What Will You Look Like On the Other Side of the Crisis?

Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament book of Ezra which describes the time of the people of God returning to the land of Israel from the land of the Chaldeans and from the place of captivity. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters four through seven of this Old Testament book. NOW WHEN THE ADVERSARIES OF JUDAH AND BENJAMIN HEARD THAT THE CHILDREN OF THE CAPTIVITY BUILDED THE TEMPLE UNTO THE LORD GOD OF ISRAEL! NOW WHEN THE ADVERSARIES OF JUDAH AND BENJAMIN HEARD THAT THE CHILDREN OF THE CAPTIVITY BUILDED A TEMPLE! NOW WHEN THE ADVERSARIES OF JUDAH AND BENJAMIN HEARD THAT THE CHILDREN OF THE CAPTIVITY! NOW WHEN THE ADVERSARIES OF JUDAH AND BENJAMIN HEARD! NOW WHEN THE ADVERSARIES OF JUDAH AND BENJAMIN! NOW WHEN THE ADVERSARIES! As you begin reading with and from the opening verse of the fourth chapter of the Old Testament book of Ezra you will find and discover that although the people of God were permitted under direct decree of Cyrus king of Persia to return unto the land to build a house and sanctuary unto the LORD their God, it would not be without its struggles and conflicts. It would be nice to think about and consider that their return to the land would automatically mean that they would no longer experience conflict in the midst of the earth, and that they would return to the land in full and complete peace from that time on. We read the words which are written and recorded within this passage of Scripture and we encounter and come face to face with the tremendous reality that although the children of Israel were permitted to return unto the land of their forefathers and ancestors, and although they would engage in the work of rebuilding the sanctuary of the living God, their process of rebuilding the Temple unto the LORD would not be without opposition and affliction from their enemies and adversaries. In fact, if you take the time to read the words which are written and recorded in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah which is the very next book in the Old Testament, you will find that not only did enemies and adversaries rise up against the people of God to frustrate the work of rebuilding the sanctuary of the LORD their God, but you will also find that their enemies and adversaries rose up against them that they might frustrate the work of rebuilding the walls and the gates of the city. If you take the time to read the words which are found written and recorded in the Old Testament book of Ezra, as well as the Old Testament book of Nehemiah, you will find that when the people of God returned to the land of their forefathers, their ancestors, and the land which was sworn on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Israel, they would return with a very specific mandate from Cyrus king of Persia—namely, that they would return and rebuild the sanctuary and house unto the living God. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this reality, for while we read of the people of God returning to the land, we must recognize and understand that the very heart of their return was the process of rebuilding the sanctuary and Temple unto the LORD their God.

THE HEART OF RETURNING IS REBUILDING! THE HEART OF RETURNING TO THE LAND IS RETURNING TO THE ALTAR! THE HEART OF RETURNING IS RETURNING TO THE ALTAR AND REBUILDING THE SANCTUARY! The more I read and consider the words which are found within the Old Testament book of Ezra the more I can’t help but encounter the tremendous fact that when the children of Israel were permitted to return to the land of their forefathers and ancestors, they were instructed to return in order that they might rebuild the sanctuary of the living God. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this absolutely incredible and astonishing reality, for at the very heart of their returning was the command and decree to rebuild the sanctuary of the living God. In all reality, I would dare say that there would not and could not be any return to the land without and apart from a return to the altar, as well as a rebuilding of the Temple and sanctuary of the living God. There would be a remnant of the people of God that would indeed return to the land of Israel—a remnant of priests, Levites, and others alike—who would return to the land with a very specific purpose and assignment before them. Oh I can’t help but wonder what it must have been like as this remnant of the people of God made their journey from the land of the Chaldeans, and from the midst of Babylon in order that they might return to the land of Israel which was the land of their forefathers and ancestors. What was the journey like from Babylon to Jerusalem, as there would be a mighty remnant of the people of God who would depart from the land of their captivity and exile in order that they might return to the land of promise, the land of inheritance, the land of blessing, and the land of possession? Moreover, what was it like as they entered into the land for the very first in seventy years? I would imagine that there were some among them who remembered what it was like departing from the land during the days of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and now here we find some of those same individuals returning to the land after being cut off from it for seventy years. Oh what was it like for a new generation of the people of God who had never seen the land before because they were born in captivity, and they came upon the land for the very first time—the land which they had heard stories of for decades? I can’t help but wonder what sport of mixed bag it must have been for that remnant to return and come unto the land, for there would have been those who remembered what the land looked like when they departed from it, and there would have been those who had never seen the land, and would see and behold it for the very first time.

