FROM TENT TO TEMPLE
by George H. Warnock
First Printing: April, 1984
Second Printing: May, 1987
Third Printing: November, 1988
Fourth Printing (Revised): August, 1993 (Printed in the U.S.A.)
"And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them." Exodus 25:8
"And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God." Revelation 21:3
C O N T E N T SPreface Introduction
Diagrams of the Tabernacle in the WildernessChapter 1: The Tabernacle In The Wilderness Chapter 2: The Tabernacle Of David
Diagram of the Tabernacle of DavidChapter 3: The Temple Of Solomon
Diagrams of the Temple of Solomon
Diagram of the Brazen Sea
Chapter 4: The Temple Of Ezekiels Vision
Chapter 5: The Temple Of ZerubbabelChapter 6: The Temple Of Herod The Great Chapter 7: The Temple Which Is His Body
The purpose of this study, and the title itself, are intended to show how God would progressively move "from one tent to another" as He sought to lead His people into a higher relationship with Himself; and would then consummate His purposes by moving from the lowly "tent" to a glorious "Temple" as He took up His permanent habitation in the hearts of men. This had always been Gods plan, and the only reason He instituted and ordained previous temples was to provide for His people a place where they could draw nigh to Him, so that this place would become a "house of prayer" for all nations, and a means of grace whereby the inhabitants of the earth could discover the pathway to God until the greatest Temple of the ages would be revealed and manifested in the earth. And so it was fulfilled in the Lord Jesus who declared Himself to be the Temple of God in the earth. And then He showed us, through His holy apostles and prophets, how this Temple would be expanded and enlarged to embrace those who are the redeemed of the earth, and made to be "living stones" in that same Temple.
Because the original tents and temples that God ordained were intended to be a means of grace, and a revelation of His presence in the midst of His people, whenever the purpose of the temple was perverted to mean something that man had built "for the glory of God," God did not hesitate to forsake it. Through Isaiah the prophet God saw fit to thunder forth some very awesome indictments against His people: "Do you think you have built Me a House? Do you really think I am hungry, and need to drink the blood of bullocks and eat the flesh of goats and lambs? Your hearts are perverted! Go cut off a dogs neck.., its all the same to Me! Or offer swines blood on My altar, if that is the thought of your rebellious hearts! What I am really looking for is not sacrifice and offering and temple and altar-I am really looking for the man who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at My Word!" (See Isa. 66:1-3.) How applicable is such a denunciation to the religious world today! May God remove the scales from our eyes that we might know and be assured that the only temple God ever desired is now in the making, a holy Temple of the redeemed ones of the earth, a "habitation of God in the Spirit."
And when God finds His home in the hearts of His redeemed, He is totally at rest.
-George H. Warnock
Truth runs deep in its flow, and is complex in its structure; but it is by no means complicated. Many would excuse themselves for not getting too deeply involved in Truth by saying, "Well, it is just too deep for me..." And so they just leave it alone. But neither knowledge nor intelligence are prerequisites for an appreciation of the deeper things of God. A fish is not considered to be highly intelligent, but it appreciates "depth" simply because it has a nature that longs for it. And because it has a nature that longs for it, God has given it the animal and physical capacity to enjoy it, as well as the rivers and lakes and streams and oceans to fulfill this inherent longing. And so the psalmist said, "Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts" (Ps. 42:7). There is something "deep" in the nature of the fish that calls unto the "deep" in the oceans... because God put that longing there when He created it.
Human wisdom and understanding, far from being a prerequisite to a true knowledge of God, can be very detrimental to us if that longing after Himself is not there. Jesus said on one occasion, "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight" (Lk. 10:21). Unlike an animal we have a spirit fashioned after Gods image, which is capable of God-consciousness and divine fellowship. And though this image was defaced by the Fall, it has been restored in Redemption; and we may grow into it as we choose the pathway of obedience unto the will of God. As we simply walk in this pathway, that longing and yearning after God will increase, and there will be an ever-increasing unfolding of His will, and an ever-expanding revelation of His glory.
Some would seek to deny us this greater revelation by reminding us that God never changes, that Jesus Christ is forever the same, and therefore we ought not to seek after an unfolding revelation. But this argument overlooks the fact that WE are the ones who need to be changed, not God; and if we truly seek to do His will there will grow within us a cry and a yearning to be changed--even "from glory unto glory" by the Spirit of the Lord. This is what we mean by unfolding revelation. It is the sprouting of the Seed in the soil of our hearts until it springs forth as "the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear" (Mk. 4:28). It is constant growth in the realm of the Spirit until we are able to "comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to KNOW the love of Christ, which PASSETH KNOWLEDGE" until we are "filled with [or, unto] ALL THE FULNESS OF GOD" (Eph. 3:18-19). It is entering into and appropriating the inheritance which God has already given us, but which we have never possessed in any degree of fullness. It is a laying hold upon and apprehending that very thing for which God has laid hold upon and apprehended us!
God has revealed Himself in the scriptures as One Who is looking for a "home" in which He might dwell. After reading and meditating upon the thoughts brought out in this writing I trust we will understand more clearly why God needs a home. In the scriptures we find Him moving with His people from one resting place to another as He progressively reveals His purposes and seeks to bring into being the ideal "home" that He has been waiting for. This progressive revelation of Himself must continue until the eternal purpose is fully consummated in a people whom He has created for His own glory.
In this writing we cover seven phases of Gods dealings with His people as He moved with them From Tent to Temple. I know that some would like for us to pinpoint just where we are now in the cycle of His dealings with His people. But we could not do this, as Gods people are to be found in many of these areas. Like pure Light itself, how shall we know what is red and what is blue, except as the Lord by His Spirit shines through the prism of our hearts and reveals it? And like the wheels of the cherubim, we travel in many directions at one and the same time, and how then could we pinpoint our present location?
We just pray that the Truth of God may speak to our hearts in the following pages, regardless of the particular phase of the Temple that we are examining. We will be speaking much about apprehending what God has in mind for His people, without trying to define too clearly the boundaries of our inheritance. How far does God want to take us? This, of course, might seem to be a great problem to those who desire to "apprehend" that for which God has apprehended us. How far can we go without falling into error? Is there not a danger of presenting truth for today that really pertains to another day--or another dispensation? How can we be sure that what we know to be "truth" is really ours to appropriate here and now, rather than leaving it for Heaven--or for the Resurrection?
Christendom has always been divided on these issues. And no sooner have the boundaries been theologically set and drawn out, when God moves again in His people, and they move forward into areas of truth that they find are practical, experiential, and vital; while others linger behind claiming that these things are definitely NOT for today. But God does it anyway, without getting permission from the theologians.
A born-again experience is thought by many to be something far-out, and not for today: "You cant know for sure till the day of judgment." Or healing is not for today. "Yes, in the days of Jesus and the apostles and perhaps in the Kingdom to come,--but not for today." The Baptism of the Holy Spirit? "Yes, they experienced this at Pentecost... but that was a once-for-all baptism of the whole Church, its not for us to experience as individuals."
God Who is the Author of Truth freely moves in all these areas, and men and women by the millions have entered in and partaken of the provisions of His grace, while others hide behind their theological positions and remain in their stagnant pools. God has a very sure way for His people, and that Way is the Lord Jesus Himself. He is always the one and only way, Who brings us into Truth and into Life. He knows how far He desires to bring us in this life; and as we earnestly seek to follow Him Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life--and stay close to Him--we will not fall into deception, nor will we get bogged down in areas of presumption. As God urges us on, we seek to follow. And if it is truly the Lord urging us on there will be the provision of faith to follow as He leads. We must always search our hearts--and ask God to search our hearts--that in all our pursuit after Him we find ourselves walking in faith rather than in presumption. There is a vast difference. If we are moving in faith, we are moving in the revealed will of God, and a living Word from Gods heart will have within it a genuine seed of faith. If it is presumption we are motivated by our own thoughts and desires, based perhaps on our concept of truth, and finding "scripture" to support us; but the living Christ is not the Author of what we are attempting to do. Peter desired to step out of the boat and walk with Jesus; but he knew it would be rash and presumptuous for him to try it unless the Lord said "Come." But once he heard the word "Come," that was enough. In that living Word from the lips of Jesus there was all the faith he needed to walk on the water. It is as simple as that--and we might add, just as difficult. For there is only one provision that God has given us to deliver us from theological concepts of doctrine on the one hand and to keep us in the narrow pathway of the Word of God on the other, and that is, to abide in Christ and to hear His Word. And this we must always prove for ourselves, in every area of our walk with Him. For He alone is the Truth, and the anointing we receive from Him is totally sufficient to keep us from areas of deception and darkness. If we are caught up with the thought of certain events that are about to happen in the Church, or with revelations we feel we have had about Gods workings in the earth, it is always possible we might be right in some of them, and wrong in others. But if our pursuit is simply to know Him in fullness, we need fear no boundaries, for the Spirit of God is here in the earth to lead Gods people into the fullness of Christ--here and now. And I find it difficult to understand how we could desire anything more than this, if we truly love Him with all of our hearts. Again, I must quote Pauls desire for His people:
That we might "be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man;
That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith;
That ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
May be able to comprehend with all saints
What is the breadth,
And to know the love of Christ,
Which passeth knowledge,
That ye might be filled with [or, unto]
All the fulness of God" (Eph. 3:16-19).
Now the apostle earnestly prayed in the Spirit that the saints would apprehend this glorious heritage of the fullness of God. And if the Spirit of God inspired the apostle to pen this prayer, and then preserved it in the holy scriptures for the early Church as well as for us living in the end-time, let us fear no barriers that men may erect to discourage us from appropriating this glorious heritage.
The Life of the Ages is abiding in us now, if we truly know the Lord of Life, and He seeks to bring us into a far greater fullness than we have yet known. Our real fear should be "lest we come short of it" and NOT to "beware lest you go too far." We might go too far in theological concepts, if our pursuit is in that area. But there is no danger that we might go too far with our Lord Jesus, if He is indeed our one and only pursuit in this life.
What we have now, and what we have come to experience in realms of the Spirit, are really things that pertain to the next age, and yet, God has seen fit to bring a people into it now! Did not Paul clearly identify the life we have in the Holy Ghost, and the good Word of God, with the powers of the next world? and assure us that we are now actually partaking of the "powers of the world to come" (Heb. 6:4-5)? If the Life of Christ becomes our one and only pursuit in our pilgrim journey here on earth, then let us have confidence that God is pleased as we press toward that mark. If we sincerely desire nothing more, and nothing less, than this abiding life in Christ, dispensations can never become a barrier in our walk with the Lord or with the measure of life that we may attain to in the Spirit. It is the "theology" itself that so often becomes the barrier. Yes, our theology ought to be right; but if it hinders our walk with Him Who is the Theos-Logos Who was "made flesh and dwelt among us," then l am afraid there is something wrong with the theology. Martha said concerning her dead brother, "I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day" (Jn. 11:24). Theologically correct! But the Lord Jesus was the Theos-Logos standing by her side, and He said to her: "I am the Resurrection, and the Life" (vs. 25). This is what makes the difference between theological truth and living truth. If the Lord Jesus is speaking; if He is leading us on; if He is showing us the Way; we must follow on to know Him. For surely the Author of the Book knows what He had in mind when He inspired holy men to write the scriptures, and then preserved them for us to read.
I felt to emphasize these things, because in all that I am writing about I am aware that we are speaking at times of another age, as well as the one we are in. I would like to be able to draw the line more clearly, if in so doing it would help Gods people in their pursuit of God. But I have not discovered a clear boundary line between that portion of Truth that God has for us in this age and that which He has reserved for the next. And as surely as we feel confident that we know where the boundary lines are, God may well leave us on this side of the line, and lead another people beyond it. But we can only go beyond the boundaries as the Logos Himself, the Lord Jesus, leads us into those immeasurable realms that God holds out to His people by a living and life-imparting Word from God. Our pursuit of Truth must be very clear and precise. We desire only to know Him and the power of His resurrection... and the fellowship of His sufferings... We desire only to apprehend the very thing for which He has apprehended us.
THE TABERNACLE IN THE WILDERNESS (see the 2 Diagrams:)
THE TABERNACLE IN THE WILDERNESS
The Sanctuary Is For God
"And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them" (Ex. 25:8).
This, we believe, is the key verse in this whole subject concerning the Temple of God. How it would help us in all our Christian service and ministry, if we could recognize this one important principle: the sanctuary is for Gods abiding place in the midst of men. The whole message of the Gospel is off-center unless it is properly centered in God. We are inclined to relate the Gospel primarily to ourselves, from the standpoint of our need, our lost condition, and our approach toward God. But actually it begins in God, centers about Himself, and reaches forth toward man for the delight of His own heart. The greatest of all sins is our failure to recognize His supreme Lordship in our lives. Before God all men are equally estranged from Him, and therefore equally sinful. "There is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:22-23). When the glory of God becomes the standard of our acceptance before Him, then all men come equally short of that standard.
God begins from His own heart, reaches out toward man, and draws him unto Himself, for His own glory. I need God, that is true. But because I am so unlike God by nature, and so lacking in His attributes of love and mercy and truth that long to flow forth from His being, I fail to recognize that He needs me. Oh, yes, we would quickly acknowledge that He needs us for service... because He has no hands but my hands to serve Him no feet but my feet to carry the gospel of peace... no mouth but my mouth to speak forth His Word. We picture Him as being so helpless as a Spirit--Being that He must have us to do His work! But that is far, far from the truth. For He really does not need us so much for the service that we can render. Ten thousand times ten thousand stand at His beck and call. And if these were not sufficient, by the word of His mouth He could create ten million more to "post oer land and ocean without rest." We have all heard that old slogan of the Church: "We are saved to serve!" But this is far from the truth. It is like a man saying concerning his bride, "I married her because I needed a slave."
God does need us. But primarily for fellowship, to satisfy the eternal longing of His own heart for companionship and friendship with one in His own image and likeness. He needs a place where He might live, a place that He can call "Home." When He lives within us He will direct us in paths of service as the need arises, but this is secondary. He really desires, and He will have, a true habitation for Himself in the Spirit--a Home, with sons and daughters that are obedient unto Him as they grow up in His family, from babes to maturity. Without such a home God continues to be the lonesome God that He was before creation, with no one to share His own heart of love and mercy and truth and long-suffering and kindness.
Martha was surprised that Jesus would spend so much time just talking to Mary, when He knew there was so much work to be done; and Mary should have been helping her--helping her to serve the Lord who had come to visit them. But Jesus told her plainly that Mary had chosen the better part, and that no one was to take this portion from her. Evidently He took greater delight in fellowshipping with Mary, than He did in Marthas efforts to prepare Him a good meal. Now the Marthas are beloved of the Lord too. They are busily engaged in the work of the Lord, trying to get the job done. Yet too often they do not recognize what God really desires, and how He intends to accomplish the things that need to be done in the earth. For truly Gods plan is not merely to "get the job done." He is creating a people that will be to the praise of His glory. And this can only come about as they submit to His Word and Spirit, and become vitally one with Christ Himself; and consequently one with His many brethren. What instruments and resources God may use from time to time and from one generation to another in working out His purposes in the earth are really quite incidental. Nor do we mean to criticize any of the "means" that men are using today to evangelize the world, if God is indeed giving direction. But we are rather amazed that men will continue to ignore the one and only way that God has ordained for the world to see and hear the Gospel, and know that Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God. For He has shown us clearly that the world will know and believe only when God has a people "sanctified" unto the will of the Father, and made one with the Lord Jesus, as He is one with the Father. (See Jn. 17:17-21.) Gods people have always been prone to turn from Gods way when they judge it to be impossible; and then do it their way if it seems to be more practical. Men of faith are not concerned as to how God may bring to pass what is impossible. They simply believe what He has declared, embrace the promise, and wait expectantly (though with much trial of faith) for the performance of that which God has decreed.
My Soul Wait Thou Upon God!
The soul that waits upon the Lord is not one that lacks vision. Rather he is one who is learning to see things as God sees them, and who desires to become involved with Him not only in His plan, but also in His Way; because they know His plan can only be fulfilled by and through a people who walk in His Way. Let us not be disturbed by slogans such as this: "Some people are waiting for God, but God is waiting for them." We hear this a lot, but it is not scriptural. Take your concordance and check it out...
"My soul, wait thou only upon God;
For my expectation is from him" (Ps. 62:5).
"Our soul waiteth for the LORD: He is our help and our shield" (Ps. 33:20).
"Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion" (Ps. 65:1).
(For even true spiritual praise, like any other aspect of ministry, waits for the direction and control of the Holy Spirit, as Gods people anticipate what He will do.)
"Blessed are all they that wait for him" (Isa. 30:18).
"For the vision is yet for an appointed time...Though it tarry, wait for it" (Hab. 2:3). (So often when we fail to see the vision fulfilled we try to fulfill it ourselves, only to mar the beautiful thing that God would do.)
"They that wait upon the LORD Shall renew their strength" (Isa. 40:31).
These are just a few examples; but there are many more. On the other hand God has much to say about those who think God is waiting for them to get the job done:
"They soon forgat his works;
They waited not for his counsel" (Ps. 106:13).
We must attain to complete victory over our own impatient spirit. The prophet said to Saul: "Seven days shalt thou tarry, till I come to thee, and shew thee what thou shalt do" (1 Sam. 10:8). Saul waited the seven days but the prophet did not come. However, that did not release him to act on his own. Some get so concerned about fulfilling a prophecy they have received or some vision that God has given them rather than simply walking with God today. God alone can fulfill the prophecy or the vision. And He will do it when He is ready, and when we are ready--not when we think we are ready. Because of Sauls act of disobedience God cut his kingdom short. He "forced himself," he told Samuel; but in so doing he made the wrong decision, and took upon himself the role of a priest, which a king in Israel had no right to do. God is always late by mans timetable. But He moves consistently onward and forward according to His own eternal purpose. The frustrations that we experience as we seek Him and wait for Him are a necessary part of His discipline in our lives as He seeks to quiet our spirit and bring forth the fruit of patience. Few saints there are who are "quieted" in spirit, and "behaved" as a weaned child (Ps. 131:2).
The Man Who Built The Tabernacle
We have dealt considerably with this matter of "waiting", because we (like Moses) must come to know Gods ways if we are to become involved with Him in the true Tabernacle "not made with hands." At the age of 40 Moses may well have argued with himself: "What am I waiting for? I am Israels deliverer. I shall go forth and do what I can." We all know what disappointment and frustration he suffered. Nevertheless in the wilderness of Midian Moses learned much of Gods ways. It took him 40 years, but he learned the lesson well. He learned about his own inadequacy and helplessness, his own unworthiness and his own deficiencies. A learning course of this nature will usually require a lot longer period of time than the three or four years one might spend in a Bible School or Seminary to discover ones abilities and potential!
But what was the result of it all? Moses accomplished in one single night what he had longed to accomplish as a powerful young prince in Egypt at the age of 40. God waited till he was 80 years of age--alienated from the favor he once had with Pharaoh, and stripped of all confidence in his own abilities--before God called him as a helpless shepherd, with nothing but a stick in his hand, to go back to Egypt and deliver a whole nation out of slavery. He had learned much of Gods ways as he tended the sheep in Midian. He would learn much more, as he became the first shepherd of Israel. He would talk with God "face to face," as God gave him living oracles, written with the finger of God on tables of stone. And to Moses was given the pattern for the Tabernacle, which was to become Gods dwelling place in the midst of His people.
Is God Really Late?
Yes, God is always late by mans standards; but He is right on time according to His own plan and purpose. And this is what makes it all the more frustrating to those who embrace His Word and promise. If only He would delay the promise until the time drew near for Him to fulfill it! Then perhaps we could bear up under it, for we would not have the Word of the promise to torment our impatient spirit.
But we have learned that this is all part of the training course. It is in this "waiting period" that we find time to do our best--to try, and fail, and try again. Or perhaps to try again and succeed, or at least assure ourselves that we have succeeded, only to come to still greater devastation when God comes on the scene and rejects our vain efforts to build His Kingdom. May we learn this important lesson once for all: that in our natural strength and wisdom we can do nothing, and that what things we consider to be successful must be laid aside as mere refuse, for the knowledge of Christ.
God gave Abraham the promise early, but fulfilled it late. As Abraham waited (and no doubt experienced much trial and frustration) he learned the ways of the Lord and became the father of the faithful for all generations to come.
God gave Joseph the promise early, and fulfilled it late. The "word" that Joseph embraced as a promise became the "word" that tried him severely (Ps. 105:19). We need to remember this: the vision the Lord gives us becomes our trial. But that same "word" brought Joseph out of the dungeon to be a ruler and deliverer, and a sustainer of life to surrounding nations.
God gave David the promise early, and fulfilled it late. But the trials that he went through wrought in him a heart "after the heart of God." And the shepherd boy from Bethlehem became a shepherd-king over all Israel.
God gave the whole human race the promise early, and fulfilled it late. God promised that the "seed of the woman" would "bruise the serpents head." Men almost despaired of the promise, but "in the fulness of time" He came forth: "Late in time behold Him come...Offspring of a virgins womb."
No! God is not really late! Let us not submit to the pressure that is on Gods people these days "to get the job done." God is faithful to "watch over His Word to perform it." He is not trying His best to get a job done, He is bringing forth a New Creation. We are His "workmanship," the "masterpiece" that He is working on. "Wait, I say, on the LORD" (Ps. 27:14). For "he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6).
The Pattern Of The Tent
"And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount" (Ex. 25:40). As Moses dwelt in the midst of the celestial glory for 40 days and 40 nights, talking with God face to face, God gave him very detailed instructions for the building of the sanctuary. In this pattern we have a picture of the heavenly realm which was to be made manifest in the fullness of time. Paul calls the whole Levitical order "the example and shadow of heavenly things" (Heb. 8:5). Notice this very carefully: it was not a perfect representation of the real, but only a type, only a shadow. "For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect" (Heb. 10:1).
Of course most Christians do not believe that "the very image" can bring perfection either. And if this be so God may be charged with abolishing a faulty religious system which could not bring perfection, and then replacing it with a new religious system which was still "faulty," if it too was not able to bring perfection to those who embraced it. We might just as well continue on with the sacrifices of bulls and goats, and the ashes of a red heifer, if the sacrifice of Christ can do no better. Why should He have suffered so much in vain? (God forbid the very suggestion! But it is not really mine. It is the suggestion of those who ignorantly deny the full efficacy of the blood of Christ to take away all sin.) For God has ordained that in the fullness of time the Substance of all Old Testament offering and sacrifice would be revealed; and that He would bring forth the perfection that the Old Testament pointed to in many of its types and shadows, but was never able to fulfill. The shadow speaks of an outline, a sketch. The "very image" speaks of that which is perfect, the real thing. So Christ is said to be the "image of the invisible God" and "the express image of His Person." He is not just a resemblance of God, but the exact similitude and expression of God in human form.
This is important for us to remember. For in our study of the tabernacles and temples of God we are going to discover that the pattern changes as one temple replaces another; and the tabernacle or temple that has gone into ruin and later restored is vastly different than the original structure. Why would God see fit to change the pattern from time to time? For the simple reason that it was just a shadow of the heavenly realm; and in changing it we have a different view of what God had in mind, as He outlined the substance in a somewhat different light, perhaps in a more brilliant light. Finally the heavenly Temple is revealed and manifested in Christ Himself Who declared Himself to be the very Temple of God in the earth. "Destroy this temple," He said, "And in three days I will raise it up" (Jn. 2:19). He was not the shadow, but the "very image." But there was to be a further expression of the "very image" as the Lord Jesus was glorified; that from the throne of Zions holy mountain He might rule and reign as "head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:22-23). His intention being to build the Church together "for an habitation of God through the Spirit" (Eph. 2:22). Yes, God needs His people because He needs a permanent Home in which He might dwell--a Home that is compatible with His own nature and character.
Try as Israel may, therefore, to bring about a restoration of her glory to something that might equate the glory she had in the days of David, or Solomon, she will not succeed. And try as the Church may to bring about a restoration to something that might resemble the glory of early apostolic days, she too is going to be greatly frustrated and perplexed. Whether we speak of natural Israel or the Church, in striving for something that is far below Gods intention, we fail to see and to anticipate the greater glory that God has in mind. For He has promised "the glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former" (Hag. 2:9). Many good ministers are puzzled as they try their best to re-establish the order and structure of the "New Testament Church." But if God has something "new" in mind, the Holy Spirit (Who is the Vicar of Christ on earth) will not seek to accommodate those who are endeavoring to bring about this kind of restoration. God has still greater things in mind. Certainly He will restore that which was lost, and the years that the caterpillar, the cankerworm, the palmerworm, and the locust have eaten. But when God has a new order in mind, in vain do we try to restore the old one. Fundamental principles of truth remain unchanged, for Jesus Christ is the Truth, and therefore eternal and unchangeable. But until the fullness of Christ is formed within His people, God will continue to do new things and bring about a new order wherein His people shall walk. And all this will be in strict conformity to the revealed Word of God, quickened and made alive to His people in the day when He arises to perform the intentions of His heart. Invariably when God moves forward with His people it is the quickening Word that leads them forth into new things. It is always according to scripture. And God always confirms what He is doing in many, many ways, so as to encourage His people to move on with Him. The trumpet sound is certain and clear. His sheep know the Voice, and they seek to follow in obedience.
The General Plan Of The Tabernacle
The Tent was situated in the very center of the camp of Israel, and over the Tent the cloud of His glory rested, day and night: by day as a pillar of cloud, and by night as a pillar of fire. It was God Himself dwelling in the midst of His people. The Tent faced the east, and there in the front of the gate were the tents of Moses and Aaron, who were responsible for the conduct of all who ministered in the sanctuary. Facing the east, it would speak to us of the promise of a "new day." The Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem also faced the east. For the promise is, "Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings" (Mal. 4:2).
As one might look down upon the Tabernacle from the hillsides, with thousands of little tents surrounding it, and Gods glory covering the sanctuary like a canopy, one could not help but be aware that here was a distinct people, a separate people, a holy nation. Balaam the sorcerer wanted to curse them. He was going to be paid well for doing it. But in the spirit of prophecy he was compelled to say:
"From the top of the rocks I see him,
And from the hills I behold him:
Lo, the people shall dwell alone,
And shall not be reckoned among the nations" (Num. 23:9).
"How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob,
And thy tabernacles, O Israel!" (Num. 24:5).
And yet, even at that very moment the people were disheartened, discouraged, and disobedient. They were filled with murmuring and complaining because of the bitterness of the way, and the drought and barrenness of the wilderness journey. Oh, that we had eyes to see, and ears to hear, and a heart to perceive, that we might behold ourselves for a moment from Gods viewpoint, and from the viewpoint of angels and principalities and powers of the heavenly realm! We may excuse Israel, for theirs was a covenant of death, a covenant of fading glory. But how shall we excuse ourselves who have been made partakers of a covenant of life, and a covenant of ever-increasing glory, and dwell in a Tabernacle "which the Lord pitched, and not man"?
The Tent itself had a partition called the veil, which separated the holy place from the most holy. Then surrounding the Tent, as well as the laver and the brazen altar which were outside the Tent, was an enclosure composed of fine linen hanging on posts which were placed in brazen sockets in the desert sand. This was called the outer court; and the linen surrounding it was much like a fence, which the priests entered from the east side in the course of their ministry. Altogether, then, we have three areas: the outer court, the holy place, and the holy of holies. There at the eastern gate the sinning Israelite would bring his sacrifice to the priest. The priest and Levite would then take the sacrifice to the brazen altar which was situated just inside the gate, sacrifice it unto the Lord, and the sinning Israelite could go away free--until he sinned again. Nor could he go into the sanctuary itself, for that was reserved for the priests. This was no arbitrary arrangement on Gods part. His heart longed for a whole nation of kings and priests, and in the fullness of time He would create such a nation. God had promised them: "Ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation" (Ex. 19:6). Because of their disobedience they could not attain to it then, and the promise remained unfulfilled. When the true Sacrifice was made, and an unchanging priesthood was established in Christ, the promise was once again brought forward from Gods heart: "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people" (1 Pet. 2:9). This too has failed to materialize in fullness, but the promise is there, and it remains for those who will go Gods way--all the way. Let there be no misunderstanding here: what God declares concerning us is true. But He makes His declarations in the New Covenant that we might embrace them by faith and appropriate them, until the truth becomes practical and vital in our lives.
This truth we must emphasize over and over again, for we are living in a day when so-called positional truth, and dispensational truth have almost nullified the Word of God, and robbed Gods people of the glory that He has for them. If men do not like the truth they can readily relegate it to some dispensation other than the one we are living in. Or if it is definitely truth for this dispensation, then they have a way of relegating it to the heavens. "Thats positional truth. Its not something you experience today." But the answer is clear from the Word of God: It is ours and we must press toward the mark, "if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:12). What God has elected and chosen for me, to that end I must press on. I know I cannot go beyond faith, or beyond the Word, nor do I desire to do so. But "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Rom. 10:17).
"Therefore, Oh Lord, give us hearing ears that we may hear Your truth. Give us open eyes to behold Your glory. Give us understanding hearts to perceive Your ways. There are no limits in You, and You have erected no barriers to the man of faith. But there are barriers that we often erect in our own hearts--hearts which are prone to presumption and unbelief. But as You would possess our reins with the pure and holy mind of Christ, then we shall truly walk with You in the pure light of Your holiness and truth, and abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Truly You are Light and Life in all Your Being, and if we abide under Your shadow we shall walk, not in darkness, for Your shadow is one of pure light; and every trace of sin and the carnal nature must vanish away in the pure Light of Your presence."
The Furnishings Of The Tent
Inside the Tent, as we mentioned, there were two compartments: the first called the holy place, and the second (behind the veil) called the holy of holies. Entering the holy place through the five pillars we would see the table of shewbread on our right (the north), the candlestick on our left (the south), and the altar of incense toward the west just in front of the veil. It really belonged inside the veil (according to Hebrews 9:4) but was placed just outside the veil so the priests would always have access to it. Then behind the veil, as one would enter, we would find the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat.
Everything in the Tent speaks of Christ, and of His people who are in union with Him. Nothing on earth could adequately portray and symbolize that which pertains to His glory; and that is why so many, many types are used, that in each type and symbol some particular aspect of His glory may faintly be seen. The shittim wood (or acacia) would speak of the weakness of Christs humanity, and the gold that covered it, His divine Glory. The lamb or goat or turtledove that was slain would speak of His sacrifice; the blood of His own incorruptible Blood. The priest speaks of our great High Priest; and the veil he went behind to make atonement for sins speaks of His flesh, that was torn asunder for us at the Cross, that we might enter into His presence. The ark would speak of Gods presence, the place where Gods glory dwelt. The hidden manna in the ark, of that living bread which came down from Heaven. The linen curtains, of His own righteousness, by which we are clothed, and in which we are enclosed. And so we could go on and on. We will not touch on a lot of this detail, as we are primarily concerned in this study with the broad outline of the Tent, and its relationship with the other sanctuaries that would follow in the days to come. And so here we will concentrate upon the holy of holies and the contents of this area; for this was the particular dwelling place of the Most High.
The Ark Of The Covenant
The ark of the covenant (the covering of which was called the mercy seat) was hidden away behind the veil in the holy of holies. It was there before the ark of the covenant that the high priest would stand "once in the year" with the blood of goats; and while there, clothed upon with holy garments, and with Urim and Thummim in his breastplate, he would have a brief time of communication with God. God said to Moses, "They shall make an ark of shittim wood... And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee. And there will I meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat." (See Ex. 25:10-22.) God begins here with the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat. We would be inclined to begin with the outer court, the doorway into it, and the brazen altar, for this is what we would see first as we drew near to God. But Gods order is different: He begins from Himself and draws near to man. Jesus said, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (Jn. 6:44). Our life in Christ is the result rather than the cause of our salvation. We find it difficult to reconcile the sovereign call of God with our responsibility to that call; and no doubt this is the reason there has been so much argument in this whole matter of election and free will. Usually we would emphasize one aspect of truth to the neglect of the other, because it is difficult for us to reconcile opposites of truth in our thinking. Perhaps it is for this reason that God has seen fit to raise up different ministries from time to time and anoint them to emphasize what others have neglected. Calvin was sent of God to establish the truth of Gods sovereignty. But as men began to presume that they were "elect" of God because they believed in the doctrine of election, God saw fit to raise up others who would exhort men to make their "calling and election sure." In Gods portrayal of truth we have many opposites; and there is no way we can reconcile them by human reasoning, or by diluting the truth with compromise in order to make it appear acceptable and logical. Many speak of mans free will as if that were more important than Gods sovereign will. I must be sufficiently sovereign to choose or reject God. But God must not be so sovereign as to choose or reject me! The Potter must not really have any right over the clay, but the clay in the final analysis must have the deciding vote! The distinction that God made between Jacob and Esau was not because of goodness in the one, or evil in the other. "(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger" (Rom. 9:11-12). The apostle makes it very clear that good or evil in the two boys was not to be considered as a motivating factor in Gods choice of the one, and His rejection of the other. It was simply that it was Gods choice "that the purpose of God according to election might stand."
Sometimes it is hard to reconcile a truth like this with other aspects of Gods dealings with men, as we hear Him crying out to his rebellious people to pay heed to His gracious call, and to walk in His ways. Nor does believing in the doctrine of election make me to be one of the elect. I cannot afford to presume. For my part, I must be diligent to make my "calling and election sure," and follow on to know Him. Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them." And this gives me great courage and confidence, as it was intended to do. But it also goes on to say, "My sheep... follow me." And therefore I must not presume to be one of the elect sheep of Gods pasture if I am not hearing His voice, and seeking to follow Him. Those who stand with the Lamb on Mount Zion are not only called and chosen, they are also faithful. Why must I be able to reconcile the seeming opposites in God in order to believe what He says in either case? I, who am but dust and ashes? Must I dilute the clear declarations of Gods Word in order to make them acceptable in the minds of the people, or understandable in my own finite mind? Can we not simply recognize that as yet we "see through a glass darkly" and find joy in believing where we cannot understand, simply because the infinite God has declared it?
God begins with the ark of the covenant because it is His dwelling place, and He must begin from Himself because He is God. When I come on the scene I hear His creative call, and I obey and begin to serve Him. I have the feeling that I am drawing near to Him, that I am being obedient and faithful, and all this is true. But sooner or later I must confess: "Lord, You caused me to approach unto You! You called me, and I came forth because it was a creative Word, just as when You called light to come forth out of darkness in the beginning." (See 2 Cor. 4:6.) No mere invitation that! It was a sovereign, commanding, creative Word that I heard. I yielded to His love, and I submitted to His dealings in my life, that is true. But then, shall the snowflake boast of yielding and melting when the sun sends forth its torrid rays upon the earth? Or shall the sands of the seashore that are overwhelmed with the oceans rise up and say, "Well, after all, I surrendered to the rising of the tides"? Or the flimsy reed that bends and breaks when the winds blow upon it, is it going to boast, "But dont forget, I submitted to the winds that blew"? Or is the apostle Paul, smitten down on the Damascus Road by a mighty lightning stroke from Heaven going to boast, "I did my part, when God shone forth from heaven and blinded my eyes, I fell off my horse"?
We do not really need to understand all about it now, nor yet be troubled with what appears to be conflicting areas of truth. One day we will know and understand that everything God ever did was consistent with His justice and righteousness--and at the same time consistent with His heart of pure love!
