Today’s selected reading continues in and concludes the Old Testament book of Nehemiah, which describes the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem, as well as repairing the gates of the city. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters twelve and thirteen of this Old Testament book. When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the Old Testament book of Nehemiah drawing to a close and with it the narrative of the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem, as well as the repairing of the gates. In order to truly understand that which is found within the final two chapters of this Old Testament book it is necessary to turn your attention back to the ninth chapter and what is written and recorded therein. As you begin reading the ninth chapter of the Old Testament book of Nehemiah you will find the returned and restored people of God assembling together, and doing so in order that they might give themselves to fasting, and with sackcloth and with earth upon them. This is actually quite astonishing when you think about it, for here in this particular passage we find the culmination of an event which began taking place in the eighth chapter. If you turn and direct your attention back to the eighth chapter you will once more find the people of God being assembled together before Ezra the priest and Nehemiah the governor of the land, as well as the Levites. It would be during this time that both Ezra and Nehemiah would begin teaching the people of God according to the words of the Law which were given unto Moses the servant of the LORD. I have to admit that one of the greatest realities surrounding the return and restoration of the people of God to the land was the fact that their return would not be without a priest who was able to not only understand the Law of Moses, but also teach the Law of Moses. It is truly something to witness and behold when reading these words, as when the Jewish people returned to the land, they did so to rebuild the Temple of the LORD, and rebuild and repair the altar of the LORD, however, there was also the tremendous presence and influence of the Law of Moses which was presented before them in the midst of the land. I absolutely love that the return to the land was not simply about a return to the land itself, but it was also about a return to the LORD, as well as a return to the Law of the LORD.
I thank God that there was a teaching priest who was understanding and wise concerning the Law of Moses, and who was able to teach them according to words written therein. In all reality, we dare not and cannot try and understand the return and restoration of the people to the land without understanding the need for the presence of the Law to be found among them in their midst, as it would be the Law of Moses that would not only serve as the foundation of their lives, but would also guide and direct them in their obedience to the LORD. Consider if you will the words which are found in the eighth chapter of the book of Nehemiah beginning to read with and from the first and opening verse of the eighth chapter:
“And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel. And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law. And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose…And Ezra opened the book in the sight of the all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up: and Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place. So they read in the book of the Law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. And Nehemiah which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law. Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our LORD: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength. So the Levites stilled the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved. And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them. And on the second day were gathered together the chief of the fathers of all the people, the priests, and the Levites, unto Ezra the scribe, even to understand the words of the law. And they found written in the law which the LORD had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month: and that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written. So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the street of the water gate, and in the street of the gate of Ephraim. And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness. Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according unto the manner” (Nehemiah 8:1-18).
The words which we find written and recorded in this passage of Scripture is actually quite remarkable and astounding, for within it—not only will you find a people having returned to the land, and having been restored in the midst of the land through the rebuilding of the Temple of the LORD, as well as the rebuilding of the wall of the city and the repairing of the gates thereof, but you will also find the people returning to the Law of the LORD. There is a part of me that can’t help but wonder whether or not the people—when they lived and dwelt in the midst of their captivity and exile—heard the words which were written in the book of the Law of Moses. We know that during the captivity and for seventy years the people of God were cast out and cut off from the land, we know the people were cut off from the sanctuary and the altar of the LORD, and we know the priests and Levites did not minister according to their office and ministry in the sanctuary of the living God, but is it also possible that during that time the people of God were also cut off from the Law of the LORD? Scripture isn’t clear on this point, and we have to wonder if during those seventy years of captivity if the people were taught the words which were written in the book of the Law of Moses which the LORD had given him atop Horeb in the wilderness of Sinai. We cannot say for sure whether or not the people were taught the words which were found in the book of the Law of Moses during their time in captivity and exile, but one thing we can know for sure is that when they returned to the land and were restored in the midst of it, there was also a great returning to the Law of the LORD—a return to that which the LORD their God had commanded, and a return to what the LORD their God required of them. Scripture isn’t clear what portion or what part of the Law of the LORD Ezra read from, but I am absolutely certain that Ezra mighty very well have read beginning with the Old Testament book of Genesis, and continuing through to the final verse found in the book of Deuteronomy. I would dare say and suggest that when Ezra read the words which were found in the book of the Law, hue held nothing back and read before and unto them the full Law which was given unto Moses during his time atop Horeb in the midst of the wilderness of Sinai. Please do not miss this absolutely wonderful and tremendous reality, for the return to the land, as well as the restoration in the midst of the land was an incredibly powerful return to the Law of the LORD, and a return to what the LORD would require of them. It wasn’t simply enough for them to return to the land, for there in the midst of the land they would also need to return and be restored unto the Law.
