Showing posts with label temple. Show all posts
Showing posts with label temple. Show all posts

13 June 2016

The City on the Hill

The old city on the hill - Approaching the end of his three and a half years of teaching and healing, Jesus told his disciples, 'Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing'. (Matthew 23:37-39)

A city on a hill - Ostuni, Italy
Jesus means us to take these verses very seriously indeed. In Matthew's account they're sandwiched between some of the most severe criticism of the religion of the day and a terrifying promise of the destruction to come. The city of Jerusalem and the temple at its heart were pulled down in 70 AD and replaced by a Roman city. The people died in the assault or were thrown out; this is what Jesus predicts and describes.

Jesus is well aware that we, too, are hemmed in by religious traditions and habits on the one hand, and inflexible structures on the other. And in the same way, he wants to gather us together under his wings. But are we willing? If we are not, he will criticise our religious tradition and allow our structures to be destroyed in order to save us from our own error and foolishness. Let’s not mislead ourselves, religion and structure are central to much that we think and do.

The new city on the hill - This is the New Jerusalem, the bride of the Lamb, the church! In Revelation 21:2-3 we read, 'I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’ Revelation 21:9-11 tells us, 'I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb. And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.'

This new Jerusalem has no traditions and is not built of stone. We are the living stones it's constructed from! Jesus said, 'You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven'.

Sometimes we think in terms of our own, individual lights, and how they should not be hidden. It's not wrong to read the passage in that way, but surely what Jesus really has in mind is his people collectively, the church, his bride, the new city built on a hill - the city that 'cannot be hidden'. And this new city is not built on a foundation of traditions and human teaching and Sunday services. It's built on the foundation of Christ alone and it's driven by every breath he breathes, the wind of the Spirit of Christ.

The how – life in the city - So what do we get in place of tradition and structure? Church life is based on something far more flexible and adaptable, something much more organic.

Ephesians 4:11-16 reveals church life as Jesus intended it. 'Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.'

And here's the practical detail. 'To each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.'  (1 Corinthians 12:7-11)

And yet more detail from 1 Corinthians 14:26. 'When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.'

This is the new city on the hill that shines its light all around (not hidden under a jar). This is the church, the new Jerusalem, light in a dark world, individuals all bringing a contribution, building and equipping one another. This is who we are, it’s what we need to be doing.

See also


13 January 2013

Meet in houses

Choudhrie's steps, Part 2 of 21
< Clergy and laity | Series index | Small and informal >

For the second step in transforming church life, Victor Choudhrie urges us to meet in a different place. Instead of 'temples made by human hands' he recommends 'houses of peace'. What does he mean by this? How do we find 'houses of peace'?

Is there a house of peace here?This is Victor Choudhrie's second step for transforming the life of the church.

Move from meeting in temples to gathering in 'houses of peace'. 'God does not dwell in temples made by human hands'; rather He dwells in human hearts. For we are the mobile walking and talking temples of the living God, with a maximum of organism and a minimum of organization. Luke 10:5-9; Matthew 10:11-13; Acts 7:48-49; 2 Corinthians 6:16


As with step 1 there's a lot to digest. Once again, step 2 assumes the reader is part of a typical western church. We are comfortable with the idea of meeting as a large group in a spacious building, But Victor Choudhrie challenges us to read the New Testament with fresh eyes and open minds and calls us to meet somewhere entirely different. Let's unpack this a little.

Temple or house of peace? - Are we 'dwell[ing] in temples made by human hands'? Surely not! The Temple was in Jerusalem, not here in my town. Why does he say we are meeting in 'temples'?

What is the essence of a temple? It's a special place where people come to worship their chosen god. Is that what we do on a Sunday morning? Well, yes, in a way it is exactly what we do. We all know that the place where we meet is not special, yet we treat it reverentially. Or, if we hire a building once a week, although the building is ordinary we regard the gathering itself to be special in some way.

And what is a 'house of peace'? Reading the Luke and Matthew passages it's clear that travelling is involved here. When we arrive in a new place we're to search for a home where we will be made welcome. So rather than meeting in a special place, we might consider meeting in any home that will welcome us. That implies smaller numbers (200 people won't fit in a typical house) and it implies lack of organisation (no worship band, no pulpit, no rows of seats).

