Living Stones

TomorroReturntoMe_mck.inddw, July 16, my Jewish friends and family members will commemorate one of the saddest days of their calendar year—Tisha B’Av. It’s a day of fasting and mourning to remember the destruction of God’s Temple in Jerusalem. On the ninth day of the month of Av in 586 BC, the Babylonian army destroyed the temple that King Solomon built, razing it to the ground. The surviving Jews were carried into captivity in Babylon.  In my newest novel, Return to Me, I tell the story from the book of Ezra, of how the Jews returned from exile 70 years later and rebuilt God’s temple.temple

            But this second temple—which was extensively renovated in Christ’s time by King Herod—was also destroyed. The Roman army demolished it in 70 AD, just as Jesus had foretold:  “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2). And in a tragic “coincidence,” the second temple was also destroyed on the ninth day of the month of Av.
temple mount
One of the most moving sites I’ve visited on my trips to Israel to do research is the place the Israelis call the Kotel—the wall. It’s one of the last remnants of the temple from Jesus’ day. A Muslim shrine called the Dome of the Rock now covers the site where both temples once stood. The Kotel is not part of the temple buildings themselves but is a section of the retaining wall that King Herod built to support his expanded temple platform. But it’s the place where Jews and many Christians come today to pray and worship.

wall

 Pilgrimage_comp   In my new non-fiction book, Pilgrimage; My Journey to a Deeper Faith in the Land Where Jesus Walked, I needed a few chapters to express the multitude of emotions I felt when I visited the Kotel. One thing that impressed me was the resilience of the Jewish people, who still come to pray and worship the God of Abraham after everything they’ve endured throughout the centuries. This half-broken remnant of their destroyed temple seems like such a fitting emblem of their unquenchable faith.

God’s temple is gone—and yet it isn’t. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?”  (1 Corinthians 3:16). As Christians, we carry the Holy Spirit with us wherever we go. And 1 Peter 2:5 says that “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house.” A “living stone” is one that has been quarried and chiseled and cut to fit a specific place in a building. Whenever I feel those deep cuts, I like to picture Jesus the carpenter chiseling away at all my rough edges so I will fit into the place He has chosen for me in His new temple.

chisel
   Tomorrow, when I remember Tisha B’Av with my Jewish friends, my prayer will be that each of us as living stones will take our place and do our part so that His temple will be rebuilt. A world in exile and captivity needs to see God’s glory on display in us.

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