RETURNING AND BEING RESTORED TO THE LAW OF THE LORD! RETURNING AND BEING RESTORED UNTO THE TEMPLE AND HOUSE OF THE LORD! RETURNING AND BEING RESTORED TO THE ALTAR OF THE LORD! The more I think and the more I consider the words which are found within the Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah, the more I can’t help but consider the fact that although these books were indeed books that were centered around two distinct works which needed to be completed in the midst of the land of Israel—the work was not the main and underlying focal point of those who had returned to the land. It would be very easy to get caught up in the work which was before the children of Israel as they returned into and were restored in the midst of the land, and yet while it was true that there was an external work which needed to be done in the midst of the land—namely, rebuilding the Temple of the LORD, namely repairing the altar of the LORD, as well as rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem and repairing the gates therein—there would also be an internal work that needed to be done within and among them. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this absolutely wonderful and incredible reality, for as much as we would like to focus on the external work which took place in the midst of these Old Testament books, it is important to recognize and understand the internal work which needed to be done within and among them. There is great application concerning this reality within our own lives, for how many times do we allow ourselves to get caught up in and consumed with the external work that is before us and which needs to be done, and in the process of engaging ourselves in the external work which is before us we neglect and ignore the work which needs to take place within us. There is a great and terrible danger in becoming so focused and so consumed with the external work that is before us that we completely and utterly neglect and ignore the work which needs to take place within us. In all reality, I am absolutely convinced that this is what was so incredibly critical and vital concerning the roles which Ezra the priest, Joshua the high priest, and even the priests and the Levites, as well as Nehemiah the governor played in the midst of the people who had returned to the land, for even though the work had stopped there was still a work that needed to be done. EVEN THOUGH THE WORK HAD STOPPED THERE WAS STILL A WORK! EVEN THOUGH THE WORK HAD STOPPED THERE WAS STILL A WORK THAT NEEDED TO BE DONE! THE WORK IS NEVER OVER! THE WORK AFTER THE WORK! THE WORK AFTER THE WORK IS FINISHED! It might very well be said that once the work of rebuilding the Temple and altar of the LORD was completed, the people which were present in the midst of the land could in fact begin the process of returning to the LORD their God, returning to the Law of the LORD which was commanded by Moses the servant of the LORD, and could engage themselves in the work within and upon themselves. Moreover, it was after the work of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem and repairing the gates that the people of Israel turned and devoted their attention to the work which needed to be done within and among themselves.
As I sit here today thinking about the work after the work, I can’t help but be reminded—not only of the words which surround the sending out and returning of the seventy whom Jesus sent before His face into every town and village wherein He would enter, and not only of the words which Jesus spoke in His famous Sermon on the Mount, but also the words which Jesus spoke concerning the Pharisees and the scribes whom He branded and labeled as hypocrites. I am convinced that in order to truly understand the work beyond the work, and the work which still needs to take place after the work is finished and completed, it is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand these words. What’s more, is that I would also call and draw your attention to the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the epistle which was sent unto the saints and believers which were in Philippi. In the first and opening chapter of this particular epistle you will find a truly remarkable and astonishing declaration concerning the internal work which needs to be done within our hearts and lives. Consider if you will each of these passages beginning to read with and from the narrative of the seventy whom Jesus sent out before and ahead of Him into those cities, those towns, and those villages He Himself would come:
“After these things the LORD appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray ye therefore the LORD of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest. Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way. And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again. And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house. And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you: and heal the sick that after therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city” (Luke 10:1-12).
