To understand what the Church is doing today and upon what principle it is operating we need go no further than Scripture for insight.
I know this message is not something that most people will want to read, but I regard the reading of it of utmost importance. Nearly all Americans are content with the Church and the way it is being operated today, but is it Scriptural, or for that matter, does it even make sense? Many unbelievers are unimpressed and see through the “dress-up” that goes on, on any given Sunday. While Christians go on blindly in their pretense the world stands back and mocks. Of course I’m speaking in general terms. There are bright spots out there, but they are not apparent or stand out like the mega-churches; they are for the most part small congregations known only to the Lord. I even heard one preacher say unabashedly that “only the Lord could do this,” referring to their largeness and beauty, as if being small was not of the Lord; at least that was the impression I received. As most Americans do, we relate success to bigness, and the Church follows suit and makes their appeal to those who want that sort of thing and many good Christians fall in the process, but even the world knows that “all that glitters is not gold.” The Creator God makes His appeal to us to purchase His gold, refined in the fires of the Kingdom, and to sell it not. Speaking of refining and fire let’s look at what the Church is built on.
Where do we go to find evidence that the Church today is off course and building the wrong way? We could go to the vision that Ezekiel had; nine chapters of details all packed with meaning. We could examine Moses and his instructions received from God and told to be sure and follow the exact specifications. We could study Paul throughout the New Testament, they would all be valid, but for this study we want to look at Mount Moriah, and David, and Solomon, and Abraham and Isaac, and the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.
2 Chron. 3:1 “Now Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to his father David, at the place that David had prepared on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.”
What was it that David wanted so desperately to do? He wanted to build a dwelling place for God as a permanent place for the Ark to rest. As we know David did not build the Temple, it was built by Solomon, with David supplying the materials. If we want to see a type of the Church and how we are to understand its construction this is a wonderful place to look, as we will see. Understanding the Temple should give us insight into what God requires of the materials and His servants; it is the standard against which we are to check or compare what we actually see and have.
In the Book of Job there are some beautiful and wise words for us, among which are these: “And lay thou thy treasure in the dust…” Job 22:24. In these words lay buried the seeds of true worth and the secret of spiritual success, if we can hear them. Abraham knew something about this principle of success; it is the principle of faith that overcomes all doubt. All that Abraham cared deeply for, all his hopes and aspirations, all his expectations, all the promises of God were embodied in his son, Isaac. Isaac was his chief joy and besides him he had nothing, and was nothing. And, we know what follows: “Take now thy son…Isaac…and offer him…for a burnt offering” Gen 22:2. Abraham knew what it meant to “Lay thou thy treasure in the Dust.” Everything now came down to this, an act of obedience, an offering to the Lord, a dark night of the soul, a sacrifice of his very best, his first fruit, reduced to ashes. Abraham was acting on what he knew to be absolutely true about God, that He had power to restore life. It was the triumph of his faith through obedience. That very spot, on Mount Moriah, would eventually become the location of the Temple built by Solomon. Now, stop here and think about this. Do a little inductive Bible study. Read the whole story. What does it say, what does it mean, and how do you apply it? What kind of foundation is the Temple being built on? What is it being built of? What is the principle here? What is the lesson?
This event, of course, is a shadow of Calvary. He laid His treasure in the dust, and put no value on His own life, but was obedient, even the obedience of the Cross. This is the principle for building a house for God; it was that way then, and it is that way today.
The principle didn’t stop at the Cross. The Cross was the great initiating of the Divine principle of real Church planting that governs all growth. Jesus said it plainly in John 12:24-26 “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” Any other way will only produce brick and mortar buildings, with great sound systems, good music, plenty of programs, a never ending cycle of sheep seeking that perfect service that will capture them for the kingdom. There is no short cut; that’s just the way it is; anything else is a lie. Yes! A lie and strong delusion.