TRADING CAPTIVITY FOR RUINS! I sit here today and I can’t help but think about and consider the absolutely tremendous and incredible reality that this remnant which returned to the land of Israel from the place and land of their captivity would return to a land which had lie in rest and peace for seventy years. What’s more, is that I can’t help but wonder what it must have been like for the people of God to return unto the land of Israel and come upon ruins and remains of what once was in the midst of the land. Oh what do you do and how do you respond when you come upon that which once was after so many years later? What do you do when you have been cut off and removed from something for so long, and when you are finally able to return to it, you encounter nothing but ruins, desolation devastation and destruction? There is not a doubt in my mind that the remnant of the people of God which returned to the land of Israel would have returned to a land which some were familiar with, yet perhaps full of complete and utterly rubble and ruins. Oh it is true there were undoubtedly those among the people of God who returned to the land who remembered what it was like in the land when the Temple of the LORD once stood upon the Temple Mount, and when the walls and gates of the city of Jerusalem still stood strong. Now, however, they would return to the midst of the land that was perhaps still full of rubble and ruin from what once was. CLEARING AWAY THE REMINDER OF WHAT ONCE WAS! Oh, I can’t help but think about the fact that in order for the remnant of the people of God who returned to the land to rebuild the Temple of the LORD in the midst of the land, they had to first remove remove the ruin, the rubble, the debris, and all that had been left behind from the previous Temple. It should be noted that I do not for one minute believe that the people of God attempt to rebuild the Temple and sanctuary of the living God with the materials which were still present there in the midst of the land. I do not believe for one moment that they attempted to rebuild the Temple of the LORD with the ruins and rubble of what once was, and they would have instead chosen to completely remove the remnant and remains of what once was. I firmly believe without a doubt in my mind that before any work on the house of the LORD to begin, there needed to first be a work and process of removing the remnants of what once was in order that they might engage in what needed to be in the here and no. In order for them to build the Temple and sanctuary of the living God they could not allow themselves to live and dwell in what once was, but needed to allow themselves to live in the here and the now, and to move forward with the task and assignment that was before them.

I have to admit that the more I read and the more I consider the words which are written and recorded in this passage of Scripture, the more I can’t help but allow myself to be captivated by the fact that in their returning would not only be a return to the altar, but also a rebuilding of the sanctuary. It was indeed true that they could return to the land of Israel—to the land which was given to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob—however, that returning would come with a task and assignment to rebuild the sanctuary unto the LORD. It was the decree of Cyrus the king of Persia that the people of God should return to the land, and in their returning to the land they would engage in the process of rebuilding the sanctuary of the living God. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this truly astonishing reality, for the decree which would allow the children of Israel to return was also an assignment and task that was set before them. WHEN THE DECREE CARRIES AN ASSIGNMENT! WHEN THE DECREE CARRIES A TASK! THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE DECREE! I find it absolutely incredible to think about and consider the fact that the very decree that permitted the return of the children of Israel was the very same decree that would instruct, command, and mandate them to build a sanctuary and house unto the living God. The decree which Cyrus king of Persia issued was not simply about the children of Israel returning to the land, but it was an assignment and responsibility to the house and sanctuary of the LORD. WHEN THE RETURN CARRIES A RESPONSIBILITY TO THE SANCTUARY! Please don’t miss and lose sight of this, for it brings us face to face with a reality that is truly remarkable when you take the time to consider it—namely, that there is this intrinsic link between the Temple of the LORD and the land itself. We dare not, we cannot and must not miss and lose sight of this reality, for it’s almost as if the people of God could not have the land of Israel without and apart from the sanctuary of the LORD, and the sanctuary was in fact a direct necessity in the midst of the land. In all reality, it might very well be said that ,the people of Israel could not separate the sanctuary form the land, and they could not separate the land from the sanctuary. No more could the children of Israel separate the sanctuary from the land than they could separate the city of Jerusalem from the land. It was the city of Jerusalem where the living and eternal God chose to deliberately and intentionally place his name, place His glory, place His honor, and please His very character, nature and image. The city of Jerusalem with the Temple of the living God which would stand at the very heart of it would be a demonstration and manifestation of the majesty and splendor of the living and eternal God of the people of Israel.