“And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, LORD, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:17-20).
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:13-23).
“But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall wear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! Ye fools and blind: for whither is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar the sanctifieth the gift? Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things therein. And whoso shall swear by the Temple, and sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth therein. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of minute and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe, unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisees, cleanse firs that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you scribes, and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchre, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchre of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell” (Matthew 23:13-33).
“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ. And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:3-11).
If you read each of these passages you will quickly encounter and come face to face with the tremendous reality that it is indeed possible to get so caught up in the external work which is before us that we neglect and ignore the internal work that needs to take place within us ourselves. The seventy whom Jesus sent out ahead of Him into the cities and villages wherein He would come returned unto Him with great joy proclaiming that even the spirits were subject unto them in His name, however, upon hearing these words Jesus would ultimately and emphatically declare unto them that they ought not to rejoice that the spirits are subject unto them, but that their names are written in the book of life. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this, for this reality is played out and expressed all the more when Jesus declared that there would many who would come to Him in that day and would speak of the wonderful things they did, of how they prophesied in His name, and how they even cast out devils in His name, and yet He will speak and declare unto them that He never knew them. It’s necessary that we recognize and understand this, for I am convinced that this is why Jesus corrected the thinking of the seventy who returned unto Him with great joy within their hearts concerning the spirits being subject unto them, for Jesus knew that as great and as wonderful as casting out spirits in the name of Jesus truly is—there is something that is far greater and far more powerful than casting out spirits and spirits being subject to the name of Jesus—namely, our names being written in the book of life. If you think about and consider the words which are found concerning the seventy in light of what is written and recorded in the words which Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount, you might very well get the sense that if Jesus didn’t correct their thinking, it would have been possible for some among these seventy to continue carrying out the work and assignment Jesus had sent them to do, and yet completely miss out on the weightier and more important reality of having their name written in the book of life. We dare not and must not allow ourselves to get so caught up in the external work—even the external work of prophesying in the name of Jesus, and casting out spirits in the name of Jesus, and doing many wonderful things in His name—and yet we neglect and ignore the facts of whether or not our names are written in the book of life. It is absolutely necessary that we not allow ourselves to get so caught up in the external work which is before us that we completely and utterly neglect the internal work that needs to be done within our hearts and lives.
When speaking unto the Pharisees and the scribes, Jesus declared unto them that they went to great lengths and took great measures to make sure the outside of the cup was clean, while completely and utterly ignoring the inside of the cup. What’s more, is that Jesus would go on to speak and declare unto them that they were like whited tombs which appeared beautiful on the outside, but inside were full of dead men’s bones. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this truly and remarkable reality, for it is this reality that brings us face to face with the absolutely remarkable reality that it is possible to allow ourselves to be so caught up and consumed with the external work which is before us that we completely and utterly ignore and neglect the internal work which needs to take place within and among us. It is absolutely and without a doubt possible to get so caught up in “the work of the LORD,” and “working for the LORD,” that we completely and utterly miss and lose out on the reality of the work which must needs take place within us. While the external work before us is great, and while we should in no way diminish that work, we must recognize and understand that just as critical and just as necessary as the external and outward work was, there is an internal work which needs to be done within our hearts and lives. We dare not and must not sacrifice and neglect the inner work on the altar of the work which is before us in the earth, for to do so could very well have dire and eternal consequences for us. When the apostle Paul wrote unto the Philippians, and when he mentioned and spoke of his remembering them in his prayers, he expressed his confidence that He who began a good work in them will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. Moreover, the apostle Paul would later go on to write and declare that it is the LORD who both wills and works in us His good pleasure. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand this absolutely incredible need to engage ourselves in the internal work within our hearts and lives, for it would be incredibly easy to allow ourselves to become so caught up and consumed with the work which is before our eyes and completely neglect the work that needs to be done behind the eyes. THE WORK BEFORE THE EYES, THE WORK BEHIND THE EYES! We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the fact that as surely as there is a work which is before our eyes, and as much as there will always be a work before our eyes, there is an even deeper work that needs to be carried out behind the eyes within the depths of our heart and soul.
