BEFORE considering this great Temple built by Israel’s greatest of monarchs, King Solomon, we need first to recall the various temples mentioned in the Bible.
The Temples of Scripture
Broadly speaking, there are two groups. In the first, all four are material:
Solomon’s Temple : Twenty chapters of 1Kings and 2Chronicles are devoted to the history of Solomon, of which ten describe the building of the Temple. See 1Kings ch. 5 to 8, and 2Chronicles ch. 2 to 7.
In the fourth year of his reign, 1012 B.C., Solomon began to build the temple which took him seven years to complete (1Kings 6:37f). Nearly six centuries later, it was destroyed in 585 B.C. by invading Chaldean armies.
The Second Temple: In 535 B.C. the second year after their return from Babylon to Palestine, the Jews, under Zerubbabel’s leadership, began to rebuild the Temple but the work was delayed through harassment by hostile Samaritans and it was eventually completed in 515 B.C. This Temple lacked the splendour and magnificence of the first.
After about 500 years, this Temple had suffered considerably from natural decay and assaults from hostile armies, and so King Herod, an Edomite and desirous to gain favour with the Jews, offered to renovate it. The offer was accepted and the work begun in 18 B.C. The temple was enlarged and the principal part of the building was completed in ten years but embellishment work and building of the courts continued. The temple was finally finished in A.D. 65 and it was destroyed in A.D. 70 by the Roman armies, having stood for nearly six centuries.
These first two temples belong to the past and they are the subjects of history.
The next two temples, still to be built relate to the future and they are the subjects of prophecy.
The Restored Temple: Although no detailed description is given, the Scriptures indicate clearly that a Temple will be built and the sacrifices restored during the Tribulation, or Daniel’s seventieth week. See Daniel 9:27, Matthew 24:15, 2Thessalonians 2:4, Revelation 11:1f.
Remarkably, although this building will be built by apostate Jews, it is called “the temple of God” in Scriptures, but it will be defiled by the worship of the “beast” image to be set up in the holy place and by “the man of sin” sitting in the sanctuary proclaiming “that he is God.” Therefore, being made unfit for Messiah, this temple will be destroyed at His return to the earth.
The Millennial Temple: Although Isaiah, Micah, Haggai, and Zechariah make brief references to this Temple, Ezekiel devotes eight chapters to it, and only the first and fourth temples are described in detail, being the only two filled with the Glory of the Lord.
This great edifice will be graced by the presence of Christ Himself, and it will be the centre of worship not only for Israel but all nations during Messiah’s reign of righteousness for one thousand years upon the earth.
Certain features differentiate these four temples. The Ark of the Covenant was placed in Solomon’s Temple, but there was no Ark in the Second Temple, and there will be none in either Antichrist’s or the Millennial Temples (see Jeremiah 3:16, R.V.). A veil divided Solomon’s and the Second Temples but there will be no veil in the Millennial Temple, although there will be a pair of dividing doors as in the first Temple. One more differentiating feature must suffice. The Shekinah glory filled Solomon’s Temple but not the Second and certainly it will not the Third Temple. However, the Glory of the Lord will fill the Millennial Temple, not by way of symbol as in Solomon’s but in the Person of Christ, and so “the Glory of this latter House shall be greater than of the former” (Haggai 2:9, cp. Ezekiel 43:4f).
In the second group of temples, all four are mystical:
They are all found in the New Testament, in which two Greek words are translated “temple,” each having a different shade of meaning. Hieron denotes all the temple buildings including the courts, and it is never used metaphorically. The other word naos means the sanctuary, both the holy place and the holy of holies, and it is used figuratively in Scriptures that refer to a spiritual temple.
The temple of our Lord’s body (John 2:21). The Lord Jesus refers to His physical body as a temple when speaking of His forthcoming death and resurrection.
A believer’s body is “the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1Corinthians 6:19). As the Lord, by way of symbol, dwelt in Solomon’s Temple, so the Holy Spirit indwells our body as His temple.
A local assembly is “the temple of God ” (I Corinthians 3:16f). A company of believers, who gather together in the Lord’s Name is a “temple of God.”
The whole Church is “an holy temple in the Lord ” (Ephesians 2:21f). Unlike the heathen with their multitude of deities and numerous temples, Israel, as worshippers of one God, had one temple at Jerusalem where the Lord dwelt among them, and it prefigures how all believers from Pentecost to the Rapture form “an holy temple” as the “habitation of God.”
The first two mystical temples relate to individuals, Christ and Christians, The next two concern believers corporately, first as a local assembly and then as the true church of which Christ is the Head.