The more I read the words which are written and recorded within the book of Ezra the more I can’t help but be absolutely gripped and captivated by the fact that when the people of God were indeed permitted to return to the land, their returning to the land would be predicated on the assignment which was before them. How absolutely incredible and astounding it is to think about the fact that the people of Israel would and could not return to the land without and apart from a responsibility to the sanctuary of the LORD, and even to the very altar of the LORD. THE RETURN TO THE LAND, THE RESPONSIBILITY TO THE SANCTUARY! During these days there is a lot of language that is being spoken and declared about returning to what we once knew and though as “normal.” During these days there is a lot of talk and speech regarding returning to our places of employment, and being able to return to the businesses and establishments we once knew and frequented. For the past two and a half months life as we knew it has been completely and utterly altered—much like life for the people of Israel would have been dramatically altered and transformed for a period of seventy years. For seventy years life as the people of God knew it would be completely and utterly different from what they had previously known and experienced. For nearly three quarters of a century they would live and dwell in captivity and exile in the midst of a land that was not theirs, and in homes which weren’t their own. It’s necessary that we pay close attention to this reality, for during the past two and a half months we have been a form of exile ourselves, as we have been instructed to social distance when in public places. What’s more, is that for the past two and a half months we have been forced to live in a form of captivity and exile as we have been confined to our homes and effectively cut off from church buildings and houses of worship, as well as those establishments we used to frequent and perhaps even took for granted. Over the past two and a half months we have been forced to remain in our homes, and have been forced to keep at least six feet apart from others when we are in public places. We have been required to wear masks and face coverings when we venture out into public, and you cannot even be allowed into most establishments without wearing a mask for face covering. Pause and think about just how much life has been transformed during the past two and a half months, and how life as we have known it has been completely and utterly changed and transformed.

For the children of Israel they had spent seventy years living in what would be something they were not used to, and something they had not known and had not experienced previously. When they returned to the land, however, they would find life once again changing, as although they would return to the land, they would not return to life as they once knew it. When the people of God entered into the land of Israel after spending seventy years cut off from the land and living as captives in a strange and foreign land that wasn’t their own, they would have to adjust and adapt to a new normal—and I would even dare say that would have had to reinvent themselves outside of and separate from the life which they knew in the land of captivity. Pause for a moment and think about those who would have been born in captivity and exile, and those who would have grown up in exile, and who would have made the journey with their parents, or would have even made the journey with their children, and brought them into the land which belonged to their ancestors. I can’t help but wonder what period of adjustment they would have had to experience and undergo upon returning to the land, as the life which they had known in captivity would now be radically changed and transformed to a life of freedom in the midst of the land that had been promised and sworn on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Oh, I wonder what it was like for those who made the decision to return to the land, as that which they had been cut off and removed from for seventy years would finally be reopened to them. What do you do and how do you respond when that which you have been cut off from, and that which you have been removed from is suddenly opened to you once more? What do you do when you are able to once more return to that which you had previously been cut off from in order that you might experience life as you were meant to experience it the whole time. What I find so absolutely tremendous is that regardless of those who were taken away in captivity during the days of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and would return during the days of Darius the Mede, or those who would be born and would grow in captivity and would also return to the land of their forefathers and ancestors—they would return to life as was always intended for them. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the fact that the people of God were never meant to live and dwell in captivity and exile, and it was their sin, it was their iniquity, it was their idolatry, it was their wickedness in the sight of and before the living God that would caused them to be separated, cut off and removed from the land. When, however, they would return to the land, they would return to life the way they were intended on experiencing it the whole time.

I sit here today and I can’t seem to escape the absolutely astonishing reality that during the days and times we are living in there has been certain language that has been used—language such as “normal,” “returning” “opening,” “reopening,” essential,” “rights,” “defiance,” “protests,” and the like. During the days we are in right now—and especially during the coming days, weeks, and even months which lie ahead of us—there is a great deal of language that has been spoken concerning reopening the economy, reopening business, reopening churches, reopening places of employment, and reopening that which we had previously been cut off from. It is quite astonishing to think about how people managed and have had to cope with living their lives cut off from those things which they perhaps not only took for granted, but also thought would always be there. What do you do and how do you respond when you are suddenly cut off and removed from that which you once knew and that which you were so used to within and during your life? What do you do when the convenience and comfort you once knew is suddenly taken away from you, and you are now forced to live in an altered reality and altered state from what you were used to? What do you do when everything you once knew—perhaps even that which you once relied on—is suddenly taken away from you, and you no longer have access to it the way you used to? It has been quite the story and narrative during this time in which we are living in to find ourselves cutoff and removed from those things which we once knew and were so used to within our lives, as men and women have been forced to remain in their homes. For the people of God they had received warnings through the ancient prophets of the LORD who prophesied concerning their sins, who prophecies considering their iniquity, who prophesied concerning their idolatry, and even concerning their not only being given over into the hands of their enemies, but also cut off and removed from the land, and being forced into exile and captivity. When the judgment of the LORD finally struck, and when the captivity of the people of God was finally upon them—I am absolutely and completely convinced that there shouldn’t have been any who were taken by surprise by it, for the LORD raised up His servants the holy prophets to warn them day after day that they might turn from their wicked ways and turn once more unto the LORD their God. Just as much as the captivity should not have taken the people of God by surprise, so also should the return from captivity not taken any by surprise, as the prophet Jeremiah emphatically wrote a letter unto those in captivity and exile in Babylon that they would not return to the land until seventy years had been completed.

