Rebuilding the Temple

This morning, I asked ChatGPT what the largest Christian cathedral in the world is. The answer: St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City with over a whopping 15,000 square feet. I thumbed through a number of images showing the magnitude of this structure. It’s hard to imagine that some people have weddings and funerals in such a building. Or even church services for that matter.

I am reminded of a temple once requisitioned by a king named Solomon a few thousand years ago. At a mere 2615 square feet, the size and scope of that structure—an architectural marvel in its day—pales in comparison to St. Peter’s.

The part that intrigues me in all this comes from a reading in Isaiah 66:1-2,

“Heaven is My throne, and the earth is the footstool for My feet.

Where then is a house you could build for Me?

And where is a place that I may rest?

For My hand made all these things,

So all these things came into being,” declares the Lord.

“But I will look to this one,

At one who is humble and contrite in spirit, and who trembles at My word.”

It might surprise you to learn that God never commanded David or Solomon to build a temple. In fact, David was not permitted to build because of his warmongering, and Solomon was only permitted (not commanded) to build it. Then we read here in Isaiah that God sounds almost uninterested in Solomon’s building project. Later, the Babylonian and Assyrian conquests scattered the Jewish people and Solomon’s temple was destroyed.

After the exile, Ezra, Zerubbabel, and Nehemiah oversaw the rebuilding of Jerusalem and construction of the second temple, not quite as splendorous as the first. We read later of Jesus foretelling the destruction of the second temple in Matthew 24, where “one stone will not be left upon the other.” Sure enough, in 70 AD, that temple was also razed to the ground by Rome.

Today, we seek to erect monuments, buildings, temples, and statues as ways to establish His greatness in this world. We Christians spend a lot of money and time and effort and resources on our church buildings. No building, no church, right? But if there is anything that history has taught us, it’s that none of it lasts. It all eventually gets destroyed. St. Peter’s Basilica’s days are numbered. It’s an undeniable fact.

Nope, the truth is that God has no regard for buildings at all. He isn’t interested in our church buildings. He isn’t looking to have monuments erected in His name.

He only wants us. He’s looking for a contrite heart. I had to look that word up. It means, “feeling or showing sorrow and remorse for improper or objectionable behavior, actions, etc.” God wants our humble hearts.

Seriously, that’s it. That’s what God wants. Could He spell it out any simpler?

So, all this enormous effort churches expend on raising money to improve buildings should be scrutinized carefully. Are they focused on bringing humble hearts before the Lord?

At King of Kings, we have spent a good deal of time and money on our building. It’s an older building and it will naturally require more ongoing attention moving forward. The point of caution to take for those of us who make decisions is to not let the building cause us to take our eyes off the one who gave it to us. We should not treat our church building like some monument to God. It is a tool the Lord has provided to assist us in radically loving the people of our neighbourhood well.

Therefore, be praying that we never become a people looking to rebuild the temple. The truth is that our hearts serve as the only lasting temple that God has ever been interested in. Let’s perform ongoing maintenance there.

Pastor Scott