In several Scriptures, the Temple is the underlying imagery of heaven, the destiny of believers, but in these papers we shall consider the subject not celestially but ecclesiastically, endeavouring to find its anti-typical teaching concerning the true church.
Early Jewish believers were familiar with Herod’s Temple as it was standing in their day and Solomon’s Temple as it is described in the Old Testament, whilst pagan converts were acquainted with heathen temples. From the detailed description in Scriptures of Solomon’s temple, we shall consider it as a type of the church of God, both locally and universally.
“WHERE dwellest thou? He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where He dwelt, and abode with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour” (John 1:38, 39). Ever thus, Lord, we would abide with Thee. As these two disciples abode with Thee that day, so we would abide with Thee, during the whole of time’s little day.
It may be with some of us, the tenth hour—we may be in the “eventide” of life, although life’s sun may seem to be but rising. But known to Thee are all Thy works. Our times are in Thy hand; and who shall tell but that some of Thy dear ones, young in years, whose morn we would say is breaking, are near—ah, how near—the end of the journey! Their sun is sweeping down the evening sky of life; and soon their light for Thee down here shall shine no more! Fain would we ask of Thee, “Is it I?” But we may not know; and it is well. Yet, Lord, I would ever abide with Thee; for it is ever eventide. I would live as if the morning and the mid-day hour were past; and knowing the time is short. I would abide with Thee this “little while.” I would not be awakened by the “mighty trump” from the sleep of worldliness, or the passing dream of earthly delight. I would not be ashamed before Thee at thy coming. Then let my longing desire be that I may abide with Thee.
Dark around may be the night; yet I know it shall be light wherever Thou dost dwell. I would find myself saying like Ruth, “Entreat me not to leave Thee, or to return from following after Thee; for whither Thou goest I will go; and where thou lodgest I will lodge: Thy people shall be my people, and Thy God my God.”
Devotional Reading, Repentant Prayer, Then Revelation
WHAT a wonderful lesson is given in this chapter concerning prayer, the attitude of heart, the diligent seeking to discern the mind of a holy God and the complete self abasement in order that the Name of the Lord might be honoured. Though Daniel was a man “greatly beloved” and given wisdom and understanding in the purposes of God, though he had maintained his faithful adherence to the way of his God from the days of his youth, enduring rigorous testings, yet this lowly servant of God in his old age prayerfully and carefully turned to the word of the Living God. As a young man he had seen God’s Word fulfilled when the conquering armies of Nebuchadnezzar came sweeping over the land and he himself was carried into captivity. Now he again reads in the scrolls “this whole land shall be a desolation ... and shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. And it shall come to pass, when the seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation ... for their iniquity” (Jeremiah 25:11-12). He had been taught of God to declare to the reckless infidel regent Belshazzar “God hath numbered thy kingdom, and brought it to an end” (ch. 5:26) and then saw how the ever-faithful Jehovah fulfilled the word of His prophet Jeremiah in judgment on Babylon. Yet as he pondered over the repeated promises “after seventy years be accomplished for Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. And ye shall call upon Me, and ye shall go and pray unto Me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your hearts.” (Jeremiah 29:10, 12, 13), he looked, but saw no sign of restoring to the land. As a true prophet, he knew that the moving of kings and oeople must come at God’s command, but he also knew the heart of the people, not yet ready for their God. “I will set Mine eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land ... and I will give them an heart to know Me, that I am the Lord and they shall be My people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto Me with their whole heart.” (Jeremiah 24:6, 7). He therefore turns as a true prophet to plead for his people.
In these last days, ought we not to be instructed by Daniel and earnestly seek to learn from the written word that thus we might turn, with bowed heart and head to the Living Word, to confess our own shortcomings first, and the weakness of so many of the people of God in these days of materialism, coldness or lukewarmness, and of carelessness for the honour and glory of a holy God, pleading forgiveness and a restoring. Let us learn how to approach a holy God, as we consider the faithful saintly prophet, standing before “the great and dreadful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him” v. 4, bowing himself with sackcloth and ashes of remorse as he takes to himself the sins of his people. Though the new and living way is made open for us by the precious blood, we should ever remember the awful holiness of the Almighty God; though He is ever ready to hear the faintest whisper of our heart, yet we should approach Him with the recognition of His wondrous grace toward us, and our complete unworthiness but for that grace.