As you read the words which are written and recorded in the Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah you will find that when the Jewish people returned to the land of their ancestors and forefathers there was a great work which needed to be done. There is absolutely no mistaking the fact that upon entering into the land they were confronted with desolation, they were confronted with destruction, they were confronted with ruin and rubble. In fact, I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like for the people of Israel to return to the land and not only look upon and behold the land, but also to witness and behold the great destruction, devastation and desolation that was found therein. Undoubtedly when they entered into the land they would have been completely and utterly confronted with the enormity of the work that was before them, and there is no doubt that there was a great work which needed to be done within the land. The Temple of the LORD would need to be rebuilt in the midst of the land, and the altar of the LORD would need to be rebuilt in the midst of the court of the sanctuary. Moreover, it would be Nehemiah himself who would return to the land and call the people to engage themselves in the work of rebuilding the wall of the city of Jerusalem, as well as repairing the gates in the midst thereof. There is no mistaking and no denying the fact that there was indeed a great and wonderful work which needed to take place in the midst of the land, and that there was a great need to commit and devote themselves to that work. The people would need to set their hearts, their minds, their hands, and their bodies to the work which was before them, and they would indeed need to engage themselves in the work of rebuilding and repairing. With that being said, however, it must be said that as surely and as much as they would give themselves to the work of rebuilding and repairing physical structures, there was an even greater work which needed to be done—namely, the work of rebuilding and repairing themselves, and rebuilding and repairing their lives before the God who had brought them forth out of their captivity, and had brought them into the land. As surely and as much as there was an external work of rebuilding and repairing physical structures, there was an even greater need to rebuild and repair themselves before the LORD in the midst of the land. It is absolutely necessary that we do not miss and lose sight of this absolutely tremendous reality, for when we read these words it would be very easy to allow ourselves to get caught up in the work of rebuilding the Temple, rebuilding the wall, and repairing the gates of the city of Jerusalem, and yet completely neglect and ignore the reality that there was a great and present need for them to rebuild and repair their lives in the midst of the land as the people of God.
The words which we find written and recorded in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah do in fact describe a great work which needed to be done in the midst of the land upon returning therein, and the work before the children of Israel was no small task, nor was it a small assignment. The work which was before them was truly great, and it was truly pressing as they would not only need to remove the ruin, debris and rubble that had been left behind from the desolation and destruction, but they would also need to rebuild the Temple of the LORD from scratch and from the ground up. I would dare say that there was still portions of the wall of the city of Jerusalem which were still standing, however, the work before the returned and restored Jewish people was still great as not only would they need to rebuild the wall, and repair the gates, but they would need to stop all the breaches therein, and would need to join the portions of the wall together that it might be a whole and complete wall once more. The work which was before the people of God within the land was no small work, and we cannot and must not diminish or negate the work which needed to be done in the midst of the land into which they had been brought and returned. There was indeed a great need for the people of God to both rebuild the Temple of the LORD, as well as rebuild and repair the altar of the LORD. There was a great need for the people of God to rebuild the wall of the city of Jerusalem, and to repair the gates therein. With this being said, however, I am convinced that once the work of rebuilding and repairing physical structures had been completed, the true work would begin—the work of rebuilding and repairing the people themselves in the midst of the land. I am absolutely and completely convinced that this is what was so vital and what was so critical of Ezra the priest and scribe, of Joshua the high priest, the priests and Levites, as well as Nehemiah the governor in the midst of the land, for through these great and mighty men before the LORD the people would be called to continue working—albeit, not working on physical buildings and physical structures, but working on themselves as the people of God. I cannot escape this absolutely wonderful reality that even after the external work has been finished and completed there is still an internal work which needs to take place, and which is just as important—if not more important than the work of rebuilding physical buildings and structures. Tell me dear brother, tell me dear sister—what good are physical structures and physical buildings if that which was made without human hands is in ruins, is in desolation, is in devastation and destruction? What good is it if the physical Temple which stands in the midst of the people in the earth is rebuilt once more, and yet the spiritual Temple which was made without and apart from human hands lies in ruin and desolation? We cannot afford to miss and lose sight of this reality, for as truly great as the work before us might be in the earth, there is a great and powerful work which needs to take place within our own hearts and within our own souls, as we are called to rebuild and repair ourselves, and rebuild and repair our lives before the true and living God.
