As we go through this Advent period of waiting, we have seen how God revealed himself to Adam by breathing life into him, and how He revealed himself to the wandering tribes of Israel in a dense cloud. As we get closer to Jesus’ return, we find that things are literally heating up. The tabernacle, or sacred tent, that we read about last week was a temporary house of worship. Because Israel was at that time a nomadic people, they lived in tents, and God did, too. This week we will again go forward in time, and we will see God in His glorious temple.
Second Chronicles 7:1-3 tells us what happened when Solomon dedicated the temple in Jerusalem. “As soon as Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and burned up the offerings. The LORD’s dazzling glory then filled the temple, and the priests could not go in. When the crowd of people saw the fire and the LORD’s glory, they knelt down and worshiped the LORD. They prayed: ‘The LORD is good, and his love never ends.’”
Now we see God’s glory, which is another name for “majesty.” He is no longer concealed in a cloud, but is described as “dazzling.” Fire comes down from heaven to burn up the offerings. The priests are unable to go into the temple. And the result of this amazing spectacle was worship. The people fell on their knees before God.
This week, the Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah, the festival of light. The temple had been taken by the Seleucid Empire, and was won back for Israel by the Maccabees. It was cleansed, and rededicated to God. The menorah, a candelabrum with 7 flames which represented creation and knowledge, was supposed to be kept burning continuously. Unfortunately, they only had enough oil for one night. Miraculously, the oil lasted for 8 days, until they could get more. We light our advent candles one at a time, adding more light as we get closer to the coming of our Savior. In a similar way, the Hanukkah menorah has 8 candles which are lit one at a time, adding more light each day of the festival.
In the book of Acts, we find that God has again chosen a new temple. Acts 2:1-4 reads: “On the day of Pentecost all the Lord’s followers were together in one place. Suddenly there was a noise from heaven like the sound of a mighty wind! It filled the house where they were meeting. Then they saw what looked like fiery tongues moving in all directions, and a tongue came and settled on each person there. The Holy Spirit took control of everyone, and they began speaking whatever language the Spirit let them speak.”
Acts 2 continues with the disciples speaking in different languages to a crowd of people who had come from many different countries. Each heard his own language and heard the message of the gospel! Peter told them that God had made Jesus both Lord and Christ! The people were upset, asking what they should do, and Peter said, “Turn back to God! Be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins will be forgiven. Then you will be given the Holy Spirit.”
We no longer have to go to the temple to worship God. If we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and confessed our sins to be forgiven, we are now temples where the Holy Spirit lives. Just like the miracle of Hanukkah, the Holy Spirit will take whatever you have to offer, and will grow it into an abundance. His glory now resides with you. We can give God honor, worship, and praise wherever we are.
Today we again light the first candle, the candle of forgiveness, and we light the second candle, the candle of readiness, and we light the third candle, the candle of worshiping. Who will light it with me?