Not Just A Building
Read 2 Chronicles 7:1-3 (ESV)
As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house. When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “For he is good, for this steadfast love endures forever.”
Why was the temple so significant to the Israelites?
The church isn’t a building. You’ve probably heard this truth emphasized by pastors, including myself, before. The church is the body of Christ. It is believers in Jesus Christ joined together in Him as one family. While going to church is a very important spiritual discipline, we know that our church buildings are just the place where we gather together as believers to worship Him. God doesn’t physically live in any particular church. Given that, as we read through the Old Testament, especially books like 2 Chronicles that put so much emphasis on the importance of the temple building, we may be somewhat confused. Why was the temple so important to the people of Israel?
The book of 2 Chronicles, like 1 Chronicles, was written by Ezra, the priest, and retells aspects of the history of God’s chosen people to a remnant of Jews returning from exile. The books were originally joined together as one book. It opens with the 40-year reign of King Solomon from 971-931 B.C. Remember, King David had wanted to build the temple, but in 1 Chronicles 17, the Lord had told him that his son would be the one to build the temple instead. 1 Chronicles 22:8-9 tells us the reason why. God wanted a “man of rest” to build the temple rather than a warrior who had blood on his hands. David had been a great warrior king, but God promised that his son would be king during a time of peace. Thus, his son, Solomon, would be the king to build the temple of God. Completing the construction of the temple and dedicating it to the Lord is the crowning accomplishment of Solomon’s reign and is the major event discussed in the first half of 2 Chronicles.
After recording Solomon’s death, the focus shifts to the division of the kingdom. 2 Chronicles mostly ignores the northern kingdom, Israel, because of its apostasy. Instead, it focuses on the nation of Judah, especially the “good kings” like Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Hezekiah, and Josiah who sought to follow in the footsteps of King David and restore worship in the temple to the Lord their God. Their history had proven that whenever they were walking in obedience to God, they were blessed and victorious. But whenever they forsook the Lord and broke their covenant with Him, He allowed them to be disciplined and removed His blessings from them.
In 2 Chronicles 11:13-17, we read that Jeroboam, the king of Israel, instituted pagan, cult worship and drove out the priests of the Lord. So, many priests and Levites in the northern tribes left their homes and went to Judah so that they could worship the Lord in his holy temple. They understood that the temple was not just a building. The temple was the place where God’s presence dwelled among them. When Solomon had dedicated the temple to the Lord and placed the Ark of the Covenant in the Most Holy Place, God’s glory dramatically filled the temple in the forms of cloud and fire from heaven (2 Chronicles 5-7).
Ezra likely focused on these aspects of the Israelites’ history because he wanted the returned exiles to remember that they were only as strong and as unified as they were obedient to worshiping the Lord in His temple, in the way that He commanded. In 2 Chronicles 36, the last chapter, Ezra recorded the fall of Judah to Babylon—the ultimate reminder to the returned exiles that apostasy leads to ruin and punishment. Finally, he ended the book with the decree of King Cyrus of Persia that God’s people should return to Judah and rebuild the temple of the Lord. Ezra was urging the people he had led back home to Judah to worship the Lord in His new temple. God had faithfully ensured that the line of David, the temple, and the priesthood were preserved and restored.
Friends, the temple is where we see the Scarlet Thread of redemption. The temple is a foreshadowing of Christ and the body of Christ, His church. The temple was so important to the Jews because that was where God’s presence dwelled. It was the place where they could go to worship Him. But now, in 1 Corinthians 3:16, Paul said of the church, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” The body of Christ, His church, is made up of those of us who are believers in Jesus Christ. The temple of God isn’t a physical building anymore. It is a spiritual temple (1 Peter 2:5) and the Holy Spirit dwells in us!
Lord, it is so amazing to me how You worked out Your plan of salvation for Your people. From the beginning, You were making a way to restore our relationship with You so that we could once again live with You. Help me to faithfully worship You and represent You well to the world around me. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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