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Temples and Cathedrals

Query for the Month

of

May 2013

Next up-date: June 1st 2013 (God willing).

Previous "Queries" are available. Click here to access.

Some perpetual questions ....

Is there really an immortal soul?

Do you know the difference between the "love" that is of Christianity
and the "love" that is of the world?
Click here to find out!
 

Click on the link for a good book on the character of our God which you can download for free and share amongst your friends.   It's called "Light through Darkness" and is one of the best books on this subject that I have ever read! 

(when you get to the site just click "cancel" and it will let you in.  Then click "order" to obtain a copy. )

In the meantime, try this site.    And here's one where you can read it online.

 

Here's another great site on the character of God written in a way that's very easy to understand.

In this reply the old-fashioned words of the KJV have been modernised, and in some instances, the man-made punctuation has been altered for greater understanding.  Some of the comments are adapted from books in my library.  No recognition is given because they are not intended as authorities, but are used because they express my understanding clearly.  All the ideas expressed in this article, right or wrong, are my own.   


Query: 

Acts 17:24-30.

“God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that He is LORD of heaven and earth, dwells not in temples made with hands [man-made]; neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though He needed any thing, seeing He gives to all life, and breath, and all things; and has made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the LORD, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us: for in Him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring’.

“Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like to gold, or silver, or stone, engraved by art and man's device.

“And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men every where to repent . . .” 

If God does not need temples and cathedrals on earth, why do we have them?

Answer:  

God was describing the original altar in the Garden of Eden to Moses when He told him that He wanted His people to have simple stands of earth on which to burn their sacrifices.  “And the LORD said to Moses, Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, You have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. You shall not make with Me gods of silver, neither shall you make to you gods of gold. An altar of earth you shall make to Me, and shall sacrifice thereon your burnt offerings [of dedication], and your peace [thank You] offerings, your sheep, and your oxen: in all places where I record My name I will come to you, and I will bless you. And if you will make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone: for if you lift up your tool upon it, you have polluted it [for then it would be man-made]. Neither shall you go up by steps to My altar [a “high place”], that your nakedness [pride] be not discovered thereon”.  Exodus 20:22-26.

The first direct mention in the Bible of such an altar is when Noah built one when he left the ark.  Genesis 8:20. Then we are told, “Abram passed through the land to the place of Sichem [aka Shechem], to the plain of Moreh [about 1900BC]. And the Canaanite was then in the land. And the LORD appeared to Abram, and said, ‘To your seed will I give this land’: and there built he an altar to the LORD who appeared to him. And he removed from there to a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he built an[other] altar to the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD. And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south”.  Genesis 12:6-9.

When Jacob returned to Canaan after his exile many decades later, he also built an altar in Shechem (the old one must have weathered away) and gave it a name. 

“And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padanaram; and pitched his tent before the city. And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for a hundred pieces of money. And he erected there an altar, and called it “Elelohe-Israel” [(For) God – the God of Israel]”.  Genesis 33:18-20.

But, during the exodus from Egypt the people of Israel who had been impressed by the Egyptian temples, desired to have a similar dwelling place for their God.  But all they had were tents, so they set aside a special one to keep Him in.  We know about this because of what happened.

***************(Begin Quote)

Exodus 33:

1 And the LORD said to Moses, Depart, and go up from here, you and the people which you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, “To your seed will I give it: and I will send an Angel before you; and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite”: [go up] to a land flowing with milk and honey [on your own]: for I will not go up in the midst of you; for you are a stiffnecked people: lest I consume you in the way [because of your sins].

[This was just after the golden calf worship of Baal incident.]

4 And when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned: and no man did put on him his [religious] ornaments [Yes they had them too!]  5 For the LORD had said to Moses, Say to the children of Israel, “You are a stiffnecked [proud and disobedient] people: I will come up into the midst of you in a moment, and consume you: therefore now put off your ornaments from you, that I may know what to do to you”.