The narrative of the people of God being carried away into captivity and exile was in and of itself a direct fulfillment of the prophetic word of the LORD which was spoken through His servants the prophets. What’s more, is that even their return would be directly linked to a prophetic word which was spoken and decreed through the prophet Jeremiah. It would be through the prophet Jeremiah that not only would Daniel discern the length of days for the captivity in the midst of the land of the Chaldeans, but also the return of the people of God unto their land. In fact, when you read and consider the words which are found in the opening verses of this Old Testament book you will find and discover a direct link and reference to the prophetic word which was spoken through the prophet Jeremiah. How absolutely incredible it is to think about the fact that even though the LORD would cut His people off from the land, there would come a point in time when He would return and restore them to the land. Despite the fact that the people of God would be cut off and removed from the land, there would come a time when the people of God would indeed be returned and restored to the land. Perhaps one of the single greatest truths and realities surrounding that, however, is that when the people of God were finally able to return to the land of Israel, it would be completely and drastically different from what it once was before the captivity and exile. I do not believe for a single moment that life would be completely and utterly different during the days after the captivity and exile, and that when the people of God returned to the land they would have to develop and establish a “new normal.” What makes this even more intriguing is when you think about the fact that this “new normal” would and could not be manifested without and apart from the sanctuary and Temple of the living God. I have already written that the return of the people of God to the land of Israel would and could not be without a return to the altar and a call to rebuild the sanctuary of the LORD. It was absolutely impossible for the people of God to return to the land and to essentially have the land once more without the sanctuary and Temple being present among them in their midst. With that being said, however, I find it absolutely incredible that not only would the LORD return the people to the land, but the LORD would also permit a sanctuary and Temple to be built among them once more. It was the LORD who allowed the Temple which Solomon had built to be destroyed and burned with fire, and yet even though the living and eternal God allowed that sanctuary to be destroyed with fire, He would call for a sanctuary and Temple to be rebuilt.

How absolutely wonderful and powerful it is to think about the fact that the LORD desired that a sanctuary and house be built in the midst the earth once more, and in order for that to happen, He would call for His people to return to the land. Pause for a moment and think about the fact that the LORD could have had anyone engage in the work of rebuilding the sanctuary of the LORD, and the LORD could have even stirred up the spirit of Cyrus the king of Persia to have his servants enter into the land of Judah and into the city of Jerusalem in order that they might rebuild the Temple and sanctuary. What makes this truly astonishing is when you think about and consider the fact that even though the spirit of Cyrus was stirred up within him to build for the LORD a house and sanctuary in the midst of the land, he would ordain and decree the people of God return to the land to rebuild the sanctuary. It must be carefully understood that at the very core, and at the very heart of the return of the people of God returning to the land was the necessity to rebuild the Temple and sanctuary of the living God, for the land would and could not be inhabited without and apart from the sanctuary of the living God being present among them in their midst. We dare not miss and lose sight of this absolutely incredible importance, for the return of the people of God would not come without a great responsibility before and unto the LORD—not only to return to the altar in worship, and not only to rebuild the Temple and sanctuary of the living God, but also to return to the LORD with their hearts, with their mind, with their soul and with their strength. Their returning was about more than simply their returning to the land to reinvent themselves in the land of their inheritance, and to build for themselves houses, and plant for themselves vineyards, and to sow in their own fields once more. The return of the people of God to life necessitated the rebuilding of the sanctuary, as the LORD desired that in their return they would also return to the place of worship, to the place of sacrifice and offering before and Him. Think about the fact that for seventy years the people of God would not only be cut off from the land, but would also be cut off from the sanctuary and from the house of the LORD. Consider the fact that for seventy years the people of God would be cut off from the altar of the LORD and would not be able to offer their sacrifices, their gifts and their offerings before the LORD. Oh, I can’t help but wonder what it was like for the people of God who returned to the land to present their sacrifices and offerings unto the LORD during those days after they returned to the land, and after the altar had been rebuilt among them in their midst. Consider if you will the words which are found in the third chapter of this Old Testament book beginning with the first verse of the chapter, which describes the rebuilding of the altar of the LORD, and the gifts, the offerings and sacrifices which were offered upon that altar:

“And when the seventh month was come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem. Then stood up Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, and BUILDED the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God. And they set the altar upon his bases; for fear was upon them because of the people of those countries: and they offered burnt offerings thereon unto the LORD, even burnt offerings morning and evening. They kept also the feast of tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number, according to the custom, as the day of every day required; and afterward offered the continual burnt offering, both of the new moons, and of all the set feasts of the LORD that were consecrated, and of every one that willingly offered a free will offering unto the LORD. From the first day of the seventh month began they to offer burnt offerings unto the LORD. But the foundation of the temple of the LORD was not yet laid. They gave money also unto the masons, and to the carpenters; and meat, and drink, and oil, unto them of Zidon, and to them of Tyre, to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of JPpa, according to the grant that they had of Cyrus king of Persia. Now in the second year of their coming unto the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, began Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the remnant of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all they that were come out of the captivity unto Jerusalem; and appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to set forward the work of the house of the LORD. Then stood Jeshua with his sons and his brethren, Kadmiel and his sons, the son of Judah, together, to set forward the workmen in the house of God: the sons of Henadad, with their sons and their brethren the Levites. And when the builders laid the foundation of the Temple of the LORD, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the LORD, after the ordinance of David king of Israel. And they sant together cry course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy: so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off” (Ezra 3:1-13).