THE WORK BEHIND THE EYES! THE WORK BENEATH THE SURFACE! When I read the words which are written and recorded within these Old Testament books I can’t help but be absolutely gripped and captivated by the fact that as great as the work of rebuilding the wall and repairing its gates truly was for the national and physical safety of the returned and restored people of God, there was an even deeper and an even greater work that needed to be done among them in their midst. As great as the work of rebuilding the Temple truly was, and as great as rebuilding the altar of the LORD truly was—that work was the foundation and groundwork for a work which needed to be done in the midst of the lives of the returned and restored people. Tell me dear reader, which is greater—the work in the midst of the land, or the work in the midst of lives? During this time in which we are living there is a great emphasis on returning to buildings, returning to pews, returning to chairs, returning to pulpits, returning to buildings made with human hands, and there are countless ministers and church leaders who are actually going so far as to operating out of a spirit of defiance in the midst of this current time in which we are living. There are countless church leaders who are threatening to defy the order(s) and recommendations of the government, and are even threatening to sue state and local government and government elected officials. While on the surface some might think and consider that this is merely Christian leaders, pastors, teachers, preachers and the like standing up for the rights of the Church, we must recognize that as Christians we surrendered and sacrificed our rights the moment we made the decision to walk with and follow Jesus the Christ. It was Jesus Himself who declared that if any man wished to come after Him, they must first deny themselves, then take up the cross, and finally follow Him. What’s more, is that Jesus would go on to declare that anyone who loves father, or mother, or brother, or sister, or even the closest familial connection more than Him is not worthy of Him. I am convinced that while freedom of religion is in fact something that is quite remarkable and astounding within this nation, and while I am grateful for the ability to worship freely the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, I am absolutely and completely convinced that we can allow our views and our perceptions to be blinded and misguided by our amendments and so-called rights. In all reality, I would dare say there are Christian leaders, preachers, pastors, leaders, and even those who attend churches services regularly who are hiding behind amendments granted unto them by the founding fathers and by the constitution, and are using it as the catalyst for their defiance and rebellion against state, local—and in some case, even federal government. I would dare say our founding fathers would be utterly and completely appalled if they witnessed and beheld what was taking place during these days and times in which we are living, and would emphatically shout and proclaim that this wasn’t what was in mind when the Constitution of the United States was drafted in the first place.
