The foreigner strode up the steps, eager to approach the most sacred building on Earth. He had heard the stories, the reports of how God showed his faithfulness to his people throughout the centuries. All the other gods he knew were full of wrath and anger. But this God loved, pursued, and cared for his people. It was almost like a real relationship between two people. Now he approached the temple where he was sure to learn so much about this god. Maybe this would be the one for whom he had always longed and hoped.
He came to the entrance. Only men were allowed to pass. Strange, but lucky for him he could continue. Up ahead he could see a low wall and a stern-looking fellow standing near a sign. This sign was carved in stone, so it must be important. Maybe it was an ode to the great Ten Commandments, also carved in stone. His pace quickened, eager to read this important message. He stepped closer, and here’s what he read: “ No foreigner is to enter within the forecourt and the balustrade around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his subsequent death.”
This was an actual sign on an actual wall. The sign was installed in the temple during the Roman occupation of Israel. The Romans would not allow the Jews to carry out executions for any of their various laws that required it. Except in this one area—if a foreigner crossed into this part of the temple.
The foreign visitor was confused. There must be some mistake? Why would a God of such renown want to keep people out? The stern-looking fellow had grown impatient, “Move along, Gentile.” The visitor turned and shuffled off, wondering what this all meant.
Soon after that another man came to town. This one knew about the wall, but he came on a mission to tear it down. Ephesians 2:14 says Jesus came to tear down the wall of hostility, the barrier that had grown between the Jews and Gentiles. God’s people were meant to be a blessing to the nations, not a burden. Jesus came to set things right again, to bring unity between the Jews and Greeks – in him.
Colossians 1:16-17 says, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” As we read in the previous devotion[link], this is true of the physical world, but also of the spiritual world. Christ is the one who holds his people together. He is the one that gives his people purpose, unity, and the ability to look past the things that might otherwise easily divide us, like culture and skin color.
What are some things that tend to divide Christians? Is there a time when Jesus brought unity in a strained relationship in your life? Share if you are comfortable doing so.
God, we confess that we often focus on outward appearances and let trivial things divide us. Thank you that you came to overcome these divisions and hostilities. Help us to look at the hearts of others and not just appearances (see I Samuel 16:7). Thank you for holding all things together on earth and in heaven.