“Yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.” (Jonah 2:4b)
When you are as low as one can go, there is only one place to look – up! That’s what Jonah did. It took a few days but his focus finally shifted from inward to upward. This is why God allowed him to get gulped. He knew that in all that darkness a light would eventually come on for Jonah. It did. That’s when things brightened up big time. It began when Jonah said, “I will look again.” There lies the secret for all of us. That is how we rise up from those dark pits we find ourselves in. Are you presently in a gloomy place? Do you feel tormented? Alone? Forsaken? Do what Jonah did, look again! Jonah didn’t just look anywhere; he looked toward the Holy Temple. Why there? This was a place of worship as well as a sacred refuge where one could experience the newness of God’s mercies. The psalmist declared, “But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy: and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple.” (Psalm 5:7) Can you see it now? Look again!
In the temple was a special area called ‘The Holy of Holies' which represented the presence of God. In this sacred room was the Ark of the Covenant which contained the law. Atop the Ark was the Mercy Seat where God’s glory rested. This hallowed chamber was off limits to everyone. It was better this way. The glory of God was too much for any mortal to look upon and live to tell about. Once a year, a priest would enter the Holy of Holies to make an atonement offering. Certain precautions were observed so he could survive the experience. He walked in backwards, making sure his eyes didn’t wander where they shouldn’t. A rope was tied to his ankle just in case he messed up. Bells were worn on the bottom of his robe. If they stopped ringing, those on the other side of the curtain knew to pull the rope and drag him out.
Thank goodness for that veil! Seldom do we think about how many lives were spared on account of it. But it also served as an ever present reminder that man was separated from God. The veil was not the cause of this separation; the cause was man’s sinfulness. And because of sin, access to God remained extremely limited. Unholy man needed a go-through person to mediate on his behalf, a priest. If God had something to say, He spoke through prophets. There was always a middle man. As far as one-on-one contact with the Almighty, the veil was there to show that wasn’t possible. Distance was the prevailing rule. That is until the veil was torn in two.
That very day when Jesus atoned for our sins on Calvary, the veil of the Temple was immediately rent from top to bottom. It was not rent from bottom to top as if man had done this. No, it was rent from top to bottom by God Himself. That is what the cross did for us. Once Jesus gave up the ghost, the “off limits” sign came crashing down. Now He is our mediator. Through Him we have full access to the Father. The distance problem has been done away with. The sin issue has been resolved. We who were once far have been brought near. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) What about you? Are you feeling distant? Could you use some grace in your time of need? Look again! Look to that temple where the veil has been rent. You are not far from God. He is accessible. He is approachable. He invites you to come.
I truly cherish those two precious words, “look again.” They breathe such hope. I am reminded of John the Baptist. He also needed a second look for he too found himself in a dark place. Here was a man who knew Jesus personally, they were cousins. John understood from a very young age that he was to be the forerunner of Christ. When Jesus came to the Jordon it was John the Baptist who declared, “Behold the lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) He saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus like a dove. He heard the Voice from above announce, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) And here is the Baptizer’s own testimony: “I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:34) John knew Jesus, he preached Jesus and he prepared the way for Jesus. Then something happened to John. He wound up in prison. John fully expected to decrease so Christ could increase. He just didn’t expect to shrivel up in a dungeon. And in that dark, lonely pit, he grew discouraged, so discouraged he even began to question the Lord. John even sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus if He was truly the One. Word came back – look again! Oh, not in those exact words, but that was the overall message when Jesus answered, “Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” (Luke 7:22-23)
This word from the Lord was intended to encourage John in that dark pit he was secluded in. It offered him another look at the Man of Galilee. John would see that his mission as a forerunner was not in vain, and neither were his sufferings. The Lord’s reply offered assurance that He, indeed, was the One the prophets spoke of. John’s messengers saw for themselves and bore witness to His mighty works. Jesus was doing things only God can do: healing, performing miracles and fulfilling scripture. “Look again, it’s me, I’m the One!” Jesus assured. This heavenly reply became as light in that dark dungeon. It was a ray of hope. And with this divine confirmation came a promise – “And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.”
It is easy to be offended when the Lord allows you to decrease. Our natural tendency is to resent Him when we find ourselves in the pits. Ultimately, John had to come to a place where he accepted where God had him. So did Jonah. And in each case they had to trust that God was working in spite of how things appeared. John couldn’t see the Lord working from where he was at, but He was. The same was true with Jonah. And the same is true for us. We can’t always see Him working but He is. By faith, we must trust in a God who prefers to operate behind the scenes. We must look again at what we cannot see. We cannot see the temple from where we are at any more than Jonah could from where he was at. But we know the veil has been rent. We also know why it was rent – to give us a better view of the invisible God and assure us that he is forever working on our behalf. Therefore, don't be offended if God has you in a tight spot. Don’t allow your dark hour to discourage you. Look again! Look beyond your circumstances. Look beyond what you can see. Do as Jonah did, look into the temple and wait for the light to come on. It will. You will be blessed once it does.
From upcoming book 'My City Was Gone' Terry Michaels 2008