The Sanctuary Service
M. L. Andreasen
FOR CENTURIES GOD'S PRESENCE ON EARTH was associated with the sanctuary. It was through Moses that the command first came: "Make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them." Ex.25:8. When the tabernacle, as the first sanctuary was called, was finished, "a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle." Ex.40:34. Henceforth God communicated with His people "from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony," in the most holy, the second apartment of the tabernacle. Ex.25:22.
As God's earthly dwelling place, the sanctuary must ever be of deep and abiding interest to God's people. When we understand that the services conducted in the tabernacle and later in the temple were symbols of a higher service in the true tabernacle above; that all the ritual and all the sacrifices pointed to the true Lamb of God, the sanctuary becomes of still more importance. In it the gospel is revealed.
Christians would do well to study the sanctuary and its services. They contain precious lessons for the devout student. Christ is seen as the great High Priest, a role which to many church members has lost its significance. And yet, Christ's work as High Priest is the very essence of Christianity, the heart of the atonement.
It is the hope and prayer of the author that this little book may lead some, perhaps many, to a deeper appreciation of what Christ means to them and of what He is doing for them; and that they may, through the new and the living way which Jesus has consecrated for them through the veil, go with Him into the most holy where He is now officiating.
THE FIRST PICTURE WE HAVE OF GOD after man sinned is that of Him walking in the garden in the cool of the day, calling unto Adam, "Where art thou?" Gen.3:9. The picture is both beautiful and significant. Man has sinned and disobeyed the Lord, but God does not forsake him. He is looking for Adam. He is calling, "Where art thou?" These are the first recorded words of God to man after the fall.
It is not without significance that we are thus introduced to God. He is looking for and calling to Adam, seeking a sinner who is hiding from Him. It is a picture similar to that of the father in the parable, who day after day watches for the form of his prodigal son, and runs to meet him while he is yet "a great way off." Luke 15:20. It is a picture similar to that of the shepherd who "goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray," and "rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray." Matt.18:12,13.
Adam did not fully understand what he had done or the results of his disobedience. God had told him that sin meant death, that "in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Gen.2:17. But Adam had never seen death, and he did not comprehend what it involved. It was to impress upon his mind the nature of sin that God clothed Adam and Eve in the skins of animals that had been sacrificed. Adam, looking at death for the first time, must have been profoundly impressed with the sinfulness of sin. There the lamb lies still, blood oozing out. Will it never live again? --Will it never again eat or walk or play? Death suddenly takes on a new and deeper meaning for Adam. He begins to understand that unless the Lamb dies for him, he will be dead like the animal lying at his feet, without future, without hope, without God. Ever after, the skin in which he was clothed reminded him of his sin, but also, and more, of salvation from sin.
The picture of God making garments for His children about to be driven from their home, reveals the love of God for His own, and His tender consideration for them, even though they have sinned. As a mother wraps warm, protecting garments about the little ones before sending them out into the bitter wind, so God lovingly clothes His two children before sending them forth. If He must send them away from Him, they are to bear with them the token of His love. They must have some evidence with them that God still cares for them. It is not His intention to leave them to struggle alone. He must drive them out of the Garden of Eden, but He still loves them. He provides for them.
Because of their sin, God had to exclude Adam and Eve from the home He had prepared for them. It must have been with great sorrow of heart that the two left the place where they had first met, which held such blessed memories for them. But it must have been with immeasurably greater sorrow that God commanded them to leave. He had created them. He loved them. He had planned for them a future. But they had disobeyed Him. They had chosen another master. They had eaten of the forbidden fruit. "And now," said God, "lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever: ...He drove out the man." Gen.3:22-24.
God did not leave Adam in a condition of despair. He not only promised that the Lamb "slain from the foundation of the world" should die for him, thus providing objective salvation, but He also promised to help him resist sin by giving him capacity for hatred of it. "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed," God said. Gen.3:15. An interpretation of this text, without doing violence to it, would be: "I will put hatred for evil into your heart." This hatred is vital to our salvation. Humanly considered, as long as love of sin is in the heart, no man is safe. He may resist evil, but if there is in his heart a love for it and a hankering after it, he is not on safe ground. Of Christ it is said, "Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity." Heb.1:9. It is important to learn to hate evil. The first promise in the Bible is a promise of hatred for sin. Only as the iniquity of sin becomes real to us, only as we learn to hate evil, are we safe. Christ not merely loved righteousness; He hated iniquity. This hatred is fundamental in Christianity. And God has promised to put this hatred for sin into our hearts.
In the promises to Adam and in God's treatment of him, the gospel is summed up. God does not leave Adam to himself after he has sinned. He looks for him; He calls to him. He provides a Savior for Adam, symbolized by the sacrificial lamb. He promises Adam to help him so to hate sin that he will by the grace of God abstain from it. If Adam will only cooperate with God, all will be well. Provision is made for a return to the estate from which he has fallen. He need not be conquered by sin. By God's help he can overcome it.
This is brought out forcibly in the story of Cain and Abel. Cain is wroth; his countenance is fallen. He has murder in his heart, and is ready to kill Abel. God warns him that "sin coucheth at the door; ...but do thou rule over it." Gen.4:7 RSV. This was a merciful warning to Cain, and a statement of hope that he need not be overcome by sin. As a wild beast ready to pounce upon its victim, sin couches at the door. In the words of the New Testament, Satan goes about "as a roaring lion." But Cain need not be overcome. "Do thou rule over it" are God's words. This is more than a statement; it is a promise. Man need not be overcome. There is hope and help in God. Sin is not to have dominion over us. We are to rule over it.
Originally it was God's intention that man should have free communion with his Maker. This was the plan He attempted to carry out in the Garden of Eden. But sin thwarted the original design of God. Man sinned, and God sent him forth into the earth. Henceforth sorrow would be his lot.
But God conceived a plan whereby He might be reunited with His people. If they had to leave the home prepared for them, why should not God go forth with them? If they could not live in Paradise, where they could enjoy open communion with Him, why should not God live with them? And so in the fullness of time, God sent word to His people: "Make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them." Ex.25:8. Wonderful love! God cannot bear to be separated from His own! His love devises a plan whereby He may live among them. He goes with them on their journeys to and fro in the wilderness, leading them into the Promised Land. God is with His people again. True, there is a separating wall now. God dwells in the sanctuary, and man cannot approach Him directly. But God is as near as sin will permit. He is "among" His people.
The New Testament says of Christ, "They shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." Matt.1:23. The Christian ideal is fellowship with God, oneness with Him, no separation. "Enoch walked with God." Gen.5:24. Moses talked with Him face to face. Ex.33:11. But Israel was not ready for such an experience. They needed to be taught lessons of reverence and holiness. They needed to learn that without holiness no man can see God. Heb.12:14. It was to teach them this that God asked them to make Him a sanctuary that He might dwell among them.
Before God asked them to build Him a sanctuary, however, He proclaimed to them the ten commandments. Ex.20. He gave them His law that they might know what was required of them. They stood before the mount that burned with fire. They heard the thunders and saw the lightning; and as the Lord began speaking, "the whole mount quaked greatly" and the people trembled. Ex.19:16-18. The manifestation was so impressive, and "so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake," and the people "entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more." Heb.12:21,19. The people, however, could but see and acknowledge the justice of the requirements of the Lord, and both before and after the proclamation of the law answered: "All that the Lord hath spoken we will do, and be obedient." (See Ex.19:8; 24:3,7.)
It must have been with but little realization of their own inability to do what they had promised, that they essayed so tremendous an undertaking. From past experience they might have known that without divine aid they could not keep the law. Yet they promised to do so, though it was not many days before they were dancing around the golden calf. The law forbade worshiping idols, and they had promised to keep the law; yet here they were worshiping one of their old idols. In their worship of the golden calf, they gave a demonstration of their inability or unwillingness to do that which they had agreed to do. They had broken the law they had promised to keep, and now it condemned them. It left them in a hopeless and discouraged position.
God had a purpose in permitting this. He wanted Israel to know that in and of themselves there was no possible hope of their ever keeping the law of God. Yet these requirements were necessary for holiness, and without holiness no man can see God. This brought them face to face with the hopelessness of their own condition. The law which was given them for life, only brought them condemnation and death. Without God, they were without hope.
God did not leave them in this condition. Even as in the Garden of Eden the slain lamb prefigured Christ, so now through sacrifices and the ministration of blood God taught them that He had provided a way of escape. Abraham understood this when the ram caught in the thicket was accepted in the place of his son. He had doubtless not fully grasped the significance of his own answer when Isaac inquired of him, "Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" Gen.22:7. To this Abraham had answered: "My son, God will provide Himself a lamb." Verse 8. When the knife was raised, God said, "Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him." Verse 12. As Abraham looked about him, he saw a ram caught in a thicket, "and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son." Verse 13. Of this Christ says: "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day: and he saw it, and was glad." John 8:56. In the ram caught in the thicket, which died instead of his son, Abraham saw Christ. He rejoiced and was glad.
The lesson which Abraham had learned, God was now about to teach Israel. Through the slain lamb; through the bullock, the ram, the he-goat, the turtle doves, the pigeons; through the sprinkling of the blood upon the altar of burnt offering, upon the altar of incense, toward the veil, or on the ark; through the teaching and mediation of the priesthood, Israel was to learn how to approach God. They were not to be left in hopelessness as they faced the condemnation of God's holy law. There was a way of escape. The Lamb of God would die for them. Through faith in His blood they might enter into communion with God. Through the mediation of the priest they might vicariously enter the sanctuary of God, and might in the person of the high priest even appear in the very audience chamber of the Most High. To the faithful in Israel this prefigured the time when God's people might with boldness enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. Heb.10:19. All this God wanted to teach Israel through the sacrificial system. To them it was the way of salvation. It gave them hope and courage. Though the law of God, the ten commandments, condemned them because of their sins, the fact that the Lamb of God was to die for them gave them hope. The sacrificial system constituted the gospel for Israel. It pointed the way clearly to communion and fellowship with God.
There are those among professed Christians who do not see much of importance or value in the God-ordained temple services; yet it is true that the gospel plan of salvation as revealed in the New Testament is made much clearer by an understanding of the Old Testament. In fact, it may confidently be said that he who understands the Levitical system of the Old Testament, can much better understand and appreciate the New Testament. The one foreshadows the other and is a type of it.
The first lesson God wanted to teach Israel through the sacrificial system was that sin means death. Again and again this lesson was impressed upon their hearts. Every morning and evening throughout the year a lamb was offered for the nation. Day after day the people brought their sin offerings, their burnt or thank offerings, to the temple. In each case an animal was slain and the blood sprinkled in the appointed place. On every ceremony and on every service the lesson was stamped, Sin means death.
This lesson is needed as much in our time as it was in the days of the Old Testament. Some Christians think too lightly of sin. They think of it as a passing phase of life which mankind will outgrow. Others think of sin as regrettable, but unavoidable. They need the lesson impressed indelibly upon their minds, that sin means death. The New Testament, indeed, says that the wages of sin is death. Rom.6:23. Yet many fail to see or grasp the importance of this. A more lively conception of sin and death as inseparably connected, would help much in an appreciation and understanding of the gospel.
Another lesson which God wished to impress upon Israel was that forgiveness of sin can be obtained only through confession and the ministration of the blood. This served to impress Israel deeply with the cost of forgiveness. Forgiveness of sin is more than merely overlooking faults. It costs something to forgive; and the cost is a life, even the life of the Lamb of God.
This lesson is important for us also. To some, the death of Christ seems unnecessary. God could, or should, they think, forgive without Calvary. The cross does not seem to them an integral and vital part of the atonement. It would be well for Christians today to contemplate more than they do the cost of their salvation. Forgiveness is not a simple matter. It costs something. Through the ceremonial system God taught Israel that forgiveness can be had only through the shedding of blood. We need that lesson now.
We believe that a study of the Old Testament regulations concerning the manner of approaching God, will pay rich dividends. In the sacrificial system are found the fundamental principles of godliness and holiness which find their complete fulfillment in Christ. Because some have not mastered these fundamental lessons, they are unable and unprepared to go on to the greater things prepared for them of God. The Old Testament is fundamental. He who is thoroughly grounded in it, will be enabled to construct a superstructure that will not fall when the rains descend and the winds blow. He will be "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone." Eph.2:20.
GOD'S SANCTUARIES ON EARTH
IT WAS NOT LONG after the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai that the Lord told Moses to "speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take My offering." Ex.25:2. This offering was to consist of "gold, and silver, and brass, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats' hair, and rams' skins dyed red, and badgers' skins, and shittim wood, oil for the light, spices for anointing oil, and for sweet incense, onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod, and in the breastplate." Verses 3-7. It was to be used in the construction of a "sanctuary; that I may dwell among them." Verse 8.
The sanctuary here mentioned is usually called the tabernacle. It was really a tent with wooden walls, the roof consisting of four layers of material, the inner being of fine-twined linen, the outer of "rams' skins dyed red, and a covering above of badgers' skins." Ex.26:14. The building itself was not very large, about eighteen by fifty-four feet, with an outer enclosure called the court, about one hundred feet wide by two hundred long.
The tabernacle was a portable building so made that it could be taken apart and easily moved. At the time it was erected, Israel was journeying through the wilderness. Wherever they went, they took the tabernacle with them. The boards of the building were not nailed together as in an ordinary structure, but were separate, each set upright in a silver socket. Ex.36:20-34. The curtains surrounding the court were suspended from pillars set in brazen sockets. Ex.38:9-20. The furniture of the tabernacle was so made that it could be easily carried. The whole construction, while beautiful and gorgeous in design, showed its temporary nature. It was intended to serve only until such time as Israel should settle in the Promised Land and a more permanent building could be erected.
The building itself was divided into two apartments, the first and larger one called the holy; the second apartment, the most holy. A rich curtain or veil divided these apartments. As there were no windows in the building, both apartments, especially the inner one, if they had been dependent upon daylight, must have been dark. Because of its temporary structure, some light may have penetrated; but at best it could have been but little. In the first apartment, however, the candles in the seven-branched candlestick gave sufficient light for the priests to perform the daily service which the ritual demanded.
There were three articles of furniture in the first apartment, namely, the table of shewbread, the seven-branched candlestick, and the altar of incense. Entering the apartment from the front of the building which faced the east, one would see near the end of the room the altar of incense. To the right would be the table of shewbread, and to the left the candlestick. On the table would be arranged in two piles the twelve cakes of the shewbread, together with the incense and the flagons for the drink offering. On it would also be the dishes, spoons, and bowls used in the daily service. Ex.37:16. The candlestick was made of pure gold. "His shaft, and his branch, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers, were of the same." Verse 17. It had six branches, three branches on each side of the center one. The bowls containing the oil were made after the fashion of almonds. Verse 19. Not only was the candlestick made of gold, but also the snuffers, and snuff dishes. Verse 23.
The most important article of furniture in this apartment was the altar of incense. It was about thirty inches in height and eighteen inches square. This altar was overlaid with pure gold, and around its top was a crown of gold. It was on this altar that the priest in the daily service placed the coals of fire taken from the altar of burnt offerings and the incense. As he put the incense on the coals on the altar, the smoke would ascend, and as the veil between the holy and the most holy did not extend to the top of the building, the incense soon filled not only the holy place but also the most holy. In this way the altar of incense, although located in the first apartment, served the second apartment also. For this reason it was put "before the veil that is by the ark of the testimony before the mercy seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with thee." Ex.30:6.
In the second apartment, the most holy, there was only one piece of furniture, the ark. This ark was made in the form of a chest, about forty-five inches long and twenty-seven wide. The cover of this chest was called the mercy seat. Around the top of the mercy seat was a crown of gold, the same as on the altar of incense. In this chest Moses placed the ten commandments written on two tables of stone with God's own finger. For a time, at least, the ark also contained the golden pot that had the manna, and Aaron's rod that budded. Heb.9:4. On the mercy seat were two cherubims of gold, of beaten work, one cherub at one end and the other cherub on the other. Ex.25:19. Of these cherubim it is said that they shall "stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be." Ex.25:20. Here God would commune with His people. To Moses He said: "There will I meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel." Ex.25:22.