God begins with the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat, because He begins from Himself, works His way out toward Man, and draws him unto Himself. God wants us to know that "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). Let us not draw back from the truth because we are not always able to reconcile it with Gods justice or with His love. But let us embrace the truth because He declared it... and because we know and are assured that He will do the thing that is absolutely right. Let us embrace the truth He declares, not to fortify ourselves with arguments, but that we might enter into true rest. For indeed this is why He makes the truth known to our hearts and minds.
"For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:29-30). Let us start with God. We miss so much if we start with the word "justified." God begins from Himself.
Foreknowledge. God knew His people long before they were born-even from the foundation of the world. This knowledge does not merely concern things He knew about them, or things they would do; for God certainly knows everything and everybody, and all that they will do, whether they be good or bad. But here God speaks of certain ones "whom he did foreknow."
Predestination. This comes next... and it is not a frightening word. It simply means "to mark out beforehand." When I seek God and live for Him and seek to walk in His ways, I am not framing my own destiny. I am rather fulfilling a destiny that was predetermined from the foundation of the world. That is why "there remaineth therefore a rest [a sabbath] to the people of God" (Heb. 4:9). I know and believe that the pathway that He has marked out for me is one that is good, and that it is intended to bring me into full conformity to the image of His Son. My sins and faults and failures, and the fleshly strivings of my carnal mind, all these are inevitable; and I must not blame God for that. But I also know that He does not intend to change His plan because of my weakness. He knows what I am made of. And by the wonder of His grace and power He takes each failure, each mistake, transforms them one by one into steppingstones along the divinely chosen pathway in which I walk, giving "beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit heaviness."
Called. Once we recognize that He foreknew and predestinated us, then we know for sure that His call was a creative Word, and not a mere invitation. There is a cause behind the call that reaches back and beyond the foundations of the world. And the cause is hidden in His own heart of Love--He doesnt tell us why He loved us so.
Justified. This is something we become aware of as we embrace Jesus Christ as our Savior; and therefore we might be inclined to think it all started here. But it all started away back from the foundations of the world, in the heart of God.
Glorified. This is yet to come. But it is used in the Aorist tense in the Greek; and I am told this can indicate a once-for-all action in the past, or an action in the future that is sure to come to pass! God is speaking from the mercy seat, and He says He has glorified us! For He is looking at the finished product as One speaking from the viewpoint of eternity, as One Who is well able to declare the end from the beginning, because He is able to bring it to pass.
Contents Of The Ark
Three different things were placed in the ark of the covenant, at different intervals.
The Pot Of Manna
When the manna fell in the wilderness, the people did not know what it was, and they asked one another, "What is it?... What is it?" And so that is what they named it; for "manna" simply means, "What is it?" Nobody in Israel could answer that question adequately. All they were to know was this: it was bread from heaven. Jesus alone could give the real answer: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (Jn. 6:5 1). But the pot of manna was to be kept as a memorial. No one ate of this bread. And unlike the rest of the manna that fell around the camp, this bread did not go into corruption, or waste away. Laid away in the ark of the covenant it was to be kept throughout their generations. Israel had the manna-bread daily as it fell from heaven.
The priests had sabbath-bread which they ate weekly: the shewbread that had been on the table in the holy place throughout the previous six working days, but not eaten until the sabbath day.
But here in the holy of holies was "hidden manna." It was not available even to the priests. It was not seen by any mortal eye. It is a type of the Living Christ. It is bread that has been reserved for the overcomer. For Jesus said, "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna" (Rev. 2:17).
Aarons Rod That Budded
A controversy had arisen in Israel over the authority of Gods priests. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, along with certain others, rose up against Moses and Aaron and charged that they were exalting themselves above the others by keeping the priesthood to themselves. It is awesome how God vindicated His chosen ones; for the very ground next to the Tabernacle opened up and swallowed the gainsayers alive into the pit of Sheol. The next day the people went on murmuring, complaining that Moses and Aaron had slain the Lords people. Then God sent a great plague, which was removed only when Aaron ran into their midst with a burning censer, and stood between the living and the dead.
God always vindicates His own in one way or another. But they must not seek to vindicate themselves, as they do so often. Not so in the case of Moses and Aaron. They fell on their faces before God when they were challenged, and God came forth on their behalf. Not only so, but when the plague fell on the murmurers they sought God on their behalf, as true priests of God, and stood between the living and the dead with the burning censer. In type they were saying, "Lord, if our life is unto You as sweet incense, then hear our prayer, and lay not this sin to their charge." God gives authority to His servants who least desire it, and there is no need on their part to try to maintain it. They did not seek it in the first place, then why should they try to uphold it? Invariably, we have observed, when men try to grasp authority or to maintain the authority they have, they lose it. If God gives it, then it is His responsibility to stand behind His chosen ones.
To settle the whole matter Moses ordained that each of the tribes present their "rod" before the Lord. Each rod was a dead, dry stick. Their name was to be clearly marked on the rod, and the rod of Aaron was placed among them. They were all laid together before the ark of the covenant, and the next morning they were brought out and presented to the people. All the rods were the same as before, except Aarons. Overnight it had brought forth buds, blossoms, and almonds. (See Num. 17:7-10.) (And let this be a reminder to Gods people who seem to have the notion that God must have years and years and years to bring forth this glorious and fruitful Church that He has promised. He can do it overnight if He chooses to do so!)
The word "almond" means "awaker," because it is one of the first trees to bud in the time of spring. It speaks of Christ in resurrection life, the firstfruits unto God, risen and glorified at Gods right hand. But it also speaks of resurrection life revealed in the mortal flesh of His people--in such as are planted together with Him in His death. You will recall how Aarons rod was used to swallow up the rods of the magicians in Egypt, and then it became an ordinary stick again in his hands. Death is to be swallowed up in life. Just overnight it became a fruitful branch, and brought forth almonds!
"O death, where is thy sting?
O grave, where is thy victory?"
The Tables Of Testimony
These likewise were laid away in the ark of the covenant. Moses had been up on the mount with the LORD for 40 days and 40 nights, receiving the oracles of God and the pattern of the Tabernacle. The sight of the glory of the LORD was "like devouring fire" as the children of Israel beheld it; but Moses went right into the midst of the cloud and talked "face to face" with God. Before he returned to the camp God gave him two tables of stone, "written with the finger of God" (Ex. 31:18). But in the meantime the children of Israel were getting restless, and gathering together before Aaron they requested that he should make them "gods" which would go before them, as Moses seemed to have disappeared. Aaron yielded to them and made the golden calf, which the children of Israel began to worship. Though a redeemed people because of the passover lamb which had been sacrificed in Egypt, the idolatrous spirit of Egypt still clung to them. They had been delivered out of Egypt, but Egypt had not been taken out of them; and this is what the wilderness story is all about. As Moses returned from the mount with the two tables of testimony in his hand, and saw their rebellion and idolatry, he shattered the tables at the foot of the mountain. It speaks to us of a broken law, the law which no man could keep, the law which was later to be called "the ministration of condemnation" and "the ministration of death." God knew that the law would become this kind of ministration before He gave it, but man in his self-confidence would never believe it until he proved it for himself. And God had to show him, through the ministration of the law, the exceeding sinfulness of sin and the weakness of the flesh, and demonstrate mans inability to respond to Gods holy requirements. Therefore the law accomplished nothing for man except this (and of course this is important): it paved the way for the manifestation of the New Covenant by revealing mans helplessness and depravity, and acting like a "schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ" (Gal. 3:24).
Moses, as a true priest of the Lord, interceded on behalf of the people, and God spared them, judged them, and instructed Moses to lead them forward to the Promised Land. For the task before him Moses sought the Lord for added grace and added glory. "Shew me now thy way," he pleaded; and again, "Shew me thy glory" (Ex. 33:13, 18). Once again Moses is called up into the Mount of God; and once again God writes His holy law upon the two tables of stone that Moses took up with him. But for these two tables of the covenant God had a different purpose in mind.
God does not really repeat Himself--at least not in exactly the same way. Never does He do anything the second time, in like manner as He did it the first time. Let us always bear this in mind as we anticipate the restorations of God which He has promised in His Word. When He restores that which was lost, it is restored on a higher and more glorious level than before. Failing to recognize this can only lead to frustration, as we vainly seek to restore some religious structure of the past which God had used and then laid aside. God does not make a "second try," and then a "third try." He is doing exactly as He had planned. Therefore the second tables of the covenant did not mean that God was trying again. God was doing something new. This time God commanded Moses to put the tables inside the ark of the covenant. The ark was covered over with the mercy seat, behind the veil, in the holy of holies, entirely beyond the reach or the view of a disobedient and erring people.
God would instruct us that in giving the old covenant He knew that man could not keep it; and that in giving the new covenant, He Himself would be responsible to see that it was fulfilled. He Himself would write the new covenant upon the hearts and minds of His people. He took away the old covenant which demanded righteousness, and brought in the new covenant which provided it. He did not establish the new covenant so that man could sin and still be free from condemnation; but rather that man might be made free from both the sin and the guilt of it, and might love Him and serve Him on a far higher plane than was ever possible under the law. For the full intent of the law was that man should love the Lord God with all his heart and mind and strength, and his neighbor as himself. And when this has been fulfilled in the hearts of men, God is completely satisfied. God is Love... and therefore He cannot be satisfied until His own nature and character is formed within His people, who were created in His image. "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom. 8:34).
Show Me Thy Glory!
This was Moses cry unto the Lord, as he earnestly sought God for the great task that lay before him. "There shall no man see me, and live," saith God (Ex. 33:20). Then God put Moses in the cleft of the rock, covering him with His hand as He passed by, and Moses only saw the "backparts" of God. He only saw Him as He had gone by. I do not think Moses was content with this revelation, glorious as it must have been. Seeing God as He passed by? The way He used to work? What He had done in a past day? Many are content with that--but not Moses. And from what follows I am sure that God must have granted him a still greater revelation of Himself, but still falling short of the Glory that God had reserved for the New Covenant people.
God says, "There shall no man see Me, and live." "Then, oh Lord, show us Your face! Let the time past of our lives be sufficient to have accomplished the will of the flesh! Let us see You in all Your glory--that in seeing You we might die, that in dying we might live again, to walk with You in newness of life. Let us see You as our dying substitute, taking upon Yourself our sins, and becoming sin for us, who knew no sin. Let us see You as our very own corruptible flesh, crucified and cursed of God, that we might come forth in newness of life, henceforth to live and move in the power of Your resurrection."
The Glory Of Moses Countenance
The more conscious we are of the presence and glory of God, the less conscious are we going to be of ourselves. "Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him" (Ex. 34:29). The clear implication is that the skin of his face shone because he was talking with God. This was conversation with God, not merely a prayer of asking. I think it would help us much if we realized this twofold aspect of true prayer. Too often we know exactly what we want, and are quick to tell God what we want, without listening to His voice in the matter. And until we come to the place where we have an ear that is open to His Word, and a heart intent upon doing His will, all our praying amounts to little more than the wailing at the broken-down walls of Jerusalem. True prayer is conversation with God. We talk to Him, yes. But more important than this, He talks to us. God says through the prophet, "If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father" (Isa. 58:13-14). We are talking about Gods true sabbath, and the apostle Paul tells us what this means. It is a ceasing from our own works, as God did from His when creation was finished.
It is resting in His plan and purpose for our lives, ceasing from our own fleshly striving, as God brings forth new creation life within us, enabling us to honor Him, going in His ways, doing His good pleasure, and speaking His words. (See Heb. 4:3-11.)
Unconscious of himself, but conscious only of the presence and glory of God, "Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone." Aaron and the children of Israel saw the glory of his countenance and they were afraid to draw near. As Moses sensed the reason for their fear he called them. First Aaron and the rulers took courage, and came near. Then a little later the children of Israel gathered together fearfully, and Moses passed on to them the commandments that God had given him on the mount. He spoke to them with unveiled face, the glory of the Lord radiating from his countenance like beams of light. The glory was so great that the Israelites could not look directly at Moses face with fixed attention, but had to keep looking away, just as you would if you tried to gaze upon the reflection of the sun in a mirror. "The children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses" or, "They could not fix their eyes on the face of Moses." The brilliance of the light was too much for their weak and sensitive eyes, but still Moses did not try to hide his face in order to accommodate them. Oh that Gods ministers might so talk with God that when they speak to the people there will be a shining forth of the very presence of God! Without that radiance and that splendor his message will not be effective. Oh, how we must hold fast to the vision of His purpose for His people. That we come to that place in God where we abide in Him, and He abides in us, and we minister only in virtue of His abiding presence! For "he that speaketh of [or, from] himself seeketh his own glory" (Jn. 7:18). But speaking out from the heart of God we seek only His glory. And so Moses ministered to the people the words that God had given him, with unveiled face, till something rather tragic began to happen. The glory of God began to fade away! Immediately Moses sensed the departure of the glory, though he was not aware of his shining countenance when he came down from the mount. Quickly he veiled his face, as he realized the beams of light were fading away. He must not continue to minister without that presence! Nor could he permit the children of Israel to behold the departure of the glory. We read, "Till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face" (Ex. 34:33). But the word "till" is in italics, indicating that it was not in the original, but added by the translators to make the sense clear. A better rendering would be, "When Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face." This is the way it is rendered in other versions, and this is the way Paul understood it, where he says, "Not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished" (2 Cor. 3:13). Clearly, Moses did not want the people to see the end of the fading glory. He had spoken out from the presence of Gods glory, and he did not want the people to see it fading away. It was a transitory brightness, like the covenant he was mediating to them. The old covenant was given with the shining forth of Gods glory, but soon it would fade away. Paul very clearly is telling us that in the new covenant we have something better than Moses was able to bring to the people of God.
As the apostle Paul compares the old covenant with the new he arrives at this ultimate conclusion: the old covenant had no glory at all, "by reason of the glory that excelleth." The former covenant was ushered in with glory, but was doomed to pass away; while the latter covenant was not only ushered in with great glory, it was destined to remain or subsist in glory. Let us remember this: it was not Gods intention that the New Covenant would begin in a burst of glory, and then dissipate with the apostasy of the last days! The old covenant was a ministration of death and of condemnation; the latter is a ministration of righteousness and life--a covenant that continues on in Glory! This comparison causes the apostle to declare with great boldness: "We use great plainness of speech, and not as Moses!" Not as Moses, who put a veil over his face so the Israelites could not see the departure of the glory!
Moses was faithful in Gods house as a servant. Nevertheless he was identified with a murmuring, disobedient people. Because of the veil on their hearts the glory of God could not penetrate their innermost being. We mentioned before that they had weak, sensitive eyes. But the apostle Paul explained that it was really a spiritual blindness. They lacked obedience. They lacked faith. They lacked vision. They could not see the glory into which God would bring them; and the veil that Moses put on his face was really because of the veil that was already there on their own hearts.
Therefore let us understand fully what God is saying. God does not--will not--hide His glory to accommodate the fear, the lack of vision, the hardness of heart, and the weak eyes of His people. His glory will shine forth, doing one of two things. Either the people will gaze upon Him till they die to self-to self-will, self-opinions, self-exaltation, self-seeking, and to their own selfish and dead works--or they will put a veil over their hearts, denying themselves the visitation that God intended them to have. But as surely as they do this they will open up the way for God to visit another people. He will not hide His glory to accommodate the fearful ones. He moves on with His people, and reveals His glory to those who are tired of endless religious activity, and who long for the sovereign moving of the Spirit of God in their lives.
Paul sums up the situation by saying, "Their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament." Moses had put a veil over his own face, but Paul interprets this as meaning that the minds of the people "were blinded," and the veil was still on their hearts.
But let us not be too quick in judging them and excusing ourselves because we are New Testament people. I am afraid the same thing can be said of vast numbers of people who hear the New Testament read every time they come together for worship:
"Until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the New Testament." For we must understand that the New Testament is not simply the completed canon of scripture nor yet a system of Church ritual and activity. It is intended to be a ministration of life and of righteousness. And if we do not minister life and righteousness by the Spirit of God, we are simply making an old covenant out of the new by denying ourselves the glory that God intended it should bring.
"Nevertheless, when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away." Again the reference is to the veil on Moses face: "When Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he took the vail off, until he came out." Then coming forth from Gods presence with a renewal of the glory, Moses was able to minister unto the people again as God intended. But when he sensed the departing of the glory, "Moses put the vail upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him [the LORD]" (Ex. 34:35). (See also 2 Cor. 3.)
Where Is The Glory?
If we as Gods people would but examine ourselves with an honest heart, we would soon discover just how far short we have come with regard to the glory of God. Do we measure up to the outshining of Gods glory such as we find in the life of Moses? I am not speaking so much about the visible light that shone from his face, but of that inner light that God has for us in the New Covenant. I am sure we have all envied that marvelous experience that Moses had with the God of Israel. But hear what Paul says, "Not as Moses!... Not as Moses!... Not as Moses!" Clearly there is a ministration of the glory of God for us in this day of the New Covenant that far exceeds what Moses had, as far as the glory of the sun exceeds the glory of the moon!
Now the moon reflects the glory of the sun, and is likened to the Church which reflects the glory of Christ. But hear what the prophet says about the moon: "Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun...
Beloved, can we not see what God has in mind for His people? A people who shall walk in the full glory and radiance of the Sun of Righteousness Himself, the Lord Jesus! And does this in any way detract from the glory of the exalted Christ? Ah, no! Rather it means that as Gods glory increases in His people, that glory redounds again and again to the glory of the exalted Christ, for the prophet continues:
"And the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, As the light of seven days, In the day that the LORD bindeth up the breach of his people, And healeth the stroke of their wound" (Isa. 30:26).
Oh, that Gods people might comprehend this glorious fact, that it is only when the people of the Lord are walking in total union with Christ, and the glory of Christ shines forth through them, that Christ Himself is truly glorified. Jesus was charged with blasphemy and for robbing God of His glory because He claimed to live in total union with the Father, and did only what the Father was pleased to do through Him. The fact that Jesus performed miracles was no problem. They would crown Him King for that! But when He said, "It is not I, but the Father who doeth these things," He got into all kinds of trouble. As surely as Gods people begin to walk in union with Him who is pure Light, there is going to be a radiating of that glory to those about us. And this will mean a releasing of the glory of God to those who sit in darkness, and who long for deliverance; but at the same time we can expect to receive a lot of scorn and ridicule from those who love darkness rather than light.
"Dear Lord, when You were crucified on Calvary, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. And even as the veil was torn asunder, the high priest as he stood at the altar of incense could look within and see for himself that the glory of God was not there, for the Glory had long since departed. Nevertheless the dying priesthood of an old order continued to carry on with a religion of dead works, and patched up the old veil that was rent because their own hearts were veiled in blindness. But give us, oh Lord, perceptive hearts and minds, that as we behold Your flesh torn asunder for us, we might see Your glory revealed in the Temple not made with hands. Let us not draw back from beholding Your glory, like Israel of old; but give us more grace to come to the Light, that all the works of darkness within us might be dispelled by the radiance of Your presence, even as the shadows of night dissolve at the breaking of the day. May our whole being be flooded with Light, as we come under Your shadow to abide, that there might be a complete transformation within and without; and that men might know that Christ has indeed visited His people once again."
Changed Into His Image
"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18).
Paul tells us that because the veil has been removed from our face we now reflect, as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord one to another; and it is this that changes us into His own image.
The Greek word for "changed" in this passage is "metamorphoo," and signifies a complete changing of form. It is used on three different occasions in the New Testament: in the above passage; in the account concerning the transfiguration of Christ (Matt. 17:2; Mk. 9:2); and in Romans 12:2 where it is translated "transformed." This is the word that men chose from the Greek to signify the change that takes place in certain creatures, known as "metamorphosis." And because of the great spiritual truth that we discover in this phenomena, we want to examine it further.
Sometime in the middle of this century we read of a young Harvard scientist who had spent many hours making various experiments with the silkworm, in an attempt to discover the secret of metamorphosis. After some ten years of tedious experiments he discovered the secret. By dividing the worm into segments, and watching to see which sections went into metamorphosis and which remained the same, he discovered that there were two hormone-producing centers in the worm, one in the brain and the other in the thorax; and that these hormone centers caused the worm to change form. Neither could cause metamorphosis working by itself, but together they did. Briefly this is how he made his discoveries. Removing the brains from the caterpillars he found that they would live on, but only as worms. No change would take place. Then after implanting a bit of the brain containing the hormone, metamorphosis would begin to take place. But if after implanting the hormone in the brain the worm was immediately tied off in the center, no change would occur. This proved that the worm could derive no benefit from the hormone in the head alone; it had to work in conjunction with the thorax. So if he allowed a certain amount of time to elapse after implanting some of the brain before he tied the worm in the center, the worm would go into full metamorphosis on both sides of the knot. By these and similar experiments he effectively proved that two hormone centers were involved in the process, and that it was the brain hormone that triggered the thoracic center into action.
What a beautiful illustration from nature of the wonderful truth concerning transformation! We believe we are going to discover many wonderful truths in the world about us as we go on with the Lord. In the early part of the human race this was the only Bible men had, and yet God said He was clearly revealed in the things that He had made. "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made" (Rom. 1:20). The reason men do not see Him there now is because of the apostasy and the blindness that has overpowered the human race through sin and unbelief.
From Worm To Butterfly
David said of himself, "I am a worm, and no man." Such we are by nature--helpless, foolish, earthbound, purposeless. We cannot change ourselves. But the Lord from Heaven came into our nature and our likeness in order that He might bring about a transformation into His nature and likeness. He does not change us by a sovereign act of His will alone; for then He would be working counter to His plan whereby He would have willing and obedient sons, desiring to do His will. And yet we know, "Apart from Him, we can do nothing." From Him therefore who is the Head, there comes to us as members of His Body, that Divine hormone--that Divine influence of the Spirit--which reacts upon and works in conjunction with our hearts and minds, thereby bringing about a spiritual metamorphosis, a complete changing of our whole being: spirit, soul, and body. This is Gods order in restoring Man to His image, just as it was the order in which Man fell from that image. For Adam continued to live on in the natural long after his spirit had "died" as far as his relationship with God was concerned. So in redemption God restores first our spirit, then our soul, and ultimately our body. Therefore we hear the apostle praying for Gods people; for the perfecting of their "spirit, soul, and body," in that order (1 Thess. 5:23). Knowing the corruption of this human body many would teach that there is no hope of coming into the image and likeness of Christ until our bodies put on immortality. But this is not so. Christ walked in perfect union with the Father, though dwelling in a mortal body. But He was sinless, we are reminded. True... and thats what redemption is all about. He fully dealt with our sin at the Cross, and it is the work of the Spirit of God within us to render the body "dead indeed unto sin" and to make it to be the very temple of God in the earth. And until we are eventually glorified God has made provision for a "quickening" of our mortal body, by His Spirit that dwells within (Rom. 8:11). And so the groaning continues within us that we might be "clothed upon" with our new house from Heaven, and enter into immortality. But it is not Gods intention that we continue to groan in the bondage of sin. It is a groaning rather to be released from the limitation and humiliation of our mortality, that we might know and experience the new life for the body that we have experienced, and are experiencing, for our soul and spirit. God purposed it this way, that now in the midst of our weakness and mortality we might be the fragile vessels He needs as vessels for His glory. "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us" (2 Cor. 4:7).
Transfigured By Divine Light
"Jesus... was transfigured before them" (Matt. 17:1-2).
"And as he [Jesus] prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering" (Lk. 9:29).
This was on the Mount of Transfiguration. Again the word used is "metamorphoo." The Son of man appeared in Glory, and the three disciples with Him had a preview of the Kingdom of God as Jesus had promised (Matt. 16:28). His raiment was not merely "glistening." That would imply light reflected from another source. But He Himself was the Light, and His garments were "glistering." It was light shining out from within, like flashes of lightning, such as had radiated from the countenance of Moses on another mountain many centuries earlier. Once again Moses is there, along with Elijah, and in the midst of that glory they are talking with Jesus about His imminent death on the Cross. It was not the fullness of the Kingdom, but all the ingredients of the Kingdom of God were there on that mountain. It was a foretaste of the Glory that will be revealed when Christ comes again "to be glorified in the saints."
Transfigured By A Renewed Mind
"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Rom. 12:2).
Again the word is "metamorphoo." With hearts and minds yielded to God, these bodies in which we dwell though still mortal are no longer unholy or unclean. By the application of the blood of Christ and the washing of the Spirit they become a fitting habitation for the Spirit Who is holy--and He comes to make us holy. This body in which we dwell must be so presented to God that God may accept it as "a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable [well-pleasing] unto God." By His sacrifice and indwelling Spirit, and according to His promises, we are to "cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 7:1). Paul tells us that in doing this, it is our "reasonable" service; but he is referring to a priestly service, a worship service to God. I know we have fallen far short of this, but it is there in the New Covenant, and we must believe and anticipate this kind of holy living. And having done this we are to expect a "metamorphosis" experience in the mind--a transfiguring, transforming renewal of the mind. We cant make it happen, I know. But our Mediator is there in the heavens to minister the grace and power and life to make it happen if we are willing to submit to His dealings...
The Cocoon Of His Dealings
God deals with His own in a very individual and specific way; and therefore we are not to criticize anyone who is doing Gods will in the realm of his personal walk with the Lord. But we can be assured of this, if we really mean to go on with the Lord, all of us are going to experience some very drastic changes in our lives as He leads us from one degree of glory to another. God is far more concerned about His people coming to know Him than He is in our doing many good works. And the reason should be self-evident: for if we do not truly know Him, we can never perform His works. But if we are truly willing to be changed, and become what He wants us to become, we cannot fail to do what He would have us do.
The cocoon, therefore, (whatever it may be in your life and mine) is not to be considered as some strange thing that has happened, to hinder us in our quest for true fulfillment. Rather it is a sure token that we are walking in His ways, seeing Him, and seeing ourselves for what we really are: helpless, needy, confined, limited, and ineffective in all our ways. We look for a new life, a life beyond the veil of our own flesh, a life in the heavenly realm where we are in vital union with Christ, and reigning in life by Christ Jesus. As a boy I was greatly fascinated with the process of metamorphosis long before I knew there was such a word. Every spring I would look for a furry worm, put him in a ventilated jar along with some green leaves, and watch the process. What a thrill to watch him two or three weeks later coming forth as a beautiful butterfly... a one-time crawling worm, and now flying in the atmosphere above! Little did I know then that in the days to come I myself would find myself in a cocoon designed by my Creator--a cocoon of His own dealings. There is a labor to enter into His rest. There is a struggle. But it is the struggle of life, a struggle that God ordained. You cannot snip the cocoon with a pair of scissors when you see the butterfly struggling to emerge. No matter how careful you are he will not be able to fly... because it takes the struggle within the insect to pump the life into his wings that will enable him to fly. Let us not seek to remove the impediments from our lives or from the lives of Gods people that God deliberately put there for our transformation.
Something else we must consider. What causes the releasing of the hormones in the worm to set in motion the process of metamorphosis? The scientist we mentioned discovered that it was caused by the warmth of the spring season! The timing of God is so important. God has "seasons" for whatever He would do; and when the season arrives He prepares His people for what He has in mind. So we must not compare ourselves with other men, nor yet with men of other generations, and feel that we have all that God has in mind if we measure up to them. When we speak of a life in God and a revelation of His glory that was not given to previous generations, it is not that we are better, or have more favor with God, or more knowledge of the scriptures. They served God according to the provision of grace that He supplied for their generation. But now in view of the tremendous onslaught of evil and corruption about us, God knows we need more of His grace and more of His glory and He is causing us to know it, that we might seek after Him and find it.
So in this hour the rays of the Sun of Righteousness are beaming forth upon His people who have grown weary of the worm-life, and long to explore their inheritance in heavenly places. Oftentimes men of this world are "wiser than the children of light." We have witnessed in our generation a new thing in the earth. Men have been able to escape the power of earth--gravity and orbit about a new center, and even walk on the moon, completely free from the pull of the earth. Yet the children of light find it difficult to believe that God has sufficient power and wisdom to thrust us forth from realms of flesh-bondage into realms of spiritual liberation, where we too may find a new center and source of life in God alone. But there is a people in the earth who believe that God is willing to do this very thing... and to these God would speak words of great encouragement.
"Fear not, thou worm Jacob,
And ye men of Israel;
I will help thee, saith the LORD,
And thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.
Behold, I will make thee
A new sharp threshing instrument having teeth:
Thou shalt thresh the mountains,
And beat them small,
And shalt make the hill as chaff.
Thou shalt fan them,
And the wind shall carry them away,
And the whirlwind shall scatter them:
And thou shalt rejoice in the LORD,
And shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel" (Isa. 41:14-16).
Just a worm! Just an insect! But it becomes a threshing machine, a new one... "having teeth"! In vain are we going to put any "teeth" into our efforts to reach the nations and gather in the harvest, until we partake of the changing, transfiguring, transforming work of the Spirit of God in our lives. Think of it! God is going to use a worm to thresh the mountains, and crush the powers of evil into dust. The kingdoms of this world are to become "the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ." And God says "all nations shall come and worship before Him" when His judgments are made manifest in the earth! (See Rev. 15:4.)
The Cloud Covers The Tent
In this writing we are emphasizing the Presence of God and the Glory of God. There is much that we have left unsaid concerning the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, but we must hurry on. But first we must consider the Rule of the Cloud, which is the Rule of His Glory.
The Tabernacle was a portable structure. It does not have the meaning of a solid, permanent structure. It was but a Tent--easily taken down and reassembled. A permanent temple would come later when the kingdom was established. But here God would teach His people that they must move on "from glory unto glory" until they would come to their true rest in God.
The presence and glory of God was really the whole purpose and meaning of Gods temples... and it must be so in our Church gatherings today. Without His presence there is no purpose for a temple, no purpose for us gathering together. Therefore we must learn to diligently follow the Rule of the Cloud. "As long as the cloud abode upon the tabernacle they rested in their tents... whether it were two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle, remaining thereon, the children of Israel abode in their tents, and journeyed not: but when it was taken up, they journeyed." (See Num. 9:15-23.)
The Rule Of The Cloud
The walk in the Spirit is entirely contrary to much of our present-day teaching concerning ministry and service for the Lord. Everywhere we find that people are being encouraged to move out for God, and if they do God will follow them and bless their efforts. You take the initiative, and God will be there to establish and confirm. But this is contrary to the Rule of the Cloud, and it is contrary to the Law of the Spirit. God must give direction, He must go before. And as we follow, we will discover His glory will also follow after...
"For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the LORD will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rereward" (Isa. 52:12). In other words, you cannot rush ahead of God-that would be "haste." Nor can you run away from some job you do not like, some disagreeable circumstance that you want to get rid of--that would be "flight." He must go on ahead and open up the way. He must also follow after to confirm and establish. He gives clear direction, you follow Him, then He gives positive confirmation.
The Rule of the Cloud must have seemed quite ridiculous to surrounding tribes and peoples, but this did not matter. We are inclined to become very sensitive to criticism if Gods ways lead us contrary to reason and logic. Because of this many simply refuse to move on with God once they have discovered a quiet resting place in their religious wilderness--a nice little oasis, a beautiful Elim of Gods provision. They know God led them there, so there they will remain. But when the Cloud moves on we must pull up our stakes and move forward with Him.
It will not always be quite that way. For when the ark of the covenant moved into Solomons Temple the staves were withdrawn, and the long, tiring wilderness journeying came to an end. Of course there is still a going on with God even in that realm, as we shall discover. But the blight of the wilderness becomes a thing of the past, and the experiences of life which were intended of the Lord to unsettle us, and shake us, and cause us to move forward in God, have fulfilled their purpose that henceforth we might abide in Him-joined unto the Son, as the Son is joined unto the Father.
The Rule of the Cloud is the rule of liberty. But it is a rule. Many would mistake the bondage of the flesh for the liberty of the Spirit. They boast of their freedom in God--freedom to move out in ministry, freedom to activate their ministry in any way they want to--because God has enriched them with gifts and graces and talents of various kinds. But we will never know true liberty in the Spirit until we come under subjection to the Rule of the Cloud. For in Christ Jesus the only way that is acceptable to God and liberating to our spirit is the rule of New Creation Life: "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision [neither religious tradition, or the lack of it], but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God" (Gal. 6:15-16).
THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID
"And they brought in the ark of the LORD, and set it in his place, in the midst of the Tabernacle that David had pitched for it" (2 Sam. 6:17).
"In that day will I raise up the Tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old" (Amos 9:11).
Here we have the account of the erection of the Tabernacle of David; and then the prophecy concerning its restoration in the latter days, after Gods judgments upon the apostate nation had brought her to desolation. But before we consider this, we must briefly trace the events in Israel leading up to this apostasy and the gradual deterioration of true worship in the Tabernacle which Moses had built.
The Glory Of Israel Fades Away
When the children of Israel had finally come into possession of Canaan, and subdued the land before them, they set up the Tabernacle of the congregation at Shiloh. Here it remained until the time of the prophet Samuel, a period of approximately 300 years. This was the period of the judges. Not for long did Israel enjoy the liberty, and the freedom, and the fruitfulness of the Land of Promise. God had warned them repeatedly that if they did not utterly destroy the heathen nations of the land and annihilate their idolatrous altars, they would be as pricks in their eyes and thorns in their sides, and their gods would become a snare to them. This actually happened. For although the land was subdued before them; God deliberately left pockets of resistance here and there to "prove" Israel, whether or not they would hearken unto His voice and obey Him fully. (See Judg. 3:1.) They tried coexistence where God commanded utter destruction of their enemies. Consequently their enemies, subdued but not destroyed, became their masters. There is no neutral ground in this spiritual warfare against the world, the flesh, and the Devil. We may argue that we cannot be completely victorious as long as we are living in this flesh, and consider that the subjugation of the old nature and the old life is all that God requires. But this kind of coexistence gradually gives way to defeat; and the subdued becomes the subduer. In allowing this struggle to continue within our nature God is not seeking to deny us our heritage, but rather to bring forth a more earnest longing for that abundant life in the Spirit that He longs to bring us into.
We do not know how long the cloud of glory rested on the Tabernacle. But we have good reason to believe that it gradually faded away, like the glory that faded away from the countenance of Moses. The nation that God had called forth to be unto Himself "a peculiar people" soon lost their "peculiarity," and became very much like the nations which they had displaced. The people and the priesthood alike had become defiled. Eli was concerned; but he did not know what to do about it. At least in his concern for Gods house he did not seem to be prepared to take any drastic action that might have improved the situation. God had to reprove him for his negligence: "Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and honourest thy sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people?" (1 Sam. 2:29). This fear of division, of disruption in the status quo, of losing favor with the "sons" in the ministry, is something very real in the Church today; and unless the situation is remedied, there will be eventual disaster. But there is a "Samuel" people being prepared of the Lord in this hour. And they know that when an old religious order is in the process of decay and dissolution God always has a new order in the making... one that will arise out of the dust and ashes of the old, but fresh and new from the hand of God.
