“A People Restored”: The Temple Was Rebuilt
If you haver ever purchased a new car or a new house, you know about upgrades. You start with the base price, but then you are presented with a series of optional upgrades. Before long, your total price has ballooned, but you have justified it because it is such a long-term purchase and your monthly payment still isn’t that bad.
While the upgrades available are a mixed blessing when it comes to buying a car or house (they are nice, but you are paying a lot for them), there is one notable “upgrade” in the story of Scripture that is all good: God’s presence with His people after the Fall.
God Was Present with His People in the Temple
The story of Scripture begins with God coming down to dwell with His people in a perfect creation. But the rebellion of humanity ruined that intimate relationship and from that time forward, humanity lived separated from God.
Even from the initial rebellion, though, God shared of His plan to restore people into relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. As that plan unfolded, God was sure not only to tell people of His desire to dwell with them again, but He showed them too.
One of the first word pictures of God’s desire was the tabernacle—the portable tent that God commanded the Israelites to make during their exodus from Egypt. The tabernacle was a place where God’s people could worship Him and where His presence dwelled on earth, in the most holy place.
Then, during Solomon’s reign, a permanent structure was built to replace the tabernacle. This new temple fulfilled the same purpose as the tabernacle, only it was a better picture because it was permanent. God’s plan was to dwell with His people permanently—they did not need to fear a transient or fickle God leaving them.
The temple was permanent, that is, in that one sense. However, it was not permanent from another sense—it was destroyed as part of the captivities when God judged His people for their idolatry.
And that takes us to this week’s session—where the people of God returned to the land and rebuilt the temple. This is why doing that was so important—because it was a symbol of God’s continuing desire to dwell with His people. Yes, He had disciplined them for their idolatry, but that did not change His plan.
God Is Present with His People in Jesus
The temple was a good upgrade over the tabernacle, but a huge upgrade was to come. That upgrade is, of course, Jesus.
John 1 is so important in understanding this. Go grab a Bible. Now, open up to Genesis 1 and scan through that story paying attention to key phrases.
OK. Now, turn to John 1 and do the same thing. What do you notice? That’s right, John intentionally copied the themes of Genesis 1 in the prologue of his Gospel. John wants us to see that Jesus had come to “recreate” all that sin had destroyed. Just as the three Persons of the Trinity created the universe in Genesis 1—moving from nothing, to disorganized something, to organized everything—Jesus had come to undue the chaos that sin had created and bring order and purpose to the lives of those who trust in Him.
But then, John jumped ahead in the story of Scripture to the Book of Exodus:
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 CSB)
It is hard to see in some translations, such as here in the CSB, but that phrase “dwelt among us” is literally “tabernacled.” Jesus became a human so that He could tabernacle with us.
John’s point is this: Just as God did not create the universe only to leave people alone on the earth, but rather to live with them, so did Jesus come not only to bring order and defeat sin, but also so that God could, once again, live with His people only in a far greater way than before.
Just like the upgrade from the tabernacle to the temple, there was another upgrade (as unbelievable as that might sound) from Jesus too: the giving of the Holy Spirit. Look at what Jesus said about this later in John’s Gospel:
Nevertheless, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7 (SB)
As believers, we have been given the Holy Spirit, who dwells with us permanently to guide us, encourage us, and convict us of sin—all amazing gifts through His presence.
God Will Be Present with His People in Eternity
But there is yet one more massive upgrade we await: the return of Jesus. The story of Scripture does not end with the church age, it ends with Jesus returning to rescue His bride from the world once and for all—when He will put a conclusive end to sin and death, renew creation, and usher in His perfect kingdom where we will dwell with Him forever.
This is our hope. This is when all will be restored to how it was in the beginning and how it should be. And on that day, when we are finally free from the curse of sin, we will be with God in a purer, more beautiful way than ever before.
Believers in Christ have every reason to be encouraged. Jesus Christ will ultimately reign as King of kings and Lord of lords over all who trust in him. Our task is to persevere in the work he has called us to do.” — Yoilah YilpetYoilah Yilpet, “Haggai,” in Africa Bible Commentary, gen. ed. Tokunboh Adeyemo (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 1102.
Preschool Tip: This is another session that might seem a little repetitive to you, after leading sessions in the past on the tabernacle and temple both. Don’t forget, though, that not all of your preschoolers were likely there before, and that repetition is important for your little ones’ learning.
Kids Tip: This session might seem repetitive for your kids too, at least for those who were part of the sessions on the building of the tabernacle and temple earlier in this cycle. However, be sure to point out that the rebuilding of the temple was critical because it assured God’s people of His love and forgiveness of them. This was a tangible reminder of God’s mercy and grace given to His people despite their grievous sins.