Was God unjust to destroy the temple?

Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” (Jesus, quoted in Matthew 24:1-2, ESV)

Why would God permit His own temple to be destroyed?  Do the actions of God make sense?

In 19 B.C. Herod began rebuilding the temple.

This was the same Herod who would try to kill baby Jesus.

Herod was not willing to share the temple with the God of the temple.

Herod was not willing to share the temple with the God of the temple.

He built a temple for the God he tried to kill.

The temple’s construction was ongoing throughout Jesus’ life.  And after His death.

Rulers continued building a temple to the God they or their predecessors had crucified.

The temple was finished in AD 63.

Seven years before its total destruction.

Two historians whose writings have survived wrote about signs that the temple would be destroyed.  Neither of them gave credit for these signs to Jesus, who prophesied, warned, and wept for its destruction more than 35 years earlier.

Why did God reject the temple?

To understand better, I imagine someone I really love.  I’ll pick my mom.  Suppose our city wishes to build a palace for her.  The mayor, who has never even met my mother, immediately jumps on this campaign for the building and blesses the cornerstone.

The catch is that the mayor never actually realized my mother existed.  He thought she was just a concept, an ideology.  His idea was to make a tourist attraction, to boost his popularity ratings among the people who all say they love my mother, to build a legacy for myself.  One day, a few strangers from out of town come to visit my mother.  They ask the mayor where she is.  He is startled to hear she actually exists–are they sure?  Yes, they’re sure.  They talked to her on facebook.

The mayor rushes a secret law through the legislature that orders every woman between 50 and 60 years of age to be killed.

My mother flees from the city, but hundreds of other women are murdered by the law.

Later, my mother returns.  She explains that the palace isn’t exalted above her.  It is made for her.

Oh, but the city council hates her for this.  The palace is a big tourist attraction!  Who is she?  She’s nothing to them.  They drag her to the courthouse in the middle of the night away from most of the public’s eye.  In the morning, they beat her and hang her body in the town square to serve as an example to anyone who might dare get in the way of their holy palace.

Now here is what I ask myself.  Here is what I ask you, if you will use this story for yourself and imagine someone you really love in that place:

Would you want that palace?

Would you live in that palace?

Would you bless that palace?

If my city did that to my mother, and I had the power to do so, I would rip that palace apart brick by brick.  I would bust the windows, tear apart the decorations, smash the furniture.  I would raze that building to the ground.  How dare anyone build a palace ‘for my mother’ and then kill her!

They never built that palace for my mother!  They built that palace for their selfish selves.  If they’d just stopped there, that would be one thing.  But to mistreat and murder my mother?  My blood could not boil hot enough.

Was God unjust to destroy the temple?  In no way.

God actually warned the people that the temple would be destroyed.  Most didn’t believe Him.  I wouldn’t have warned them.  He even waited decades to fulfill His prophesy.  I wouldn’t have waited.

In that time, He sent followers of Jesus out to bring the nation back to Him.  I wouldn’t have done that.

Most of the ‘city council’ (e.g., Pharisees) did not repent.  They persecuted and killed His followers.  And He still waited to destroy the temple.  I wouldn’t have done that.

God had every right to destroy the temple.  The temple was built ‘for Him’.  He wanted His Name wiped away from it.  No place that had been valued more by its builders than the God it had been built for could stand.  The place for God to dwell had become more important to many of the people than the God who dwelt there.

Most of the rulers did not want to hear that Jesus was the new temple.  They did not want to hear that He was the cornerstone for their faith–not their expensive building.  They did not want to hear that He fulfilled the Law–not their profitable market of sacrificial animals.  Even when the temple curtain was rent in two, they did not want to believe that the dust beneath His cross was the new Holy of Holies.

They never wanted Jesus.  They wanted His stuff.  And God wasn’t going to let them pretend they wanted Him anymore.

–By the way, I’m not talking about only one nation here.  This is about anyone who tries to take the belongings of Jesus–like His Kingdom, or His love, faith, loyalty, beauty, power, or grace–and reject Him.

I want to share one last thought about the temple.  Herod tried to reconstruct the temple as it had been in the times of King David.  But there was one thing he could not recreate.

The Ark of the Covenant.

Herod built the temple, each inner courtyard more sacred than the last, to the most inner courtyard of all, the Holy of Holies.  Only the high priest, once a year, could enter the Holy of Holies to offer the blood of animals for the people’s sins.

But the Ark of the Covenant wasn’t there.

It had gone missing, and could not be found.

Had they only accepted who Jesus was, they would have welcomed Him to their temple, escorted Him through all the courtyards, and led Him to the entrance of the Holy of Holies.  There, He could have lived, because He is the Ark of Salvation and He is new Covenant.

But He was not accepted by the world.

He came anyway.

We loved the temple.

But He loved us.

We built the temple for ourselves.

He gave Himself to be our Temple.

The Parable of the Vineyard

The context:

Jesus and his disciples returned to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the temple courtyard, the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders came to him. (Mark 11:27, GW)

The parable:

He [Jesus] said, “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, made a vat for the winepress, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to vineyard workers and went on a trip. “At the right time he sent a servant to the workers to collect from them a share of the grapes from the vineyard. The workers took the servant, beat him, and sent him back with nothing. So the man sent another servant to them. They hit the servant on the head and treated him shamefully. The man sent another, and they killed that servant. Then he sent many other servants. Some of these they beat, and others they killed. “He had one more person to send. That person was his son, whom he loved. Finally, he sent his son to them. He thought, ‘They will respect my son.’ “But those workers said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they took him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. “What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the workers and give the vineyard to others.

Have you never read the Scripture passage: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

The Lord has done this, and it is amazing for us to see’?”

They wanted to arrest him but were afraid of the crowd. They knew that he had directed this illustration at them. So they left him alone and went away. (Mark 12:1b-12, GW)

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Credits:

Herod’s Temple: The Temple Jesus Knew DVD, directed by Tom Dallis

Herod’s Temple: The Construction of the Temple, Bible-history.com, Accessed 6-1-12.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

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