When Jesus came to earth as a man, the priesthood and the law had become empty rituals in a beautiful, but empty building, meaningless cleansings and traditions with no more value than the effort it took to do them. We see this in numerous conversations He had with the Pharisees.
In Mark 7, the Pharisees called Jesus’ disciples out for not washing their hands. “Why don’t Your disciples follow the traditions passed down to us? Why do they eat their bread with defiled hands?” (Mark 7:5 VOICE)
Jesus’ reply was sharp. “When you cling blindly to your own traditions [such as washing utensils and cups], you completely miss God’s command. Then, indeed, you have perfected setting aside God’s commands for the sake of your tradition.” (Mark 7:8-9 VOICE)
In another instance, Jesus and His disciples were gleaning corn on the Sabbath, and the Pharisees bristled with indignation. How dare they break God’s law!
Confronted by these religious men for the offense, Jesus replied with reference to a story about David eating the shewbread. If you’re like me and not too knowledgeable about Jewish law, you’ve read that and quickly moved on. Stop, though, and reread Jesus’ words.
“Jesus responded, ‘Haven’t you ever read what King David and his men did when they were hungry? They entered the house of God and ate the sacred bread of God’s presence, violating the law by eating bread that only the priests were allowed to eat. And haven’t you read in the Torah that the priests violated the rules of the Sabbath by carrying out their duties in the temple on a Saturday, and yet they are without blame? But I say to you, THERE IS ONE HERE WHO IS EVEN GREATER THAN THE TEMPLE. If only you could learn the meaning of the words ‘I want compassion more than a sacrifice,’ you wouldn’t be condemning my innocent disciples. FOR THE SON OF MAN EXERCISES HIS LORDSHIP OVER THE SABBATH.’” (Matthew 12:3-8 TPT)
The King James Version says, “The Son of Man is Lord even of the sabbath day.”
Standing inches away from them was the Lord of the Sabbath, the Messiah that’d been prophesied. The Son of God, the Gate to abundant life, THE PRESENCE MISSING FROM THE TEMPLE walked among them, filled with the Holy Spirit, doing the good works of the Father, yet they didn’t SEE HIM at all. Wrapped up in their rules and regulations, the Pharisees defended hollow rituals and vain sacrifices and condemned others for not following along. All of it minus the God they said they served.
Seeing, they saw not, hearing, they heard not, just as the people listened to Jesus’ parables and heard no more than a cute story. (Mt 13:10-11, 13)
This is not what the Father wanted from man. Instead of worship and adoration, instead of gratitude, humility, and love, instead of a temple so full of the PRESENCE OF GOD that the priests can’t stand upright, rules had spawned more rules that were wrapped up in yet further rules that no one could follow under their own power, and God stopped being real, alive, and personal.
“And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD, So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD.” (1 Kings 8:10-11)
I mulled these thoughts over one morning with a pair of images framed in my mind. The Holy Spirit had shown me an Oriental torii gate, floating in a lake, surrounded by cherry blossoms. Atop it, He’d flashed the symbol pi. But what did one have to do with the other? A little study was needed.
First, there are many torii gates. These familiar structures, two posts and a cross beam, usually painted red, mark the entrance to various Buddhist or Hindu temples and shrines. They are considered the gateway from the everyday world into the sacred.
Second, the symbol pi holds two meanings. It is the well-known mathematical formula states as, “the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter,” and it is also a letter from the Greek alphabet (π). As a mathematical formula, it is a constant. Meaning, regardless of the circle’s size, the formula’s ratio stays the same. As a Greek letter, it resembles a bridge, a gate, and a temple. There, again, are two posts with a crossbeam. (Wikipedia)
Hear now, the Lord’s words on April 24, 2021. He said: These (torii) gates are but entrances to emptiness. Their temples are beautiful to look at, amazing to admire, but contain no more than wind and air. There is no PRESENCE there, no POWER, only endless rituals of hand washings that produce no more than what effort it took to do them. There is purity without substance, producing nothingness. Man cannot cleanse himself and earn righteousness.
I must pause here. In Hebrews 9, we read a description of the Old Covenant sacrifice rituals. Verse 1 states, “Even that first covenant had rules and regulations about how to worship and how to set up an earthly sanctuary for God.” (VOICE) The chapter then goes on to describe the Tabernacle’s structure and furnishings. Then starting in verse 6, we are told of the needed rituals of the priests, when they went to offer sacrifice and what all they had to do to cleanse themselves.
Read with me now, starting at verse 9.