As this “man greatly beloved” studied the word of God and reviewed the ways of his people, he became increasingly conscious of the righteousness and justice of God in His dealings with a wayward and rebellious people. Though he might have pleaded “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts” as Elijah did, Daniel instead pleads earnestly for the people, taking to himself their sins and shortcomings saying “We have sinned, ... neither have we hearkened unto thy servant” v. 5, 6. Assured of the righteousness and mercy of Jehovah, Daniel pleads “O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto Thee, but unto us confusion of face ... because we have sinned against Thee. To the Lord our God belongs mercies and forgiveness; for we have rebelled against Him” (v. 7, 8, 9). “All Israel have transgressed Thy law, even turning aside, that they should not obey Thy voice, therefore hath the curse been poured out upon us ... that is written in the law of Moses ... yet have we not entreated the favour of the Lord our God.” (v. 11, 13), Throughout the prayer, the saintly prophet pours out his grief in confessing the continuing sin of his people, and pleads that because of the righteousness of the watchful Lord, He will remember His covenant and renew His mercies to the people called by His name. “O Lord our God, that hast brought Thy people out of Egypt with a mighty hand ... we have sinned. O Lord, according to all Thy righteousness, let Thine anger and Thy fury be turned away from Thy city Jerusalem. We do not present our supplication before Thee for our righteousness, but for Thy great mercies O Lord forgive: for Thine own sake, O my God. because Thy city and Thy people are called by Thy name.” (vv. 15, 16, 18. 19)
But Daniel’s prayer was interrupted. Twice he attests the fact “while I was speaking in prayer” v. 20, 21, the angel Gabriel was sent to speak to him. Isaiah had recorded the promise” before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking I will hear, “but it might be argued that this is a promise relating to Millennial conditions, (Isaiah 65), but Daniel is praying whilst God’s people are in exile and largely forgetful of God’s promises. Even so God is awaiting the fervent prayer of His servant. With all the teaching of our beloved Lord and His example in fervent prayer, we should be continuously looking up in earnest prayer knowing that by the precious blood of our Lord we have immediate access into the holiest of all. Furthermore we have the exhortation of the apostles “with all prayer and supplication praying at all seasons in the Spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance, (Ephesians 6:18), and Jude similarly exhorts to prayer in the Spirit, v. 19. Having the sure promise that the Holy Spirit is with us to teach, our prayer ought to be so real and fervent that we should expect an answer in God’s way to our prayer, even as He heard and spoke to Daniel. “The Spirit also helpeth our infirmity; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26). Though Jerusalem was in ruins and the temple destroyed, yet, at the “time of the evening sacrifice” v. 21 (which would have been going up to God had the people been faithful) Daniel prayed and God immediately responded. So, as we draw near in humility and reverence, our worship and prayer will ascend to a God ever ready to hear “all that call upon Him in truth.” (Psalm 145:18). The answer was a revelation of God’s purposes for Israel. Most of the revelation has been fulfilled, but some is still to be fulfilled.
The message to Daniel, who had been reading of the seventy years of desolation of Jerusalem, concerns seventy weeks (or heptads) to be decreed (or cut off) upon the people and upon the holy city” v. 24. Thus it is concerned with the people of Israel and a period of time when there is a remnant of God’s people in Jerusalem whom God can own. The period is literally seventy “sevens” and to Daniel who had been studying the scriptures concerning seventy years, it would be evident that the period referred to was seventy seven vear periods, or 490 years. Whilst the A.V. gives v. 24 as “seventy weeks are determined upon thy people” the literal meaning is “cut off” a portion of time in which God is to deal with Daniel’s people, the Jews. In this period the verse states six things which are to take place. (1) To finish the transgression—Israel’s rejection of the Christ, (2) to make an end of sins—Israel’s other sins, (3) to cover iniquity— covering by means of an expiatory sacrifice, i.e. the Cross, (4) to bring in the righteousness of the ages—the righteousness of the Millenial rule (5) to seal up vision and prophecy—no further need of visions as all will have been fulfilled, (6) to anoint the Holy of Holies—the restoring of the Shekinah glory when the people are gathered back and Jehovah’s Temple complete.
HAVING stated in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 certain incentives for Christian sympathy and generosity, the apostle proceeds to present some Regulative Advice about Giving. The first point he makes is that the habit of regular giving should be cultivated by all responsible Christians. He had already expressed his mind in an earlier letter when he included all the responsible members in the community in his exhortation: “on the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him” (1 Corinthians 16, 2). The danger is that younger folks may consider themselves dependent upon their parents, and forget that there is a deep spiritual satisfaction in giving some of their allowance to the Lord’s work. Genuine exercise can produce amazing results.
I have every reason to be affected by the words “Lay by in store”. When I was a student at Glasgow University when there were no grants such as are enjoyed to-day, and when parents’ means were far below the standard of the present time, I was given by an uncle a leather wallet. I had been much impressed by the words just quoted, and in black, indelible ink I printed on the wallet these words, Lay By in Store; then immediately proceded to place just a few coppers in deposit. That wallet was never empty until it fell to pieces after more than half a century’s use. God will be no man’s debtor. That, then, is the first principle, “Let every one of you lay by in store”.
