The Temple, Churches, and Walking Israel's Sinful Path

Yesterday I posted about the problem of pride. As I looked at various scriptures related to this pervasive sin, I came across a prophecy spoken through Ezekiel that reminded me of many churches today.

And the word of the LORD came to me saying, “Son of man, behold, I am about to take from you the desire of your eyes with a blow; but you shall not mourn and you shall not weep, and your tears shall not come. Groan silently; make no mourning for the dead. Bind on your turban and put your shoes on your feet, and do not cover your mustache and do not eat the bread of men.” So I spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died. And in the morning I did as I was commanded. The people said to me, “Will you not tell us what these things that you are doing mean for us?” Then I said to them, “The word of the LORD came to me saying, ‘Speak to the house of Israel, “Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Behold, I am about to profane My sanctuary, the pride of your power, the desire of your eyes and the delight of your soul; and your sons and your daughters whom you have left behind will fall by the sword. You will do as I have done; you will not cover your mustache and you will not eat the bread of men. Your turbans will be on your heads and your shoes on your feet. You will not mourn and you will not weep, but you will rot away in your iniquities and you will groan to one another. Thus Ezekiel will be a sign to you; according to all that he has done you will do; when it comes, then you will know that I am the Lord GOD.’”
– Ezek 24:15-24

God had judged the people of Israel for their sins, sending them into exile in Babylon under the tyrannical rule of King Nebuchadnezzar. However, Jerusalem had not yet been completely ravaged and, thus, the nation’s pride and joy—Solomon’s Temple—remained.

The temple, though intended to be a good thing and a visible reminder of God’s presence, judgment, and grace, had become an object of sin.

Pride and Idolatry Among God’s People

Notice what Ezekiel says in verse 21:

Then I said to them, “The word of the LORD came to me saying, ‘Speak to the house of Israel, “Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Behold, I am about to profane My sanctuary, the pride of your power, the desire of your eyes and the delight of your soul;
– Ezek 24:21a

Israel had fallen into idolatry and pride. They replaced their love for God with love for the temple. They allowed the place of worship to become the object of worship. This love fed a growing pride: pride in themselves and pride in the temple, the symbol of their national identity and power.

As a result, God promised to destroy the idol they loved—the temple—and break their sinful pride.

Pride and Idolatry Among Christ’s Church

Many Christians risk going down the same path Israel traveled. They construct buildings of various sizes and architectural designs. Some include the latest technological and service production resources, others borrow designs reminiscent of medieval cathedrals; some seat a few hundred, others have capacities in the thousands.

Regardless of size and design, buildings are constructed, and the members are very proud of what they have accomplished. Though they credit God with their words, in their hearts they are proud of their church. It is, after all, their church, right?

Members look to the buildings with pride. The structure becomes the identity of the church. Sometimes, churches so identify by their building that they incorporate its design into the church logo.

Special names are given to the auditorium—worship center, sanctuary—to give it a special place in their hearts and a special meaning. Rooms, or even the entire structure, are given special purposes and special treatment. Reverence is to be given to the walls, floor, décor, and even the bushes lining the exterior walls.

Yes, the building is special. The building is meaningful. In the end, the building is worshiped. And don’t even think about changing anything in the building or buildings a new one!

Those four walls and a roof are our church! That manmade structure is our identity! That building is special, precious, and, ultimately, is worshipped.

Nevermind that the Bible teaches that the believers, not a building, are the church. Nevermind that the Bible teaches that our love for God and each other, not a structure, is our identity. Nevermind that the Bible teaches that the Triune God, not a building, is to be worshipped and adored.

Nevermind the truth we claim to follow and the God we claim to serve, architecture and infrastructure is our idol, our god, our identity. At least that is the case for many professing believers.

A building is just a building, nothing more, nothing less. It is a manmade gathering place, nothing more, nothing less. When we allow pride in the structures we create to supplant pride in our God, we are in sin. When we worship the things we build, even if only by how we treat and view them, then we are guilty of idolatry.

Too often, many Christians walk the sinful path of the people of Israel, and God cannot excuse it. Rather, he calls on us to repent of our idolatry and pride, return to him, and be the church Jesus is working to build.

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