Uphill Stream

Micah 4:1 ​In the last days the mountain of the LORD’S temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and peoples will stream to it.

Streams don’t run uphill. After all that would be quite difficult given the law of gravity.  Streams run downhill of course.  This is something we all know.  I’ve never seen a waterfall falling up.  And a stream follows the path of least resistance.  If there is a channel for it to flow, it will flow through that channel.  It would be very difficult for water to stream up a mountain.  Yet the wording the Lord uses in Micah 4:1 is that people will stream UP the mountain to the temple of the Lord.  Here’s some truth: I’ve never streamed up a mountain.  I’ve labored, sweated, and panted, but not streamed.

People will stream to the temple of the Lord.  They will fight through the obstacles and keep going when they don’t feel like it.  There will be so much hope there that gravity won’t matter.  They will be like water traveling uphill.  No matter what, they’ve just got to get where the Lord is.

I don’t think that defines our culture, does it?  We are complacent, discontent, and cynical.  We don’t like commitment and obligation.  So we end up staying at the bottom of the mountain.  It it seems too hard, we certainly won’t climb.  And we definitely won’t be streaming!  Unless…

Unless that temple is so right, so necessary, so compelling, so real!  Unless that temple is the only chance at true hope!  Unless the church – both the gathering and the people – are so full of life, the world won’t come streaming.  We are the temple of the Lord!  I want people streaming to us for life; but we’ve got to have life to stream to.  There must be evidence that God is present in the temple or else it’s not worth visiting.  I want people to stream to the house of God!  So let’s show them real life and something worth streaming for.

We can’t have church today…too cloudy

1 Kings 8:10-11  10 When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the LORD. 11 And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled his temple.

I love this! Solomon finished building the temple and brings the ark (presence) of the Lord into it.  The presence of the Lord descends onto the temple physically in a cloud.  It was so thick, they couldn’t have church!  Imagine their surprise as they tried to perform the ceremonial duties as required by the Lord.  They wanted to make the sacrifices, say the prayers, and read the scriptures.  But the presence of the Lord was too thick!

Today, most churches have a plan as to what their Sunday service is going to be like.  There is a planned out worship set and a planned out sermon.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that those things are not inspired and anointed by God.  Worship and the Word are good things!  But what would happen if the presence of God came so strong that it began to mess up the plans?  What if His presence was so great, we couldn’t have church?

Would we forge ahead with our structure and plans, or would we allow the presence of God to put us in awe of Him?  Sometimes, I think churches administrate God right out of their services.  Yet He is what they are supposed to be about.  David wrote that better was one day in His courts than a thousand elsewhere.  And I say that better is one day at church basking in the presence of God than a thousand days at church where He doesn’t show up!  

If the church (and the church service) is going to be effective, He needs to show up!  This should be our main concern: that the glory of the Lord fills the temple.  I love it when God ruins the plan on Sunday mornings.  It’s His church, His people, and His plans… not mine.   As a pastor, I must keep this perspective.  As His people, we must pursue the same in our own lives.  Invite His presence to live each day in you.  Plan for a cloudy forecast and cancel your religion.  It will change everything!

That’s one shiny temple!

1 Kings 7:45-47  All these objects that Huram made for King Solomon for the temple of the LORD were of burnished bronze. The king had them cast in clay molds in the plain of the Jordan between Succoth and Zarethan. Solomon left all these things unweighed, because there were so many; the weight of the bronze was not determined. 

This was one ornate temple that Solomon built.  Our text in chapters 6 and 7 are very detailed as to what went into it.  We have silver, gold, and …. pomegranates? I guess they were a big deal back then.  Everything was measured carefully.  We know its height, length, weight, and shoe size.  But we will never know about the bronze.  There was just too much of it.  Now that’s one shiny temple!

There were so many bronze pieces that it was nearly impossible to measure, we read.  While that statement may not seem that significant, it tells us something about the provision of the Lord.  You see, as Solomon set out to build the Lord’s temple, he had very specific instructions.  Basically he needed a whole lot of supplies.  And here’s the thing: God supplied all of his needs.  He supplied them to the point that he could no longer keep track of how much provision there was.

