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with Rick Henson
The temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed. Many of the Jews had been deported to Babylon. The nation was in ruins, yet God was not through with His rebellious chosen people. The prophet Ezekiel had another vision recorded in Ezekiel 43. In this vision the Lord returned to the Temple in dramatic fashion. Ezekiel saw this in his vision though he knew the actual Temple had been destroyed. God was revealing that He was not finished with Israel. One day the Temple would again be open for worship of the one true Almighty God.
The Lord God Almighty told the prophet Ezekiel exactly how the temple was to be rebuilt and the conditions for worship to be restored. As he had done with Moses and the Tabernacle, and David and the original temple, God gave exact dimensions to Ezekiel for the rebuilding of the Temple. In the Old Testament law God gave specific instructions about the temple and how they were to worship. He told specific details about which animals were to be sacrificed for each sin, as well as specific dimensions and shapes of the altar and the Temple.
In the New Testament Jesus said God is a spirit and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth. John 4:23 reads, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him,” (KJV). The Father continually seeks people who will truly worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Sadly many of our churches are more interested in the style of worship than its content. Today’s church members are more focused on what songs we sing and which instruments play than in true worship in spirit and in truth. God is far more interested in our hearts than in who wrote the song and in which decade or century. The apostle Paul wrote that our bodies are now the temple of the Holy Spirit. God still demands worship a certain way, but now it is within us instead of at a certain place. Hebrews 13 calls it the sacrifice of praise. Hebrews 13:12,15-16 reads, “Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased, (KJV). Jesus is worthy of our worship by His sacrifice. So we offer our sacrifice of worship and we serve Him.
In chapter 43 God told the prophet Ezekiel that the people must repent before worship resumes. True worship comes from clean, repentant hearts. 1Timothy 2:8 reveals, “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting’” (KJV). God is interested in men lifting holy hands when they pray. He sees our hearts and demands pure lives in worship.
God demands that repentance precedes worship. Lifting holy hands before the Lord means that our hands are clean and that we surrender our will to His. In Ezekiel 43:1-12 we learn that God is worthy of our worship, that repentance precedes worship and that genuine worship results in a holy life. While each of us may have a preference as to what type of music we like, God demands purity, holiness, and a life lived for Him. We know from history that the Temple was rebuilt, that the sacrificial system was restored, and that worship continued until 70 A.D. when the Romans destroyed the Temple the last time.
Now believers are the body of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit. God still demands repentance and a holy life for genuine worship to occur. Just as the Lord gave Israel another chance, He continually gives each of us a second and third chance through our repentance and His restoration. This week, regardless of who wrote the songs you sing in worship, focus on the words and on the restoring work of God’s amazing grace. Worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Henson is pastor of Oakdale Church, Brandon.