16 Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily. Isaiah 28:16 NKJV
Several hundred years after Solomon built the Lord’s temple, the prophet Isaiah wrote of God laying the foundation of a future one. Solomon’s temple would ultimately be destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar’s invading army, and most of the surviving people of Judah carried off into exile in Babylon. During their seventy years there, the people would turn away from their worship of idols, once and for all. These idols and the immoral behavior involved in their worship disgusted the Lord and brought His harsh judgement against the people. This successfully turned their hearts back to God and they began to worship Him once again.
Having fulfilled God’s purposes, Babylon’s government would fall, and their conqueror, Medo-Persia, would allow the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and reside there. The rebuilt temple was only a shadow of its former grandeur under Solomon. It was later built up and improved by Herod under Roman rule, but even this magnificent structure with its huge stone walls was not the temple that Isaiah was prophesying about.
Isaiah was divinely writing about a coming heavenly temple, one to be constructed by and for the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. It will be the spiritual temple of His coming eternal kingdom, built using the living stones of believers who carry the Holy Spirit in their hearts. Rather than having an altar for daily sacrifices, it will have the altar of Christ’s one-time sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection from the dead for us.
4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:4-5 NKJV
Our sacrifices today are to do the will of God, to graciously share with and support the poor, to love and forgive others, and to share the good news of His kingdom with those who have not yet heard.
God’s temple is made up of many different types of people. He has given us diverse gifts of service which we seek to use as master craftsmen to add more living stones to the temple and to strengthen the stones which are there.
What types of gifts has He given us to use? Here are some, but there are many more:
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ… Ephesians 4:11-12 NKJV
There is a story about an individual in Moses’ time who was given a divine assignment to work in God’s tabernacle, the predecessor of the temple. This tabernacle was mobile and, unlike the stone temple which was later built in Jerusalem, it would frequently be moved around in the desert. It was basically a tent made of waterproof skins which covered and protected the ark of the covenant and the other holy articles of worship there.
As the story goes, this individual was responsible for one of the tent pegs of the tabernacle. He carried it with him whenever the tabernacle was on the move and drove it into place each time it was set up. As he observed some priests carrying the holy articles and others performing the sin sacrifices, he began to feel very insignificant in his duties. Finally, one day, he got discouraged and threw his tent peg away.
Little did he realize that the next time the tabernacle was set up, a wind came up and began to blow the tent away. Without his tent peg, the whole foundation of the tabernacle was suddenly at risk. He never realized the divine importance of the role God had given him.
When we receive our role in the divine temple of God’s kingdom, it may seem at times very insignificant to us. We are sometimes tempted to compare our duties to the work we see God has given others to do.
In God’s eyes, our work is extremely important. He alone knows its true significance and the reason He has given us the assignment.
Just as anyone who scatters seed may not see the trees that grow from them, we may not see the fruits of our labor that the Lord has given us to do. But He certainly does, and one day in eternity, we will, too.
Lord, encourage us as we work for You, even when we see no fruit from our labor. Lift us up in time of discouragement. Help us to persevere and to keep working by Your side to build and strengthen Your eternal, heavenly temple.