Updated: Jan 30, 2021
My wife and I honeymooned in southern France. We visited Lyon, Avignon, Salon-de-Provence and Marseilles.
All along our stays we found huge cathedrals to visit. We saw the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, which sits on a high ridge overlooking Lyon.
We toured the Cathedrale Notre-Dame des Doms, next to the Palace of the Pope in Avignon.
We walked up a high mountain ridge to visit the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, which majestically overlooks the port city of Marseilles.
In every one of those grand buildings, we placed a Euro in a machine, turned the handle and got a medallion that commemorated that “State monument.”
You see, they were no longer functioning churches (for the most part), having become the property of the Republic of France, after the French Revolution. Today, they are primarily tourist attractions.
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he advised that the enemy was not “blood and flesh,” but “the rulers” and “the authorities.” As such, the enemies are the “spiritual forces of evil [taking over] the heavenly places,” like ancient cathedrals and basilicas. The enemy to Christianity and to Christians (as heavenly bodies) is a “present darkness,” which seeks to remove all sources of light.
Several years later, my wife and I accompanied her family on a guided tour of Italy, where we toured great basilicas and cathedrals that including Saint Peter’s Basilica (the Vatican), the Pisa Cathedral (Pisa), the Basilica of Saint Catherine of the Dominicans (Siena), the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower (Florence), and Saint Mark’s Basilica (Venice).
While those large buildings were still active as churches for the Roman Catholic Church, they were opened more as tourist attractions. Most were built between 1200 and 1700, with each taking many years to complete – all having intricate facades and architectural marvels.
I imagine all had grand ceremonies that dedicated them to God, with some dignitary standing before a crowd of people orating, just as we read Solomon doing when the Ark of the Covenant was moved into the great Temple he had built in Jerusalem.
There are no tourists walking through Solomon’s Temple today. There are no commemorative medallions that one can purchase, to take home and prove to neighbors, “I was there!”
That is because the Babylonians destroyed the Temple of Solomon. Again, a building’s fate was decided by “the rulers” and “the authorities” who followed much later in history.
While the Persians would fund the building of a replica of Solomon’s Temple – the Second Temple, the Temple that stood when Jesus walked the lands of Galilee and Judea – it too would be destroyed by the Romans. They would act as the new “rulers” and “authorities” representing “darkness” and “spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places.”
The “rulers” and “authorities” of Islam built the Dome of the Rock on the site of those temples in Jerusalem. At the time built, Jerusalem was then part of a Caliphate of Arab Muslims (around 700 AD). Now, since the re-creation of the State of Israel in 1948, there is talk of rebuilding the Temple of Jerusalem a third time … meaning the destruction of an Islamic holy building.
He who rules today is the new authority.
While that has as yet not occurred, the thought represents another example of “rulers” and “authorities,” all of whom have little to do with Spiritual matters. It is an evil darkness that uses religion in ways that enslave and inflame the people.
In Solomon’s dedication of his temple, he asked, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth?” He then added, “Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain [God], much less this house that I have built!”
We read that statement after we are told of the Ark of the Covenant being moved into its holy position, when “a cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud.”
“The priests could not stand to minister” means the Levites had no role in the inner sanctum of the Holy of Holies. It means no human can stand and preach about how great God is and how much God means, while surrounded by the Spirit (cloud) of the LORD. It means no mortal stands in the place of God, as God’s spokesman, for all to follow that mortal. When such a priest’s lips move, it can only be to speak the words of the LORD.
Thus, Jesus was a mortal for thirty years – but he became the Son of God when the dove of the Holy Spirit lit upon him and God said (in effect), “This mortal has proven himself worthy, so I am well pleased.”
In David’s psalm today, we heard recited, “Happy are they who dwell in your house! They will always be praising you. Happy are the people whose strength is in you! Whose hearts are set on the pilgrim’s way.”
David wrote those lyrics when the Ark of the Covenant was still kept in a tent … in a tabernacle. Thus, the “house” of the LORD was not a building where people lived or worked … it was each person whose faith was kindled by the presence of the LORD in them … those whom were filled with the cloud of God’s Spirit.
Thus, their hearts are set on the pilgrim’s way because God fills them emotionally. The inner sanctum of the Temple of Solomon reflects the heart of faith. The heart is where the blood is pumped throughout the flesh – Spiritual blood eats away the flesh of doubt and pours out the blood of the pilgrims, who are followers of what is written. After proven devotion, they replace themselves with Jesus. They eat his flesh and drink in his blood.
