Returning and Building the Temple
In the Old Testament, the Israelites sinned and turned away from God. Their kingdom was destroyed and they were exiled. Seventy years later, God bestowed His grace upon them and turned back to them, moving the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia to make a proclamation in all his realm, allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem to build their temple. (Ezra 1:1-2) So in the year 538 B.C., the first group of returned exiles, under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua, went back to their country to rebuild the house of God. (Ezra 2:2, 64-68) Because of opposition from external enemies (Ezra 4:23-24) and the selfishness of the returnees (Haggai 1:4-6), the reconstruction of the Holy Temple was halted for around 14 years. With the encouragement of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, they started again and finally in the year 515 B.C., the Holy Temple was completed. (Ezra 5:1) In the eight month of the second year of King Darius, after speaking through the prophet Haggai, God spoke these words through the prophet Zechariah, ˇ§Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Return to me,' declares the Lord Almighty, 'and I will return to you,' says the Lord Almighty.ˇ¨ (Zechariah 1:3)
Our Lord wanted to use the preceding words to exhort those returnees. On the one hand, God did not want to see these exiled and returned people sin again and emulate their ancestorsˇ¦ betrayal. On the other hand, God wanted to remind the people to return to Him. At that time, the people were known as ˇ§returneesˇ¨. In status and position, they had been the ˇ§exiledˇ¨ and had lost everything. Now because of the grace of God, they had returned and were building the Holy Temple in the Lordˇ¦s name. Still, God reminded them that it was not just the physical return of their bodies to the City of God, but the return of their hearts to God that was more important. The Lord affirms spiritual reliance on Him, so man must turn away from his evil way and evil practices of the past (Zechariah 1:4), abide by Godˇ¦s word, keep His covenant, and follow His way. Only that is truly returning to God.
The New Testament church of today has been chosen by the grace of God, and we have been saved from sin and corruption. Once we were lost in transgression, exiled by sin and the traditions of the world. But the great love of God has made us alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5), so that we can return to God and be holy. Therefore, many times through the words of the apostles God has reminded us, who being of the New Testament have faith as our foundation to be the children of Abraham (Galatians 3:7), not to be circumcised in the flesh, but to be circumcised in the heart so that we become true Jews (Romans 2:29). If we sincerely turn to God, we must put off the old self of the former way of life and all moral filth (Ephesians 4:22, James 1:21), put on the new self (Ephesians 4:24), and clothe ourselves with Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14). Therefore, we must often ask ourselves introspectively, ˇ§Have we put off the corrupt practices we had before we believed in the Lord?ˇ¨ Through the redemption and sacrifice of His beloved son, God sought and found our group of lost souls. Of course He hopes that we no longer live the debauched life of a prodigal son inside the kingdom of His beloved son. He wishes that we will turn to Him with one mind, and build up the church for Him. For only those who truly turn to the Lord in spirit can successfully build the house of the Lord, just as the people of Israel in those days had to turn to God in their hearts before they succeeded in finishing the Holy Temple.
Thank God for cherishing and choosing us Gentiles to be taken under His name, and as well building the ruined temple through us! " 'After this I will return and rebuild David's fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things'ˇ¨ (Acts 15:16-17) In the history of the Israelites there were 3 instances of the building of the Holy Temple, but the houses of the Lord were all destroyed later by the betrayal and sins of man. In this end time, God has changed the method of the building of the temple. He wants to build up the church, so that we who are the temple of the Holy Spirit can be successfully built up because of the return and submission of man in spirit to God.
ˇ§My son, give me your heart and let your eyes keep to my ways.ˇ¨ (Proverbs 23:26)
By: Daniel To