2004-09-05 - Important Missing Pieces
Haggai, Part 15 - Introduction to Haggai 2:10-19
In a major city within the US, there are a number of churches which are "supported" by members of the local crime family. Because of the generosity of these families, the churches have vestments, liturgical vessels, art, etc. all of which have been donated or funded by these families.If anything was ever stolen from one of these churches, the items would always be returned, and the thief would never be heard of again. Needless to say, rarely was anything taken. And so those who were part of the crime family where also seriously religious, committed to the church, and believed they were therefore righteous in God's eyes. The problem here is the confused belief that works, rather than faith, are the basis for righteousness.
But there are others whose lives are exemplary by anyone's standards. Mother Teresa comes to mind. But even these people, if they act without God's Spirit in their lives, act to no purpose but confusion between works and faith. And this has certainly been a struggle for the Jew, who all through history, has confused keeping the Law and the Sacrifice with righteousness in God's eyes. And it is this problem God speaks to through the prophet Haggai in the third prophecy.
"For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings" (Hosea 6:6).
One question came up previously, regarding God's presence in this Temple. What was its state regarding worship, etc.? The NIV has the following to say about this Temple:
The return from Babylonian exile (in 538 B.C.), made possible by the decree of Cyrus, was a small and unpromising one. The returnees were few in number, and their resources were so meager as to need frequent strengthening from the Jews who remained in Babylon. The temple they built is a good example of this. When the foundation was laid, the old men, who had seen the "first house" (Solomon's temple), wept for sorrow (Hag 2:3), but the young men, who had been born in exile, shouted for joy (Ezra 3:12).The Holy Place of the new temple seems to have had a curtain at its front. It had one lampstand, a golden altar of incense, and a table for the bread of the Presence. Another curtain separated the Hekhal from the Most Holy Place. According to Josephus, the Most Holy Place was empty. Evidently the ark had been destroyed in 587 B.C. and was never replaced. A single slab of stone marked its place. The Babylonian Talmud asserts that five things were lacking in the new temple: the ark, the sacred fire, the Shekinah, the Holy Spirit, and the Urim and Thummim. Obviously, this did not preclude worship and sacrifice, but because of the sin of the nation, the reality of God's presence and power was absent.
To be continued.
Comments or Questions?