk. 7:7), and I submit to you that if He were here now in visible form, He would do the same thing to religious leaders today. After two millenniums, many church leaders still do not get it. They are looking for a third temple to be built so that Jesus can come again. Faithful Jews are expecting this as well, believing that when Messiah comes, He will rebuild the Temple. At the end of 1999, there was a lot of fear in Israel that Jewish zealots or Evangelical Christians would attempt to blow up the Dome of the Rock, the Muslim Mosque which now sits on the Temple Mount, in order to make room for the third temple.
The Apostle Paul battled the Jewish mind set on every front, and because he was well versed in legalism, he would be grieved, but not shocked by this idea that God intends to build a third temple. Note what he wrote to the Colossian brethren: "If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, ..... (referring to things which all perish as they are used), according to human precepts and doctrines? ..... they are of no value in checking the indulgence of the flesh. If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth" (Col. 2:20-3:2, RSV). If the Apostle were here physically today, he would say to many Christians, "Are you so foolish? Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?" (Gal. 3:3, RSV). This is the reason I brought all this to your attention today. We have been looking for God in all the wrong places, trying to bring to pass in our own strength what already has been done by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the very sin that Adam and Eve committed which brought all this affliction and grief down on our heads. We'll talk more about that next week.
The Apostle Paul makes it very plain where the Temple of God is. If you want to see the third Temple today, on this, the 9th of Av, 2001, go look in the mirror! Paul, that great champion of grace, wrote, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own" (1 Cor. 6:19, RSV). And again, he said, "For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, "I will live in them and move among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people" (2 Cor. 6:16, RSV). Everything in the Old Testament is a type and shadow of the New Covenant. Paul declares in those two verses that WE ARE the fulfillment of God's command to Moses, "And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them" (Ex. 25:8). We ARE that sanctuary! He lives in us and dwells in us (Gal. 2:20), that we may live overcoming lives through the power of the Spirit and the indwelling Christ.
For men to continue to look for a physical third Temple is absurd, foolish, and down right silly. God knew that the folly of the human heart is to "worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made" (Is. 2:8), which I believe, is WHY He sent Titus to wipe out Herod's masterpiece. Then to be sure it would not be rebuilt, I believe that He authorized the Umayyad Caliph to build the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in AD 691-2. The scriptures declare over and over that God is totally sovereign in the lives of men, moving nations and kings around like so many chess pieces (Eph. 1:11). Listen as Jeremiah relates God's account of Nebuchadnezzar's actions in Israel's history: "Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, MY SERVANT, and I have given him also the beasts of the field to serve him" (Jer. 27:6, RSV). By the Spirit, Paul saw that God IS building a temple, "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" (Eph. 2:20-22, NIV).
God controls everything! So, at every turn in Israel's history and in ours, He has said to us, "I love you. I am your King. I alone am qualified to sit upon the throne of your life." He will continue to say it, to demonstrate it, and to prove it, until we understand "the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel, saying, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts" (Zech. 4:6, RSV).
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
"A Short History of the World"
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister, on 7/29/01
and last edited on 10/22/08.