My mind has been going back over the history of the people of God. This is always an interesting subject to me, and I’ll try to make it interesting to you. I consider that we are the most privileged people in all the world for the simple reason that what we believe and stand for and teach doesn’t have its origin with man. You don’t go back into the history of the world to find it. You have to go back to the beginning and to God. God had his plan in His heart and mind before the foundations of the world were laid. This way of service is from the beginning. That is why Jesus is likened to Melchisedec and Melchisedec to Jesus, that service is the same spiritual service. In the Levitical priesthood, which was introduced into the world only for a time, there was provision to keep people within bounds, and it was to remain in the world until a certain time when Jesus would come and manifest God perfectly in the world. His name was Immanuel, God with us.
Jesus was speaking of the temple of His body when He said in John 2:19-22, “Destroy the temple and in three days, I will raise it up.” They of course imagined or wished to imagine that He was talking about the temple at Jerusalem, and accused Him of wanting to destroy that temple and to build it again in three days. God said to Moses in Exodus 25:8, “Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” Moses did according to the instructions he received in the Mount; every detail of that tabernacle would have its fulfillment somewhere in the life, sacrifice, intercession of Christ. We read in Hebrews 7:24-28 that Jesus was our High Priest who ever liveth to make intercession. This is something that the high priest taken from among men never was able to do. Everything in that tabernacle was there for a definite purpose.
Remember in reading of the Old Testament there were two tents  the sanctuary that had to do with the service [Numbers 1:51-53 and  the tent that Moses where out to in their God met with him and gave him instructions, Exodus 33:7. It is possible that this tabernacle later became the sanctuary. The fact that it was a tent suggests that it wasn’t to last very long. God told David that He had gone from tent to tent and from one tabernacle to another. When one weakened or decayed, another tent took its place. The second one would be made like the first, the tent only was renewed. A very wonderful part of the history of God’s people when it came into the heart of David to build the temple. David received wonderful blessings because of having this in his heart. He did all he could to help his son Solomon to build. He made him to understand that this is a very important thing and it must be done according to God’s wishes. It was done according to God’s plan, and David received as a result what is called in the scripture, the sure mercies of David. God promised him that day that one day Christ would come of his posterity.
The temple was erected in a very important place in the world; it was in the centre of the known world. The Mediterranean is in the middle of the earth, it was near the middle of the earth that God chose that home should be built. The time came when God allowed the temple to be destroyed. Why was it? You can read about [that] in Ezra and Nehemiah. These books are very interesting [as they] deal with the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem and of the wall. God let that house go because the people had got wrong from the inside. We don’t want to worry so much about what will come from the outside, it is a thing getting wrong from the inside that does the damage. It is like a tree that looks alright from the outside, but it is decaying on the inside and it isn’t going to be long before the tree falls down. In the days of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel people had the name, but not the nature or desires pleasing to God. “The ox knoweth his owner and the ass the Master’s crib.” Isaiah 1:3. God’s people had become less grateful than the animals around them. God reminded those people of what they were when they left Egypt and of the love they had towards Him. That was the love when they as a lover would follow the bridegroom into a land that wasn’t sown. It was true love because it wasn’t just for what they were going to get, but the attachment they had to Him. But they had gone down, down, and down into captivity. God didn’t want that temple to be in the centre of the world when His people were wrong, and that’s why He allowed it to go.
One thing that was never forgotten was the site, the foundation, of the temple. They could always find where that temple had been, the old site of the altar was still there also. This reminds me of Psalm 11:3, “If foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” We are not here today because some years ago somebody was smarter than others. God was able to speak to them above others and devised this way upon the earth; we are here because the foundations of God have never been destroyed. God has been able to move certain hearts to build on that foundation that will never be destroyed. I don’t want to spend my time in building on any other foundations. Those foundations were not destroyed. God’s people went into captivity and during that captivity some of the most faithful children of God that ever lived were there. We don’t need to count according to numbers; we are concerned about quality in the people of God. We are always glad when the number is high. We are living in the age of the world’s history when we should be very thankful. There are no other people like His in all the world.
As you look at the barometer of the history of God’s people through the ages, you will have to admit that it has gone up and down all the time. It is up now, there is a big responsibility for us to keep it up. The more pressure there is the more likely it is to come down. When the graph was low, there were still some very faithful souls in the world. Daniel was in a foreign country, a slave and had many disadvantages. He could have said that it was a disappointment to be living in the world at that time. We don’t find any trace of that complaint in his life, but we find him continually praying towards Jerusalem with his window open. That was not our fanatical notion. God has said that when His people were scattered, if they would turn their eyes in the direction of Jerusalem and pray, He would hear an answer from His dwelling place in heaven. He could have said, “What difference does it make if I shut the window, as long as I pray?” It wasn’t only praying but how, praying according to the plan and desire and request of God. Praying towards Jerusalem had a definite meaning for Daniel, and although he didn’t go and help rebuild the temple, he had a great part in it and a great reward for the part he had in rebuilding the temple. The people of God came out of captivity and work began on the rebuilding of the temple.
