Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Building Permits

Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them.  Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and the prophets of God were with them, supporting them. – Ezra 5:1-2

Probably around 538 B.C., the Persian king Cyrus issued a decree to allow the rebuilding of the temple.  When the exiles returned and began to rebuild, they began to encounter opposition.  Religion itself is not necessarily offense to the flesh, so long as it benefits and respects the fallen nature and gives it its due.  The king’s decree had been intended to placate the religious instincts of the various conquered and subject peoples.  As far as the empire was concerned, there was no difference between the Lord God of the Jews and the gods of the Assyrians or the Elamites or some other tribe.  But God is different. 

True spiritual worship of the one true and living God denies the primacy and ascendency of the flesh.  It rejects the restrictions and rules of the carnal nature.  Building, specifically rebuilding, the temple typifies the resurrection life of the believer and exalts the supremacy of the Spirit.  This led to resistance on the part of some of the non-Jewish people who had been settled in the region around the ruins of Jerusalem. 

Oddly enough, the first thing their enemies did was offer to help:

Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the LORD, the God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers' houses and said to them, Let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us here (Ezra 4:1-2).

The old nature is always ready to jump in and help us out.  Like Zerubbabel, though, we have to understand that the flesh can have no part in the new life.  It has been crucified and put to death in Christ.  All it can offer is corruption, all it does will pass away.  We are building for eternity, to stand the test of time and the purifying fire: 

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it.  For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—  each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done (1 Corinthians 3:10-13).

When their offer of help was rejected, the adversaries began to plot against the builders, sending letters to the king to stir up suspicions and rumors of rebellion.  The Christian seeks always to live in peace.  We are not troublemakers, yet, over and over, this is exactly what we are accused of being.  Because we do not wish to go along with the fashions of the world, because we cling to “old-fashioned” truth and the values associated with it, we make the modern, secular world uncomfortable. 

We are loyal subjects of the True King.  Our enemies are the ones who have rejected the King’s authority and follow after the usurper, the rebellious prince of this world.  They project their own rebellious thoughts and intentions onto us.  We seem to have a secret.  We must be hiding something.  Because they have ulterior motives, they accuse us of having occult agendas. 

Sometimes the attacks get so intense that we forget our mission and purpose, that we are here to build the temple.  That is exactly what happened to those exiles.  Their enemies stirred up King Artaxerxes to issue a decree to stop the construction.  From about 530 B.C. to 520, work was halted and the temple sat exposed and unfinished.  This brings us to the point of the passage quoted above. 

The temple of God is built by the Word, the prophetic, anointed Word.  It is cannot be completed by secular force.  Like the “weapons of our warfare”, our tools for building are not carnal, but mighty through God (2 Corinthians 10:4).  Instead of pulling down strongholds, they are mighty to build up in the kingdom of God.  It is the truth and our faith in the truth that encourages and empowers us to press on in the face of the adversary's denunciations and contrary decrees. 

The temple is never going to be built if we wait for permission from those who do not understand the things of the spirit.  We do not need secular authority or the permission of temporal power.  We have the words of Jesus Himself -- And Jesus came and said to them, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me (Matthew 28:18).  What He says, we can do.


USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

One of the many things I love about Jesus is thatHe is the foundation and the cornerstone; the rock upon which our faith rests and builds.
And nothing can destroy it.

Excellent post, Dwaine!
I've been thinking a lot about building recently. Thankfully I don't hafta contend with any bureaucrats for building permits, since what I'm building on is above their pay grade and authority.

Of course, the clueprints belong to God, not me. :)

mushroom said...

Amen, Ben. Thanks.