Further, so long as there is a readiness of mind, “a man is acceptable with whatever he can afford; never mind what is beyond his means”. That is, it is “not according to what he does not have” (8. 12). Gifts are accepted “out of that which ye have” (8. 11). That, surely, is a most reasonable regulation, and could not be bettered. A burden is not placed upon the less affluent, while no excuse is given for a parsimonious response by the more fortunate. Moreover, giving should be an expression of gratitude and generosity. It should not be the result of extortion, for it is to be “ not grudgingly” as if were being squeezed out of the donor, (9. 7). Givers have been classified in the following way: Those who give like a stone, when they are forcibly struck; those who give like a sponge when they are sufficiently squeezed; those who give like a spring, spontaneously, because it is their nature to give.
A third observation is the following: Giving is like sowing and reaping, (9. 6). “He who sows sparingly will reap also sparingly; he that sows bountifully will reap also bountifully That is the law of recompense. It is true in the realm of nature. It is also true in the spiritual realm. The sowing is material good, the reaping is in spiritual wealth. Spiritual poverty may be due to sparse sowing of the material riches God has given. Remember the law is inexorable. Galatians 6. repeats the same message “Be not deceived; God is not mocked. Whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap. For he who sows to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not”, (vv. 7-9). And the apostle adds as a further exhortation, “As we have, therefore, opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith”, (10).
Furthermore, each one should give as he has decided in his own mind— “every man according as he purposes in his heart”, (9. 7). Thoughtful giving should be cultivated; and lest there should be a tendency to miserliness, the apostles gives specific guidance.
Not grudgingly—that is, wishing when the gift has been made that it had been less; wishing some of it could be recalled.
Not of necessity—not because some external compulsion has been exerted.
As God loves a cheerful giver, that is, one who is neither grudging, nor compelled. He is one who gives hilariously as if he were finding great pleasure in doing so. Remember, too, that good deeds, like giving, will never be forgotten. “His righteousness”, says 9.9. “remains forever An echo among the hills grows fainter and fainter until it finally ceases to be heard, but
Our echoes roll from soul to soul
and grows for ever and for ever.
A gift opportunity given may help to save the life of an orphan overseas. Such a person may become a Christian teacher, or doctor, or evangelist, with an influence for good which perpetuates itself endlessly. But more, God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love (Hebrews 6. 10). By such giving treasure is being laid up as a future reward at the Judgment Seat.
Another incentive is found in the fact that God can increase the capacity for giving, (9.10). “He who provides seed for the sower, and bread for food, will provide you with all the seed you want, and make the harvest of your good deeds a larger one, and, being made richer in every way, you will be able to do all the generous things which are the cause of thanks giving to God”, (9. 10-11). Again we are reminded that God will be no man’s debtor, but will amply recompense in one way or another.
It is encouraging, too, to be informed that generous giving is striking evidence of the power of the gospel in the donor’s life, (9.13). “By offering this service you show them what you are, and that makes them give glory to God, for the way you accept and profess the gospel of Christ, and for your sympathetic generosity”. Moreover, reception of a gift provokes thanksgiving and prayer on the part of the recipients: their prayers show how they are drawn on account of all the grace that God has given to those whose generous and sympathetic help has met a particular need (9. 14).
Besides the example of the Macedonian Churches mentioned is the passage, two other incentives are given.
The example of Christ: “Ye know the grace, the generosity, of our Lord Jesus Christ”, (8. 9).
He was eternally rich—the Heir of all things. He became voluntarily poor. The incarnation was the doorway into human experience that is recorded in the Gospels. He was tested in all points like ourselves, but apart from sin. His poverty, even through the death of the Cross, has enriched others, making them incalculably spiritually rich. The wealth He bestows is called “the exceeding riches of His grace”.
Such an example should be an encouragement to give. If the giving of Himself has meant the enrichment of others, and He is set before us as an example, the inference is that others can be enriched by gifts given in His name.
The promise of God (9. 8). “God is able to make all grace abound, etc.” The Jerusalem Bible translates that verse thus: “There is no limit to the blessings God can send you—he will make sure that you will always have all that you need for yourselves in every possible circumstance, and still have something to spare for all sorts of good works”. God never fails to fulfil His promises, and that one has been tested and tried. Paul wrote to the Philippian Christians assuring them that the God who had cared for him would not forget them.
“My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4. 19). That assertion is incontrovertible.