“That first tent symbolizes the present time, when gifts and sacrifices can be offered; but it (that tent) can’t change the heart and conscience of the worshiper. These gifts and sacrifices deal only with REGULATIONS FOR THE BODY—FOOD AND DRINK AND VARIOUS KINDS OF RITUAL CLEANSINGS NECESSARY UNTIL THE TIME COMES TO MAKE THINGS TRULY RIGHT. When the Anointed One arrived as High Priest of the good things that are to come, He entered through a greater and more perfect sanctuary that was not part of the earthly creation or made by human hands. He entered once for all time into the most holy place—entering, not with the blood of goats or calves or some other prescribed animal, but offering His own blood and thus obtaining redemption for us for all time.” (Hebrews 9:9-12 VOICE)
What the old system of worship could not do with the blood of animals, with ritual washings, and its multitude of rules, Jesus Christ obtained once and for all. He came to earth to restore GOD’S PRESENCE to the temple, but not the temple made of walls and altars in which the Pharisees served. He came to place the TEMPLE IN MEN. He lives now in the temple of the heart, and no amount of our self-effort can ever earn God’s eternal PRESENCE.
The Lord continued speaking: I am constant, never changing. Eternal. As the planets are round to represent MY ETERNITY. As the symbol of marriage, the ring, is round to show a covenant unbroken.
I am also the gateway to eternal life. In this, these symbols combine. I am the ONLY WAY to have unending life. I am the temple of purity, but not emptiness worked out by men's designs. IN ME is life more abundantly, UNENDING eternal life, a CONSTANT.
Only I can UNIFY and (it comes) only through ENTRANCE THROUGH MY GATE. There is no climbing up another way. You cannot work to earn salvation. This effort means you do not believe IN THE WORK I DID ON THE CROSS. It means you do not think it was enough.
(You say), “Perhaps, if I purify myself through long abstinence” of this or that. Of sexual thoughts. Of certain foods. Of certain relationships. Of inertia.
“I will jog into the KINGDOM.”
No. Though you may be lean and clean and not mean, until you have ME, you will not find what's unending. Walk through THE GATE of the sheepfold where I am THE SHEPHERD and then I will make you into what you so desperately seek.
MY TEMPLE is FULL of ME. IN ME there is ETERNITY. A temple where GOD RESIDES. Imagine that. A throne with a King on it. An altar that contains the sacrifice, the blood of atonement, and the praises of MY PEOPLE ascending upward, a sweet smell. A temple with LIFE in it that contains the power to change things. Men's hearts. Government structures. Business acumen. Personal joy and success.
Come to my waters and leave changed. Bow before me (in worship) and go away blessed. Why waste your efforts on what's empty and futile? When there before you, steps away, is pi—an unending solution to an eternal problem with the answer provided in a script constructed by the ultimate MATHEMATICIAN. Give me a problem and I can and I will solve it. Give me a need and I can and I will provide the solution.
Stop standing in empty temples, seeking solitude created by men's hands, and ENTER THE GATE that leads to life.
“I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” (John 10:9)
I saw the full picture then. Across the earth, thousands of temples have been erected for gods that don’t exist, wood and stone figures crafted by men on altars where prayers, no matter how heart felt, will not be heard. Futile words spoken in an empty atmosphere solely for the wind. Across the earth are modern buildings with expensive sound systems and fancy lights and gleaming pews filled with people in fine clothing who are more concerned with Sunday’s production than spreading the good news to those who need it.
How consumed has the modern Christian become with performance? With rules? We have lists of do’s and don’ts that we heap upon worshippers along with condemnation for not keeping them. We condemn people for what they wear, where they work, or their lack of education. We speak against them if they have tattoos or come from a troubled background. Even how they cut their hair, we think, prevents God from hearing them. Meanwhile, we’ve built sanctuaries that have no more of the presence of God in them than the temple in Jesus’ day.
God looks not on the outward appearance, whether that’s a building or a man. He looks at the heart. (1Sam 6:7) THIS IS OUR MESSAGE to a dying world. “God loves you exactly where you are.”
We must show them the death and Resurrection of Christ through our actions. We tell them Jesus died to save them, and His grace is free. Then we LET GOD FIX THEM UP.
We take the church OUT OF THE BUILDING. Greater still, WE BECOME THE CHURCH, and like Jesus, we show the love of the Father to tax collectors, fishermen, those taken in adultery, those possessed with demons, the sick, the crippled, the hurting, those not of like nationality, culture, or faith.
Hear Jesus’ words, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, 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.” (Matthew 23:27-28)
The people Jesus DIDN’T SEEK OUT were those consumed with religion. He came to save the lost, to locate that one sheep and not coddle the 99 who were safe in the fold. (Mt 18:11-13) He did not come to create more rules. He came to set men free and to provide the power needed to live abundantly and successfully. He came to show mercy and compassion people didn’t deserve. He came TO GIVE of Himself, and a church that isn’t GIVING CHRIST to those around it is not a church at all. But instead, empty walls with no more substance than if they’d been built of cardboard.
We can do better than that. We must do better than that. To see the awakening prophesied for this generation, WE MUST ACTUALLY AWAKEN and set aside our likes and dislikes, our formulas, our opinions, and opt for HIS PRESENCE and the life-changing power of a living God who loves and hears and answers.
Image by Jordy Meow from Pixabay
Suzanne D. Williams, Author