Christ the Temple
Tuesday of Pentecost 11
22 August 2017
The temple on Mount Zion was the focus of the national life of Judah. However, the people made a category error when they began to think more of the building than the purpose for which God permitted them to build it. In the temple the Lord's glory dwelt as a foretaste of the kingdom to come when the Lord Himself would teach His people, dine with them, and send faithful shepherds to lead them to their ultimate salvation in the temple not built by hands (Mk 14:58). The Old Testament people increasingly confused the container for the thing contained, as though by maintaining the building they could satisfy, and even contain, the God who graciously condescended to be with them in the liturgy of the temple. As the period of the kings, with its political and military instabilities advanced, the people and their leaders (including the priests who ought to have known better) increasingly appealed to the presence of the temple in Jerusalem, as though God would never let the city that was gathered about the temple as chicks around a hen fall just because the building was there. The people had fallen into a fatal formalism that presumed as long as the infrastructure of the faith was maintained so was its substance.
 
The Lord Himself was ignored while his house, was sometimes maintained, sometimes renovated, and sometimes polluted. However, in every case the Lord was to a greater or lesser extent ignored. The formalistic worship of Judah gave rise to the presumption that the Lord would never let His house suffer foreign invasion. But Judah forgot that the Lord did not build a house for His own needs (1Ki 8:27), but so that they would be able to access His mercy in a specific place (Ps 27:4; 65:4), and receive the absolution delivered by the sacrificial system. They began to think that the house on Mt. Zion was there for God's benefit, instead of theirs. Puffed up with spiritual pride they took credit for building and maintaining this building, "Look, O God, what our hands have done for You!" Their half measures began to be taken for worship and service to God, while they ignored God's gracious service to them in the temple liturgy.
 
Finally, God would have no more of this mockery. He sent foreign kings and armies who tore down not just the city, raping the virgin daughter of Jerusalem, but also completely destroyed the temple, emptying its treasury. The very temple accouterments thought to satisfy God's need for opulence were paraded away from Jerusalem in mockery of the people's unbelief, with great lines of  groaning and weeping captives following behind. The building had not saved them. Their hope now could only be in God their Savior. After their captivity in Babylon they returned to rebuild the temple, which when dedicated inspired only more weeping and lamentations, because it was a puny shadow of the house built by Solomon (Ezra 3:12). The house of beauty was no longer there. Yet God had promised to build a greater and more glorious house for the people of God and that He would call all nations to bring offerings into it. The second temple was certainly not the long promised temple.
 
That temple was yet to come. Christ Himself was the temple of God among men, being the incarnate tabernacle of God (Jn 1:14). What once was promised through the house built on Mt. Zion, was now brought to its fulfillment in Christ. Both temple and presence were now inseparable. As people flowed to that temple, who was Christ, the temple of the Church was also rebuilt by Christ Himself. They are now also inseparable. The people of God are in Christ and Christ makes the people of God who they are. We are the called and precious ones in Him. After the fulfillment of the promise of the temple in Christ, the Romans came to Jerusalem (70 A.D.) and destroyed the third and final building built on that site. The only temple that we need now is Christ.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo

"The Jewish nation no doubt became worse after it ceased to have prophets, just at the very time when, on the rebuilding of the temple after the captivity in Babylon, it hoped to become better. For so, indeed, did that carnal people understand what was foretold by Haggai the prophet, saying, 'The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former' (Hg 2:9). Now, that this is said of the New Testament, he showed a little above, where he says, evidently promising Christ, 'And I will shake all nations, so that the chosen of all nations shall come in' (Hg 2:7 LXX). In this passage the Septuagint translators give another sense more suitable to the body than the Head, that is, to the Church than to Christ, and say by prophetic authority, 'The things shall come that are chosen of the Lord from all nations,' that is, men, of whom Jesus says in the Gospel, 'Many are called, but few are chosen.' (Mt 22:14). For by such chosen ones of the nations there is built, through the new testament, with living stones, a house of God far more glorious than that temple was, which was constructed by King Solomon, and rebuilt after the captivity. For this reason, then, that nation had no prophets from that time, but was afflicted with many plagues by kings of alien race, and by the Romans themselves, lest they should fancy that this prophecy of Haggai was fulfilled by that rebuilding of the temple."

Augustine, The City of God, 18.45
Psalm 84

How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion. O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob!  Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed! For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!  (ESV)
Prayer
Almighty God, You have given us the true Temple in Christ our Lord, and built us into a kingdom and priests in Him. Preserve us from complacency and presumption. Keep us in Christ whose true presence builds the Church. Amen.
 
For Brenda Blackwell, as she undergoes therapy that the surgeon's hands would be guided and that she would be restored to health
 
For Lutheran teachers everywhere, that they might exhibit Christ in their lives and speech
 
For the catechumens, that they might be prepared to confess Christ
Art: Albrecht DURER,  The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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