Build The Temple First
Seventy years had passed and the city lay in ruins. Its walls were broken down and the gates burned with fire. Nehemiah would refer to the once majestic Jerusalem as a city lying in “waste” (Nehemiah 2:17). Cyrus king of Persia, stirred up in spirit by the Lord, decreed that the people could return from the land of captivity to their home in Judah (Ezra 1). Along with 5,400 articles of gold and silver taken from the temple seven decades earlier, the captives made the long journey to Zion. The year was 536 B. C. Worship was restored at Jerusalem and the restoration of the Temple began (Ezra 3). The foundation was laid with great ceremony and old men weeping for the glory of the first Temple. Resistance to the building arose and work stopped nearly sixteen years. Finally in 520 B. C. the rebuilding of the Temple began in earnest and completed in 516 B. C. (Ezra 5). Nehemiah would come later and the walls of Jerusalem would be rebuilt in fifty-two days (Nehemiah 6:15).
It should not be lost on the student of scripture that unlike the wisdom of men, the walls of the city were not first built but rather the Temple. The walls of the city were built ninety-two years after the first group of captives returned. What we find in the wisdom of God is that strength and power comes first from the Lord. The Temple represented the protection of Jehovah upon the people; the walls represented the protection of the people by the people and for the people. First they needed to restore the worship to God before seeking to build walls of stone. Restoration begins first in building the Temple, then the walls.
In our life, restoration begins in building the temple of the heart before the work of building the walls of our lives. Often we seek to build walls of protection without the help of God and we struggle and fail. We have missed the point of Haggai 1:4 - "Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?" We cannot long serve God without establishing on our heart the temple of God. The walls of our life offer no protection. What gave the city of Jerusalem security were not the walls of stone but the stone of Zion. “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).
The heart must first be restored to proper worship and the temple of God’s grace must be established upon the foundation of our lives. Wisdom begins with the heart being established with trust in God and not trust in men. Building the temple is affirming the presence of the Lord. The temple is a place of holiness and purity. It is a place of security and safety. The captives first put their trust in the Lord. Their faith and courage in the face of discouragement led them to build the Temple of God. Our faith and courage will lead us in the challenges of life to build the temple of God upon our hearts.
There will be opposition to the building the temple of God upon our hearts as there was in the captive’s days. With the power of God we can overcome and succeed in setting up our own “Ebenezer” (1 Samuel 7:12) as the stone of help. Building the Temple first sought the help of God first. Let us build our temple of faith to the Lord. The walls will come later. First, build the temple.
By Kent Heaton
From Expository Files 17.3; March 2010