A New Priesthood Arises
When the priesthood of Eli had come to ashes, God brought forth a new priest by the name of Samuel, one who had ministered in the very presence of Eli and in subjection to him, In the bitterness of her soul Gods chosen Hannah had "asked for" Samuel, and God granted her request. His very name Samuel means "asked for." "And the word of the LORD was precious in those days; there was no open vision" (1 Sam. 3:1). In other words, a clear Word, a real vision from the LORD, was a rare thing. But it was the prelude to a new day when Samuel would arise as the oracle of God to His people. There is a Hannah in the earth today. She cries out in the distress of her spirit for a son... a "manchild" ...a people who will come forth in the full image and likeness of Christ out of a dying religious order, and who will be Gods oracle to a confused Church, and a world in need. They do not panic in the hour of panic. They are a people with eternity in their hearts, and they are prepared to wait for the Lord to do what He has purposed. Nor do they stagger at the tremendous task that lies before them, as they see Gods plan beginning to unfold. They know it is not their task, but the Lords. Not their battle but the Lords. And they simply desire to move according to Gods time and according to His ways.
As things continued to get worse and worse in Israel, Gods plan and purpose was drawing closer and closer to fulfillment. This is the way God always works; but only those who understand Gods ways are able to recognize it. Israel was under constant attack by the Philistines. God had delivered them many times, but the hour had come for God to execute swift and certain punishment because of their iniquity and the iniquity of the priesthood. A man of God had warned Eli that this would happen; but along with the warning he also promised: "I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house" (1 Sam. 2:35). The immediate promise was that Samuel would arise--a true and faithful priest. But there was to be a far greater fulfillment when, in the fullness of time, Christ Himself would come forth, a true and faithful Priest, as well as a righteous King.
As the Israelites suffered defeat in battle against the Philistines, they took counsel and decided to bring forth the ark of the covenant from the Tabernacle in Shiloh to save them from their enemies. Was it not the ark of God that struck fear into their enemies as Israel fought the Lords battles in times past? It was one last, desperate attempt to save themselves from disaster. No greater calamity could have befallen them. They were not only defeated, but the ark of God was captured by the Philistines, and taken into the house of their fish-god Dagon. Besides this, Hophni and Phinehas, who carried the ark into battle, were slain by the Philistines. The heirs to the priesthood were cut off in one sudden stroke. When Eli heard the fateful news he fell backwards and broke his neck and died; while the wife of Phinehas, shocked at the death of her husband and the capture of the ark, gave immediate birth to Ichabod, whose name was destined to become a byword in Christendom throughout all her generations for his name means, "The Glory has departed" or, "Where is the Glory?"
But God plagued the Philistines because of the ark in their midst, and they finally had to send it back to the camp of Israel. It was finally brought to the house of Abinadab in Kirjath-jearim, where it remained perhaps a hundred years, throughout Samuels judgeship, Sauls reign, and well into the reign of David. (The 20 years mentioned in 1 Samuel 7:2 does not seem to refer to the ark, but to the period of time that elapsed before Israel began to seek the Lord and to lament before Him because of their waywardness.)
Give Us A King!
God was in the process of judging the old order in preparation for the new. He had dealt with the priesthood. God always deals with the priesthood before He deals with the kingdom. What about the kingdom?
Israel, as we have mentioned, had become like the heathen nations which they were to subdue. There seemed to be just one thing lacking; and so they came to Samuel and cried, "Give us a king, that we may be like the nations." This greatly displeased Samuel, and it greatly displeased the Lord. Had not God planned a king for them? True, His original promise to them was that they were to be a "kingdom of priests." But they wanted a king so they could be "like the nations," whereas the kingdom God had in mind would make them very much unlike the nations.
It seems that God will usually permit man to go his own way--to try and fail, and to learn the hard way--that out of mans failure God Himself may be glorified. And so the Lord went along with their cries, picked for them a king that He knew would be very much to their liking, but he was not a man after His own heart. Then why did He not give them the kind of king that He knew they needed? Because they had become an ordinary people like the nations about them--self-seeking, self-centered, and wayward from God. And God had no alternative but to give them a king that would be very much compatible with their own hearts. For whether we have a democracy or not, God is still Sovereign over all, and He continues to set in office the man He has chosen. Not because such a one is a man after His heart, but because such a one is compatible with the heart of the nation; and who therefore will not, or cannot, make and enforce laws that would curtail the crime and the corruption that abounds in a sinful, rebellious nation. (We need to be reminded, however, that a people walking with God can, through prayers and intercessions, change the hearts and minds of rulers to do His will). For "the kings heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will" [Prov. 2 1:1].)
With the anointing of Saul as king new hope was born in the hearts of the people; and of course for a season all seemed to go reasonably well. But the facts are there in the scripture for us to read: Saul walked down the pathway of disobedience. He "spared Agag and the best of the sheep" when God required utter destruction. He "forced himself" and yielded to the wishes of the people, when God had commanded otherwise. (And this explains very clearly why a democratic society and a democratic form of government cannot establish righteousness in the land, when the inhabitants of the land are in sin and rebellion against God. In the final analysis the leader must yield to the wishes of the people or he will be thrown out of office. This is what democracy is all about.)
A New King In Preparation
Again, let us observe how wonderfully our God works to fulfill His purposes. Just as God had raised up the prophet Samuel in the house of Eli to take Elis place when His judgments were poured out on the priesthood, so now God would raise up David in the house of Saul to take Sauls place when Gods judgments fell on the kingdom. And then the priesthood having been judged and purged, and the kingdom judged and purged, David comes on the scene as a new "king-priest" to establish a priestly kingdom in the land. This is what God had in mind from the beginning, and He announced His intention to Moses. It was human failure that prevented it from happening then. But in the hour of human failure God continues to move in the earth to the eventual fulfillment of all that was originally in His heart and mind.
Of course we are not trying to say that the "royal priesthood" was established in any sense of fullness in the life of David. But in type--and in a limited degree--David was prophet, priest, and king in Israel. And in the fullness of time his greater Son would sit and rule upon Davids throne, a King-Priest forever "after the order of Melchizedek."
We all know the story concerning the anointing of David as king of Israel, how one by one the sons of Jesse passed by the aging prophet, only to be rejected. Finally they had to send to the fields to bring in the one that Jesse had not even considered eligible for the office. And when the lad David came in, God said to Samuel, "Arise, anoint him: for this is he" (1 Sam. 16:12). A new king for Israel! Anointed by the prophet Samuel! And anointed by the Spirit of the LORD "from that day forward"! Yes, but not in a position to rule and reign as yet. A man like Saul can be chosen, anointed, acclaimed as king, and immediately begin to do exploits for the nation. Not so with David. Yes, he had a very notable victory over the Philistines, and served under Saul for a while with great success. But he must go through many deep waters and dark valleys and suffer much persecution, frustration, and perplexity, before he could be entrusted to rule and reign over Israel.
Two anointed kings in Israel--Saul and David! The contest is on, and it grows more and more bitter as the days go by. But let us understand the nature of the contest. It was very much one-sided. Saul out of envy and jealousy was out to trap David and slay him. But Davids only concern was to wait for God, do Gods will, and save Sauls life. Let us learn from the spirit of David... for it would become his "key" to the throne. He would not seek to uphold or vindicate his own office. He would simply believe what God had promised, and let God bring it to pass in His own way. He would show mercy to Saul, as Saul scoured the land to find him and try to kill him. He would remember Gods past mercies, and His faithfulness, thereby drawing strength for new battles. He would praise and glorify God in all circumstances. He would wait on the Lord, and let God work everything out in His own way, in His own time. God help us all to learn how to use this wonderful "key." We only keep what we give away. We only find what we lose. We only save the life that we are prepared to lay down.
David In His Rejection
In the book of Psalms we have many that pertained to David in this period of his distress and rejection. Anointed as king of Israel, but hunted and hounded by an angry Saul, he finally fled to the cave of Adullam where he hoped to find a place of refuge. There it was that he poured out his heart to the Lord, and cried for mercy:
"I poured out my complaint before him;
I shewed before him my trouble.
When my spirit was overwhelmed within me,
Then thou knewest my path.
In the way wherein I walked
Have they privily laid a snare for me.
I looked on my right hand, and beheld,
But there was no man that would know me:
Refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul" (Ps. 142:24).
Many other psalms were written by him as he went through trial and sorrow, and deep heart-searchings; and these songs were incorporated into the scripture and became a part of Temple worship in all generations to come-not only in Israel, but now in the Church. True ministry is always rejected before it is recognized. It must be this way, because without rejection there can be no channel for grace to flow forth, no room for the spirit of the dove and the spirit of the lamb... which God always requires for the outflow of grace from His own heart. True ministry is conceived in the womb of suffering, born in travail and sorrow, and cradled in a cross.
But David would not always be alone in his distress. It may seem that way at times, for indeed there is the lonely walk for those who would seek to walk with God. But as we go on with the Lord we are going to discover fellowship with others who likewise have known rejection and suffering as they walked with God and learned His ways. So now there is fellowship because of the Cross.
These men who identified themselves with David all had their D.D.D.-
"And every one that was in Distress,
And every one that was in Debt,
And every one that was Discontented,
Gathered themselves unto him;
And he became a captain over them:
And there were with him about four hundred men" (1 Sam. 22:2).
These men were genuinely sincere in their loyalty to David, and they had caught the vision of the kingdom. But they needed to learn discipline; and they would learn it in company with David. They had to learn Gods ways. They had to learn that an open door was not necessarily a call for action. For when Saul was sleeping soundly because of a heavy drowsiness that God had put him under, they naturally assumed it was for the purpose that David might take the kingdom now. They urged immediate action, and quickly volunteered to rid David of Saul if he would let them. They did not know that with Davids key they could open doors that no man could close, and close doors that no man could open. What about this, people of God? Why do we get alarmed when a nation announces that no more missionaries are to be allowed into their country? Can God not work in that country, with doors closed to missionaries from abroad? Jesus still has the "Key of David"! And it is still available to a people who will take His yoke upon them, and learn of Him.
The Ark Brought Back
What we have said thus far, of course, is to bring us to the place where we can appreciate what God had in mind concerning His House. What about the ark of God? The place of His Glory? The place of His Rest? Truly the Lord longs to return to His people; but there must be that very needful preparation wrought within their hearts and lives, or He cannot rest in their midst. God said on one occasion, "I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early" (Hos. 5:15). He longs to return to us far more than we long to return to Him. But He does not come unwanted, undesired, unsought, unappreciated. For He would return to us that He might dwell with His own in full communion and fellowship for the delight of His own heart.
How then shall we bring back the ark of God into our midst? The same question has been raised time and time again in the history of Gods people. Revival! Restoration! Renewal! Can we have it today? How? Where? When? All kinds of movements and schemes have been devised. Or men will search out the records of Church history, and try to duplicate a method that seemed to work back then, only to discover that nothing will work except as we move with God, and seek to know His way and His intention for His people in this present hour. We are not able to initiate anything. Once we discover Gods intention then we must seek Him earnestly that He might show us His way.
The Wrong Way
The natural thing to do then, of course, was to make a new cart and bring back the ark. Invariably when God begins to stir the hearts of His people we find men or women binding themselves together in some kind of a structure to make a "new cart" to carry the glory of God. A lot of excitement follows, and Gods people rejoice in the knowledge that God is once again visiting His people. But suddenly something goes wrong, and there is perplexity. "Just what happened anyway?... Where did it go wrong?" The fact is that God never ordained the "cart" to begin with. Certainly God will bless His people as they open their hearts to Him, but they very often fail to realize that He blesses them in spite of the "cart," in spite of the new structure, in spite of the new movement, and not because of it. The "new cart" is man s device to keep the move of the Spirit steady--free from error, free from false doctrines--and to keep the ark of His presence and glory from going on the rocks. "Uzzah and Ahio" who were the sons of Abinadab "drave the new cart" (2 Sam. 6:3). They were quite knowledgeable about the ark. After all it had lain in their fathers house for many, many years. "Uzzah" means "Strength," and "Ahio" means "His brother." They could give the proper watch-care and guidance that the ark required. They did not profess to be bringing back the ark, the oxen were doing that. They were just strong, able, qualified men of God who knew exactly what to do if things went wrong. And so when the oxen stumbled near Nachons threshing floor the ark was shaken and the strong man put forth his hand to steady it, and God smote him dead. Invariably this happens when men invent new carts, new fellowships, new movements--or whatever-to keep the move of the Spirit from falling on the rocks. Some strong man is right there on hand to keep things steady when the way gets rough, and this leads to disaster. God is very jealous for His own glory. And no man can touch it, no matter how great he is, without bringing disaster into the midst of Gods people. We may all point our fingers at some great man, some great ministry, and give our version as to how he went wrong. But it is not always his fault. It is often the fault of the people who idolize him. It is often the fault of the religious system that men feel they must try to uphold. And it happens over and over again because we are ignorant as to how exceedingly jealous God is for His own glory.
God hasten the day when Gods people will come to the solemn realization that the Spirit of God is in the earth today as the Representative and Vicar of Christ in the Church, and that He must have His due Lordship in the midst of His people. True He raises up leaders from among the people; but we must know that their leadership is only valid by virtue of the Anointing they carry, nothing more and nothing less. "Uzzah" means "Strength." It is invariably the strength of human leadership, not their weakness, that extinguishes the spiritual flame that had been kindled by the presence of the Lord. Gods power is made perfect in mans weakness--not in his strength. God does not require the strong, dynamic, charismatic personality. He requires one who like Jacob of old has been robbed of his natural strength by the touch of the hand of God, and who then arises from his confrontation with the Lord a different man, bearing a different name--"Israel." Israel means "Power with God." And from that day on he bears about in his body the indelible mark of his confrontation with the Lord of Glory. From that day forward Israel walks with God with faltering step because of "the sinew that shrank," a constant reminder to him of that day--or rather that night--when Almighty God crippled him by the touch of His mighty hand.
David was afraid of the LORD because of this sudden, drastic action on Gods part, and he left the ark in the house of Obededom the Gittite. There it remained for three months. But a strange thing happened. The LORD blessed the house of Obededom, and all that he had, because of the presence of the ark of the covenant. David had to seek the LORD to discover just what went wrong and why. Many of Gods people have been discouraged and dismayed when they have witnessed some strange calamity take place in the Church, where once they had witnessed Gods blessing. (But seldom do they call a halt to it all, and seek God for answers; they just make another new cart and carry on as if nothing happened.) Usually we are going to discover that it is a case of human leadership who, because of their great office and gifts, feel they have a mandate to supervise and control and exercise lordship over the people of God because of that office.
After seeking God David soon found out the reason for the calamity. He discovered that the ark was to be carried upon the shoulders of the Levites, and in no other way. David acknowledged, "The LORD our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not after the due order" (1 Chron. 15:13). When are we going to learn that God does not originate new carts, new movements, new fellowships, new organizations, every time He would do a certain work in the earth? It is really mans attempt to keep things under control... to keep the revival from falling apart... to keep the doctrines pure to keep the people from getting scattered but in the long run it hinders what God is doing, and brings it to a halt.
The Credentials Of True Ministry
The ark of God on the shoulders of anointed men? A sturdy cart on wheels, and a well-organized program, would seem to be much safer. Oxen are much stronger than men. And Uzzah the strong man can keep things in order. Now the "shoulder" is the place of strength. And the shoulders of the priests would speak of men who are strong because of their priestly character--the priestly anointing they carry and their priestly garments of righteousness. This is Gods way... Gods only way. "Lord, bring us to the place where we learn to walk with You, and abide in Your Anointing." For we need no other credentials for ministry in the House of God, apart from the Anointing... the Anointing that comes down upon us from the garments of our High Priest in the heavens, Who has been "anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows." There is no question about it, the ark of the covenant was heavy. The mercy seat on the top of it was made of solid gold, one of the heaviest of all metals. But Gods priests cannot delegate their burdens to others. The real problem is simply this: Gods people, and the ministry in particular, are inclined to take burdens upon themselves that God did not authorize. Gods intention is that each member of the Body of Christ should find their place of ministry in the Body, rather than delegating their task to some strong man. We are "members in particular," and each member must find his or her place in the yoke of Christ. As we abide with the Lord Jesus in His yoke, the burden will be one we can carry on our shoulders; for Jesus said, "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
A Resting Place For The Ark
Now we must notice something very important. The Tabernacle in the Wilderness that Moses built was certainly Gods order for a season. It was still functioning, it was not in ruins. At this particular time it was "in the high place that was at Gibeon" (1 Chron. 16:39). Burnt offerings were still being offered upon the brazen altar, and the priests of the LORD were still attending to its various functions. God was not finished with it yet... nor would He be for many years to come. Zadok the priest and his brethren, men chosen of God, were still ministering there before the ark. But the ark of the covenant was not restored to the holy of holies of the old Tabernacle. If we are going to be spared the frustration of trying to restore something that has served its purpose and belongs to a dying order, we must recognize that God has new things in mind. And that He moves onward and forward and upward, enlightening the path of the just with the Light of a new day--a light "that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." He would bring us back to the old pathway, true, but that pathway leads on and on to new things in God. He wants to bring us back to "first love," when we have drifted from the right course, true. But He is not in the least interested in renewing some old religious structure that He may have seen fit to use in days gone by. God has an entirely new order for His people.
A New Tent On Mount Zion
Because this was a new day, David pitched a new Tent on Mount Zion for the ark of God. Then the ark was brought forth out of the house of Obededom with shouting and great rejoicing. God was returning to His people, and this time the people were prepared! They had discovered Gods way! David "danced before the LORD with all his might" (not in an attempt to bring back the ark but because it was back; and we have no record that David ever did this again). It wasnt the dance or the shout that brought back the ark... and in vain are we going to restore the glory of God to His Temple with any of these methods. What David rejoiced in was the presence and glory of God... and in the days to come there would be one thing only that He desired, and that was to sit before the LORD in the Tent of David, and inquire in His Temple.
David danced before the LORD, clothed upon with the garments of a priest: a linen robe girded with a linen ephod. Then the ark was brought into the Tent of David and set in the place that David had prepared for it, there on Mount Zion. Never again did the ark of God enter the courts of the old Tabernacle that Moses had built. God had found for Himself a new Resting Place. He ever leadeth His people on from glory unto glory.
But why Mount Zion? Why not the hill of Gibeon where the Tabernacle had been pitched, and which had been built by the great lawgiver according to the pattern that he had seen on the Mount of God? This was no mere whim of Davids. David was a prophet, and God had given him the direction to do this. He had presumed before, and made a cart for the ark. And certainly it would have been utter presumption to put the ark in a new Tent, rather than in the old one on Gibeon if God had not given him clear direction for this. But this was to be Gods new order.
"For the LORD hath chosen Zion;
He hath desired it for his habitation.
This is my rest for ever:
Here will I dwell; for I have desired it.
I will abundantly bless her provision:
I will satisfy her poor with bread.
I will also clothe her priests with salvation:
And her saints shall shout aloud for joy" (Ps. 132:13-16).
From this time forward, even to the consummation of Gods purposes in the book of Revelation, Zion is established as the place of Gods throne, as well as the place of His temple. The kingdom of David has become eternal in nature. David may die, but his greater Son and His many brethren will rule and reign forever on His throne. The natural Zion comes to desolation, and the natural Jerusalem goes into "bondage with her children," as Paul tells us (Gal. 4:25); but the real Zion of God and the heavenly Jerusalem will forever be known as the "City of the Great King."
THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID
Just a Tent (with the Ark of Gods Presence inside).
See Diagram: Temp
Why Mount Zion?
Because for the first time in Gods dealings with His people He has succeeded in bringing into union with Himself and into His Temple, a man who is both king and priest in Israel. Not in any sense of fullness, that is true, but in seed-form we have in David a man who is both king and priest; and in Davids Tent a structure that is both Throne and Temple. This is what God is after, and therefore Zion takes on eternal significance. He must have a people in whom He can dwell in the fullness of priestly fellowship and communion, and through whom He can reveal Himself to the nations in kingly authority and power. And so the original kingdom of David becomes the seed-plot for the unfolding of the Messianic Royal Priesthood. And in the days to come we will discover that Zion will take on still further enlargement as God moves on and on with His people.
But before we get into that we must consider the original meaning of Zion in greater detail, for it is only then that we shall understand the ultimate meaning that God had in mind. We do not do away with the real meaning of scripture when we seek to understand its spiritual and heavenly counterpart. The exact opposite is the truth: for Gods plan from the beginning was to bring us out of the earthly and into the heavenly... out of the carnal and into the spiritual out of old creation life and into New Creation life. Gods order is first "that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual" (1 Cor. 15:46). And His plan is to lead us from the one into the other. In so doing the earthly is neither neglected, or ignored, or destroyed. It is rather swallowed up by the heavenly, made immortal by the new life, and made eternal because of its deliverance from decay, death, and corruption.
What about the earthly Zion, the earthly Jerusalem, the earthly Israel? Gods plan for them is not a lesser glory than for us as Gentiles. He wants to bring them also into the better things--the heavenly Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the holy nation. There is "one hope, one faith, one baptism"--not two. At the Cross the "wall of partition was broken down" forever, never to be rebuilt, so that natural Israel along with natural Gentiles--redeemed by His grace--might together enjoy the new and abundant life that there is in Christ. Will there ever come about true peace in natural Israel? Yes, but only when they come into this new way, and put on this "one new man" in Christ Jesus. The apostle tells us that this is how God brought peace in the age-long conflict between Jew and Gentile, and that it was through the blood of Christ that God would "make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace." (See Eph. 2:13-19.)
The Original Meaning Of Zion
Zion was a small mountain ridge in the southern part of Jerusalem with valleys below on the east and west, and therefore a natural fortress in itself, and in a strong defensible position. And so when David and his men came against the city in the early part of his reign, he was confronted with the scoffing of the Jebusites who had taken control of this area. Now Jerusalem is believed to have been the "Salem" over which Melchizedek ruled as king-priest many hundreds of years earlier, in the days of Abraham. The word "Salem" means "peace," but the land is now occupied by the Jebusites. Jebus means "trodden down"--the City of Peace is now "trodden down." The city that was once ruled over by a king-priest under God is now in the hands of one of the abominable nations of Canaan which Israel failed to drive out. They had been subdued, but as we mentioned before, the "subdued" became the "subduer." And now David comes against the Jebusites with his band of men, much to the contempt of the Jebusites. They considered themselves to be very secure in their lofty heights, and they scoffed at David. "Even the blind and the lame will drive you away" they scoffed (2 Sam. 5:6). But David and his men ascended the difficult, rocky watercourse that came from Zion, and came upon the Jebusites with a surprise attack and captured the hill for himself. Here he set up his own fortress, and called it the City of David. From here on his kingdom became continually greater. "And David perceived that the LORD had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for his people Israels sake" (2 Sam. 5:12).
A Royal Priesthood On Mount Zion
Now when the Ark was brought back to Jerusalem, David pitched a Tent for it here on Mount Zion and prepared a place for the ark in the middle of the Tent (2 Sam. 6:17). This is just about all we know about the structure of the Tabernacle of David... no dimensions... no explanation as to how it was made... the kind of fabric that was used... no mention of candlestick, altar of incense, brazen laver, brazen altar, cedar boards or staves. God purposely ignored all this, for He was in the process of establishing a "Home" in Man, and these things were quite insignificant. True, when the Temple of Solomon was built, there was the utmost extravagance in gold, and silver, and precious stones, and carvings, and tapestry, and the like. But Zion in its original meaning has taken on eternal significance as the place of a Royal Priesthood, where man comes into Gods presence in priestly communion, and then has the ability to go forth unto the nations with royal power and authority.
David was not really a priest, not by birth and lineage. He was of the tribe of Judah, not from the tribe of Levi. Yet as a forerunner of his greater Son who would reign as a King-Priest on Davids throne, we find even David exercising many priestly prerogatives, making him to be a fitting type of the Messiah Who is Prophet, Priest, and King. Let us consider some of these priestly prerogatives.
He Partook Of Priestly Bread And Weapons
When David was fleeing from Saul he came to Ahimelech the priest, and asked for bread and a sword. The priest was somewhat fearful, but reluctantly gave him "holy bread" and the sword of Goliath, that somehow had been confiscated from David many years before. The food was strictly "priestly bread," yet David and his men ate of it; and this act was cited by the Lord as something commendable, even though it was admittedly "unlawful." (See Matt. 12:34.) The sword of Goliath at that time was "wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod"--and this was a priestly garment. (See 1 Sam. 21:6-9.) The sword with which he had slain Goliath had been preserved for him in the house of God. It wasnt really lost, but perhaps it often seemed that way to David. If we are walking with God, let us not fear when we notice former aspects of power and authority slipping away from our grasp. Be quick to let them go. Perhaps the Lord sees that we are not really prepared to use them as we ought, and they will mean much more to us when the time comes for God to restore them.
He Wore Priestly Garments
We mentioned before how David had laid aside his royal garments of power, and went forth dancing before the Lord when the ark returned, clothed upon with the humble garments of the priesthood. He wore a robe of linen and an ephod. This is what caused his wife Michal to look upon him with disdain. He was a great king. What a humiliating thing to see him dressed up like a humble priest, and dancing before the Lord!
He Had Priestly Access To God
This was most astounding of all. The ark of God which for hundreds of years could only be visited by the high priest--and that only once in the year--was now set up in a "prepared place" in the middle of the Tent of David on Mount Zion, the place of his citadel and kingdom. He was "afraid of God" when God smote Uzzah dead for his error, but now he pitches a tent for the ark in his own backyard, that he might dwell with God all the days of his life:
"One thing have I desired of the LORD,
That will I seek after;
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD,
And to inquire in his temple" (Ps. 27:4).
We may wonder at this when we consider how drastically God dealt with others for intruding into the priesthood. In later years a certain king by the name of Uzziah (also a very good king) went into the temple to offer up incense, and God smote him with leprosy right there in the sight of the priests. But Uzziah was performing a ritual out of the pride of his heart; whereas David was acting in faith, under Gods guidance and direction, and God was pleased to dwell with David in the same house.
The New Testament has much to say concerning the priesthood of the believer and our heritage as "kings and priests unto God." But here on Mount Zion we have a foretaste of New Testament priestly access into Gods presence. As we cultivate priestly ministry we come into a place of communion with God. In kingly ministry we have power with men. That is why we must concentrate on priestly ministry. And that is why God always establishes a priesthood in the earth before He establishes a kingdom. Man would always reverse this order, and in so doing he brings chaos and devastation into the midst of Gods heritage. Oh, that God would eradicate that inherent lust for power and authority from the hearts of His people... and especially from the hearts of those in ministry!
Gods Open Door To The Nations
Songs that are given by the Spirit are always related to what God is doing in the earth at that particular time, or is about to do. And on the day that the ark of God was brought to Zion and placed in the Tent of David, Asaph and his brethren were given a prophetic psalm to commemorate this "new day." It was a song of thanksgiving and praise for Gods great goodness to the house of Israel, in confirming the covenant that He had made with Abraham, and watching over them in their weakness and in their wanderings:
"He suffered no man to do them wrong: Yea, he reproved kings for their sakes, Saying, Touch not mine anointed, And do my prophets no harm."
But immediately after saying this David was caught away in prophetic inspiration (for he was a singing prophet), and he began to declare what God was going to do among the nations. Israel had always been slow to comprehend that what God was doing for them and in them, was not to be something confined to their little land, and temple, and people... but to make of them a door of utterance to the nations, that through them "all nations" might partake of the blessing of Abraham. David therefore began to prophesy of the glory of God that would emanate from Mount Zion and embrace all the nations of the earth. This occasion of triumph and glory on Mount Zion was to be no mere nationalistic dream come true to the chosen people of God. It was to be a new beginning for mankind, the springing forth of a river that would eventually embrace the whole world and bring deliverance to a groaning creation. So he went on:
"Sing unto the LORD, all the earth;
Show forth from day to day his salvation.
Declare his glory among the heathen;
His marvelous works among all nations.
Give unto the LORD, ye kindreds of the people,
Give unto the LORD glory and strength.
Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name,
Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness, Fear before him, all the earth:
The world also shall be stable, that it be not moved.
Let the heavens be glad,
And let the earth rejoice:
And let men say among the nations,
The LORD reigneth.
Then shall the trees of the wood sing out
At the presence of the LORD,
Because he cometh to judge the earth.
O give thanks unto the LORD;
For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever." (See 1 Chron. 16:8-36; Ps. 105:1-15; 96.)
This first prophetic utterance concerning the glory of Zion has established the real meaning of Zion not only for this occasion, but for all the prophecies that would follow after. Both in Davids writings, and in all the prophets, and on into the New Testament, the references to Zion go far beyond a little hill in Jerusalem to embrace in a larger sense the people of God, the place of Gods throne, and the place of His priesthood.
The Tabernacle Of David To Be Rebuilt
Once we understand Gods intended purpose in the original Zion, then we may understand more fully what He means when He speaks of the restoration of Zion and the rebuilding of the Tabernacle of David. Zion was intended to be that place of priestly ministry and kingly authority from which Gods Word and His Glory might shine forth into the uttermost parts of the earth. And so when Zion--the people of God--had forsaken the true God of Israel and became encumbered with their own ways, God was greatly grieved and He lamented through the prophet:
"For Zions sake will I not hold my peace, And for Jerusalems sake I will not rest, Until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, And the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth" (Isa. 62:1).
For let us not forget, when Isaiah or Jeremiah or the other prophets lamented over Gods people, it was really the lamentation of the Spirit of God, and it was His burden that He placed upon them. It was really "the burden of the LORD" that He was sharing with His servants; and sometimes it was a burden that they found to be very grievous. But as Gods plan has always been to join Himself to Man, God must find willing men who will share His burden as well as His glory and power. And so we hear the prophet Isaiah declaring:
"I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem,
Which shall never hold their peace, day nor night:
Ye that make mention of the LORD,
Keep not silence, and give him no rest,
Till he establish, and till he make
Jerusalem a praise in the earth" (Isa. 62:6-7).
The prophet Ezekiel was set as a "watchman" over the house of Israel, to warn the people of impending judgment. But in the above passage Isaiah speaks of "watchmen" who are appointed by God to arouse the Almighty Himself from His rest; and to cry unto Him day and night that He might establish Jerusalem, and make her to be a praise in the earth.
Beloved, let us not imagine that God is displeased with our much crying out unto Him to arise in the earth and to show forth His glory. For God Himself has "set watchmen" on the walls of Jerusalem for this very purpose!
But it was not until Christ came, and died, and rose again, and ascended, that the glory of Zion was to have any real impact upon the nations of the world. And when this began to happen, especially under the ministry of the apostle Paul, a new problem began to arise in the minds of the Jewish teachers as to what they were to do with the multitudes of Gentiles that were coming into the Church. A division had arisen, because some of these teachers were saying that the new converts had to become Jews according to the covenant of circumcision, as taught by Moses. Paul and Barnabas were greatly concerned about this, because they knew that God was doing a new thing in the earth. Not that it was unrelated to Old Testament prophecy, but it was entirely unrelated to Levitical and Judaistic ritual and forms of worship. All these were but types and shadows. What God was bringing forth now was the real substance. Therefore Paul and Barnabas went up to Jerusalem to discuss the matter with the apostles there. They had no thought of compromising their stand, but they did fear that their efforts might well have been in vain if the foundational apostles of the Church should oppose them. And so we have the first Council of Jerusalem, which we must consider in some detail.
The Jerusalem Controversy
Now there was no question in the minds of any of the apostles or of the Jewish teachers, as to whether or not the Gentiles could be saved... and this was not the issue. Early Judaism clearly recognized what so many Christian teachers have failed to recognize: that a heathen Gentile who came into Israel and submitted to the covenant ordinances became from that day forward a bona fide, valid Israelite. Moses distinctly taught that there was to be one law for Israel, and for the foreigner who dwelt in their midst. (See Ex. 12:48; Lev. 24:22.) Intermarriage between the Israelites and other nations was often forbidden, or if allowed there were certain rituals required of the incoming foreigner; but it was not because God was erecting certain racial barriers. It was because of the heathen gods they worshipped, and the effect this could have on the people who knew and worshipped the one true God. At this Council, they all must have been aware that on many occasions in their history some very prominent Israelites were either outright Gentile heathens by birth, or had Gentile blood in their veins. Rahab the harlot of Jericho was received into Israel, and become one of them. And in fact we find her name in the ancestral line of the Lord Jesus! Ruth the Gentile from Moab not only came into Israel, but she became the great-grandmother of king David, from whose line Jesus was born. And Ruths husband, Boaz, was descended from Rahab the Gentile harlot, and Boaz became Davids great-grandfather. Again, when Mordecai became a governor under the Persian king, in the time of Esther, such fear gripped the Gentiles of the 127 provinces of Persia, that "many of the people of the land became Jews" (Esth. 8:17). No Jew who was familiar with the Old Testament could argue that Gentiles could not become Israelites by embracing the covenants and submitting to the ordinances of the law. I think this alone should settle the argument that has come forth in recent generations concerning the racial preeminence of certain nations and peoples of the earth. Even a bona fide Israelite, born of the stock of Israel, was cut off if he did not submit to the covenant of circumcision. (See Gen. 17:14.) And as we have pointed out, a Gentile who came in and submitted to the God of Israel--and their laws and rituals--was received as a bona fide Israelite.
This, then, became the real issue of the Council of Jerusalem. And this was the question: "Are we to continue to receive Gentiles into the commonwealth of Israel on the basis of circumcision and the law, as we have in the past? Or shall we receive them as brethren because of their faith in Christ, without subjecting them to these ordinances?" And this was what Paul and Barnabas were so insistent upon; for they knew that God had broken down this "wall of partition" between them because of the Cross.
The argument went on and on. Peter showed how God had opened a door to the Gentiles, quite apart from any Jewish rituals, giving them the Holy Ghost even as He did to the believers in Jerusalem, and making "no difference" between Jew and Gentile. Then Paul and Barnabas testified as to how God had opened an effectual door to the Gentiles in their ministry, quite apart from any legal rituals and ordinances. But it remained for James, respected highly by the Jewish Christians, to bring forth an argument from the scriptures that would settle the whole issue. James told the Council that they ought not try to make Jews out of Gentiles according to the old law, because God promised even in the scriptures that the Tabernacle of David would be rebuilt, and in that new order God would receive the Gentiles as His very own, and place His Name upon them. Some Christian teachers quote from James to confirm that at the end of the Church age God would rebuild the Tabernacle of David. But James was clearly saying that God was now rebuilding the Tabernacle of David, as Amos had prophesied. James was not prophesying anything. He was rather quoting from the prophet Amos so as to clearly show the Council that this age-old prophecy of Amos was now in the process of fulfillment: "After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things" (Acts 15:16-17).
James was not prophesying this. He was telling the Council that Amos had prophesied this, and that now it was happening! The prophecy was there and then being fulfilled! God had promised that when the Tabernacle of David was rebuilt, many Gentiles would seek after the Lord, and come to know the God of Israel. Therefore on the basis of this long unfulfilled prophecy James advised the Council to accept the fact that "the residue of men [or, the rest of mankind]" were in Gods plan from the beginning, and were now to be received as brethren in this hour of the rebuilding of the Tabernacle of David.
