From Tent to Temple - George H. Warnock
CHAPTER 6 - THE TEMPLE OF HEROD THE GREAT
The restoration Temple of Zerubbabel served its intended purpose for many generations; but as it has always happened with the temples of God, invariably they come to desolation and ruin. Oh, that men might learn the clear teachings of scripture. Teachings for which God's chosen ones have suffered great persecution and even martyrdom: The Most High God dwelleth not in temples made with hands! God in His mercy provides His people with these instruments of His grace to teach them, to lead them, to draw them closer to Himself. And man in the perverted state of his heart takes the instruments of God's grace and makes of them religious idols and garments of hypocrisy, in a vain attempt to gain approval and favor in His sight.
This is what happened in the nation of Israel, and this is what has happened throughout the era of the Church. What God intended as an outstretched arm to draw men unto Himself... we accept it from His hand... push God to one side... take the thing He has given us... change it... pervert it... mutilate it and then give it back to Him in pride and arrogance, thinking we have done Him a great service!
For what meaneth a building, a temple, a shrine to the Most High God? What does He care about the blood of bullocks and goats? What does He care about offerings of incense, and candelabras, and domed temples, and vestments, and stained glass windows, and holy water, and priestly turbans...?
How difficult it has been for God's prophets to penetrate into the hearts of God's erring ones and cause them to see and acknowledge the folly of their religious rituals! Sometimes their word had to be very hard, and very severe:
"Take away your sacrifices," God had to say through Isaiah the prophet. "I don't want them! You are killing oxen to please Me? Go ahead and kill a man! You want to present Me with a lamb for a sacrifice? Go, cut off a dog's neck and give Me that! You want to bring the blood of your oblations into My presence? Bring swine's blood... it's all the same to Me!" (See Isa. 66:3.)
And why does God speak this way? Because these offerings that God once ordained through Moses were only symbolic and only acceptable when they were brought to God with a humble and contrite heart, awaiting the day when the Lamb of God would come on the scene to put away sin "by the sacrifice of Himself." They were only pleasing to God when the sinning Israelite would bring these out of a repentant heart and a sorrowful spirit because he had sinned against the LORD. But now they bring them with a proud and arrogant heart, rebelliously going their own way, and thinking they can give God some kind of religious offering to appease Him. The beautiful temples that God ordained throughout Israel's history were only intended as a place where He might meet with His people through sacrifice. He would put His Name there. And it was only a valid temple because He foresaw and foreordained a spiritual Temple in the fullness of time to take its place. As if God needs a house to live in! As if Messiah wants a beautiful home in Jerusalem so He can have a nice resting place when He returns from His wearisome travels to the four corners of the earth!
"Thus saith the LORD,
The heaven is my throne,
And the earth is my footstool:
Where is the house
That ye build unto me?
And where is the place of my rest?...
But to this man will I look,
Even to him that is poor
And of a contrite spirit,
And trembleth at my word"
"For thus saith the high and lofty One
That inhabiteth eternity,
Whose name is Holy;
I dwell in the high and holy place,
With him also that is of a contrite
And humble spirit,
To revive the spirit of the humble,
And to revive the heart of the contrite ones"
This is the only temple God wants for His home. Nor has He ever desired any other. As we consider briefly some of the characteristics of the Temple of Herod, let us notice the strong parallel that exists between the situation as it was then in the days of Israel, and the way it is now in the Church, And if we know and understand that out of the midst of that era there has emerged the very Kingdom of God, can we not have great hope and confidence that in this hour of great corruption and apostasy there is yet to be revealed a glorious and triumphant Church?
1. The Temple Was Magnificent
The old Temple of Zerubbabel had gone into ruin and decay, and Herod the Great undertook to rebuild it and to make it exceedingly magnificent, something like the one that Solomon had built many centuries earlier. Not that he had any particular love for the Jewish people. But Israel was under Roman occupation and Herod hoped that he might pacify the Jews with this show of religious splendor, and perhaps cause them to forget their age-long vision of national greatness. In this way He would not only secure his own kingdom, but he would strengthen their ties with Rome, which were often strained to the breaking point as Rome sought to subjugate this proud, yet greatly weakened people.
