The Land of Israel
The land of Israel is a small country. You can walk its length, north to south, in a few days, and from its central mountains you can see its lateral boundaries, the sea to the west and the river to the east. But it has had an importance out of all proportion to its size. Empires have fought over it.
Every forty-four years out of the last four thousand, on average, an army has marched through it, whether to conquer it, to rescue it from someone else, to use it as a neutral battleground on which to fight a different enemy, or to take advantage of it as the natural route for getting somewhere else to fight there instead. There are many places which, once beautiful, are now battered and mangled with the legacies of war. And yet it has remained a beautiful land, still producing grapes and figs, milk and honey.
Location, Location, Location
As in buying real estate, three principles are crucial to understanding a person’s words: location, location, and location. We cannot make sense of what someone says unless we understand the context in which his or her words were uttered.
To use the real estate comparison, Jesus—in his speaking—did not just move into an empty part of town and begin to build all the houses himself. He moved into a neighborhood already built up: in fact, one that had been occupied for many centuries by the same people—his people, the Jews.
Mark Twain & The Ruthless Businessman
A businessman known for his ruthlessness, arrogance, and religiosity told Mark Twain that before he died he intended to visit the Holy Land, climb Mount Sinai, and read the Ten Commandments aloud. ‘I have a better idea,’ Twain replied. ‘Just stay here in Boston and keep them!’ We’d rather cogitate on what we don’t know, than act on what we know we need to do.
Meeting Face to Face with God
While many world religions worship gods in temples, Israel’s claim was unique. Theirs wasn’t simply a consecrated center for worship; it was a meeting place where the Lord of the creation actually met face-to-face with humans. G. K. Beale points out that much of the language that describes the temple echoes descriptions of life in the garden.
The continuity is no accident: these two places serve the same purpose. The garden was meant to be the hub of worship, a meeting place wherein the goodness of creation was gathered up and offered to God in the perfect lives of Adam and Eve. Outside the garden was the wilderness, an unkempt place that Adam and his children would ultimately subdue and fill, incorporating it all in the worshiping life of Eden.
The temple is a redemptive step toward restoring all that was lost when Adam and Eve fell. Here, God will meet again with his people (under profoundly different conditions), and they’ll serve as a beacon to the nations, a ringing invitation for the broken world to return to worshiping its Maker.
Rather than subduing and filling the uninhabited wilderness of a perfect world, Israel is charged with subduing the populated wilderness of a fallen world, where Satan and the sons of men collude in a project of death and decay. Through Israel, God means to turn back that project and shine light into the darkness of the world, and that light’s bright epicenter is the temple.
Taken from Rhythms of Grace by Mike Cosper, © 2013, pp.52-53. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.
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