I closed my Bible and sat there for some time lost in thought. I’d been reading Jeremiah and a feeling of sadness so deep and so real had come over me.
I love the old testament and frequently reflect on the details God gave Solomon for him to build the temple. This temple was the place where God’s people could meet with their holy God. Solomon had a passionate love for Yahweh as did his father, David, and that, combined with his wealth, meant that nothing was spared as he followed God’s instructions in building this temple.
I try to visualise the details; the great blocks of stone untouched by any tool; nothing but the best cedar; great columns of bronze overlaid with gold; walls and floor overlaid with gold. Cherubims, lions, bulls, pomegranates, palm trees, flowers… the list goes on, all intricately engraved into the pillars, the walls, the ceiling. How many hours? How many skilled trades people would it have taken to do all that?
It was magnificent; a statement to all the countries surrounding them that Israel’s God was a Holy God to be honoured and worshipped. And God placed his blessing on this place; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.
But, God has warned, if you are unfaithful to me, I will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name.
God’s faithful prophets have been warning Israel over and over of what will happen if they continue to turn to other gods. Why, asks God, can others follow, stay true to their meaningless gods and you turn continually from me and a land, an inheritance I have given you?
I finally come to the end of Jeremiah and yes, it’s happened. What Nebuchadnezzar’s men don’t steal, they destroy. How quickly and brutally they set fire to the temple; how ruthlessly they smash the bronze pillars, these pillars of bronze whose weight was too great to measure. After years of planning and seven years of building, God’s presence amongst his people; his covering over Israel, was gone in a matter hours.
And so, this feeling of sadness filled my heart. How could Israel do this? How could they turn to meaningless gods of wood and stone? How could they reject a God who had chosen them over all other nations and given them so much? Why would God let this thing happen?
But, I thought, what is that telling us, God’s people, his church of today? Are we any different? The question lingers in my mind as I finally go to sleep…