There are at least two ways of looking at this.

Mission or community? - The first one involves going out to find people of peace, spending time with them sharing the good news of Jesus, asking them to gather their close friends and family in their home, coaching them to lead the new house church so created and teaching them to repeat the process themselves. That's one view. This is what the disciples and early church did. Meeting as part of a small community in a home means you are part of a network of such meetings and actively planting out new ones.

The second way of looking at it is that the small meeting at home is a family, a stable group of people that love and care for one another, help one another out, build one another up, and encourage one another.

In practice, most home-based churches will have elements of both viral spread and family group. The proportion of the mix depends on environment. Where there is a large harvest in the local area the missional aspect may be the major one, where there are already many believers, the community aspect may the most widely expressed.

This second step requires additional, fundamental change of a most demanding kind. In the first step we lost our leaders, now we are losing our building!

How many conventional churches would be willing to take such a major and seemingly foolhardy step? Perhaps not many. And what sort church would do so? Perhaps the answer to that is one who's members are looking to follow Jesus closely and are paying attention to what he says.

Releasing resources - How much money and time does it take to manage church in 'temple' mode? Add up the cost of a building, either rented weekly or purchased outright, and the expenses involved in staff salaries, office space and equipment, lighting, heating and other running costs and the annual bill for just one church is very large. Now factor in the time people spend supporting all of this church infrastructure. The time and money absorbed by non-essential activities is immense.

Now multiply that by the number of churches (over a dozen in St Neots where I live) and you can begin to comprehend the resources that would be released if we all met in homes. Most of those resources could be used to support mission work, to help one another, and meet everyday needs in the community.

It's not that conventional churches don't spend time and money on the community or on mission, some make considerable efforts in that regard. But how much more could we do?

And here's the main point. How often do we stop and ask the Spirit of Christ to guide us in these things? If we asked him, what would he say to us? Would he command us, 'Go and make bricks and build a physical structure for me'? Probably not, that's what Pharaoh commanded the Israelites.

No, he is much more inclined to tell his people, 'Go in my name and feed the hungry, heal the sick, share the good news, look for the house of peace and the person of peace and allow me to build my church there, a body made of living stones'.

Probable responses - How will traditional churches receive the suggestion to move out of a 'temple' and into 'houses of peace'? As with step one there are three possibilities.
  1. Some may reject the step out of hand because it goes against church tradition and destroys what we have been accustomed to. Many may feel it's an unsafe and unwise move, a step into the unknown.
  2. Others may try to adjust what they already have. For example, they may stress the value of home groups and reduce the importance of the Sunday service in a large, central location. This meeting may become a celebration held once every month or two.
  3. And some might take hold of step two enthusiastically, replacing the main location altogether and focussing all their resources on growing healthy gatherings in homes.

Questions:
  • What arguments do you foresee being used to retain the use of a large meeting place?
  • Small and large meetings both have advantages and disadvantages, how many you can list?
  • What does Choudhrie mean by a 'maximum of organism and minimum of organisation'?

See also:


< Clergy and laity | Series index | Small and informal >

05 December 2012

More on the river

We need to be full of faith and urgent purpose to tirelessly pursue whatever it is that Papa gives us to do. But we also need to understand that without him we can do nothing and it's not about our actions but about his nature. The river verses in Ezekiel and Revelation help us understand this.

Life in the desert along the Nile
We need to be like Esther (Esther 10:4-9), people who will not shrink back in the face of danger but will be bold.

Just as Esther fearlessly facilitated life for her people, so we need to be fervently taking hold of the life that is offered to us and eagerly passing it on!

We desperately need the inner thirst that Chris Duffett expressed.

I long to bring some of that fresh faced faith that I saw in India, a burning desire for Kingdom and urgency in people meeting with God, right in the heart of what I do. I know it’s not down to me, yet I long to be willing…

Bursting with faith and urgency - We need to recognise the 'fresh-faced faith' we see in others and find it in ourselves, we need that 'burning desire for Kingdom' and the 'urgency in people meeting with [Papa]'. Like Chris, we need these things to be 'right at the heart of what [we] do', we need to 'know it's not down to [us]' (it's Jesus who will do it) and of course we need '[to] be willing'.

