Day 22 Psalm 84 ... More than a Building

It is almost impossible to exaggerate the significance of the temple for Jews throughout history. They took pride in its beautiful architecture (as people today might honor the Notre Dame cathedral), but the temple was far more than a grand symbol. Israel's entire national religious life centered around this building, the house of God.

Faithful Jews turned and faced the temple daily in prayer. Each year they made pilgrimages there to celebrate three great festivals honoring God's covenant with them. The Israelites even came to believe that the temple magically protected them against foreign invasion. As long as the temple stood, some said, no foreign armies could enter Jerusalem - a belief the prophet Jeremiah soundly condemned.

This psalm captures some of the intense feelings about the temple. It was written by one of the "Sons of Korah," a priestly choir established by King David to provide music for worship. As the writer travels to the temple on pilgrimage, his joy and anticipation make the desert surroundings seem almost like an oasis. Perhaps using a little humor, he claim to envy the sparrows and swallows that build nests inside the walls of the temple and thus get to live there permanently. He sings, "Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere."

The object of the psalmist's enthusiasm, the glorious temple built by Solomon, stood for about 380 years, occasionally falling into disrepair. Destroyed by the Babylonians, it was rebuilt just before the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, and then reconstructed by King Herod in Jesus' time. Jesus, who also made pilgrimages to the temple, walked in the temple on "Solomon's Porch," and the early church met on the temple grounds.

Herod's temple eventually fell to the Romans, and years later the Moslems built a mosque on the site. But the temple has never lost its sacred significance for the Jews, and even today some in Israel propose rebuilding the temple.

Point to Ponder: : Is the worship of God dull or exciting for you? Why? What religious symbols have intense meaning for you?