I love studying the Jerusalem Temple. There is so much that we can learn from it about who God is, who we are in Him, and how He sees us; and so much that we can apply to our everyday lives. When I was in Israel three years ago praying at the Wall, God spoke these words to my heart: “Take my Temple to the Nations,” and perhaps this blog is a first step. To me, the Temple so powerfully reveals who God is, or should I say “redefines” how our culture, believers and we have defined Him. After He made a covenant with the Israelites at Mt. Sinai, He made a way to dwell with them, a way for a holy God to dwell with sinful man, a way for man to draw near to Him, and that way was the Tabernacle or Temple. I love the fact that He dictated every last detail. The Temple was not something that man made up or designed, every detail was from God, and it was a reflection of His Tabernacle in heaven. So when we study the Temple, we are actually getting a glimpse or a look into heaven itself, how exciting is that?!!!
The Feast of Hanukkah is a celebration not only of the seemingly impossible victory of a small band of Maccabee’s over the Syrian army, but it’s also a commemoration of the Maccabee’s reclaiming the Temple (the 2nd Jerusalem Temple – later known as “Herod’s Temple”) from the Syrians who had defiled it. Here’s a re-cap of what the Syrians did…
In 169 BCE, “The daily sacrifices were discontinued. The Jerusalem Temple was converted into a Temple to Zeus. On the fifteenth day of the month of Kislev, the Syrian-Greeks erected an image of Zeus in the Temple. Ten days later (25th of Kislev), they began to sacrifice pigs to the idol upon the altar of the Lord.” (Messiah Magazine, Winter 2012)
The Maccabees established the 25th day of the month of Kislev as the date for the rededication of the Temple, and celebrated for eight days. The 25th of Kislev was chosen because it was the exact date that the first pig was sacrificed on the altar three years prior.
Sacrificing a pig in the Temple? That was the epitome of “unclean,” a horrible abomination to God, and the Syrians knew it. The glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple (Ex. 40:34-35; 1 Kings 8:11; 2 Chron. 5:14; 2 Chron 7:1-2). His manifest presence actually resided in the Holy of Holies. The book of Leviticus is full of the laws of clean and unclean, and the laws of ritual purity which collectively speak volumes about how holy God is. For example, nothing could come into the Temple that had any relationship whatsoever with death. Individuals would have to go through weeks of rituals before they could re-enter the Temple if they even touched anything that was declared unclean. The High Priests had to take off their sacred linen garments after being in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur (Lev. 16:23) because the garments had been exposed to God’s holiness and if the people came near them, they would die. That’s how holy our God is, and He’s still the same God!! (Mal 3:6). I love to study these laws because to me, they reveal so much about the nature of God. He is SO holy and his glory so powerful and pure and so life-giving that anything impure or remotely related to death would literally be annihilated in his presence. Throughout the bible, when individuals such as Ezekiel, Daniel, and John saw a glimpse of God, their immediate reaction was to fall on their faces. (Ezek 1:28; Rev. 4:10; Dan 10:9).
When I look at nature, most recently when I visited Lake Tahoe, I think about how God created this incredible beauty with the sound of His voice, His spoken word (Ps. 33:6,9) The intensity of God’s power, glory, creativity, and life that could speak nature into existence is unimaginable to me. Then what seems even more unimaginable is that this same God who displays power, glory, holiness and life beyond what we can comprehend, took death (the absolute antithesis of all that He is) upon Himself so that I could have relationship with Him. He desired me that much, I am that wanted by Him, that valuable, special, and important to Him. Then, the fact that I can enter into the Holy of Holies (Heb. 10:19; 4:16) says everything about who I am and how God sees me. I have Yeshua’s worth (2 Cor. 5:21), His ability to actually be in God’s presence. Because of what Yeshua did for me on the cross, God sees me as He sees Yeshua — as holy, blameless, cleansed, pure, worthy enough to be in His presence (Col. 1:22; Eph 1:4). Truly, there is no one like our God!! The more I learn about who God is as He revealed Himself in the Temple, the more I appreciate what Yeshua did for me, the more in awe I am that I can enter into the Holy of Holies, and the more I see myself as He sees me!
Unfortunately however, in my opinion, we have lost that view, that picture of God’s holiness as revealed in the Temple. We have lost it as a culture, as a body of believers, and as individuals. In doing so, we have once again – just like the Syrian army – defiled God and His Temple. First, our culture – It’s very obvious that our modern culture is unashamedly anti-God, anti-bible, and it blatantly promotes and advertises anti-God beliefs and behavior in the areas of sex, money, character, integrity, respect, marriage, sexual identity, sanctity of life, family values, and the list goes on. Our culture seems to even enjoy shaking its fist at God, or putting Zeus in the temple, saying, “We don’t care what you say, we refuse to worship you. We will worship our own gods. We will do what is right in our own eyes.”