As you read the words which are written and recorded within this passage of Scripture you will find a distinction between two sounds heard in the midst of the land. After the altar of the living God was built and after the priests and the Levites offered unto the living God the sacrifices and offerings according to the Law of Moses, and after the foundation of the Temple of the LORD was laid, there was heard in the midst of the people two distinct sounds. On the one hand you will find the priests and Levites singing and shouting with great joy before the LORD because the foundation of the LORD had been laid, because the altar of the LORD had been rebuilt, and because the LORD was good, and His mercy endureth forever. What makes this particular portion of Scripture so incredibly unique is when you think about and consider the fact that while there was the sound of singing and shouting in the midst of the land at the laying of the foundation of the Temple of the LORD, there would also be the sound of crying, of weeping, and of mourning in the midst of the land. There would be that newer generation that would witness and behold the laying of the foundation of the Temple of the LORD which they had never had access to, while on the other hand you will find the former generation weeping and mourning because this new Temple was not the former Temple which they had among them in their midst—the Temple of the LORD which Solomon the son of David had built. Pause for a moment and think about the tremendous confusion and chaos which could have ensued during this time, for there were those who were singing and shouting at the laying of the foundation of a new Temple and sanctuary of the living God in the midst of the earth, while there were others who actually wept over this new Temple which was being laid. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this reality, for it is actually something that warrants a strong consideration on our parts concerning the laying of the foundation of this new Temple, as well as the rebuilding of the Temple itself. There were those who wept over this new Temple that’s was built in the midst of the land because they remembered the former Temple and the way things used to be—the way things were before the captivity and exile. There were those who had a difficult time with the laying of the foundation of this new Temple and sanctuary of the LORD because they remembered the glory and grandeur that surrounded the former sanctuary and Temple which once stood in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. There were those who could not help but weep over the Temple and sanctuary of the LORD—and not even the Temple and sanctuary of the LORD, but the foundation of the Temple—for they remembered the former Temple, and in all reality, the way things used to be.

I sit here today thinking about how the third chapter concludes, and I can’t help but think about the tremendous response men and women can and will have during this time when we are able to return to church buildings and houses of worship, when we are able to return to restaurants and shopping centers, when we are able to return to businesses and establishments as we once used to. There is and there has been this phrase of “a new normal” which has been presented during this time, and even the governor of the state of Massachusetts has outlined and describe the fourth and final phase of his plan to reopen the state as being “the new normal.” When I read the words which are written and recorded in the final verses of the third chapter, I can’t help but encounter and come face to face with the tremendous mixed response that can and will take place during the days and times in which we can and will be entering, for there can and there will be those who will look upon the new normal, and will be completely and utterly depressed over what life is going to be like—simply because they remember what life was like before the pandemic and crisis. There is not a doubt in my mind that this crisis didn’t merely alter and transform life during the two and a half months we have been working from home and have been hunkered down in our homes, and that it can and will altar and transform life as we know it during the coming weeks, months, and perhaps even years. There is absolutely no denying the fact that we can and will be entering into a period of time when the way we will be living is in fact a “new normal,” which is and will be completely and utterly different from what we used to enjoy and experience. I firmly believe that there are going to be countless hundreds, if not thousands, and perhaps even millions of men and women who will not only struggle with this “new normal,” but will actually express great sorrow, great despair, and great anguish over what has become the new reality compared to the former reality. There were those in the land of Judah and in the city of Jerusalem who shouted and sang for joy because of the laying of the foundation of the Temple, for up until that point they had only heard stories about the Temple of Solomon, and could only dream and imagine what that Temple would have been like. Now you have this new generation which never experienced the Temple of Solomon, which never experienced the altar of the LORD, which never experienced the feasts which were ordained by Moses the servant of the LORD, and who never worshipped the LORD the way He had ordained and prescribed according to the law of Moses.

