It’s a sad thing, of course, when an evil government shuts the doors of a church. If you keep informed of how believers are persecuted in countries around the world, you ought to know that this is one of the most obvious signs of a crackdown.
But what if God were to tell us to shut the doors of a church? Or if he called upon volunteers to shut them? If you’ve read today’s passage, you might have been startled by the first few words in it. The Lord is asking for someone—anyone—to have the guts to go ahead and shut the doors of the temple!
Why would he do this?
Once again, this calls for thinking clearly. We need to be careful here. Outside of Christ, none of our offerings or worship is acceptable to him. Everything we are and do is tainted by sin. It infects everything, including our worship. And the God we want to worship and with whom we want a relationship is completely holy. He can't abide the presence of sin, and he can’t accept the worship of sinners. Our offerings and worship are only made acceptable by going through Jesus.
But that wasn’t the issue here. This wasn’t a case of imperfect sinners trying to worship the Lord as best they could under his grace (which is what we’re trying to do). Like we mentioned yesterday, they were playing games with the Almighty. They were flouting his commands, which openly demonstrated their attitude towards the whole enterprise.
This attitude was also expressed in their murmurings. When it was time to offer sacrifices again, they would sigh to themselves and say “Well, time to get it over with. Again.”
Why was he taking this so seriously? Why was this so important to him? Well, his Name deserves all the glory and honor. In Heaven, where every person or angel there will render perfect worship and ascribe all glory, honor, praise, thanksgiving, etc., to the Lord, that will only be what he deserves. He deserves the best. Quite frankly, he deserves better than our best.
But there’s more at stake here than we realize. One day—hopefully I’ll live to see it—the Lord’s name will be worshiped all over the world. God promised it here: “My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations.” The apostle John echoed this—In his vision of Heaven, he saw assembled before the Throne “every nation, tribe, people and language.” It will happen.
How will it happen? What’s God’s timetable for this? I don’t know.
But I know one thing: When the Lord's people treat his Name with contempt by offering half-hearted worship, that’s not the way to do it. That’s a very large reason why he cares so much about this.
His plan is to literally take over the world. He will not rest until all his elect come to saving faith in him. And remember the insight I got from John Piper: Missions and evangelism exist because worship doesn’t. When you’re sharing the Message of Jesus with people who don’t know him, in a very real sense you’re recruiting worshipers to join you.
He will be glorified--one way or the other--among the nations. And if he has to salvage his reputation by shutting the doors of a church, he'll do it. Apparently as far as he’s concerned, no worship is better than half-hearted or hypocritical or going-thru-the-motions worship.
Father God, your Name is very important to you. I want it to be important to me. I don’t want it to come to the point of you shutting doors. Let’s not get to that point, shall we?