I wonder, have you ever had an experience of resting or sitting or leaning on something that looks good and sturdy, a chair, a fence, a rock; but then when you put your weight on it, it shifts. I’ve seen people sit on a plastic chair and it shatter beneath them. Or lean against a fence post only to have it fall. Or to rest on a rock while hiking then the rock wobble or even roll down the hillside. Sometimes it’s a scary lesson, and yet unfortunately it’s one we learn time and again, to be careful what you rely on.
But then, look at what wonderful things we have in this world! The cars that fly over roads across the country. Those great ships that cart our food and clothes, and all the things we need for our lifestyles across the deep, wide oceans. The monument of Parliament house and the intricate bureaucracy that supports it. Even our democratic society, and of course the wonders and horrors of the internet. What massive works, what magnificent constructions! Surely these will last, surely we can rely on these! Yet can we always rely on them? Or are they sometimes like a deceptive stone? What do you rely on?
The Jew’s, of course, relied on the temple. This temple of God, renovated by King Herod the Great around the time of Christ’s birth, it had been reconstructed by the Jews returning from Exile 500yrs prior, the first temple built by King Solomon by the wish of his father David, replacing the tabernacle God had commanded be constructed at Mount Sinai to be His footstool. And yet it was just a shadow of the Heavenly Tabernacle, the Temple of living stones, Moses had seen (Hebrews 8:5). This Temple was the centre of Jewish life, it was the place to encounter God Almighty; it was the place that all faithful Jews sought to gather around three times a year at the great feasts God had instituted. A majestic testament to God’s beauty, His strength, and His reliability, His lasting presence with His people. But Jesus replies, ‘do you see all these great buildings? Not one stone here will be left on another, every one will be thrown down.’ And this happened in 70AD. The centre of Ancient Jewish life was destroyed. Their world fell apart.
Has this ever happened for you? Has your world fallen apart? Those things you relied on for safety, for strength, broken and thrown down. Revealed to be temporary and transient helps, like an old chair that shatters underneath you. The rhythms of your life shattered, perhaps by cute yet crying children, by sickness or financial loss, by a global pandemic or by civil war. In despair, wonder and confusion, what can you rely on, what will always be there, through thick and thin, sickness and health, for richer for poorer; what is the everlasting support? It is God, and His work through the Church, the bride of Christ. It is our Heavenly Father who created you; Jesus Christ who defeats death for you; the Holy Spirit who guides you with the Scriptures in His Church. Yes, Bibles may be burned, cathedrals and prayer tents alike destroyed, even pastors and priests defeated and converted by demonic lies; and yet still as nation rise against nation, as the earthquakes, famine, disease, these are the beginning of birth pains, just the beginning of the end.
This is the consistent and reliable witness of Scripture, the Holy Spirit bringing these words to us from 4000, 3000, 2000yrs ago; and these everlasting words still true today. Christ’s Church has preserved and passed down these everlasting words for 2000yrs. This is not new, war famine and disease are as old as Cain and Abel; just as you in many ways have suffered many things since your birth. And yet the reality of sin, death and the devil, is not the only truth the Church has passed down. In Christ there is something that is ever new, always refreshing, a living way opened for us through the curtain of His flesh, the temple of His body. The everlasting High Priest, always reliable and true, never deceptive or failing like that old chair or the majestic things humans construct; Our Everlasting Priest Jesus takes away our guilt and washes away our sin (Hebrews 10:22). He grants us an everlasting hope, that in the end all God’s people, those written in His book, will be delivered, healed and free from sin death and the devil (Daniel 12:1). That even now, He makes known to you the path of life, a new way, the way of Jesus (Psalm 16:11). So, rely on Him. Walk His way. Listen to His Word. Pray and serve together as Christ’s Church, for this world is falling away, yet Jesus is everlasting. Rely on Him in all things.
And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus now unto everlasting in Him. Amen.
Pastor Joseph Graham.