The subject before us in this paper is really two subjects in one. First of all in order that we may seek an answer to our question, it is necessary for us to consider very briefly what the Great Tribulation will be. What do we learn about the Great Tribulation in the word of God?
The first thing I want you to see about it is this—The Great Tribulation is still future.
In the next place I want you to notice that it is called a “great” tribulation. There has always been tribulation from the very beginning, and examining this passage of scripture we learn that it is unique in at least two respects.
It is going to be world wide, upon all them that dwell upon the earth.
It will be the most terrible persecution that has ever raged upon earth’s broad acres.
Consider what world conditions will be when this Great Tribulation breaks out. I would say this, that at this time
The Roman empire will be revived.
The Jews will be back in their own land.
The Jewish people will have rebuilt the temple.
The Jews will have a leader, he will prove to be a false leader.
Not only will they have a leader, but there will be a great Prince over the revived Roman empire.
Then there will be a great apostasy of Christendom.
A testimony from God will be borne to the Jewish people.
That is seven things about the world's condition at the time when this Great Tribulation commences.
The cause will be this! The Roman Prince will make a covenant With the Jewish King, according to which he will guarantee the protection of Palestine for a period of seven years. They will be given liberty to worship according to their conscience. In the middle of the week, the Roman Prince will terminate that covenant, he will break his pledge with the Jewish people. He will enter into the temple of Jerusalem and all the Jews that dwell upon the earth will require to bow down and worship him as a deity. When this comes to pass he will be among Godly converted Jews, and they will refuse to bow the knee to Satan’s man, and a persecution will begin which will become more intense. Humanly speaking, that will be the cause of the Great Tribulation. There is the beginning, and that brings us to our question—will the church, the bride of Christ, pass through the Great Tribulation or even part of it?
Unhesitatingly our answer is the Church will not pass through the Great Tribulation or even part of it. It would be impossible because the greater part of the Church is now with Christ in glory. In these nineteen hundred years, the Church has been in the course of formation, and part of the Church is with Christ.
We read in Acts 15, and we have three periods of time mentioned, and in those three periods of time, we have Gentiles and then we have a people taken out of the Gentiles— the Church, and we have Israel, represented here by the expression “The Tabernacle of David”. You have the same threefold division in 1st Corinthians 10 where we are told not to give any offence to the Jews or Gentiles or to the Church of God, and the Church of God is made up of these who are saved from Jews and Gentiles, but the moment a man believes the gospel, he is no longer a Jew or a Gentile, he is in the Church. Never in any passage that speaks of the Great Tribulation do we read of the Church suffering under it.
Revelation 3 verse 10—we have another promise. “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation or trial, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth”. Please notice that here is a trial which is going to be world wide. It is the same as the Great Tribulation of the 7th chapter. In the text the promise is here given to the church at Philadelphia, but while this promise is found in the letter of Philadelphia the promise was not meant merely for the church at Philadelphia, because the Lord knew that the church there would have ceased to exist long long before the time of the tribulation. That church has long since ceased to be. I suggest to you that we are to understand the promise as being to the entire church of Christ.
Revelation 2 and 3 give to us seven stages of the Church’s history upon earth. Some say that they do not agree with it, but it is there, whether men agree with it or not. The promise is “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience”. The question is—has the Church kept the word of His patience all down through the ages—our answer is yes, in spite of much weakness and failure. We are not thinking of Christendom, we are thinking of those that are truly born again. The Church has kept the word of His patience, and so the Lord looks at that and He says “Thou hast kept the word of my patience, and I will keep thee from the hour of temptation etc.” Notice again He says “I will keep thee from” “out of”. We are going to be kept not out of the trial merely, he says “I will keep thee out of the very time period. I am not going to let you enter into it at all”. How will he do this? Look at verse 11 “Behold I come quickly” that is how He will save you out of the period.
Praise God, brethren and sisters, the Church, or even part of the Church, will not pass through the Great Tribulation. I want to remind you of two passages of scripture. “Behold I come quickly” He is going to come for His church and take them out of the time period. There are two passages of scripture which may be said to be the classical passages upon the rapture of the church. 1st Corinthians 15 and 1st Thessalonians 4. Compare these passages with Matthew 24. There is one striking difference, and it is this: In Matt. 24 our Lord speaks of His coming to rescue Israel at the end of the tribulation period, and whole passage is Jewish.
You read about Jews, you read about Gentiles suffering during that period. Why do you never read about the church suffering? The answer is this, the Church period will then have ended and the Church will be with Christ in glory.