The language we find in the third chapter of the Old Testament book of Ezra is actually quite remarkable and astonishing when you take the time to think about it, for think about and consider what type of message the weeping of the older generation was sending to the younger generation, which up to that time had only heard stories about the glory and splendor of the Temple of Solomon. Here we have a new generation which had never known or seen the Temple which Solomon had built, and which had never seen or known the land of their fathers and ancestors, and now—not only are they experiencing the land which their fathers and ancestors lived and dwelt in, but they are also experiencing the foundation of the Temple of the LORD being laid. Here we have this new generation which never knew the altar of the LORD, and which never knew the sacrifices and offerings which were prescribed by Moses the servant of the LORD, and they are now witnessing and beholding a wonderful and powerful moment within their lives, for they would not only experience the land, and they would not only experience the altar of the LORD, but they would also experience the foundation of the Temple of the LORD. Oh it was true that they would not see the Temple which Solomon had built, but they would see a new Temple that would be built in their generation for them to come unto that they might worship before the LORD their God. This new generation would witness and behold something truly fantastic within their generation, as they would witness and behold the altar of the LORD being available unto them that they might come and appear before the LORD. For this newer generation which had not known the altar, nor the sanctuary of the LORD, they would now be able to experience the Temple of the LORD in their generation. This generation which had not known the altar of the LORD where they could present their gifts, their sacrifices and their offerings, they would now know the truly wonderful reality of the Temple of the LORD. How absolutely wonderful and amazing it is to think about and consider the fact that this generation which would return to the land—and not only this generation that would return to the land, but also the generations that would come after them—would have a Temple and sanctuary unto the LORD which they could come before the LORD with their gifts, their sacrifices and offerings. I cannot help but be absolutely astonished and amazed at this reality, for this generation within the land of Israel which had never known the Temple of Solomon would now have their own Temple—a place where they would be able to come and worship the living God. This generation which up until that time would only hear stories of the altar of the LORD, and would only hear stories of the Temple of the LORD, would now have their own Temple and would now have their own altar whereby they might be able to worship before the LORD their God.

I am convinced that there were essentially two distinct assaults on this new generation with the Temple of the LORD that was built among them, and the altar of the LORD that was built before them in their midst. On the one hand you find the older generation weeping among them in their presence because they remembered the former Temple and had seen it with their own eyes. On the other hand, you will find the adversaries of Judah and the adversaries of the people of God—when they had heard that the children of the captivity were building the Temple unto the LORD God of Israel—rose up against them in opposition against them. I cannot escape the absolutely tremendous fact that there were essentially two assaults on this new Temple which would be built among the children of Israel in the midst of the land. On the one hand there was an internal assault within the land itself, as the former generation which had seen and which remembered the former Temple which Solomon had built would actually weep over the Temple of the LORD which would be built among them in their midst. On the other hand there would be a threat and assault on the Temple of the LORD from outside the land of Judah, for when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the Temple of the LORD was being rebuilt, they would not only seek to weaken the hands of the people of Judah, and trouble them in building, but they would also hire counsellers against them to frustrate their purposes. What’s more, is that they would take it a step further and would go so far as to write a letter unto the king of Persia—Artaxerxes—accusing them of being a rebellious people who rebelled against the kings of the earth. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this absolutely astonishing reality, for here we have this new generation of the people of God who would not only return to the land of their fathers and ancestors, but would also experience the laying of the foundation of the Temple of the LORD and the building of the altar of the LORD, and they would face and experience opposition from enemies and adversaries round about them who would seek to come against and stop the work of building the house of the LORD. Within the fourth chapter of the Old Testament book of Ezra we encounter and come face to face with the fact that what would initially begin with the enemies and adversaries of Judah and Benjamin seeking to weaken their hands in the work of rebuilding the Temple of the LORD, would actually continue to the point and place where they would actually write a letter of accusation against them before and unto the king of Persia. Consider if you will the words which are written and recorded within the fourth chapter of this Old Testament book beginning to read with and from the first and opening verse:

“Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the LORD god of Israel; then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esa-haddon king of Assurion, which brought us up hither. But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an a house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us. Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, and hired counsellers against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. And in the days of Artaxerxes wrote Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their companions, unto Artaxeres king of Persia; and the writing of the latter was written in the Syrian tongue, and interpreted in the Syrian tongue” (Ezra 4:1-7).