Of course, James could have quoted many scriptures from the prophets that spoke of the salvation of the Gentiles, but as we have pointed out, this was no problem with the Jewish teachers. The problem was much deeper than that: "Can we receive Gentiles into the commonwealth of Israel apart from the Law and the ritual of circumcision?" Therefore God in His wisdom did not emphasize these other prophecies on this occasion, but chose rather to relate the salvation of the Gentiles to the Tabernacle of David... and in so doing there could be no mistaking what God had in mind. For here in the Tabernacle of David we have an institution that had no relation to temple, and temple ritual, and nothing to do with brazen altars and lavers and altars of incense. And most important, after the dedication of Mount Zion with the sacrifices of animals, never again do we hear of sacrifices of blood being offered on Mount Zion. From the day of the dedication of the Tabernacle of David and on, the sacrifices on this mount were to be sacrifices of praise and worship unto God. The prophecy of Amos could therefore in no way be construed to refer to a little flimsy goats hair tent such as David might have had there at the first. To the apostle James it was quite evident that the reference of Amos to the Tabernacle of David related to the spiritual restoration of the glory of Davids kingdom. Have you ever heard of any Jewish teacher, ancient or modern, or any Christian teacher, proclaiming that glorious day when a literal Tent of David would once again rise up on the top of old Mount Zion in Jerusalem? This would be unthinkable. But we do hear a lot about a beautiful temple something like Solomons, that is supposed to be built there in Jerusalem some day. And yet the only promise in the New Testament that refers to the rebuilding of the house of David is the one concerning the "Tent of David"--which every one recognizes as a spiritual "Tent," and not a flimsy piece of cloth like the one that David erected there in the beginning.
So ended the first Council at Jerusalem. But we cannot believe that all the teachers in the Church at Jerusalem wholeheartedly embraced the decision of the Council. For a long time afterward Paul had to contend with the "leaven" of Judaism in the churches where he had ministered the pure Gospel of Christ. Today vast multitudes in the Church are once again taking sides with those who opposed Paul and Peter and Stephen, and other Christian teachers of the early Church. Peter tells us that God made "no difference" between men. Stephen declared, "the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands" (Acts 7:48), and was stoned for declaring it. Paul said, "There is no difference..." It is about time that Christians everywhere begin to take sides with the great apostles and teachers of the early Church... rather than with modern-day theologians. Why do we find it difficult to believe that the apostles and prophets of the New Testament knew how to interpret Old Testament prophecy? If we can accept this premise, then we must embrace the fact that Gods promises were made to Abrahams Seed (singular), and not to Abrahams many seeds (plural), according to the flesh. And that this Seed is Christ along with those who have come into Christ through the faith of Abraham. (See Rom. 4:9-13; Gal. 3:16; 4:28.) Once we find grace to accept the apostolic interpretation of the Old Testament as the revelation of the Spirit of God, then we can safely lay aside the dispensational barriers that men have erected, and recognize Old Testament prophecy, as interpreted by the apostles, as the one and only valid interpretation concerning the true Israel. And the Old Testament becomes more meaningful to us because both Peter and Paul declared that what the prophets wrote, concerned those people who received the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. (See Rom. 16:26; 1 Pet. 1:10-12.)
The Good Olive Tree
There is much that could be said about Gods true Israel, but let us just look briefly at the good Olive Tree as portrayed so beautifully by the apostle Paul. The prophet Jeremiah had said: "The LORD called thy name, A green olive tree, fair, and of goodly fruit: with the noise of a great tumult he hath kindled fire upon it, and the branches of it are broken" (Jer. 11:16). Now the apostle Paul goes into great detail to describe the fall, and the rising again of Israel; and if we can accept what he has to say about it, the relationship between the Church and Israel becomes very clear. Here in Romans 11 he answers a question that he himself raised: "Hath God cast away his people?"... and his immediate response is "God forbid" (Rom. 11:1). To say that God had rejected Israel he would have to say that he himself was rejected, "For I also am an Israelite" (vs. 1). Then he goes on to explain. God always retained for himself a true Israel, even in times of great apostasy. When Christ came as the total Sum and Substance of Israels hope He was rejected, and God cast away the unfaithful branches of the Olive Tree. But He did not cut the tree down, He just stripped off the dead branches. Of course this left the Tree almost bare. But Paul explains: the "root" was holy, and therefore the Tree would survive. And wonder of wonders, it would not only survive, it would take on greater beauty and enlargement! How? God would reach forth and take branches from a "wild olive tree" and graft them into the Good Tree. What Tree? Clearly Paul is talking only of two trees: the wild olive tree and the Good Olive Tree; and he tells us that God took branches out of the wild tree and grafted them into the Good one. He took a people in their wild, Gentile condition, and grafted them into the Good Tree of Israel. The Good Tree was almost stripped of its branches, but God caused it to be replenished with "wild" branches from the Gentiles, and the Good Tree flourished once again. It not only flourished, it took on even greater beauty and enlargement; for God had brought about, through the fall of Israel, "the reconciling of the world" (vs. 15). Since then the Gospel of reconciliation has gone forth to the ends of the earth.
But the "root" was holy, and the "branches" were beloved "for the fathers sakes" (vs. 28). And as the natural, rejected branches of Israel go through their time of desolation and judgment, and God brings them to repentance, and salvation flows forth from Zion, God performs a miracle in these dead branches that is even greater than He performed when He brought "wild" Gentiles into the Good Olive Tree of Israel. He literally gives life to these dead branches, and grafts them back again into the same Good Olive Tree. And once again the Tree takes on beauty and still greater enlargement. "For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead" (vs. 15). Was the true Israel, then, ever rejected by God? Never was! And never will be! "And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written" (vs. 26). It couldnt be more clear. Only the unbelieving branches of Israel were rejected; only the believing branches from the wild olive tree were grafted into Israel. Then the dead branches "if they abide not still in unbelief" (vs. 23) will be grafted back into their own Tree; and the branches of the Gentiles will remain there with them in the same Tree, if they "continue in Gods goodness," otherwise they "also shall be cut off" (vs. 22). Pauls conclusion is: "And so all Israel shall be saved" (vs. 26). And in all that he has spoken about in chapters 9, 10, and 11 he has made it very clear what God means by all Israel. "They are not all Israel, which are of Israel: neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called" (9:6-7). And what does he mean by "in Isaac"? He explains this also, very clearly: "That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed" (9:8). But God, in His love and faithfulness to the fathers, even though the broken branches are dead in sin, because of "election" he brings them back into the Good Tree... and the tree takes on still greater enlargement and beauty in that great and mighty work of restoration for Israel that Paul simply describes as "life from the dead." "And so all Israel shall be saved," whether they be the wild branches that were grafted in or the dead branches restored to the Tree. Paul very clearly speaks of one true Israel. There is but "one hope," not two; not one for the Church, and another for Israel. "There is no difference," for at the price of His Cross our Lord tore down "the middle wall of partition between us". For what purpose? To make "one new man, so making peace". (See Eph. 2:14-15; 4:4-6.) A restoration to temples, and altars, and candlesticks, and the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of a red heifer? No--this would be the greatest of abominations! But this restoration must be something greater, something grander, something far and beyond what we have yet known in the Church and it will come about by the resurrection life of the Lord Jesus, moving in this "one new man" that God made of Jew and Gentile when He tore down the wall of partition. It is this wonderworking wisdom of God that causes the apostle to cry out:
"O the depth of the riches Both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, And his ways past finding out!" (Rom. 11:33).
The Kingdom of Heaven
If this, then, is the day of the rebuilding of the Tabernacle of David, as prophesied by Amos and as confirmed by the apostle James, then it is the day of the Royal Priesthood, when Christ Who is both King and Priest, is joined unto those in His Body who, by virtue of this joining, become "kings and priests unto God." When Jesus was here He taught the mysteries of the Kingdom in the form of parables, because the hearts of the people had become dull and blinded. The best He could do was to implant as it were a seed of truth in the form of a parable, knowing that as the seed was given a chance to germinate in the earth, eventually it would spring forth in Kingdom-life. "The kingdom of heaven," He said, "is like a seed that is planted in the earth." He warned us that the Kingdom of God "cometh not with observation." He reminded us that it was not something that would suddenly burst forth upon the earth in a blaze of glory, but something that would grow, and grow, and grow... "first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear" (Mk. 4:28). John the Baptist preached a message of repentance to prepare the hearts of the people for this Kingdom. Wherever He went, Jesus preached the Gospel of the Kingdom. Little by little the truth began to dawn upon the hearts of the disciples: Jesus must die... He must rise again from the dead... He must ascend into the heavenly Zion. Gods Kingdom was not to be confined to one nation, but was to become universalized throughout the whole earth by the preaching of the gospel. Israel, the true Israel, was to take on enlargement in "one new man," the Church. Henceforth the true Israel would be a heavenly people. They would be called "The City of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem." Christ was to reign at Gods right hand in Zion, this heavenly Zion, till all His enemies "were subdued under His feet." We have seen the sprouting of the seed and the blade of the Kingdom in the early Church. We have seen the ear coming forth in the centuries that followed. We are about to witness the "full corn in the ear," as God brings the Kingdom to fullness of fruition. Notice: the full corn... the fruit of the Kingdom for which the Husbandman has been waiting... the full corn must be formed in the ear. Not far off some where in the heavens, but right here in the earth where the seed was planted and grew--and there it comes to maturity. Jesus Himself was the good kernel of wheat that fell into the ground and died. Therefore we can be sure that the "full corn in the ear" can be nothing less than Jesus Himself enthroned and embodied in the lives of a people who have come into being because Jesus was faithful to the Fathers will... and fell into the ground and died.
Let us not forget the Law of the Seed, which God established in both the Old Creation and in the New: It is the inherent life in the seed that determines the ultimate form, and expression, and character of the fruit! It cannot be inferior to the good seed, or God is dishonored. It must be good fruit, perfect fruit, from good Seed, Perfect Seed--the Seed that was planted in the earth. He must bear fruit after His kind. It is the Law of the Seed. (See Gen. 1:12.)
From Genesis To Revelation
Genesis is the book of beginnings. Revelation is the book of the consummation. And in between we have Gods dealings with His people whereby He leads them forward toward this great fulfillment. He is the Alpha and He is the Omega. He changes not. But in His character as Alpha and as Omega His desire is to change His people from what they were in the beginning, to what He has planned they shall become in the end.
We are always slow to adjust, slow to respond to what He is doing, and are inclined to wander away from the pathway. He is always at hand to bring us back and restore us to the original pathway, but never to leave us there to crystallize or to stagnate. We are a people of the Way, as we are called in the book of Acts. It is back to the pathway, but onward to the Celestial City. If we understand this fundamental principle of Restoration, and are prepared to submit to change, we could apply ourselves more readily to the constant and sometimes very distressing changes that He brings about in the structure and administration of His Kingdom. There is therefore a very definite relationship between the former and the latter, but it is a relationship such as exists between the egg and the bird, the seed and the fruit, the worm and the butterfly. In other words, the Divine intent is to be found in the former, but the finished product is always vastly different than the original. The seed of the tomato is like a tomato... but not until there has come about the dissolution and decay of the seed will we discover the growing of the plant and the expression of the fruit. But the potential is there, and Gods original intention is there, which is this: that the seed must bear fruit "after its kind." The egg is like the bird--not actually, but potentially. And if the egg does not come forth as a bird, Gods intention in the egg has not been realized. So we are like Christ. "As he is, so are we..." And John elaborates, lest we should mistake his meaning, "So are we in this world" (1 Jn. 4:17). We may be far from it now in actual likeness. But this is Gods intention, and the potential is now within us! And as we submit to the law of the seed, and the law of the egg, and the law of the cocoon, we shall see--and those about us shall see--the living Christ walking once again in the midst of men, in the corporate Body of Christ in the earth.
We must keep these principles in mind. For if we fail to see what God has in mind in the various temples, and structures, and institutions that we find in the scriptures, His Book will continue to be just that--a history book. And we will never leave the shell of the egg, or emerge from the cocoon, but will remain like Israel of old, "in bondage," with the veil remaining, untaken away, in the reading of the scriptures.
In concluding this chapter on the Tent of David we want to mention just a few characteristics of the City of David, the City of God, with a brief comment on same.
1. Zion, The City Of God
"There is a river, The streams whereof shall make glad The city of God..." (Ps. 46:4; See Ps. 87:2-3).
Cain is the first man mentioned as having built a "city." Gods men were not builders of cities, but continued to look for "a better country." The cities of fallen men invariably lead to visions of greatness, to merchandising and profit-making, and eventually to corruption and chaos. Gods men, like Abraham, continue to look "for a City which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Heb. 11:10). Therefore the true Israel, having caught the true vision, are quite prepared to forget the whole land of their former heritage, that they might possess the City that God has prepared. (See Heb. 11:15-16.) The true Israel understands what God meant when He said, "I... will do better unto you than at your beginnings" (Ezek. 36:11). Let us use an illustration.
As my sons grow older I promise them a piece of land on the old homestead. Through disobedience they leave home, and the promise remains unfulfilled, and seems to come to nought. They are scattered far and wide and the homestead goes into ruin. But in the meantime I acquire a vast inheritance too great to even measure... a land filled with rivers and lakes and fruitful plains and meadows and forests and treasures unspeakable. When my estranged sons return home I show them the new land, and tell them it is all theirs to own and possess. But in dullness of heart they reply: "I cant believe that fable... I just want the two acres you promised me when I was a boy..." Will I give them what they want? I suppose I would, but I would be grieved that they would doubt my word and generosity, and settle for the two acres. Will God give natural Israel the little parcel of land they are striving to hold on to? Well, its part of the world--and the whole world is Abrahams inheritance (Rom. 4:13). But once they catch a glimpse of the New Jerusalem, such as Abraham did, they like their father will consider themselves to be but foreigners in a strange land (Heb. 11:9-10), After the Captivity, they might have returned to their land, and occupied it in peace and safety, had they walked in obedience. But now, with hearts turned to God, they are no longer excited about a few acres of real estate... for they have caught a vision of something better, much better: "Now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city" (Heb. 11:16). Now they have come to the true Zion, "the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem" (Heb. 12:22). Their Lord and Master is "heir of all things" (Heb. 1:2), and as they suffer with Him and bear His reproach, they too become "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:17). This is no small inheritance, for all things have been given to the Son, and they as "kings and priests unto God" are joint-heirs with Him!
2. Zion, The Throne Of God
"The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, Until I make thine enemies thy footstool" (Ps. 110:1).
This passage is referred to by the writers of the New Testament possibly more than any other Old Testament Messianic prophecy. It is quoted or referred to at least 17 times as relating to the throne of the Messiah, from which He now rules and reigns over the earth. And it is stated that He will remain there until all His enemies are subdued under His feet. We find it difficult to realize that Christ is truly King over all the earth now, with the fullness of power and authority, because we look about and see so many "enemies" of God at loose in the earth. But the mandate He has from the heavenly Father is to rule and reign "in the midst" of them, restraining or subduing them as the Father sees fit and according to Gods own time schedule. Christ will never have any more kingly authority and power than He has right now; because He has it all "now" (Matt. 28:18). And while He reigns in the midst of His enemies, He is preparing His many brethren for a place of authority and power also; but it must be in His throne. They must not think that they will ever be able to rule and govern apart from Him. For even Christ Himself does not have, and never will have, a throne that is independent of the Fathers throne. He tells us that He overcame and sat down "with my Father in his throne"... and the same throne is reserved for the overcomers who come into union with Him (Rev. 3:21).
3. Zion, Gods Habitation
"Arise, O LORD, into thy rest;
Thou, and the ark of thy strength.
Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness;
And let thy saints shout for joy... (See Ps. 132:8-14.)
Zion is not only the place of Gods throne, it is the place of His temple, and therefore the habitation of His priesthood. For when men come into fellowship with Christ and into union with Him, there is an effectual priesthood. Many of the psalms of David therefore speak of the throne of God and the priesthood in the same breath. (See Ps. 110:2, 4.) The Son who now reigns in Zion is a King-Priest on a throne which knows nothing of heredity, racial distinctions, temple rituals, and sacrifices. And those who anticipate sharing a place on the throne with Him in the Melchizedek order had better forget about their racial heritage. The Melchizedek order knows nothing about that. (See Heb. 7:3.)
4. Zion, The Place Of Power
"The LORD hear thee in the day of trouble; The name of the God of Jacob defend thee; Send thee help from the sanctuary, And strengthen thee out of Zion" (Ps. 20:1-2).
The fortress of Zion which was once occupied by the Jebusites became the fortress of David--the place of his kingdom, and the place where he set up the Tent of David. But first David and his men had to scale the craggy heights of Zion and drive out the enemy. So it was that our Lord Jesus Christ wrestled with principalities and powers, and "made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them" in His Cross (Col. 2:15). Notice this beautiful characteristic of Zion: the place of weakness, the place of our battle, the place of our struggle... God intends that this shall become the place of our strength. Let us take courage in this, for as we come into the victory of the Cross, those very areas of our weakness and humiliation become a place where we can rejoice:
"Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15:57).
"When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils" (Lk. 11:21-22).
God would teach us that Zion, that formidable obstacle that once scoffed us and put us to shame, can become our fortress and our strong tower as we walk in the victory of the Cross. We are enabled to rob Satan of "all his armour" (Gr. panoplia), as we put on "the whole armour of God" (Eph. 6:11, Gr. panoplia). We must discover that these weapons are not "carnal," but totally a spiritual battle-dress, and effectual to the casting down of the strongholds of the enemy.
5. Zion, The Joy Of The Whole Earth
"Beautiful for situation, The joy of the whole earth, Is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, The city of the great King" (Ps. 48:2).
The joy of the whole earth! Not now, but it is going to be. At present we have to bear the reproach of Jeremiah, as he beheld the heathen conquerors of Zion wagging their heads and saying, "Is this the city that men call The perfection of beauty, The joy of the whole earth?" (Lam. 2:15). Zion soon lost her reputation as the joy of the whole earth as her citizens became alienated from God and walked in disobedience. But David foresaw the day when all creation would rejoice in Mount Zion:
"Let the heavens be glad, And let the earth rejoice: And let men say among the nations, The LORD reigneth" (1 Chron. 16:31-33).
6. Zion, The Mountain Of Holiness
"Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised
In the city of our God,
In the mountain of His holiness" (Ps. 48:1).
"But upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, And there shall be holiness" (Obad. 17).
The holiness doctrine has been around for a long time. Once it was a living, cleansing, purging Word that went forth to Gods people. Now it remains as a doctrine of the Church with very little life in it, a legal document of dos and donts. But God will yet cleanse and purge His people from all defilement. May He hasten the day when "holiness" will no longer be just a doctrine of the Church, but a "highway" on which His people will travel to the City of God.
7. Zion, The Perfection Of Beauty
"Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined" (Ps. 50:2).
The Perfection of Beauty! This is Gods work, beloved! Let us not excuse ourselves from appropriating Gods desire by saying, "Of course if you are talking about perfection, just leave me out... I cant be perfect..." We are not talking about any kind of perfection that you and I can bring forth. We are talking about the New Covenant that Christ is mediating for His people... by which He shall bring us into His own perfection. We are talking about the creative masterpiece that God is bringing forth out of the clay fields of fallen humanity. He the great Master Workman knows how to bring forth vessels unto honor and glory. And He bids His watchmen on the walls to continue in their intercessions, day and night, until this happens:
"Keep not silence, and give Him no rest, Till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth." (See Isa. 62:1-7.)
8. Zion, The Mountain Of Praise
"Sing praises to the LORD, Which dwelleth in Zion: Declare among the people his doings" (Ps. 9:11).
Throughout the history of Israel there had been the occasional song of victory in the camp; but here in the Tent of David the song of praise is introduced into temple worship for the first time. Not only was the ark placed in the Tent in the midst of great rejoicing and praise, but Asaph and his brethren were appointed to minister before the ark. But something else very noteworthy happened. David even appointed singers to minister in the old Tabernacle that Moses built, which was now on the hill of Gibeon. No doubt it was very beautiful, and blessed the hearts of the people who ministered in that old structure. But the ark of Gods presence was not there, nor would it ever return to that old structure. In vain will any of Gods ministers ever restore the ark of Gods glory and presence to the old structures that have had their day, and which God lays aside when He brings forth the new. But God will always be faithful to minister to those whose hearts are open, wherever they are. And He was faithful to send Levites to Gibeon, with songs of praise, that they might hear through music and song the wonderful thing that God was doing in Zion.
And yet it is important that Gods people who have caught the vision of Zion do not look down upon those who seemingly do not have that vision. There are people all over the earth singing about the glory of Zion, and many of them do not have the slightest understanding of what they are singing about. But God often works that way! Who knows? Perhaps many of these will be more ready for the next phase of Gods temple, than some of those who have come out of the old order, and into the new. God just will not allow His people to glory over the knowledge they have, the understanding they have, or in the fact that they have come out of Babylon. As one minister said, "I used to tell people to come out of Babylon... but one day He told me that He wanted to get Babylon out of me!"
There is a solemn lesson for us all in what happened on Mount Gibeon and on Mount Zion. Abiathar the priest who clung to David in his rejection, and ministered on Zion, failed to qualify for ministry in Solomons Temple. And Zadok the priest, who was sent by David to minister in the old Tabernacle on Gibeon, became the high priest of that new and glorious temple that Solomon would build. Selah! Let us meditate on these things.
After the dedicatory burnt offerings and peace offerings that were offered on Mount Zion there is no record that blood-sacrifices were ever again offered here in this place. The old rituals would continue in the Tabernacle of Moses on Gibeon; but Zion was to become an institution that was new and distinct... and was based on a completed and finished Sacrifice, the Sacrifice that was perfect, and could never be repeated. Zion would therefore take on eternal significance; and when we come to Zion, "the city of the living God," we also come to the "blood of sprinkling," which is the once-for-all Sacrifice of Christ (Heb. 12:24). David recognized this new order, as he sang:
"I will praise the name of God with a song,
And will magnify him with thanksgiving.
This also shall please the LORD better
Than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs.
The humble shall see this, and be glad" (Ps. 69:30-32).
Before we leave this subject, let us be sure we understand what true praise really is. It is not just a big noise that we make to try to make an impression on God. Yes, there is the shout of victory in the camp of the saints, but true praise involves much more than that. Read the book of Psalms carefully and you will discover that in every line, in every sentence, in every praise that is uttered: there is wisdom, there is knowledge, there is exaltation, there is teaching, there is instruction, there is exhortation, there is repentance, there is a yearning after holiness and purity, there is a longing after God, there is a desire toward Gods people, there is lamentation for the desolation of Zion, there is prayer for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, there is perplexity in trial, there is rejoicing in triumph, there is condemnation of sin, there is a pressing forward unto righteousness, there is expectation of His glory, there is proclamation of His Kingdom. The soul of the psalmist is made bare before the LORD as he searches his heart--as God searches his heart--as he shows forth the praises of the LORD and extols His excellencies, in all of His doings toward the children of men.
Lord, teach us to praise You as we ought... lest it be said of us as was said of a disobedient people of old:
"This people... honoureth me with their lips; But their heart is far from me" (Matt. 15:8).
But may our sacrifices of praise be tempered with the oil of a broken and a contrite heart, as David prayed:
"O LORD, open thou my lips;
And my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
For thou desirest not sacrifice;
Else would I give it:
Thou delightest not in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit:
A broken and a contrite heart, O God,
Thou wilt not despise.
Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion:
Build thou the walls of Jerusalem (Ps. 51:15-18)."
THE TEMPLE OF SOLOMON
One day as David sat in his beautiful cedar home talking to Nathan the prophet, and glanced across the yard at the flimsy Tent that he had erected for the Ark of God, the thought occurred to him that he had a more comfortable and more beautiful residence than God did, and it bothered him. Turning to the prophet he said, "Lo, I dwell in an house of cedars, but the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD remaineth under curtains" (1 Chron. 17:1). Nathan understood what he meant and he encouraged David to go ahead and build a suitable dwelling place for the LORD.
However, that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan with a message for the king, which he immediately took to David. God reminded David that He had always walked with His people and moved in their midst in a simple tent-like structure, going "from tent to tent, and from one tabernacle to another." He made it clear to David that He really did not need a house of cedars to dwell in, and concluded by telling him that His purpose was really to build David a house; and that He would settle Davids son in His house and in His Kingdom forever. (See 1 Chron. 17:13-14.) The immediate promise was to Solomon, who would build the temple that David wanted to build; but the promise looks far beyond Solomon and embraces the Day of Christ, Davids greater Son, who would inherit "the sure mercies of David" and would build a Temple "not made with hands."
David was quite overwhelmed with this revelation. He came and "sat before the LORD," and in his reply to the LORD there was really nothing he could say but extol Gods great and glorious Name. He simply concluded his prayer by saying, "LORD, do as thou hast said."
The Transitional Tent Of David
In the previous chapter we talked about the Tabernacle, or the Tent of David. When the ark was on its way back to Jerusalem no doubt it was just taken for granted by the priests in Israel that it would be restored to the old tabernacle that Moses built, which was then on the hill of Gibeon. The Tent of David must have come as quite a shock to them. How could they continue to worship in the old tabernacle without the ark of the Covenant? Without the Glory? Without His Presence? But they were going to have to understand from Davids action that this was no mere "renewal" of a former institution. This was restoration to a higher order. This was something new. They were moving out of one order and into another; and the Tent of David was to be the connecting link between the old and the new, between the Tent in the Wilderness and the Temple of Solomon. It was to be preparatory to the Temple.
Transitional times are always difficult times for Gods people. It is so in the natural realm, and it is so in the spiritual. Jesus reminded us, "No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better" (Lk. 5:39). Only those with the adventurous, pioneer spirit will step forward into the unknown. As usual, men of the world are often "wiser in their generation" than the children of light. They will continue to reach forth into the realms of space, and are constantly developing new methods and new inventions to meet the challenge of the unreachable. But men in the Church sit back and feel they have everything there is to be had in the realm of the Spirit. Satan himself, with all his principalities and powers in the world of darkness, is daily bringing forth new, diabolical weapons of destruction, and using them to destroy the spirits and souls and bodies of men. But Gods people can envision nothing better than a restoration of something we had in the Church many years ago, or many centuries ago. They think it is right and scriptural for the wheat of Gods harvest fields to remain forever in a state just a little short of maturity... because, after all, no one can be perfect. Satan does not hesitate to exercise complete lordship in the lives of his subjects; but it is thought to be incredible that our Lord should exercise anything like total Lordship in the lives of those whom He has purchased with His own blood!
But I think the real reason we do not want to venture forth in response to the new vision is because we do not want to become involved with the unsettling and disturbing changes that the new vision demands. The changing of the order requires a new beginning, and a relinquishing of the old titles and deeds. And this demands a price that seems to be just too high for most people to pay. Yet real Christianity knows of no life, and no spiritual progress, except as we are prepared to lay down the life we have, and to relinquish the things we have come to prize as our very own. It is the truth of the Cross as it is enacted and reenacted in our lives, from the moment of our spiritual birth until the moment of glorification.
Where do we go from here? It might seem a lot safer if we could see the pathway clearly laid out before us... but Gods Way is the Rule of the Cloud, which we have already talked about. We must move forward when the Cloud of Gods Glory moves forward. We may not see the pathway ahead of us clearly, but we hear Him calling, and we must have confidence that "the path of the just is as a shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day."
Where are we today in Gods unfolding plan and purpose for the Church? To pinpoint our present spiritual location might be difficult; but preeminently this is a day of preparation. God is seeking to lead us in a new way. If we are assured of this, then we can rest in the midst of all the disturbing and perplexing things that we see transpiring in us and about us. Preparation was the key word in the message of John the Baptist for his day; and we believe once again it is the key word for this hour. Let us observe some of the preparatory things that had to be done for the temple that Solomon was to build.
Preparations For The Temple
"And David said, Solomon my son is young and tender, and the house that is to be builded for the LORD must be exceeding magnifical, of fame and of glory throughout all countries: I will therefore now make preparation for it" (1 Chron. 22:5).
There are living trees in the earth estimated to be as old as four thousand years or more. There they stand in stately glory, defying the changes of the seasons and of the weather today as they have done throughout the centuries. But a mushroom will grow up overnight, and perish in the heat of the sun the next day. What we are saying is that the greater the magnificence and the glory that attends Gods workmanship, the greater will be the care that He will exercise in its creation, and the more prolonged will be the time of its preparation. God will not permit His people to pressure Him into a premature and imperfect execution of His plans and purposes; because what He is doing is for His own Glory, and not for ours. In the outworking of the maturing process in our lives we must not yield to the persistent temptation to hasten forward the work of God by our own device and planning. At the same time, let us be spiritually alert to see Gods timing in our lives, lest we fail to grasp the opportunity that God affords in the fullness of His times. There is no substitute for the simple procedure of "walking with God." We might be very active and energetic in ministry and still not learn Gods ways. But if we walk with God, we will not miss out in any area of ministry that God has planned for our lives. Simeon did not just casually walk into the temple that day when the baby Jesus was presented there for dedication. Simeon was led there, because he had been walking with God. He must go to the temple that day... and he must go now. The promise of perhaps many, many years duration was to be fulfilled today! Tomorrow he may die... but today he must see the Messiah! He could not miss it! God would not let him miss it!
The Preparation Of The Site
"Then David said, This is the house of the LORD God, and this is the altar of the burnt offering for Israel" (1 Chron. 22:1).
It was the threshing floor of Oman the Jebusite, where David had offered up burnt offerings and peace offerings to eliminate the plague that had come upon Israel through Davids folly. We do not know how Satan had gained this foothold in David. At any rate the ransom money had not been collected from the people when David took the census, and God had already warned that a plague might fall if this was not done. (See Ex. 30:12-16.) But God in mercy revealed to David his sin, and also the solution. David obeyed and set up an altar on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite which he purchased from Ornan for 600 shekels of gold. Now it was this plot of ground that was to become the site of the exceedingly magnificent Temple of Solomon. David said, "This is the house of the LORD God, and this is the altar of burnt offering." It was a proclamation of faith--God had declared this to be His plan, and therefore it was so. It had yet to become manifest. The preparation of the site was extremely important. It was the place of the burnt offering. It is believed to have been the very spot upon which Abraham had offered up Isaac as a burnt offering many centuries earlier. But now in Davids time it had become a threshing floor. The Temple of Solomon was to be erected on a harvest floor. It would also be dedicated on the occasion of the Feast of Tabernacles, when the nation had gathered in their wines and oils, and had reaped their harvest. The early Church was really the seed Church. True it was inaugurated at Pentecost, which was the Feast of Harvest, but it was really a "firstfruits" harvest. The final harvest would be in the seventh month on the occasion of the Feast of Tabernacles, which was the Feast of Ingathering. The "glorious Church"--not having spot, or wrinkle, or blemish, or any such thing--is the harvest Church. The great winnowing fan of the Harvester is in the hands of the Husbandman, Who has patiently waited for "the precious fruit of the earth." The fire has been kindled to destroy the chaff of the threshing floor. Then He will gather the grain into His garner--grain that has come to full maturity and perfection, just like the good seed that was planted in the earth almost 2,000 years ago, when our Lord Jesus was faithful as the "corn of wheat" to "fall into the ground and die."
Preparation Of The Man
"And David said to Solomon, My son, as for me, it was in my mind to build an house unto the name of the LORD my God; but the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build an house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight. Behold, a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about: for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days. He shall build an house for my name" (1 Chron. 22:7-10).
Great conflicts have raged through the centuries as God sent forth His truth in the earth and the haters of truth resisted it. This is inevitable, as light has no communion with darkness. However, it is most regrettable that Gods messengers of truth should so often have yielded to the temptation to propagate their message by carnal warfare. We realize that God did ordain Israel to fight His battles on many occasions in the Old Testament, for they were Gods own weapons to execute His judgments upon corrupt and idolatrous nations. But it must not be so with you and me in this day of the New Covenant, when the people of God have been given a mandate, and spiritual weapons, to wage warfare in the realm of the Spirit... and in that realm only. He who builds in the Temple of God must be a man of peace.
Man has always sought to perpetuate the old order for his own glory, but sooner or later it will come to nought; and we do not have to attempt to tear it down. Now Solomons brother Adonijah exalted himself, saying, "I will be king." He was Davids son too, and he is described as being "a very goodly man." He had Joab on his side, who was the general of Davids army. He also had Abiathar with him, who was Davids high priest. Surely with such great men behind him Adonijah would succeed in his efforts to perpetuate the Davidic era. "Behold, Adonijah reigneth" they shouted. His name means, "JAH is my Lord." He, too, would honor the true God of Israel. We are told that they slew oxen and fat cattle and sheep in abundance, and all the kings sons were invited to the feast. (All except Solomon, of course--the builders of religion always reject the chief corner stone.) And what did Solomon do about it? Nothing!
David was notified of the conspiracy and before he died he proclaimed Solomon to be king of Israel with the blessing of Zadok the priest, and of Nathan the prophet. No need for Solomon to stand up for his rights. When he became king he would judge righteously, and with power, authority and wisdom. But he would not seek to establish himself in that position. He, as his name means, would simply rest in the plan and purpose of God. And he, the man of peace, would build a temple which was to become Gods place of rest... but of course it was only a type and shadow of the true Temple yet to come, a Temple not made with hands.
Preparation Of The Materials
"Now, behold, in my trouble I have prepared for the house of the LORD a hundred thousand talents of gold, and a thousand thousand talents of silver; and of brass and iron without weight; for it is in abundance: timber also and stone have I prepared; and thou mayest add thereto" (1 Chron. 22:14).
In this time of transition Gods people everywhere are in a state of trouble and unrest; and oftentimes in the midst of their trouble, they do not understand that God is shaking the old systems in preparation for His new order. Like David in his trouble, we would like to get away from it all...
"And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove!
For then would I fly away, and be at rest.
Lo, then would I wander far off,
And remain in the wilderness. Selah" (Ps. 55:6-7).
But David soon discovered that running away from it all accomplished nothing either, it simply brought him into still greater dangers:
"How say ye to my soul,
Flee as a bird to your mountain?
For lo, the wicked bend their bow,
They make ready their arrow upon the string,
That they may privily shoot
At the upright in heart" (Ps. 11:1-2).
God help us to see that in our trouble we can prepare spiritual gold and silver and timber for a dwelling place for the Most High! God help us to see that a change of environment cannot change the situation, And that no matter where we go, or what we do, the archer is there with his bow to shoot us down and to molest. We must know and understand that we have "the shield of faith" whereby we can "quench all the fiery darts of the evil one."
Preparation Of Priest And Levite
"For David said, The LORD God of Israel hath given rest unto his people, that they may dwell in Jerusalem for ever: and also unto the Levites; they shall no more carry the tabernacle, nor any vessels of it for the service thereof" (1 Chron. 23:25-26).
God has a rest for His people. Solomon was to be a man of rest. The priesthood was to be a priesthood of rest. Some fear that this could make for ease and carelessness. The truth is, when we enter into Gods rest we will become more active in the Spirit, even as we are ceasing "from our own works." No longer will we be moving from one desert oasis to another, always looking for something beyond our grasp. For God has promised...
"Thou shalt bring them in,
And plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance,
In the place, O LORD,
Which thou hast made for thee to dwell in,
In the Sanctuary, O Lord,
Which thy hands have established" (Ex. 15:17).
In this realm there is constant abiding in Him. The springs which once blessed our soul for a season and then wasted away in the desert sands, flow eternally from the heart of God because on the mountain of His inheritance we have come to the source of the springs. In Gods Zion we can say, "All my springs are found in thee." No longer is the Tabernacle a "burden" to carry, and the vessels are no longer "burdens" of ministration in Gods house. Rather we become those vessels in whom He dwells, and through whom He flows forth in blessing to others.