It is truly something to think about and consider the fact that Christian leaders, pastors, preachers, ministers, teachers, and the like are allowing themselves to get so caught up and consumed with their so-called rights, and so called amendments that they are actually allowing themselves to be blinded by the truth. There have been countless Christian leaders who have emphasized the fact that they are going to open the doors of the church buildings this upcoming Sunday which is not only the final Sunday of May, but it also Pentecost Sunday. I read in one article that ministers went so far as to directly link the Church that was made without human hands beginning on the Day of Pentecost, and how how fitting it was for church buildings to be opened on Pentecost Sunday. Oh dear reader, I shutter when I read these words, and I cringe when I think that there are pastors and ministers which actually believe the lie and the delusion that because this Sunday is Pentecost Sunday that it is somehow a portent and prophetic symbol for them to open the church buildings and houses of worship. Please note that I am in no way saying that church buildings are houses of worship should be closed permanently. I am in no way suggesting, nor am I even speaking concerning the fact that there is no need and no use for church buildings and houses of worship. When we think about the first Day of Pentecost in the history of the Church made without human hands we must recognize and understand that Pentecost was not so much about a building as much as it was about the formation of a spiritual body for Jesus the Christ in the midst of the earth, and a Temple of the Holy Spirit that was made without human hands. We dare not, we cannot, we must not allow ourselves to be caught up in the fact that the Day of Pentecost was about a building with four walls, and a building that was made with and by human hands. What’s more, is that when the Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost, He didn’t even manifest Himself in the midst of the Temple, but in an upper room. Stop and think about that reality for a moment, for in the days of Moses the glory of the LORD filled the Tabernacle after it was completed. In the days of Solomon king of Israel the glory of the LORD filled the Temple after it was completed. What’s more, is that at the dedication of the Temple during the days of Solomon king of Israel—not only did the glory fill the Temple of the LORD, but so also did fire come down from heaven and consume the sacrifice and offering which was upon the altar. Despite this fact, however—when the Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost, He did not come in the midst of the Temple, nor did He appear in the midst of the Holy of Holies.
Stop for a moment and think about the fact that to the natural and physical mind it would make complete and total sense for the Holy Spirit to be manifested in the midst of the Temple of the LORD in Jerusalem, and perhaps for the one-hundred and twenty to be in the courts of the LORD worshipping and praising the LORD. The truth of the matter, however, is that we do not find the one hundred and twenty men and women gathered together in the court of the Temple, and we do not find the Holy Spirit being manifested and poured out in the midst of the Holy of Holies. In fact, less than four decades later that very Temple would be completely and utterly destroyed by the Roman Tenth Legion, and it has not stood on the Temple Mount since then. Despite that fact, however, we find the apostle Paul speaking of and recognizing a different Temple that was present in the midst of the earth—one that was made without human hands—for the apostle Paul wrote about the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and how we are disciples and followers of Jesus the Christ are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. On the Day of Pentecost—although the Holy Spirit did in fact manifest Himself in the midst of a physical building and structure with four walls, He neither manifested Himself in the Temple, nor in the Holy of Holies, nor in the court of the Temple. Moreover, on the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit did not manifest Himself in the midst of the synagogues which were present in the midst of Judaea and Galilee. The Holy Spirit manifested Himself in an upper room—perhaps similar to the first upper room where Jesus partook of the Passover meal with His disciples and taught so eloquently about the arrival of the person and presence of the Holy Spirit. This is important for us to realize and recognize, for despite the fact that this Sunday is Pentecost Sunday, and despite the fact that the church which was made without human hands began on the Day of Pentecost, we dare not link the two, nor even use the matter of the significance of the day as the grounds for our defiance and our rebellion. In all reality, I am convinced that the greatest danger that is present right now among church leaders, pastors, ministers, leaders, teachers, and the like is not necessarily wanting to get back into the church building, for I don’t see anything wrong with a desire to return to church buildings and houses of worship. The danger and the trouble that I see is the spirit of defiance and the spirit of rebellion that ministers, preachers, pastors and the like are exhibiting and exercising during this time as they are choosing to defy and stand against government and authority which has been ordained by God. Listen, either we believe that all government has been ordained by God, or we don’t. If we believe that all government has been ordained and appointed by God, then what right do we have to rebel against it for the sake of opening a church building? What’s more, is that there are preachers and ministers who feel as though their ability to preach is limited to the four walls of a church building, and is limited to preaching behind a pulpit in the midst of the house of worship.
