As I stood in church last Sunday morning after so many weeks of COVID-imposed shutdown, I could hardly wait for our service to begin. As worship started, however, something very unexpected happened that sent tears of joy, from a fresh understanding, streaming down my face. I began to realize that what has produced such drastic change in the world, which forced us to adapt, could very well be the best thing that could happen to the modern-day church.
Powerful thoughts flooded my mind of the first temple, which had been designed and constructed by two generations of kings.
First King David, and then King Solomon, spent untold hours and billions of dollars by today’s standards preparing to build the first temple. King David felt strongly motivated to build God’s house, as is told in 1 Chronicles 22. There is no more fitting way to tell the story of how the “torch of the burden” was passed, than to quote the scriptural account itself: “Now David said, Solomon my son is young and inexperienced, and the house to be built for the Lord must be exceedingly magnificent, famous and glorious throughout all countries. I will now make preparation for it.” So before his death, David gathered all the materials, which would be needed to build the temple.
He then sent for his son Solomon, and told him that he was to build a house for the Lord God of Israel:
“My son, as for me, it was in my mind to build a house to the name of the Lord my God; but the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood and have made great wars; you shall not build a house for My name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in My sight. Behold, a son shall be born to you, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies all around. His name shall be Solomon, for I will give peace and quietness to Israel in his days. He shall build a house for My name, and he shall be My son, and I will be his Father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.’ Now, my son, may the Lord be with you; and may you prosper, and build the house of the Lord your God, as He has said to you” (1 Chronicles 22:7-11, NKJV).
David had desired that no other building on the earth could equal its beauty! The Bible describes a highly detailed and exquisite architecture. Inside this new temple, heavenly themed artistic ornamentations were covered with pure silver and gold. Materials were gathered from all over the then known world, and craftsmen by the thousands were imported from distant lands. After the construction of this magnificent building, which took about seven years, it continued to be the center of worship for the Hebrew people for over four hundred years.
In today’s world, many very elaborate and highly functional churches of all sizes have been constructed and can be found scattered across our national landscape. Among them there are grandiose churches constructed known as “mega churches,” seating thousands. These buildings, beautifully decorated, comfortably furnished, with the best video and sound production equipment money can buy have perhaps become our own versions of what King David thought needed to be built to honor the Creator of the Universe when he specified that the temple “must be exceedingly magnificent, famous and glorious throughout all countries.”
However, in the book of Acts in a powerful sermon, Stephen the martyr set the record straight. Just after referring to the temple Solomon built, he stated “However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophets says: Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool. What house will you build for Me? says the Lord. Or what is the place of my rest? Has not My hand made all these things?" (Acts 7:48)
In the book of Haggai 2:1-3, the prophet describes the Hebrew children’s sorrow as they compared the newly rebuilt second temple to the former glory of Solomon’s Temple.” In Haggai 3:6-9 God essentially says through the prophet, do not mourn, “The glory of this latter house will be greater than the former!” Just as we do today, setting our eyes on earthly comforts and beauty, the Spirit of God was declaring, and I'm paraphrasing, “Yes this may be a very plain building but when my new level of glory comes down in this temple, the beauty of that Heavenly glory, will be even more beautiful than it ever was in Solomon’s Temple!"
Last Sunday, as my heart reached toward Heaven, worshipping Jesus and thanking Him for the privilege of being able to be in church, it really hit me! For the first time in all of this I realized, it was never about the beautiful building that we worshipped in, or even being able to sing and say amen to our pastor’s sermon surrounded by my brothers and sisters in Christ. My worries and sadness over the last few months of having to try to attain the same spiritual experience at home in my living room as at church were not scriptural.
Tears filled my eyes of joy as I recognized my own misconceived notion of where the “House of God” really is. As Jesus proclaimed to the woman at the well, in John 4:24, “God is a Spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth!” Jesus also said in Luke 17:21 “The Kingdom of God is within you!”(KJV)
Just as the Hebrew children lamented thinking of how things formally were in Solomon’s Temple, we need to be reminded that the Lord’s glory of this post-COVID house can be greater than the former! Yes, it is glorious to be back in our local churches, however, it is all about Him and never the building!
Rev Nolan J Harkness is the President and CEO of Nolan Harkness Evangelistic Ministries Inc. since 1985. He spent most of his adult life working in youth ministry. He also felt the calling of Evangelist/Revivalist and traveled as the door was open holding evangelistic meetings in churches throughout the Northeast. His website is www.verticalsound.org.