It’s absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand the words which are written and found within this passage, for within this passage we encounter and come face to face with a strong opposition that rose up in the midst of the land in order to frustrate the work of building the sanctuary of the LORD. Here we have the people of God who had returned to the land, and we have a people who had never known the land of their fathers and ancestors, and who have never known the Temple of the LORD, nor the altar of the LORD, and now they are beginning to experience the altar of the LORD for the first time, and are experiencing the foundation of the Temple of the LORD being laid before their eyes, and now they are experiencing direct opposition from enemies and adversaries round about them in order to frustrate the work. In fact, the language which you find written and recorded within this passage not only describes how their enemies and adversaries attempted to weaken their hands, but also trouble them in their building. Moreover, they would hire counsellers against them in order that they might frustrate their purpose before they would finally resort to accusation against them. Please pay careful and close attention to this reality, for this reality calls and brings us face to face with the absolutely incredible reality that when it comes to building the Temple of the LORD, and when it comes to building the sanctuary of the living God, there will always be enemies and adversaries that will rise up against the people of God to attempt to weaken the hands and frustrate the purpose. This generation of the people of God would attempt to engage in something they had never known or experienced before, and in that process they would experience direct opposition from the enemies and adversaries before and around them. This is incredibly important for us to think about and consider, for what we find is a powerful picture of what I am absolutely convinced can and will take place in the coming days, the coming weeks, and the coming months ahead of us. I firmly believe that in our process of returning to some type of semblance of the life we once knew, there is a strong and powerful call to return to the altar, as well as to rebuild the sanctuary of the living and eternal God. I do not believe for one moment the living God wants or desires us to return to our jobs, return to our church buildings and houses of worship, and return to some of those things we once knew without having at the very heart and foundation of it the Temple of the living God, and the altar of LORD our God. There is not a doubt in my mind that in our returning to work, in our returning to worship, and in our returning to some type of life as we knew it, there must be at the very heart and core of it a return to the altar of the LORD.

In all reality, I can’t help but hear within my spirit a powerful word of caution from the Spirit of the LORD instructing and commanding us to not try and return to work, to worship, and to that which we once knew without and apart from the altar. Those who would attempt to return to those things which they once knew and attempt to separate the altar of the LORD from the midst of it, as well as the process, can and will find themselves in an incredibly dangerous place and position before the living God. Those who attempt to return to some type of life as they once knew it without a return to the sanctuary of the living God, and without a return to worship before the throne of the God of heaven and earth can and will find themselves playing a dangerous game in the presence of the LORD. What’s more, is that we must recognize and understand that in our process of returning to the altar, and in our process of rebuilding the Temple and sanctuary of the living God there can and there will be opposition against us from enemies and adversaries before and around us. There will be those among us who can and will attempt to rebuild the sanctuary before and unto the living God, and will in the process of rebuilding the sanctuary of the LORD will find themselves staring down opposition that will not only seek to weaken the work, but will also seek to frustrate the work. We must recognize and understand this, for as certainly and as surely as the altar needs to be at the forefront of our return in the coming days, weeks and months, we must remember that at the very heart and core of it must be the altar of the living God, and our worship before the throne of the living God. We dare not, we cannot and must not make any attempt to return without and apart from the altar of the LORD, for the entire purpose of returning is centered upon the altar of the living God. The entire purpose for returning is rebuilding the sanctuary of the living God among us in our midst that we might once more worship Him with our gifts, with our sacrifices and with our offerings. The altar of the LORD and the sanctuary of the living God must truly and indeed be at the very heart and core of our returning. If we attempt to return and we miss out on the tremendous reality of having at the very center of it the altar of the LORD and worshipping before the LORD with our gifts and offerings, we have truly and utterly missed the point.

I sit here today, and I can’t help but get the strong sense within my spirit that even when church buildings are once more opened to worshippers, and even when houses of worship are once more opened to congregants and parishioners, there will be those who will have completely and utterly missed the point. There are going to be pastors, ministers, and leaders within church buildings and within houses of worship that are going to return to the buildings and will find that this time has accomplished absolutely nothing within their own hearts and lives. I fear and tremble when I read of these pastors and ministers that attempt to defy authority and defy government demanding and speaking of their rights and that they are essential. I fear and tremble when I hear of these pastors who try to sue state and local government in order that they might somehow accomplish their own agendas, their own plans, their own purposes, and their own desires. I absolutely cringe when I read of pastors and ministers who think they can defy state and local government, and the recommendations that are presented before us by health organizations, and medical experts. I have to admit that one of the greatest dangers during this time is this spirit of defiance and rebellion that has been found in the hearts of many alike. If you read and consider the events which have taken place during this time, as well as the events which continue to take place, you will find that there is a spirit of defiance and rebellion that has laid hold of countless individuals, as restaurant owners have been defiant during this time, as church leaders and pastors have been defiant, as hair salon owners have been defiant, as gym owners have been defiant, and as a serious spirit of rebellion has gripped and captivated the hearts of countless men and women. In all reality, I would dare say that during this time—not only is there a spirit of defiance within the hearts of business owners and church leaders alike, but there is also a spirit of protest and rebellion that is found within the hearts of countless men and women who demand the economy to open up again, and demand that they have rights, and that their rights are somehow being violated. I cringe and tremble when I read of this continual spirit of defiance and rebellion that is found within our nation during this time—a stark and strong contrast to the spirit of humility, peace, tranquility, quietness and rest that has been exhibited throughout the world. As much as there is and there has been a spirit of defiance and rebellion, there has also been a spirit of peace, a spirit of rest, a spirit of contentment, and a spirit of humility during this time as men and women have been content to stand on their porches and balconies joining together in melodious harmonies of worship and song.

