Suggested Scripture Reading: Ezra 1:1-6

In any political year, when Americans go to the polls to vote, it is instructive to remember that God is still supervising the nations of the earth. From a Divine perspective it is God who will ultimately select the next leaders of the United States. Because God works through secondary means it is important to vote and be part of the political process. But it should never be forgotten that the hearts of men are in the hands of the Lord, and He turns them whatsoever way He wills. God controls the destinies of all nations. The rulers of societies are instruments of God.

The truth of God’s sovereign, intimate intervention in human history, is set forth in the biblical record of the Lord’s dealing with nations of antiquity. Not only is Israel under providential care, but so are all the nations of the earth. By way of example, we can return for a moment to the sixth century BC. It was a turbulent time in world history. The Middle East was dominated by the presence of a powerful monarch named Cyrus, king of Persia (559-529 BC).

Cyrus first appears in Scripture prophetically. Long before he was born Isaiah spoke of his coming. Cyrus is most highly praised as God’s Shepherd (Isa 44:38). Isaiah predicted that Cyrus would protect the people of God embodied in a covenant relationship. Time passed, and Cyrus was born. In the providence of God he became a powerful monarch. By divine appointment he was placed in a position where he could help Israel in an hour of great need. Israel needed help because the people of Palestine were constantly being caught up in the political conflicts of the day. The empires of the north often coveted the riches of Egypt. In order to get to Egypt, the ancient armies had to march through Israel. Sometimes the Jews united to protest these foreign intrusions, and drove back their enemies. More often, superior military forces conquered the Jews. What made the difference between military victory and defeat on the field of battle, was the commitment of the Jews to the commandments of God. When Israel honored the Lord, He honored them and gave them military success. However, when the Jews turned to other gods like Baal, then the Lord disciplined the nation.

One form of Divine judgment was national disintegration, and foreign deportation. Three times the Jews were forcefully removed from Israel to Babylon.

605 BC

597 BC

586 BC

What usually happened, is that while in exile the Jews would repent and seek the Lord. Broken and full of despair, humbled by their sins, there would be spiritual renewal as they wept by the rivers of Babylon. Each time the Jews repented and turned to God, the Lord was merciful, and allowed them to return to the Land of Promise. Three times the Jews returned from Babylon.

The First Return took place in 538 BC after 67 years. The people were led home by Zerubbabel to rebuild the Temple.

The Second Return took place in 458 BC after 139 years in captivity. Led by Ezra the Jews came home to literally find a preserved copy of the Law of God. This led to a religious reform.

The Third Return occurred in 444 BC following 142 years of exile. This time Nehemiah led the people to encourage them to repair the walls of the city.

Spiritually, these three major returns from Babylon to Palestine focus attention on three themes that should characterize God’s people in every generation

Concern for the dwelling place of God

Concern for the Word of God

Concern for holiness or separation

Turning to the New Testament the discovery, is made that the Temple of God is the heart of man. Once God dwelt in a place made of stones, now He inhabits a heart of flesh. Man is the dwelling place of God. Jesus predicted this would be the case.

Speaking to the woman of Samaria the Lord said,

“Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 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. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:21-24).

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Church of Corinth asking in astonishment,

“What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20).

Peter spoke of the Church as a spiritual building.

“As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow thereby: 3 If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. 4 To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, 5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:2-5).

In the Book of the Revelation, the apostle John saw the bride of Christ as a beautiful city. Many believe that John was describing a future satellite city that shall one day be suspended over the other, or that he was telling us about heaven. But the Bible is rather clear when read carefully.

“And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. 10 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, 11 Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; (Rev. 21:9-11)

Because man is now the dwelling place of God for time and eternity, there should be great concern that the Temple of God be honored. This can be done in two ways.

First, the body is to be presented formally to the Lord in an act of spiritual commitment. Romans 12:1, 2. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Second, the body is to be treated with respect, by being conscious of the inhabitation of God within the heart. A consciousness of God in the body will temper many inclinations to do wrong.

When a Christian remembers the body is really a Spiritual Temple—not only in the sight of God, but for Him—there will be a measure of religious reform reflected in a new love for the Scriptures. During the Second Return to Israel from Babylon, in the year 621 BC, while the Temple of Solomon was being repaired, a copy of the book of the Law was discovered. Suddenly there was excitement throughout the land, for the Word of God had been found once more. The people gathered together to hear the Law. The great moment has been recorded.

“And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people 😉 and when he opened it, all the people stood up: 6 And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground (Nehemiah 8:5-6).

In as far as a Christian begins to take seriously the concept that the body is the Temple of God, it may be that a copy of the New Covenant will be discovered. In fact, the Bible tells where it can be found. Like the Law of the Old Covenant, the New Covenant is hidden deep within the Temple structure.

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: 11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest” (Hebrews 8:10-11).

When the Temple of God is honored and the Law of God is respected, there will be a natural longing to gather to hear the sense of the Scriptures explained. The Christian will say,

“Tell me the old, old, story
of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory,
of Jesus and His love.

Tell me the story simply,
as to a little child,
For I am weak and weary,
and helpless and defiled.

Tell me the story slowly,
that I may take it in,
That wonderful redemption,
God’s remedy for sin.

Tell me the story often,
for I forget so soon,
The early dew of morning
has passed away at noon.

Tell me the story softly,
with earnest tones and grave;
Remember I’m the sinner
whom Jesus came to save.”

Then something else will happen. A renewed respect for the Temple and a rebuilding of the same leading to the rediscovery of the Word of the God will result in a natural separation from the world. In the Old Testament a wall around the city of Jerusalem spoke of physical protection and spiritual separation. The Christian today is commanded to be separate from the world. The Church is instructed not to love the world. The world will one day pass away, but those who do the will of God will live forever.

Like the Jews of old returning home from years in exile, it is possible for Christian to return home spiritually. Some of us have been in a pagan Babylon. We have been taken moral captive to a far country. We have been led away from the Lord, and the Word of God. There have been invisible chains binding us to many things that have proven to be harmful. But no longer do we find pleasure or adventure in the foreign land. Our hearts want to go home. It that is the desire of your heart, then come home.

“Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me;
See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me.

Come home, come home,
Ye who are wear-y, come home.
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!”

Come to Christ. Come home forever and affirm your new commitment to follow Christ.

“I have decided to follow Jesus.
I have decided to follow Jesus.
I have decided to follow Jesus.
No turning back, no turning back.

Though none go with me, still I will follow.
Though none go with me, still I will follow.
Though none go with me, still I will follow,
No turning back, no turning back.

The world behind me, the Cross-before me.
The world behind me, the Cross-before me.
The world behind me, the Cross before me,
No turning back, no turning back.

The Father chose me in matchless mercy.
The Father chose me in matchless mercy.
The Father chose me in matchless mercy,
No turning back, no turning back.

The Son saved me in gracious ma-jesty.
The Son saved me in gracious ma-jesty.
The Son saved me in gracious ma-jesty.
No turning back, no turning back.

The Spirit keeps me in faithful sovereignty.
The Spirit keeps me in faithful sovereignty.
The Spirit keeps me in faithful sovereignty,
No turning back, no turning back.”

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