IN the days immediately after our salvation we are anxious to learn more of the Lord, enjoy fellowship with those who are spiritual and pursue evangelical opportunities in enthusiastic vein. These high ideals, however, quickly run into practical difficulties and we discover that we follow them only as time permits and very often time, once in control, does not permit. What we then need it to realise that we cannot pursue spiritual and fleshly ideals contemporaneously. We must find an even and acceptable balance that will allow us to serve the Lord, serve our earthly master, work in the assembly and work at home. The finding of this balance has defied many and the resulting lack of spiritual refreshment and growth soon withers the soul. We should put the Lord first, and if we do, all else will fall into place. Even in times of difficulty He will supply our needs, and enable us to stand and then to help others, as may be seen in the following thoughts from Exodus ch. 15.
In the early part of the chapter the power of God is seen in His manipulation of water to the discomfiting of the Egyptians. The Sea of Reeds had been so directly controlled by Jehovah that a way through on dry land was provided for Israel while the Egyptians sank as lead in the mighty waters. It therefore appeared unlikely that in a few days there would be a great lack of water. Towards the end of the chapter we are introduced to three different places (1) Shur (no water), (2) Marah (bitter water) and (3) Elim (twelve wells of water). We can study these places and observe how necessary it was for a full enjoyment of Elim that both Shur and Marah be experienced.
Shur: Having crossed the Sea, and in so doing seen the power of God in great evidence, the Israelites under divine guidance now enter the wilderness of Shur. This locality, though not definitely identified to-day was south of Beerlahai-roi and east of Egypt. It was also known as the wilderness of Etham which significantly can mean “limits of habitation”.
Three days they journeyed but found no water. For thirsty pilgrims, weary travellers the wilderness held no prospect of refreshment at all—water there was none! In the exciting early days of Christian life our refreshment comes from a close communication with God and from the thrill of being deeply involved in Christian service. Early enthusiasm soon runs out and the return of normal work-a-day life jolts us back to earth! We still need refreshment for our souls but no matter where or what we try, spiritual refreshment cannot be found. There is much on offer in the world from which the Christian naturally turns away. Other offers are more tempting and subtle but even they if tried turn out to be broken vessels which hold no water. Refreshment and relaxation for the natural man can be found easily—the mass media see that it is available and the ingenuity of man in inventions ranging from the printing press to the television screen sees that it is available to all. From these however the Christian turns unfilled because in spite of all that has been said there is no water, no spiritual refreshment for heavens’ people in this tired old world system.
Let each of us quickly learn, as did the poet that this world is a wilderness wild and has nothing to offer us.
Marah: Marah is certainly an advance on Shur—there are prospects here but only if the Christian knows what to do. At Marah the Israelites soon discovered water and what joy its finding must have brought after those three trying days! But the waters had a bitter taste and were undrinkable, so it is easy to imagine the anger and frustration of the people. Moses’ cry to the Lord is quickly answered in that “The Lord showed him a tree, which when it had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet”.
There are many lessons to be learned in life and on occa-sions it seems that, that which the Lord has provided is bitter indeed. Many have had to endure problems and difficulties with family, business, health and even loss of dear ones. In all of these bitter things the experience of Marah is coming through—the Lord is providing something, but hardly what could be described as refreshing. The great turning point at Marah was the tree. The turning point of mens’ lives is the cross and it is as we view the life and death of Jesus that we see the bitter way is so often the better way. The wood can speak of the humanity of Christ and the tree of the cross of Christ. None of our experiences is extreme compared with His, and if we can see that He suffered on earth even more than we do this will make every bitter experience sweet. How often has the initially bitter, sorrowful experience turned out subsequently to be sweet and joyful and full of blessing! May we learn to see Christ in every experience of life. He knows and cares. “There is not a sorrow rends the heart but the Man of Sorrows shares a part”.
Elim: Journeying to Elim the Israelites came to a place of luxurious provision—twelve wells of water and three score and ten palm trees. Doubtless, after their wilderness experience they enjoyed this refreshment to the full. Had they not experienced Shur and Marah then Elim could never have been so thrilling. As we learn that the world has nothing to offer us and that in even the darkest moments Christ can be seen, so shall we enjoy more fully the blessed refreshment and peace of Elim. Elim refreshment is ample, deep and satisfying as suggested by the phrase “twelve wells of water”. We can sit down under His shadow with great delight, enjoy His fruit sweet to the taste, drink from the abundance of water and enjoy peace perfect peace—right in the heart of the wilderness! The connection between 12 and 70 is service as in the sending out of the disciples, and the lesson obviously is that the refreshment we draw for ourselves at Elim, drinking long and deep because we remember Shur and Marah, we can pass on to others in our service.
