The Ancient Israelite Temple
It was King Solomon that built the first temple. And no expenses were spared; the temple was absolutely magnificent. The temple had the purpose of facilitating rituals that made it possible for the nation to be united with God through the Mosaic covenant. But I guess you could say that the temple was truly awesome because it was where God dwelt.
Israelite faith was indissolubly linked with life. Understandably then, it was in and around the temple that Israelites lived their lives. The temple and its surrounds were abuzz with activity; theological discussions, legal procedures, education. Children would have looked up at the temple with admiration and delighted in it. It showed that God had chosen Israel.
But Israel hadn't been a monarchy for long when an insidious new doctrine was developed. And the temple was at the centre of it.
Bad Temple Theology Leads Israel Further Astray
Theologians often call the flawed temple theology 'Zion theology'. Zion theology proclaimed that Israel had a divine guarantee of blessing, irrespective of the people's conduct and loyalty towards God. The reason: Jerusalem was the holy city that housed the temple.
And so the Israelite people began to trust the temple for salvation, instead of God.
They thought that the temple's existence meant they could do as they liked. They adopted pagan religions. They rejected God's desire for Israel to uphold austere moral and social laws. The once peaceful Israelite society was now overcome with murder, theft, perjury and profound injustice.
The temple began to represent the terrible corruption that had overrun Israel. The prophets described the temple as a superstitious fetish, which actually blinded people from a real faith (Jeremiah 7 verses 4-8). It was a great paradox; the temple was now only significant in Israel because it had become a hindrance to faith. This persisted until the Babylonians took the city in 586/587 and the temple was destroyed.
The Temple Today?
The Jerusalem temple no longer exists but the concept of the temple lives on today. The apostle Paul sees Christians as a metaphorical temple because God's Spirit lives in them (1 Corinthians 6 verse 19).
So I wonder, given that I happen to be human like the ancient Israelites, do I have a tendency to corrupt the idea that I'm God's metaphorical temple? Do I have a tendency to corrupt this great Biblical truth?
Yes, I do. And I can think of two main ways in which I do it.
Firstly, the concept of a 'metaphorical temple', which I think can seem quite mystical and otherworldly, sometimes entices me to become just that; mystical, otherworldly, overly spiritual.
You see, I'm someone that prays for a lonely/sick person. But I don't actually go and visit them. My type of spirituality means that I probably would have prayed for Hitler's conversion rather than joining the resistance movement to oust him, had I'd been around back then.
Issues of politics, poverty and illnesses overwhelm me. So I act as if these issues aren't in the sphere of Christianity as, say, going to church or Bible reading or theological debates. I use 'spirituality' to justify the fact I focus most of my energy on the easy, neat, one hour activities of being a Christian. I'm hesitant to view the time consuming, complex and expensive activities as equally Christian. I stay 'spiritual' so I don't have to do anything difficult.
I Have a Genie in a Bottle
Sometimes the concept of God being inside me tempts me to live as if God is some type of genie. I live as if God's a lucky charm. I think to myself, 'God's always with me, so I will always have a good life'.
Deep down I believe God to be a genie that will make sure:
I'm happy most of the time
I'll have professional success
My relationships will be great
I will feel God close
After my first son died a friend told me that she didn't know if she could be around me anymore. My experiences gave her a glimpse into the uncertainty of life. It was simply too confronting for her to think her baby could die too. I understand her sentiment. Perhaps I don't avoid the reality of pain in the world as overtly as she does, but I do try to avoid it by pretending God is my lucky charm. I pretend having God inside me will ensure my life will end up all fine and dandy.
The truth is God is not a lucky charm. Nor is His presence a ticket to become overly spiritual. I'm like the Israelite's and I corrupt the idea of the temple, just like how many things can get corrupted.
Danielle and Daniel Stott are Bible College graduates who live on the Gold Coast.
Dani and Dan's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/d-and-d-stott.html