If you study the narrative of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ you will find that the vast majority of His teaching and preaching took place outside the Temple, and outside the synagogues. It is true that Jesus went up to Jerusalem and up to the Temple of the LORD at the appointed times of the three pilgrimage feasts in order to observe those feasts. It is true that Jesus did in fact enter into synagogues, and it was true that in the synagogues—not only did He heal the sick, but He also taught and preached. With that being said, however, we must understand that to the model for the teaching and preaching of Jesus the Christ, for if you read and study the four gospel narratives concerning the life and ministry of Jesus you will find that Jesus spent a vast majority of His time preaching and teaching in the streets, from fishermen’s boats, on hill sides, beside lakes, and the like. For some reason there are ministers who feel as though their ability to preach has somehow been neutered during this time, and that because the church buildings are closed their ability to preach has been stripped and removed from them. As I sit here this morning I can’t help but think about just how far off this particular line of thinking truly is, and when you think about it in light of what is taking place within the days and times in which we are living, we have to ask ourselves what God is doing in the midst of church buildings being shut. It is true that in the physical and natural realm the COVID-19 virus pandemic was responsible for shutting the doors of church buildings and houses of worship, however, I fear that what many aren’t doing is asking the question of what the LORD is doing behind the scenes in the spiritual and supernatural realm. It would be incredibly easy to get caught up and to keep our eyes fixed on the physical and natural realm, and to lose sight of what the living and eternal God is doing behind the scenes. I firmly believe and am absolutely convinced that the Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is doing something far greater and far more powerful during this time than we would even think or are even aware of and can imagine. There are countless church leaders and church parishioners and congregants who are allowing themselves to get caught up in the physicality of the church building, and are absolutely unable to see in the spiritual and supernatural realm concerning what the living and eternal God is in fact doing in the midst of this nation, and in the midst of the earth. I have to admit that I am absolutely and utterly amazed at how defiant, how rebellious, and how arrogant and prideful ministers and church leaders have become during this time, and how during this time the Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is exposing the hearts and true nature of church leaders, ministers, preachers, teachers, pastors, and the like.
Being completely and utterly honest with you who are reading the words which are written in this writing I am absolutely and completely convinced that during this time—not only is the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord exposing and revealing the hearts of men (church leaders and congregants alike), but He is also exposing church buildings and houses of worship. I fear that for far too long we have allowed ourselves to hide behind (and perhaps even within) the four walls of our church buildings, and when the living and eternal God calls us out of those four walls we can’t handle it. IT’s absolutely necessary and imperative to recognize that the Spirit of the Sovereign LORD has never cut us off from being the Church during this time, nor has He cut us off from continued fellowship with the brethren. The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD has not cut off preaching and teaching during this time, and He has not cut off an altar of sacrifice and an altar of offering before the living God. The Spirit of the living God has not cut off our ability to seek the LORD our God, and even though the church buildings have been shut—the prayer closets have always been open. Oh, it is a tragic day when we lament church buildings and don’t recognize the call to the prayer closet, and rejoice greatly because the Spirit is calling us into the secret closet of prayer in order that we might seek His face through worship, through prayer, through intercession, and through studying the divine Word of God. I fear that the lamentation that is taking place over church buildings and church doors being shut not only expresses the sheer and utter dependence on the four walls of church buildings, but it is also highlighting the dependence of men and women on others for their relationship with the living God. I fear that during this time we are beginning to understand just how dependent men and women are on church buildings, on worship teams, on preachers, and on the “experience” which takes place in the church buildings than they are on the Spirit of the living God. In all reality, I can’t help but hear within my spirit during this time the call for endurance, and that we are witnessing and beholding a powerful call to and a powerful call for endurance in the midst of this crisis. Perhaps one of—if not the greatest calls during this time has been the call and need for patient endurance, which is a reality that is found within Scripture. Consider if you will the words which are found in the Old Testament prophetic book of Daniel, as well as the words which are found in the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, and even the words which are found in the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus the Christ:
“After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things. I beheld till thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thous thousands ministered unto hi, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame. As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time. I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me. I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things. These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth. But the saint so fate most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever. Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, bake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet; and of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows. I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom. Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon the earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom and dominion , and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole haven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. Neither to is the end of the matter. As for me Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart” (Daniel 7:7-28).
“And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (Whoso readeth, let him understand) then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And wise unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the eat, and shine the even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For where soever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together” (Matthew 24:4-28).
“And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killest has with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the finest beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and he deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the mans of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six” (Revelation 13:1-18).
