Several hundred years after Solomon built the Lord’s temple, the prophet Isaiah wrote of God laying the foundation for a future one.
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)
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. The yearning for these idols and the immoral behavior involved in their worship grieved the Lord and had brought this harsh judgment upon the people. But it worked – faced with their consequences, they turned their hearts back to God and began to worship Him once again, allowing God’s rich blessings and protection to flow to them.
Having fulfilled God’s purposes, Babylon’s government would then fall, and their conqueror, Medo-Persia, would allow the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem to rebuild their 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 King 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 heavenly temple, one to be constructed by and for the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. It will be the spiritual temple of His eternal kingdom, built using the living stones of believers who carry the Holy Spirit in their hearts. Rather than having an altar for daily sin sacrifices, it will have the altar of Christ’s one-time sin sacrifice on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead, for our cleansing and purification.
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 others, to support the poor, to love and forgive those who offend us, to pray and worship Him, and to share the good news of His kingdom with those who have not yet heard or are now ready to listen.
God’s temple is made up of many different types of believers from every nation on the globe. He has given us all diverse gifts of service which we then seek to use under the guidance of our Master Craftsman to add more living stones to His temple, and to strengthen and encourage the stones which are already 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 shared by J. Vernon McGee about an individual in Moses’ time who was given a divine assignment to work in God’s tabernacle, the predecessor of the temple in Jerusalem. This tabernacle was mobile and, unlike the stone temple which was built later, it would frequently be moved around in the desert, as God directed. It was basically a sturdy 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 sin sacrifices, he began to feel very insignificant in his own duties. Finally, one day, he got discouraged, and just threw his tent peg away.
Little did he realize that the next time the tabernacle was set up, a strongwind 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.
Such may also be the case with us today as we seek to serve and honor God by working to build up His living and eternal temple. When we receive our role in the divine temple of God’s kingdom, it may seem at times to be very insignificant to us, and we are sometimes tempted to compare our duties to the work we see God giving 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 our 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 times of discouragement. Help us to persevere and to keep working by Your side to build and strengthen Your eternal, heavenly temple, to Your glory. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.