- Psalm 118:17-29
- 1 Peter 2:4-8
We understand that to build a house the new owner needs money, he needs a plan (or an architect), the house must need his needs, and he needs building material — and then, most of all, he must have the ability to finish the work. Only then can he live in his new home. We could add something else: he wants to be proud of his home.
When God did skilled craftsmen have his temple build, He used building materials He himself created: tall cedars, huge blocks of stone, gold, silver, bronze. The craftsmen could not use their own design: God was the architect who gave them instructions to the finest of detail. His house was build for a specific purpose: He chose to dwell with his people, and He created a way for them to approach Him and have communion with Him. And surely, the work was finished on time! Then, God moved in, first in the temporary Tabernacle, and later into the temple in Jerusalem. We read:
Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. (Exodus 40:34–35, NKJV)
When Solomon completed the temple we read:
And it came to pass, when the priests came out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. (1 Kings 8:10–12, NKJV)
Did it meet God’s purposes? Yes. Solomon prayed: may “…all the people of the earth know that the Lord is God and that is no other.” (1 Kings 8:60)
Right in the beginning when God met with his people at the foot of Sinai after they were freed from bondage and slavery He made it clear to them:
If you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” (Exodus 19:5–6, NKJV)
The temple was the meeting place between God and his people, but in essence the real temple was God’s presence with his people: they had to display the glory of God, even more brightly than the glorious building of Solomon.
Let’s look at God’s design.
The foundation – or cornerstone.
God did the unspeakable by taking as cornerstone for the building, a stone rejected by the builders. This stone is Jesus Christ, God’s own Son. Other builders rejected Him. He just did not fit their expectation. Isaiah said about Him:
“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” (Isaiah 53:2–3, NIV)
Of Him John said in his Gospel:
“He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognise Him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 1:10–11, NIV)
The vineyard had bad managers who said:
‘This is the heir. Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. (Luke 20:13–15, NIV)
He was sinless, perfect, the Lamb without defect; He was the one the prophets prophesied about, the Messiah; He was the one John the Baptist preached about, “The lamb that will away the sin of the world.” The angels sang at his birth, “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests!” When He was baptised, the heavens opened and the voice of heaven proclaimed, “You are my Son, whom I love; with You I am well pleased.”
Yet, the builders rejected Him. They had cried out, “Crucify, crucify Him, let his blood be on us and our children.” Peter preached to them, “You, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing him to the cross.” “You disowned the Holy and Righteous One … You killed the author of life…”. They stumbled over Him and now they fall. Jesus Himself said, “Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” (Luke 20:18, NIV)
“A stone of stumbling and a rock of offence.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. (1 Peter 2:8, NKJV)
What word? The one the prophets of old carefully researched (1:10); the one about the Christ (1:11), the word the Holy Spirit inspired (1:11) and still employed to bring about the birth (1:23) which makes us children of God through Jesus Christ (1:21) It is the same word which builds us up in our salvation (2:2).
Don’t stumble over this Stone, don’t disobey this Stone – He is your only hope. When God builds his spiritual temple your are either build into it, or you are out. There is no halfway.
The church in Loadicea was half-way church. However rich and powerful, of them Jesus said, “But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” (Revelation 3:17, NIV)
The building material and the price
The Stone rejected by many is precious, He is God’s own workmanship. After He had done what his Father required of Him, He prayed:
“While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.” (John 17:12, NIV)
For them He died and paid the price of God’s righteousness with his own blood, death and resurrection; He is their atonement; they know this promise, “The one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.”
They were not perfect from Him to choose them; He made them perfect in his own righteousness. He picked up his stones where the prostitutes, the tax collectors, and the outcast of the world gathered. He stopped when He saw the devil-possessed living in the cemetery, the touched the leper, He broke his journey to listen to the blind man cry out for help. Yes, He looked for stones to build his temple on the ash heaps of the world. Of such Paul writes:
“For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:10, NIV)
They who belong to Him are not wise, but fools in the sight of the world. They are not strong, but powerful in the hands of God. They don’t bring their gold or money to buy membership, and they don’t use the influence of friends in high places; their riches are in the mercy of God. In the sight of God a sinner is a sinner. Besides, God does not look at the person and He does not show any favouritism. He says,
“Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in his name, He gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:12–13, NIV)
So, Christ builds his spiritual temple, calling people who know the dark side of sin. He shows them the marvellous light of his grace.
He makes saved sinners part of this royal priesthood – yes, you come to Christ and in the eyes of God you look like the High Priest, dressed in a robe that cannot be torn, made of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen – this is the righteousness of Christ which covers your sin. You look around you, and you see a multitude of others who did not reject the Stone of Zion, you take hands, and you may enter into the Most Holy of God’s presence in the Name of Christ – you are a royal priest!
When God rescued his people from Egypt they were just Egyptian slaves with no address, with just a miserable past. They had nothing, no land, no possession, no name, no identity. At the foot of Mount Sinai, saved sinners became his treasured possession, his own nation, and they lived in a relationship with Him who called them his own. It applies to us who live this side of the cross of Christ too. At the foot of the cross this is true of us:
“The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors …” (Deuteronomy 7:7–8, NIV)
When the grace of the Gospel of Christ came to us, we become part of this holy, blessed nation. We’ve got a name, we belong, we have a home – a heavenly Canaan. Peter says we became a “people belonging to God”.
God’s house for his glory
The stammering voice of the sinner who comes to Christ, becomes an angels’ voice “proclaiming the praises of Him who called out of darkness into his marvellous light”. Some might even have raised their voices once in service to darkness, but now all is new; it’s different. In Christ we are new creations. Like Paul, who once locked up Christians, who became an apostle proclaiming the wonders of God’s grace, we too proclaim the wonders of God’s grace, although we have a terrible past. In Christ that past is covered.
That is exactly why we are saved: to proclaim, like prophets and priests and kings, the wondrous grace of the saving, merciful God. We are not saved for ourselves; we are saved for Him, and to be useful in his spiritual temple. Yes, we attract attention to the Architect and the Builder – to Him be the glory!
We take hands as priests in the Kingdom, we stand together as members of God’s holy nation, we encourage one another as brothers and sisters of God’s holy nation – and we march forward under his command. Never do we do this as if we are of this world – we have turned our backs on this world – but we do so as people who expect a heavenly kingdom. We are aliens in this world, and we display the character of God who saved us and made us holy (different, set apart).
The church of Jesus Christ is not a building, but a spiritual temple. Christ is the Head, the only Cornerstone. To trust Him is to become a building block in this temple, and to be a building block is to shine forth the glory of the God who saved you. He saved you from utter darkness and brought you into his glorious light.
John writes of the ultimate meeting place between God and his people, the city we will live in when everything will be completely new.
But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever. (Revelation 21:22-23, 22:3–5, NKJV)
What a place to look forward too! Amen.
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 13 May 2018