There are many we can reach who are dying for lack of the river of life within them. Doesn't this bring out the great significance of Jesus' words in Matthew 25:31-46? We have living water, are we going to withhold it?

But in all of this we should also remember that we are his people and that he will guide us moment by moment in our lives. It won't necessarily help to plan our own complex route into unknown territory. Better by far to trust the Guide who has already been there and knows the way - the One who indeed is the Way (John 14:5-7).

The river grows as it flows - Notice how the river grows (Ezekiel 47:3-5). This is not normal in desert country because rivers grow as tributaries join them and tributaries are rare in the desert. If Esther was the river in Mordecai's dream might we all be like rivers? Jesus said we'd do even greater things than him (John 14:11-13). He reached Galilee, Judaea, a limited number in Samaria and a handful of Romans and Greeks. Paul reached much of the northern Mediterranean, in the following 300 years almost all Europe, North Africa, and parts of south-west Asia were reached. And today this river we call the body of Christ has penetrated almost the entire world.

So the river that sprang from Christ flows into the desert country where there is no water, and brings life. The living water is the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39). And those who are his tributaries are springs of life arising because he is in each one of us. But surely the river in the vision has no tributaries? Ah, but it does. As tributaries we are hidden because we are in Christ. Our little springs of living water are already mingled with his, we don't need to flow into him, we are already in him, we are hidden tributaries and have no independent existence. Apart from him we can do nothing (John 15:4-6).

Seeing it like that might tempt us to think that the river grows because we somehow add our independent little springs of water to his. But it is not like that at all. The spring welling up in me is the living water he provides because Christ himself is the Source living in me and living in you.

The mystery - The source of the river is the temple, specifically the altar in Ezekiel 47:1 or the throne in the city in Revelation 22:1. The altar speaks of the old covenant, of sacrifice and of priesthood. The throne speaks of the new covenant, of rule and of royalty. Jesus is the Lamb, a living sacrifice and he is the King of kings, who rules over all. And we are his royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), set apart for his use.

It's a mystery! Jesus is all in all for us who believe, he is absolutely everything we need. What a relief to know that nothing depends on us any more. That doesn't mean that we have no work to do. It means that whatever he calls you to do you will be able to accomplish because he is in you and you are therefore filled with his Spirit!

Part of your calling is already clearly expressed from Jesus' own mouth. Love the Father with everything you have and are (Matthew 22:37). Love one another as Jesus loved those around him (John 13:34-35). Go and make disciples everywhere (Matthew 28:18-20). And so on.

But part of your calling will be shown to you as you go along. The Holy Spirit will reveal it step by step on a need to know basis.

Everyone shout 'HalleluYah!'.

Questions: 
  • How do you demonstrate your love for the Father?
  • Think about your brothers and sisters in Christ, how do they know that you love them?
  • Are you actively making disciples?
  • How can you improve your listening to the Spirit?

See also: 

29 November 2012

Rivers of living water

Ezekiel and Revelation both describe a river springing from the Jerusalem Temple. The river flows out into desert country and brings life to the desert and to the salty Dead Sea. The conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well helps us understand the meaning of the river.

Trees along the riverbank
Let's see what we can learn from Ezekiel 47:1-12. Nothing you read below is based on detailed study of the Hebrew or theological analysis, it's simply what the Holy Spirit highlighted as I read the passage and meditated on it.

I sat with my friend Sean last Monday (we meet most Monday evenings) and we had fresh insights that I would, on my own, have missed. So thanks Sean!

There are great similarities between this Old Testament passage and Revelation 11:1-2 and especially Revelation 22:1-5. We were also drawn to John 4:1-42 in which Jesus speaks with the Samaritan woman at the well. In fact let's look at that first.

