… And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers' houses, old men who had seen the first house, 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, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away. – Ezra 3:11-13
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
A Temple Eternal
One of the accusations brought against Jesus was that He spoke of destroying the temple then raising it back up again in three days (Matthew 26:61, Mark 14:58). John’s gospel gives us the statement directly from Jesus in context (John 2:18-22). Jesus had driven the moneychangers from the temple. The Jews gathered round and asked Him, more or less, who He thought He was taking that kind of action on His own. What sign are You going to show us, they wanted know, to justify Your usurpation of authority. Jesus replied that if they were to destroy the temple, He would raise it up again in three days. Literalism and Asperger’s being nothing new, someone objected that they had been building on the temple for forty-six years.
Like the older generation -- those representing the Law of Moses and the priesthood of Aaron, in the days of Ezra, some compare the elegant simplicity and grace of the Gospel to the stately, formal, complex, and, perhaps, baroque requirements of the Law and find themselves grieving for the loss. They fail to see the beauty and liberation of Christ’s Melchizedek priesthood. They weep, longing for the orderliness of Aaron and the solidity of the stones raised by Solomon.
The heart is soft. It is subtle and easily moved. The temple of stone does not move. It is set in time, still, a monument to God, a testimony that lasts through generations. Though it may stand for five hundred years, a hundred lifetimes of the priests who serve within, it, too, is temporal. Even if not overthrown by the hand of man, wind, rain, and dust, heat and cold, sun and ice, root and tendril, even the shifting of the bedrock below will bring it to nothing, leave it a ruin buried like dry bones in the earth.
Man, every man, is eternal. Our bodies pass away and are laid aside like the tabernacle of Moses, but the golden ark at the heart in which dwells “the law of the Spirit of life”, overshadowed by the presence of God himself goes on forever.
The order of service in the temple was predictable, regular, and precise. It could be intricate and elaborate, but it was comprehensible. It could all be known by the experts. This is not the case when the heart of man becomes the dwelling of God, when the Spirit asserts His undeniable precedence over the letter. Aslan is not a tame lion. The Law of Moses can be made to jump through man’s hoops. The wild Law of Christ, the Law of Love cannot, and we must, instead, surrender to it.
It is no wonder that some weep as other shout for joy. Freedom is a fearful thing, but the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.