As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I can’t help but get the strong sense within my heart and spirit that there are many during this time who have played and who are continuing to play a dangerous game in the sight and presence of the LORD through the spirit of defiance that is upon them, as well as the spirit of rebellion that is within and upon them. Two of the greatest buzzwords that are found and which have been used during this time have been “essential” and “rights,” and this spirit of defiance and rebellion have had at the very heart of it the personal rights men and women lay hold of, and their need, their desire to be, and their belief that they are essential. From protests and demonstrations in streets of cities across the nation, to defiant business owners, to defiant church leaders who would also seek to go so far as to sue state and local governments, we are not witnessing human strength, but rather human weakness, human arrogance, human pride, human entitlement, and that which the enemy and adversary can and will seek to exploit during this time. During this time I have read about fraudsters attempting to exploit the pandemic, I have read about ISIS attempting to exploit the pandemic, I have read about hoarders of product that they might exploit this crisis, and I have even read about hackers exploiting this crisis through flooding the internet with pornography. There have been countless different individuals who have sought to exploit this crisis and pandemic for their own gain and for their own purpose, and yet even above this there is a very real adversary that will attempt to exploit this crisis in the spiritual and supernatural realm, and will attempt to present it in the earthly and natural realm. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this truly astounding reality, for it must be called and cast out during these days.

During this time it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that at the very heart and core of everything that has taken place—it has not been about us, it has not been about our rights, it has not been about our need for validation, it has not been about our need to be or feel essential. If I am being honest with you who are reading the words of this writing, I would wholeheartedly and emphatically declare unto you that during this time we have been called to return to the altar, and we have been called to return to the sanctuary of the living God. I fear that there are going to be church buildings and houses of worship that are going to open once more, and are going to have congregants and parishioners alike who are going to enter into their doors once more, and yet there has not been, nor will there be a return to the altar, nor a return to the sanctuary. In all reality, I am going to be so bold as to emphatically declare that I could not and would not be a part of any church or any congregation that moves and operates in this spirit of defiance and this spirit of rebellion. In all reality, if your pastor, or your leader has moved in a spirit of defiance and in a spirit of rebellion during this time, I would seriously get on my face before the true and living God and ask Him to reveal unto you whether or not it is time to move on from that place. There is not a doubt in my mind that during this time the Spirit of the LORD is exposing and revealing the hearts of men as is aptly and powerful demonstrated through the various demonstrations and protests taking place, as well as the countless business owners and church leaders alike who have operated in a spirit of defiance and a spirit rebellion before the living God. Heaven help you if you have been such a one during this time who has moved and operated in a spirit of defiance and rebellion before and in the sight of the living God, and have attempted to parade your rights, your entitlement, and your freedom of speech. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and come face to face with the fact that during this time we are being and have been called to fully surrender and lay down our rights, and fully and completely surrender our sense of entitlement, validation, worth, purpose, and the like, in order that we might truly put on the character of Christ. In fact, I would dare say that one of the single greatest needs during this time is the tremendous and wonderful need to put on the character and nature of Jesus the Christ, and to come out on the other side looking more like Jesus than we did previously.

Let me conclude this writing by asking you a very personal, a very pointed, and a very powerful question. Have you—as a result of this crisis and pandemic—found yourself looking more like Jesus the Christ, or do you look the same as you did before you entered into and walked through it? If you have not developed the character of Christ in an even greater degree and measure, and if you have not truly been clothed in Christ during this time and look more like Him and less like you than you have completely and utterly missed the entire point of what has taken place during this time. If you do not exit this crisis and pandemic looking more like Christ, acting more like Christ, sounding more like Christ, and walking more like Christ, then you have missed one of the greatest purposes, roles and functions of this crisis. I would love to say that when church buildings are opened once again that all those who enter into the buildings are going to be radically and completely transformed, but the truth of the matter is that there are going to be churches that are going to be nothing more than whitewashed tombs which outwardly appear beautiful, and inwardly are full of dead men’s bones. It is my prayer that during this time we allow ourselves to put on Christ, and to put on the very character and nature of Jesus the Christ that it might no longer be us who live, but Christ who lives within us. Perhaps one of the single greatest needs during this time is to allow ourselves to be crucified with Christ in order that it might no longer be us who live, but Christ who lives in and through us. I feel compelled to say that if you have not taken this time to put on the character and image of Christ, and if you have not taken this time to truly draw near to Jesus the Christ and to know Him, and the fellowship of His sufferings, and the power of His resurrection—it’s not too late. There is a great and effectual door that is before us during this time, and we must be wise and discerning to not only approach the door, but also to walk through the door, and to allow the Spirit of Christ to richly dwell in us and completely and utterly transform us into the character, the image and likeness of Jesus the Christ.

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