It was early in the evening. Naara's 92 year old legs would not permit her to climb the escarpment to 'her' rock, so this vantage point would have to suffice. She gazed up at the tiny precipice above her, jutting from the side of the small hill.
How she had loved this place as a child. She would rise earlier than most, fulfill her daily obligations enthusiastically and then run the short distance to the lookout. Isolated from the noise of daily life, Naara would sit in silence and gaze upon the magnificent temple of Yahweh. Built by her ancestors, its size and grandeur captivated her senses; she could even smell the spiced incense burning, enticing her spirit to worship.
Naara recalled the first time she had been taken into the outer court to see King Solomon's resplendent temple up close. Magnificent columns of cedar towered to the ceiling; innumerous jewels encrusted the golden furniture and artefacts within its walls, themselves adorned by tapestries of the finest silk thread of the richest colours. Naara had a revelation of God's presence that day; she did not see him physically, but she knew in her spirit that this was indeed the Shekinah dwelling place of God.
A loud bang suddenly interrupted her thoughts and brought Naara back to the present. How her heart sank at the sight before her eyes, reddened from the tears flowing freely down her cheeks; weather-beaten from the time spent exiled and working hard in Babylon. Naara watched the workers pull on the flax ropes, their groans audible even from her distance. The new temple was nearing completion; they'd soon be worshipping and sacrificing to Yahweh once more.
How she had rejoiced when Zerubbabel announced the temple would be rebuilt. It was what her heart had longed for more than anything. . . but this was not what she, nor the others returning with her, had imagined. Where was the splendour, the magnificence of the former temple?! How could this hideous building possibly be acceptable to Yahweh, approved by Him as His habitat among His people?
Overcome, Naara sank to her knees and cried out, "Surely, oh God, you will take one look at this and turn your back on us once again. For seventy long, hard years we've ached for your presence. And now . . ." the sobs spasmed in Naara's throat. As she struggled for breath a gentle hand rested on her back and assisted her to her feet.
"Naara, why do you agonise so?" The prophet Haggai looked upon Naara with eyes that smiled. "I know you are grieving for the former temple, torn down to a pile of rubble so long ago; but I have a word from the Lord - don't look back! This temple may appear to be nothing but I assure you, Yahweh is well pleased. He doesn't require precious metals or gems; of those he has stores enough. Naara, He will fill this temple with His glory, moreso than He filled the first." 1
I was a very intense Christian with a deep love for God. The Church was my life; leading worship, preaching, writing Bible Studies for youth camps and even going to Bible School. Over time I experienced life - pain, rejection, confusing and challenging theology, sadness and depression; all of these things took like sledgehammers to God's inner temple, my soul. Eventually all that remained was a pile of rubble. I still believed in God, but my faith was very mixed up and un-beautiful. Like Naara, I grieved for what I had lost, the Shekinah glory of God within me. My heart ached for the 'old me.'
One day God led me to the book of Haggai and showed me that my faith was like the two temples. My younger, extroverted faith was like Solomon's temple, comfortable and pleasing to the eye; but the faith He was building in me now would be exceedingly more radiant and full of His glory than ever before. The rubble of my faith would form a stronger foundation and bring a deeper indwelling of the Holy Spirit, one based on truth, not on feelings or outward appearances.
Some more years on, can I say I'm fully restored? Not even close. Can I see the beauty of the new temple within me? Not always, but I can finally stop looking back at what was and dare to look at the new blueprints God has for his temple within me.
And it is glorious.
1. Based on Haggai 2:1-9
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