Second – as a body of believers we defile God and His Temple. Now this may not be as obvious as in our culture, in fact, it is quite nicely disguised, but destructive and damaging nonetheless. We as a body of believers have reduced God from how He is revealed in the Temple in all of his splendor, glory, holiness, and power — to a mere “BFF or best friend” whom we use to get what we want. Instead of falling on our faces before Him in worship, we have completely lost sight of what an awesome privilege it is to be able to enter into His presence, into the Holy of Holies at any moment. I could write an entire study on the rituals the high priests had to follow to enter in for just a few moments once a year! I think we owe those high priests an apology for how lightly we take the privilege of entering into His presence! Even our current day worship songs are all about “me,” what He has done for “me!” Very few are about “Him.” One of my favorites is “Holy, Holy, Holy” by Paul Wilbur (you can find the words at the end of this blog). When I listen to these words, they draw me into the Holy of Holies as God truly inhabits these praises (Ps. 22:3).
We have reduced God to a mere “personal shopper,” someone that we go to when we want something or when we want to find the right thing for our lives. We think of Him in terms of “What can you do for me? or What have you done for me lately?” We rightly emphasize the importance of getting people saved and of doing good deeds, but we have lost sight of who God is and His holiness. It’s only when we have an accurate picture of who God is, that we can fully appreciate all that Yeshua did for us at the cross, and that we can have an accurate picture of who we are in Him and how He sees us.
Last – as individuals – we defile God and His Temple. The bible tells us that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3:16; 1 Cor 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16). As I mentioned in Blog #4, Yeshua has freed us from having to take in anything that is not from God – fear, anger, others’ anger, bitterness, resentment, unforgiveness, self-condemnation, rejection, blame, accusations, shame, performance, worthlessness, criticalness, pride, lies about ourselves or about God, etc. etc. We need to see ourselves as royal priests (1 Pet 2:9) in charge of our Temples, God’s Temple. The priests and levites were in charge of maintaining the temple, keeping it in perfect condition, safe, secure, and protected. Yeshua has given us the authority and responsibility as royal priests to guard and protect our temples, to not allow any of the above list in (or if it gets in, not to let it stay in). All of the things on that list defile God, they defile His Temple, and they are an abomination to Him! They are just like the idols and pigs of the Syrians. We are freed and we are called to only allow into our Temples that which is from God (Phil 4:8).
How are you defiling your temple, God’s temple today? What are you allowing into your temple that is an abomination to God? At this Feast of remembering and celebrating the rededication of the temple, the cleaning out of the idols and unclean things, what needs to be cleaned out of your temple? God has given you “His cleaning solution” — your spiritual weapons of warfare (confess it as sin, forgive others and yourself, cancel satan’s authority, ask God to speak His truth to your heart; as well as an ongoing practice of blessing others, speaking praise & thanksgiving to God for what He’s done and what He will do).
Let’s stop defiling God’s Temple! Let’s fix our eyes and our thoughts on who God is, what Yeshua has done for us, who we are in Him, and how He sees us. Then we will experience deep, unshakeable joy and intimacy with God that can never be taken away, no matter what others do, no matter what happens in our circumstances, no matter what the government does, no matter what the nations of the world do. Then we will be able to stand firm like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (Ps. 1:3)
Ex. 40:34-35 – Then the cloud covered the Tabernacle, and the glory of the LORD filled the Tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
1 Kings 8:11 – And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled his temple.
2 Chron 5:14 – and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the temple of God.
2 Chron 7:1-2 – When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. The priests could not enter the temple of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled it.
Lev 16:23 – Then Aaron is to go into the Tent of Meeting and take off the linen garments he put on before he entered the Most Holy Place, and he is to leave them there.
Mal 3:6 – I the Lord do not change.
Ezek 1:28 – This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.
Rev. 4:10 – the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever.
Dan 10:9 – Then I heard the sound of his words; and when I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in a deep sleep with my face to the ground.
Ps. 33:6,9 – By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth. For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded and it stood firm.
Heb. 10:19 – Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Yeshua…
Heb. 4:16 – Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
2 Cor. 5:21 – God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
Col. 1:22 – He has reconciled you by Yeshua’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation.
Eph 1:4 – He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.
Ps. 22:3 – But You are holy, O You who inhabit the praises of Israel.
1 Cor 3:16 – You yourselves are God’s temple and God’s Spirit lives in you.
1 Cor 6:19 – Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.
2 Cor 6:16 – We are the temple of the living God.
1 Pet 2:9 – But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Phil 4:8 – Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
Ps. 1:3 – He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.
HOLY, HOLY, HOLY (by Paul Wilbur)
Holy Holy Holy
Is the God of Israel
Elders bow in worship
As the angel voices swell
Fragrant clouds of incense
Swirl around Your throne of grace
Lord we bow in worship
At the brilliance of Your face
Holy Holy Holy is the Lord
Holy Holy Holy is the Lord
Holy Holy Holy
Is the song that Heaven sings
All creation praise Him
Come to reign forever
King of kings and Lord of lords
Lift your head O Zion
Open wide you ancient doors