When the disciples of Jesus placed an undue emphasis on the glory of Herod’s Temple, a beautiful building, “Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Matt. 24:2).
God is a jealous God, and is not going to share his glory with anyone, or anything. When His people become enamored with a building to the point that it obscures their understanding of the gospel and Biblical truth, God has a way of taking structures away to refocus attention on Himself.
The burning of the Notre Dame (“Our Lady”) Cathedral on April 15, 2019 might prove to be one of the greatest jolts to a godless secular French society, and many others as well.
With the destruction of that majestic building which had survived the centuries, including two modern World Wars, people were compelled to remember how, and why, the building was constructed. It was built for the glory of God, and the worship of men.
But French society forgot God, and, for the most part, just admired the building. It became a tourist attraction, drawing about 13 million visitors a year. It was a source of revenue for the coffers of Rome. It was many things, but it had ceased to be viewed exclusively as a house of God. But on Monday, April 15, the main spire and roof of the building collapsed in a huge fire. A large part of the building which began in the reign of King Louis VII of France in AD 1163, was gone.
The first stone of the Gothic building was laid in the presence of Alexander III (Pope, Sept. 7, 1159 – August 30, 1181). But construction was not completed until 1345.
Since its construction, Notre Dame has been the scene of many historic events. In 1431, Henry VI of England was crowned King of France inside the great cathedral. Napoleon Bonaparte’s coronation as emperor took place there in 1804. Joan of Arc was immortalized and beatified in the cathedral. Funeral services for two modern French presidents, Charles de Gaulle, and Francois Mitterrand, were held in Notre Dame.
No doubt, Notre Dame will be rebuilt. Two French billionaires have already pledge 300 million dollars for its renovation. Countless others will contribute as well. As the building emerged stronger than ever after the French Revolution of the 1790’s, so the new Notre Dame will be grand. But the spiritual lessons must be learned afresh.
First, the “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwells not in temples, made with hands, 25 Neither is worshiped with men’s hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he gives to all life, and breath, and all things” (Acts 17:24, 25).
Second, the Lord is not as impressed with buildings as we are, for “God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).
Third, when men forget God, as France has, God knows how to redirect attention back to Himself by taking away from people the gifts of time, such as life, art, beauty, and history. Ultimately, the Lord wants us to depend on him alone. “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away. 15 For ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that” (James 4:14, 15).
Most importantly of all, it must be remembered that death is certain, hell is real, heaven is real, and eternity waits for us. But where will eternity be spent? Hear afresh the Word of the Lord saying that today is the day of salvation. “For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today if ye will hear his voice, 8 Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness” (Psalm 95:7-8).