We take our churches for granted. After all, here in America, there’s one on almost every street corner. Even the smallest towns boast of at least two or three church buildings where folks can go to worship freely in the way they are accustomed.
But what would happen if they were suddenly gone?As anti-Christian sentiment grows, it could become a real possibility with church buildings converted to other uses or burned to the ground because of what they represent.
Imagine what it must have been like for the people of Israel during the time of prophets like Ezekiel and Obadiah. From the time God delivered them from Egypt through the wilderness, during the rule of the judges, then the kings, Israel had her Temple.
At first it was a portable structure which moved with them from place to place requiring a whole tribe of their brothers to care for and transport it. Later King Solomon built the first permanent temple – a one-of-a-kind building that practically glowed without sunshine because of all the gold used in its construction. It became a symbol of the power of Israel’s God.
After Solomon’s reign, its beauty soon diminished as wicked kings stripped the Temple of its gold to pay tribute to more powerful surrounding nations. Good kings rose up and restored the temple, but they didn’t have the resources to bring it back to it’s former glory. As long as the temple stood, however, it remained the focal point of their worship in their 0n-again-off-again relationship with God.
Eventually super powers like the Medes, Persians and Babylonians rose up, conquering the land of Israel, carrying off the brightest and best of their people. These enemies left the Temple and their cities in ashes.
With nothing left, the exiles turned to God’s word for comfort and strength. Scribes became the most important religious leaders as they studied and copied the words of their God. They began to define their faith themselves – not relying solely on what their king or priests dictated.
As their faith grew, God eventually returned them to their homeland and raised up leaders to rebuild their cities and the Temple. But though they had a measure of freedom, they never regained their independence or recognition as a nation until recent years.
My question is this: do we in America look to our symbols of faith to save us – like our church buildings, crosses or other visible shows of our faith? Or are we people of the Word – reading it, understanding it and sharing it in these days of growing persecution?
Do we really know the Living Word?