Preparation Of The Officers
The officers of Solomons kingdom had served faithfully in the kingdom of Saul, but it only brought them to disillusionment and distress. Their real training was in company with David as they wandered about the hillsides of Judaea, unrecognized by the realm of Saul, the offscouring of the earth. Jesus said, "Every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my names sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life" (Matt. 19:29). You will not learn the principles of discipleship in seminars and institutions of learning. You will only learn true discipleship as you take His yoke upon you, and walk with Him in His rejection. Let us consider some of the qualifying degrees of the officers of the kingdom. (See 1 Chron. 27.)
Jashobeam. How did he qualify for a place in Solomons kingdom? He suffered rejection with David, and became one of Davids mighty men. Single-handedly he slew 300 men with a spear. We know little more than this about the man. But he became the officer over the first course, for the first month, in Solomons kingdom; and he had 24,000 men under his command.
Dodai. How did he qualify? He suffered with David in his rejection, and on one occasion, he "saved a parcel of ground full of barley" as the Philistines tried to take it. How tremendous! He saved a barley field! The things which seem insignificant in our eyes are often of great importance in the sight of God. And so Dodai the Ahohite, Davids mighty man that saved a barley field, became the officer over the second course, in the kingdom of Solomon; and he had 24,000 men under his command.
Benaiah. What did he do? He followed David in his rejection, and on one occasion, he slew a lion in the midst of a pit. On another occasion he slew an imposing looking Egyptian, and his only weapon was a stick in his hand. Oh, how God yearns over His people that they might discover His ways! When are we going to get away from the notion that every time the Enemy challenges the people of God, we have got to come forth and meet the challenge with equal kinds of weapons and with equal strategy? In obedience to God, and with nothing but the dry stick that we are, the devices of the Enemy become his own destruction.
What is that in your hand, Moses? Just a staff... just a stick. But as he walked in obedience before the LORD, he would take that stick, and in his hand it would become the very rod of God to deliver a nation from her bondage, to smite Egypt with all manner of judgments, and to open up the Red Sea that the people of God might march over.
What is that in your hand, Shamgar? Just an ox-goad... just a stick! I work with oxen, and I use the ox-goad as I go about my daily, menial tasks. But as he walked in obedience, and moved in faith, the ox-goad became the rod of God in his hand, by which he slew the enemies of God and delivered His people.
What is that in your hand, Benaiah? Just a stick! But prompted by the Spirit of God the stick in his hand became the rod of God, by which he would strike the Egyptian, rob him of his spear, and then slay the Egyptian with the Egyptians own spear.
All these men had was a stick. And by nature that is all we have--it is all we are. But in the boldness of faith and confidence in God we shall learn, as we continue to walk in fellowship with our David, that once again God is going to use the foolish things to confound the wisdom of the wise and to bring to nought the things that are. It is the secret of the Cross that we must learn. It was "through death" that Christ destroyed "him that had the power of death," and brought the kingdom of Satan to nought.
Davids mighty men are not striving for a place of leadership, or trying to produce for themselves a great ministry. They are simply weary of the old ways of Saul, and they follow David out of love for him. They are not opportunists. They are not out to save their own lives. They are not looking for an office or a position in the Church. They are willing to risk their lives in order to bring a cup of cool, refreshing water from the fountain of Bethlehem to their thirsty king... and then stand by and watch their king waste it, by pouring it on the ground. "Why this waste?" the disciples said, as they watched Mary of Bethany break the alabaster box, and pour its contents on the Lord Jesus. But God wants us to know that nothing is wasted that is done out of love for Him foolish as it may seem in the eyes of men.
Preparation Of The Plan Of The Temple
"Then David gave to Solomon his son
The pattern of the porch,
And of the houses thereof,
And of the treasuries thereof,
And of the upper chambers thereof,
And of the inner parlours thereof,
And of the place of the mercy seat,
And the pattern of all that he had by the Spirit,
Of the courts of the house of the LORD,
And of all the chambers round about,
Of the treasuries of the house of God,
And of the treasuries of the dedicated things" (1 Chron. 28:11-12).
As Moses was taken up into the mountain and given the pattern of the Tabernacle, so David was given the pattern of the new Temple by the Spirit--no doubt as he sat before the LORD in the Tabernacle of David. But though the pattern of the new Temple was given to him, he was not permitted to build it, nor did he attempt to do so. We need to learn this lesson well. All over the earth Christian leaders are eagerly trying to rebuild the Church in a vain attempt to bring it back to New Testament pattern and order, and it is all in vain. God has something better in mind than the Tabernacle of David, something better in mind than the early Church. Gods plan is a Church that has come to perfect fruit--"a glorious Church"--not having spot or wrinkle or blemish, or any such thing. Admittedly there are eternal principles in the early Temple which must be incorporated into the latter Temple. But its structure will be different-far different. Let us be content to do just what we know God wants us to do in this hour. Let us just walk in the Spirit, and allow the Master Builder to build His own Church.
We have gone into considerable detail concerning the preparation that David made for the new era, and rightly so. Preparation we believe is the key word for this hour. Those who have the vision of what God is doing, and are pursuing it... they know and understand, at least in part, the solemn implications of the word preparation. Many others, who feel they are already prepared, are zealously trying to build something that eventually God will have to tear down.
Now let us consider the order of the Solomon era, with particular reference to:
1. The Order Of The Temple.
2. The Order Of The Kingdom.
1. The Order Of The Temple
The Gathering Of The Leaders
I am always suspicious of these leadership and shepherding conferences that abound in the land today... concerned that in many cases it may be another Adonijah coup... and wondering if perhaps God may have hidden away his chosen ones whom He is grooming for this hour, and they are not even known or recognized as yet. But of course we know Gods plan will not fail, and that He is doing a secret work in the earth which will not be manifest until Gods appointed hour. David numbered the Levites from the age of 30 years and upward (1 Chron. 23:3), in preparation for service in the new temple. And we believe that God is numbering a people in this hour for His new order. There were both Levites and princes of the sanctuary. The Levites were the helpers of the priests, a sort of deacon ministry in the Old Testament order. "Their office was to wait on the sons of Aaron for the service of the house of the LORD" (1 Chron. 23:28). The deacon ministry is great in Gods eyes, because if one accepts it gracefully and uses it well, God gives them a degree. Paul says they may "purchase to themselves a good degree" (1 Tim. 3:13). But they cannot purchase this degree with money, or by political wire-pulling. It is a degree for faithfulness. The word "degree" means "a step upward." Philip the deacon took the lower, menial task, and God enlarged his ministry into one of evangelism and miracles. Likewise Stephen, one of the seven deacons in the Church at Jerusalem, became a teacher of great wisdom, and the first martyr mentioned by name, in the early Church. But even as Gods deacons come to enlargement in ministry, they are still deacons at heart. It ought to be a characteristic of all Gods people, including all ministers; for Jesus Himself "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister".... and the word used is the same as "deacon."
The "chief men" of the priesthood were called "governors [or princes] of the sanctuary" (1 Chron. 24:5). There were 24 such princes, 16 from the line of Eleazar, and eight from the line of Ithamar. They were not elected by the people. God has never authorized a democratic order for His people in any age, and certainly not for His Church. These princes or governors were designated for their course of duty by "lot." But this does not mean it was a case of "chance." The secret ballot is intended to assure that the will of man be done--in the church, and in the world. The lot, as directed by the Lord, is to assure that Gods will be done. Because,
"The lot is cast into the lap;
But the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD" (Prov. 16:33).
We are not suggesting that we go back to the use of the lot that was used in Old Testament times. God has something better than that for us and that is that the Holy Spirit be given His Lordship in the midst of His people, and when He is Lord He will be faithful to clearly reveal Gods will for the government of the House of God. "Government" is as clearly a gift and ministration of the Spirit, as are miracles, healings, tongues, prophecies, and so forth (1 Cor. 12:28). And God will yet displace this democratic system that we have in the Church, as well as in the world.
Notice in this new order that there were 24 priestly princes of the sanctuary. These correspond with the 24 elders in the book of Revelation, where we have the Revelation of Jesus Christ in His Church. (See Rev. 4:4.) John saw them clothed in white raiment (in priestly garments); but they had on their heads crowns of gold (denoting a royal office). And so we have 12 times two; and we are going to come across these numbers often in Solomons Temple, as well as in the book of Revelation. The number 12 is related to government and rulership; and the number two is related to the corporate relationship in the Body of Christ. And so we hear the 24 elders singing a new song:
"[Thou] hast made us unto our God Kings and priests:
And we shall reign on the earth" (Rev. 5:10).
And though some versions read, "Thou hast made them kings and priests," they were nevertheless singing on behalf of redeemed men in their representative office as kings and priests.
The Musicians Of The Temple
Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun were ordained as the leaders in song and praise; and those under their leadership were set apart unto the priestly ministry of song. They were to "prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals" (1 Chron. 25:1). These musicians were not performers or entertainers, they were singing prophets. They did not stand up to entertain and do a number to the acclaim and applause of the congregation. They "prophesied according to the order of the king." Now Asaph means "gatherer," and Gods Asaphs have a ministry in the Spirit to gather the people of God together in harmony and in union with the King. Heman means "faithful," for that is all that God requires of any man, or any musician; not natural talent... not greatness... not success... not achievement but faithfulness. Jeduthun means "Choir of Praise." For Gods people were given names at birth that pointed to some characteristic or aspect of their future life and calling. This Levite would lead a Choir of Praise in prophetic song, in the house of the LORD. They were not chosen because they had special talent. They were born into the families of these men; and whether they were great or small, teacher or scholar, they must submit to the lot that set them apart for this service. It was God who set them in their course. Again we are told there were 24 courses with 12 in each course, for a total of 288 who ministered in prophetic song and music in the house of the LORD.
In the New Testament Church, the "psalm" finds its place in spiritual ministry, along with "a doctrine, a tongue, a revelation, an interpretation..." (1 Cor. 14:26). And so in this way it is the Lord Himself who sings praises unto God "in the midst of the Church" (Heb. 2:12). Zephaniah said that God would rejoice over His people "with singing" (Zeph. 3:17; see also Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).
Paul speaks of "spiritual songs." They are not spiritual songs because they happen to mention God or Heaven or the Bible. They are songs that are born of the Spirit, And the time must come when songs that are born of the Spirit will be freely used by the people of God when they come together. If God gave these songs, they are His, and do not belong to that particular person who happened to receive them. They are really prophetic songs designed of the Lord to bring forth thoughtful meditation in the minds of the people; not designed to activate their feet but to penetrate their hearts, to melt them in His presence, to humble them before the majesty of the King, and to enlarge their vision concerning Gods purpose for His people. That is why all through the Psalms we find that little word "Selah" so often; for the songs are designed to produce thoughtful meditation. As if to say, "Just pause a moment... and think this over..." One wonders where you might insert a "Selah" in many of our "spiritual songs" today. The book of Psalms means the book of Praises. It was the hymnal of Solomons Temple, and also of the restored temple after the Captivity. By this time many other psalms were added to the original 72 that were ascribed to David, covering the period following the destruction of Jerusalem. They were psalms that were born of the Spirit as men of God poured out their hearts before the Lord, and sang of the trials and tribulations and triumphs of a life lived in fellowship with God.
Gods people have always been fraught with many perplexities and many questions, and the book of Psalms is therefore filled with many questions. The answer that God gives may not always satisfy the disobedient or the proud... but it always satisfies the one whose trust and confidence is in God. Perhaps as the Temple Choir sang forth these prophetic utterances, part of the choir would sing the question, while another part would sing forth the answer. And then together in unison they would exalt the LORD in great anthems of praise and worship. The book of Psalms is therefore once again coming forth as the hymnal of the Church, which is the true Temple of God in the earth. And this hymnal is quite up to date: "Why do the heathen rage? Why do the people imagine vain things? My soul is sore vexed, but thou, O LORD, how long? Why standest thou afar off, O LORD? Why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble? How long shall mine enemy be exalted over me? My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me? My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God... when shall I come and appear before God? Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted in me?"
But in each case God has a satisfying answer to those who love Him, and whose hearts are open to Him...
The Divisions Of The Porters
1 Chronicles 26
The porters were the doorkeepers of the house of God. Theirs was a very simple ministry, but very important. They were to guard the doors of Gods house, to keep out and to let in. They must guard the various treasure rooms of the temple as well as open the doors for the priest and Levite who must enter certain rooms in the course of their ministry. Their place of appointment was likewise determined by "lot." It was God who set them in their place. (Here again we have 12 times two: 24 porters.) We do not know the significance of all these doors, but here the Levites stood at the threshold to open and to close the doors as necessary. The priests must go in to minister unto the Lord, and they must come out to minister unto the people. God has purposely designed His Temple so that we are not able to minister effectively as an individualist. That is why the strong, individualistic type of minister is going to find it increasingly difficult to flow together with Gods anointed people in this hour, when God sends forth the river of life from the threshold of the Temple. There must come a melting if we are going to flow in the River of God.
As we learn to minister in the Spirit we recognize how important the ministry of the doorkeeper really is. We come to recognize that we cannot minister effectively unless the door has been opened into one of Gods treasure rooms. And very often it is one of these doorkeepers who has opened the door and enabled us to see some of Gods treasures, and bring them forth to His people. Or we may seek to peer through the crack in the door, dimly catching a glimpse of something; then a doorkeeper turns the key, and for the first time we see it more clearly, The Levite who opens the door may not get any particular credit for this, but he is only seeking the welfare of the Body of Christ, and this becomes his reward. He cannot boast of having done very much, compared to some of the laborers in the fields. Evidently his task was considered to be rather menial, prompting the psalmist to say:
"I had rather be a doorkeeper In the house of my God, Than to dwell in the tents of wickedness" (Ps. 84:10).
Therefore let the doorkeepers in the house of the LORD rejoice in that God is using them: to bring forth His presence in the midst of the congregation, to open doors that lead to true worship and praise, to make way for the choir of praise to flow forth in spiritual songs to the LORD, or to open the door for one of His priests to go in and explore the "spoils of battle" or some treasure of truth that may lie concealed in the inner parlors. And so let the doorkeepers "lift up the gates" that the King of Glory may come in:
"Lift up your heads, O ye gates;
And be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors;
And the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The LORD strong and mighty,
The LORD mighty in battle" (Ps. 24:7-8).
The Treasure Rooms
The Temple was made with storehouses to guard the treasures of the house of God and of the dedicated things. The spoils of battle, won in many wars against the enemies of the LORD from the days of Samuel and afterward, were stored away in the various buildings connected with the Temple compound, and guarded by the doorkeepers. Jesus is going to "divide the spoil with the strong." Canaan was Gods land, intended for Gods people, but it was inhabited by seven mighty nations. It was Gods plan for His people to subdue the mighty, and take the spoil of the land for themselves. We stand amazed sometimes at the knowledge and wisdom and power that evil principalities exercise over the minds and souls and bodies of people. It is a usurped authority, and a perverted wisdom and knowledge. And when Gods people "take the kingdom," Satan is thereby robbed of his power and wisdom, and his kingdom is spoiled in the lives of the people he held in bondage. Let us cherish the treasures of truth that have been won on the battlefields of the past. God is doing a new thing, I know. But the faithful scribe will continue to bring forth out of his treasures, "things new and old."
In the days of Nehemiah, the priest had become so tolerant with the enemy that he actually prepared a housekeeping apartment for Tobiah in the very place that was intended for the treasures of oil and wine and frankincense, and the meal offerings. This made Nehemiah so angry that he went into the Temple and dumped all of Tobiahs furniture outdoors, and brought in again the vessels of the house of God, and the meal offerings, and the frankincense (Neh. 13:8).
The "mystery of iniquity" was at work in Pauls day in the Temple of God, in the very midst of Gods people. God hasten the day when His people stop looking over to old Jerusalem for a temple, and for the man of sin sitting in it. You will find the man of sin where Gods people are. You will find him in the Temple, in the place of Gods habitation. You will find him wherever and whenever there is a moving of the Spirit of God toward the restoration and refurnishing of Gods true Temple, not made with hands. He is right there, ready to set up housekeeping. Not because he wants to worship God, but because he wants to hinder and frustrate true worship... the worship that ascends as frankincense from Gods people... the worship that comes forth in Spirit and in Truth.
Let us cast out all this household stuff of Tobiah. His name means, "God is good." But dont let slogans like this fool you. We must get to know the spirit behind the words that are spoken, and the front that is presented; for he professes to love God, but he wants to take Gods place in the Temple. The ultimate Antichrist will rise up in the Temple, which is the Church of the Living God. The spirit of Antichrist has been in the Church from the beginning. John the apostle recognized him, and Paul recognized him, and in the latter day Church God wants us to recognize him (2 Thess. 2:7; l Jn. 2:18-19). The anointed people of the last days will recognize him, and drive him out. But the apostate Church will be deceived by his flatteries, and allow him to "sit in the Temple of God."
Antichrist means against Christ... but it also means instead of Christ. Our only safeguard is in the anointing--the anointing which is Truth--Who alone can keep us free from the seductions of the Enemy. (See l Jn. 2:27.) It is not enough that Gods people receive certain charismatic gifts and blessings. We must become an anointed people, born of the Spirit, filled with the Spirit, led of the Spirit, baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire, walking in the sevenfold Spirit of God. And as we assemble in the Name of the Lord, the Holy Spirit will be in charge to take the things of Christ and make them known to us. We must begin very earnestly to make way for the Lordship of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and in our gatherings. If there is singing, let it be the song of the Lord, born of the Spirit, and flowing forth by Gods Spirit to admonish and teach Gods people, and not to entertain them. If there is ministry in the Word, let it be "the oracle of God"--that living Word that God has for His people in this hour--and not something that has been studied out intellectually and given forth with the art of rhetoric. If there is to be a healing, may there be the love and compassion of Christ Who is there to administer the healing, and not a display of the power of a charismatic man of God. If there is teaching, let it be "meat in due season" to feed the hungry, and to enlighten the eyes of the blind with the eyesalve of illumination and insight into the mysteries of God.
Let us cast forth all this household stuff of Tobiah out of the chambers of the House of God! And while we know and expect that there will be an ultimate Antichrist taking a firm hold on an apostate Church, let us recognize that his spirit is there now... the mystery is already at work... and we can only resist him by the power and anointing and presence of the Lord Jesus in our hearts and lives, and in our gatherings in His Name.
2. The Order Of The Kingdom
1 Chronicles 27
The Officers Of The Kingdom
We have already mentioned the names of three of these officers, the men who had followed David in his rejection and who had come to a place of rulership in the new order. But there were 12 such officers, each having 24,000 men under their charge. We are told that these served the king "in any matter" as they came in and went out month by month, according to the 12 courses. There were therefore 12 times 24,000, or 288,000 officers; and again we have their spiritual counterpart in the book of Revelation:
"And I heard the number of them Which were sealed:
And there were sealed an 144,000
Of all the tribes of the children of Israel"(Rev. 7:4).
"And I looked, And, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, And with him a 144,000,
Having his Fathers name
Written in their foreheads" (Rev. 14:1).
And so adding these two companies together, we have 288,000, which corresponds to the 288,000 officers in the kingdom of Solomon. Whether these numbers are literal numbers, or symbolic, we do not need to speculate. But they are the overcomers. They have gone beyond gift and ministry as such, and now they minister out from their relationship with the Lamb. In union with Christ they can do anything He wants them to do, simply because in themselves they can do nothing. They are utterly dependent upon their Lord, even as He was utterly dependent upon the Father when He walked this earth.
We must remember that the angel made known the Revelation to John in "signs." He used "sign" language as he spoke to John-the message was "SIGN-ified" unto him. We do not have to conclude, therefore, that the numbers mentioned are necessarily literal numbers. But either way, they are significant numbers. They speak of governmental authority and rulership (12 times 12); and they minister out from the holy of holies, which in the Tabernacle measured ten times ten times ten cubits, which equals 1,000. (Half the linen tent covered the holiest of all, and so being 20 cubits wide it would have covered ten cubits over the top, and ten cubits down the back, and the other half of the tent would have covered the holy place, with the golden clasps holding the sections together over the four pillars. See Ex. 36:9-13.) We have shown previously how the number "two" speaks of a corporate relationship; so we have 144 times 1,000 times two, which equals 288,000. For the Body of Christ, the true Israel, is a new entity composed of both the natural Israel and the wild olive branches, brought together in the one good olive tree. The middle wall of partition which once separated them has been broken down by the Cross, and Christ has made "in himself of twain, one new man, so making peace" (Eph. 2:11-15). This is the true Israel, yet still comprised of the twelve tribes on a higher plane. It is not our purpose in this study to pursue the meanings of the names of the tribes. But let us take note that when John gives the list of the tribes, the tribe of Dan is excluded, and in his place we have the tribe of Manasseh. Are we to suppose that there is no room for Dan in the true Israel? And why is Manasseh mentioned as well as Joseph? For the line of Joseph includes both Ephraim and Manasseh. I can only conclude that God is showing us that in this new overcoming Israel, the "serpent" nature has finally been eradicated; for of Dan it was said, "Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path" (Gen. 49:17). And by inserting Manasseh God is showing how there has come into the midst of His people total deliverance from the serpent in the sin-conscience, for Manasseh means "Cause to Forget." This new Israel has the fruitfulness of Joseph through Ephraim his son, which means "double-fruitfulness." But to come to this, there has to be a Manasseh: a forgetting of those things which are behind. We cannot come into the place of total victory in Christ until there has been a cleansing and a purging; not only of the serpent of Dan, but from the very remembrance of it all. The serpent of our fallen nature, with all its shame, its frustrations, its failures, is completely swallowed up by the Rod of Aaron (which became a serpent even as Christ was made sin for us). There is no condemnation to them which are "in Christ Jesus," not only because of the blood of Jesus which was shed on the Cross, but because of the cleansing and purging ministration of the Spirit in our hearts, Who is faithful to apply the cleansing of the Blood to our hearts. We cannot emphasize enough that the Holy Spirit witnesses to the perfect cleansing that is available in the Blood; and that the reason there is so much uncleanness in our hearts and minds is because the Holy Spirit is not given His due Lordship in our lives and in our gatherings together in His Name. And when we as Gods people, through the workings of Gods grace in our midst, return to the Fountain of Life and the Spirit of God flows once again in the midst of His people, there will be a perfect cleansing from all sin for the heart and mind and conscience of Gods people. This cleansing is there for us in the Precious Blood of Christ, and the Spirit of God will bear witness to it, as we give Him His Lordship.
Let us consider briefly the character of these overcoming ones. Sealed with the seal of God in their foreheads. Its about time we lift our foreheads to God to receive His seal, instead of talking so much about the mark of the Beast! The mark of the Lamb of God will make us totally immune to the mark of the Dragon!
The mark and seal of the Lamb of God is the mind of Christ. They are preserved in the hour of judgment on the earth and the sea.
The serpent is now under their feet, even as was promised to those who are in Christ (Rom. 16:20).
The past is under the Blood, and the Spirit of God in their lives has purged them not only from the serpent, but from the very remembrance of his curse.
They have followed the Lamb, even into their heritage in the heavenlies, and stand with Him on Mount Zion... yet even as they find their place there, they walk in the midst of men, without blemish, without fault, as virgins in His sight.
It is a high and holy calling but to these overcomers it is more. They are "called, and chosen, and faithful" (Rev. 17:14). In union with the Son they have partaken of the Fathers nature. Therefore the Fathers Name is in their foreheads... not blasphemously spelled out in some earthly language, nor visible to the eyes of men among whom they walk... but spelled out in the language of the Spirit, by the imprint of the Fathers nature and character in their lives. Jesus said, "I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it [will make it known]: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them" (Jn. 17:26).
They are not only born of God, they are thoroughly disciplined as His sons, and conformed to the image of the Only Begotten. Therefore they have His very nature and character.
"And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the 144,000, which were redeemed from the earth" (Rev. 14:3).
They are "firstfruits" unto God and to the Lamb. Christ is the "firstfruits" (1 Cor. 15:23). But these are in union with Him, and are therefore a class of "firstfruits""a kind of firstfruits" (Jas. 1:18).
They are a people that are totally victorious over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name. They were not caught away from the battle. They have fought a good fight and have kept the faith in the midst of the battle. They are not escapees or deserters. They confronted these evil hosts head-on, and overcame... not in their own strength, but by "the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony."
They are true witnesses (Gr. "martus," from which we get our word "martyr"). "They loved not their lives unto the death" (Rev. 12:11). At times they may have walked away from death, if that was Gods will, as Jesus did (Jn. 7:1). But they gladly returned to the place of death, in obedience to the Father, as Jesus did (Jn. 11:7-8). In either case they walked in Gods will, and did not hesitate to choose death, if they knew this was pleasing to the Father (Heb. 11:35). They were not looking for an easy escape from tribulation, because they knew they were "appointed" to tribulation (1 Thess. 3:4); and because they desired to be companions with the heirs of the Kingdom, they desired also to be companions in tribulation (Rev. 1:9). These are the ones who stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God, and singing the song of Moses and of the Lamb--the Song of Victory.
The Rulers Of The Tribes
Here again there are 12 rulers over the 12 tribes. The names of the 12 tribes are inscribed on the gates of the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, which is said to be "the bride, the Lambs wife." (See Rev. 2 1:2, 9, 12.) And the names of the 12 apostles of the Lamb are inscribed on the 12 foundations of the wall of the City. (See Rev. 21:14.) And so there is a very close identity between the Holy City (which is the Bride of Christ), and the heads of the 12 tribes, and the 12 apostles of the Lamb. Jesus promised his apostles, "Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matt. 19:28). Jesus calls this new phase of the Kingdom of God (after the resurrection) "the regeneration." But the spirit of that new day is something we partake of now, in the "washing of regeneration" (Titus 3:5), the same word that Jesus used in Matthew 19:28. It is the same energy and power working in His people now, the resurrection life of our Lord Jesus, that will "make all things new" in the "regeneration" that Jesus spoke about. (See also Rev. 2 1:5.) The same power that "worketh in us" that will eventually change us from mortality to immortality, and subdue all Gods enemies under the feet of Christ (Eph. 3:20; Phil. 3:21). For the powers available to us now, really are the "the powers of the world to come" (Heb. 6:5).
Then just where do we draw the line, between Gods provision for us in this life and what is available for us in the next? All I can say is, the line is far, far beyond our most hopeful prayers and desires, as the apostle said (Eph. 3:20). Going beyond Gods provision for us has never been Gods problem, but ours. Gods earnest longing for His people is not: "Beware, lest you try to go farther than I want to lead you," but rather, "Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it" (Heb. 4:1). This is Gods great concern! Dont fall short of Gods desire! There is no danger you might appropriate more than He has in mind for you. But let there be no presumption here, For the promises of God are not appropriated by carnal, presumptuous faith. You can only go on with God into the realms and depths of His love and truth, as you walk with Him in the pathway of total commitment and discipleship, loving not your life, even unto death. Like Abraham, we just keep "looking for the City..." And as we "look for it," the vision of it and the longing for it gives us new perspective, and new hope. The things of this world lose their lustre in the light of the City of God, the New Jerusalem, which will yet come down from God out of Heaven. For "we look for new heavens, and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."
The Stewards Of The Kings Property
The kings property was divided into 12 categories, with one steward in charge of each class of labor or industry. (See 1 Chron. 27:25-31.) These were:
1. The Kings Treasures.
2. The Storehouses.
3. The Cultivators.
4. The Vineyards.
5. The Wine Cellars.
6. The Orchards.
7. The Oil Cellars.
8. The Herds Of Sharon.
9. The Herds Of The Valleys.
10. The Camels.
11. The Asses.
12. The Flocks Of Sheep.
We will only briefly touch on these.
1. The Kings Treasures. Paul called himself a steward of "the mysteries of God." God wants His treasures to be distributed. Not at random, of course, but the steward will distribute the treasures according to the direction of the King. The truths of the Kingdom of God are called "mysteries," which simply means that they are "secrets." And these secrets are to be made known only to those whose hearts have been prepared to receive them. So what can we do but meditate upon them, write about them, talk about them, and trust God to open up the hearts of His people to receive the Word that God wants them to hear. Jesus Himself spoke in parables to the people; but He could only speak to them "as they were able to hear it" (Mk. 4:33).
2. The Storehouses. These were scattered throughout the land: in the fields, cities, villages, and towers. God has stewards for these also--to dispense these treasures to His people. Jehonathan was in charge of this, and we suspect that he was quite a popular man. He had riches to give to the people in their time of need. Asmaveth was just in charge of the Kings Treasures. Perhaps there was not too many who knew what riches he had in his trust. And what difference did it make? It was only for the King anyway--or so they thought. They were not interested in those far-out things! (At least this is the response we get sometimes, as we seek to relate to Gods people those things which "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard," the things that "God hath prepared for them that love him.")
3. The Cultivators. Ezri was over the cultivators. Not too glorious a task, but at least everyone in Israel recognized that it was a very important task. That is more than can be said for Gods cultivators in the Church. Plowing the ground? Why waste your time on that? Get out into the fields where you can reap without any plowing! Invariably the evangelist gets the credit for what is harvested--and many times no one knows anything about the plowmen that went before and dug up the soil. Invariably the cultivator is considered to be wasting his time--and he too weeps over his futile efforts.
But in the end we can be assured that...
"The tears of the sower, And the song of the reaper, Will mingle together, in joy bye and bye..."
4. The Vineyards; 5. The Wine Cellars; 6. The Orchards; 7. The Oil Cellars. We will speak about these together, because they are somewhat related. God has in His Kingdom those who are qualified to bring forth the wine and the oil in the midst of His people.
"Wine that maketh glad the heart of man,
And oil to make his face to shine" (Ps. 104:15).
There are those who shine with the glory of Gods presence, and who bring the "glad tidings" of the Gospel to those in prison-houses of sin and darkness; those who can bring a spirit of rejoicing in the place of heaviness. The plowman may not be able to do that, nor is he to come under condemnation for his failure to do so.
Then there is the man in the wine cellar. His job is to pour the wines from one vessel to another, to drain off the dregs that the purest wine might come forth. He is entirely out of sight of the people. But he is very necessary if the people of God are going to remain fresh and full of life. Moabs problem was that he "hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel, neither hath he gone into captivity: therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent is not changed" (Jer. 48:11). And so God said He would send pourers into their midst. I believe this must speak of true fellowship in the Spirit. To remain tightly sealed and preserved in our own little bottle makes for stagnation and sickliness. There must be a pouring forth unto others, a sharing one with another. Not just so much talk, but opening up the heart to one another as God may lead: in confession, in exhortation, in an acknowledgment of some aspect of Gods goodness or of His dealings. This in turn will bring forth a pouring from others. And so we give and receive, and give again. We are not talking about idle talk one with another, not everyone giving their little sermon. But an open, face-to-face, heart-to-heart ministration of the Spirit. We will not leave such gatherings the way we came, with the same taste, the same scent.
We cannot manufacture this type of fellowship, but we need to recognize our need for it, and ask the Lord to pour us from vessel to vessel that there might be the joy of the Lord in our midst, and the oil of His anointing.
8. The Herds Of Sharon; 9. The Herds Of The Valleys; 10. The Camels; 11. The Asses; 12. The Flocks Of Sheep. Here again we will speak of these together, so as to compare or contrast the one with the other.
The camels and the asses were the burden-bearers. Both were important: the asses for the smaller, local trips; and the camels for the long desert journeys to lands afar off. Their burdens may have been heavy and their trials very severe, but they were suited and equipped for the task. The keepers of the flocks and herds had a different task, and they could not take the place of the others. They must feed the cattle and the sheep to provide the food and clothing for the kings household. Sharon was famous for its rich pasture lands, and the name has taken on prophetic significance for Gods people:
"And Sharon shall be a fold of flocks, And the valley of Achor a place For the herds to lie down in, For my people that have sought me" (Isa. 65:10).
Herds of Sharon, and Herds of the Valley! God has His herds in both. Not only does He feed His own in the rich pasture lands of Sharon, but also in the valley of Achor. Now Sharon means "plain." And we might be inclined at times to envy that one whose life seems to be unruffled, always on an even keel, always blessed with the sunshine of the open plains. But there are pasture lands in the valley of Achor also. Achor means "trouble." Admittedly we bring a lot of trouble on ourselves, as Israel did in the time of Joshua when Achan sinned against the LORD and was punished in the valley of Achor. But whether our troubles are self-inflicted, or designed of the Lord for the refinement of our nature, God wants us to know that as we return to Him in weeping and mourning, we are going to find rich pasture lands in those areas of our lives which once caused us so much grief. Let us not take sides with Jobs comforters and condemn those who are in trouble and distress, when it might well be that Gods plan is to make a perfect man still more perfect, and to reveal Himself in a manner He has done before.
On the other hand, if it is because of judgment, then we can rejoice in the fact that God deals with us as with sons, and that His dealings are a token of His love for us. "For whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth." Therefore let the troubled ones in our midst search their hearts and draw closer to God; for that is the purpose for which He allowed, or ordained, their troubles. And as they do, they will discover that God may have ordained greater glory and rest for them than He has for the herds who bask in the sun on the beautiful plains of Sharon.
"A place for the herds to lie down in, For my people that have sought me" (Isa. 65:10).
"And I will give her her vineyards from thence, And the valley of Achor for a door of hope:
And she shall sing there, As in the days of her youth" (Hos. 2:15).
Therefore God says,
"That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know" (1 Thess. 3:3-4).
These officers recognized the task that lay before them, and they performed their duty without any thought of competing one with the other. The circumstances and trials as well as the joys of life have had much to do by way of preparing each one for that particular ministry and calling that God has in mind. For God has a purpose for each one, and only the unwise in our midst will judge who is doing the Kings business and who is wasting his time. As if the keeper of the herds would say, "After all, you must admit that I have the most important task of all!" Who would deny that his job was important? The king needed the cattle to provide meat for his table, and sacrifices for the priesthood. But he also needs the burden-bearers, the cultivators, and the guardians of the storehouses. Or can you imagine Jaziz who looked after the sheep taunting Joash, "Well, Joash my friend, how many sheep were added to your flock this year?" Of course Joash would have to reply: "Not one, Im sorry to say... you see my job is to work in the cellars of oil." Of course we cannot imagine that these men exalted themselves one over the other, but it is a true parable of what goes on in the Church. God hasten the day when He will take away that competitive spirit from His people, and especially from the ministry, and cause them to know that each person has a ministry and a place in the Body of Christ, as a "member in particular," for the welfare of the whole Body. Obil the Ishmaelite was over the camels. He did not have a shepherds heart. He did not expect to be placed in charge of the sheep, or of the herds. But he did have the ability to look after the camels, to equip and prepare them for their journeys to distant lands, and to care for the ones that returned home, footsore and weary because of their long missionary activities.
"Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular" (1 Cor. 12:27).
The Five Royal Ministries
Little is said of these ministries, but their position speaks for itself. They were especially close to the king and his household, and led his armies to victory over the enemy. (See 1 Chron. 27:32-34.)
2. Companion Of The Kings Sons.
3. Kings Counselor.
4. Kings Companion.
These were special ministries requiring much wisdom, knowledge and understanding. But let us be assured that it is only a spiritual wisdom and understanding that God requires in the Body of Christ, and this enablement proceeds only from Him. We are not speaking about men who are able to give good counsel or good advice because of their learning; but men who by reason of Urim and Thummim which God has placed in the Body of Christ, shall be able to give that direction and guidance that Gods people must have in times of need and perplexity. Solomon tells us about a certain city that was delivered by the wisdom of a "poor wise man," but whose wisdom was soon forgotten by those who dwelt in the city.
"Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength:
Nevertheless the poor mans wisdom is despised,
And his words are not heard.
The words of wise men are heard in quiet
More than the cry of him that ruleth among fools.
Wisdom is better than weapons of war" (Eccl. 9:16-18).
It is the same way in the Church. Good wisdom and counsel comes forth from the meek and the humble who know God and walk with Him. And instead of receiving it, men turn to those who have studied the art of "counselling." The Church of Christ will never come to fullness and perfection without a ministration of spiritual wisdom and understanding. The gifts of the Spirit, known as a word of wisdom and a word of knowledge, are not sufficient in themselves. We must come to that place where the "spirit of wisdom and understanding" come to abide in Gods people in abundant fullness. It is not enough that a person can give a word of wisdom one moment, and the next moment continue to walk in his own ways. There must yet come forth in the Church a people who, like Jesus, are endued with the sevenfold Spirit of God and walk in the light of those "seven eyes of the Lamb"--a people who live, and move, and abide in the fullness of Christ.
The five royal ministries are very close to the heart of the king. These men had been with David in his rejection, and had known Davids many wars. But their greatness required of them greater dedication and greater responsibility for the new era of Solomon that was about to be ushered in, and not all of these men qualified. Ahithophel had great wisdom; but when he went against David, God turned his wisdom into foolishness. Abiathar was a priest in the Davidic era, and Joab was the general of Davids army. But both of these men took sides with treachery and rebellion. These are solemn warnings to Gods people everywhere, and especially to those who have gained a reputation for greatness in the Body of Christ. In the new order we must understand that spiritual achievements of the past will not, and cannot, guarantee an easy, automatic transition from the old into the new. It is much more likely that success will lead to pride of heart, than to a lowly and a contrite spirit. And when the heart is lifted up in pride, though it be in Lucifer son of the morning, very quickly is he brought down to the ground. Rudyard Kiplings strong warning to Great Britain in the height of her glory is something we all need to be reminded of... lest we forget...
"The tumult and the shouting dies,
The captains and the kings depart;
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts be with us yet!
Lest we forget! Lest we forget!"
But why does our King need counselors? Not for His sake, but for the sake of His people. Our King needs those who share His counsels that they might in turn share His wisdom with the people. Can I not go to God for myself? True, and we must always have that open line of communication with the King. But in this hour of the tempering of the Body of Christ, God is revealing areas of great weakness in all of us, causing us to draw closer to Him and to one another. God is bringing forth a corporate Man in the earth. The great ones of the past must be brought low. The low and the despised He will exalt yet in their exaltation they must still remain lowly and of a contrite heart. And this blending of the Body of Christ is designed of the Lord "that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another" (1 Cor. 12:25). God wants to bring us individually into a clear, open line of communication with Himself and we would encourage the Lords people to know this heritage is for them. But we have observed many who would go their own stubborn way and refuse the admonition of one who had a clear Word from the Lord, and end up in shipwreck. There are times when God cannot cause us to hear as we ought, and He may give a word through another, to turn our feet back to the paths of righteousness. And there are times when He wants to give us further confirmation concerning the way He is leading us.
May God lead us in pathways of obedience, and create a right spirit within us, that we might know the Voice of the Shepherd, whether He speaks to our heart in the quietude of our personal fellowship with Him or through the words of another member of the Body of Christ.
Only the ignorant would criticize Jonathan as he drove past the fields, riding in the kings chariot. Or Jehiel as he strolled along, in communion with the kings sons. Why were they not doing something profitable, like cultivating the fields or helping reap the harvests? Why were they wasting their time in idleness, while others were working feverishly with the sheep, or the camels, or the asses? But the kings sons need companions for fellowship, and these men were doing what the king had appointed them to do.
He is not wasting his time, who waits for Gods hour to come to pass in his life. He is not standing idly by, who stands ready to do Gods will. He is not an unprofitable servant, who mingles with the Kings sons for fellowship and companionship.
These men may have been open to criticism by the hard workers in the orchards and vineyards, and by those who herded the cattle in the fields of Sharon. But they did not choose their lot. (Again, we are just speaking a parable. They knew what was going on... but Gods people in this hour are slow to comprehend.) Many a time they may have longed to do something that would seem profitable in their own eyes, and in the eyes of men. But now they have learned that they can do nothing, except as God does it through them. Because they have come to understand the heart of the King, and His desire for His sons, the King has seen fit to bring them into royal fellowship, that they might impart wisdom and understanding to His other sons. ...But not only do the Kings sons need fellowship, so does the King Himself. Jesus called twelve disciples that they might go forth and preach the gospel. But this was secondary; first of all we are told that He chose them "that they should be with him" (Mk. 3:14). We lose sight of this so often. Abraham became Gods "friend," and that is how he learned many of Gods secrets. Jesus wanted the friendship of those with whom He could share Gods secrets. God has never had any problem getting servants to work for Him. But He has very few friends. What is the difference? The servant does not know what the Kings plan and purpose is, and often times cares less. He is just too busy working for God. But the friend is different. He is introduced into the counsels of God. He is not there to "advise" the Almighty. He is there to learn His secrets; and we need to know His secrets if we are to walk in peace and confidence before Him. There is therefore no frustration in the hour of apparent futility, and no panic in the hour of universal distress. He knows what God is doing. He knows that Gods plan cannot fail, and he can rest in that. Jesus said, "Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you" (Jn. 15:15).
But there is more to friendship with God than an understanding of His purposes. For in intimate fellowship with God we partake of His very image and likeness, and are vitally joined unto Him. His own nature and character is imprinted upon our lives, and God Himself makes His abiding place within. "If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (Jn. 14:23). "We will come unto him," Jesus said. He is not speaking about two different persons coming in to abide. We lose much if we start looking within and trying to discern that which is the voice of the Father, and that which is the voice of the Son. And Jesus was not implying anything like that. But because the Father and Son abide within, there begins to come forth in the hearts of His people the heart and mind of the Father: the One Who ever existed, Who knows and purposed the end from the beginning, the eternal One, the Origin of all things, and the One Who has a large family of sons and is greatly concerned about them. And yet at one and the same time there is the recognition that we are begotten of God: that like His Only Begotten we must learn obedience by the things that we are called upon to suffer... that we must like the Son live in utter dependence upon the Father... that in ourselves we "can do nothing." In union with the Father we partake of His power, the outflow of His love, and a father-like concern and compassion for mankind, enabling us to flow forth unto them in mercy, in truth, in healing and delivering grace. But in and through it all we have the heart of the Son... living and moving in total helplessness, in total dependence upon Another, drawing from His heart, and walking in obedience and in the fear of God.
"Dear Lord! Make us to be Your friends! Draw us and we will run after You. We long to come into the fullness of Your presence, there to abide continually under Your shadow. Often we would despair of entering that holy realm because of the obstacles that lie in our pathway. And therefore we would pray, Cause us to approach unto You... cause Your face to shine upon us... make us to know Your way. Looking at ourselves we know we shall never attain to that fullness of glory. But we turn our eyes heavenward, and embrace Your promise... Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name (Rev. 3:12)."
Davids Charge To The Priests And Officers
In all that we are saying, our hope is that Gods people will be nurtured of the Lord, that we might be prepared for what God has in mind in this great hour. They said to Jesus just before His ascension, "Lord wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" The important thing for them was to do what Jesus said: go to Jerusalem and wait upon God. Like the disciples, we want to get involved in His Kingdom... and we think it would help us if we knew when it was going to happen. Even if we knew the precise times and seasons of the Father, this would not prepare our hearts for what He would do. The most important thing for us right now is that God should prepare our hearts and cause us to know and recognize our real need--and that our need is not a case of getting more and more knowledge about future aspects of the Kingdom, but to come to meekness and poverty of spirit, which alone can qualify us for a place in that Kingdom.
And so as the kingdom of Solomon was about to emerge, David charged the people to proceed with the task that lay before them, and to walk in obedience to the LORD. To Solomon he gave this charge,
"And thou, Solomon my son, Know thou the God of thy father, And serve him with a perfect heart And with a willing mind" (1 Chron. 28:9).
Then David handed over to Solomon the complete plan of the Temple as he himself had received it from the LORD. Nothing was left to mans imagination. Everything was set forth in clear and precise detail.
I think our greatest problem today is the fact that we are living in the last stages of the "Davidic Era" of the Church, and God is saying, "Just wait before Me in the Tent and know My Presence..." But many are out there on Mount Moriah (as it were) trying to lay foundations and establish structures something like they had in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, not realizing that God has a glorious Temple in mind. God is certainly laying foundations of Truth in the hearts of His people; but let us not forget the bedrock foundation of the new Temple is in the place of the Burnt Offering, and it is on a Threshing Floor. It is there where men and women are totally dedicated to God, through sacrifice, to do His will; and who, in consequence of this dedication, are being subjected to the flaying of the grain that the wheat might be separated from the chaff, gathered into the garner, and later subjected to the mills of God. If we recognized this, we would be far more zealous to see Gods people come to the threshing floor where they give their all to Him, than to promote our schemes and visions and plans for the building of "temples" made of wood, and glass, and stone.
Solomons Kingdom Established
2 Chronicles 1 and 1 Kings 1-4
Solomons first act upon coming to the throne was to seek the LORD his God. Together with the officers of Israel he went up to the high place at Gibeon where the brazen altar was situated, before the Tabernacle of Moses. There must be a total commitment unto God at the altar of burnt offering. The way of the burnt offering is the only sure and safe way of knowing Gods will--His perfect will. There God appeared to Solomon and said, "Ask what I shall give thee?" God knew what Solomon needed. He knows what we need. But often times He will leave the choice with us... hoping we will make the right choice. When God promises, "Ask what ye will, and it shall be done," I wonder if we realize that God is not only offering to supply every need, but He is also subjecting us to a very severe test! How we need God to search our hearts, for when He searches there is no escape from His all-seeing eye:
"Search me, O God, and know my heart:
Try me, and know my thoughts:
And see if there be any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting" (Ps. 139:23-24).
Solomon said, "Give me now wisdom and knowledge... for who can judge this thy people, that is so great?"
I wonder sometimes how many have fasted and prayed earnestly for power--and got it--often times to their own destruction? The wisdom and knowledge Solomon prayed for was not to build up his ego, but that he might know how to rule over Gods people. Solomons request pleased the LORD, and God gave him his request, and added much more than he asked for. It was this divinely imparted wisdom that thoroughly established Solomons kingdom. It was through wisdom and knowledge that God established the heavens and the earth in their courses (Prov. 3:19)... and when He arises to establish the true wisdom and knowledge of God in the Church, we are going to see Gods intention realized far beyond our expectations.
We really do not need to know too much about His intention for the future phase of His Kingdom. What is His intention right now? It is... "For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ... [Before we go on, let us notice this: the purpose of ministry is to bring the saints as a Body into the work of ministry that the whole Body might be edified. But let us go on.].... till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph. 4:12-13). "Perfection" is a scary word in the Church. Because we all know... nobody can be perfect. So there are all kinds of plausible definitions of the word, to cushion the stumbling block. But God tells us what the standard is, for the perfection, the maturity, the character that He has in mind. It is the measure of the stature of the fullness (the completeness) of Christ Himself, For the incredulous, I would just say: read this passage in any version you have; and for the faint-hearted I would remind you: this is not your work, it is the working of your High Priest in the Heavens, Who rules from the throne of glory, and Who has all power in heaven and earth to mediate the New Covenant--even this portion of it--to His people in the earth.
The Construction Of The Temple Begins
As we consider the temple structure, of course, we are only concerned about the Temple "not made with hands," for this is the only Temple that has eternal significance.
"Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne,
And the earth is my footstool:
Where is the house that ye build unto me?
And where is the place of my rest?
For all those things hath mine hand made,
And all those things have been, saith the LORD:
But to this man will I look,
Even to him that is poor,
And of a contrite spirit,
And trembleth at my word" (Isa. 66:1-2).
Solomon himself fully recognized that it was just a place for Gods glorious and awesome Name. And in this day when there is so much excitement about the possibility of Israel rebuilding a temple of wood and stone, an excitement that is equally shared by both natural Israel and the Church, we must remind Gods people over and over again that Gods Name has been called upon a people in the earth destined to come forth in His image and likeness, And that we, in union with a redeemed and regenerated Israel, "are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit" (Eph. 2:22). This is the only habitation that is compatible with the heart of God anywhere in the Universe. And when God finds His place there, He is totally at rest, and desires no other temple.
Zion Takes On Enlargement
As we pointed out earlier, when God established Zion as the place of His "rest" in the time of David, Zion became something eternal in the heart of God. It was to be eternally "The City of the Great King." When the Ark moves from Zion to Mount Moriah where the temple of Solomon was built, it was still Zion. When Israel went into captivity, it was Zion that went into captivity. When they came out of captivity, it was because "the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion." God had said, "This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it" (Ps. 132:14). Later through the prophet God said, "O my people that dwellest in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrian" (Isa. 10:24). Of course there were not too many people living up there on the slopes of Zion where David had pitched his tent. But now it means "the people of God." Finally, when Jesus came on the scene, and suffered the anguish of the Cross, God laid in Zion "a chief corner stone, elect, precious" (1 Pet. 2:6), even as Isaiah had prophesied. (See Isa. 28:16.) Even the Old Testament prophets recognized this enlarged concept of Zion, as it related to them. But a greater problem arose in the New Testament when the apostles and teachers began to speak of a still greater concept of Zion, and a greatly enlarged sphere of activity in the new "mount... the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem" (Heb. 12:22). Men loathe to relinquish their hopes and dreams into heavenly realms, because this would seem to be too ethereal, too unreal. And this can only be because we cannot believe that the real things are the things we cannot see, and the real life is the life we cannot see. It is this life, this earth, this Jerusalem that is in bondage with her children... these are the things that are unreal. The throne of Zion is real, eternal, actual, immoveable, and Israels Messiah is ruling and reigning on that throne now, on the eternal throne of David. (See Acts 2:29-35; Ps. 110:1-7; 1 Cor. 15:25.) This is the clear teaching and consensus of Gods holy apostles who wrote the New Testament scriptures. Or are we going to accuse the apostles, as they do us, for just spiritualizing Zion to prove a doctrinal issue? As one searches the writings of the apostles, in vain will we discover, after the resurrection of Christ, any other Zion but the heavenly, spiritual Zion, the New Jerusalem, the City of the living God. And not only so, but as the apostles with the spiritual revelation they had looked back into the Old Testament, they recognized that Abraham himself looked for that same City, that the prophets "foretold of these days" (Acts 3:24), and that "these days" are the days in which we live (1 Pet. 1:11-12).
The Surpassing Beauty Of The Temple
We recognize at once from the plans of the Temple that it was built with a very fundamental likeness to the Tabernacle in the Wilderness. But the Temple was to be a permanent structure, greatly enlarged and beautified, exceedingly magnificent to behold, and of glory and fame throughout all nations. In the former tent there was really no beauty to behold from without; just a rough exterior covering like a tent, and the whole area surrounded with a linen fence hanging on posts. But it did have a cloud of glory hovering over it by day, which became a pillar of fire by night. The Temple on the other hand was glorious to behold, without as well as within. We have emphasized much that by nature we are as "nothing"...just "vessels," just "channels," through whom God would work. And this is true. But God wants His own life and His own glory to shine forth. He is creating a people in the image of His Son... that when people behold Christs many brethren, they will see the Christ. He has promised there would be a day when the nations would see His salvation, and not only read about it, or hear about it. He is crying aloud with creative voice: "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee" (Isa. 60:1). He "will not rest" till the righteousness of Zion goes forth "as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth" (Isa. 62:1).
The beauty of Gods Temple is not the beauty of human achievement, it is "the beauty of the LORD." The stones from the quarry, even in their finished condition, were probably not too breathtaking in appearance. The brazen wheel of the laver, taken from the clay where the brass was poured, may not have been too exciting to behold. The cedar timbers, peeled and squared and shaped, really had no great beauty in themselves. To look upon this mass of material around the Temple area, it must have seemed like total confusion. But when Solomon and the master-workmen in their wisdom took the various members of the Temple and fitted them together, the building was so glorious it caused kings and nations to stand in awe and admiration. The time is past when any individual, in virtue of his great gifts and wisdom, is going to flaunt his glory in the eyes of men. But when God is finished hewing the rocks and squaring the wooden timbers, and joins them together in His own wisdom and skill,
THE TEMPLE OF SOLOMON (See 2 Diagrams)
then adorns the building with the precious glittering stones of His own grace and glory, and applies the golden lining of His nature and character within... the nations of the world are going to stand in awe and fear before Him. For it is Gods wisdom that shall be revealed, and His own glory that shall shine forth. Therefore God says,
"And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness,
And all kings thy glory:
And thou shalt be called by a new name,
Which the mouth of the LORD shall name.
Thou shalt also be a crown of glory
In the hand of the LORD,
And a royal diadem
In the hand of thy God" (Isa. 62:2-3).
It must always have been a great thrill to the weary pilgrims as they approached the holy city, and saw the beautiful Temple glittering in the sun. And perhaps they would sing,
"I was glad when they said unto me,
Let us go into the house of the LORD.
Our feet shall stand within thy gates,
Jerusalem is builded as a city
That is compact together:
Whither the tribes go up,
The tribes of the LORD" (Ps. 122:14).
The Temple had everything in principle that existed in the old Tabernacle; but there was much more. Everything was on an enlarged and more magnificent scale: walls of wood and stone rather than curtains a magnificent brazen altar... a beautiful brazen sea resting on 12 oxen rather than a laver... and ten smaller lavers resting on ten wagons. The cherubim in the holy of holies spread their wings in a flying position, reaching from wall to center, and center to the other wall. (We must speak of these later.) There were ten candlesticks instead of one... ten tables of shewbread instead of one... And then there were chambers about the Temple, three stories high: with the first, second, and third floors connected with winding staircases. Also above the holy of holies there was an area known as "the upper chambers" which were overlaid with gold, and of which we know practically nothing.
The whole interior of the sanctuary was lined with cedar wood and overlaid with plates of gold, and beautifully garnished with precious stones. Even the floors, which were of cypress wood, were overlaid with plates of gold. From the outside, as you approached the Temple, there were two large pillars of brass, almost four feet in diameter, one on each side of the entrance. These were beautifully wrought with ornamental brass, or bronze, resembling lily petals, and adorned with chains of brass and pomegranates.
It would be doubtful if it would be possible to build such a structure today, when one considers the amount of gold and silver and precious stones that would be required. It would have to cost several billion dollars, even if the materials were available. Herod the Great may have tried to duplicate it when he built the temple for the Jews, which took 46 years to complete. And Justinian boasted, "Solomon, I have outdone thee" when he exulted in the building of Hagia Sophia, once the Church of the Holy Wisdom, but now a Moslem Shrine.
How sad that the Church of Jesus Christ has never been able to see beyond the gold and the silver and the costly stones, and the beautiful works of their own hands... and to recognize that the true riches are eternal, spiritual, heavenly. True, God ordained it for Solomons Temple... but only as a type and shadow of the things that are real-the heavenly things. It is all symbolic of a far greater, spiritual Temple that God is erecting, "the Church which is His Body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all." And God help us as we consider some of these types and shadows, that our real quest may be for the "true riches""the knowledge of Him"--and not merely to attain to some kind of knowledge that does not edify. May we receive that instruction and revelation that will enable us to see Christ in a greater way, that we might show forth the beauty of the Lord in our lives.
Ascending Realms In The Temple
The Tabernacle in the Wilderness was laid out on a horizontal plane. There were no steps involved from one area to another, but the priests proceeded from the outer court, into the holy places and from there into the holy of holies, on one horizontal plane.
The Temple on the other hand was built on a mountain, called Moriah. And therefore the prophet Isaiah, speaking of the new Temple not made with hands, declares:
"And it shall come to pass in the last days,
That the mountain of the LORDS house
Shall be established in the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And all nations shall flow unto it" (Isa. 2:2).
Also, we find that the priests court was higher than the great court. (See Jer. 36:10.) We do not know how much higher; but in the vision Ezekiel had, he mentions seven steps leading up to the great court, and then eight steps from there to the priests court. The Temple itself was built on a large foundation that would elevate it a few steps higher.
This "ascending" principle is taught in many places in the Word. The 15 psalms from Psalm 120 to 134 are called "Songs of Degrees" or "Songs of Ascending." They have been called Pilgrim Songs, and were believed to have been sung by the pilgrims as they made their way "upward" toward Jerusalem for worship and sacrifice, and to keep the feasts of the LORD in their season. In the old order of the Tabernacle there was no "going up." But God is preparing a people who are going to experience the life of the heavenlies. As they learn to put on and use the whole armor of God they are going to be able to penetrate the walls that principalities and powers have erected to hinder the conquest of our heavenly heritage. Not only will they ascend the mountain, but as we enter into priestly ministry and service, there is an ascending from one realm to another, on the 15 steps of our approach to God.
Let us not think it strange, therefore, that the first step in the "Songs of Ascending" begins with this matter of "distress." "It my distress I cried unto the LORD, and he heard me" (Ps. 120:1) This is one thing that is common in this day and hour concerning the people who have caught a vision of the Holy City, and who have heard the call to "Come up higher..." And when we hear that call, let us be prepared to "go lower"... for this is Gods way of bringing us higher. Gods people are knowing all manner of distress, frustration, perplexity, sickness, and calamity of one kind or another--strange dealings of the Lord. Be encouraged! This is but the first step. There are 14 steps more, And the weary pilgrim must know and experience many strange things before he eventually stands in the house of the LORD in Psalm 134. He must experience peace in the midst of war... come to know the LORD as his helper and keeper... experience the joy of fellowship with others who are travelling the same pathway... have his vision enlarged concerning the City that is "compact together," as member is joined to member in the Body of Christ... learn much waiting upon the LORD, as he seeks to know His ways and walk with Him... experience Divine protection against the waters that would overwhelm him, and come to know the strength that there is on Mount Zion... rejoice in the turning again of his captivity... recognize that he can do nothing, absolutely nothing, by way of building with God, "except the LORD build the house"... learn to walk in His ways and come forth triumphant over affliction and testing... and in and through it all, come to know the comfort of Gods promise, and the hope that cannot fail.
For if we are to go forward in this day and hour of the new Temple, we must also go upward with God into higher realms of the Spirit, And the only way to ascend is to first of all know how to descend... like the Son of God Himself. It is a realm in God that few have known... but God wants to bring a people into it. There are breadths and lengths in the expanses of Gods love that we have heard about. But what do we know about the "depth and the height" that Paul speaks about? (See Eph. 3:18.) It is still another realm that we must explore, though we know little about it now.
God said to Abraham, "Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it" (Gen. 13:17). That was in the early part of his experience with God. But in the fullness of Gods dealings with him, God would take him higher and higher, even to the top of Mount Moriah (and even as he climbed the mountain he was going lower and lower in realms of selflessness and abasement). There he began to see somewhat of the "depth and height" of Gods love for him, and of His purposes; but he would explore this realm only in the place of "sacrifice"--a very grievous kind of "sacrifice"--here on the top of Mount Moriah. We are talking about ascending steps unto "the mountain of the LORDs house."
"Lord, may our exploration into realms of truth, and our desire for increased revelation, be tempered with the realization that as we enter the outer court of this new realm in God, on Mount Moriah, the first place we take our stand is on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, the very spot where Abraham had offered his son Isaac on the altar many centuries before. But rather than frightening us, may this revelation encourage us to know that it is only as we give You our all, that we too shall see Your Day, and be glad!"
Abiding Places In The Temple
We speak of climbing the steps one by one into the various areas of the Temple. But as we do, God would incorporate us into that Temple that we might abide there forever with Him:
"Him that overcometh will I make A pillar in the temple of my God, And he shall go no more out" (Rev. 3:12).
Paul tells us that we are to grow "unto an holy temple in the Lord" (Eph. 2:2 1).
The Temple faced the east, like the Tabernacle of old, for God wants us to be constantly anticipating the dawn of the new day, and the rising of the Sun of Righteousness. Surrounding the Temple on the north, west, and south, there were chambers attached to the Temple walls, and linked together with a system of galleries and staircases. These chambers were in three stories, which one entered on the south, and then went up by a winding stairway into the second floor, and from the second floor into the third floor.
Jesus said, "In my Fathers house are many mansions [or literally, abiding-places]: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you" (Jn. 14:2). The word mansion in Verse two is the same as the word abode in verse 23. These chambers were in three stories because the true Temple above, and yet to be manifested in the earth, is also in three stories. Paul on one occasion was caught up "into the third heaven" (2 Cor. 12:2). There are first, second, and third realms in God, the number three speaking of full growth and development. Therefore in the manifestation of truth there is a threefold unfolding: "first the blade, then the ear, and afterward the full corn in the ear." It is the yearning of Gods Spirit that we do not come short of full development, the third phase; because that is the whole purpose for which God has saved us and brought us where we are now: redeemed and justified and enriched with spiritual graces and gifts... but not yet fully matured. It is only in the third realm that God finds in us the full intention of His heart. Because it is only in the "full corn in the ear" that the original Seed (which is Christ) that was planted in our hearts, has come forth in full reproduction. It is only then that Man has come back to the image of God. It is only then that God has a family of many sons, each one fashioned after the image of His Only Begotten.
Holy Of Holies And The Upper Chambers
We spoke of the holy of holies, the place of Gods glorious presence, earlier in this writing. Here again we have the holy of holies in this enlarged and beautified Temple. But something else is mentioned here, simply described as "the upper chambers." This is about all we know about this area.
How we would like to know more about some of these secrets that are hidden in the Word! There is a "secret place of the Most High" that God has made available to His own (Ps. 91:1). There is a life that is "hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3). David also said, "He shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me" (Ps. 27:5).
We may never know too much about some of these obscure patterns of the Temple of Solomon. But it is far more important that we come to experience those secret places in God where He would bring His friends. "The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him" (Ps. 25:14). Jesus said, "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes" (Lk. 10:2 1). And the Lord says of His Bride:
"O my dove,
That art in the clefts of the rock,
In the secret places of the stairs,
Let me see thy countenance,
Let me hear thy voice" (Song 2:14).
We may get discouraged as we seek to enter this glorious realm. Where is the stairway? If we only knew where the stairway is, we could begin our ascent. But we must learn what Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." We will only discover the stairway as we follow closely in His footsteps. There is no other way.
Jacob saw the stairway in the distress of his heart, as he slept on the open fields in the darkness of the night at Bethel. Upon awakening he knew instinctively that he had received a revelation of "Gods House"; and so he called the place "Bethel." He also saw God Himself; but He was still beyond his reach, at the top of the staircase. Jacob must know the weariness and frustration of many years of labor before he would come to Peniel and see the face of God. And that night at Peniel, when Jacob was left alone, and when he had surrendered all that he had acquired and accumulated through many years of hard toil, God Himself came down from that staircase and met with Jacob in a face-to-face confrontation that lasted till the breaking of the day. It is going to take this, beloved, for our name and nature to be changed to "Israel," which means "Prince of God," or "Power with God."
The Cherubim Of Glory
Towering above the mercy seat in the holy of holies were two large cherubim made of an olive tree, overlaid with pure gold. They were not in a state of inactivity, like the cherubim in the old Tabernacle. But they were standing on their feet, with wings outstretched as if in readiness to fly. The former ark of the covenant that rested in Moses tabernacle was also there in the holy of holies in Solomons Temple, underneath the extended and outstretched wings of the cherubim made of olive wood. But the staves were drawn out. The ark had found her final resting place. Nevertheless, God had given David a plan of a chariot for the cherubim rather than staves. (See 1 Chron. 28:18.)
Idleness... inactivity ease and contentment... waiting around doing nothing? This is the concept that many have of Gods people who have caught the vision of the "glorious Church," the new Temple. But no! Its time for the butterfly to emerge from the cocoon. Let the other worms continue to crawl around the ground doing their own thing. Perhaps they are going as fast as they can, and travelling as far as they can in as little time as possible. But God continues to shut others up in the cocoon of His dealings, that they might know and experience--in the fullness of His workings--the life of the heavenlies and the activity of the spiritual world. God has a chariot for the cherubim! As in Solomons Temple, the wings of the cherubim are spread wide, ready for flight. Not to fly away from it all, in order to find security from the storms of life in some hidden recess of Heaven! But to engage in true spiritual warfare in "heavenly places" that will eventuate in total victory for the people of God over principalities and powers in the heavenlies. And having waged a good warfare, they "stand" in triumph with the conquering Lamb on Mount Zion! (We will pursue this study of the cherubim further in Chapter 4.)
The Two Brazen Pillars
2 Chronicles 3:15-17
Standing on either end of the porch that formed the vestibule of the Temple there were two large pillars made of bronze, to which Solomon gave the names of Jachin and Boaz.
Now the right and the left sides of the Temple are determined by the Lords position, as He sits enthroned between the mercy seat. It is not right and left from our viewpoint from the outside looking in, but from Gods viewpoint, and that of the priests, from the inside looking out. (The brazen sea was on the right side of the east end, over against the south. Quite evidently if we were on the outside of the gate looking in, and the sea was on the east end toward the south, we would be viewing it as on our left. See 2 Chron. 4:10.) We simply emphasize this because God wants us to see the Tabernacle and all the Temples from His viewpoint, and not from ours. It is His Temple, not ours. We are bought with a price, we are not our own. We are His workmanship. He is the Master Workman, and it is He who is masterminding all the intricacies of His glorious Temple. We are but "workers together with Him." And our redemption is for His glory, and not for ours.
And so we want to emphasize that Boaz is the name of the pillar that stood on the left side of the entrance to the porch of the Temple, and Jachin on the right side (left and right from Gods viewpoint, looking out). Gods emphasis is on Jachin. But before we consider the meaning of the pillars, let us describe them briefly.
The pillars were cylindrical in shape, of hollow structure, and on the top of each pillar was a capital, ornamented with lily petals. Then on top of the capital a "pommel" covered with chains, from which were suspended two rows of pomegranates, with a hundred in each row, making 200 pomegranates on each pillar.
The word "pommel" is translated "bowl" by some translators, as in Zechariah 4:2 where the prophet had the vision of the bowl of oil. So these "pommels" may have been large bowl-shaped vessels containing oil; and the pillars themselves huge fire-altars or cressets, with the flames kept alive by huge wicks that were placed in the bowls. If this were so, the faint glow of the flames would have illuminated the stone facade of the porch; and the smoke of the incense in the oil would drift lazily over the columns, and perhaps hang suspended at times over the Temple, reminding the Israelites of the pillar of the cloud and fire that hovered over the old Tabernacle in the days of their wanderings.
The pomegranates hanging from the chains would remind Israel of Gods faithfulness to His promise. The pomegranate is a fruit that is full of seeds, with each seed a little fruit in itself, and yet together but one fruit. It takes multitudes of them in corporate unity to form the fruit. Gods promise was: "I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore" (Gen. 22:17); a promise that was fulfilled in the days of Moses and Joshua. (See Deut. 1:10; 10:22; 28:62.) Not that God has two Israels--an earthly and a heavenly--but within the one Israel there has always been a mixture of the earthly and the heavenly; and Gods desire has been to bring them out of the natural and carnal, and into heavenly realities. The pomegranates hanging from the chains of bronze at the top would give constant reminder to the people of God that their God was a covenant keeping Jehovah Who had brought them into the land of promise (a land of milk and honey and grapes and pomegranates), and Who had increased their numbers as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore. But it is in the names of these two pillars that we discover their real significance. Looking at them from inside the Temple, we have BOAZ on the Left, and JACHIN on the Right:
BOAZ -- "In Him is Strength" JACHIN -- "He will Establish"
God wants us to know that He is able and that He will do it. Many will read the scriptures and begin to question what God said, or openly deny that it can happen. They consider it to be their democratic right to choose for themselves. But God says that to doubt Him is to speak against Him... and to limit God is to tempt Him... and to tempt Him is to provoke Him. (See Ps. 78:19, 41, 56.) We need to thoroughly embrace these two pillars. We need to know that He is able and that He is faithful to do what He said. We need to know that He is, and that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Man has always found a problem with either the one or the other pillar--or both. The man with the epileptic son doubted His ability: "If thou canst do any thing..." But Jesus immediately replied, "If thou canst believe..." (Mk. 9:22-23). The real problem was not if Jesus was able to heal the boy, but was the man able to believe.
The whole substance of Gods Covenant is bound up in who He is and what He will perform. And they form a perfect pair because in the revelation of the Name of the Most High God, it is Gods plan and purpose to reveal and to bring into being in His people, that which He is inherently in Himself. All that He is in Himself, He desires to become that in His people. This is the fullness of the inheritance, when God Himself becomes our reward and He writes His own Name upon the foreheads of His people. This is why He has revealed Himself as having many names; and yet in the final analysis all the various titles and names of God are contained and are inherent in that one great Name, whom we call JEHOVAH. But He has added certain appendages to that Name from time to time that His people might have greater confidence, and that they might know that their particular need is not beyond His ability to satisfy.
In Him Is Strength He Will Establish
His Name His Promise
Jehovah-Hoseenu LORD our Maker Ps. 95:6
Jehovah-Jireh LORD will Provide Gen. 22:14
Jehovah-Ropheca LORD that Healeth Ex. 15:26
Jehovah-Nissi LORD my Banner Ex. 17:15
Jehovah-Mekaddishken LORD doth Sanctify Ex. 31:13
Jehovah-Elohay LORD my God Zech. 14:5
Jehovah-Shalom LORD send Peace Judg. 6:24
Jehovah-Rohi LORD my Shepherd Ps. 23:1
Jehovah-Tsidkeenu LORD our Righteousness Jer. 23:6
Jehovah-Shahmmah LORD is There Ezek. 48:35
There may be other such combinations. But in all of these covenant Names of Jehovah He would have us to know that what HE IS He desires to BECOME that very thing to, and in, His people.
Now the Lord Jesus came to earth in the fullness of time to make known Jehovahs Name, the Fathers Name, to His people. In the above list we have spelled out Jehovahs Name in the various titles He gave Himself in the Old Testament. This is faulty, but how else can we humans spell out Gods Name in our language, in a way we could pronounce it, and in faint measure understand it? In fact we are told that the Hebrew scribes did not even attempt to spell out the Name of God in a pronounceable word, but left it without any vowels: "YHWH"; and that when they came across that awesome Name in the scriptures they would just say "Adonai" which corresponds to our word "Lord." (Note: in our Authorized Version of the Bible, when the name Lord is capitalized as "LORD," it is to indicate that the writer used the word "Jehovah," or "Yahweh.") The ancient scribes and teachers in Israel considered it an unutterable, unspeakable Name! And so Jesus came to reveal that glorious and awesome Name, and do what learned scribes and prophets and sages were unable to do. Jesus came to reveal the Fathers Name! If space would permit we could fill many pages showing how every one of the Jehovah-Titles enumerated above were clearly written out by our Lord Jesus; not in the Hebrew, or Greek, or Aramaic symbols, but in His life, and ministry, and death, and resurrection, and ascension.
Jesus said, "O righteous Father... I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it" (Jn. 17:25-26).
His earthly ministry alone did not bring forth the fullness of this revelation, and so He added, "I will declare it." How did He do it? In everything He said, in everything He did, in everything He was, He was declaring unto men the covenant Name of Jehovah God.
"Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of the promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation" (Heb. 6:18). The two immutable things are: the oath and the promise. The oath is based upon His own Name, His very character. And because of WHO HE IS... He gives THE PROMISE. He is saying, "This is Who I am, and therefore this is what I will do."
This may help us understand that strange scripture in Psalm 138:2: "For thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name." A word is the expression of the thought, the intention of the mind. And therefore Jesus, Gods Word made flesh, is the full expression of the heart and mind of God. In this declaration of the psalmist we are told that God has magnified His Word above His Name. God is clearly teaching us that He is more to be glorified in revealing Himself and making Himself known to His creation, than He is in standing alone and apart in solitary isolation! And this explains the whole mystery of the Fall and of Redemption! God must reveal Himself His heart cries out for a way in which He can show Himself forth unto His creatures in the full expression of all that He is in Himself, And in MAN alone, of all His created beings, was He able to find that vehicle of expression... I mean in the Second Man, the Last Adam Who is the very Logos of God... the full expression of God in human form.
"O the depths of the riches, both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God!"
And so Jachin must be placed at the right side of the Temple, and Boaz on the Left. Jesus is enthroned at the right hand of God. The going forth, and the expression of Who He is, must have the preeminent place. For God is more to be praised and honored and glorified as He flows forth in the Logos of His redemptive purposes, than He could ever be in the hidden, unutterable, unrevealed Name of JHWH... no matter how well we might try to write that Name, or utter it.
The Brazen Sea
"Also he made a molten sea of ten cubits from brim to brim" (2 Chron. 4:2).
The Sea was constructed of solid bronze, shaped like a large bowl with a brim, and ornately decorated around the brim with the likeness of lily blossoms and two rows of knops or colocynths under the brim. The Sea was ten cubits in diameter, five cubits high. And the brim was a handbreadth thick. It rested on 12 oxen; the oxen so standing that three looked toward the East, three to the West, three to the North, and three to the South, with their hinderparts inward.
"And he set the sea on the right side of the house eastward over against the south" (1 Kin. 7:39).
The Sea, along with the ten lavers, was for ceremonial washings connected with the burnt offerings and sacrifices of the Temple. Water could be dipped out from the top, or perhaps by tapping it from below.
John in Revelation saw the true Sea that brings ultimate cleansing to Gods people: "And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal" (Rev. 4:6).
THE BRAZEN SEA (See Diagram:)
"And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God" (Rev. 15:2).
There are two kinds of cleansing mentioned in the scriptures: cleansing by water, and cleansing by fire. The earth that was cursed must undergo this twofold cleansing and purging: first by water (the Flood); and eventually by fire. The old earth once "destroyed" by water came forth a renewed earth; but only in its external form. It is now reserved for a "destruction" by fire, this time so thorough that "the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (2 Pet. 3:10). God says, "All the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my Jealousy" (Zeph. 3:8). But then he promises something very wonderful: "For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent" (v. 9). The psalmist also saw the desolations that the LORD would bring to the earth through fire, and His exaltation among the heathen because of His judgments:
"The heathen raged, The kingdoms were moved:
He uttered his voice, The earth melted."
Then what, after the earth "melted"?
"Come, behold the works of the LORD,
What desolations he hath made in the earth.
He maketh wars to cease
Unto the end of the earth;
He breaketh the bow,
And cutteth the spear in sunder;
He burneth the chariot in the fire.
Be still, and know that I am God:
I will be exalted among the heathen,
I will be exalted in the earth.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah" (Ps. 46:6-11).
Gods people must know this purging, cleansing fire of God; that when His fire begins to purge the earth there will be a people in the midst of it all, walking in union with the Son of God like the three Hebrew children in the furnace of fire that was heated seven times more than it ever had been before. Seven times more. For although it has been the lot of Gods people to know affliction and tribulation from the very beginning, and Paul tells us that His people are "appointed to tribulation," in the end-time there will be a greater measure of tribulation than ever before. And with that greater measure of tribulation there will be a greater measure of the grace of God causing His people to overcome in the midst of it. And what to the world is wrath and destruction, to His people it will be a refining and a purifying... "And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purifier the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness" (Mal. 3:3). This is the particular working of the Lord when He comes "suddenly" to His Temple. He is "like refiners fire" and "like fullers soap". The fuller could make a beautiful job with the potash and the nitre that he used for his work; but it is going to take the fire of the seven eyes of the Lamb, the fire of transfiguration glory, to do the thorough job that God must do in His people. And the garments of the people who come into union with Him shall be "shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them" (Mk. 9:3). The cleansing work of redemption is in the blood; but only the Spirit of God can apply the cleansing of the blood to the hearts and minds of His people. We must bathe in the brazen sea of His Living Word. The sea is "mingled with fire." And this fire will thoroughly cleanse and purge the inner man from all sin and defilement.
The deluge that destroyed the earth is likened in scripture to water baptism, which was an external cleansing by water. (See 1 Pet. 3:2 1.) But we need another baptism, and we need it before the earth receives her baptism of fire, or I am afraid we will not be able to minister or in any way deliver a Church that is swiftly going to experience the fires of Tribulation.
John the Baptist was sent of the Lord to minister the baptism of water unto repentance. But John prophesied there would come another baptism: "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire." The fire of God is not intended to make a person excited, or noisy, or acrobatic... the fire of God is something that will burn deeply within, bringing repentance and godly sorrow... and that will burn up the dross so completely and thoroughly that Gods priests will be able to "offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness." The baptism of fire will make us holy.
"And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem: when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning" (Isa. 4:3-4). Then what follows?
"And the LORD will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night" (vs. 5).
We believe we are fast approaching the hour of this mighty baptism, which is not another but the fullness, of which we have only had a small portion. We have craved after the power of this baptism, but too often we have not been concerned about having the fire. And therefore we have not received too much of either. But in that day we shall discover that the Power is in the Fire.
God says, "Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar" (Joel 2:17). This is where the brazen sea was located in Solomons Temple. God is saying, "Let My people come to the Sea that is mingled with fire... then they shall walk on the sea, and the fire that has cleansed them shall keep them clean, and shall make them immune to all the fiery darts of the evil one."
This old hymn of the Church is almost out of date, but we need to pray it again and again...
"God of Elijah hear our cry!
Send the Fire, send the Fire, send the Fire!
Twill make us fit to live or die,
Send the Fire, send the Fire, send the Fire!
To burn up every trace of sin,
To bring the Light and Glory in;
The Revolution now begin!
Send the Fire, send the Fire, send the Fire!"
THE TEMPLE OF EZEKIELS VISION
The Temple that Ezekiel saw in his vision, and the description of which occupies much of his prophecy, was never built according to the pattern that Ezekiel was given. Nor did God ever promise it would be, unless there was genuine national repentance and a turning toward God by the sinful nation. Gods promise was conditional:
"Thou son of man, shew the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern. And if they be ashamed of all that they have done, shew them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof" (Ezek. 43:10-11).
The obstacles in understanding Ezekiels prophecy must have been as insurmountable to the teachers of Israel in his day, as they have been to those who have studied his prophecies all down through the ages, and even unto this day. We are not told whether any attempt had ever been made to build the Temple that Ezekiel saw. But even if it had been built, it would still have been but a type and shadow of the real Temple "not made with hands." It would still have to go the way of all the other temples, and eventually come to desolation, to make way for the "true tabernacle that the Lord pitched and not man." All we have concerning Solomons Temple is the word concerning it; and we have the word concerning Ezekiels Temple, and this is all we require. Ezekiel, like all the other prophets from Samuel and those who followed after, spoke of "these days" following the resurrection of Christ. (See Acts 3:24.) Unto them it was revealed "that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you" (1 Pet. 1:12).
The life of Solomon presents us with one of the greatest tragedies mentioned in the Bible. Here was a man filled with wisdom and understanding such as no king in Israel had ever known; and loving God with all his heart in his youth. Then in his later years he forsook the God whom he had loved and served so well, to worship the false deities of the nations about him. He even erected idolatrous high places for them right near Jerusalem; and the scriptures do not tell us whether or not he died with a heart alienated from God and engrossed in idolatrous practices. It was not long after his death that his kingdom was divided. Soon apostasy set it in, and idolatrous worship became rampant. Yet all through this time of apostasy God was faithful to send prophets, whose burden it was to turn the hearts of the people back to God. There were seasons of revival, and then a turning away from God, as ungodly rulers succeeded those whose hearts were right with God. The time came when God gave the nation over to judgment, and permitted the great empires surrounding them to harass them, and take some of the people into captivity. There had been several deportations from both Israel and Judah before the final desolation of Jerusalem and the plundering of the Temple by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar. It was during one of these deportations that Ezekiel was taken captive from Judah, and found himself in a settlement with other captives near the river Chebar. But there in his captivity God raised him up to be a "watchman" to warn the nation of impending judgments. Repeatedly God told Ezekiel that his mandate was not to bring a word against the foreign nations around him, but to "the House of Israel." "I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me" (Ezek. 3:17). Apostasy seems almost to have been the norm in the history of Gods people, whether it be in the Old Testament or in the New, But as we have often pointed out, in every hour of abomination God begins to prepare a remnant through whom He will fulfill His purposes, and bring a new thing into being. Let us observe in Ezekiels writings how the glory of God surely, but reluctantly, withdrew from His habitation, and returned to His place in the heavens. And yet in and through it all gave us a promise that He would return again in the fullness of time, take up His habitation in a new Temple not made with the hands of men, and send forth a River of Life that would bring healing to the nations. But first Ezekiel must see the glory of God, and literally "eat the book"--the Word must become a vital part of His very being, before he could bring forth a clear and meaningful Word to the people of God. He must move in total union and harmony with the Kingdom of Heaven, and those spiritual powers that emanate from the Throne of God.
The Cherubim Of Glory
In the Tabernacle of Moses and in Solomons Temple what we have seen is primarily type and shadow: embroidered figures of the cherubim, or cherubim carved from olive wood, etc. But in Ezekiel and in the book of Revelation we have a glimpse into the realities of the heavenly realm. Ezekiel saw the heavens opened, and saw things as they really were. Of course, even then God must show us things in the likeness of things on earth... for how else could He relate to us in a language we can understand? It was somewhat different in the case of Paul, who was caught up into the third heaven and saw things that were "not lawful for a man to utter." We cannot even surmise how and in what form He saw these things. But both Ezekiel and John were given a commission to take what they had seen and show it to the people... and so these heavenly realities have been depicted in some kind of form that men can relate to.
From the very beginning the Cherubim have been associate with man. And therefore we may expect in the hour of consummation they will once again be associated with man. Immediately after the Fall, God "placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life" (Gen. 3:24). Therefore in redemption, when man is once again brought back into the presence of Gods the cherubim are again involved. But this time it is to open up the way for man that he might return to the tree of life. Their presence in the holy place, and in the most holy place, is God Word to us that they are thoroughly identified with man in God glorious plan of redemption.
Who are They? It is evident from the scriptures that they are a very high order of celestial beings, and not just ordinary angels. They are always identified with the presence of God... particularly pertaining to His awesomeness, His holiness, and His majesty. Because redeemed man is to occupy such an intimate place with God, a place that is far above that of any other created being, God has therefore commissioned the highest of His heavenly creation to identify with the sons of God. Mans relationship with the celestial order is accompanied with a lot of mystery, and we do not seek to inquire above that which is written; but it is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to lead us into truth, according as we need it.
From Daniel we understand that there is a close identity with spiritual powers in the heavens and their counterparts in the earth. When Daniels prayers were hindered, it was because of opposition from "the prince of the kingdom of Persia" (Dan. 10:13). The archangel Michael (who stands up for the people of God in Daniel 12:1) came and joined the fray, and the Prince of Persia was defeated. The battle lasted 21 days. Then having delivered the message to Daniel he returned "to fight with the prince of Persia," and suggested that he may also have warfare with "the prince of Grecia" (Dan. 10:20). So it is evident there was a spiritual counterpart of the earthly kings of Persia and Grecia. This explains why "the prince of Tyrus" is spoken of, not only as a man trafficking in "gold and silver"--as earthly kings and rulers do--but also as a celestial being, "full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty," who was "in Eden the garden of God," and who had the title "the anointed cherub that covereth." (See Ezek. 28:1-15.) So he was one of the cherubim, connected with the throne of God, till "iniquity was found in him" and he was cast out as "profane" from the Mountain of God, "from the midst of the stones of fire." From this point on he becomes Gods "adversary"; and this is the meaning of the word "Satan." The king of Babylon was a real man, who oppressed the nations; but in prophetic insight, as Isaiah prophesied concerning the "king of Babylon" (Isa. 14:4), suddenly he sees the situation as something that originated in the heavens:
"How art thou fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning" (v. 12).
So Isaiah clearly identifies the "king of Babylon" with "Lucifer, son of the morning"; for it was Lucifer that was working behind the scenes, through the earthly king of Babylon, to oppress the earth and Gods people. The one who said in ages past, "I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God... I will be like the Most High" (Isa. 14:13-14). There is an earthly king of Babylon; but there is his spiritual counterpart ("the god of this world," "the prince of the power of the air"), who rules over the corrupt political, economic, and religious systems of the world.
As the heirs of salvation, what a comfort it is to know that we have angels (or ministering spirits) sent from God to minister on our behalf. (See Heb. 1:14.) There are many who have actually seen these ministering angels. But as a corporate people of God we also have the Cherubim as our spiritual allies, and this is what we want to consider in greater detail.
A Corporate Four-Faced Man
The "heavens were opened" to Ezekiel as he sat with the captives by the river of Chebar, and this is what he saw: "And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it... also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man. And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings" (Ezek. 1:4-6). John on Patmos saw the same creatures, which he described in almost identical language: "And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts [living ones] full of eyes before and behind, And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle" (Rev. 4:5-7). These creatures were not animals as we know them. But with our feeble understanding God has seen fit to relate heavenly realities to us in language we can understand so we might know the significance of what He is saying. The sons of Israel are spoken of as having certain animal characteristics: one tribe has the symbol of the lion, another of the adder, or a strong ass, a serpent, a hind let loose, or a wolf. John speaks of Jesus as the Iamb of God. And Jesus likens His own to "sheep," the hypocrisy of the Pharisees to "serpents" or "vipers," the craftiness of Herod to a "fox." Knowing the nature of these animals we understand why these illustrations were used.
And so here in Ezekiel, and in the book of Revelation, the prophets saw the likeness of a man. Remember this. They saw these four faces of certain animals, but Ezekiel said the cherubim had the likeness of a man (1:5). And in their four faces we are reminded of the character of Christ Himself:
The Face of a Man, For He was Man in every sense of the word: acquainted with human suffering and aware of human need; tempted, tried, and approved in the crucible of human life; and conquering as Man.
The Face of a Lion. Fearless, powerful, strong, the king of beasts; relentless in pursuit of his prey; sudden and devastating in his attack on the enemy; one who rules and reigns in power and authority.
The Face of an Ox. Faithful, laborious, unassuming, unseeking, submissive, teachable; content with a handful of corn as he treads out the grain on the threshing floor; and finally giving up his life when his days of usefulness are over.
The Face of an Eagle. Watchful; detached from earthly pursuits and activities; oriented to heavenly places; disdainful of the cares and pursuits of mankind; having a free and soaring spirit.
Now God has found such a Man in His only begotten Son; but He will have others like Him. And the Cherubim are there in the heavens as our spiritual counterpart, and commissioned to minister on behalf of those whom He has chosen for this high calling, just as they were once commissioned to "keep the way of the tree of life" and to bar sinful man from the presence of God. Jesus the perfect Son of Man is beautifully portrayed with these four faces, in the four Gospels:
Matthew. Here we see Him as the Lion. He is King, the Lion of the tribe of Judah. And as we would expect for a King, His genealogy is carefully traced right back to David, whose kingdom was to be eternal; and to Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel.
Mark. Here we have the Ox. Christ is portrayed here as a servant, the obedient One. The keyword in Mark is "straightway." He is ever about His Fathers business. He is just a servant. Mark recounts no genealogy. Who cares about the genealogy of a servant?
Luke. Here we see the Man, the ideal Man. His genealogy is traced right back to the first man, because the Second Man must come forth from the First Man in order to bring about our redemption. But the Second Man came to begin a new race of beings like Himself. This is therefore the last genealogy in the Bible; for in Christ all genealogy has come to a complete and final end. He is the Last Adam... the last of that old race. How then could there be another genealogy? You do injustice to the One Who fulfilled all genealogy if you go about trying to establish another one, or to perpetuate the genealogy that came to an end when Christ died on the cross. And so the apostle tells us to ignore "endless genealogies." They serve no purpose. They only minister "questions," disputes that lead to strife, rather than "godly edifying." (Paul classifies "genealogies" along with "fables." See 1 Tim. 1:4.) We must find our genealogy in union with the Second Man, the Lord from heaven, or we remain under the curse of the first man.
John. Here we see the Eagle. Once again there is no genealogy; for Johns Gospel is about the Logos, the Word that was "with God" and "was God." His was a timeless beginning. He is the Divine One. And so it is John who speaks about the Word of Life, the Light of Life, the Water of Life, the Bread of Life, the Resurrection and the Life. His is a free and soaring spirit. He lives in the heavenlies. Even on earth He was the "Son of man which is in heaven" as He walked in union with the Father.
Now Jesus came from heaven to earth that as Man He might walk in the pathway of sonship and be made "perfect through sufferings" (Heb. 2:10); and some Christians think because we are men we must go to heaven to enter into that kind of perfect obedience. It is here on earth that the Lord would teach us His way, and cause us to walk in the pathway that has for its intention the reproduction of the Christ-life within us. Therefore we are exhorted to "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery [or, a thing to be grasped after] to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation [or, he emptied himself]" (Phil. 2:5-7).
This is the pathway to the throne. It is far, far from the way of Lucifer, who said: "I will ascend... I will be like the Most High."
Rather, the Son of God said, "I will go down... I will become a man... I will become a servant. . . I will become a slave..."
Notice these four faces of the Cherubim in the passage we have quoted:
He was in the form of God... the Eagle.
He emptied Himself and became... the Man.
He humbled Himself, as a slave... the Ox.
Wherefore God hath exalted Him... the Lion.
We must always recognize that we "see through a glass darkly" and that we only "know in part." But it is evident from the scriptures that these living creatures in the heavens have been commissioned of the Lord to minister to His people in the earth. Notice that these characteristics are opposites, and only in union with Christ do we know this blending of meekness with strength: of the lowliness of true manhood with the nature and character of God. And so we find these four faces in pairs: the Eagle opposite the Man, and the Lion opposite the Ox. Without this difficult yet glorious combination, we could become very much one-faced and one-sided, making for an improper balance: strong as a lion, bold, powerful, unrelenting... but so unlike Christ without the humility and meekness of the ox. Or we might be humble, hard-working, unassuming, submissive... all of which are very commendable. But there are times when along with this character we need to stand unfalteringly in the face of the foe when an assault is made against Gods people. With the Lion-face we might say, "I certainly will not stand for that," and take matters into our own hands. But with the Ox-face we might say, "Just pray about it... God will work it out," when there is need for bold action. It is just not natural for the Lion and the Ox to work together, to live together, to be together... to agree. But God must have these two faces in one.
Then there is the Eagle and Man combination. We have those in the Church who are very human, very down to earth in their approach to life and ministry. They are concerned about human need: do what they can to alleviate human suffering, become involved in works of charity to help the poor and needy. And of course this is part of following Christ. But very often we do not find these people in the least concerned about making God their supreme quest in life, or walking in intimate fellowship with Him, or in fact even desiring to know anything more about the deeper life--the life that is hid with Christ in God. They are just too busy working for God. And they make sly jokes about the man who is "so heavenly minded that he is no earthly good"--a slogan that has been quoted so much, some almost think it is a scripture. But of course we can go to the other extreme: completely withdraw from human associations in order to draw near to God... become involved with deeper truths... always seeking to fellowship with God on a higher plane, and to press on toward the mark for the prize of the high calling, And in pursuing all this there may be no concern for human need... no real sense of responsibility... and no thought of getting involved with mankind and their problems. It is a simple case of the Man and the Eagle refusing to associate. It is just not natural to do so. Man loves the city life, while the eagle disdains it; he wants the loneliness of the mountain tops, and the freedom of the heavens. But God in His plan for His people would work in us the nature of Christ, so as to have at one and the same time, the face of the Man and the face of the Eagle together with the face of the Ox and the face of the Lion. Not a two-faced man but a four-faced man--each face walking straight forward! "They turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward" (Ezek. 1:9). Now this is just impossible! Faces on four sides, and each face going straight forward! "Whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went" (vs. 12). Impossible! But this is what Ezekiel saw. And this is what God has designed... for His Son, and for those who come into union with Him.
The Wheels Of Gods Purposes
We have caught a glimpse of the heavenly scene... but here we are on earth. How can we identify with it? Well, Ezekiel saw a connecting link with the earth. "Behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces" (Ezek. 1:15). The age-long prayer of the Church has been, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven..." God has set in motion in the heavens those spiritual forces and operations that are necessary to combat the powers of darkness, and to bring His chosen ones in the earth the help and the support that they need to be totally victorious. By faith and obedience and submission to the will of God we are able to strengthen our bonds with the Kingdom of Heaven; and by simply walking in the Spirit we find ourselves walking in total harmony and union with the armies of heaven. So, as the living creatures stand before the throne, and surround the throne--immersed in light, and reverberating the commands of God--here on earth "the wheels of the Cherubim" begin to move and rotate in perfect union with their counterparts in the heavens. In Psalm 18 we have a beautiful picture of an incident in Davids life that caused the LORD of Hosts to mobilize all the armies of heaven on his behalf. David was in great trouble and he cried unto God, and look what happened:
"In my distress I called upon the LORD,
And cried unto my God:
He heard my voice out of his temple,
And my cry came before him,
Even into his ears.
Then the earth shook and trembled;
The foundations also of the hills moved
And were shaken,
Because he was wroth.
There went up a smoke out of his nostrils,
And fire out of his mouth devoured:
Coals were kindled by it.
He bowed the heavens also, and came down:
And darkness was under his feet.
And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly:
Yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind" (Ps. 18:6-10).
It sounds like a total mobilization of the armies of heaven... and it was set in motion when a man of God in the midst of great distress called upon the LORD, and God heard his cry. As we come into union with Christ and walk in harmony with God, we are going to find ourselves in complete accord with the movements of the heavenly realm. "And when the living creatures went, the wheels went by them: and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up... for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels. When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up over against them" (Ezek. 1:19-21). What perfect harmony and coordination!
A Wheel Within A Wheel
"And their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel" (Ezek. 1:16).
Everything that God does is but a part of a far greater work that He has in mind. We see the one wheel in motion and we cannot reconcile it with our understanding because there is another wheel going in an opposite direction. But in Gods plan and purpose there is no disharmony. It is just that we cannot understand. The inner wheel seems to be moving right, and then we look without and the outer wheel seems to be contrary. There are so many opposites in our lives that we often wonder if we are going in the right direction. If we see the Ox going straightforward, then surely the Lion must be backing up. Or if we see the Man walking straight forward, then surely the Eagle must be flying backwards. But no! Each face moves straight forward. Paul speaks of these opposites, and shows how it takes the opposites to bring forth the life that is approved in Gods sight:
"By the armour of righteousness
On the right hand and on the left,
By honour and dishonour,
By evil report and good report:
As deceivers, and yet true;
As unknown, and yet well known;
As dying, and, behold we live;
As chastened, and not killed;
As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing;
As poor, yet making many rich;
As having nothing, and yet possessing all things" (2 Cor. 6:7-10).
Gods chosen ones are called upon to experience much perplexity as they seek to walk in a pathway that they know the Lord requires, and yet that pathway does not always seem to lead them to the proper goal. They move forward at the command of the Lord, and hoist their sail for the other shore... and then the winds are contrary, and they find themselves getting nowhere, and they fear they will flounder. Then in their distress they cry unto the Lord, and He comes to them in the darkness of the night, walking upon the sea. And when He steps into the boat... there is a great calm!
God help us to "set our affections on those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God." Cause us to know that we are partakers of a heavenly calling, citizens of another world, and that we are under the watch-care of the Lord of Hosts, and the armies of Heaven. For it is only as we become oriented to heavenly realities that we will be able to minister truth and righteousness in the earth, to remove the veil of darkness and unbelief that lies upon the hearts of men, and cause them to see the outshining of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. It is not true that we can become so heavenly-minded that we are of no earthly-good! It is only the heavenly mind, the mind of Christ, that will enable His servants to show forth the Light of the Gospel in a world of sin and darkness.
Abominations In The Temple
With this glorious introduction into the heavenly realm, Ezekiel was carried by the Spirit to the people that were already in captivity, and to Jerusalem itself, to see and to observe the abominations that have defiled Gods people, and to warn the people of the judgments that lay before them. His mandate was a very heavy burden for him to bear, and he needed the vision of the Glory of God to know the strength and the assurance that he would move in harmony with the spiritual world, and minister (like the wheels of the Cherubim) in union with the Glory of God. Let us observe briefly how the Glory of God moved in the midst of the captive people along with His servant Ezekiel, and finally returned to His habitation in the heavens.
1. The Glory With The Captivity
"Then the Spirit took me up, and I heard behind me a voice of a great rushing, saying, Blessed be the glory of the LORD from his place. I heard also the noise of the wings of the living creatures that touched one another, and the noise of the wheels... then I came to them of the captivity" (Ezek. 3:12-13, 15).
There Ezekiel sat down astonished with the other captives. Nothing to say. He was moving in the Spirit. Unless God would speak, nothing he would say would he effective, For seven days he sat dumb. Then God spoke and gave him a commission and a mandate to be "a watchman unto the house of Israel." As a watchman set there in Israel by God, he would be absolutely dumb until God gave him a word. Then when God opened his mouth he would speak. Gods prophets must learn that they do not minister to the people because they are prophets. They minister effectually only when God opens their mouth, and gives them the Word from His heart that His people need.
"Then I arose, and went forth into the plain: and, behold, the glory of the LORD stood there, as the glory which I saw by the river of Chebar" (Ezek. 3:23).
2. The Glory At The Inner Gate Of The Temple
"And he put forth the form of an hand, and took me by a lock of mine head; and the Spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven, and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem, to the door of the inner gate that looketh toward the north; where was the seat of the image of jealousy, which provoketh to jealousy. And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there" (Ezek. 8:3-4). Here they had erected an altar to another deity, right at the gate where the priests would enter and depart in their priestly service. God is a jealous God. Jealous is one of His names (Ex. 84:14). Yet He is merciful and in the midst of these abominations He visits His people... to turn them from their evil ways.
Then the Lord took Ezekiel on a tour of the Temple area, and showed him all the abominations that were being perpetrated by an apostate priesthood. There were creeping things in the house of God: abominable beasts... idols portrayed upon the wall... the leader of the elders offering incense to false gods... women at one of the gates weeping over a heathen god (Tammuz) who was believed to have died; and they were in mourning because of this... men worshipping the sun in the location of the brazen sea (between the porch and the altar), where God had intended a washing and a cleansing of His people. Beloved, there are a lot of creeping things in the House of God today... and there are going to be some strong words against it by His anointed servants.
3. The Glory Moves To The Door Of The House
"And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house" (Ezek. 9:3).
God was about to judge His sanctuary. But first He would put a "mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof" (Ezek. 9:4). God always preserves for Himself a faithful remnant, no matter how great are the abominations. And God will spare them in the day of His wrath. Ezekiel, a true priest and watchman, cried aloud unto God when His judgments began to fall, but it was too late. God said, "The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of perverseness: for they say, The LORD hath forsaken the earth, and the LORD seeth not" (Ezek. 9:9).
4. The Glory Fills The House
"Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub, and stood over the threshold of the house; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the LORDs glory" (Ezek. 10:4).
The sound of His glory reverberated throughout the whole Temple, even to the outer court. But first God must judge His sanctuary, and cleanse it. Beloved, let us be assured that His Glory is coming to His Temple once again in this hour, to purge and to purify His people from the abominations that are committed in our midst. And when this happens His Word will go forth "even to the outer court." There are those in the Church who have gone no further than the altar and the sacrifice. Yet even these areas are going to see and behold His Glory when the House is filled with the Lords brightness. When His Glory comes to His people it will mean cleansing and purifying for the people of God who submit to His dealings... but it will not change the rebellious and obstinate of heart. Jesus has warned us, "If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!" (Matt. 6:23).
5. The Glory Moves To The Eastern Gate
"Then the glory of the LORD departed from off the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubims... the wheels also were beside them, and every one stood at the door of the east gate of the LORDs house; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above" (Ezek. 10:18-19).
God had purged the sanctuary; for His judgments must always begin at the house of God. Now He would begin to deal with Jerusalem the people who had no part in the priesthood but who were nevertheless a part of the nation. As Ezekiel prophesied to them concerning the impending judgments of God one of the princes of the people fell down dead. Beloved, when the Glory of God returns to His people we are going to witness some very severe judgments. In the early Church we are told "no man durst join himself" to this company of believers, because of the fear of God in their midst. No need to advertise the meetings in those days. The people will know all about it, and will stay away, unless they are prepared to come face-to-face with God in His holy Temple. It was not Peter that slew Ananias and Sapphira. It was the glory of God that was in their midst and cleansing and judging His Temple.
When the prince of the people fell down dead, Ezekiel fell on his face before God and cried aloud for God to have mercy. We feel greatly concerned and fearful for Gods ministers who boast, or secretly rejoice, in the judgments of God that have fallen on those who opposed them. Gods true priests will lament such drastic dealings, and cry unto God for mercy.
And now in the midst of a heavy word of judgment, God brings forth the promise of a New Covenant:
"I will give them one heart,
And I will put a new spirit within you;
And I will take the stony heart out of their flesh,
And will give them an heart of flesh" (Ezek. 11:19).
Ezekiel has much to say about the New Covenant. When the law has fulfilled its purpose, and man has recognized his total failure before God, God reveals a New Covenant that cannot fail, because it is entirely the work of His own Spirit living in the hearts of men. God did not promise Israel a New Covenant because of any worthiness in them, but in spite of their sin and rebellion. God emphasizes this: "Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy names sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen" (Ezek. 36:22). We need to remember this, when we get to wondering how we could ever have a revival of Gods glory. God is not doing it for our sakes, but for His holy Names sake! He is jealous for His holy Names sake. He will not tolerate His holy Name being polluted in the earth because of those who are called by His Name, and He is going to do something about it! He is going to have a holy and a cleansed people in the earth, for His own Names sake!
6. The Glory Moves To The Mountain On The East
"And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city" (Ezek. 11:23).
And so Jesus, the Glory of God in human form, led His disciples out as far as Bethany, on the east of Jerusalem, and from there returned unto the bosom of the Father. But as surely as the Glory of God departs, He will come again, And on the Day of Pentecost, just 50 days after His resurrection, He came back again in the fullness of His Presence and Glory. Once again there was a "voice of a great rushing" that Ezekiel heard. Once again the glory of the LORD was in "His place" (Ezek. 3:12). "And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting" (Acts 2:2). Where were they sitting? Not in an upper room, but in the "house." No doubt in the old Temple that was devoid of the glory, for we are told that the disciples, after the ascension of Jesus, "were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God" (Lk. 24:53). And right there in that old temple--which had served its purpose--God was bringing forth a new Temple, the Church of the living God, one "not made with hands," but "living stones" of a far greater Temple, "a habitation of God through the Spirit." Jesus went away from Bethany, which means "house of figs" or "dates." And He will come back to Bethany, before He is seen of the world. He comes to the fruitful people. He comes for the perfect fruit. "Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain" (Jas. 5:7).
The Great High Priest In The Heavenly Sanctuary
"But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises" (Heb. 8:6).
Our High Priest is faithfully performing His ministry in the heavens... which is "more excellent" than any earthly ministry could ever be. He is mediating the New Covenant that God promised lie would fulfill in His people. And as Ezekiel tells us, it is for His holy Names sake that He must have this cleansed and holy Temple in the earth. Too long has His Name been blasphemed among the nations. His glory will yet come back to His Temple... and this cleansed and sanctified Temple occupies much of the latter part of Ezekiels prophecy.
"And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory" (Ezek. 43:2).
Daniel saw the same One: "His face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude" (Dan. 10:6).
John saw Him also: "In the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as aflame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters" (Rev. 1:13-15).
As we compare these scriptures we cant avoid recognizing that these prophets are describing the same awesome Man, though perhaps in different settings.
It was from the eastern gate that the Glory departed from the old temple. And Ezekiel saw Him returning "from the way of the east"... His voice was "like a noise of many waters," because now He is in union with the many springs of water from Zion, joined unto Him in one Body. "And the earth shined with His glory" because this new Temple will be everywhere in the earth, wherever the people of the Lord may dwell:
"And the LORD will create Upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, And upon her assemblies, A cloud and smoke by day, And the shining of a flaming fire by night: For upon all the glory shall be a defence [or, a covering]" (Isa. 4:5).
One Holy City, one Mount Zion... but comprised of many "assemblies" who gather in His Name throughout all the earth, with He the Lord of Glory, the LORD, in their midst.
Rivers Of Water From The Temple
"And, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward down from under the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar" (Ezek. 47:1).
In a former vision Ezekiel heard the noise of the wings of the cherubim "like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of an host" (Ezek. 1:24).
Great waters... the voice of the Almighty... the noise of a host! No wonder, for it is the heavenly hosts in union with the earthly hosts... the cherubim and the wheels... the many sons in union with the Only Begotten, and accompanied by all the allied armies of the celestial realm. John saw the One like unto the Son of man, "clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle." He is our great High Priest in the heavens. The Greek word for "paps" here is "mastos", a word that is used only of a woman; for it is Christ in union with His Bride, in one Body. "His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow," for the hoary head speaks of maturity and wisdom, For He is the Ancient of Days that Daniel saw, but now joined unto a Body that has come to maturity and full stature--a holy Bride that has become one with Him. "His eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass," for He walks in the fullness of illumination and understanding, discerns all hidden things, walks in purity and holiness and righteousness with feet that have known the judgments of the brazen altar, and the fiery cleansing of the brazen sea. "And the voice of his words was like the voice of a multitude" (Dan. 10:6)... "as the sound of many waters" (Rev. 1:15). Many, many voices mingling together in the Body of Christ; no longer with the confusion of Babel such as we know today... rather with the flowing harmony of many springs of water that flow together in the great River of God. Ezekiel saw this great river flowing out from the Temple of God, "which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed" (Ezek. 47:8). John saw the same river. "And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb" (Rev. 22:1). And the psalmist saw it too...
"There is a river,
The streams whereof shall make glad
The city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacles
Of the most High" (Ps. 46:4).
The River of God... full of water... a river that heals the land whithersoever it floweth.
Let us notice the characteristics of this pure River, For the cleansing of the leper in the Old Testament a living bird must be dipped in "living water" (that is, clean flowing water) that contained the blood of a dead bird. The fountain that was opened "to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness" (Zech. 13:1), this fountain contains the ingredient of "precious Blood." It is the Spirit of God flowing in the hearts and lives of Gods people that washes them in the blood of Christ, and causes them to be "pure, even as He is pure." It is the River of God that flows with pure, clean, refreshing water from the throne of God.
But after the cleansing, there is nourishment from it also... because it also flows with milk... and new wine...