6 And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments [some of which were earrings] by the mount Horeb [aka Mount Sinai].

7 And Moses took the tabernacle [the special tent], and pitched it without [outside] the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the “Tabernacle of the Congregation [The peoples’ tent]”.  And it came to pass, that every one which sought the LORD went out to the Tabernacle of the Congregation, which was without the camp.

***************(End Quote)

So when God saw that they were determined to have such a place, He said to Moses, “And let [allow] them [to] make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.  [However,] according to all that I show you, after the pattern of the [heavenly] tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall you make it [not like the ones on earth]”. Exodus 25:8-9.  So that’s how the wilderness tabernacle and its animal sacrifices started!

Then as time went on and God’s people became more prosperous in worldly things, king David wanted to build his LORD a house even better than the one in which he himself lived, so he asked the local prophet to speak to the LORD for him.  This was about 1000BC.  2 Samuel 7:1-16.  The answer he received was a gentle “No, but thanks for the thought, I prefer My tent”.  However, because not only David but the majority of the people also wanted this new building, one which would outrival the other nations round about them, Solomon was eventually given the job.  Sadly, the magnificent building that he caused to be erected has commonly been known as “Solomon’s temple” and only rarely as God’s.  “And Solomon made [a political] affinity with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and took Pharaoh's daughter, and [married her and] brought her into the city of David, until he had made an end of building his own house, and the house of the LORD, and the wall of Jerusalem round about. Only the people [still] sacrificed in high places, because there was no house built to the name of the LORD, until those days [the tabernacle had been stored away as old-fashioned].  And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father: only he [also] sacrificed and burnt incense in high places”.  1 Kings 3:1-3.  But the new temple temple was also built following a plan which God provided.

However, things went from bad to worse over the next few centuries, e.g. “King Ahaz [of Judah] went to Damascus [about 720BC] to meet Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, and saw an altar that was at Damascus: and king Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the fashion of the altar, and the pattern of it, according to all the workmanship thereof. And Urijah the priest built an altar according to all that king Ahaz had sent from Damascus: so Urijah the priest made it against [before] king Ahaz came from Damascus. And when the king was come from Damascus, the king saw the altar: and the king approached to the altar, and offered thereon. And he burnt his burnt offering and his meat [flour] offering, and poured his drink offering, and sprinkled the blood of his peace offerings, upon the altar.   

“And he brought also the [old] brass altar, which was before the LORD, from the forefront of the house, from between the altar and the house of the LORD, and put it on the north side of the [new] altar. And king Ahaz commanded Urijah the priest, saying, ‘Upon the great [new] altar burn the morning burnt offering, and the evening meat [flour] offering, and the king's burnt sacrifice, and his meat [flour] offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their meat [flour] offering, and their drink offerings; and sprinkle upon it all the blood of the burnt offering, and all the blood of the sacrifice: and the [old] brass altar shall be for me to inquire by [used only on special occasions]’.

“Thus did Urijah the priest, according to all that king Ahaz commanded”. 2 Kings 16:10-16.

It was this temple that Nebuchadnezzar’s men destroyed in 586BC.

Zerubbabel and his companions built another one on the same site after the return from Babylonian exile, about 520-515BC.  Ezra 3:1-13.  But this one was not as grand as the original so there were mixed feelings at its consecration.  “But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy . . .”  Ezra 3:12. The second apartment of this building was empty because before the first temple’s destruction the prophet Jeremiah and some friends had hidden the ark (which represented the throne of God) and some other religious artefacts of importance in a cave and they had not been recovered.  This made the ceremonies of the Day of Atonement (which centred around that room) redundant, and its importance faded from the minds of men.

Many centuries later, the Roman-appointed king of Israel, Herod, began a refurbishing of it which lasted a long time.  “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up’. Then said the Jews, ‘Forty-six years was this temple in building [refurbishing], and will you rear it up in three days?’ But He spoke of the temple of His body. When therefore He was risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said”.  John 2:19-22.

