Thursday, December 26, 2019

Foundations of the Temple

"The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.” Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you” (Zechariah 3:4).

When the Jews returned from the Exile, they began rebuilding the temple. The physical temple represented the nation gathered around the throne of God. The stones and wood used to build the temple represented the people, and these people were unclean. They, as a nation, were carrying the sins and judgments of Israel, and those sins and judgments had not been removed. God would not come back into the physical temple until the people were clean.

Haggai had started the people building the temple again. Up to this time they had been worshipping around the altar, but the temple had not been finished and consecrated. It would be necessary to cleanse the temple, but how could that be done? There were many rituals of cleansing in the sacrificial system, but they all had to do with smaller offenses committed after the tabernacle or temple had been set up. There was nothing in the Law that dealt with the serious offenses that had led to the temple’s complete destruction a century earlier. How could the sacrificial system be started up again, if everything was unclean? How could the temple (representing the nation) be given a full cleansing?

God gave the answer to Zechariah during the night of the 24th of the month Shebat in the second year of Darius’ reign (Zechariah 1:7). Zechariah was given a series of eight visions. In the fourth vision, recorded in Zechariah 3, the prophet saw Joshua the high priest standing before God. Joshua was not able to minister because he was covered with uncleanness. Since the high priest represented the nation, this was a sign of the uncleanness of all the people, and of the temple they were building. Satan was standing in the court, accusing Joshua of unworthiness, and thereby preventing the temple from being built.

Then Zechariah saw God pass judgment in heaven. God rebuked Satan and declared that He had chosen Joshua. He declared Joshua clean, and thereby cleansed the nation and the temple. God stated that He was able to do this because in the future the Messiah would come and remove the people’s sin. In the morning, Zechariah was able to tell the people that the nation had been cleansed, and that God was going to return to the temple.

The contemporary, evangelical church seems to be affected with the pagan notion that that which is physical is necessarily tainted. While God chose the ornate and symbolic design of the temple to represent His glory and His people, we tend toward the plain and the functional in designing our churches. Look carefully at your church building and see what you can learn about God from it.