The woman at the well - After striking up a conversation about water, Yahshua tell the woman that if she'd known who he is she'd have asked him and he'd have given her 'living water' (John 4:10). She knows the well is the only local source of water so she's puzzled. In Jewish thinking (and probably in Samaritan thinking too) living water means flowing water.

Water in a well is not flowing so it is not living. Jesus says this living water from him is special, if you drink it you won't get thirsty again. In fact it will become a spring welling up inside and will result in eternal life (John 4:13-14). The water of life is a free gift to any who will come and take it (Revelation 22:17).

The temple and the flow of water - The temple in Ezekiel 47:1 seems to me to represent the church. In the New Testament the church is the community of people who believe in and follow Yahshua (Jesus). there are several metaphors for the church - the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12), the Bride of the Lamb (Revelation 21:9), and often a temple (2 Corinthians 6:16) built of living stones (1 Peter 2:5).

If the temple represents the church (in Ezekiel and in the similar passages of Revelation), then this river of life that trickles and grows from under the threshold of the temple comes from the foundation that lies under the church, and that is Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11).

So this trickle of life, this living water is in all of us who believe. If you are in Christ and he is in you, his unending supply of life will flow out through you into a thirsty world. You will never need to visit a well to pull up a heavy bucket of water. That is getting water by your own effort, it's hard work and you can never draw enough to satisfy yourself, let alone others.

But the living water from within flows without ceasing and is fresh and clean and fully satisfying.

The east - Why does the entrance of the temple face east? Is this significant? Yes, I think it is. East is the direction of rising, all the stars and planets rise in the east and set in the west, the moon and the sun also rise in the east. Jesus is described as the morning star (2 Peter 1:19), and he is the rising star (Revelation 22:16).

The ideas of east, rising and morning are closely related, so the river leaves the east gate. It first appears inside the southern part of the temple near the altar, runs through the temple court (see Revelation 22:1-2), and then flows under the southern side of the threshold of the east gate and from there heads east from the city.

More on the river - The river grows rapidly larger as it flows, and after just two kilometres (about a mile and a quarter) it's already too large to wade across. From there, the river flows to the northern part of the Dead Sea and it turns the clear but sterile, salty waters into fresh water and the Dead Sea teems with a wide variety of fish. Along the river's banks grow the trees of life that fruit every month and produce leaves for the healing of the nations.

This is truly the river of life! It brings fish to a dead sea, provides trees in the desert, and heals the world's people.

The river is also mentioned in Esther 10:4-9. And let me tell you you won't find those verses in your Bible (unless you pick your Bible very carefully), but that's another story. Esther is here identified as the river. And why not? Just think, the river flows in those who love and honour the Lord. The river is life for his people. Jesus said that streams of living water would flow out of us (John 7:38). It's not hard to see that the river flowing out of Esther brought life to the Jews in captivity.

Note: Mordecai's dream is given in Esther 11:2-12 which is in the first chapter of the Greek version of Esther. (Are you confused yet?) I should also point out that the Greek sections of Esther seem to have been added later to the original Hebrew. Most Bibles provide only the Hebrew parts.

In the next post we'll look at the river of life again and dig into what it all means for us in practice.

Questions:

  • How do you feel about your own flow of spiritual water? Have you received the living water that Jesus provides?
  • Most of us feel like barren deserts sometimes. If you have felt that way, how were you refreshed and renewed again?
  • Do you know someone in a spiritual desert right now? Who do they need to have a conversation with?
  • The Nile runs through the Sahara. Can you list some ways life is different in Egypt because of the Nile?

See also:

24 November 2012

The seal of authority

Donna and I looked at Haggai and considered the Lord's house and our house. When we work for ourselves like Adam we will struggle and fail. When we obediently work with and in Jesus we will see the church grow and be filled with his presence. Am I working for myself or for him?

Model of the second TempleThis evening, Donna and I read Haggai together. Earlier we had spent some time chatting, listening and praying with a friend.

Afterwards we ate a light meal of pasta with bacon and tomato sauce, olives, sweet pepper, mushroom and courgette, then we sat down with our Bibles.

Yahweh's house - The recent chat with our friend was very much in our minds and we talked about hospitality and the place this has always had in our lives. We know it's one of the functions and purposes Father has chosen for us, one of the useful things we can open our home for.

