July 12: 9 Tammuz
It was on this day in 586 B.C. that Nebuchadnezzar and his army breached the walls of Jerusalem and then entered into the city (Jeremiah 39:2). The fascinating part of this story is that God allowed it.
“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the articles of the house of God, which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the articles into the treasure house of his god.” (Daniel 1:1-2)
Not only did God allow the Temple to be destroyed, its treasures plundered and the king of Judah to be delivered into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, but He also allowed the righteous to be taken captive. Men like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (better known as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego) were driven into Babylonian exile along with the guilty. Where these righteous men are concerned, the question would be, “Why?”
When it comes to the Temple, that God would permit its destruction suggests that the Temple had ceased to serve its purpose. That points leads to this question: “What was the purpose of the Temple?” When God instructed Israel to build the Tabernacle, the stated intent was that God might dwell in the midst of (literally “in”) His people. At some point after Solomon dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem, that ceased to be; His presence was no longer there. Thus, He allowed the Temple to be destroyed and its stones scattered about.
Consider that God’s Temple of stone was always intended to represent another temple, that is, His people. In other words, the stones of the temple were emblematic of His people. Moreover, Paul revealed to us that our bodies are to be considered as temples of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, the stones of the temple were a picture of His people coming together as one and being the proper abode of the Almighty. So then, when the stones of the temple were broken down and scattered, so too were the people. As individuals and as a nation, God’s people had ceased to serve their holy purpose, and had allowed their hearts to drift elsewhere – to other gods and other philosophies. By allowing them to be taken captive into Babylon, God was physically placing them where their hearts had already drifted to philosophically.
Throughout Scripture, we see that God will give His people what they desire. If their heart is for flesh, He’ll give them flesh. If they want a king, He’ll give them a king. If their heart is for Babylon, He’ll give them Babylon. However, He gives His people what they ask for to teach them that what they want is not what they need. Today we live in a society that wants change and, so, we’re getting change. But is the change we’re getting the change we need? Maybe we should be careful what we ask for – we may just get it. And when we do, we may realize it wasn’t what we needed.
Here is the better approach: humble ourselves before God and conform to His will for our lives. We may not like what is required of us, but it will always be in our best interests and, likely, in the best interests of others that God brings into our lives. Consider what would have NOT happened if Daniel, Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego had not been taken into exile. The great and powerful Nebuchadnezzar may never have acknowledged that the God of Israel was Almighty. In other words, those righteous men were taken into exile that they might be a witness to the king of Babylon and his people. Furthermore, their faithfulness demonstrated to their fellow Jews that, though they were in exile, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had not abandoned them.
The Bible tells us that His ways are not our ways. I’m sure that Daniel and the other righteous in Babylon didn’t understand why they were there, initially, but their purpose there became obvious later. Likewise, we must be ready to serve His will regardless of the costs and whether or not it makes sense to us. We must turn from our own desires and embrace His desire for us, that we might function in our purpose, primarily, that our bodies would be a holy habitation for His Spirit. Let’s commit ourselves to that today.