Posts tagged ‘temple’

The Wall

Then Eliashib the high priest and the other priests started to rebuild at the Sheep Gate.   Nehemiah 3:1

Every summer my family would go to Riviera Beach, Florida for two weeks. One of my favorite pastimes was building a sand castle on the beach. The first time I tried to build one, I would just begin to see it take form when a large wave would come to destroy the whole thing. I tried building further from the shore, but there wasn’t enough moisture in the sand to hold its shape. So I finally learned to build a large wall and a moat before I even started to build the sand castle. This then prevented the waves from destroying my precious, but vulnerable, work of art. 

The Israelites returned from Babylonian captivity to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem that had been destroyed some 70 years earlier. Nehemiah tells us that the process of rebuilding the temple began first with rebuilding the Jerusalem wall for the same reasons I learned to build a wall and a moat around my sand castle. Israel had many enemies who would love to destroy the temple at the first opportunity. The same is true today. In 2 Corinthians 6:16 Paul writes the “…we are the temple of the living God.” And just like in Nehemiah’s day, we are to build a wall of protection around our temple. But what does that look like? Does that mean I need to withdraw from the world and build a physical wall of protection between me and people who do not believe in God?  That doesn’t make any sense when we remember that Jesus tells us to the salt of the world which requires contact with those who do not have God’s amazing flavor in their lives. The answer lies within Nehemiah’s decryption of how the Jerusalem wall was rebuilt.

We discover in the third chapter of Nehemiah that the high priest began the work on the wall by rebuilding the Sheep Gate. The high priest began the process, not the chief architect or master builder or head deacon or building committee chairperson. No, it was the high priest who started to rebuild at none other than the Sheep Gate. In Luke 23 we see that Jesus, our High Priest and Lamb of God, began rebuilding the wall of  protection around the temple to be built in each one of His followers as He withstood the attacks of the earthly high priest and the Roman governor. Jesus went to the cross and nailed our sins to that cross as He died for you and me. There is no greater protection than rendering our sins powerless in our own lives. Jesus began the wall of protection that would extend to every human being who had ever existed, did exist, and would exist in the future. But the story of protection doesn’t end there.

Nehemiah chronicles the process in chapter 3 by telling us that THEN the son of this person and that person rebuilt the next section, and BESIDE him was…, and THEN there was…, and BEYOND him was…, and the NEXT GATE was….  This goes on until the end of the chapter when we read in verses 31-32, “Then he continued as far as the upper room at the corner. The other goldsmiths and merchants repaired the wall from that corner to the Sheep Gate.” And so the wall was repaired all the way back to the beginning point at the Sheep Gate.

Jesus involves us, you and me, in the rebuilding and repairing of the wall of protection around the temple. Could it be that Jesus created the church so that His followers would come together in prayer, unity, fellowship, ministry, and service to others for the purpose of building a wall of protection around His people, His temple on earth? That means you help me build the piece of the wall that I need most while I help you build the piece of the wall you need most.  We all have different vulnerabilities and weaknesses. We all have issues and struggles. We are all involved in a spiritual warfare against principalities and powers not of this earth. When I read Nehemiah 3 with the Church of Jesus Christ in mind, I see a picture of this person next to that person beside another person, and beyond her was yet another person. And though they were all working on the same wall of protection, they each had their own specific part to play in a particular area of expertise.

It makes me realize that perhaps we should be asking questions like: What part of the wall am I working on? Who is next to me? Who is just beyond me? And am I working on the wall Jesus is building, or am I working on my own wall?

Are You Building a Box or a Temple?

… the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia…   Then God stirred the hearts of the priests and Levites and the leaders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of the Lord.    Ezra 1:1, 5

God dwelled with His people in the Temple during Old Testament times. The Temple was the center of spiritual life, a place of refuge, and the place from where God’s saving grace emanated. The Jews had turned their back on God and thus His dwelling place on earth, the Temple. And so the Temple was destroyed and plundered by the Babylonians while the Jews were taken into captivity for 70 years. What a story. God’s favored people turned from Him, lost their Temple and their moorings in life along with it. 

But the most interesting part of this story is how God’s people rebuilt the temple which would allow God to dwell with them once again. If I were a Jew living in this story, I would have been looking to my priests and leaders to develop a plan, communicate with me and my friends, and inspire us all to rebuild the Temple. God, however, did not begin the process with His people. He began by stirring the heart of Cyrus who had conquered the Babylonians. Cyrus was touched by God before the priests knew what was coming. It was only after the God-inspired proclamation from Cyrus that the Jews would even have the courage or the means to rebuild the Temple.

With this proclamation in hand, God stirred the hearts of the priests and then the rest of the people to be about the business of submitting to Him by building a dwelling place for Him to be in their midst. They listened to Cyrus and trusted that God had spoken through him even though they felt far superior to him in a spiritual sense. They could have refused to believe that God would speak to someone like Cyrus. But they did listen. They set aside their preconceived notions about whom God speaks to. They did not have God in a box. At least not at that moment in time. 

Today, God dwells within us. We read in 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:16 that we are His Temple. In 1 Corinthians 15:31, we are told to submit to God, to die to self daily. In this way we rebuild God’s Temple within our hearts each day. But life happens. Schedules overwhelm us. Work, play, chores, and daily responsibilities take our focus away from God and His Temple within. And in the process of surviving the onslaught of life, we too often limit God’s activity to the church or those whom we deem worthy of His presence. We only look for Him among the people we think have built a Temple for Him to dwell within already. We compartmentalize our lives into spiritual and sacred parts. And so we can’t imagine God being in anything secular. We end up putting God in a box where there are only people we deem worthy of His presence. We put people in boxes. And we put God in our own special box as well. But a box is not a Temple. A box is a box. Need I say more?

Are you limiting God’s sphere of influence in your life? He may be talking to you through someone you feel superior to. Make a list of these people, even if you don’t want to feel that way. Ask yourself if you are willing to hear a proclamation from the people you feel superior to. Here is a sample list to get you started: Liberals – Conservatives, Rich – Poor, Educated – Uneducated, Atheists – Christians, Physically challenged people -Physically superior people, Welfare recipients – Working people.

Make your own list. And then ask yourself if you are willing to seek God where He is active in any place, any circumstance, and any person. God speaks to everyone on the planet. God does not exist in a box. It’s time to get rid of our boxes, and with them our feelings of superiority. May you allow God to build His Temple for you rather than you building a box for Him. 

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