I’ve posted a new sermon, from Acts 7. In it, I discuss how the temple was never intended to be the center of Jewish worship, but pointed to the promises of God, which were the center. An excerpt:
The Temple was the place where the people of Israel went to meet God. The pillar of fire and cloud that led them through the wilderness, symbolizing God’s presence, always rested where the tabernacle was supposed to go. It was in the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, where God’s presence was most symbolically seen, where God made His presence known to the people. Later the Holy of Holies was seated in the Temple, when the Temple replaced the Tabernacle. It represented fellowship with God.
But it also represented man’s alienation from God, at the very same time. Fellowship with God was barred. The Holy of Holies was barred to the people. Only the High Priest could enter it, and then only once a year, and then only with blood sacrifice. The Temple, while being a promise of fellowship, was ultimately a constant reminder that they did not have fellowship because of their sins.
But the promises of God pointed to a time when that would change. The promises spoke of a new covenant, when God would have mercy on them and forget their sins, and then He would be their God and they would be His people. The prophets spoke of one who would come and clear the way to fellowship with God, who would make the crooked roads straight, and lay low the mountains and raise the valleys, who would make plain the way to the Kingdom of Heaven.
And when Jesus came, and died on the cross to pay the price for our sins, He did exactly that. And the heavy curtain in the temple that separated the Holy of Holies ripped in two, showing that man was no longer barred from fellowship with God. In Jesus Christ, every believer could approach God directly. Jesus was the way that man could truly know God. Jesus was, and is, the true Temple.
Of course, when the veil ripped in two, it showed something else. The Ark, and the mercy seat, and all the other furniture of the Temple, had long ago been carried off by the Assyrians and the Babylonians and the rest. The Temple worship had been destroyed by God because of the idolatry of the people of Israel. The Temple had become a monument of the failure of man to save himself, to be able to approach God truly through ceremonies and ritual. The Temple had become a constant reminder to Israel of their need for a redeemer, a high priest who would forever clear the obstacles between God and man. Jesus was and is that redeemer, but because they had refused to see the true message of the Temple worship, they didn’t recognize Jesus when He came.
We are all at the same risk, when we elevate ‘church’ above Jesus; the body above the head; the size of the congregation above the content of the service; the means above the end. Jesus did not come and die for us to have the opportunity to have potluck dinners or women’s retreats or long committee meetings about the building fund. He came so we could have fellowship with God.
The link’s on the sidebar, under ‘Sermons’.