Remnants of the old Temple were still there, but it was virtually rebuilt to its very foundations, and so thoroughly that it could almost be considered a new Temple. History relates that Herod employed thousands of men on the task, and that the Temple was ready for use after a few years. To complete it, however, it took "46 years" (as we are told in the scriptures), the rest of the time having been spent in the construction of the various other buildings that comprised the Temple complex. It was exceedingly beautiful, as we gather from what is said about it in the Bible, and in the writings of ancient history.
2. The Priesthood And Leadership Were Gilded
Jesus was constantly confronting the leaders with their sin and hypocrisy, and warning the people to "beware" of them. They were beautiful from without, like polished sepulchers, but "within were filled with dead men's bones." We hear such words as "hypocrites," "serpents," "vipers," coming from the lips of the lowly Nazarene, as He denounced their hypocrisy.
3. They Were Encumbered With Tradition
Jesus accused the leaders of giving more honor to their traditions than they did to the Word of God. How up-to-date and modern! What God has said doesn't seem to matter anymore. Rather, "This is the way I was brought up... This is what our church teaches... These became one of the dogmas of our church, away back in such-and-such a time..." But what does God say about it? Or does that not matter?
4. It Became A Financial Institution
We can bring forth some very good reasons why we must raise this money, and we have many ways of justifying the means that are used: "God needs this for His work..." and so forth. Certainly God wants His people to be liberally minded, and who will give of their means for the work of God. But He is going to overthrow the tables of the money chambers in the House of God once again. They had a good reason for what they were doing too. The people must have a lamb, or an ox, or a turtledove, for their sacrifices. They were just making a very convenient way for them to get what they needed. But Jesus drove them all out of the Temple, and said, "Make not my Father's house an house of merchandise" (Jn. 2:16). We have a lot of that today, and God is going to deal with it: making merchandise of the gifts or talents or ministries that God has given, or that men have devised for the sake of base gain. The prophet said the time would come when the Canaanite would be driven out of the House of the LORD (Zech. 14:21). The Canaanite was the "trafficker" or the "merchantman" of that day!
5. Jesus Recognized It As God's House
In spite of all that we have observed about the corruption of Israel's last and most apostate Temple, Jesus called it "my Father's house." The reason is evident. God had instituted it in the beginning, and despite the veneer, and the pride, and the corruption that prevailed, the true people of God were still there; and for their sakes God would not abandon it until His purposes had been accomplished. There was still a Zecharias, a faithful priest... with Elizabeth his wife... to whom the Lord promised a son that was to be named John, a mighty prophet who would seek to turn the hearts of the people back to God. There was still an Anna, a faithful intercessor who departed not from the Temple, but waited continually upon God as she longed for the restoration of His glory. There was still a Simeon, who cherished the promise of one day actually seeing the Messiah, and he would live to see Him there in that old Temple. And there was still a righteous Joseph, and a pure virgin Mary, to whom God gave the promise of the Holy Child Jesus, who would be taken to that Temple as a babe in arms, to be dedicated to the Lord.
This is the stage that was set for the appearing of the Messiah. And perhaps this is the most encouraging example we have in all scripture as to God's grace and power, and His ability to bring forth the glory and the hope of Israel with such a background as this.
In this present hour, when religious hypocrisy and sham abound everywhere, how encouraging it is to know that in the midst of it all there is still a holy remnant. Perhaps a very small remnant, that is true. But God always takes delight in working through a "remnant"... that He might have all the Glory!
Jesus wept over the City of Jerusalem in His day, and lamented, "How often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate" (Lk. 13:34-35). He did not come to restore the old Temple, but to build a new one. He Himself would be the "chief corner stone" of the new Temple, and He Himself would be the Glory. When He had completed the work that He came to do He entered the gates of the old Temple for the last time, and left it again to suffer without the Camp. A new Temple was in the making! The old one would be given over to the abomination of desolation, and eventually committed into the hands of a ruthless Roman general to destroy. And in the centuries to come the very site of the Temple would become the site of a temple erected to the honor of a false prophet; for the Mosque of Omar now stands on that very spot.
It would seem by this sovereign act of God that He would forever restrain Israel from erecting a structure and a system that He had utterly rejected and given over to desolation, as prophesied by Daniel (Dan. 9:26-27). The old temples had served their purpose. God would now bring forth a New Temple that would abide forever.
Chapter 7 - The Temple Which Is His Body
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