Now in the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month (which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon), Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, who served the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. He burned the house of the Lord and the king’s house; all the houses of Jerusalem, that is, all the houses of the great, he burned with fire. And all the army of the Chaldeans who were with the captain of the guard broke down all the walls of Jerusalem all around. Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive some of the poor people, the rest of the people who remained in the city, the defectors who had deserted to the king of Babylon, and the rest of the craftsmen. But Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left some of the poor of the land as vinedressers and farmers. The bronze pillars that were in the house of the Lord, and the carts and the bronze Sea that were in the house of the Lord, the Chaldeans broke in pieces, and carried all their bronze to Babylon. They also took away the pots, the shovels, the trimmers, the bowls, the spoons, and all the bronze utensils with which the priests ministered. The basins, the firepans, the bowls, the pots, the lampstands, the spoons, and the cups, whatever was solid gold and whatever was solid silver, the captain of the guard took away. (Jeremiah 52:12-19)
Strangers In The House Of The Lord
The Temple of God in the city of Jerusalem was the House of the Lord. In this place, the people of Israel communed with God through worship and yearly sacrifices. It consisted of the most holy place where the Ark of the Covenant rested underneath the cherubim. The High Priest entered this place once a year for the atonement of the people. Other rooms in the temple were the holy place, porches, chambers, inner court and the great court. Standing on Moriah or Zion, the Temple was the centerpiece of the city of God gleaming as the citadel of God’s power, glory and majesty. Furniture inside the Temple consisted of the altar of incense, table of showbread, and the golden candlestick. In the inner court stood an immense basin of bronze called the Molten Sea resting on 12 bronze oxen. The Temple was filled with many different kinds of instruments, carts, tables and everyday utensils used to carry out the daily work of the priests. It was in the Holy of Holies the Lord God communed with the people of Israel. No one dared enter the sacred halls of the Temple lest they die. This changed when a Babylonian king came against Jerusalem.
For many years, the prophets of God had warned the people to change their ways or the Lord would punish them. The plague that would cover the land was not just the brutality of a subjugator upon the nation but the realization that an uncircumcised foe would tread upon the sacred city and desecrate the Temple of the Lord. The destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar was not just a military victory for the Babylonians. It symbolized the wrath of God upon His own people for their rejection of His love, grace, mercy and His word. Israel had sunk deep into idolatry with no regard to the One who brought them out of Egypt. It seemed inconceivable a Gentile would destroy Jerusalem; much less, he would enter the Holy of Holies and take away the Ark of the Covenant and the sacred items of the Temple. It come to pass during the days of Nebuchadnezzar. How could this happen and what lessons are there in the plundering of Jerusalem and the Temple?
As long as the people were in covenant with the Lord, He would abide with them and be their God. The communion of the Father and the people was bound by the pledge that when the people trusted in the power of God, He would bless them by His presence. When the king of Babylon came to Jerusalem, the people had long forgotten their covenant with the Lord. It would be horrifying to watch the Babylonian army push their way into the city and enter the Temple with no consequence. Ransacking the House of God was a clear statement to the nation of Israel of how far they had fallen. Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard for Nebuchadnezzar, took away all the items of the Temple because God allowed it. Warned by the prophets, the fulfillment of the Lord’s judgment was complete. It would be seventy years before a restoration began.
The plundering of the Temple is a lesson for the child of God. Jesus spoke of the heart of man as the dwelling place of the Father. Filling our hearts with the word of God through study, prayer and sharing the gospel with others binds our life with the presence of the Almighty. Surrounded by the glory of the Father, Satan is unable to come in and conquer our souls. The child of God has the power to cause the great adversary to flee. Protecting the heart from the wiles of the devil secures the protection of the Son of God. Like the temple of old, the heart of a Christian is a place of worship. Daily sacrifice becomes a sweet aroma to the Lord, as He smells the incense of our hearts in praise to His name. Trouble comes when we turn our hearts away from the worship of God to the idols of the world.
God cannot dwell where sin abounds. Children of God who fill their lives with the carnality of the world open the doors of the heart to the conquering power of Satan. Vacating the spirit from the word of God allows the adversary to plunder every part of the life of a Christian ending in destruction. As the people watched the horrific destruction of their city and the Temple of the Lord, it was clear they had abandoned their only hope. When Satan gains access to the hearts of God’s people, the result is horrific and destructive but a glimmer of hope remains. As the prophets warned the people of the coming destruction, they also told of the days of restoration for the few. God did not abandon His people and allowed them to return after seventy years. The heart of a Christian can be ravaged by the power of Satan but in repentance can be restored to a place of honor and glory. God is always faithful. Jeremiah paints a sad picture of the people of God. He also exhorts the people to seek the salvation of God. Sin brings sadness to the lives of God’s people but grace is found in the eternal mercy of a God who desires to dwell in the purified hearts of His people. Do not let Satan enter your heart. If he has brought destruction, repent and cleanse your heart in the love of God.
There is in repentance this beautiful mystery – that we may fly fastest home on broken wing. (William L. Sullivan, Epigrams and Criticisms in Miniature, 1936)