You see, Jesus was the blueprint for the new Temple unto God. The Law was written into his heart, so God filled him with the Holy Spirit, like a cloud. However, as Solomon said, “Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain [God], much less this house that I have built!” This means there is more of God’s cloud to fill countless new temples – who were the Apostles and who we are expected to be built for such a holy dedication.
When this is realized, one can grasp the meaning of Paul’s instruction, “Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”
This means it is most important to see how each and every Christian has to see him or herself as a temple unto the LORD. Once the Covenant is written upon our individual hearts and the cloud of God fills our total beings with His Holy Spirit, then can we become priests who cannot minister over ourselves.
We cease being in control of what directions our life can be pulled – influenced by outside “rulers” and “authorities.” We become bodies, through which God operates as our only King and Spiritual guide.
Thus, with God’s presence we are able to be clothed in the armor that allows us to resist the outside temptations of a world ruled by Satan, with evil given authority. God clothes us with His strength, so we “may be able to withstand” evil, so we can “stand firm” as Christians, as representative of truth and righteousness.
When Paul said, “Take the helmet of salvation,” this is when we can assume the mind of Christ as our identity. That power of thought arms us with the “sword of the Spirit,” which is an ability to defend the word of God, against those who misuse it … who gain positions of rulership and authority falsely.
When we see ourselves as a building dedicated to the LORD, we can understand how Jesus told the Galileans in a synagogue of Capernaum, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.”
To “eat” and “drink” is to “build” and “dedicate” a temple worthy of God’s presence. It refers to the actions and steps that must be taken first – as priests who stand for the One God, the living Father – so those actions are building us into receptacles for the Lord. When completed and the Spirit moves into a position inside our inner sanctum, then God’s Spirit has us stand down as servants to self. With God’s presence within, the living Father grants us the ability to stand as God’s Son.
When we hear how many of Jesus’ disciples said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” they spoke as the followers of “rulers” and “authorities” who had taken over the Temple of Jerusalem after exile. Israel and Judah had fallen, and the imitation that rose to replace it was still preaching nothing that taught the Jews how to stand while dressed in the whole armor of God.
A Temple unto the LORD that stood as the presence of darkness was void of righteousness and truth. It was a shell built for rulers and authorities to use as a means of wealth and power. Thus, no one had ever said such a thing as “eat my flesh and drink my blood” before. None of the leaders had ever told their followers, “Be me! Lead!”
The same difficulty in accepting what Jesus had then said would be repeated when Jesus later said that he would tear down the Temple in Jerusalem – that magnificent jewel the disciples marveled over – and then rebuild it in three days. That was equally difficult teaching that was hard to accept, because no one could fathom how a body of flesh and blood could be a great Temple unto the LORD.
The reason for those who did not believe Jesus’ words is they were not led by a light, but by darkness … meaning they served the devil’s wiles.
Last week I spoke of how innocent little children know nothing, so intellect cannot cause them to doubt. If told to “eat the flesh of Jesus and to drink his blood,” they will act like they are following the instructions of one they trust and revere. Adults know doubt, so they are less likely to believe so blindly, so innocently.
During this Ordinary Season, when all Christians should feel commissioned to go out and spread the Gospel, so others will be led to receive the Holy Spirit of God, we should realize that Christ expects that we (those of us calling ourselves Christians) have the responsibility of becoming ordained into the priesthood, just like Paul was. Paul claimed he was “an ambassador in chains,” which is much more than being a prisoner of the rulers and authorities of Rome. Paul’s words mean he was enslaved to the LORD … happily.
We can only be apostolic ambassadors after we are clothed in the armor of God’s Holy Spirit, which is the time when we hear an inner voice call us to minister. We stand before God as his servants, until the time he tells us to kneel and be “knighted” as His Son (regardless of one’s moral sex).
When that call is heard, we must see ourselves as the building that Solomon took years to make ready, before the Law was set deep within that body and God spread throughout that building from that heart-center, like a cloud.
We should all be on our knees in prayer, begging, “O LORD my God, heed the cry and the prayer that your servant prays today; that your eyes may be open night and day towards this body of flesh and blood, the being of whom you said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may heed the prayer that your servant prays towards this self.”
May the LORD bless your supplications and may you wear the helmet of salvation for the rest of your life. Wear the chains of servitude as a smiling ambassador knowing your soul has already been freed, when you let God and Christ take over.
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