Bible Order: Psalms 106–107
Chronological Order: 2 Kings 9-11
New Testament Only: Acts 7:54–8:8
Cleansing The Temple
Yesterday I wrote about the concept of spiritual atrophy; not a loss of salvation but the drying up of our spiritual strength through a lack of spiritual exercise. Bible reading, prayer, fellowship with believers, and the sharing of the Gospel are all essential to a healthy, vibrant spirit. These are the spiritual exercise we all need to prosper. Now when I say prosper most of us think in terms of material things but, in fact, I refer to the prosperity of spiritual things. The material world is the lesser of the blessings God wishes to bestow on you. The spiritual world is where the real wealth can be found.
My wife is in the music business. She is a wonderful vocalist and has recently cut a Gospel CD of “old fashion” hymns. She’s also an accomplished song writer. I’m very proud of her! Having been connected to the music world through her, I was surprised to learn that the big money in music isn’t in being an artist but being a song writer. Artists make the bulk of their money through concerts and merchandise; yes they do make some money on record sales.
The song writer makes money primarily through every one of their songs recorded by an artist and sold on CD or played on the TV or radio. I was told that Madonna is not a song writer but that if you look at song writing credits on any of her recordings you will see that she is listed as a writer on most, if not all, of the songs she records. Why? Because she knows that the real money is in the “publishing”; the song writing royalties. She demands that if she is to sing a particular song she be given a piece of the publishing.
Why would a song writer give up part of their publishing? Because a big name artist like Madonna sells a lot of records and a piece of something is better than all of nothing! You get a hit sung by Madonna and you are a wealthy person. I remember a friend telling me about an acquaintance who had co-written three popular songs recorded by Reba McEntire a few years ago. His acquaintance was allegedly one of three co-writers on these songs and at one point was receiving a check every week in the neighborhood of $50,000. Nice work if you can get it huh?
Would you have assumed that successful song writers make more money than most recording artists? I wouldn’t have; but you see, that’s where the real money is. It’s the same thing on a bigger scale when we speak of being prosperous. True prosperity isn’t in the material things that this world, the creation, has to offer, but in the spiritual things that the Creator has to offer. Because we can see the material world we tend to think it is the bigger reward, just like we assume the recording artist is the real money maker. The reality is that the thing harder to perceive, God’s spiritual blessings, offers far greater prosperity, just like being a successful song writer offers more prosperity than being a recording artist.
Why do I bring all of this up in relation to today’s reading? Ahaz’s son, Hezekiah, understood where real prosperity lies. One of the very first things he did upon ascending to the throne was to cleanse and restore the temple. By doing this he cleansed and restored the nation.
2 Chronicles 29:3 ESV
“In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them.”
He went on to call all of the priests and Levites together and to lay down the law, so to speak. He made clear that Judah was in ruin because of the sins of their fathers; they had turned away from God and defiled His temple and themselves. It was Hezekiah’s chosen mission to return Judah to right relationship with God and that mission started with cleansing.
Often times, as Christians, we look at the lost and see their filth before God. Knowing that we are covered in the blood of Christ, however, we sometimes miss the plank of wood in our own eyes. We are in the process of sanctification which means we are not yet completely like Christ but are in the process of becoming. By definition this means that we are not yet perfect. This is a great mystery; we are perfect but we are not perfect. We have been perfected in Christ and yet we are in the process of being perfected in Christ. I think the disconnect comes from the fact that in Christ we have been perfected but we are still figuring out what that means.
I once heard of a scientific study that took a fish tank with a glass partition running down the middle. A Barracuda was placed on one side of the glass and fish on which the Barracuda liked to dine on the other. The Barracuda would see the delicious food on the other side of the glass, but, not realizing there was a barrier, would race toward the prey only to dash its snout against the partition. Over and over the predator would charge the prey only to repeatedly smash its snout. Eventually the Barracuda stopped trying to eat the fish on the other side of the glass.
So far everything has progressed as you would expect. If every time I do something I crack my head open, I’m going to eventually learn that I don’t want to do that anymore. The interesting thing about the experiment is what happened next. They removed the glass. Do you know what that Barracuda did? Nothing. He did not attempt to eat the fish now swimming within reach. The scientists did not feed the Barracuda. He still did not attempt to eat the fish swimming around him. He was swimming in a new reality but he was behaving as if he was in the old reality. He could have eaten at any time and been satisfied. Instead he slowly starved to death.
I think many of us are just like that Barracuda. We learned certain behavior as part of an old reality and now that we live in a new reality we are struggling to accept it; we are struggling to understand it; we are struggling to live it. In many ways we are starving ourselves spiritually. Far too many of us Christians have allowed our temple to fall into disrepair. We have allowed filth to cover the walls and floor because we continue to live in the old reality. It’s time for some of us to repair the doors to the temple and cleans it inside and out. It is time to accept the joyful fact that we now live in a new reality.
We no longer have to sin. We no longer are condemned. Where once we were unable to keep from sinning, now, with Christ within us, sin has no power over us. I love what Hezekiah said to the Levites:
2 Chronicles 29:11 ESV
“My sons, do not now be negligent, for the Lord has chosen you to stand in his presence, to minister to him and to be his ministers and make offerings to him.”
That is your new reality. Do not be negligent for the Lord has chosen you! Under Hezekiah, Judah cleansed and restored the temple. They consecrated the priests. They reinstituted temple worship. They reinstituted the sacrifice, the festivals, the Passover. As we’ll read tomorrow:
2 Chronicles 31:20-21 ESV
“Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah, and he did what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered.”
And he prospered. He sought God with all his heart and he prospered. Do you hear what God is trying to tell you through our Bible reading? Do you seek Him with all your heart? If you do you will prosper; not as the recording artist but as the song writer. That is my prayer for you!
Have a wonderfully prosperous day!
Your brother and servant in Christ,
Dying to self, living to serve!
(Originally posted 5/21/10)