Outside in the court immediately in front of the door of the tabernacle was a laver, a large basin containing water. This laver was made of brass from the mirrors which the women had contributed for this purpose. At this laver the priests were to bathe their hands and feet before entering the tabernacle or beginning their service. Ex.30:17-21;38:8.
In the court was also the altar of burnt offering, which had a most important part to serve in all sacrificial offerings. This altar was about five feet high and the top eight feet square, hollow inside and overlaid with brass. Ex.17:1. On this altar the animals were placed when offered as burnt sacrifice. Here also the fat was consumed and the required part of the meat offering placed. At the four corners of the altar were hornlike projections. In certain of the sacrificial offerings the blood was placed on these horns or sprinkled on the altar. At the base of the altar, the rest of the blood not used in sprinkling was poured out.
When Solomon began to reign, the old tabernacle must have been in a somewhat dilapidated condition. It was several hundred years old, and had been exposed to wind and weather for that long time. David had purposed to build the Lord a house, but had been told that because he was a man of blood he would not be permitted to do so. His son Solomon was to do the building. This temple "was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building." 1Kings 6:7.
The temple proper was about thirty feet wide by ninety feet long. At the front entrance, which faced the east, was a porch some thirty feet long by about sixteen feet wide. Around the other sides of the temple three tiers of chambers were built, some of which were used as sleeping rooms for the priests and Levites officiating in the temple, and others as storerooms for money and other dedicated gifts. The temple was lined inside with cedar overlaid with gold and engraved with figures of cherubim, palms, and open flowers. 1Kings 6:15,18,21,22,29. Of this it is stated, "So Solomon built the house, and finished it. And he built the walls of the house with boards of cedar, both the floor of the house, and the walls of the ceiling: and he covered them on the inside with wood, and covered the floor of the house with planks of fir." 1Kings 6:14,15.
The original tabernacle had no floor, but in the temple, Solomon built "both the floor and the walls with boards of cedar: he even built them for it within, even for the oracle, even for the most holy place." Verse 16. After having covered all the inside of the temple with cedar so that "there was no stone seen," "Solomon overlaid the house within with pure gold: and he made a partition by the chains of gold before the oracle; and he overlaid it with gold. And the whole house he overlaid with gold, until he had finished all the house." Verses 18,21,22.
In the oracle, or the most holy place, the ark of the covenant of the Lord was placed. The original ark had two cherubim made of pure gold. Now, however, two more cherubim were made and set on the floor, and between these the ark was placed. They were made of olive wood, each about fifteen feet high. "Both the cherubim were of one measure and one size." 1Kings 6:25. "They stretched forth the wings of the cherubim, so that the wing of the one touched the one wall, and the wing of the other cherub touched the other wall; and their wings touched one another in the midst of the house." 1Kings 6:27. This would give the two cherubim a combined wingspread of about thirty feet. These cherubim were also overlaid with gold, and on the walls of the house round about were carved figures of cherubim and palm trees and open flowers within and without. Even the floor was overlaid with gold. Verses 29,30.
In the first apartment of the temple several changes were made. Before the oracle, and mentioned as belonging to it (1Kings 6:22, RV), stood the altar of incense as in the tabernacle. Instead of one candlestick there were now ten, five placed on one side and five on the other. These candlesticks were of pure gold, as were also the bowls, the snuffers, the basins, the spoons, and the censers. 1Kings 7:49,50. Instead of one table containing the shewbread, there were ten, "five on the right side, and five on the left." 2Chron.4:8.
The altar of burnt offering, or the brazen altar, as it is called, was considerably enlarged in Solomon's temple. The old tabernacle altar was about eight feet square. Solomon's altar was nearly four times that, or thirty feet square, and about sixteen feet high. The pots, shovels, fleshhooks, and basins used for the service of the altar were all of brass. 2Chron.4:11,16.
The sanctuary had had a laver for bathing purposes. In the temple this was much enlarged. It was a large basin of bronze, fifteen feet in diameter, eight feet high, with a capacity of about sixteen thousand gallons of water, and was called the molten sea. 1Kings 7:23-26. The bronze of which it was made was a hand's breadth in thickness. The brim was wrought like the brim of a cup with flowers of lilies. The whole sea rested upon twelve oxen, "three looking toward the north, and three looking toward the west, and three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east: and the sea was set above upon them, and all their hinder parts were inward." 1Kings 7:25. Besides this large sea there were ten smaller lavers placed upon wheels, so that they could be moved about from place to place. 1Kings 7:27-37. These lavers contained each about three hundred gallons of water and were used for washing those parts of the animals which were to be burned upon the altar of burnt offering. 2Chron.4:6. Each of these lavers was put on a base of brass; the wheels were "like the work of a chariot wheel: their axletrees, and their naves, and their felloes, and their spokes, were all molten." 1Kings 7:33. The sides were ornamented with figures of lions, oxen, cherubim, and palm trees, with "certain additions made of thin work." Verses 29,36. The size of the court is not given, but it must, of course, have been considerably larger than the court of the tabernacle.
An interesting statement is found in 1Kings 6:22 concerning the altar of incense. The preceding verses describe the oracle, or the most holy. The ark containing the ten commandments is mentioned as being there, and in connection with this "the altar which was of cedar." Verses 19,20. This altar, verse twenty-two states, "belonged to the oracle." ARV This may have some bearing on the question raised by the wording of the ninth chapter of Hebrews, where the altar of incense is omitted in the description of the furniture in the first apartment, and a censer is mentioned as being in the second apartment. Verses 2-4. The American Revised Version has "altar of incense" instead of censer, though the marginal reading retains censer. Whatever may be thought of this disputed reading, it is noteworthy that Hebrews 9:2 omits the altar of incense in the description of the holy place. The reading in 1Kings 6:22 that the altar of incense, while located in the holy place, "belonged" to the most holy, is generally considered the correct rendering. We therefore understand the statement of Exodus 30:6 to be that the altar of incense was located before the veil in the holy place "before the mercy seat," and that its use was such that it also in a certain sense "belonged" to the most holy. As it is a fact that the incense filled the most holy as well as the holy place, this seems, on the whole, the best view of the matter. (See Ex.40:26.)
The temple built by Solomon was destroyed in the invasions of Nebuchadnezzar in the sixth century B.C. Rulers and people had gradually departed from the Lord and gone farther and farther into idolatry and sin. Despite all that God could do to correct evils, Israel persisted in apostacy. God sent His prophets to them with warnings and entreaties, "but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised His words, and misused His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy. Therefore He brought unto them the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age: He gave them all into his hand." 2Chron.36:16,17.
In this destruction of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar "burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof." Verse 19. "Them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia." Verse 20. Thus began what is called the seventy-year captivity "to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths, for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfill threescore and ten years." Verse 21.
The splendor of Solomon's temple can be seen from the spoil which Nebuchadnezzar took from Jerusalem. An enumeration in Ezra gives "thirty chargers of gold, a thousand chargers of silver, nine and twenty knives, thirty basons of gold, silver basons of a second sort four hundred and ten, and other vessels a thousand. All the vessels of gold and of silver were five thousand and four hundred." Ezra 1:9-11.
Israel was in captivity seventy years. When the days were fulfilled, permission was given for them to return, but by that time many had been in Babylon so long that they preferred to stay. However, a remnant returned, and in due time the foundation of the new temple was laid. "And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid." Ezra 3:11. However, it was not all joy, for "many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy: so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off." Ezra 3:12,13.
The temple thus built was called Zerubbabel's temple, after the name of the leader in the work. Not much is known concerning its structure, but it is supposed, and perhaps with good reasons, that it followed the lines of Solomon's temple. There was no more any ark. That had disappeared at the time of Nebuchadnezzar's invasion. Tradition states that holy men took the ark and secreted it in the mountains to save it from falling into profane hands. In any event, the most holy was vacant except for a stone which served as a substitute for the ark on the Day of Atonement. This temple continued in use until near the time when Christ appeared. Then Herod's temple took its place.
Herod became king in 37 B.C. One of the first things he did was to build a fortress, Antonia, north of the temple grounds, and connected with the temple court by an underground passage. A few years later he decided to rebuild the temple on a grander scale than ever before. The Jews were distrustful of him, and would not let him proceed with the building until he had proved his good faith by collecting the material necessary for the structure before any of the old was taken down. This he willingly did. The priests also insisted that no common person should work on the temple, and that it would be necessary for the priests themselves to erect the temple structure. For this reason some years were spent in training a thousand priests to be masons and carpenters to work on the sanctuary. They did all the work connected with the two apartments of the temple. Altogether, ten thousand skilled workmen were employed in the course of construction. Building operations began about 20B.C. The temple proper was finished in a year and a half, but it took eight more years to complete the court and the cloisters. John 2:20 states that the temple at the time of Christ had been forty and six years in building; in fact, it was not until about 66 A.D., just before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, that the temple was completely finished.
Herod's temple was a most beautiful structure. It was built of white marble covered with plates of gold, set on an eminence with steps leading up to it from every direction, constituting a series of terraces. It rose to a height of four hundred feet above the valley below and could be seen from a great distance. Josephus likens it to a snow-covered mountain. It was a thing of beauty, especially when seen from the Mount of Olives in the morning as the sun shone upon it. It was one of the wonders of the world.
The size of the two apartments, the holy and the most holy, was the same as in Solomon's temple; that is, the temple proper was about ninety feet in length and thirty in width. The holy place was separated from the most holy by a partition about a foot and a half in thickness with an opening before which hung the veil mentioned in Matthew 27:51, which was rent at the death of Jesus. There was no furniture in the most holy, but only the stone left over from Zerubbabels' temple, upon which the high priest placed his censer on the Dav of Atonement. The furniture in the holy place was probably the same as in Solomon's temple.
Directly above the holy and the most holy were chambers or halls where the priests met on stated occasions. The Sanhedrin also met there for a time. In the floor of the room above the most holy were trap doors through which a cage could be let down into the most holy place below. This cage was large enough to hold one or more of the workmen who at times were needed to repair the temple. The cage was open toward the wall, so the workmen could work on the walls without stepping out of the cage, or, in fact, looking about them. As only the high priest could enter the most holy place, this plan provided for making needed repairs without having the workmen enter, or be in, the most holy as such.
On the side of the temple proper were rooms for priests and also for storage purposes, the same as in Solomon's temple. There was also a porch in front extending thirty-six feet beyond the side of the temple, making the total breadth of the porch about one hundred sixty feet.
The outside court in Herod's temple was a large enclosure, not entirely square, about a thousand feet each way. This court was divided into smaller courts, such as the court of the Gentiles, the court of women, and the court of the priests. In one part of this court, upon an immense trellis or grill, rested a golden vine of which the bunches of grapes, according to Josephus (who, however, cannot always be trusted), were the height of a man. According to him, the vine extended about forty feet north to south, and its top was more than a hundred feet from the ground. Here Herod also placed a colossal golden eagle, much to the displeasure of the Jews. He was at last compelled to remove the eagle from the sacred precincts.
About forty feet in front of the porch of the temple, and east of it, stood the altar of burnt offering. This altar was larger than the one in Solomon's temple. Josephus says it was seventy-five feet square, but others more conservatively place it at fifty. It was built of unhewn stones, and was about eighteen feet high. An incline, also built of stones, led up to within a few feet of the top of the altar. Around the altar, near the top, was a projection on which the priests could walk in administering the prescribed sacrifices.
In the pavement near the altar were rings to which sacrificial animals could be tied. There were also tables containing vessels, knives, and bowls, used in the sacrificing. The altar was connected with a kind of sewage system so that the blood poured out at the foot of the altar was carried into the stream below. Everything was kept scrupulously clean, even the sewage system being washed out at stated times.
Inside the walls surrounding the court were porticoes or cloisters, sometimes called porches. The one on the east side was called "Solomon's porch." The north, west, and east sides had double porticoes with two rows of columns, and a roof of carved cedar. On the south side was the royal porch with 162 columns. These columns were so arranged as to form three aisles, the two outer ones being each thirty feet wide, the middle one, forty-five. In these porches public meetings could be held. It was here the early church gathered when they went to the temple to pray. It was the usual meeting place of Israel whenever they went to the temple.
The part of the court nearest its entrance was called the court of the Gentiles. A stone parapet separated this court from the rest of the enclosure. No Gentile might go beyond its confines. On the parapet was the inscription, "No stranger is to enter within the balustrade and embankment around the sacred place. Whoever is caught will be answerable for his death which will ensue." It was because the Jews thought Paul had transgressed this ordinance that he was seized in the temple and arrested by the Romans. Acts 21:28. In 1880 this very sign was found and is now in a museum.
Herod's temple was perhaps the most beautiful structure the world has ever seen. It was the pride of the Jews. Yet it was destroyed. "There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down," were the words of Christ. Matt.24:2. This prophecy was literally fulfilled. Not one stone was left.
The temple is no more, and the temple service has ceased. But the lesson remains. It would be well for us to study carefully the service carried on in the sanctuary on earth. This will give us a better appreciation of what is now going on in the sanctuary above.
The original sanctuary and the three temples here
mentioned had certain things in common, though they differed somewhat in
details. They all had two apartments, the holy and the most holy.
All had an altar of incense, an altar of burnt offering, a laver, a table
of shewbread, and a candlestick. The first two had an ark, which
disappeared about 600 B.C. The priesthood was the same throughout, as
were also the sacrificial offerings. For more than a thousand years
Israel gathered about the sanctuary. What a blessing might have come to
them had they discerned in their sacrifices the One promised in the Garden of
Eden, the Lamb that taketh away the sin of the world! Let us fear, lest
a. promise being left us, we likewise should seem to come short of it! Heb.4:1.
WHILE MOSES WAS IN THE MOUNT receiving instruction from God concerning the building of the sanctuary, the people became weary of waiting for him. He had been gone for more than a mouth, and they were not sure when he would return, if ever. "We wot not what is become of him" they said. They therefore asked Aaron to make them gods such as they had in Egypt, that they might worship them and enjoy the feasts they had celebrated among the Egyptians. Aaron was willing to do the bidding of the people, and soon a golden calf was made, of which the people said: "These be thy gods, 0 Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt." Ex.32:4.
Aaron built an altar, and proclaimed a feast to the Lord. Burnt offerings and peace offerings were sacrificed, "and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play." Verse 6. Moses, of course, knew nothing of this until God informed him: "They [the people] have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshiped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt." Verse 8
Doubtless to test Moses, God now proposes to destroy the people and to make out of him a great nation. But Moses intercedes for the people and asks God to spare them. And God graciously accedes to his request. "And the Lord repented of the evil which He thought to do unto His people." Verse 14. Moses was evidently not prepared for the sight that met his eyes when he came down from the mount. The people were shouting and dancing, so much so that Joshua concluded: "There is a noise of war in the camp." Verse 17. When Moses saw the length to which Israel had gone, that they were actually engaging in the lascivious pagan dances which they had learned in Egypt, his "anger waxed hot." He had just received from the Lord the two tables of the law containing the Ten Commandments, written with the finger of God, "graven upon the tables." "He cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount." Verses 16,19.
It would ordinarily be thought that the breaking of these tables would be a great sin in the sight of God. Doubtless, the act was symbolic. Israel had sinned. They had broken the law. In token of this, Moses breaks the tables just given him of God. And God does not rebuke him: He merely rewrites the same commandments on two other tables. This also may have symbolic significance. The law is not destroyed by being broken -- God writes it again.