Sometime before this He had met a Samaritan woman (who were in opposition to the Jews) and “The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain [in Samaria]; and You say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship’.  Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe Me, the hour comes, when you shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship you know not what: we know what we worship: for [the knowledge of] salvation is of the Jews. But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship Him. God is a Spirit [a spiritual Being]: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth [wherever and however He says]’.” John 4:19-24.

The message of salvation is communicated to men through human agencies, but the Jews had sought to make a monopoly of the truth which is eternal life.  They had hoarded the living manna, and it had turned to corruption like its earthly counterpart.  Regarding the original bread from heaven, “Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning [use it all up today]. Notwithstanding they hearkened not to Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank: and Moses was wroth with them [for they had spoiled the lesson]”.   Exodus 16:19-20.  In like manner, the religion which they tried to shut up to themselves became an offense.  They robbed God of His glory, and defrauded the world by a counterfeit of the gospel.  They had refused to surrender themselves to God for the salvation of the world, and therefore they became agents of Satan for its destruction.  See Matthew 23:15. 

I repeat, by doing this, the people whom God had called to be the pillar and ground of the truth had become representatives of Satan.  They were doing the work that he (Satan) desired them to do, taking a course to misrepresent the character of God, and cause the world to look upon Him as a tyrant.  The very priests who ministered in the temple had lost sight of the significance of the service they performed.  They had ceased to look beyond the symbol to the thing signified.  In presenting the sacrificial offerings they were as actors in a play.  The ordinances which God Himself had appointed were made the means of blinding the mind and hardening the heart.  God could do no more for man through these channels.  The whole system must be swept away, and it was some forty years after the crucifixion, never to be rebuilt. 

It was in the cleansing of the temple at the beginning of His ministry, that Jesus announced His mission as the Messiah, and entered upon His work.  John 2:13-17.  When He did it again at the end of His time, He was forecasting its destruction.  Matthew 12:12-16. 

That temple, erected for the abode of the divine Presence, was originally designed to be an object lesson for Israel and for the world.  From eternal ages it was God's purpose that every created being, from the bright and holy seraph to man, should be a temple for the indwelling of the Creator.  Because of sin, humanity ceased to be a temple for God.  Darkened and defiled by evil, the heart of man no longer revealed the glory of the Divine One.  But by the incarnation of the Son of God, the purpose of Heaven is fulfilled.  God dwells in humanity, and again, through saving grace, the heart of man becomes again His temple. 

Thus God designed that the temple at Jerusalem should be a continual witness to the high destiny open to every soul. 

But the Jews had not understood the significance of the building they regarded with so much pride.  They did not yield themselves as holy temples for the Divine Spirit.  The courts of the temple at Jerusalem, filled with the tumult of unholy traffic, represented all too truly the temple of the heart, defiled by the presence of sensual passion and unholy thoughts.  In cleansing the temple from the world's buyers and sellers, Jesus announced His mission to cleanse the heart from the defilement of sin, – from the earthly desires, the selfish lusts, the evil habits, that corrupt the soul.  “The LORD, whom you seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, whom you delight in: behold, He shall come, says the LORD of hosts.  But who may abide the day of His coming?  And who shall stand when He appears?  For He is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: and He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver”.  Malachi 3:1-3.    

“Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you are”.  1 Corinthians 3:16-17.  No man can of himself cast out the evil throng that have taken possession of the heart.  Only Christ can cleanse the soul temple.  But He will not force an entrance.  He comes not into the heart as to the temple of old; but He says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him”.  Revelation 3:20. 

When this happens (and we call it “conversion”, He will come, not for one day merely; for He says, “I will dwell in them, and walk in them . . . and they shall be My people”.  2 Corinthians 6:16.  Speaking of the Son to the Father, it is said, “He will subdue our iniquities; and You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea”.  Micah 7:19.  His presence will cleanse and sanctify us, so that we may be a holy temple to the LORD, and “a habitation of God through the Spirit”.  Ephesians 2:21, 22.   

