Last Sunday I used the building of Solomon’s temple as an analogy for our spiritual life. I talked about life on earth being like life in one of Solomon’s quarries when stones for building the temple were cut and chiseled for their specific role and function and then when they were ready they were slipped quietly and perfectly into place. I Kings 6:7 In building the temple, only blocks dressed at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built. Comparing that work to God’s work in preparing us for heaven, I said the quality of God’s work will leave us breathless and speechless. But crafting living stones for the temple of the living God comes at a great cost. Chiseling is painful because chiseling is personal. This sanctifying work is a spiritual work, a holy work, a labor of love to cut away our old nature, our flesh, our idols, the things most dear to us and we grasp so hard, the sin that clings so tightly. So how do we endure while this painful, sanctifying work is going on? How do we keep going each day during the unpleasant discipline of the Lord? How do we go another day when we can hardly make it through today? How do we survive when our cries for mercy and help seem unheard; when we feel like Jesus on the cross saying, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” How do we walk by faith when all we feel is fear? I want to give us three antidotes to fear and anxiety and to Satan’s lies; three spiritual truths when we find ourselves being tried and tested in the quarries of God’s sanctification.
What a day it must have been. The excitement must have been thick enough to cut with a knife. The day of the dedication of Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem. All of Israel from Dan to Beersheba was gathered to behold this magnificent sight. The massive limestone block glistening in the sun, the polished granite, the huge beams hewn from the great cedars of Lebanon, the ornate carvings, the beautiful bronze basins and golden altar. How many proud fathers were there pointing out to their children what they had done, carving these stones, cutting those timbers, sculpting that capital on top of that pillar. And the animals, 22,000 bulls and 120,000 sheep to be sacrificed to God on that day, and then feasted on for the next eight days. What a day it must have been. But it was a day seven years in the making.
In the beginning of the book of Exodus we read: Exodus 2:23-25 During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. 24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25 God saw the people of Israel—and God knew. God heard the prayers of His people and He responded with a great judgment on Egypt in the form of ten plagues. When we were last in Revelation 8 on Palm Sunday evening we read: Revelation 8:3-5 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, 4 and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. 5 Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake. So also here in Revelation there is the cry of the martyrs and saints and God responds with the trumpets of judgment. And the trumpet judgements parallel the plagues as I will point out. Those who believe Revelation is a prophecy about things yet in the future and that the seven trumpets all take place in a literal way in the last three and a half years before Christ comes have to say God delays His response to the prayers of the saints way to the very end of history and just before the second coming. But God does hear and answer and He does so all through history as we will see. As God judged unbelieving Egypt and now He judges the unbelieving world. God will deliver His people once again. John’s revelation is pastoral encouragement for Christians reading this. This letter is meant to strengthen them in the face of great trials and tribulations. The troubles in our world, like in Egypt, are only a prelude to a greater deliverance. God is present, God is in control, God will deliver His people. In the words of Jesus recorded in Luke’s Gospel: Luke 21:28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. After John saw the seven seals, he heard seven trumpets. We move now from scene 2 to scene 3 in John’s vision and the vision intensifies.
It’s human nature to treat what we own better than what we don’t own. It is human nature to be rougher with a rental car than our own car. I take better care of my own skis than I do rental skis. Ask any rental property owner how renters treat their rent house. It’s different from how an owner treats his house. It is human nature to be freer to spend someone else’s money than our own money. I’m not saying any of this is right, in fact it’s not right, but you will agree with me that this is human nature. My dad taught me to leave things better than I found it and to return things better than I got it. But I had to be taught and trained, it’s isn’t human nature. Knowing human nature very well Jesus paints a picture of sheep and shepherds and of the difference between how a hireling and a shepherd treat the sheep.