The sin Israel had committed was a grievous one. God had done great things for them. He had liberated them from bondage. He had opened for them the Red Sea. The law had been proclaimed from Sinai amid thunders and lightnings. God had entered into covenant relations with them, and the blood had been sprinkled upon them as well as upon the covenant book. And now they had departed from God and forgotten all their promises. The time had come for decisive action. It must be known who is on the Lord's side, for surely not all have gone astray. A call is made by Moses: "Who is on the Lord's side? let him come unto me." Israel hesitates. Of all the vast throng, only one tribe has the courage to step forward. "And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him." Verse 26.
This courageous action on the part of the tribe of Levi doubtless influenced their selection to the service of God. In a crisis they ranged themselves on the side of right, and God rewarded them. They were selected instead of the first-born to belong to God in a specific sense and to serve at the tabernacle. Num.3:5-13. One family -- that of Aaron -- was entrusted with the priesthood; the rest were "to do the service of the tabernacle" and "keep all the instruments of the tabernacle of the congregation." Verses 7,8. "The priests which were anointed, whom he consecrated to minister in the priest's office," had to do with the more direct service of God at the tabernacle, such as the lighting of the lamps; the burning of incense; the offering of all kinds of sacrifices on the altar of burnt offering; the sprinkling of the blood; the preparation, placing, and eating of the show-bread; preserving knowledge and teaching the law. Num.3:3; Ex.30:7,8; Lev.1:5; 24:5-9; Mal.2:7. The priests were all Levites, but not all Levites were priests. The priestly office was reserved for Aaron and his descendants. Num.3:1-4; Ex.28:1.
The priests also had control in many civil and personal matters. They decided when a man was unclean ceremonially, and had power to exclude him from the congregation. Leprosy was referred to them for examination, and upon their word hung the decision as to whether a man was to be banished from society or whether a house was to be torn down. Lev.13,14. "Take heed in the plague of leprosy, that thou observe diligently, and do according to all that the priests the Levites shall teach you as I commanded them, so ye shall observe to do. Remember what the Lord thy God did unto Miriam by the way, after that ye were come forth out of Egypt." Deut.24:8,9.
The priests alone could restore a man to his family after exclusion. They had jurisdiction in certain cases of suspected unfaithfulness. Num.5:11-31. By their interpretation of the law they came to wield a great influence and authority in many matters affecting daily life. In difficult matters of law the priests were associated with the judge in making judicial decisions, not merely in religious matters, but in that which was purely civil, "matters of controversy within thy gates." Deut.17:8. Their decision was final. The man was admonished to do "according to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee." "And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there 'before the Lord thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel." Verses 11, 12. (See also Deut.19:17.)
The priests were a class set apart from the rest of the people. They alone could serve in the temple in the more intimate offices of sacrifices. While it was permitted in early days for any person to erect an altar wherever he pleased, and to offer sacrifices on it, later it became a law that only in Jerusalem could sacrifices be offered, and that only priests could officiate. This gave the priests tremendous power and influence. They had control of the entire outward worship of the whole nation. They controlled the temple grounds. Only through them could Israel have access to the blessings of the covenant symbolized by the sprinkling of the blood and the offering of incense. They alone could walk the sacred precincts of the temple proper and transact with God.
It is easily conceivable that a body of men who had control of a nation's worship, of the teaching and interpretation of law, of intimate personal relationships, of the execution of legal decisions, would wield a powerful influence for good or evil upon the people. When added to this prestige is the emolument pertaining to their calling, an emolument that, in later times at least, amounted to vast sums, we may believe that the priests became a very exclusive organization.
The prerogatives of the priesthood were great, and its rights were most jealously guarded. Only Aaron and his descendants could officiate in sacrificial worship. Ex.28,29; Lev.8-10; Nu.16-18. No one could become a priest who was not born into the family. This immediately, put great stress upon the matter of birth, and upon the genealogical record supporting that birth. It was incumbent upon each priest to prove his descent from Aaron by unimpeachable evidence. There must be no flaw in the succession. Each step must be clear.
To examine into the genealogy of each candidate became the task of certain priests. It was later taken over by the Sanhedrin, who spent part of their time in this work. If a priest successfully proved his genealogical right to the office and passed the physical test required, -- if he had no disqualifying deformity of body, -- he was dressed in white garments, and his name was inscribed on the official list of authorized priests. It may be that Revelation 3:5 is based upon this custom. On the other hand, if he failed to satisfy the examiners, he was dressed in black.
Physical deformity -- if the genealogical record was satisfactory -- did not debar the priest from sharing in the support given to the temple priest. Lev.21:21-23. If the defect was not too prominent, he could even serve in some minor capacity, such as caring for the wood used in the altar service, or as a watchman.
The priestly office being very sacred, regulations as to whom a priest might or might not marry, were strictly enforced. A priest might not marry a woman whose husband had put her away or divorced her. He might not marry a prostitute or a violated maid. Lev.21:7,8. He could therefore marry only a pure virgin or a widow, though the high priest was forbidden to marry even a widow. "And he shall take a wife in her virginity. A widow, or a divorced woman, or profane, or a harlot, these shall he not take: but he shall take a virgin of his own people to wife." Lev.21:13,14.
The priests were also to be careful as to ceremonial defilement. They might not touch a dead body except that of a very near kin. The high priest was denied even that. Lev.21:1-3,11. In fact, in every act of their lives the priests were to be conscious of their need of keeping away from anything that might defile. And this carefulness in regard to physical defilement was only emblematic of the greater spiritual purity. "Holiness unto the Lord" was the watchword of the priesthood. The priests and the Levites had no inheritance in the land as did the other tribes. "They shall eat the offerings of the Lord made by fire, and His inheritance. Therefore shall they have no inheritance among their brethren: the Lord is their inheritance, as He hath said unto them." Deut.18:1,2.
Instead of a portion of the land, God gave the priests certain parts of the sacrifices which the people brought. Of every animal sacrifice, except the burnt offering, which was wholly burnt on the altar, and certain other sacrifices, the priests received the shoulder, the two cheeks, and the maw. Deut.18:3. The priests also received the first fruits of corn, wine, and oil and wool of sheep. In addition, the priests were given flour, meat offerings baked in the oven or in the frying pan, mingled with oil or dry. Lev.2:3,10;1;2;3;4;5;24-5-9. Of the burnt offerings they received the skin. Lev.7:8. In case of war, a certain portion of the spoil also fell to the priesthood, both of men and cattle and gold. At times this amounted to no inconsiderable sum. Num.31:25-54. All heave offerings and wave offerings were the priests. Num.18:8-11. All dedicatory offerings likewise were the priests'. Verse 14.
The first-born in Israel, both of man and beast, belonged to the priest, though the "firstborn of man shalt thou surely redeem," that is, Israel was to pay a stipulated sum, five shekels, for each first-born of the children. Verses 15-19. In the year of jubilee, fields that were not redeemed, or that had been sold and could not be redeemed, reverted to the priests. Lev.27:20,21. In case of trespasses that involved holy things, the transgressor was to pay not only the original estimated sum, but add a fifth to it, and give it to the priest. Lev.5:16. In case of harm done to a neighbor, where restitution to the injured party was not possible, the command was to "let the trespass be recompensed unto the Lord, even to the priest." Num.5:8. The regular temple tax of a half shekel for each soul in Israel, "the atonement money," was to be used for the service of the tabernacle, that is, for expenses incurred in the service of God, and did not go directly to the priest. Ex.30:11-16. Besides the above-mentioned sources of income, there were many smaller ones, which need not here be discussed.
The incomes here enumerated were in addition to the tithe income received by the priests. All Israel was commanded to pay tithe. Lev.27:30-34. This tithe was to be given to the Levites, and belonged to them. Num.I8:21-24. Of the tithe which the Levites thus received, they were to take a "heave offering of it for the Lord, even the tenth part of the tithe" and "give thereof the Lord's heave offering to Aaron the priest." Num.18:26-28. It appears that in later times tithes were paid directly to the priests. Heb.7:5. Some have thought that this came about at the time of the second temple, when very few of the Levites returned from captivity and it became necessary to employ Nethinims in their stead, but this is not very clear. Ezra 8:15-20. In any event, the priests received tithes directly or indirectly from the people, and as the priests originally were but few in number, the income from this source was probably more than sufficient for their needs.
The priests were ministers of God divinely appointed as mediators between God and men, particularly authorized to officiate at the altar and in the service of the sanctuary. In the days when books were not common, they were not only interpreters of the law, but in many cases the sole source of knowledge of God's requirements. Through them the people were instructed in the doctrine of sin and its expiation, in righteousness and holiness. Through their ministration the people were taught how to approach God; how forgiveness might be had; how prayer might be offered to God; how inexorable the law is; how love and mercy at last prevail. The whole plan of salvation was laid open to them as far as it could be revealed in types and offerings. Every ceremony tended to impress upon their minds the holiness of God and the sure results of sin. It also taught them the wonderful provision made through the death of the lamb. Although it was a ministration of death, it was glorious in its promise. It told of a redeemer, a sin bearer, a burden sharer, a mediator. It was the gospel in embryo.
In the service of the priesthood three things stand out prominently above the rest: mediation, reconciliation, sanctification. Each of these deserves a special word of emphasis.
The priests were first of all mediators. This was pre-eminently their work. Although the sinner might bring the offering, he could not sprinkle the blood or burn the flesh on the altar. Neither could he eat the shewbread, or offer the incense, or even trim the lamps. All this someone else must do for him. Although he could approach the temple, he could not enter it; though he could supply the sacrifice, he could not offer it; though he could kill the lamb, he could not apply the blood. God was accessible to him only through the mediation of the priesthood. He could approach God only in the person of another. All this would strikingly bring to mind the fact that he needed some one to intercede for him, some one to intervene. This may be more vividly brought to mind by supposing an occurrence which might easily be true.
A heathen who sincerely desires to worship the true God hears that the God of Israel is the true God, and that He lives in the temple in Jerusalem. He starts on the long journey and at last arrives at the sacred place. He has heard that God dwells between the cherubim in the most holy, and decides to enter that place, that he may worship God. But he has not gone many steps into the court when he is stopped by a sign that says no stranger may pass this sign except at the peril of his life. He is perplexed. He wants to worship the true God of whom he has heard, and he has also been told that God desires worship. Yet now he is stopped. What can be done? He inquires of one of the worshipers and is told that he must provide himself with a lamb before he can approach God. Immediately he furnishes himself with the required animal and appears again. Now can he see God? He is told again that he cannot enter.
"Why, then, the
lamb?" he asks.
"That you must give to the priest to sacrifice."
"Can I then enter?"
"No, there is no possible way by which you can ever enter the temple or see God. It is not done that way."
"But why cannot I see your God? I want to worship Him."
"No man can see God and live. He is holy, and only he who is holy can see Him. The priest may go into the first apartment, but there is still a veil between him and God. The high priest only can at stated times enter the most holy. You cannot go in yourself. Your only hope is to have some one appear for you."
The man is deeply impressed. He is not permitted to enter the temple. Only he who is holy can do that. He must have some one to mediate for him. The lesson sinks deeply into his soul: He cannot see God; he must have a mediator. Only thus can sins be forgiven and reconciliation be effected.
The whole sanctuary service is grounded in mediation. Even though the sinner brought the lamb; even though he killed it; the service could be made efficacious only through a mediator who would sprinkle the blood and make application of the sacrifice.
The second prominent feature of the service was reconciliation. Sin separates from God. It is that which hides His face from us, and causes Him not to hear. Isa.59:2. But through the sacrificial offerings, and in the ascending incense with the prayers, God could again be approached. Communion was restored; reconciliation effected.
Even as mediation was the underlying purpose of the priesthood, so reconciliation was the intent of the sacrifices offered daily through the year. Through them, amicable relations between God and man were restored. Sin had separated; the blood united. This was accomplished through the ministry of forgiveness. The statement is that when the whole congregation had sinned and had brought their offering for sin; when the elders had placed their hands on the offering and presumably confessed that sin, "it shall be forgiven them." Lev.4:20. Again, the fiat goes forth that when a ruler had sinned and had complied with the requirements, "It shall be forgiven him." Verse 26. The promise is likewise for any one of the common people: "It shall be forgiven him." Verses 31, 35. Through sin, estrangement had come in; but now all is forgiven.
We are reconciled to God by the death of His Son. Rom.5:10. Reconciliation is effected by blood. 2 Chron.29:24. Into the first apartment of the sanctuary the priest entered day by day to commune with God. There was the holy incense reaching even beyond the veil into the most holy; there was the candlestick emblematic of Him who is the light of the world; the table of the Lord inviting communion; and the sprinkling of the blood. It was a place of drawing near to God -- of fellowship. Through the ministry of the priest forgiveness was extended, reconciliation effected, man brought into communion with God.
The third important feature of the sanctuary service is that of sanctification, or holiness. The amount of sin cherished in the heart measures our distance from God. The stranger might come only so far in the temple court. The penitent soul might come to the altar. The mediating priest might enter the holy place. Only the high priest -- and he but one day in the year, and that after extensive preparation -- might enter the most holy. Clad in white he might with trembling approach the throne of God. Even then, incense must partially conceal him. Here he might minister not merely as one seeking forgiveness of sin, but be might boldly ask to have them blotted out.
The daily service throughout the year, symbolized by the ministration in the first apartment, was not complete in itself. It needed to be completed and complemented by that of the second apartment. Forgiveness operates only after transgression. The damage has already been done. God forgives the sin. But it would have been better if the sin had not been committed. For this the keeping power of God is available. Merely to forgive the transgression after it has been committed is not enough. There must be a power to keep from sinning. "Go, and sin no more" is a possibility of the gospel. But to "sin no more" is sanctification. This is the eventual goal of salvation. The gospel is not complete without it. We need to enter with Christ into the most holy. Some will do this. They will follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. They will be without spot or wrinkle. "They are without fault before the throne of God." Rev.14:5. By faith they enter the second apartment.
PRIESTS AND PROPHETS
THE TEMPLE AND THE TEMPLE SERVICE constituted a wonderful object lesson for Israel. It was intended to teach God's holiness, man's sinfulness, and the way to God. One of the important lessons of the sacrificial system was to teach priest and people to abhor sin and to shun it. When a man sinned inadvertently or through error, he was expected to bring a sin offering to the temple. The first requirement in the sacrificial ritual was the placing of the hands upon the animal and the confession of sin by the sinner. Then with his own hand he was to slay the animal. After this, the priest was to take of the blood and put it upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering. The inwards were then burned with the fat on the altar, and a part of the flesh was eaten by the priests in a holy place.
This was to teach abhorrence for sin. God intended this abhorrence for sin to be so great that men would "go, and sin no more." No normal person takes delight in killing an innocent animal, especially if he realizes that it is because of his sins that the animal has to die. A normal priest would certainly not delight in the service of blood which he was compelled to perform because of sin. To stand all day working with dead animals, dipping the fingers or hand in the blood, and sprinkling it on the altar, could not be very attractive or pleasant. God Himself says He delights not "in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs' or of he-goats." Isa.1:11. Neither could the true priest delight in it.
The sacrificial system afforded the priests an excellent opportunity to teach the plan of salvation to offenders. As a sinner brought his offering, the priest might say: "I am sorry that you have sinned, as I am sure you are sorry. God, however, has made provision for the forgiveness of sin. You have brought an offering. Place your hands on that offering and confess your sin to God. Then kill the innocent lamb, and I will take the blood and make atonement for you. The lamb you are killing is symbolic of the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. The Messiah is to come and give His life for the sin of the people. Through His blood you are forgiven. God accepts your penitence. Go, and sin no more."
Through this solemn ritual, that man would be deeply impressed with the heinousness of sin, and would go away from the temple with a firm determination not to sin again. The fact that he had killed an animal would teach him as nothing else could do, that sin means death, and that when any one sins, the lamb must die.
Beautiful and impressive as was this service, it was capable of perversion. If the sinner should conceive the idea that his offering paid for the sin that he had committed, and that if he only brought an offering every time he sinned all would be well, he had an entirely wrong conception of God's intent. Yet that is how many came to consider the ordinances. They felt that their sacrifices paid for their sins, and that should they sin again, another sacrifice would atone for it. Repentance and true sorrow were minimized. The people came to believe that whatever their sin might be, it could be atoned for by a gift. With the presentation of their offering, they considered the transaction closed.