I felt Father calling us to focus on Haggai 1:2-11, but thinking about it and in prayer other aspects of the book also became clear to me.

We quickly agreed that Yahweh's house is the Temple, and like all Old Testament prophecy there is an application for his people today just as there originally was for the Israelites in Haggai's time. So what is the Temple for us today? Why, we are! We are a living temple built of living stones (1 Peter 2:4-5), he resides in us, he is present, not just among his people but in his people.

His house and our houses - Jesus clearly stated, 'I will build my church' (Matthew 16:18). It's not for us to do, but for him to do with us (as living stones). He will place us and cement us in position. But in our lives we can assist him as he works or we can impede him. If we are obedient then we will assist by doing what he commands moment by moment. If we are disobedient we are unlikely to help him at all.

But what are our own 'panelled houses'? They are whatever we are constructing for ourselves. So let's stop building for ourselves and begin building for him. 'Give careful thought to your ways' (Haggai 1:5-6). What are we doing for ourselves (singly or together as his people)?

Some other things that seem clear are that in doing our own thing we will, ultimately, fail. He has 'called a drought' on 'all the labour of your hands' (Haggai 1:11). We cannot hope to prosper in what he has condemned.

Serving Jesus - I also felt sure that our primary purpose and goal must be to serve him and obey him before anything else in our lives. I must do what he tells me even if, like Abraham, it appears to go against everything that seems logical, just, wise or loving (Genesis 22:1-3). He is love. He will hardly call me to do anything that goes against love. But the requirement is for obedience, not for understanding why or how.

We need to know what he is calling us to do, we need to know that whatever that may be it will be part of building his church, and we need to do it without hesitation or regret. We may find we no longer have time to be busy building our own thing.

What if we remain focussed on our own thing? I think, more often than not, he just leaves us to get on with it. But don't be surprised if he 'calls a drought' on the 'labour of your hands'. Striving by our own effort in thorny ground is what Yahweh promised to the first man, Adam (Genesis 3:17-19). Building his house and receiving his glory is what Father promised to the last man, Jesus (John 17:20-24). We are in Christ and he is our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14) and the government is on his shoulders (Isaiah 9:6). In the same way as Zerubbabel he is like the signet ring (Haggai 2:23). He stamps the mark of Yahweh's authority on everything he touches. We are part of the seal of the Father's authority. How awesome is that!

Which will you choose? The work of Adam or the work of Jesus? Choose wisely, both roads are open to you, one is broad with many fellow travellers and the other narrow and hard - but so worth it!

Questions:

  • Are you building anything that is more important to you than the church?
  • If so, do you think the Lord is blessing it?
  • There are many ways of building the church but they all involve living stones. Can you list some of these ways?
  • Are there ways you can encourage others to be available to Jesus as apprentice builders?

See also:

04 August 2012

Renewing the temple

Two visions at a recent meeting have some encouraging things to say about the future of the church. Both of them speak of something that has been destroyed, both of them speak of recovery and renewal.

Broken masonry
Donna and I and some friends visited Faith Camp at the Peterborough showground on Wednesday 1st of August.

Colin Urquhart was speaking that night, a veteran from the old days of the Charismatic renewal in the 1960s and 70s. He's still as good as he ever was! He spoke about the seven 'I AM's in John.

During a time of individual reflection and prayer and focussing on holiness and love, the Spirit gave me two pictures. I'd like to share them here, they are about holiness and love and the future of the body of Christ which is the church.

A broken plant - I saw a plant with the leaves cut off at ground level, as if it had been carelessly run over by the lawnmower. There appeared to be nothing left, no hope of recovery, a total loss.

But then I saw that there was a deep root and a tuber that were intact and I knew that stems and leaves and flowers would spring up fresh and new. And the Spirit showed me that it needed only a little time (patience) and a little rain (refreshment).

The broken temple - A little later I saw the ruins of a stone building. Just some broken, low walls remained, and some scattered stones. I had no idea what it represented.

