We are peeking in on the greatest of all old testament worship services. Solomon has sacrificed well over a thousand semi-loads of livestock. He has drained enough blood to fill an olympic swimming pool. To musical accompanyment four animals were slain every second over the course of seven days. The Israelites were thinking, “Wow, now that’s worship!” But… we ask, “What is this to us?”
Romans 15:4 tells us; “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” We need to ask, “Father what are you saying to us through this old testament spectacle? How could this blood bath set to music possibly be intended for our instruction?
For myself, its the contrast between the old and the new covenants that is most instructive. It doesn’t take much math to calculate that our new covenant is vastly superior to the old. And, even though ours is better, it is important to note that, with God, things still center around the place of sacrifice – that place God has chosen for his house. In this grand moment in Jewish history the place of God’s choosing was the newly built temple which Solomon had just dedicated saying… “I have built You a lofty house, and a place for Your dwelling forever.” Then….
…. the Lord appeared to Solomon at night and said to him, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice…. For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.
Let’s allow the apostle Paul to introduce the contrast. He believed that the new covenant revelation that should grip our hearts with awe and wonder was under appreciated by the Corinthian church as well, so he asks….
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 1 Cor 6:19
Has it really dawned on us yet what we have become; what we have been caught up into; the vast superiority of our circumstance in Christ? How are our heart’s effected, knowing that the high and holy God, who once accepted freight train loads of animals as sacrifice, now dwells in our hearts? Instead of attending a worship service where the fire of God consumes the animals offered up by priests, we contrastingly host, in our hearts the very presence of God. We have become the house of God! But, if our hearts are now the house of his choosing and the place of sacrifice, what is the sacrifice? Hold on to that thought.
Jesus is our great high priest who offered himself as an unblemished sacrifice, accomplishing what the blood of bulls could never do. The Lamb who was slain has become the resurrected King of Life, who, astonishingly and I believe scandalously, lives in our hearts!
Perhaps this is why Solomon instructed us in Proverbs to watch over our hearts with all diligence. Perhaps he knew that, being entrusted with our own powers of choice, we would naturally carry some co-preisthood responsibility with God to tend the alter of our hearts; that place where both our deepest desires and motives (some still very earthly) exist alongside God -most high and most holy. It is the intimate association between God and us that is the scandal. This also reveals God’s great wager; that the Spirit will one day prevail over the flesh.
Most, if not all, of the fire in our temples, comes (always graciously but not without pain) to confront and to consume the idolatrous things we are holding onto as our own. A heart that does not live out of the awareness that it is no longer its own must experience fire to live. God is not cruel or in any way a spoil sport. He just doesn’t want us to invest in and hold onto things that we cannot ultimately keep which will hurt us along the way and will ultimately and certainly break our hearts.
Back to the missing sacrifice I referred to earlier. It turns out that the missing sacrifice is our flesh. While it is true that it was crucified and buried with Christ, the death of our flesh plays out through the course of our lives. In our hearts where the Spirit dwells, intertwined with us with his eyes and heart perpetually searching for the things that are secretly crouching at the door preparing to ambush and waylay us, Christ invites us to lay down all of ourselves so that he can, in turn, give us all of himself. It is here, within this dynamic, that we work out our salvation with fear and trembling. It here where Jesus Christ becomes Lord in truth. In the depths of our hearts, his story is being etched as we take up our cross daily and follow him. It is from this well we draw when we give an account of the hope that is within us. If we can grasp just a few kingdom principles, new chapters of Jesus’ conquest of this earth through us will be published in increasing volumes such that one day His word in us shall cover the earth as the oceans.
Us being the temple of God must be what prompted John to say….
My dear children, you come from God and belong to God. You have already won a big victory over those false teachers, for the Spirit in you is far stronger than anything in the world.
We know it was never the blood of animals that God was after. He was always in the process of restoring things to his original design which was mankind relating freely to him and reigning over creation out of a fountain of new life from within. It is through the ever-expanding kingdom of God that this will happen. When we grasp that it is in this kingdom into which we have been caught up and that, the kingdom was inaugurated in Christ and, that Christ is in our hearts, the tide of battle between the two kingdoms (that of light and of darkness) will shift dramatically….
The people of God will see themselves in an entirely different light. Our identities will not just be that of sinners saved by grace with our vision consisting of little more than the hope of not being left behind. Instead of having a tread-water-till-Jesus-comes destiny. We will rise up and intentionally receive the kingdom that Christ has been offering us since he was last here. With a righteously indignant anger, we will, out of our rest in Christ, wage a violent war against the powers of darkness, reclaiming all that was stolen during our season of mistaken identity. We will live with a new confidence in the reality that all things really are possible with God, and that as children of light we are vastly superior to our enemies. Truth will topple the strongholds in and around us and the rule of Jesus will expand one heart at a time until indeed his kingdom has come on earth as it is in heaven.
So be it Lord.