In this attitude many of the priests encouraged the people. Sin was not as abhorrent in their sight as God intended it should be. It was something that could be paid for with the gift of a lamb which would at most cost only a small sum. The result was that "thousands of rams" and "ten thousands of rivers of oil" were thought to be pleasing to God. Micah 6:7. The remuneration of the priests serving in the sanctuary, and later in the temple, was in large part derived from the sacrifices offered by the people. The priests came to look upon the sacrifices as a means of income to them. The Levites, who were the recipients of the tithe paid by Israel, in turn paid a tithe of their income for the support of the priests. Num.18:21,26-29; Neh.10:38. In addition to this, the priests were to retain a part of most of the sacrifices offered. Of the burnt offerings they received the hide; of most of the sin offerings and trespass offerings, both the hide and part of the flesh. They also received part of the meat offerings and peace offerings, -- flour, oil, corn, wine, honey, and salt, as well as offerings for special occasions. This was apart from the tithes they received from the Levites.
Of the ordinary sin offerings, the priest was to eat a part. "This is the law of the sin offering: in the place where the burnt offering is killed shall the sin offering be killed before the Lord: it is most holy. The priest that offereth it for sin shall eat it." Lev.6.25 This was really a sacrificial meal. In eating this flesh the priest took upon himself sin, and thus carried it.
The corrupt priests saw clearly that the more the people sinned and the more sin and trespass offerings they brought, the greater would be the portion coming to them. They went so far as to encourage the people to sin. Of the corrupt priests it is written: "They eat up the sin of My people, and they set their heart on their iniquity." Hosea 4:8. This text affirms that the priests, instead of admonishing the people and urging them to abstain from sin, "set their heart on" the people's iniquity, and hoped they would sin again and come back with another sin offering. It was to the financial advantage of the priests to have many sin offerings brought, for each offering added to their income. As the priesthood became more corrupt, the tendency toward encouraging the people to bring offerings increased.
An interesting commentary on the length to which some priests perverted the ordinances is given in the second chapter of First Samuel: "And the priests' custom with the people was, that, when any man offered sacrifice, the priest's servant came, while the flesh was in seething, with a fleshhook of three teeth in his hand; and he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fleshhook brought up the priest took for himself. So they did in Shiloh unto all the Israelites that came thither. Also before they burnt the fat, the priest's servant came, and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to roast for the priest; for he will not have sodden flesh of thee, but raw. And if any man said unto him, Let them not fail to burn the fat presently, and then take as much as thy soul desireth; then he would answer him, Nay; but thou shalt give it me now and if not, I will take it by force." ISam.2:13-16.
This shows the degradation of the priesthood even at that early period. God had commanded that the fat should be burned on the altar, and that if the flesh were to be eaten, it should be boiled. The priests, however, wished to get their meat raw with the fat, so they could roast it. It had ceased to be to them a sacrificial meal, and had become, instead, a gluttonous feast. The following commentary is made: "The sin of the young men was very great before the Lord: for men abhorred the offering of the Lord." 1Sam.2:17.
This tendency of the priests to encourage the people to bring sin offerings rather than to abstain from sin became more pronounced as the years went by. In the tabernacle as first erected by Moses, the altar of burnt offering was quite small, being only five cubits square. In Solomon's temple the altar was enlarged to twenty cubits, or about thirty feet on each side. In Herod's temple it was still larger, though there is no certainty as to the exact size. One account states that it was thirty cubits or forty-five feet square, and Josephus says it was fifty cubits or seventy-five feet square. In any case, it appears that the altar of burnt offering was made larger and larger to accommodate the offerings placed upon it.
The time finally came when God had to do something, or the whole temple service would become corrupt. God therefore permitted the temple to be destroyed, and many of the people were carried into captivity to Babylon. Deprived of the temple, the services would naturally cease. The minds of the people would be called to the spiritual significance of the ordinances which they had so often witnessed, but which now were no more. In Babylon there was neither burnt offering nor sin offerings nor the solemn feast of the Day of Atonement. Israel hung their harps on the willows. After seventy years in captivity, they were permitted by God to return to their homeland and to build the temple again. He hoped that they had learned their lesson.
But they had not. The altar of burnt offering was made larger than before. The people became more firmly settled in their regard for the mere form and ritual of the temple and its sacrificial service, and they failed to heed the prophetic message that "to obey is better than sacrifice." 1Sam.15-22. The income of the priests from offerings became large; so large, indeed, that the money accumulated in the temple constituted one of the largest collections of wealth in antiquity, and the priests became moneylenders.
At feasts such as the Passover, Jerusalem was filled with visiting Jews from Palestine as well as from other lands. 'We are told that as many as one million visitors were in the city at one time. Israel was commanded by God not to appear empty handed before the Lord, so, of course, all these pilgrims brought offerings. Deut.16:16. It was a physical impossibility for the priests to offer as many sacrifices as would be required to accommodate all the people. They were therefore encouraged to convert their offerings into cash and to leave this cash as temple money with the priests who would, at their convenience, offer the sacrifice which the money called for. It was soon found that it was easier and safer not to bring the sacrificial animal from home. The offerer ran the risk not only of having the animal rejected by the priest for some defect, real or supposed, but of incurring an additional loss, for to sell an animal that had been rejected by the priests was not easy. For some purposes only temple money could be used, and on this an exchange was charged. This changing of common money into temple money was another source of large income to the priesthood. The priests were divided into twenty-four courses, each one of which was to serve one week at a time, twice a year. When the office of the high priest became a political one, and he was appointed by the government, corruption became widespread. Since it was a very lucrative position, men began to bid for the office of high priest, and it was actually sold to the highest bidder. To get this money back., the high priest took control of the selection of the courses; and such priests were called to serve at Jerusalem at the time of the feasts as could be depended upon to share with the officials the large revenues contributed at that time. Corruption came again to prevail, and many were the priests who were called to serve at the temple at the great feasts only because they were willing to divide the spoil with the higher officials. The order in which the priests were to serve was changed, and the entire plan of God corrupted. Christ's designation later, "a den of thieves," was not a mere poetic expression; it was literally true.
These conditions did not, of course, obtain originally. It was only after centuries of transgression that corruption reached the heights here depicted. It was comparatively early, however, that abuses began to creep in, as evidenced in the quotation from the book of Samuel in the earlier part of this chapter. As the priests thus lost sight of the original intent of offerings, and perverted God's plan in the sacrifices, it became necessary to send warnings to them. To do this, God used the prophets. From the very first, the prophets' message to His people was, "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." 1Sam.15-22. To some of the apostatizing priests, it seemed a calamity that the people should stop sinning; for in that case sin offerings would cease. To this the writer of Hebrews refers when he says: "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. For then would they not have ceased to be offered, because that the worshipers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins." Heb.10:1,2. The Old Testament can be better comprehended when the struggle between priest and prophet is understood. It was a tragic struggle, which ended, in many cases, with victory for the priests. The prophet is God's mouthpiece. The people may go wrong and the priests may go wrong. God, however, is not left without a witness. Under such circumstances God sends a prophet to His people to bring them back to the right way. It may easily be imagined that the prophets were not very popular with the priests. As the priests served in the temple from day to day, inviting the people to bring their sacrifices, the prophets would be commanded by God to take their position near the temple gate and warn the people to bring no more offerings. This is written of Jeremiah: "The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Stand in the gate of the Lord's house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend yours ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of, the Lord, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord are these." Jer.7:1-4. After this, follows further admonition by the prophets for the people to amend their ways and not trust in lying words. "Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely," says the Lord through the prophet, "and come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, 'We are delivered to do all these abominations?" Verses 9-11. Then he adds significantly, "For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices: but this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be My people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you." Verses 22,23. Hear what Isaiah has to say: "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto Me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he-goats. When ye come to appear before Me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread My courts? Bring no more vain ablations; incense is an abomination unto Me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts My soul hateth; they are a trouble unto Me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide Mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well: seek judgment; relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow." Isa.1:11-17. Note the strong expressions. "I am full of the burnt offerings of rams;" "I delight not in the blood of bullocks;" "who hath required this at your hand?" "bring no more vain ablations;" "incense is an abomination to Me;" "your appointed feasts My soul hateth;" "I am weary to bear them;" "I will not hear: your hands are full of blood." Amos says. "I hate, I despise your feast days.... Though ye offer Me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts." Amos 5:21,22.
Micah, in like strain, asks, "Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" Micah 6:6,7. He answers the question in this wise: "He hath showed thee, 0 man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" Verse 8. The last prophet in the Old Testament says: "Now, 0 ye priests, this commandment is for you." "Ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord of hosts. Therefore have I also made you coni tible and base before all the people, according as ye not kept My ways, but have been partial in the law." Mal.2:1,8,9.
David had the right view when he said: "Thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: Thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: and a broken and a contrite heart, 0 God, Thou wilt not despise." God could hardly have used stronger words than those in rebuking both the priests and the people, but He amply justified. The priests had corrupted the covenant. They had taught the people to sin, and had made them believe that an offering or a sacrifice would pay for sin. They deserved the rebuke of the Lord which He brought through His prophets. The results were what might be expected under the circumstances. A bitter hatred against prophets sprang up among many of the priests. They hated the men who were sent to rebuke them. Much of the persecution of the prophets in the Old Testament was carried on or instigated by the priests. They persecuted them, tortured them, and killed them. It was not the people alone, but the priests that opposed and persecuted the prophets.
It was the priests, the scribes, and the Pharisees who were the constant opposers of Christ. For them Christ reserved His most scathing rebuke: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchers of the righteous, I say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes. and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them ye shall scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation." Matt.23:29-36.
Christ was a prophet. As such He sounded the
prophetic message: "To
obey is better than sacrifice." "Go, and sin no more," was the way He put it. John 8:11. He annulled the
sacrificial system by offering Himself upon Calvary. Christ personally
did not offer any sacrifices. He did not sin; and by teaching men not to
sin He struck at the very heart of this priestly, perversion. Though
Christ was careful not to offend needlessly, and though He sent the lepers to
the priests for certification. (Luke 17:14), It could not escape the attention of the officials
that Christ was not seen in the temple with the customary offering. They
felt that His message constituted a rebuke to their practices, and were glad
when they found an accusation against Him in His reported words concerning the
temple. Matt.26:61. The priests hated Christ, and
when the time came He followed the long line of noble heroes among the prophets
by giving His life. The priests rejected the prophetic message. It
was they who in reality brought about the crucifixion of Christ. In that,
they filled up the measure of their iniquity. They believed in sacrifices
for sins and that through that provision forgiveness might be had. The
larger message of victory over sin, -- the prophetic message, -- many of the
priests did not understand, or at least did not teach. It is not to be
thought, however, that all the priests were wicked. There were many faithful
men among them. Some of the priests, indeed, were prophets, as Ezekiel.
It was God's intent that every priest should have the prophetic spirit
and sound the prophetic message. In God's plan it is not enough to
attempt to remedy matters after a wrong has been committed. It is far
better to prevent evil than to attempt to heal it. Wonderful as it is to
be lifted up form sin and degradation, it is still more wonderful to be kept
from falling. "Go,
and sin no more" is the true prophetic message. It is better to obey than to
sacrifice. Every true servant of God should echo this message if he would
fulfill the counsel of God. God has always had need of prophets.
They are His messengers to correct wrong. When tendencies appear
among Christ's people that will eventually bring disaster, God sends His
prophets to correct these tendencies and admonish the people. The lesson
for this time should not be lost. The work of the prophet is not done
until the Lord's work in the earth is finished. God wants His ministers to
sound the prophetic message. 'When abuses creep in, a voice must be
lifted, calling the people back to the right ways of the Lord. And back
of every such message must be the clarion call to abstinence from sin, to
sanctification, to holiness. The prophets said: "To obey is better than
sacrifice." Christ said: "Go, and sin no more." Every minister must exemplify this doctrine in his
life and teach it with his lips. To the extent to which he fails to do
this, he comes short of his high privilege. Of all times now is the time
to send the prophetic message to the ends of the earth. This was the
command of Christ when He gave the great gospel commission to teach all nations
and baptize them, "teaching
them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded." Matt.28-20. This command -- to observe all
things -- is parallel to the prophetic message, that to obey is better than
sacrifice. When this work is done the end will come.
THE CONSECRATION OF AARON AND HIS SONS
THE GARMENTS OF THE PRIESTS had symbolic significance, as indeed had most things about the sanctuary. Especially was this true of the high priest, who was the embodiment of the people and represented them. Concerning the garments, this is written: "These are the garments which they shall make: a breastplate, and an ephod, and a robe, and a broidered coat, a miter, and a girdle: and they shall make holy garments for Aaron thy brother, and his sons, that he may minister unto Me in the priest's office." Ex.28:4. Besides these are mentioned the linen breeches in Lev.16:4 and the holy crown in Ex.29:6; 28:36-38. The breastplate first mentioned was a "foursquare" garment suspended upon the breast by little chains. In this breastplate were four rows of precious stones of three each, with the names of the children of Israel engraved upon them, one name on each stone. Ex.28:21. This garment was called the "breastplate of judgment," and Aaron was to bear it "upon his heart when he goeth in unto the holy place." Verse 29.
On the breastplate were also said to be the Urim and Thummim, those two mysterious stones which denoted the Lord's pleasure or displeasure when He was consulted in times of need. Lev.8:8; Ex.28:30; 1Sam.28:6. From the fact that they are said to be in the breastplate, some have supposed them to be in a pocket put there for that purpose. It seems better to believe, however, that they were placed prominently on the breastplate as were the other stones, one on the left side, the other on the right, in full view.
The ephod was a short garment made "of gold, of blue, and of purple, of scarlet, and fine-twined linen, with cunning work." Ex.28:6. It had no sleeves, and hung down both on breast and back. On the shoulder pieces were two onyx stones with the names of the children of Israel engraved upon them, six names on each stone. "And thou shalt put the two stones upon the shoulders of the ephod for stones of memorial unto the children of Israel: and Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord upon his two shoulders for a memorial." Ex.28:12.
Underneath the ephod was a long robe made of blue linen, sleeveless and seamless. Around the skirt upon the hem were pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet "and bells of gold between them round about.... And it shall be upon Aaron to minister: and his sound shall be heard when he goeth in unto the holy place before the Lord, and when he cometh out, that he die not." Verses 33-35. Underneath the robe of the ephod was the ordinary white linen coat of the priests and the linen breeches.
The girdle of the high priest was made of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet, the same as the ephod; that of the priest of white linen embroidered in blue, purple, and red. It was placed around the robe of the ephod, rather high up, and served to hold the garment together. Ex.39:5;29:5.
The priests wore the white linen coat, the breeches, the girdle, and the miter. The high priest, in addition, wore the ephod, the robe of the ephod, the breastplate, and the crown upon the miter, besides, of course, the precious stones with the names of Israel engraved upon them, and the Urim and Thummim.
Aaron's garments were "for glory and for beauty." Ex.28:2. The ordinary garments of the priests which he wore underneath his high priestly garments, were symbolic of inward purity, and were also for utility. The strictly high priestly garments were for glory and beauty, and were in a special sense symbolic.
The garments which Aaron wore were not of his own choosing. They were prescribed. They were "holy garments," made by such as "are wisehearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron's garments to consecrate him, that he may minister unto Me in the priest's office." Ex.28:3. They harmonized in color and material with the tabernacle itself, and were adorned with precious stones.