In Ezra 1 and Isaiah 45, we read of a man of the world. Cyrus being chosen by God to have a part in that, although he knew not God. It is not for us to imagine that God cannot or will not or does not use people in the world, expressly kings and those in authority. In Ezra, that King admits his position in the world and has been given to him by God and that God had said that He would help the Israelites in their return to rebuild Jerusalem. We can well understand why the apostle Paul and others encouraged the Christians to pray for those in authority in the world, for kings and rulers, etc. You may have your political notions if you wish, but one thing more important for the children of God in this world wherever they live is to pray for those in authority. As the people of God, your prayers will do far more for the rulers of the nations than your politics will do. I might vote for the wrong man in politics; in praying for others, I never consider that I pray for the wrong person. Things happen in this world that convince me that the prayers of God’s people are heard by Him. There is more weight in prayers than you can imagine.
Cyrus was fully convinced that God dwelt at Jerusalem and that He had given him power in this world. He let the Israelites go to rebuild that city. Prayers of men like Daniel had worked this in the world and moved this king to give them a measure of freedom. The king also decreed that the vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of that house should go back and be put where they were before. God had His eye upon those vessels all through the years and God moved upon the heart of that king that they should go back into the place where they belonged. Those vessels were produced by the definite sacrifice of the people that lived before, and unfaithfulness of others caused them to be taken away. Do we worry that our sacrifice will not be used right? The responsibility of misusing it falls on someone else; our reward is sure. Belshazzar put these vessels to wrong use and brought destruction upon himself, but this did not diminish the reward of those who gave toward the making of those vessels. They did it unto God and the reward was sure.
In the first seven chapters of Ezra, we are given an account of those who first went up at the request of Cyrus to rebuild that city. After they arrived in the city, the first thing they rebuilt was the altar on its old site. They rebuilt the altar because they understood the cause of all that destruction – sacrifice had gone out of the lives of their forefathers. The cause of your troubles and disappointments and sorrows can be traced to the lack of sacrifice in your life. Keep that spirit of sacrifice going in your life! You’ll have suffering and enemies and difficulties, but with the peace of God – and that is more valuable than all else in the world. They rebuilt the altar on its old site, and then began to rebuild the house. It took far longer to rebuild that house than it took to build it in the first place. It is far easier to get wrong than to get right again. There is a law of gravitation in regard to our service to God; it is easier to go down than up.
The record in Ezra. Nehemiah, Haggai, and Zechariah tells us that the rebuilding stretched over the time that four kings reigned. The enemy came and said that this had been a rebellious city and that there had been sedition, and because of these things, the city had been destroyed. This was not true at all. They found the records and interpreted them in their own way, and forced the work to cease until Darius. At this time, Haggai and Zechariah stirred up the people to rebuild. They reminded the people that God must be in the centre if everything is to go well. When God is in His place, then other things have their proper place. The enemy came again but the elders who were building replied that the reason that the city was in this state was because the forefathers had not been true. That was a true report, and those elders who were building were prepared and ready to admit the cause of their distress. Darius gave orders that these people should be helped in rebuilding.
These kings recognized that these people had a wonderful importance in the world and they didn’t want the wrath of God to come upon them. The kings were not what you would call believers, but they had a respect for the God of Heaven, and knew that if they went deliberately against His Will and people it would bring judgment upon them. These kings always encouraged the children of Israel to make their sacrifices; they knew that they should be a sacrificing people. Many, many people in this world are not prepared to walk this Way of Life, but they know what we should be doing, and they know when we are doing it and when we are not. They felt that when these people were sacrificing to their God that it would bring a measure of blessing to them. We can never be the blessing that we should be to any near unless we keep that sacrifice going in our own lives. If we let that sacrifice go out of our lives, others know it; it is a blessing to be near us only when our sacrifice is continuing.
Ezra gives the account of all that work, and in the last part of his book, he is dealing with what he did. He was a priest, a scribe and he set himself to learn and to know and to do and to teach the Will of God. When the king asked him to go up to teach the people, Ezra was so pleased that he couldn’t stop thanking God for the good hand of God upon him in the attitude of that king. When he left for Jerusalem, he had with him vessels to help in the service when he would get there. His company (Ezra 8:15) stopped by a river, fasted and prayed then found that there were none among that group of the order to serve inside the house. Twenty men were found to fill this place. Then Ezra chose twelve men to take the consecrated vessels to the house in Jerusalem. Ezra wasn’t one who imagined that everything had to pass by his hands or under his eyes. He weighed these out, and the twelve men delivered the vessels to the place where they belonged. Along the journey, they prayed and asked God to guide them, not that Ezra did not know the way from Babylon to Jerusalem, but he didn’t know the right way for them to go. There were nomads and robbers along the way and they were praying that God would protect them. We don’t know just what is ahead of us and we don’t need to worry as long as we do what Ezra and his friends did. He didn’t ask for an escort of soldiers because he had told the king that God was near those who serve Him. Our strength depends upon God being with us along the way.
Ezra and Nehemiah both grieved that there was not the separation between the Lord’s people and the world that there ought to be. Their trouble in the past had been through lack of separation, and it could bring them trouble in the future. Our posterity or continuance in the world does not depend upon our compromising with this world but in remaining a separated people. When we weaken along that line, we see the barometer going down again. The temple remained with its changes, until A.D. 70; then it disappeared because it was the plan of God that it should. It pointed men and women to Jesus. God’s people today are the temple of God; God wants to preserve that temple so that He through and by and in that temple will be glorified in the earth. We have the highest and best privileges of any people in this world. We have a bitter enemy against us, and always there is the danger of letting the pointer go down again. In this our day, we want to keep that pointer high.