OK, so I've been asked by the comittee selecting the preachers for the next several Sundays, until the Interim Pastor arrives, to begin writing a sermon. So, I've read through several passages, and one that continues to nag me is Isaiah 58:9b-14.
The Book of Isaiah can be broken up into three parts, according to the time of their writing. First Isaiah (Ch. 1-39) was written during the Assyrian control of Israel, Second Isaiah (Ch. 40-55) was written during the Babylonian control of Israel, and Third Isaiah (Ch. 56-66) was written during the Persian control of Israel. (I believe that) The Book of Isaiah, as we know it, was compiled from writings out of these three periods during the Persian reign (ca. 525-515BCE).
The Persians were encouraging the Israelites to rebuild the temple and resume temple worship, because whatever revenues were brought into the temple under Persian law, belonged to the emperor. The upper classes and the social elite were strongly encouraged to support the rebuilding of the temple.
The author of Isaiah complied the Book to show that God is against the rebuilding of the temple. Because it is not out of glory for the LORD that these actions are being undertaken, but rather out of selfishness. The Israelite elite were treated well by Cyrus and the Persians, and their supporting of the rebuilding would further assure this continued treatment.
God is saying that rebuilding the temple out of desire of the Persians for the monies incurred, not only is wrong, but it also oppresses the underclasses of the Israelites, who must pay the temple tax to worship.
So, why do we build our temple? Is it a place truly devoted to God? Or is it so that we can have plenty of money in the bank? Are we part of a temple that oppresses people, because we are building a temple for monetary reasons, as opposed to a temple that truly worships God? If we are in this for power, control, or to horde money, then we are no different from the Israelites of the Persian era. And God does NOT want our temple built any further!!!!
I can't help but read this passage and think that this is what I need to preach on.
This is by no means the whole sermon, just the thought-lines of one.