This laying down of life is an ongoing process. Death, laying our treasures in the dust, is the Divine pathway to life; it is the only path; it is the narrow gate, and most often a lonely path, but in it are the fruits of life, liberty, growth, and maturity. Letting go of our treasure, even of life itself is a severe act of faith and trust, and is that sweet smell that satisfies God. This is Gods way with man, from the beginning; it is the message of Scripture, and the example that is given. The weak, the ignorant, the hopeless, even the lifeless are the raw materials of building in God’s economy.
In this description of who and what God uses to build His Kingdom we find that these characteristics have to do with the quality of the materials. So, it isn’t surprising that God would have His dwelling place constructed on a threshing floor, the threshing floor of Ornan. The threshing floor represents that place where the produce of God is made fit for use, a place of sifting and cleansing. This is the place where Satan’s doing is un-done. There is no man-glory here, only brokenness and humility. All the wisdom of men, their intellect, imaginations and creative skills, their dreams of greatness, their name-dropping and knowing the right people, and going to the right schools, are all undercut, because they are Satan’s. All of these are a vain attempt to avoid the Cross and to have that pearl of great price at a discount. No! When you come to the threshing floor you must lay your treasures in the dust. Knowing Rick Warren, or being educated at Fuller, or having ties to Eli Lilly to take elaborate vacations, are all the shifting sands of this world; it’s all man-glory, faulty building materials, a lie. This is not the way of faith; this is not God’s way of building, the quality just isn’t there.
Let’s look at David closer. We remember that it was not David who built the Temple but Solomon his son; it was David who provided the material. Solomon represents The King in His Glory, Power, Wisdom, and Riches. David represents man in his broken state, the raw material of God: tested, tried, purified, all the dross and imperfections removed, fit, now, for the Temple. All of this was by faith that God would make him fit; he would be fitted into the Temple. This is the story we read of every great missionary, and every great Christian hero, and every great preacher, that they exercised a severe faith in what the absolutely knew to be true about God; that He could be trusted. We can trust God in our broken state. He breaks us only so that He can raise us up, but we must be broken first.
What was the great testing of David? It was the temptation of Satan to number Israel. Satan created a desire in David to know just how powerful he really was, even though he knew very well that God was all powerful. He wanted to know the feeling of being envied for his great accomplishments and wealth, that sweetness of an inflated ego, the bigness of unbridled pride, a man amongst men, eating the fruit from his own orchard. Even his worldly Minister of Defense, Joab, could see David’s growing pride and advised him against doing it, but it was too late, the desire burned in him till he didn’t care about being wrong. He could have stopped any time, but he let it go on, even when that voice in the back of his head was getting less and less intrusive, till sin was in full bloom and there was no turning back. Now it was just a matter of justifying his action; “Joab is too far to go after now.” “There will be great things come out of this for the glory of God.” “What’s the big deal anyway; everybody already knows how great I am.” Etc., etc., etc. All of David’s successes had led him to a life of ease, which in turn led him into worldliness. The world is always telling us that the end justifies the means. It is one of the favorite devices of Satan. We can do some great things for God and get a little fame for ourselves along the way. It is the sweetness of self deceit. David’s sin was the sin of the nation, David led the nation and the nation suffered the consequences of its leader. David’s sin cost the lives of 70,000 men. His sin was no different than the sins of pride we see in our own churches across this nation. Our sin is also a national sin and will cost the lives of many and has already, but we haven’t gotten the message yet. When the cost of our pride crosses the threshold of our living room and comes to rest in our own front room, then maybe some will recognize the threshing floor of Ornan for their self. We keep going on as if there is no God and I am afraid for America.
No part of Satan’s work will be allowed to share in the building of the Temple; God will defeat it “hip and thigh.” God will not share His glory with anyone else.
God has done much for our nation and can do more, but this “counting of heads” must end. The Churches across this land are bringing much guilt to America. David was a pitiful sight when he came to the threshing floor of Ornan, so will we be, when and if we come.