"And it shall come to pass in that day,
That the mountains shall drop down new wine,
And the hills shall flow with milk,
And all the rivers of Judah
Shall flow with waters,
And a fountain shall come forth
Of the house of the LORD,
And shall water the valley of Shittim" (Joel 3:18).
Refreshing waters from the House of the LORD to water the land, to cause fertility and growth, and to bring forth all manner of fruit each season... and with leaves "for the healing of the nations."
And new wine to bring joy instead of mourning, and to gladden the hearts of men.
And the milk of truth to nourish and strengthen the little ones! The "sincere milk of the Word" that God has provided for babes in Christ!
There is so much in Ezekiels vision that we have not touched upon. But we must comment briefly on this beautiful and almost poetic passage in Ezekiel 41:7:
"And there was an enlarging,
And a winding about still upward
To the side chambers:
For the winding about of the house
Went still upward round about the house:
Therefore the breadth of the house
Was still upward..."
Still upward! Still upward! Still upward! Ours is a "high calling"--an "upward calling."
Oh, how God desires to lift the veil from the eyes of His people, and cause them to know that there are realms in the length and the breadth and the height and the depth of His love that we have never known! "The high calling of God in Christ Jesus" is an upward calling (Phil. 3:14). If we see only the height of the call we would be inclined to say it is too high! But it is an upward calling. We need only to take one step at a time, and follow as He gives more grace.
THE TEMPLE OF ZERUBBABEL
We are not going to deal with the Temple of Zerubbabel at length because we dealt with it in a previous writing (The Feast of Tabernacles). But we will comment upon it briefly so as to keep the continuity of the seven temples, showing how in Gods plan and purpose He would continue to move from Tent to Tent, until He finds for Himself a true habitation in the Spirit.
After Solomons time we have nothing but continual deterioration in the kingdom as well as in temple worship. Of course after the captivity had ended there was a new sense of expectancy as the faithful remnant returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the temple. Nevertheless, along with this sense of expectancy there must have been a lot of disappointment in the hearts of the builders of the temple, and in the hearts of the scribes and teachers in Israel. For God had said, "The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former." They must have found it difficult to reconcile what they were hearing from the mouths of the prophets with what they were seeing before their eyes. Certainly what they were seeing was far, far inferior to what they had known in the old Temple of Solomon, But the prophets would inquire of the Lord as to what time they were referring, as Peter tells us: "Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify" (1 Pet. 1:11). It was not as clear to the prophets as it is to some of our modern theologians who can read the Old Testament and immediately pinpoint it as a prophecy to be fulfilled at the second coming in a very literal and carnal way. God, however, revealed to these prophets that they wrote of a people who would be living in the day and hour following the sufferings of the Christ. Peter declared that "unto us" they were ministering words of truth that "are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven" (1 Pet. 1:12). And now as the Kingdom of Heaven takes root in the earth, and Gods eternal wisdom shines forth from the Church, the very heavens themselves are stirred with wonderment as the celestial beings, angels, archangels, cherubim and seraphim, look down upon us and seek to pry into the hidden secrets of our redemption in Christ Jesus. For the apostle Paul tells that the intent of the Gospel is that "now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by [or, through] the church the manifold wisdom of God [or, the many-sided aspects of the wisdom of God]" (Eph. 3:10). God is using the Church to bring forth into the heavens this glorious revelation of the wisdom of the Cross. They do not understand it, except as they see it unfolded through a redeemed people in the earth. Beloved, let us not get unduly excited about angelic visitations. We thank the Lord for the angels, whom God hath sent into the earth to minister on our behalf. But if they start to give teachings that pertain to our redemption, we need to be very suspicious. Redeemed man knows more about these things than they do. Peter tells us that even the angels "desire to look into" these things. They are seeking to learn from us. Moses in great boldness said:
"Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak;
And hear, O earth, the words of my mouth" (Deut. 32:1).
Moses would declare unto the heavens a word that would reveal the wisdom of God. David cried unto God, and as we have observed, the very heavens mobilized their forces for battle. Joshua commanded the sun and the moon to stand still. Ezekiel prophesied unto "the wind" over the dry bones, "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain that they may live," and the dead bones began to arise and stand in battle array. Paul was known in heavenly places. Because of his life and his identification with the Cross, he penetrated the world of darkness, and even spirits cried out: "Jesus I know, and Paul I know..." For when Paul spoke the heavens heard what he said, and when he walked in obedience to the Lord and in the sufferings of the Cross, the world of darkness became aware of it, bringing great fear upon them.
But this Glory that the prophets spoke about was for the "Latter House," not for Zerubbabel and the faithful remnant.
This must have left them greatly concerned, and their minds filled with many questions. Where was the Glory that Haggai told us about? Where was the shining forth of Gods presence? Where was Urim and Thummim that would give us infallible counsel and guidance for the people of God? Where was the holy fire that ought to have burned on the mercy seat? Where was the Cloud of Glory? It just wasnt there.
How could they have known that Gods real intention concerned not the temple they were building, but "the true tabernacle" which the Lord would pitch in the fullness of time, and that the temple they were building was but a type and shadow of the real. The True Tabernacle, the Perfect Tabernacle, was the real intent of Haggais prophecy, and the real intent of Zechariahs prophecy, and the real intent of Ezekiels prophecy (Heb. 8:2; 9:11).
And so the prophets of old, and the builders of Gods temples, must learn the age-enduring lesson of patience. There are so many things we cannot reconcile with Gods Word and promises. God would have us to simply walk in obedience, whether or not we see the full intention of His heart realized in our day and generation. Many, many of Gods chosen ones have passed off the scene feeling that they had failed to see the Glory of God for which they had waited. But this does not mean that they have fallen short of what God had promised. It only means that for them there still remains a better resurrection"!
THE TEMPLE OF HEROD THE GREAT
The restoration Temple of Zerubbabel served its intended purpose for many generations; but as it has always happened with the temples of God, invariably they come to desolation and ruin. Oh, that men might learn the clear teachings of scripture. Teachings for which Gods chosen ones have suffered great persecution and even martyrdom: The Most High God dwelleth not in temples made with hands! God in His mercy provides His people with these instruments of His grace to teach them, to lead them, to draw them closer to Himself. And man in the perverted state of his heart takes the instruments of Gods grace and makes of them religious idols and garments of hypocrisy, in a vain attempt to gain approval and favor in His sight.
This is what happened in the nation of Israel, and this is what has happened throughout the era of the Church. What God intended as an outstretched arm to draw men unto Himself... we accept it from His hand push God to one side... take the thing He has given us... change it... pervert it... mutilate it and then give it back to Him in pride and arrogance, thinking we have done Him a great service!
For what meaneth a building, a temple, a shrine to the Most High God? What does He care about the blood of bullocks and goats? What does He care about offerings of incense, and candelabras, and domed temples, and vestments, and stained glass windows, and holy water, and priestly turbans...?
How difficult it has been for Gods prophets to penetrate into the hearts of Gods erring ones and cause them to see and acknowledge the folly of their religious rituals! Sometimes their word had to be very hard, and very severe:
"Take away your sacrifices," God had to say through Isaiah the prophet. "I dont want them! You are killing oxen to please Me? Go ahead and kill a man! You want to present Me with a lamb for a sacrifice? Go, cut off a dogs neck and give Me that! You want to bring the blood of your oblations into My presence? Bring swines blood its all the same to Me!" (See Isa. 66:3.)
And why does God speak this way? Because these offerings that God once ordained through Moses were only symbolic and only acceptable when they were brought to God with a humble and contrite heart, awaiting the day when the Lamb of God would come on the scene to put away sin "by the sacrifice of Himself." They were only pleasing to God when the sinning Israelite would bring these out of a repentant heart and a sorrowful spirit because he had sinned against the LORD. But now they bring them with a proud and arrogant heart, rebelliously going their own way, and thinking they can give God some kind of religious offering to appease Him. The beautiful temples that God ordained throughout Israels history were only intended as a place where He might meet with His people through sacrifice. He would put His Name there. And it was only a valid temple because He foresaw and foreordained a spiritual Temple in the fullness of time to take its place. As if God needs a house to live in! As if Messiah wants a beautiful home in Jerusalem so He can have a nice resting place when He returns from His wearisome travels to the four corners of the earth!
"Thus saith the LORD,
The heaven is my throne,
And the earth is my footstool:
Where is the house
That ye build unto me?
And where is the place of my rest?...
But to this man will I look,
Even to him that is poor
And of a contrite spirit,
And trembleth at my word" (Isa. 66:1-2).
"For thus saith the high and lofty One
That inhabiteth eternity,
Whose name is Holy;
I dwell in the high and holy place,
With him also that is of a contrite
And humble spirit,
To revive the spirit of the humble,
And to revive the heart of the contrite ones (Isa. 57:15).
This is the only temple God wants for His home. Nor has He ever desired any other. As we consider briefly some of the characteristics of the Temple of Herod, let us notice the strong parallel that exists between the situation as it was then in the days of Israel, and the way it is now in the Church, And if we know and understand that out of the midst of that era there has emerged the very Kingdom of God, can we not have great hope and confidence that in this hour of great corruption and apostasy there is yet to be revealed a glorious and triumphant Church?
1. The Temple Was Magnificent
The old Temple of Zerubbabel had gone into ruin and decay, and Herod the Great undertook to rebuild it and to make it exceedingly magnificent, something like the one that Solomon had built many centuries earlier. Not that he had any particular love for the Jewish people. But Israel was under Roman occupation and Herod hoped that he might pacify the Jews with this show of religious splendor, and perhaps cause them to forget their age-long vision of national greatness. In this way He would not only secure his own kingdom, but he would strengthen their ties with Rome, which were often strained to the breaking point as Rome sought to subjugate this proud, yet greatly weakened people.
Remnants of the old Temple were still there, but it was virtually rebuilt to its very foundations, and so thoroughly that it could almost be considered a new Temple. History relates that Herod employed thousands of men on the task, and that the Temple was ready for use after a few years. To complete it, however, it took "46 years" (as we are told in the scriptures), the rest of the time having been spent in the construction of the various other buildings that comprised the Temple complex. It was exceedingly beautiful, as we gather from what is said about it in the Bible, and in the writings of ancient history.
2. The Priesthood And Leadership Were Gilded
Jesus was constantly confronting the leaders with their sin and hypocrisy, and warning the people to "beware" of them. They were beautiful from without, like polished sepulchers, but "within were filled with dead mens bones." We hear such words as "hypocrites," "serpents," "vipers," coming from the lips of the lowly Nazarene, as He denounced their hypocrisy.
3. They Were Encumbered With Tradition
Jesus accused the leaders of giving more honor to their traditions than they did to the Word of God. How up-to-date and modern! What God has said doesnt seem to matter anymore. Rather, "This is the way I was brought up... This is what our church teaches These became one of the dogmas of our church, away back in such-and-such a time..." But what does God say about it? Or does that not matter?
4. It Became A Financial Institution
We can bring forth some very good reasons why we must raise this money, and we have many ways of justifying the means that are used: "God needs this for His work..." and so forth. Certainly God wants His people to be liberally minded, and who will give of their means for the work of God. But He is going to overthrow the tables of the money chambers in the House of God once again. They had a good reason for what they were doing too. The people must have a lamb, or an ox, or a turtledove, for their sacrifices. They were just making a very convenient way for them to get what they needed. But Jesus drove them all out of the Temple, and said, "Make not my Fathers house an house of merchandise" (Jn. 2:16). We have a lot of that today, and God is going to deal with it: making merchandise of the gifts or talents or ministries that God has given, or that men have devised for the sake of base gain. The prophet said the time would come when the Canaanite would be driven out of the House of the LORD (Zech. 14:2 1). The Canaanite was the "trafficker" or the "merchantman" of that day!
5. Jesus Recognized It As Gods House
In spite of all that we have observed about the corruption of Israels last and most apostate Temple, Jesus called it "my Father s house." The reason is evident. God had instituted it in the beginning, and despite the veneer, and the pride, and the corruption that prevailed, the true people of God were still there; and for their sakes God would not abandon it until His purposes had been accomplished. There was still a Zecharias, a faithful priest... with Elizabeth his wife... to whom the Lord promised a son that was to be named John, a mighty prophet who would seek to turn the hearts of the people back to God. There was still an Anna, a faithful intercessor who departed not from the Temple, but waited continually upon God as she longed for the restoration of His glory. There was still a Simeon, who cherished the promise of one day actually seeing the Messiah, and he would live to see Him there in that old Temple. And there was still a righteous Joseph, and a pure virgin Mary, to whom God gave the promise of the Holy Child Jesus, who would be taken to that Temple as a babe in arms, to be dedicated to the Lord.
This is the stage that was set for the appearing of the Messiah. And perhaps this is the most encouraging example we have in all scripture as to Gods grace and power, and His ability to bring forth the glory and the hope of Israel with such a background as this.
In this present hour, when religious hypocrisy and sham abound everywhere, how encouraging it is to know that in the midst of it all there is still a holy remnant. Perhaps a very small remnant, that is true. But God always takes delight in working through a "remnant"... that He might have all the Glory!
Jesus wept over the City of Jerusalem in His day, and lamented, "How often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate" (Lk. 13:34-35). He did not come to restore the old Temple, but to build a new one. He Himself would be the "chief corner stone" of the new Temple, and He Himself would be the Glory. When He had completed the work that He came to do He entered the gates of the old Temple for the last time, and left it again to suffer without the Camp. A new Temple was in the making! The old one would be given over to the abomination of desolation, and eventually committed into the hands of a ruthless Roman general to destroy. And in the centuries to come the very site of the Temple would become the site of a temple erected to the honor of a false prophet; for the Mosque of Omar now stands on that very spot.
It would seem by this sovereign act of God that He would forever restrain Israel from erecting a structure and a system that He had utterly rejected and given over to desolation, as prophesied by Daniel (Dan. 9:26-27). The old temples had served their purpose. God would now bring forth a New Temple that would abide forever.
THE TEMPLE WHICH IS HIS BODY
"Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up But he spake of the temple of his body" (Jn. 2:19, 21).
The Seeking, Searching God
The scriptures reveal God as the seeking, searching God. the God Who will not and cannot rest until He finds rest in His people. In olden times He found it necessary to move "from tent to tent" because the God of eternal purpose cannot linger long in a place or realm that falls short of reality. The eternal longings of His heart must be realized in the creation which He brought into being for His own praise and glory. And yet, in and through all His dealings with mankind, He must be patient and long-suffering; for it is only in the outflow of His own heart of love, and mercy, and long-suffering that He might reproduce these same qualities in His creatures. He begets His sons... they proceed from Himself. They are not created in the same way as other beings, by wisdom and power alone. God must have a people like Himself if He is to find a true resting place, a true place of delight. Therefore His sons are begotten... they proceed from his own heart and nature. And therefore, though He is the sovereign God, He cannot through sovereign omnipotence do anything that would be counter to His own nature of love, patience, humility, and long-suffering. He cannot simply create these attributes within us by some sovereign stroke of His power. And yet He must have a people with these attributes, if He is to find true rest, a true habitation for Himself. Only in the fullness of redemption could God release these inherent attributes and cause them to flow forth in regenerating grace.
And so we have before us the mystery of redemption. If we are not careful we are apt to bring it down to our level of thinking, in an attempt to justify God... as if God in His eternal wisdom and omnipotence needs finite mortal man to justify Him! And so there are all kinds of reasonings about the Fall. Why did it happen? God in His foreknowledge must have known it would happen, therefore, why did He not prevent it? It would almost seem that redemption was designed of God as an afterthought, to remedy a situation that caught Him off guard! But may God help us to leave the mystery of it all where it belongs--in the heart and mind of God--and be content with the revelation of it that He has been pleased to give us. In redemption there is restoration and recovery, that is true. But in redemption there is much more. In redemption there is the unveiling and the shining forth of the very fullness of Gods nature, the full expression of His Being. This is something God required, by virtue of WHO HE IS. And it is something that was never really accomplished in the original creation of Man.
God Must Reveal Himself
Why do we say that God must reveal Himself? Well, because of Who He is there must come forth somewhere in the fullness of His operations in Creation, a complete unveiling of Himself. God is Light. How shall Light remain forever secluded in thick darkness? God is Life. How can Life be confined within the boundaries of an old creation? God is Love. How can Love be forever stifled for the lack of objects toward whom He can express the fullness of Love? Therefore it is only in redeemed Man that we find the full unveiling of Gods Glory. For it is only in redemption that the very heart and nature of God is poured forth upon mankind. In redemption the very fullness of the Godhead was manifest in Christ Jesus... in such a way that fallen men can actually partake of Divine likeness, and thereby become a fitting habitation for the Most High. And therefore it is important for us to realize that redemption is a vital part of the "eternal purpose," and not just a remedy, not just a state of recovery, not just an afterthought in the heart and mind of God. And so Christ is portrayed as "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8), and not merely as a provision of God that came about as a necessary consequence of the Fall.
Of course this brings forth all kinds of questions to the natural mind. Why did God make a man that He knew would sin? Did God, then, cause the Fall? And we could go on and on. But we must tread softly in these areas, and base our faith on what God has revealed, and not on human reasoning. Then we can cease our questioning, as we recognize that in our finite minds we simply are not able to understand. The apostle Paul has one answer for these and similar questions, "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?" (Rom. 9:20-21). Let us learn to proceed no further with vain reasoning when the logical conclusions of our finite minds run counter to the stream of revelation. Let us just know and understand and rejoice in the fact that God the Almighty "worketh all things after the counsel of his own will" (Eph. 1:11), and be assured that in the end all creation will recognize and understand that God the Most High, from the beginning unto the end, has done that which is RIGHT!
The Glorious Dispensation Of The Holy Spirit
It was a day of great sorrow for the disciples when their Lord made the announcement that He was going to leave them. Then why did He come in the first place? With one sudden stroke it seemed that all their hopes for Kingdom power and glory were being swept away. But Jesus went on to explain: "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you" (Jn. 16:7). And again, "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of [or, from] himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you" (Jn. 16:13-14).
As clearly as any language could express it, Jesus was telling His disciples that the Holy Spirit, coming to abide in His disciples in the earth, would be to them everything that Jesus was when He was here! Jesus was the Truth; the Holy Spirit would be that same Spirit of Truth abiding within them. Jesus had been the only real reprover of sin in the world. Now the Holy Spirit would take up His cause, and would reprove the world of sin. Jesus stood alone and apart from men as the one, true example of righteousness in the earth. Now the Holy Spirit would reprove and convict the world as to Gods righteousness, and His hatred of sin.
But notice this. The Holy Spirit would do this, not from the heavens, but as He took up His habitation in the hearts of His people. And it would be out from this new Temple in the earth that this expression of the heart of God would flow forth unto the world, Oh, that the people of God might have eyes to see this very simple truth: that God by His Holy Spirit, living and abiding in His Temple in the earth, will show forth not only His love, but His righteousness and His truth as faithfully and as perfectly as Jesus did when He was here, For the Holy Spirit is, in fact, the very Spirit of Jesus dwelling in the hearts of men.
What hope this gives us! And what confidence! This dispensation of the Holy Spirit-where He abides and lives in His holy Temple in the earth--is not just a fill-in, a sort of parenthesis in Gods plan until the Kingdom comes. It is, in fact, the very outshining of the Kingdom of God; and the next glorious phase of the Kingdom (whatever might be involved), cannot come into being until this present phase has been accomplished, and the chosen ones of the Lord are joined unto Him with that same nature and kind of union that now exists between the Father and the Son!
The Abbreviated Vision
So often it would seem that the purpose of God is just too great for us mortals to embrace, so we are inclined to abbreviate it a little in order to bring it down into the realm of human possibility and achievement. In so doing we would completely bring to nought what God really intended. But human failure at the most merely delays the outworking of Gods eternal purpose. It cannot alter it. God is going to lead His people into all Truth. The Holy Spirit has been commissioned to do that. Men recognize how hopeless a task this seems to be, so they just water it down; sometimes to the point of saying, "Forget all those doctrines... they only divide the Body of Christ." In actual fact it is only when the Lordship of Christ is truly recognized in an obedient and willing people, and truth flows forth from a cleansed and purified ministry, that the Body of Christ will be joined together in vital fullness, and then grow up unto the full stature of the Christ Himself. God said that the ministry He has set in the Church is for this very purpose! (See Eph. 4:13.)
Consider again the prayer of Jesus: "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (Jn. 17:21). This is usually abbreviated to a six-word slogan, so common these days in ecumenical circles: "THAT THEY ALL MAY BE ONE..." But this is not what Jesus prayed for! In fact the Lord has consistently showed His displeasure with any ecclesiastical system which has had for its objective the gathering together of a people into any kind of unity that is not the work of the Holy Spirit. Such an objective merely brings about another outworking of a Babylonish system. Coming out of this denomination or that is really not the issue for the spirit of Babylon remains strong in many who have left the organized structures of the Church, and continues to reappear in slightly revised forms... all in the guise of establishing New Testament Church order. Let us remember that it was the desire for unity, and for strong leaders to hold the people together and make for themselves a name, that brought into being the first Babel.
This is what Jesus prayed: "As thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us..." Joined in vital union with the Son and the Father with that same character of oneness that exists between the Father and the Son? Impossible! Certainly... if we try to make it happen. But possible with God! And He is preparing a ministry and a people, through many fiery trials, to bring about this kind of union. When the ministration of truth goes forth from ministries who are one with God, this prepared people will also become one with God.
Abiding In Christ
We are really talking about the realm of Gods Temple known as the Holy of Holies. God is drawing a people into this realm where they will learn to abide in total union with Christ. We are not automatically in there just because the veil which is His flesh was torn asunder: for Paul exhorts us to "enter into the holiest" and to "draw near with a true heart"... because the way has been opened up by the blood of Jesus and the rending of the veil. (See Heb. 10:19-22.) It is only by the ministration of the Holy Spirit that the work of the Cross is performed in our hearts and lives. And the Holy Spirit has been given a commission to bring this about in the "Church, which is His Body," to lead His people into all truth, and to take the things of Christ and make them real and vital within us. In an earlier day He was given a commission to prepare a Body for the habitation of the Lord Jesus in incarnation... and He was faithful in all that He did by way of conceiving, nurturing, protecting, and bringing that One unto birth and unto full stature. And now this enlarged Body (for the Church is not another Body, but rather a greater fullness of the one Jesus lived in when He was here), this enlarged Body that is in the process of formation shall be just as miraculously conceived of God, and just as carefully disciplined and nurtured as was the Only Begotten Son of God. And this Body shall reveal the full glory of the Christ in the same manner that the Lord Jesus revealed the full glory of the Father. ("And the glory which thou gayest me I have given them" [Jn. 17:22].) We do not have any problem believing that the "fullness" (Gr. Pleroma) of the Godhead dwelt in Christ, fully revealing the character and nature of God. But so many have a problem with the statement that the Church is "his body, the fulness [Gr. Pleroma) of him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:23). Now this is not just a positional sort of arrangement, something beyond our attainment, and reserved for Heaven; for the apostle goes on to pray for the people of God that in union "with all saints" they might come to that glorious realm of immeasurable love, and immeasurable grace, even into that realm where they are "FILLED with all the fulness [Gr. Pleroma] of God" (Eph. 3:19). Is God able to do this? Let us read on. For Paul says He can do "exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." And by what power? "According to the power that worketh in us" (v. 20). Dear ones, let us recognize that this was not merely the prayer of an apostle in a moment of excitement, but that it was the burden of the Holy Spirit dwelling within him, inspiring him to pray this prayer, and earnestly longing over Gods people that they might comprehend this immeasurable ocean of God. And the word "comprehend" is really much stronger than that. It really means to "apprehend," and to lay hold upon it!
Preparation Of The Body Of Christ
No man could tamper with, or in any way meddle with, the creative Word that came forth to Mary. This would only spoil and completely nullify what God had in mind. Certainly human instruments were involved. Mary and Joseph were greatly involved: Joseph as the protector and guardian of the Holy Child, and Mary as the mother. Together they must bear the reproach of it all. Mary in particular had only to believe what the angel had declared; and her simple reply was, "Be it unto me according to thy Word" (Lk. 1:38). Simeon, a lowly old man with a great revelation, had only one small task. But oh, how grievous a task! Just to have to wait, and wait perhaps year after year... and then just to catch a fleeting glimpse of the infant Messiah, hold Him in his arms for a moment, and declare Him to be Gods light to the Gentiles and the glory of His people Israel. Then his responsibility was finished. He would go on his way, and perhaps very shortly pass off the scene. Anna, a very old widow woman, was involved. She must abide in the temple day and night in intercessory prayers for the redemption of Israel, and live to see the Redeemer when He was brought to the temple for dedication. John the Baptist was involved, as the one who would introduce Him to Israel in the waters of baptism.
All these had their particular responsibility... but their involvement was carefully planned and sovereignly overshadowed by the purpose and plan of God, and the brooding wings of the Holy Spirit.
In this day God is preparing the Body of Christ--which is not another Body, but a joining of His people unto the Lord Jesus, Who is the glorified Head, And our involvement is much of the same nature as it was when God "prepared" a Body for the Man Christ Jesus. And to those who are involved, there is a living hope that keeps them walking in His Way. But the Way is just as grievous as it was with the faithful remnant in Israel. We too must accept the reproach and the misunderstanding that comes our way as we seek to walk in Gods will and Gods way. To hear the Word that God has spoken, impossible as it may sound in the ears of men. To believe that God is yet to bring forth a virgin Bride for Christ, from sinful and corrupt humanity. To intercede in union with the Spirit of God for this great thing that He will do in the earth. To wait and wait and wait for this Body to come forth in the earth, without trying to manufacture one of our own by studying the blueprints of the New Testament Church. For let no one imagine that by gathering the people of God together into some kind of "New Testament Church" structure that they are in that manner helping to bring about the fulfillment of the prayer of Jesus. God has ordained ministry; but it is only as the ministration of Truth brings the people of God into that vital abiding union with Christ that the prayer of Jesus has been answered.
When Jesus said, "Without me ye can do nothing" (Jn. 15:5), He was not implying that with His help we can do many, many wonderful things. What He said was, "Apart from me ye can do nothing." This is different. He is telling us plainly that severed from the flow of life and wisdom and knowledge and love and grace that proceed from Him, we can do nothing. The gifts may be there, and valid, and functioning. But apart from that constant flow of His own Life and Word and Spirit, NOTHING is accomplished that will stand the test of Him who sees with eyes "as a flame of fire." Too long has it been assumed that because we are enriched with spiritual gifts... or because we are apostles or prophets or teachers.... or whatever... that we have been authorized of the Lord to go forth and make these gifts and ministries work, and build His Church. These gifts and ministries rather must come under such subjection to the Holy Spirit in our midst that He Who is the Truth will grip the hearts of men and cause them to become deeply rooted in Him, and so "grow up into him [Christ] in all things, which is the head" (Eph. 4:15). Then will the people of God be ONE... and then will they speak the same thing. Not because they belong to the same church or fellowship, or have subscribed to the same teachings, or have submitted themselves to the same apostles and prophets and pastors in the Church, but because they have been joined together in a vital abiding union with the same Lord.
I am persuaded that God is preparing such a people in the earth, and that through them He will demonstrate the very fullness of the Love and Light and Truth of God in the earth. There is a people hidden in the hollow of Gods hand, unseen and unrecognized by the world, and throughout the Church, But in the Day of the LORD their mouth shall be as a sharp two-edged sword. "And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me" (Isa. 49:2). God is preparing the arrow of Truth, that He might send it forth in a clear, certain Word: "And [he] made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me" (v. 2 cont.). God has determined that His Word will hit the mark, and do the work that He intended. It must not swerve, fall short, or go beyond what God intended. Therefore He polishes the shaft until there is a true and perfect balance in all things. There is a ministry in the hands of the One Who holds the "seven stars." They are learning to abide in His hands, so that when He stretches forth His hands to minister, they will stretch forth their hands. When He speaks, they will speak. When He is silent, they are silent. When He moves forward, they move forward. Like the wheels of the Cherubim that we mentioned earlier, they will move in harmony with God. No longer will they have doctrines of their own, for they have laid all that down... that they might have only His doctrine. They no longer have any plans and programs for enlargement, because they walk in union with Him Who is the Architect and Builder of all things. They only plan as they know His plan. They only build, as they build together with Him. They are not working for God, but like the apostle Paul said of himself, they are learning to be "labourers together with God" (1 Cor. 3:9). They are in His yoke, and are therefore learning from Him.
Now this is the way Jesus lived and ministered, is it not? But it was not in the plan of God that Jesus should stay here in the earth these two thousand years, and travel about in this kind of ministry. You and I know very well that had He done so, what we have said of the disciplined ministry would be totally true concerning Him. But we are a little hesitant to believe that it could be totally true of anyone else, no matter how well-disciplined they are. But let us remind you once again what Jesus said before He went away: "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you" (Jn. 16:7). As clearly as any translation could tell us, it would be for our profit, for our good, and to our advantage if Jesus would go back to the Father, and send the Holy Spirit to abide in His people in the earth. For He would, in fact, be the same Lord Jesus abiding not only with us but in us.
God Is Justified In The Spirit
1 Timothy 3:16
When Jesus was here on earth He so beautifully manifested the character of God through the ministration of the Spirit in His life, that God was "justified in the Spirit." Again, because of the glorious accomplishment of the Cross, we are told that God was declared to be "just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Rom. 3:26). The Cross fully justified God as far as His holy and righteous character was concerned: in His dealings with sin, and in His forgiveness and justification for the sinner who believes in Christ. But has God been as truly "Justified in the Spirit" after the ascension of Christ, as He was when Jesus was here?
The beautiful work of Redemption has been accomplished, and the work of Christ is a "finished" work. But the work of the Mediator in the heavens is not a "finished work" as yet; nor will it be until the Holy Spirit dwelling in the Body of Christ in the earth has fully declared and revealed and manifested the victory of the Cross. The victory of the Cross is sure and steadfast and unchangeable, totally justifying God the Righteous One in justifying sinners who believe in Jesus. But only as God is "Justified in the Spirit," can that glorious victory of the Cross be revealed and manifested in the earth. For centuries preceding the Cross, Gods great and holy Name had been blasphemed among the Gentiles because of Gods people. Isaiah first laid the charge, and the apostle Paul reiterated it in his day. (See Isa. 52:5; Rom. 2:24.) God was in trouble. God is always in trouble when His Name is dishonored, for God is very Jealous for His Name. One of Gods great Names is "JEALOUS" (Ex. 34:14). Gods priests know this; and that is why Moses reminded God of His reputation among the nations, and asked Him if He was not concerned about it. (See Ex. 32:12; Num. 14:15-16.) "Your Name is held in great dishonor, Lord... what are You going to do about it?" God knew what He would do about it then, and He knows what He will do about it today. He promised Moses that He would forgive His people; but in doing that to an undeserving people, He declared that He would also fill the whole earth with His glory!
Never has Gods Name been blasphemed in the earth as it is this day in which we live. The Christians God is scoffed at, maligned, caricatured, flaunted on the stage, misrepresented as One Who cares nothing about sin and rebellion... One Who is sympathetic toward every evil cause that comes to the forefront these days in the name of human rights. And to aggravate the matter still further, there are men in the Church who come to the front as champions of perversion... all in the Name of God! God has long borne the reproach of a Name that is blasphemed among the nations. And all this goes on in spite of the fact that God has been totally justified because of the work of the Cross!
God cares! And He is doing something about it! By the mighty operation of the Spirit of God abiding in His Temple in the earth, once again God will be gloriously justified in the Spirit.
Israels God was blasphemed among the nations because of His people. Yet so great was the operation of the Spirit of God in the Church that men and women all over the Roman Empire turned to God when they saw Him revealed in a people who walked in the steps of the lowly Nazarene, Who came to earth to reveal the Name, the character of the Father. How did God bring this about? He simply caused Grace and Glory to abound in such tremendous power that what God accomplished at the Cross became real and vital and operative in those who walked in the way of the Cross, and preached it! And it is said that within about 300 years after the birth of the Church, approximately one-half of the Empire had been won to Christ!
What Then Shall We Do?
When God indicates His will and declares His Word we are prone to take that Word and try to make it work. And so we bring forth our Ishmaels--the fruit of our own hands. This does not alter Gods plan, but He does insist that we lay aside our Ishmaels that His beloved Isaac might come forth. We must know that basically our responsibility consists of getting out of the way, and letting God reveal His way. Let us stop meddling with the beautiful, creative work that God is bringing forth. Let the priests of the LORD continue to remind God of the dishonor of His great Name among the nations. Let Gods people everywhere take upon themselves the "yoke" of Christ, and in so doing "learn from Him." And in learning from Him may we learn such captivity unto Him Who has liberated us, that as His bondslaves we may come to the place where we speak only what He is speaking, walk only where He is walking, do only what He is doing. Let us not hesitate to set our face as a flint to do the will of God, knowing full well that it might mean the end of all our ambitions and plans and visions. Let us understand that if the Master must lay down His life and ministry in obedience to the Father, it will also be required of His servants. Let every man prove for himself, "what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God," as he finds grace to dedicate himself wholly unto God, a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1-2).
It Is Harvest Time
I think most of Gods people are aware that this is harvest time. But have we thoughtfully considered the many implications of harvest time? Well, of course we must get out there quickly and reap the harvest before it is too late. But what about waiting upon God for Him to prepare... and to send? Jesus said (and this is something that our churches often fail to recognize), "The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest" (Lk. 10:2). For unless the Lord of the Harvest sends, we send them in vain--and they go in vain.
If it is harvest time it is the time of the gathering of the grain. True, But if it is harvest time it is a time of division and separation. First the tares must be separated from the wheat. And as surely as this begins to happen we are going to hear loud cries warning the people of God to beware... "This thing cannot be of God because the people of God are being separated and divided!" God knows what He is doing. He will join together the people of God into one Body... but He will just as surely divide and separate the wheat from the tares. And only God can tell the difference!
If it is harvest time, then it is threshing time. All the chaff of religious activity, useful and necessary as some of it may have been in its time, will no longer be necessary or acceptable, and will be consumed in smoke in the Day when Gods people are baptized with the Holy Ghost and with Fire.
If it is harvest time, then the Husbandman comes into His garden looking for perfect fruit, perfect grain. It must be like the Seed that was planted in the earth when Jesus chose the will of the Father rather than the fulfillment of a glorious Messianic ministry. Jesus faithfulness unto death, in obedience to the will of the Father, is Gods guarantee to you and to me--and to all the earth--that there will come forth in the Day of Harvest, perfect grain, wholesome grain, even like the seed that was planted. It is the Law of the Seed! The Seed must bring forth after its kind!
Once again, as in the early Church, there is a whole world out there that hates the Christians God. But can we really blame them? For the only concept they have of God comes from what they see in Gods people; and too often they are not at all impressed. A bumper sticker proclaiming that God is alive is a very cheap gimmick, and does nothing to impress people with what youve got. But when the Holy Spirit has fulfilled the charge that has been laid upon Him, and has joined the disciples of Christ unto their Lord in total, abiding union with Him, the world is going to know and believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Once again God will be justified in the Spirit! And the Spirit of God living and abiding in total fullness in this corporate MAN that is arising in the midst of the Church will show forth a God of total righteousness, and love, and justice, and truth in the earth. Christ will receive unto Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or blemish... or any such thing. And God will have found that habitation for Himself for which His heart has longed through times eternal.
"And I John saw the holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband... And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the Temple of it" (Rev. 21:2, 22).
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