“And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the LORD from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them” (Revelation 14:6-13).
As I sit here this morning and think about and consider the words found within these passages I cannot help but be directly confronted with the tremendous and incredible reality that during this time there is a great and powerful need—not only for patience within the hearts and souls of the saints, but also for endurance within the hearts and souls of the saints. There is not a doubt in my mind that during this time the Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is looking for those who are able to patiently endure and patiently wait during this time, and those who will stand firm and steadfast until the end. There is not a doubt in my mind that during this time there is a great sifting and a great shaking—much like when Jesus declared unto the apostle Peter that Satan desired to have him that he might sift him as wheat. It’s worth noting that Jesus would go on to declare unto Peter that He prayed for him that his faith would not fail, and when he was converted he would strengthen his brethren. I firmly believe that there is a shaking that is taking place during these days, and that anything that can be shaken can and will be shaken. It’s interesting to note the amount earthquakes that have been reported all throughout and all over the world during this time, as I am absolutely and completely convinced that not only is the earth groaning for the manifestation of the sons of God, but so also is the living God shaking everything that can be shaken. Even the doors of our church buildings and houses of worship is indeed a shaking that has taken place, as the faith, the patience, the endurance, the stamina, and the strength of saints has been, and is still being tested. Oh, I can’t help but be reminded of the words which are written and found within the Old Testament prophetic book of Haggai in the second chapter beginning to read with and from the first and opening verse:
“In the seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month, came the word of the LORD by the prophet Haggai, saying, Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the residue of the people, saying, Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? And how do ye see it not? IS it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing? Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts: according to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not. For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; and I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts. The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will give peace, saith the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2:1-9).
As I bring this writing to a close I feel the great need to emphasize and further declare the fact that during this time there is a great and powerful need for patience endurance and patient faith in the hearts and lives of those who profess to walk with and follow Jesus the Christ. What’s more, is that I am absolutely and completely convinced that during this time the Sovereign and eternal God is indeed shaking everything that can be shaken, and this virus has shaken more in such a short period of time than any of the previous wars this world his faced, than the terrorist attacks on September 11th almost nineteen years ago, than the Great Depression in the early 1900’s, and even the economic collapse twelve years ago. We cannot and must not be ignorant during this time and think that the Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is not shaking and has not been shaking anything and everything that can be shaken. The eternal Word of God proclaimed and declared that in the Last Days there will be a tremendous shaking that will take place as the LORD will not only shake the heavens, but will shake the earth. During this time I have read about more earthquakes that have struck the earth, and am absolutely and completely convinced that the sovereign LORD is not only shaking the earth, but the sovereign LORD is also shaking anything and everything we have trusted in, and everything we have relied on. This viral outbreak and pandemic has literally crippled economies, and has brought entire nations to a standstill as economies have been hit with such ferocity and force. Even today I read how forty-one million Americans applied for unemployment benefits, and how the economy shrank by 5% in the first quarter alone. Business and companies are being shut down, as well as schools, universities, stadiums, offices, church buildings, and the like as men and women are doing anything and everything they can to safeguard themselves from this virus that has not only wreaked havoc upon and throughout the earth, but has also claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people in the United States alone. Stop and think about what is taking place and unfolding in the days in which we are currently living and you will undoubtedly come face to face with the truly remarkable and astonishing reality that the Sovereign LORD is indeed shaking anything and everything that can be shaken, and He is calling for the patient endurance of the saints of God. What’s more, is that during this time there is a great work that is present before us, yet it is not a work that is centered around and upon four walls of church buildings and houses of worship, but a work in the streets, a work in homes, a work in fields, and highways, and byways. There is a work which needs to be done during the days and times in which we are living, however, it is a work that cannot be done with human hands alone, but a work that must be done through the Law of the LORD, a work that must be done with a powerful return to the altar of the LORD. Oh that we would realize that this is more than just a return to a church building, but is a return to the LORD of the house, the Law of the LORD and the LORD of the Law, as well as a return to the altar of the LORD and the LORD of the altar.