While I was looking at these and wondering what they meant, the Son of Man came and sat on the stonework, and somehow I knew that this was the Temple and he was sitting exactly where a throne had been. (Yes, I know, the temple in Jerusalem did not contain a throne. But this is what I saw. However, there was the mercy seat, the Ark of the Covenant. Remember, Yahshua is our King as well as our great High Priest as well as being the Son, one aspect of the Mighty One whose name is I AM.)

And as I watched the ruins were transformed into a complete building. Stone fitted against stone, timbers appeared, and the entire structure was covered in gold and fine jewels. Jesus continued to sit there throughout this process. Indeed, I realised that the transformation came about because he was sitting there.

A song - And then the words of an old song came into my mind...

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in his glorious face.
And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace.

The meaning - I am convinced that the Spirit is saying that a time of revival and renewal is coming to the church, because Jesus is coming to the church in a fresh and extraordinary way.

I believe he is also saying that we will need to be patient, that the refreshing living water is a necessary resource first. Jesus needs to be sitting in his proper place amongst the ruins before any restructuring and renewing can begin.

He is already among us. He is going to sit amongst us in new ways. The church is not dead but it has been badly damaged. He is going to do a new thing (he always does a new thing).

The roots of the damaged plant are still there below the surface as are the foundations of the damaged temple as is the foundation stone of the church which is Christ.

So rejoice, be patient, and be full of expectation! This is a time for experiencing the Messiah's holiness and love. It is also a time for all of us - individually and together - to allow his holiness and love to pour out through us as a great flood. This flood from Jesus needs to flow between us one to another, and it will also flow out into the world.

Our response - Whether I have understood all this correctly and fully or not (probably not), it would be good to hear what others think.

What do these two pictures say to you? What have I missed or distorted? Have you or those you know had similar revelations and expectations? What do you think the Lord will do next amongst us? Do you see evidence for these changes in the world around you? In church life? In your own life?

See also: Another wave rolls in - from Felicity Dale's blog 'Simply Church'

01 December 2011

Western wall not built by Herod

Recent archaeological work suggests the Jerusalem Temple's Western Wall was built at least twenty years after the death of Herod the Great.

Large blocks of stone thrown down by the Romans
Two Roman coins dated to 17 AD were found in a mikveh (a ritual bath) underneath the bottom row of stone blocks of the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Herod died 21 years earlier than this, so he cannot have been responsible for building the outer wall.

If this is right, then when the disciples discussed the Temple with Yahshua, the outer compound wall was only about ten years old; very possibly still under construction.

In some ways it makes the conversation even more striking. The Second Temple was the latest wonder, a fantastic piece of engineering, in some ways more than the equal of the Greek Parthenon or any of the buildings in Rome. Something to be proud of, a statement of the power of the Most High in the minds of all the people of Judea.

Yahshua left the Temple and was walking away when his awestruck, enthusiastic disciples came over to call his attention to its buildings. "Look, Master. See these huge blocks of stone, so new and beautifully fitted together! Just look at the amazing carvings and the expensive, donated ornament glorifying the Most High."

"Yes, just look at it all", he said. "In all seriousness I'm telling you that not one stone will be left standing on another, the whole lot will be thrown down". (Based on Matthew 24:1-2, Mark 13:1-2, Luke 21:5-6)

And that is exactly what happened. In 70 AD, less than 40 years later; the Roman army under Titus captured the city, tore down the Temple, and threw the stones over the wall where some of them lie to this day.

See also: Old coins force re-think on Jerusalem's Western Wall, Jerusalem’s Temple Mount Not Completed by King Herod

21 November 2011

Eaton Ford (BS) - The fig tree

< 14th November 2011 | Index | 22nd November 2011 >

We worked through part of Mark 11, wondering about the significance of the withered fig tree and the events between the two mentions of the fig.

Large and small figs on the branch
Paul and I usually spend some time on Monday or Tuesday, reading and discussing a Bible passage. We didn't set out specifically to do this, we began Mark's Gospel on Fridays with Roger but some weeks we didn't have time to continue with it and Paul thought it would be useful to find a separate time for Bible study.