Let’s go back to the Samaritan woman at the well for a moment:

Patiently Jesus permitted her to lead the conversation where she would.  Meanwhile He watched for the opportunity of again bringing the truth home to her heart.  “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain,” she had said, “and you say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship”.  Just in sight was Mount Gerizim.  Its temple was demolished, and only the altar remained.  The place of worship had been a subject of contention between the Jews and the Samaritans.  Some of the ancestors of the latter people had once belonged to Israel; but because of their sins, the LORD had to allow them to be overcome by an idolatrous nation.  For many generations they were intermingled with idolaters, whose religion gradually contaminated their own.  It is true they held that their idols were only to remind them of the living God, the Ruler of the universe; nevertheless the people were led to reverence their graven images.    

When the temple at Jerusalem was rebuilt in the days of Ezra, the Samaritans wished to join the Jews in its erection.  (Ezra 4:1-5.)  This privilege was refused them, and a bitter animosity sprang up between the two peoples.  The Samaritans built a rival temple on Mount Gerizim.  Here they worshiped in accordance with the Mosaic ritual, though they did not wholly renounce idolatry, which they added to it.  But disasters attended them, their temple was destroyed by their enemies, and they seemed to be under a curse; yet they still clung to their traditions and their forms of worship.  They would not acknowledge the temple at Jerusalem as the house of God, nor admit that the religion of the Jews was superior to their own.    

In answer to the woman, Jesus said, “Believe Me, the hour comes, when you shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.  You worship you know not what: we know what we worship: for [the knowledge of] salvation is of the Jews”.  By talking to her (and others) Jesus had shown that He was free from Jewish prejudice against the Samaritans.  Now He sought to break down the prejudice of this Samaritan against the Jews.  While referring to the fact that the faith of the Samaritans was corrupted with idolatry, He declared that the great truths of redemption had been committed to the Jews, and that from among them the Messiah was to appear.  In their sacred writings they had a clear presentation of the character of God and the principles of His government.  Jesus classed Himself with the Jews as those to whom God had given a knowledge of Himself.   

He desired to lift the thoughts of His hearer above matters of form and ceremony, and questions of controversy.  “The hour comes,” He said, “and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship Him.  God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth”.   

Here is declared the same truth that Jesus had revealed to Nicodemus when He said, “Except a man be born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God”.  John 3:3, margin.  Not by seeking a holy mountain or a sacred temple are men brought into communion with heaven.  Religion is not to be confined to external forms and ceremonies.  The religion that comes from God is the only religion that will lead to God.  In order to serve Him aright, we must be born of the divine Spirit.  This will purify the heart and renew the mind, giving us a new capacity for knowing and loving God.  It will give us a willing obedience to all His requirements.  This is true worship.  It is the fruit of the working of the Holy Spirit.  By the Spirit every sincere prayer is started, and such prayer is acceptable to God.  Wherever a soul reaches out after God, there the Spirit's working is manifest, and God will reveal Himself to that soul.  For such worshipers He is seeking.  He waits to receive them, and to make them His sons and daughters.   

When Moses was about to build the sanctuary as a dwelling place for God, he was directed to make all things according to the pattern shown him in the mount.  Moses was full of zeal to do God's work; the most talented, skillful men were at hand to carry out his suggestions.  Yet he was not to make a bell, a pomegranate, a tassel, a fringe, a curtain, or any vessel of the sanctuary, except according to the pattern shown him.  Therefore God called him into the mount, and revealed to him the heavenly things.  The LORD covered him with His own glory that he might see

the pattern, and according to it all things were made. 

So to Israel, whom He desired to make His dwelling place, He had revealed His glorious ideal of character.  The pattern was shown them in the mount when the law was given from Sinai, and when the LORD passed by before Moses and proclaimed, “The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin”.  Exodus 34:6-7.    