"They shall make the ephod of gold." "The curious girdle of the ephod which is upon it, shall be of the same." "Thou shalt make the breastplate of judgment ... of gold." "Thou shalt make the robe of the ephod all of blue ... and bells of gold." Ex.28:6, 8,15,31,33. While these garments were made of different materials, gold formed a prominent part. If to the garments is added the crown of gold upon the miter, upon which was written: "Holiness to the Lord," the twelve precious stones with the names of Israel engraved upon them, and the two onyx stones also with Israel's name upon them, and lastly, Urim and Thummim, the whole effect must have been one of glory and beauty. As the high priest would slowly and with dignity move from place to place, the sun's light would be reflected in the sixteen precious jewels, the bells would give forth a musical sound, and the people would be deeply impressed with the solemnity and beauty of God's worship.
The high priest in his official capacity was not simply a man. He was an institution; he was a symbol; he not merely represented Israel, he was the embodiment of Israel. He bore the names of Isreal in the two onyx stones "upon his two shoulders for a memorial;" he carried them in the twelve precious stones "in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart;" he bore "the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the Lord continually." Ex.28:30. He thus carried Israel both on his shoulders and on his heart. On his shoulders he carried the burden of Israel; in the breastplate, signifying the seat of affection and love--the mercy seat--he carried Israel. In the Urim and Thummim,--"that is, the lights and the perfections" (Ex.28:30, R.V., margin),--he bore "the judgments of the children of Israel upon his heart;" in the golden crown upon the miter inscribed with "Holiness to the Lord," he bore the "iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts," and this that "they may be accepted before the Lord." Verses 36-38.
"The high priest was to act for men 'in things pertaining to God,' to make propitiation for the sins of the people' (Heb.2:17). He was the mediator who ministered for the guilty. 'The high priest represented the whole people. All Israelites were reckoned as being in him. The prerogative held by him belonged to the whole of them (Ex.19:6),...(Vitringa).' That the high priest did represent the whole congregation appears, first, from his bearing the tribal names on his shoulders in the onyx stones, and second, in the tribal names engraved in the twelve gems of the breastplate. The divine explanation of this double representation of Israel in the dress of the high priest is, he 'shall bear their names before Jeh upon his two shoulders for a memorial' (Ex.28:12,19). Moreover, his committing heinous sin involved the people in his guilt: 'If the anointed priest shall sin so as to bring guilt on the people' (Lev.4:3). The LXX reads, 'If the anointed priest shall sin so as to make the people sin.' The anointed priest, of course, is the high priest. 'When he sinned, the people sinned. His official action was reckoned as their action. The whole nation shared in the trespass of their representative. The converse appears to be just as true. What he did in his official capacity, as prescribed by the Lord, was reckoned as done by the whole congregation: 'Every high priest...is appointed for men' (Heb.5:1)." --The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, p.2439.
The representative character of the high priest should be stressed. Adam was the representative man. When he sinned, the world sinned, and death passed upon all men. Rom.5:12. "By one man's offense death reigned;" "by one mans disobedience many were made sinners." Verses 17, 19.
So likewise, Christ being the second man and the last Adam was the representative man. "It is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit." "The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven." 1Cor.15:45, 47. "As by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." Rom.5:18. "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." Rom.5:19. "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." 1Cor.15:22.
The high priest being in a special sense a figure of Christ, was also the representative man. He stood for all Israel. He carried their burdens and sins. He bore the iniquity of all the holy things. He bore their judgment. When he sinned, Israel sinned. When he made atonement for himself, Israel was accepted.
The consecration of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood was a most solemn occasion. The first act was that of washing. "Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregration, and shalt wash them with water." Ex.29:4. The priests did not wash themselves. It being a symbolic act, a symbol of regeneration, they could not wash themselves. Titus 3:5.
Being washed, Aaron was then clothed in his garments of beauty and glory. "Thou shalt take the garments, and put upon Aaron the coat, and the robe of the ephod, and the ephod, and the breastplate, and gird him with the curious girdle of the ephod: and thou shalt put the miter upon his head, and put the holy crown upon the miter." Ex.29:5, 6. Note again, Aaron did not put his garments on. They were put on him. As they were symbolic of the robes of righteousness, he could not clothe himself. "Let tby priests be clothed with righteousness; and let thy saints shout for joy." Ps.132:9. "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels." Isa.61:10.
Aaron is now fully clothed. He has on the white coat underneath, the long blue robe with the bells and the pomegranates, the ephod with the two beautiful onyx stones with the names of the children of Israel engraved upon them, the breastplate with the twelve stones and Urim and Thummim, the miter and the golden crown with the inscription, "Holiness to the Lord." He is washed, he is clean, he is clothed; but he is not yet ready to officiate. Next is the anointing. The sacred oil is poured upon his head by Moses. "Then shalt thou take the anointing oil, and pour it upon his head, and anoint him." Ex.29:7. Not only is Aaron anointed, but also the tabernacle. "And Moses took the anointing oil, and anointed the tabernacle and all that was therein, and sanctified them. And he sprinkled thereof upon the altar seven times, and anointed the -altar and all his vessels, both the laver and his foot, to sanctify them." Lev.8:10, 11. This anointing included all the furniture in both the holy and the most holy place. Ex.30:26-29. It is to be noted that while the tabernacle and what was therein was sprinkled with oil, upon Aaron the oil was poured. Lev.8:10-12; Ex.29:7.
The anointing with oil is symbolic of the endowment with the Spirit of God. I Sam.10:1,6; 16:13; Isa.61:1; Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38. The profusion of oil used in the case of Aaron - it "ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments" - is symbolic of the fullness of the Spirit which God bestows upon His church. So far, all the ceremonies-except the washing-have been directed toward Aaron only. Now, however, the four sons have a part equal with the father in what follows.
A sin offering, a bullock, was provided, and Aaron and his sons placed their hands upon it and it was killed. The blood was taken by Moses, who put it "upon the horns of the altar round about with his finger, and purified the altar, and poured the blood at the bottom of the altar, and sanctified it, to make reconciliation upon it." Lev.8:15. It is here to be noted that the blood of the bullock was not carried into the sanctuary as was the case when the anointed priest, the high priest, sinned. Lev.4:6. Perhaps the reason is that this particular sin offering was not for Aaron alone, but also for his sons, and also that it seems to apply especially to the altar for its purification and sanctification, that reconciliation might be made upon it. Lev.8:15. Some, indeed, hold that it was not for Aaron at all, but only for the altar.
After the sin offering was made, a burnt offering was provided. This was offered in the regular manner, all being burned on the altar, from which it came up before the Lord as a sweet savor. Verses 18-21.
The work so far has been preparatory. The service of consecration proper is begun by bringing "the ram of consecration," or, literally, "the ram of the fillings," and killing it, after hands had been imposed on its head. The blood is taken by Moses, who puts it "upon the tip of Aaron's right ear, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot." Verse 23. The same is done to the sons, and the altar also is sprinkled. "And he brought Aaron's sons, and Moses put of the blood upon the tip of their right ear, and upon the thumbs of their right hands, and upon the great toes of their right feet: and Moses sprinkled the blood upon the altar round about." Lev.8:24.
After this came the "filling." Unleavened bread, a cake of oiled bread, and a wafer, together with the fat of the ram and the right shoulder, are placed in Aaron's hands and upon his sons' hands, and waved for a wave offering before the Lord. After it is waved by Aaron and his sons, Moses takes it off their hands and burns it upon the altar. The breast is reserved for Moses as his part. Verses 26-29.
After this, Moses took the oil and the blood "and sprinkled it upon Aaron, and upon his garments, and upon his sons, and upon his sons' garments with him; and sanctified Aaron, and his garments, and his sons, and his sons' garments with him." Verse 30.
With this ceremony, ended the special consecration of Aaron and his sons. They were now empowered to officiate at the sanctuary, though they still had to wait seven days in which they might not leave the sanctuary, but must "abide at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation day and night seven days, and keep the charge of the Lord, that ye die not: for so I am commanded." Verse 35.
So far, Moses had officiated at all the offerings made. At the end of the seven days Aaron begins his ministration. He offers a sin offering for himself, a young calf, and a ram for a burnt offering. Lev.9:2. He also offers a sin offering, a burnt offering, a meat offering, and a peace offering for the people. Verses 3,4. At the conclusion of the offerings, Aaron lifts up his hands and blesses the people.
Moses joins him in this, and the glory of the Lord appears. Moses has done his work, and need no longer officiate as priest.
The entire service of consecration tended to impress upon Aaron and his sons the sacredness of their calling. It must have been a new experience for Aaron to be washed by Moses. He could hardly escape the lesson intended by God. As the two brothers proceed to the laver, it can easily be imagined that they talk over the work about to be done. Moses informs his brother that he is to wash him. Aaron wonders why he cannot do this himself. They discuss the situation. Moses informs Aaron that God has given specific instructions regarding what is to be done. "This is the thing which the Lord commanded to be done," says Moses. Lev.8:5. From his conversations with God, Moses has a better understanding of God's requirements than Aaron has. He understands that this is not an ordinary bath. If it were that, Aaron could probably do better himself. This is a spiritual cleansing. He cannot cleanse himself from sin. Somebody must do that for him; hence, the symbolic washing.
After the washing, Aaron is not permitted to dress himself. Moses does that for him. Aaron feels himself completely helpless. Is everything to be done for me? he wonders. Am I not permitted to do anything for myself? No, he must not even put on the miter. He is to have everything done for him.
What a wonderful lesson this account teaches! God does everything. All man has to do is to be submissive. God cleanses; God clothes. He provides the robe of righteousness, the garments of glory and beauty. All God asks is that we do not reject the garment He provides, as the man in the parable did.
In the consecration service Moses touched Aaron's ear with the blood, signifying by this that he was to hearken to God's commandments and close his ears to all evil. "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." 1Sam.15:22. Christ was obedient unto death. Phil.2:8. Our ears are to be consecrated to God's service.
Moses also touched the thumb of the right hand, signifying that Aaron should do righteousness. As hearing has to do with the mind, so the hand has to do with bodily activity. It stands for the life forces, the outward act, the doing of righteousness. Of Christ it is written: "Lo, I come...to do Thy will, O God." Heb.10:7. Christ came to do God's will. "My meat," He said, "is to do the will of Hin that sent Me, and to finish His work." John 4:3. Touching the hand with the blood means the consecration of the life and service to God -- entire dedication.
The touching of the toe with the blood has similar meaning. It signifies walking in the right way, running on God's errands, standing for truth and uprightness. It signifies treading the path of obedience, having one's steps ordered by the Lord. Every faculty of the being is to be dedicated to God and consecrated to His service. The ministry of God is not to be lightly entered into. It is a fearful responsibility to act as a mediator between God and men. Such a one must carry the people on his shoulders, he must bear them on his heart; holiness must be on his forehead, and his very garments must be sanctified. He must be clean, he must be anointed with the Holy Spirit, the blood must be applied to his ear, hand, and foot. The melody of a dedicated life must attend his every step, his progress must be marked by fruitful happiness, even from afar the sweet harmony of a well -- ordered life must be evident. He must be quick to discern God's will in the fleeting sunshine or shadow of God's approval or disapproval; the gold of worth and obedience must be interwoven in his very character structure; he must reflect in countenance, dress, and heart the purity, peace, and love of God. He must be submissive and willing to let God have His way; he must forget self and think of others; he must not shun a heavy load. He must continually have in mind that others' welfare and happiness are depending on him, that he does not live by or for himself, that his every act, because of his public and official character, has large significance.
As the true minister contemplates the responsibility resting upon him and the consequences resulting should he fail or come short he might well cry out, Who is sufficient for these things?
OLAH IS THE HEBREW WORD ordinarily used for burnt offering. It means "that which goes up, or ascends." Another word used at times is kallil, which means "whole." The Douay Version has the word "holocaust," that which is entirely burned up.
These words describe the burnt offering, which was wholly burnt on the altar, and of which no part was eaten. Of other offerings, a part only was burnt on the altar of burnt offering; the rest was eaten or disposed of in some other way. But in the case of a burnt offering, the whole animal was consumed in the flames. It "ascended" to God as a sweet-smelling savor. It was pleasing to God. It signified complete consecration. Nothing was held back. All was given to God. Lev.1:9,13,17.
The morning and evening sacrifice was called "a continual" offering. It was not consumed in a moment, but was to burn "upon the altar all night unto the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be burning in it." Lev.6:9; Ex.29:42. In the daytime the individual burnt offerings were added to the regular morning sacrifice so that there was always a burnt sacrifice on the altar. "The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar: it shall never go out." Lev.6:13.
The individual burnt offerings were voluntary. Most of the other offerings were mandatory. When, for instance, a man had sinned, he was to bring a sin offering. He had little choice as to what to bring. Nearly everything was prescribed. Not so with burnt offerings. They were voluntary offerings, and the offerer could bring a bullock, a sheep, a lamb, turtledoves, or pigeons as he thought best. Lev.1:3,10,14. In this respect they differed from most of the other sacrifices.
The burnt offerings were perhaps the most important and characteristic of all offerings. They contained in themselves the essential qualities and elements of the other sacrifices. Although they were voluntary, dedicatory offerings, and as such not directly associated with sin, yet atonement was effected through them. Lev.1:4. Job offered burnt offerings for his children, for "it may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts." Job 1:5. They are singled out as "ordained in mount Sinai for a sweet savor, a sacrifice made by fire unto the Lord." Num.28:6. They were "continual," always to be on the altar. Lev.6:9. Sixteen times in chapters 28 and 29 of Numbers does God emphasize that no other offering is to take the place of the continual burnt offerings. Each time another sacrifice is mentioned, it is stated that this is "beside the continual burnt offering." This would seem to indicate their importance.
As stated, the burnt offering was a voluntary sacrifice. The offerer could bring any clean animal ordinarily used for sacrifice. It was required, however, that the animal be a male without blemish. The person was to offer "of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord." Lev.1:3. When he had selected the animal, he brought it into the court for acceptance. The priest examined it to see if it complied with the regulations for sacrifices. After it had been examined and accepted, the offerer would put his hand upon the head of the animal. He would then kill the animal, flay it, and cut it into pieces. Verses 4-6. As the animal was killed, the priest caught the blood, and sprinkled it round about the altar. Verses 5, 11. After the animal had been cut into pieces, the inwards and legs were washed in water, that all filth might be removed. After this, the priest took the pieces and put them in their proper order upon the altar of burnt offering, there to be consumed by the fire. Verse 9. The sacrifice thus placed on the altar included all the parts of the animal, both the head, the feet, the legs, and the body itself, but did not include the skin. This was given to the officiating priest. Lev.1:8;7:8.
In case turtledoves or young pigeons were used, the priest did the killing by wringing off the head, and sprinkling or wringing the blood out at the side of the altar. After this, the body of the bird was placed on the altar and was there consumed as the ordinary burnt offering, the feathers and the crop being first removed. Lev.1:15,16.
Burnt offerings were used on many occasions, such as the cleansing of lepers (Lev.14:19,20), the cleansing of women after childbirth (Lev.12:6-8), and also for ceremonial defilement. Lev.15:15,30. In these cases a sin offering was used as well as a burnt offering. The first atoned for sin, the second showed the offerer's attitude toward God in wholehearted consecration.
The burnt offering was prominent in the consecration of Aaron and his sons (Ex.29:15-25; Lev.8:18), as well as in their induction into the ministry. Lev.9:12-14. It was also used in connection with the Nazarite vow. Num.6:14. In all these instances it stood for complete consecration of the individual to God. The offerer placed himself symbolically on the altar, his life wholly devoted to God.
It is not hard to see the connection between these ceremonies and the statement made in Romans 12:1, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." We are to be wholly dedicated to God. We are to be perfect. Only when all filth was removed from the burnt offering was it acceptable to God and was it permitted to come upon the altar, an "offering made by fire, for a sweet savor" unto the Lord. So with us. All sin, all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, must be removed before we can be acceptable to God. 2Cor.7:1.
As an offering wholly consumed on the altar, the burnt sacrifice in a special sense represents Christ who gave Himself fully, completely, to God's service. In thus representing Christ, it constitutes an example to man to follow in His steps. It teaches complete consecration. It is rightly placed first in the list of offerings enumerated in Leviticus. It tells us in no uncertain tones that, to be a "sweet savor" unto God, a sacrifice must be one of entire surrender. All must be put on the altar. Nothing must be held back.