As we walk in the Lord’s will for our life, I believe we will discover the same thing.  God will pour out His blessings on us to the point of not being able to keep track.  That may look like an overflow of money or maybe an overflow of peace.  Shoot, I have friends with an overflow of kids.  I’m not sure how they keep track! 🙂  But God will overflow in our lives as we pursue Him.  I have experienced His goodness and want to shout it from the rooftops!  So let’s pursue God with our whole lives today and ask for HIS overflowing provision.

Move that bus!

1 Kings 6:38 In the eleventh year in the month of Bul, the eighth month, the temple was finished in all its details according to its specifications. He had spent seven years building it.  

Solomon built the temple and it only took him one chapter of the Bible to build it.  We I think about it in those terms, that seems pretty fast.  But the temple took quite a bit longer to build than the time it took me to read this chapter.  It took seven years!  You see, temples aren’t built overnight.  They take time and energy.  That doesn’t seem very appealing, does it?

We live in a society that thrives on instant gratification.  When we go out to eat, we expect our food in 10 minutes.  (If it is fast food, we expect it in 2 minutes.  Two minutes people.  We are eating food that was prepared in 2 minutes.  You can’t even cook Top Ramen that fast!)  We work out 3 times and wonder why we haven’t lost those 10 pounds.  I used to expect my computer to get me to the correct internet site within about 2 seconds; now I expect my phone to do the same thing.  To top it all off, we have a television show called, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”  They build a home in one week!  That’s just not normal.  So we have this mentality that I must have it now.  If we can’t afford it, we grab our credit cards, buy now, and pay later.

The temple took 7 years, not a week, to build.  And Solomon didn’t “move that bus” when it was all done.  The Bible tells us that WE are the temple of the Lord.  He no longer resides in a building made by man; He resides IN man.  He dwells within us and He asks us to treat our bodies like a temple to Him.  And we have to be built, remodeled, cleaned up, etc.  That isn’t going to happen overnight.  This isn’t drive through Christianity.  Just because I showed up to church those three times doesn’t mean that my temple is ready.  It requires a bit more work than that.  The temple took seven years to build.  Let’s put some effort into building faith in our life.  Let’s put effort into knowing Him more, making ourselves a temple that He would be pleased to dwell in.

Hostile Worship Environment

Ephesians 2:14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility

Have you ever worked in a hostile work environment?  How about lived in a hostile home?  It’s no fun.  The word hostile means: unfriendly, opposed, or aggressively against.  When you are in a hostile environment, you may feel scared or left out or even threatened.  It is no way to live.  The Gentiles knew the feeling of hostility.  They were not allowed to worship God the way the Jews were.  They hadn’t fulfilled the obligations of the law, therefore they could not commune with God.

Once Jesus came on the scene, things began to change.  He came for all mankind, not just a certain group of people. Paul was sure to preach this message.  But here in the church at Ephesus, there were still divisions taking place.  There were still Jews trying to convince the Gentiles that they didn’t quite measure up; they weren’t quite equal to God.  This caused problems that needed to be corrected.  Paul says in verse 14 that He [Jesus] Himself is our peace.  He has made the two one.  This seems like a strong enough argument, but Paul takes it farther.  He doesn’t just say that the two, Jews and Gentiles, are now one.  He moves into territory that would hit the Jews where it counted.  He targeted the temple.

There was great significance in the illustration that Paul used here.  The dividing wall of hostility was not just a figurative expression – it was a literal wall. It was a barrier in the temple that divided Gentiles and Jews.  It was set up in order that Gentiles would be kept out of the most Holy places.  On it the following words were inscribed, “Whoever is captured will have himself to blame for his subsequent death.”  This seems pretty hostile to me!  If a non-Jew was caught past these large inscribed stones, they were subject to death.  Wow.

This doesn’t sit too well with Paul, given the fact that Jesus came to make a way to God for all of mankind.  So he tells them that Jesus has removed the dividing wall of hostility.  It has lost its meaning, its significance, its purpose.  It is no longer needed.  This statement must have ruffled some feathers, I am sure.  Paul was going after a sacred element of  temple worship.  He didn’t care though, because it was wrong.  There is not a person more worthy to God than another.  There is not one more holy or more deserving.  There is not one who can draw closer to Him.  Jesus opened it up. He eliminated the barrier so that all could come.