Israel had chosen their own ways.  They had not built according to the pattern; but Christ, the true temple for God's indwelling, moulded every detail of His earthly life in harmony with God's ideal.  He said, “I delight to do Your will, O My God: yea, Your law is within My heart”.  Psalm 40:8.  So our characters are to be built “for a habitation of God through the Spirit”.  Ephesians 2:22.  And we are to “make all things according to the pattern,” even Him who “suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps”.  Hebrews 8:5; 1 Peter 2:21.   

The words of Christ teach that we should regard ourselves as inseparably bound to our Father in heaven.  Whatever our position, we are dependent upon God, who holds all destinies in His hands.  He has appointed us our work, and has endowed us with faculties and means for that work.  So long as we surrender our will to God, and trust in His strength and wisdom, we shall be guided in safe paths, to fulfil our appointed part in His great plan. 

But the one who depends upon his or her own wisdom and power is separating him or herself from God.  Instead of working in unison with Christ, he/she is fulfilling the purpose of the enemy of God and man.    

Conclusion:

Jesus was in the court where were the offering boxes, and He watched those who came to deposit their gifts.  Mark 12:41-44.  Many of the rich brought large sums, which they presented with great display.  Jesus looked upon them sadly, but made no comment on their liberal offerings.  Presently His countenance lighted as He saw a poor widow approach hesitatingly, as though fearful of being observed.  As the rich and haughty swept by, to deposit their offerings, she shrank back as if hardly daring to venture farther.  And yet she longed to do something, little though it might be, for the cause she loved.  She looked at the gift in her hand.  It was very small in comparison with the gifts of those around her, yet it was her all.                                                        

Watching her opportunity, she hurriedly threw in her two mites, and turned to hasten away.  But in doing this she caught the eye of Jesus, which was fastened earnestly upon her.    

The Saviour called His disciples to Him, and bade them mark the widow's poverty.  Then His words of commendation fell upon her ear: “Of a truth I say to you, that this poor widow has cast in more than they all”.  Luke 21:3.  Tears of joy filled her eyes as she felt that her act was understood and appreciated.  Many would have advised her to keep her pittance for her own use; given into the hands of the well-fed priests, it would be lost sight of among the many costly gifts brought to the treasury.  But Jesus understood her motive.  She believed the service of the temple to be of God's appointment, and she was anxious to do her utmost to sustain it.  She did what she could, and her act was to be a monument to her memory through all time, and her joy in eternity.  Her heart went with her gift; its value was estimated, not by the worth of the coin, but by the love to God and the interest in His work that had prompted the deed.   

Jesus said of the poor widow, She “has cast in more than they all”.  Ibid.  The rich had bestowed from their abundance, many of them to be seen and honoured by men.  Their large donations had not deprived them of any comfort, or even luxury; they had required no sacrifice, and could not be compared in value with the widow's mite.     

It is the motive that gives character to our acts, stamping them with ignominy or with high moral worth. 

It is not the great things which every eye sees and every tongue praises that God account most precious.  The little duties cheerfully done, the little gifts which make no show, and which to human eyes may appear worthless, often stand highest in His sight.  A heart of faith and love is dearer to God than the most costly gift.  The poor widow gave her living to do the little that she did.  She deprived herself of food in order to give those two mites to the cause she loved.  And she did it in faith, believing that her heavenly Father would not overlook her great need. 

It was this unselfish spirit and childlike faith that won the Saviour's commendation.     

So why do we have great cathedrals and churches?  To hide this fact from those who think that they are worshipping the Creator!!


Who wants to add (or subtract!) from these thoughts? I won't argue as I have stated,

but I will publish your Scriptures so that we may review all the words of God on the subject.

 

Next query. To be discussed from June 1st 2013

Ephesians 1:3-6

Blessed be the God and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: having predestinated us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He has made us accepted in the beloved.  

Is the die cast, or can we do something to change this apparent decision?

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