Religious Freedom in God’s House
By Ben Hilton
Several weeks ago as the coronavirus was sweeping the world, something concerning was happening in regard to religious freedom in the United States. Governors had, in the name of protecting us from infection, ordered mass lockdowns and quarantines. This included the closing of many businesses deemed non-essential. Much of the criterion used to determine whether a business was essential or not remains a mystery. But what we do know is that churches didn’t make the cut in many places, meaning they were closed down at the order of the State. Even though most churches readily complied with the order, the idea of the State assuming this level of power over religious freedom can be concerning in many ways.
After some outcry, President Trump took up the baton, declaring houses of worship as “essential.” This was a declaration Christianity as a whole applauded, thankful for his courage in defending religious liberty for houses of worship.
There is a house of worship, however, where religious liberty is not applauded. In fact, Christianity as a whole has deemed it and condemned it to a state of being non-essential for most of history. I’m talking about a plateau on a little hill surrounded by several other hills. A place paved with smooth ancient stones, crowned with a shining golden dome, still echoing with prayers long forbidden.
I’m talking about the Temple Mount, of course, the place where God said in 2 Chronicles 7 He would place His eyes and heart forever. The place where His presence resided in power for hundreds of years and the only place He declared Himself zealous for in the Prophets, and where Jesus expressed His longing for it to become a House of Prayer for all nations! This place, the Home of God here on earth, is also where local Christians dumped their physical garbage for centuries, deeming it non-essential to our way of worship by all practical standards.
How have we become so disconnected from the very place God is zealous for, the House He created to have fellowship in with us? How have we become so disconnected from our Messiah who bore a tremendous zeal and love for His Father’s House?
When Jesus was left in Jerusalem as a twelve-year-old, His parents found Him in the Temple after a three-day search. When discussing His impending departure from earth with His disciples in John 15 Jesus told them He was going to prepare rooms for them in the Temple. When clearing out the impurities from the Temple’s courts Jesus’ disciples recognized that “Zeal for the House consumed Him.” And when Jesus prophesied about the Temple’s soon coming destruction, He wept.
After nearly 2,000 years of exile, the Jewish people have returned to the land of Israel. In 1967, the Temple Mount was returned to Israeli sovereignty, but not entirely. Jews are forbidden to pray or express any kind of open worship in the holiest location on earth. This is the place of God’s House, and I firmly believe it is time for us as Christians to start treating it as such. The time has come for us to stand up for our Father’s House, to deem it essential as a House of Worship. To call for it to become a house of prayer for all nations just as Jesus prophesied, to long for it with all of our hearts.
Let freedom reign in God’s house.