In the burnt sacrifice we are taught that God is no respecter of persons. The poor man who brings his two turtledoves is just as acceptable as the rich man who brings an ox, or as Solomon, who offered a thousand burnt offerings. 1Kings 3:4. The two mites are as pleasing to God as the abundance of the wealthy. According to his ability each is accepted.
Another lesson from the burnt offering is that of order. God wants order in His work. He gives specific directions regarding this. The wood is to be laid "in order upon the fire," not merely piled up. The pieces of the animal are to be laid "in order on the wood," not just thrown somewhere on the fire. Lev.1:7,8,12. Order is heaven's first law. "God is not the author of confusion." He wants His people to do things "decently and in order." 1Cor.14:33,40.
Another important lesson is that of cleanliness. Before the pieces were burned on the altar, "his inwards and his legs" were to be washed in water. Verse 9. This would seem unnecessary. These pieces were to be consumed on the altar. It would be merely a waste of time to wash them before burning them. Such, however, is not God's reasoning. The command is, Wash each piece; nothing unclean must come on the altar. And so the pieces are washed and carefully laid in order on the wood, which is laid in order on the altar.
Three elements of purification are used in the service: fire, water, and blood. Fire, emblematic of the Holy Spirit, is a purifying agency. When Christ comes "to His temple" He is "like a refiner's fire." "And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness." Mal.3:2,3. He shall purge His people by the "spirit of burning." Isa.4:4.
The question is asked: "Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?" Isa.33:14. "Our God is a consuming fire." Heb.12:29. The fire is God's presence, which consumes or purifies.
The fire on the altar was not common fire. It came originally from God. "There came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces." Lev.9:24. God had accepted their sacrifice. It was clean, washed, and "in order," ready for the fire; and the fire came "out from before the Lord." It is supposed that this fire was always kept burning and not permitted to go out; and as it had come from God it was called sacred as opposed to common fire, and was to be used in the Levitical service.
Water is emblematic both of baptism and of the word, two cleansing agencies. "Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word." Eph.5:25,26. "According to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour." Titus 3:5,6. Paul was told to "be baptized, and wash away thy sins." Acts 22:16. When the pieces of the animal used as a burnt offering were washed before being put on the altar, it not only taught the people order and cleanliness, but also the spiritual lesson that before anything is placed on the altar, before it is accepted by God, it must be clean, washed, pure, holy.
In the burnt offering, -- as in all offerings,-- the blood was the vital, the important element. It is that which makes atonement for the soul. The classical passage dealing with this is found in Leviticus 17:11. "The life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life." Lev.17:11, R.V.
The life of the flesh is in the blood. It is the blood that makes atonement "by reason of the life." When the blood was sprinkled on the altar and the fire came down and consumed the sacrifice, it indicated God's acceptance of the substitute. "It shall be accepted for him," or instead of him, "to make atonement for him." Lev.1:4. This atonement was made "by reason of the life" that was in the blood. But this blood, which represented the life, was efficacious only after the death of the victim. Had God intended to convey the idea that it was the blood as such that was efficacious without death, He would have so stated. A certain amount of blood could have been withdrawn from an animal without killing it-as blood is now given in blood transfusions. Blood could thus have been provided without death.
But this is not God's plan. The blood was not used until death had ensued. And it is the blood of one who has died. A death has taken place, and it is not until after death that the blood is used. We are reconciled by Christ's death, we are saved by His life. Rom.5:10. It was not until Christ was dead that there flowed out blood and water. John 19:34. Christ "came by water and blood, . . . not by water only, but by water and blood." 1John 5:6. The point cannot be emphasized too strongly that it is "by means of death" that we receive the promise of eternal inheritance, and that a testament is not of force until "after men are dead," that "it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth," and that "there must also of necessity be the death of the testator." Heb.9:15-17. We may therefore dismiss any theory of atonement which makes Christ's example the sole factor in our salvation. The example has its place; it is vital indeed, but the death of Christ remains the central fact in the atonement.
The burnt sacrifice, "an offering made by fire," "was a sweet savor unto the Lord." Lev.1:17. It pleased the Lord. It was acceptable to Him. Some of the reasons for this have been given. They will now be emphasized.
As the burnt sacrifice was first and foremost a type of the perfect offering of Christ, it is natural that it should be pleasing to God. As the sacrifice must be without blemish, perfect, so Christ was the "Lamb without blemish and without spot," who has "loved us, and hath given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor." 1 Peter 1-19; Eph.5:2. Christ stands for complete consecration, entire dedication, full surrender, a giving of all, that He might save some.
The burnt sacrifice was pleasing to God because it revealed a desire in the heart of the offerer to dedicate himself to God. The offerer said in effect: "Lord, I want to serve Thee. I am placing myself unreservedly on the altar. I am holding back nothing for myself. Accept me in the substitute." Such an attitude is a sweet savor unto the Lord.
The burnt sacrifice was a sweet savor to God because it was a voluntary offering. It was not required. It was not mandatory and was not to be brought at a stated time. If a man had sinned, God demanded a sin offering. But God never demanded a burnt sacrifice. If a man offered it, it was "of his own voluntary will." Lev.1:3. There was no compulsion. It was therefore of much more significance than a mandatory offering. It indicated a thankful heart.
There is danger that Christians do too many things pertaining to religion not because they wish to do them, but because it is the custom or because it is required. Duty is a great word; love is a greater. We must not minimize duty; rather, we must emphasize it. But we must not forget that love is a still greater force, and that rightly understood and applied it fulfills duty because it includes it. Love is voluntary, free; duty is exacting, compulsory. Duty is law; love is grace. Both are necessary, and one must not be stressed to the exclusion of the other.
As there was no compulsion whatever concerning the burnt sacrifice, it was in reality an offering of love, of dedication, of consecration. It was something done over and above what was required. This was pleasing to God.
"God loveth a cheerful giver." 2Cor.9:7. Some read this as though it said, God loveth a liberal, or a large, giver. While that may be true, the statement nevertheless is that God loves one who gives cheerfully and of his free will. The gift may be small or great, but if it is offered willingly, it is pleasing to God.
It would be well to apply this principle to everyday Christianity. We may be asked to do a certain thing, give to a certain cause, or perform a not-too-pleasing task. We do it, at times resignedly, believing that as it is in itself a good thing, perhaps we ought to do it, but we are not very cheerful about it. We feel we ought to do it, but we would be glad to be excused.
God must be displeased with the attitude we assume at times. He sends one of His ministers with a message. We are admonished to give, to do, to sacrifice, to pray. There is no cheerful response to the appeal. Again and again it must be repeated, and at last we halfheartedly do what we are asked to do. We put ten cents or ten dollars on the collection plate, not because we really care to do so, but because we would be ashamed to have others see that we have no part in the offering. We do our share in Ingathering for missions, not because we love to do the work, but because it is part of the church program.
It was doubtless because David was cheerful and willing that he was beloved of God. He had sinned, and sinned grievously, but he repented as deeply as he had sinned, and God forgave him. The experience left a vivid impression upon David's mind, and ever after, he was anxious to please God and do something for Him.
It was this spirit that led him to propose the building of a temple for God to dwell in. The tabernacle erected in the wilderness was several hundred years old. The material of which it was made must have been in a dilapidated condition. God would have been pleased to have some one build Him a temple; but He decided not to let His wishes be known, but to wait until some one thought of it himself. This David did, and felt happy in the thought that he could do something for God. He was not permitted to build the temple, but in appreciation of what David had in mind to do, God told him that instead of David's building God a house, God would build David a house. 1Chron.17:6-10. It was in this connection that God gave him the promise that his throne should be "established forevermore." Verse 14. This finds its fulfillment in Christ, who, when He comes, shall sit upon "the throne of His father David." Luke 1:32. This is a most wonderful and unusual promise. Abraham, Moses, and Elijah are passed by, and the honor is given to David. One reason for this, we believe, is found in the willingness of David to do something for God over and above what is required.
This is strikingly illustrated in David's wish to build the temple. As stated before, God had told him that he could not build the temple. David, however, greatly desired to do so. As he thought the matter over, he found several ways of making preparation for the building, without doing the actual building himself. 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. So David prepared abundantly before his death." 1Chron.22:5.
The first thing David did was to begin to gather money. The figures given in 1Chron.22:14. total many million dollars in our money, which David gave or collected. Next he began "to hew wrought stones to build the house of God." 1Chron.22:2. David also "prepared iron in abundance for the nails for the doors of the gates, and for the joinings; and brass in abundance without weight." Verse 3. Before he could do any of this, however, it was necessary for him to have a pattern, or blueprint. This pattern, David tells us, he received from the Lord. "All this, said David, the Lord made me understand in writing by His hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern." I 1Chron.28:19. We can almost imagine David's saying to the Lord, "Lord, Thou hast told me that I may not build the temple. I would so much like to do this, but I am content to abide by Thy decision. May I make a pattern? That would not be building, would it, Lord?" So the Lord helped him make a pattern, being pleased with David's willingness to do something for Him.
In this connection there is an interesting statement in 1st Chronicles 28:4: "Howbeit the Lord God of Israel chose me before all the house of my father to be king over Israel forever: for He hath chosen Judah to be the ruler; and of the house of Judah, the house of my father; and among the sons of my father He liked me to make me king over all Israel." This unique expression shows God's high regard for David. And so David got permission to prepare the stone, the timber, and the iron for the temple of the Lord, as well as the plan itself. This may be the reason why later, in the erection of the temple, the sound of a hammer was not heard. David had prepared the material beforehand.
David, however, was not satisfied with making preparation for the building of the temple. He wanted also to prepare the music for the dedication. That was not building, and so he felt free to go ahead. David was the sweet singer in Israel; he loved music with his whole heart. So David began to prepare for the occasion by gathering together a band of four thousand who "praised the Lord with the instruments which I made, said David, to praise therewith." 1Chron.23:5. He also brought the singers together and trained them, as recorded in the twenty-fifth chapter of the same book. It is pleasing to think of David after the sad experience of his life, passing a few years in peace and contentment, making preparation for building the temple of the Lord and training the singers and musicians for its dedication.
Still David was not satisfied. The Lord had told him that he could not build the temple, but that his son Solomon should do so. 'What would hinder David from abdicating and making his son Solomon king of Israel? "So when David was old and full of days, he made Solomon his son king over Israel." 1Chron.23:1. Though there were political reasons for doing this, the setting of the statement indicates that the building of the temple was a vital factor.
No wonder God liked David. He kept pressing God to be permitted to do more for Him. He thought up the plan of making preparation for building the temple. He collected unheard of sums of money; he trained the musicians, -- all that he might do something for God, who had done so much for him. David was a cheerful giver of money and of service, and God liked him. We do not know how long David lived after Solomon became king, but when he did die, "they made Solomon the son of David king the second time." 1Chron.29:22.
Would that we had more men and churches like David, willing to sacrifice and work, and anxious to do still more! There would then be no more need of urging the people or the churches to arise and finish the work. If David were here and were asked to give $10, he would doubtless ask: "May I not give $20 or $100?" And the Lord would be pleased, and would say, "Yes, David, you may." It was because of this spirit that David, in spite of his sin, was chosen to be the earthly father of Christ. It was the same spirit that led Christ to give willingly, to suffer all, and at last to make the supreme sacrifice. God loves a cheerful giver.
MEAT OR MEAL OFFERINGS
THE WORD USED IN HEBREW for "meat offering" is minchah. It means a gift made to another, usually to a superior. When Cain and Abel presented their offerings to God as recorded in Genesis 4:3,4, it was a minchah they offered. So also was Jacob's gift to Esau. Gen.32:13. It was a minchah, which the brothers of Joseph presented to him in Egypt. Gen.43:11. The name given to these offerings in the King James Version is "meat offering." More nearly correct would be the name "meal offering," as used in the American Revised Version. This designation we shall use hereafter.
The meal offerings consisted of such vegetable products as constituted the chief food supply of the nation: flour, oil, corn or grain, wine, salt, and frankincense. When they were presented to the Lord, a part was burned as a memorial upon the altar as a sweet savor unto the Lord. In the case of a burnt offering, all was consumed on the altar. In the meal offering, only a small part was placed upon the altar; the rest belonged to the priest. "It is a thing most holy of the offerings of Jehovah made by fire." Lev.2:3,A.R.V. As the burnt offering signified consecration and dedication, so the meal offering signified submission and dependence. The burnt offerings stood for entire surrender of a life; the meal offerings were an acknowledgment of sovereignty and stewardship; of dependence upon a superior. They were an act of homage to God, and a pledge of loyalty.
Meal offerings were ordinarily used in connection with burnt offerings and peace offerings, but not with those of sin or trespass. The record in the fifteenth chapter of Numbers states: "Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land of your habitations, which I give unto you, and will make an offering by fire unto the Lord, a burnt offering, or a sacrifice in performing a vow, or in a freewill offering, or in your solemn feasts, to make a sweet savor unto the Lord, of the herd, or of the flock: then shall he that offereth his offering unto the Lord bring a meat offering of a tenth deal of flour mingled with the fourth part of a hin of oil. And the fourth part of a hin of wine for a drink offering shalt thou prepare with the burnt offering or sacrifice, for one lamb." Num.15:2-5. When a ram was offered, the meal offering was increased to two tenths of a deal of flour; and when a bullock was sacrificed, the meal offering was three tenths of a deal. The drink offerings were increased accordingly. Verses 6-10.
When the meal offering consisted of fine flour, it was mingled with oil, and frankincense placed upon it. Lev.2:1. A handful of this flour with oil and frankincense was burned as a memorial upon the altar of burnt offerings. It was "an offering made by fire, of a sweet savor unto the Lord." Lev.2:2. Whatever was left after the handful had been placed upon the altar, belonged to Aaron and his sons. It was "a thing most holy of the offerings of the Lord." Verse 3.
When the offering consisted of unleavened cakes or wafers, it was to be made of fine flour mingled with oil, cut in pieces and oil poured on it. Verses 4-6. At times it was baked in a frying pan. Verse 7. When it was thus presented, the priest took a part and burned it upon the altar for a memorial. Verses 8,9. What was left of the wafers belonged to the priests and was counted most holy. Verse 10.
It seems evident that the offering of flour and unleavened wafers anointed with oil was meant to teach Israel that God is the sustainer of all life, that they were dependent on Him for daily food; and that before partaking of the bounties of life they were to acknowledge Him as the giver of all. This acknowledgment of God as the provider of temporal blessings would naturally lead their minds to the source of all spiritual blessings. The New Testament reveals this source as the Bread sent down from heaven which gives life to the world. John 6:33.
It is specifically stated that no meal offering should be made with leaven. Neither it nor honey might come upon the altar. Lev.2:11. Yet permission was given to offer both leaven and honey as first fruits. When so used, they were not to come on the altar, however.Verse 12. Leaven is a symbol of sin. For this reason it was forbidden in any offering made by fire.
The question might properly be raised as to why leaven and honey, forbidden with other sacrifices, might be offered as first fruits. Lev.2:12. While leaven is symbolic of sin, of hypocrisy, malice, wickedness (Luke 12:1; 1Cor.5.8), there is no direct statement in the Bible as to the symbolic meaning of honey. Commentators are generally agreed, however, that honey stands for those sins of the flesh which are pleasant to the senses, but which nevertheless corrupt. Many therefore consider honey symbolic of self-righteousness or self-seeking.
If we accept this interpretation, we would understand that when God says that Israel might bring leaven and honey as a first fruit, He invites us, when we first come, to bring all our sinful tendencies and cherished worldliness to Him. He wants us to come just as we are. While God is not pleased with sin and it is not a sweet savor to Him, and while its symbol, leaven, must not come on the altar, God does want us to come to Him with all our sin and self-righteousness. Having come, we are to lay all at His feet. He wants us to bring our sins to Him. Then we are to go and sin no more.
