At last, the temple was completed. The people had successfully fulfilled God’s vision and command with the help of three Persian kings. What an amazing feat!
Can you imagine the emotions that were flowing amongst the Israelite people? I imagine a sense of relief mingled with exhaustion and anticipation for all the ministry that would take place. The people had finally rebuilt the place where God could reside among them. Over these years, the people had stayed focused on their mission and not let the distractions get them off course.
While we don’t offer sacrifices like this today, it appears these people’s priorities were in place. They were giving their attention and showing their loyalty to the one true God. They seem intent on following the law in hopes of pleasing the God who had chosen them for the restoration project.
We can learn a lesson from these people. The text said they were meeting “with a unified purpose.” Unity seems to be lacking in our culture today. So many people focus on self and their own personal rights that the idea of unity with others is becoming rare. What does a unified purpose look like? These people were rallying around God’s call to start over.
The Preacher does it again. We are whisked back into the Old Testament to deepen the meaning of the message he is delivering. Understanding the old covenant would have been a lot easier for the Jews in his first audience. This description of the old covenant is quite something! The Preacher calls it a “dim preview of the good things to come.” Since we’ve been living in the new covenant our whole lives, it does us good to know and appreciate the “upgrade” done for our benefit. Keep in mind your response to God for his forgiveness and grace, the gifts included in this new covenant.
One such Old Testament reference is a quote from Psalm 40:6-8 which speaks for Jesus. Do you suppose the psalmist, David knew the depth of meaning his words had as they pointed to Jesus? Perhaps David had one of those “Holy Spirit moments” when he wrote something but wasn’t sure where it came from. I know there are times when things come out of my mouth that sound “so good”—I’m sure they came from the Holy Spirit!
How brilliant! God uses Jeremiah remind the people to remember the covenant. It is clear from their behavior that they have not given much thought to this covenant in some time. Maybe ever! The people have no excuse, the answers to life found in the covenant aren’t hidden from them.
“Cursed is anyone who does not obey the terms of my covenant!” Do they even fear or tremble at the curse? Does being obedient to God “show up on their radar” as something they aspire to be better at doing? If so, then they still have a chance to be saved from doom.
I can’t get over the sheer number of animals sacrificed during this dedication ceremony. 142,000 cattle, sheep, and goats. I don’t think I can even fathom how much space they would take up, much less the time it would take. It makes sense the dedication took multiple days, even before the traditional Festival of Shelters was celebrated.
Getting caught up in the details can keep us from seeing the underlying message. Such numbers would suggest to me extreme devotion and a repentant heart. The magnitude of the temple’s importance in the lives of God’s people is also apparent. The grandeur of the temple would call for such a display. It sounds like everyone in attendance was blessed. I hope God was, too!