May the Lord therefore encourage us to share the Marah experience with Himself and the Elim experience with His people, so that the blessings of spiritual refreshment might the more readily be enjoyed.
There is always something about these words which thrill the very spirit—“Take thou unto thee ... that he may minister unto Me”!
The priesthood presupposes need, but also indicates His knowledge of that need.
The ark, table, lamp, boards and furnishings of the tent have largely indicated what, in relation to our Lord Jesus Christ, belongs to the past. But now it is His present work, His suitability and competence to do that work, which is laid before us.
It is a fact, known to those who have tried it, that a careful, thorough study of the epistle to the Hebrews transforms our thinking about our Lord Jesus. It compels the consideration of Him in the present tense. We have His past glory. “Heir of all things”. We see glimpses of glory yet to be, “Shall appear, apart from sin, unto salvation”. But the prevailing thought is, “We have”, “Who is”, “Who ever”, and concludes “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday AND TODAY and forever”!
It is “Unto thee” for we need Him so!
It is “Unto Me” for He fills out the place and function, as always, perfectly and to the Father’s full pleasure.
“Aaron thy brother” for we need One who “Took part of the same”, in “The likeness of sinful flesh”, “In all things made like unto His brethren”. Also included is, “and his sons” for we have been brought, not only into the good of His present activity, but into fellowship with Him in the thing.
Vs. 2. It is plain, however, that when Aaron alone is in view—it is peculiarly Christ’s work. When Aaron is mentioned in conjunction with his sons, it is—“Ye also, as living stones are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood”. “The garments of holiness for glory and for beauty”! He alone can wear them. Decked in these, Aaron received dignity and honour; our Lord Jesus brings, as always, the ineffable sweetness of His own blessed character to bear on this office and work.
Needful too, are those who are wise hearted, “Whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom”, to produce and appreciate these garments. It is impossible to miss the significance of Paul’s Ephesian prayers here. There has been a call for “Pure olive oil, beaten for the light”,—that is “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened”. Divine enablings are required to weave these garments, so we need to be—“Strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man”, that the One who wears for us these robes and moves before God in that of which they speak, may—“Dwell in your hearts by faith that ye, etc ;”
Two things Aaron must have had intelligence of. One was that the garments he wore were of Jehovah’s design and order, and thus pleasurable to Him. Also, he must have been aware that those garments were congruous with the surroundings. For we are not dealing with fanciful ideas here, we are talking about a real man in the presence of God, Aaron or our Lord Jesus Christ. The work is a real work, a needed work.
Vs. 3.“Minister unto Me in the priest’s office”. That is what Aaron did, and that is what our Lord Jesus Christ does at this moment. For this, Aaron was set apart, and for this our Lord Jesus said, “For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they might also be sanctified through the truth”.
He was not a priest on earth, but every movement He made was priestly. Even in youth, before the doctors in the temple, He said He “Must be about My Father’s things”. At the end, as He leaves them and tells them of “The promise of My Father”, He lifts up His hands, and blesses them. Nor has He lowered them yet, and nor will He while we need them raised for us.
Moses hands were heavy; Aaron had to discard his robes before he died, but our great High Priest—“Fainteth not, neither is weary”. Nor can He die, He lives in the power of “an endless life”. He says, “I have loved thee”, “I have called thee”, “I have prayed for thee”, “I will never leave thee”, “I will come again and receive you unto Myself”.
It is striking to see how little the priesthood was used by those for whom it was provided. Hannah, it would seem, set more store by it than Eli, and years often went by without its use. Nor are we any better. How little use we make of it; we have to be driven to our knees.
Vs. 4. Note the order of the garments, what a blessing He started with “The breastplate”. Had He begun with the
Mitre and the golden plate “Holiness to the Lord”, we dared not approach. When later the high priest is actually robed the order is necessarily changed. But we are still on the divine side of things, and what is “next Thy heart, Thy saints O Lord before Thee, In glory met” J.N.D.
The onyx stones upon the shoulder is John 10. “No man shall pluck them”.
The breastplate stones tell of John 17. 23. “Hast loved them—as Thou hast loved Me!”
Vs. 5. The order never varies, on tent—or minister within (for the house below may be made by man a den of thieves), but “Holiness becometh Thy House”, and One, who here, met every demand holiness could make, can there minister in the value of what He is.
“The two shoulder pieces thereof joined at the two edges thereof and so it shall be joined together”,—His work for us is as secure as was His work here—“He shall not fail”— nor did He—nor will He.
The girdle—of the same—He is girded to serve, and serve He will while service is needed.