In the meal offerings, as in other offerings, salt was used. It is called the "salt of the covenant of thy God." "With all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt." Lev.2:13. All sacrifices were salted, both animal and vegetable. "Every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt." Mark 9:49. Salt has preserving power. It also makes food palatable. It was a vital part of each sacrifice. It is symbolic of the preserving, keeping power of God.
When bringing a meal offering of first fruits, "green ears of corn dried by the fire, even corn beaten out of full ears," it could be used. "Thou shalt put oil upon it, and lay frankincense thereon." A memorial part was taken by the priest and burned on the altar of burnt offering. Lev.2:14-16. The American Revised Version, instead of "corn beaten out of full ears," translates: "bruised grain of the fresh ear." Though we are not to find a hidden meaning in every expression, it does not seem farfetched to believe that the bruised corn here typifies Him who was bruised for us, and by whose stripes we are healed. Isa.53:5. The meal offerings present Christ to us as the life-giver and up-holder, the one through and in whom "we live, and move, and have our being." Acts 17:28.
To the meal offerings also belongs the libation of wine mentioned as the drink offering. Num.15:10, 24. This drink offering of wine was presented before the Lord and poured out in the holy place, though not on the altar. Num.28:7; Ex.30:9.
The wave sheaf offered as the first fruit of the harvest, which was to be waved before the Lord on the second day of the Passover, was also a meal offering. Lev.23:10-12. Another meal offering was the two wave loaves baked with leaven presented at Pentecost as a first fruit unto the Lord. Lev.23:17-20. Other offerings were the daily meal offering of Aaron and his sons, which was to be a perpetual offering (Lev.6:20), and the offering of jealousy recorded in Numbers 5:15. There was also an offering which is recorded in Leviticus 5:11&12. This offering, however, was a sin offering rather than a meal offering.
The shewbread placed weekly on the table in the first apartment of the sanctuary was in reality a meal offering presented to the Lord. Its Hebrew name means the "bread of the Presence," or "bread of the face." It is also called the "continual bread." Num.4:7. The table is called the table of the shewbread, and the "pure table." Lev.24:6; 2Chron.13:10,11. The shewbread consisted of twelve loaves, each made out of four fifths of a peck of fine flour. The loaves were placed in two piles on the table every Sabbath. The incoming priests who were to officiate during the coming week began their work with the evening sacrifice on the Sabbath. The outgoing priests finished theirs with the Sabbath morning sacrifice. Both the outgoing and the incoming priests joined in the removal of the shewbread and in its placement. While the outgoing priests removed the old bread, the incoming priests put the new bread on. They were careful not to remove the old until the new was ready to be put on. The bread must always be on the table. It was the "bread of the Presence."
As to the size of the loaves there is a difference of opinion. Some believe them to have been as large as twenty by forty inches. While this cannot be substantiated, it is clear that four fifths of a peck of flour--which is equivalent to two tenths of an ephah and which was used for each cake would make a sizable loaf. On this bread, incense was placed in two cups, a handful of incense in each. When the bread was changed on the Sabbath, this incense was carried out and burned on the altar of burnt offering.
The "bread of the Presence" was offered to God under "an everlasting covenant." Lev.24:8. It was an ever-present testimony that Israel was dependent upon God for sustenance, and a constant promise from God that He would sustain them. Their need was ever before Him, and His promise constantly before them.
The record concerning the table of shewbread reveals that there were dishes on the table, spoons, covers, bowls, or as the American Revised Version states, dishes, spoons, flagons, and bowls "wherewith to pour out." Ex.25:29. While in this connection nothing is said of wine's being on the table, it is evident that the flagons from which "to pour out" were there for a purpose. There was a drink offering of wine commanded in connection with the daily sacrifice. Num.28:7. The wine was "to be poured unto the Lord for a drink offering" "in the holy place." The record does not reveal were in the holy place the wine is to be poured, but only that it is to be "poured unto the Lord." We are, however, told where it is not to be poured out. As to the altar of incense, Israel was forbidden to offer "strange incense" on it, "neither shall ye pour drink offering thereon." Ex.30:9. If the drink offering was to be poured in the holy place; if it was not to be poured on the altar; if there were flagons on the table from which "to pour out," it seems clear that the flagons on the table contained wine.
It is not a long step from the table of shewbread in the Old Testament to the table of the Lord in the New Testament. Luke 22:30; 1Cor.10:21. The parallel is close. The bread is His body, broken for us. The cup is the New Testament in His blood. 1Cor.11:24,25. As often as we eat the bread and drink the cup, we "do show the Lord's death till He come." Verse 26. "The Lord of the Presence" is symbolic of the Wine, who ever liveth "to make intercession for us." Heb.7:25. He is the "living bread which came down from heaven." John 6:51.
As stated at the beginning of this juncture, the meal offerings were an acknowledgment of God's sovereignty and man's stewardship. The burnt offerings said: All that I am is the Lord's. The meal offerings said: All that I have is the Lord's. The latter is really included in the former; for when a man is dedicated to God, that dedication includes his possessions as well as himself. That is doubtless the reason the meal offerings always accompanied the burnt offering. Num.15:4.
The meal offering is a definite and separate sacrifice denoting a consecration of means, as the burnt sacrifice denotes a consecration of life. The dedication of means must be preceded by a dedication of life. One is the result of the other. A dedication of life without a dedication of means is not provided for in God's plan. A dedication of means without a dedication of life is not acceptable. The two must go together. Combined, they form a complete sacrifice, pleasing to God, "a sweet savor unto the Lord."
The idea of stewardship needs emphasis in a time like this. Some who bear the name of Christian talk loudly of holiness and of their devotion to God, but their works do not always correspond to their profession. The purse strings are held tight, appeals go unheeded, God's cause languishes. Such need to understand that consecration of life includes consecration of means, and that the one without the other is not pleasing to God.
On the other hand it would be misleading to believe that a dedication of means is all that God requires. We are responsible for whatever talents we may have, whether they be money or time or natural gifts. Of all these God is the rightful owner, and we only stewards. Such talents as music, song, art, speech, leadership, belong to God. They must be dedicated to Him. They must be put on the altar.
The fine flour used in the meal offering was partly the product of man's labor. God causes the grain to grow; He gives sunshine and rain; He places the life-giving properties within the kernel. Man harvests the grain, grinds the flour, separates all coarse particles from it until it becomes "fine." It is then presented to God, either as flour or as cakes prepared by baking. God and man have cooperated, and the resulting product is dedicated to God. It represents God's original gift plus man's labor. It is a giving back to God of His own with usury. God gives the seed. Man plants it, God waters it. Multiplied, it is given back to God, who graciously accepts it. It is symbolic of man's lifework, of his talents as improved under the guiding hand of God.
God gives to every man at least one talent. He expects man to improve that talent and multiply it. It is not acceptable to God to present Him with the original talent, to give back to Him only that which He gave us. He wants us to take the seed He gives, plant it, tend it, harvest it. He wants the grain to pass through the process that seems to crush the very life out of it, but in reality prepares it to serve man; He wants everything coarse removed from it, and He wants it presented to Him as "fine flour." He wants the talents improved and presented to Him with usury. Nothing less will do.
The fine flour stands for man's lifework. It stands for improved talents. What the shewbread signified with respect to the nation, the meal offering signified with respect to the individual. It is consecrated lifework symbolized.
How significant is the expression "fine flour"! Flour is grain, crushed between the upper and nether millstone. It was grain, capable of being planted, capable of life perpetuation. Now it is crushed, lifeless. It can never be planted again; it is dead. The life is crushed out of it. But is it useless? No, a thousand times no! it gives its life, it dies, that others might live. The crushing of its own life became the means through life is perpetuated, ennobled. It was the life of the seed; now it helps to sustain the life of the soul, a being made in the image of God. Death enriched it, glorified it, made it serviceable to mankind.
Few lives are of real and enduring value to mankind until they are bruised and crushed. It is in the deep experiences of life that men find God. It is when the waters go over the soul that character is built. Sorrow, disappointment, and suffering are able servants of God. They are the dark days that bring the showers of blessing, enabling the seed to germinate and to bring forth fruit.
The problem of suffering may be unfathomable in its deeper aspects. But some things are clear. Suffering serves a definite purpose in the plan of God. It mellows the spirit. It prepares the soul for a deeper understanding of life. It inspires sympathy for others. It makes one walk softly, before God and men.
Only he who has suffered has lived. Only he who has loved has lived. The two are inseparable. Love calls for sacrifice. Sacrifice often requires suffering. Not that it need necessarily be physical suffering. For the highest kind of suffering is joyful, holy, exalted. A mother may sacrifice for her child, she may suffer, but she does it willingly, joyfully. Love counts sacrifice a privilege. I "rejoice in my suffering for you," Paul says, "and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body's sake, which is the church." Col.1:24. The lesson of suffering has not been learned until we know how to rejoice in it. And we may rejoice, when it dawns on us that "as the suffering of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ;" that when we are "afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation;" that Christ Himself "learned...obedience by the things which He suffered;" and that because He "hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted;" when it dawns on us that our sufferings rightly endured and interpreted are permitted that we, as the high priest of old, may "have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity." 2Cor.l:5,6; Heb.5:8;2:18;5:2. Such suffering is not sorrowful, but happy. Christ, "for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross." Heb.12:2.
Suffering has been the lot of God's people at all times. It is part of God's plan. Only through suffering can certain lessons be learned. Only thus can we in Christ's stead minister as we should to those who are passing through the valley of affliction and "be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." 2Cor.1:4. Viewed in this light, suffering becomes a blessing. It enables one to minister in a way not possible without such experience. It becomes a privilege "not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake." Phil.1:29.
To understand how necessary is "the fellowship of His suffering," we need but glance at the experience of some of the saints of God in past ages. Call to mind those three awful days for Abraham after God had told him to slay his son. Call to mind the night of Jacob's trouble--the night that made a saint out of a sinner. Call to mind the time Joseph spent awaiting death in the cistern; his agony at being sold as a slave; his prison experience caused by false accusations and embittered by ingratitude. Call to mind the persecutions of Jeremiah; the fearful day when Ezekiel was commanded to preach, instead of being permitted to stay with his dying wife; the dark and awful experience of John the Baptist in prison when doubt assailed his soul; the thorn in Paul's flesh which he was not permitted to have removed. And yet from all these experiences issued nobler lives, larger vision, greater usefulness. Without them these saints could never have done the work they did, nor would their lives have been the inspiration they now are. As the flowers give more delightful fragrance when they are crushed, so a great sorrow may ennoble and beautify a life, sublimating it for God's use.
The flour used in meal offerings was not to be offered dry; it was to be mingled with oil, or anointed with oil. Lev.2:4,5. The oil is the Spirit of God. Only as a life is sanctified by the Spirit, mixed with it, anointed with it, can it be pleasing to God. Suffering in and of itself may not be a blessing. It may only lead to hardness of heart, bitterness of spirit. But as God's Spirit takes possession of the soul, as the sweet spirit of the Master permeates the life, the fragrance of a dedicated life becomes manifest.
As the incense offered each morning and evening in the holy place was emblematic of the righteousness of Christ which ascended with the prayers of the priest for the nation as a sweet savor unto God, so the incense offered in connection with each meal offering was efficacious for the individual. It was making a personal application of that which otherwise was only general. In the morning and evening sacrifice, the priest prayed for the people. In the meal offering the incense was applied to the individual soul.
In the minds of the Israelites, incense and prayer were closely associated. Morning and evening, as the incense--symbolizing Christ's merits and intercession--ascended in the holy place, prayers were offered throughout the nation. Not only did the incense permeate the holy and the most holy place, but its fragrance was noted far around the tabernacle. Everywhere it bespoke prayer and called men to communion with God.
Prayer is vital to Christianity. It is the breath of the soul. It is the vital element in every activity of life. It must accompany every sacrifice, make fragrant every offering. It is not only an important ingredient of Christianity, it is the very life of it. Without its vital breath, life soon ceases; and with the cessation of life, decomposition sets in, and that which should be a savor of life unto life becomes a savor of death unto death.
"Every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt." Mark 9:49. Fire purifies, salt preserves. To be salted with fire means not only purification, but preservation. God wants a clean people, a people whose sins are forgiven. But it is not enough to be forgiven and cleansed. The keeping power of God must be accepted. We must be kept clean. The fire is not to be a destructive fire, but a cleansing one. We are to be first cleansed, then kept. "Salted with fire!" "Salted with salt!" Purified and kept pure! Wonderful provision!
The meal offering, though not the most important one, has beautiful lessons for the devout soul. All we are should be on the altar. All we have belongs to God. And God will purify and keep His own. May these lessons abide with us.
THE HEBREW WORD TRANSLATED "PEACE offering," comes from a root word meaning "to make up, to supply what is wanting, to pay a recompense." It denotes a state in which misunderstandings have been cleared up and wrongs righted, and in which good feeling prevails. Peace offerings were used on any occasion that called for thankfulness and joy, and also in making a vow. They were sweet-savor offerings, like burnt and meal offerings. They were an expression on the part of the offerer, of his peace with God and of his thankfulness to Him for His many blessings.
In selecting a peace offering, the offerer was not limited in his choice. He could use a bullock, a sheep, a lamb, or a goat, male or female. Ordinarily a sacrifice had to be "perfect to be accepted." Lev.22:21; 3:1-17. However, when a peace offering was presented as a freewill offering, it need not be perfect. It could be used even if it had "anything superfluous or lacking in his parts." Lev.22:23. As in the case of the burnt offering, the offerer must lay his hands upon the head of the sacrifice and kill it at the door of the tabernacle. The blood was then sprinkled upon the altar round about by the priest. Lev.3:2. After this, the fat was burned: "It is the food of the offering made by fire unto the Lord." Verse 11. "All the fat is the Lord's. It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood." Verses 16, 17.
Peace offerings were of three kinds: thank offerings, offerings for a vow, and voluntary offerings. Of these, the thank offering or praise offering appears the most prominent. It was offered on occasions of joy, of thankfulness for some specific instance of deliverance, or for some signal blessing bestowed. It was offered from a heart filled with praise of God, running over with joy.
Sin and trespass offerings asked favors of God. They begged forgiveness. Burnt offerings stood for dedication and consecration on the part of the offerer. Meal offerings recognized the offerer's dependence upon God for all temporal needs and his acceptance of the responsibility of stewardship. Peace offerings were a praise offering for mercies received, a thank offering for blessings enjoyed; a voluntary offering from an overflowing heart. They asked for no favors as such; they ascribed praise to God for what He had done, and magnified His name for His goodness and mercy to the children of men.
The offerings in the Old Testament were embodied prayers. They combined faith and works, prayer and faith. In their totality they expressed man's entire relationship to, and need of, God. Peace offerings were communion offerings. Burnt offerings were wholly burnt on the altar; meal offerings were either burned outside the camp or eaten by the priest, but peace offerings were divided not merely between God and the priest, but a part, the greater part, was given to the offerer and his family. God's part was burned on the altar. Lev.3:14-17. The priest received the wave breast and the heave shoulder. Lev.7.33,34. The rest belonged to the offerer, who could invite any clean person to partake with him. It must be eaten the same day, or in some cases the second day, but not later. Lev.7:16-21.
Unleavened cakes mingled with oil, also wafers and fried cakes, were a part of the offerings. To this was added leavened bread. A part was presented to the Lord as a heave offering and then given to the priest as his portion. Lev.7:11-13.
The whole ceremony constituted a kind of communion service in which priest and people partook with the Lord at His table; a joyful occasion, where all united in thanking God and praising Him for His mercy.