Today we were in Mark 11. We began by reading verses 12-26 with their double mention of the fig tree. We talked about how the fig might represent Israel and how the entire section then makes more sense. Yahshua was demonstrating that Israel had not produced the spiritual fruit required of it and was no longer expected to produce fruit but would instead wither.

Figs are interesting trees, they are never without fruit because as this years crop is ripening, next years fruit are already swelling and developing. To find a fig tree with no figs (only leaves, as Jesus said) would mean it was diseased or deficient in some way.

Israel rebelled against Rome. And in 70 AD, some forty years after Jesus spoke about the fig tree, the Roman forces defeated them. The Romans captured the city of Jerusalem, tore down the Temple, expelled, killed or captured the inhabitants, and rebuilt the city as a Romano-Greek town. Temple worship 'withered' at that time and has never returned since.

We noted that the course of events in Mark is that Jesus was hungry but found no fruit on the tree, only leaves. He said, 'May nobody eat fruit from you again'. When they arrived in Jerusalem they went to the Temple and Jesus drove the traders out. The officials started to look for a way to kill him. The next day the tree was withered.

In other words, the Temple was being misused for trading when it should have been 'a house of prayer for all nations'.

Meanwhile, in verses 27-33, the Jewish leaders take things further by asking Jesus who had given him his authority. They want to trap him and accuse him of blasphemy, but he doesn't tell them. He had already provided all the evidence they needed, for example by performing the messianic miracles. Perhaps he wasn't the kind of Messiah they had been hoping for.

< 14th November 2011 | Index | 22nd November 2011 >

24 October 2011

Brampton - A place of safety

< 10th October 2011 | Index | 29th October 2011 >

We were reminded about places of safety. What are they? do I need one? How do I find one? How can I be sure I'll be safe there?

The sun in the sky
Right at the start we had a reminder that 'where two or three are gathered in my name, I will be there with them' (Matthew 18:19-20). As I shared those words, Sean was prompted to explain that he'd seen a picture in his mind, two young children were running into the ark.

This in turn prompted me to mention three words that seemed relevant - ark (obviously), but also temple and mountain. If he's in one of those places we need to run there ourselves because he himself is our place of safety.

And if he's with two or three gathered together - that is the right place to be.

I was reminded of an old song -  'The Celebration Song'
In the presence of Your people
I will praise Your name
For alone You are holy
Enthroned in the praises of Israel

Let us celebrate Your goodness
And Your steadfast love
May Your name be exalted
Here on earth and in heaven above
And then I saw small, oval photos of people. They were just head and shoulders portraits but they were from different generations. Some were sepia prints, others were black and white, others were in colour. The whole thing seemed like a genealogy. We didn't understand the meaning.

We thought again about Sean's picture of little children entering the ark and remembered that Yahshua said. 'Let the little children come to me' (Matthew 19:13-15), and also, 'Unless you come like a little child you won't even see the Kingdom of Heaven' (Luke 18:17). We prayed that Father would make us as straightforward as little children.

By searching a little we found that the Mishnah says, of the cities of refuge, that if the High Priest dies the refugees would not be punished for their crimes and would be free to leave. This seems especially significant in the light of Christ's death.

Sean remembered how Jesus also said, 'If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children; how much more will your Father give to you the Holy Spirit? (Luke 11:9-13)' Sean saw himself as very small in the King's city. And Father said, 'Even your small is much too big'. We are so small and he is so big and powerful; this helps our faith as even our largest problems are small and easy for him. His desire is the very best for us and he encourages us to believe.

I saw a picture of a man struggling to pull a very heavy handcart up a steep hill. He was out of breath, sweating heavily, and working extremely hard for very little progress. But Father just reached in and turned the horizon slightly so that it became a gently downhill slope. Now the man only needed to guide and control the cart, not provide the power to move it. What had seemed almost impossibly hard now seemed effortless.

Sean said that we need to see things with Father's perspective, not our own. We need to believe that he wants good for us and not harm.

And finally he told us, 'If you look down you will just see the dust. But if you look up you'll see my sun in the sky and feel the warmth on your face.

< 10th October 2011 | Index | 29th October 2011 >

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