Onyx stones ... and grave on them names ... according to their birth. Our new birth secures us here, secure indeed. “Names before the Lord ... for a memorial”.
His pleasure is in His people. His eye rests on them, complacent in His wondrous counsels for them. David knew that God took account of specks of dust in the earth which would one day make up his body, long before it was. Ps. 139. 16.
That is how God thinks of us. Jer. 29. 11. We have difficulty in grasping this, if only we knew how much we mean to Him!
Vs. 13. “Settings of gold” Oh to take this in! It is a divine work that has put us here. “Thine they were and Thou gavest them Me!”
Vs. 15. “The breastplate of judgment”—The breastplate tells of nearness and affection, but what has that to do with judgment? Ask John!, he knows, he leaned into that bosom and thus knew His mind better. We grieve, that often we simply do not know His will and have to act on our own judgment.
Vs. 16. “After the work of the ephod ... .” and “Foursquare”,
It is in accord with all we know, or can know of Him and it is universal in its availability.
“A span” we have met this span before, Ch. 25:25. There it was “an handbreadth” and spoke of security. Here it speaks of succour. This reminds us that a real man is moving before God for us, we are upon His heart, and we appear there in the beauty He has put upon us.
The stones are individual tribes, each has his place, its peculiar beauty in which God sees it. But we are not tribes, nor do we belong to any represented anywhere else than on earth. Nonetheless, as individuals we may be assured He is mindful of us, “I have prayed for thee”.
We may not be sure as to the actual identity of these stones in our day. The great point is, that each had to be different, specified stones, for they spoke of those who in varied ways were precious to God, gave pleasure to Him, v/ere near His heart. As the high priest moved in the holy place, the light of seven lamps would be reflected in what surely must have been breathtaking beauty; there that belongs to Him.
Note the chains upon the breastplate were of “Pure gold”, for we have One in the presence of God Who is,—“Jesus the Son of God”, Heb. 4. 14. Who is “Set on the right hand of the throne of the majesty in the heavens, a minister of the sanctuary”. Heb. 8:1-2. One who is less than God cannot meet our need, one who is not completely man cannot sympathize with us in it.
There is a minute detail so that we may understand that the Spirit of God is both guarding vital truth, and teaching what is so suitable to us in our need.
That “Lace of blue” bound the breastplate to the ephod, “That it be not loose from the ephod”, we are secure, as to our lives as we are as to the salvation of our souls, for the Lord out of heaven, in heaven now, undertakes our cause, and our names are written “Upon His heart”—Judgment— continually. This 'is not judgment in the sense of wrath—by no means—rather the opposite.
Vs. 30. “The government, (of the world), shall be upon His shoulder”, Isa. 9. 6, but the administration of His people, meeting them with their problems and perplexities, is on His heart. He says in Isa. 49. 16, “I have graven thee on the palms of my hand, Thy walls are continually before Me”.
There the impossibility of His forgetting His people, and His care and protection are in view, but here we have One, who if we will but “Come right up to the throne of Grace” can dispense both “Mercy and grace for seasonable help
The peace He gives in answer to us is “Better than understanding”.
Vs. 32. He may reveal His will if we are willing to do it, (John 7. 17), He may say NO and add “My grace is sufficient for thee One thing is certain, on His side there can be no failure; failure if failure there be, will be ours for not coming, not using His office.
This office or blessed function, on our behalf is three-fold, the shoulder stones, the breastplate and the mitre serve three distinct purposes with regard to Israel’s need. These are most vital to them if they are to be sustained for God in a wilderness scene. That is why the “Robe of the ephod, (not here the ephod itself), shall be “Wholly blue”. For only “He that is from above”, “The Lord out of heaven”, can sustain this.
The robe is the foundation garment for the ephod, which in turn takes the shoulder stones and the breastplate. The pomegranates and bells are on the hem of this robe of blue, and thus strengthen it, “That it be not rent” its neck is designed as a coat of mail, bound “Round about”.
These “Round about’s” are worth linking. The ark had a “Crown of gold round about”.
The table “A border of an handbreadth round about”.
The court, “Pillars round about”.
The blood they were to “Sprinkle round about”.
The altar walls were “Pure gold round about”.
The camp was to be “Round about the tabernacle”.
He gives, “Rest round about”.
Angels gather “Round about”.
Mountains encompass “Round about”.
Vs. 31. But here the neck of the robe is bound with “Woven work round about”, for it tells of the infallibility of His present work. God would not let them rend His robe on earth though they stripped Him of it. From the holy shoulders of God’s own Son, men still would snatch the seamless robe of His deity—but they cannot rend it. It is something that is doubted, but not doubtful,—denied but not destroyed.