The use of leaven in the peace offering is significant. Ordinarily leaven was not permitted in any sacrifice. In one other instance where it was used -- that of the first fruits in the meat offering (Lev.2:12) -- it was not permitted to come on the altar. In the present instance it was presented to the Lord as a heave offering and then given to the priest who had sprinkled the blood. Lev.7:13,14. In the case of the first fruit in the meat offering, the leaven represented man bringing his offering to God for the first time. He must bring such as he had. But he was to do that only once. In the peace offering, both unleavened and leavened bread are commanded. May it not be, as this is a common meal of which God, priest, and offerer partake, that the unleavened bread represents Him who is without sin and who is our peace; and that the leaven represents the imperfection of man who is nevertheless accepted by God? Eph.2:13. Reference to this is made in Amos 4:5. "The flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten the same day." Lev.7:15. Though this was partly a sanitary measure, that could not be the only reason; for in cases where the peace offering was a vow or a voluntary offering it could also be eaten the second day. Verse 16. It was manifestly impossible for a man himself to consume his offering, if it were a bullock or a goat or a lamb, in one day. He therefore was permitted, and even commanded, to ask others to share in the meal. "Thou mayest not eat within thy gates... any of the vows which thou vowest, nor thy freewill offerings, or heave offering of thine hand; but thou must eat them before the Lord thy God in the place which the Lord thy God shall choose, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite, that is within thy gates: and thou shalt rejoice before the Lord thy. God in all that thou puttest thine hands unto. Take heed to thyself that thou forsake not the Levite as long as thou livest upon the earth." Deut.12:17-19.
This was a distinguishing feature of the peace offering. It must be eaten the same day, and it must be shared; it must be eaten "before the Lord," and "thou shalt rejoice." It was a joyful, communal meal, and in this respect was different from all other offerings.
At times peace offerings were vow offerings. For one reason or another, perhaps because of some special blessing desired, an offerer would make a vow to the Lord. He might vow himself to the Lord, or his wife or children, or cattle, house, or lands. Lev.27. In this way Samuel was vowed to the Lord. 1Sam.1:11. In case of persons, a vow could ordinarily be redeemed at a fixed valuation, adjustable by the priests in case of the very poor. Lev.27:1-8. If the vow concerned one of the beasts suitable for sacrifice, it could not be redeemed. If a man attempted to exchange it for another beast, both beasts were to be offered. Verses 9,10. In case of an unclean beast, the priest was to evaluate it. It could be redeemed by adding one fifth to the estimated value. Verses 11-13.
Three things are mentioned as not coming under the rule of a vow: all first-born (verses 26,27); anything devoted to God (verses 28,29); the tithe (verses 30-34). These, as belonging already to God, could not be vowed.
There are some who do not consider vows with favor. Yet God provided for vows. While it may be better not to vow than to vow and not pay (Ecel. 5:5), at times vows are in order and acceptable to God. "If thou shalt forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in thee" (Deut. 23:22); but if a man makes a vow, he shall "not slack to pay it." Verse 21. The making of a vow is optional. A man may or may not make a vow, but if he makes one "he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth." Num.30-2.
The chief point in these statements is this, that a man is to keep that which he has promised. He must "not break his word." He must not even be "slack" in fulfilling his vow. When the time comes, he must pay. God expects this.
God wants His people to be honest and dependable. He wants them to keep their promises. No man is fulfilling his Christian duties if he is undependable in business dealings. No man can break his word and retain God's favor. No man can "forget" to pay his bills, or even be slack concerning them, and be counted honest in the sight of heaven. A Christian, above all people, must be a man of his word. He must not only be upright; he must be prompt.
This is an age in which many consider their word u of little weight, and have little respect, for their promises. While this may be expected of the world, there can be no excuse for any who bear the name of Christ to repudiate their promise. Yet how many unpaid pledges there are, how many broken vows! The marriage vow is broken; the baptismal vow is broken; the ordination vow is broken. Covenants are repudiated, agreements violated, pledges forgotten. Breaking of faith is common, disregard of responsibility almost universal. Christ Himself wondered if He should find faith on the earth when He returned. Luke 18:8. In the midst of all this confusion there must be a people upon whom God can depend, in whose mouth there is found no guile, who are true to their word. The question asked in Psalms 15 is also answered there. The question: "Lord, who shall abide in Thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in Thy holy hill?" The answer: "He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbor, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbor. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoreth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved."
One of the conditions here mentioned of abiding in the tabernacle of God is that of "swearing to his own hurt," and not changing. A man may agree to sell or to buy some property, and after the agreement is made, receive a more favorable offer. Will he stick to his bargain even at a loss to himself? He will if he is a Christian.
Regard for one's word is a crying need. Nations need it, lest their agreements become meaningless. Business needs it, lest confusion and disaster result. Individuals need it, lest faith perish from the earth. Above all, Christians need it, lest men lose their vision and hope, and despair grip mankind.
This is the supreme hour and opportunity of the church. A demonstration is due the world, that there is a people who remain faithful in a faithless generation; who have respect for their own word as well as for God's; who are true to the faith once delivered to the saints. The manifestation of the sons of God is overdue. Rom.8:19. This revelation of the sons of God is not only "the earnest expectation of the creature," but "the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together" for it. Verse 22. And this manifestation will reveal a people who have the seal of God's approval. They keep the commandments. They have the faith of Jesus. Their word is yea, yea, and nay, nay. They are without fault, even before the throne of God. Rev.14:12,5; James 5:12.
As has been stated before, the peace offering was a communion offering in which God, the priest, and the people partook. It was a communal meal, held within the precincts of the temple, in which joy and happiness prevailed, and priest and people held converse. It was not an occasion when peace was effected, it was rather a feast of rejoicing that peace existed. It was generally preceded by a sin offering or a burnt offering. Atonement had been made, the blood had been sprinkled, forgiveness had been extended, and justification assured. In celebration of this, the offerer invited his near of kin and his servants, as well as the Levites, to eat with him. "Thou mayest not eat within thy gates," was the command, but only "in the place which the Lord thy God shall choose." Deut.12:17,18. And so the whole family assembled within the temple gates to celebrate in a festal manner the peace that had been established between God and man, and between man and man.
"Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Rom.5:1. "He is our peace." Eph.2:14. Israel of old was invited to celebrate the fact that they had peace with God, that their sins were forgiven, and that they were restored to favor with God. This celebration included son and daughter, manservant and maidservant, as well as the Levite. All sat down at the table of the Lord and rejoiced together "in hope of the glory of God." In like manner we are to "joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement." Rom.5:2,11.
Few appreciate or rejoice in the peace of God as they should. Though the reason may be, in many cases, a lack of appreciation of what God has done for them, many times there are dear souls who fail to understand that it is their right and privilege to be happy in their religion. They live in the shadow of the cross rather than in its sunshine. They feel that there is something wrong in happiness, that to smile is inappropriate, and that even innocent laughter is sacrilegious. They carry the burden of the world on their shoulders and feel that to spend any time in recreation is not only a waste of time, but is definitely irreligious. They are good Christians, but not happy ones. If they were living in the days of Christ and following Him, they would question the advisability of going to the marriage feast at Cana in Galilee. They might even be perplexed about Christ's eating and drinking with sinners. With John's disciples they would be fasting and praying. Luke 5:29-35.
This is written with full appreciation of the times in which we are living. If there was ever a period when seriousness and sobriety should characterize our work, this is such a period. In view of the approaching crisis, what manner of men ought we to be, in all holy conversation and godliness! All frivolity and lightness should be put aside, and solemnity should take possession of every earthly element. Great and momentous events are hastening apace. This is no time for trifling and pettiness. The King is at the door!
These conditions, however, should not cause us to lose sight of the fact that we are children of the King, that our sins are forgiven, and that we have a right to be happy and rejoice. The work must be finished, and we are to have a part in it; but after all, it is God who must finish the work. Many talk and act as though they were to finish the work, as though all depends on them. They seem to think that they have the responsibility of the work upon them, and that though God may help, it is really for them to do the work. Even in their prayers, they often remind God of what He should do, fearful that He may forget some things that are on their hearts. They are good souls, anxious to do the right thing at all times but they have not learned to cast their burdens on the Lord. They are doing their best to carry the load, and though groaning beneath the burden, are determined not to give up. They struggle on and are getting much done. They are valuable workers, and the Lord loves them dearly.
But they are lacking in some important essentials, and are not getting much joy out of their Christianity. They are Marthas who toil and work, but leave out the one thing needful. They look disapprovingly at the Marys who are not doing as they themselves do, and they make their complaint to the Lord. They do not understand how Christ can take Mary's part, when to their mind she ought to be rebuked. They work, but they are not very happy about it. They think that others are not doing their share. Luke 10:38-42.
It is the same lesson that is emphasized in the story of the prodigal son. The elder son had never done anything very wrong. He had always worked hard and had never wasted any time in feasting and carousing. And now when the younger son came home after spending his portion in riotous living, "he was angry and would not go in" to the feast in honor of the returned brother. It was of no avail that the father came "out, and entreated him." He rather rebuked the father, accusing him that "as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf." Luke 15:30. Kindly the father replies: "It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found." Verse 32. We are not told the end of the story. Did the son go in? Did the love of the father prevail? We do not know. The story does not say. The last picture we have is of the elder son being outside the house, angry. It is to be hoped that he repented and went in, but we do not know.
Christians should be a happy people, even in the midst of the most solemn events. And why should they not be? Their sins are forgiven. They have peace with God. They are justified, sanctified, saved. God has placed a new song in their mouths. They are children of the Most High. They are walking with God. They are happy in the love of God. Few Christians have the peace of God dwelling in their hearts as they should have. They seem to forget their heritage. Said Christ: "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." John 14:27.
Yet the hearts of many are troubled. They are afraid. They are worrying. Some dear one is outside the fold, and they are trying to "pray him in." Day and night they toil and pray. They leave no stone unturned in their effort to encompass his salvation. If any one can be saved by the works of some one else, they are determined that it shall be done. And they do not leave God out of the reckoning. They pray to Him. They entreat Him. They pray as though God needed prodding. And at last, the dear one turns to God. How happy they are! Now they can rest. Now their work is done, their task accomplished.
Does it ever occur to such souls that God is as much interested in the dear one's conversion as they are, yes, more than they possibly could be? Does it ever occur to them that long before they began to pray and to work, God planned and worked for the loved one's salvation; that He is doing and has done all that possibly can be done? That instead of their taking over God's work and imploring Him to help them, it would be better if they recognized the work as God's work and cooperated with Him? The moment such realization comes to a soul, peace comes. It will not make a person work less or pray less, but it will shift the emphasis. He will begin to pray in faith. If we believe God is really at work, if we believe He is interested in men's salvation, we will pray more than ever, but we will leave the responsibility with God.
Much of our work is grounded in unbelief. With Habakkuk we feel that God is not really doing His part. Hab.1:2-4. He needs to be reminded. There are things that should be called to His attention, and we proceed to bring them before Him. Instead of having faith in God, in His wisdom, His power, we take the burden upon ourselves, saying, in effect, that we cannot trust God to do what He has promised to do. But when faith comes; when the wonderful light dawns on us that God is still ruling in the affairs of men; that He is doing His best to save man- kind, and that our prayers should be to know His will -- when this realization comes to us, then assurance, rest, and peace are ours in abundant measure. There will be no less works; but they will be works of faith. There will be no less prayers, but they will be prayers of faith. Thanksgiving will ascend daily for the privilege of working together with God. Peace will fill the heart and soul. Anxiety and worry will be no more. Peace, sweet peace, quietness, rest, happiness, and joy will be the daily portion. Life and life's outlook are entirely changed. We have learned to sit at the feet of Jesus. While Martha is still working -- and quietly complaining -- Mary is listening to the words of life. She has found the one thing needful. She understands the word of Christ: "This is the work of God, that ye believe." John 6:29. And she believes and rests.
There is no higher bliss possible than to have the peace of God in the heart. It is the legacy which Christ left. "Peace I leave with you," He says. Wonderful words. "My peace I give unto you." John 14:27. His peace was that quiet assurance that came from confidence in God. At the time Christ spoke these words, He was nearing the cross. Golgotha was before Him. But He did not waver. His heart was filled with peace and assurance. He knew Him in whom He trusted. And He rested in the knowledge that God knew the way. He might not be able to "see through the portals of the tomb." Hope might "not present to Him His coming forth from the grave a conqueror, or tell Him of the Father's acceptance of the sacrifice." But "by faith He rested in Him whom it had ever been His joy to obey. ... By faith, Christ was victor." --The Desire of Ages, pp.753,756.
That same peace He bequeaths to us. It means oneness with the Father, fellowship, communion. It means quiet joy, rest, contentment. It means faith, love, hope. In it there is no fear, worry, or anxiety. Whoever possesses it has that which passes understanding. He has a source of strength not depending on circumstances. He is in tune with God.
SIN AND SIN OFFERINGS BEAR THE SAME name in Hebrew. The sin offering was so closely connected with the sin that their names became identical. When Hosea says of the priests, "They eat up the sin of My people" that same word, "chattath," is used as occurs elsewhere for "sin offering." Hosea 4:8.
Sin offerings are first mentioned in connection with the consecration of Aaron and his Sons. Ex.29:14. They are not, however, mentioned as something new. It may, therefore, be taken for granted that sin offerings were already in existence at that time.
It should be noted that sin offerings sufficed only for sins done through ignorance. Lev.4:2,13,22,27. They concerned sins of errors, mistakes, or rash acts, of which the sinner was unaware at the time, but which afterward became known to him. They did not provide for sins done consciously, knowingly, and persistently. When Israel sinned deliberately, as in worshiping the golden calf, and defiantly refused God's mercy when Moses called them to repentance, punishment was meted out. "There fell of the people that day about three thousand men." Ex.32:28.
Concerning conscious or presumptuous sin, the law reads: "But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hath broken His commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him." Num.15:30,31. To this law there are some exceptions, however, which will be noted in the chapter on trespass offerings.
The fourth chapter of Leviticus discusses the matter of sin offerings. Four classes of offenders are mentioned: The anointed priest (verses 3-12), the whole congregation (verses 13, 21), the ruler (verses 22-26), one of the common people (verses 27-35). The sacrifices demanded were not the same in all cases, nor was the blood disposed of in the same manner. If the anointed priest sinned "according to the sin of the people," or as the American Revised Version reads, "so as to bring guilt on the peoples," he was to bring "a young bullock without blemish unto the Lord for a sin offering." Lev.4:3. If the whole congregation of Israel sinned through ignorance, they also were to "offer a young bullock for the sin, and bring him before the tabernacle of the congregation." Verse 14. If one of the rulers sinned, he was to bring "a kid of the goats, a male without blemish." Verse 23. If one of the common people sinned through ignorance, he was to bring "a kid of the goats, a female without blemish." Verse 28. In case he could not bring a goat, he might bring a lamb, also a female. Verse 32.
In each case the sinner was to provide the offering, lay his hand upon the head of the animal and kill it. When the whole congregation sinned, the assembly was to provide the offering, and the elders were to place their hands upon the head of the bullock.
In the disposition of the blood, there is a difference that should be noted. If the anointed priest sinned and brought his bullock and killed it, the priest should "dip his finger in the blood, and sprinkle of the blood seven times before the Lord, before the veil of the sanctuary." Verse 6. He should also put "some of the blood upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the Lord, which is in the tabernacle of the congregation; and shall pour all the blood of the bullock at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation." Verse 7.
This instruction is specific. As the bullock was killed, the priest caught the blood, and some of it was taken into the first apartment of the sanctuary. There the blood was sprinkled seven times before the Lord, before the veil of the sanctuary and also put upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense which stood in the first apartment. The rest of the blood was poured out at the foot of the altar of burnt offering in the court.
When the whole congregation sinned, the blood was disposed of in the same manner. Some of it was taken into the first apartment of the sanctuary and sprinkled before the veil. The horns of the altar of incense were touched with the blood, and the rest of the blood was poured out at the foot of the altar of burnt offering outside the court. Verse 18.
When a ruler sinned, the blood was disposed of differently. The record reads: "The priest shall take of the blood of the sin offering with his finger, and put it upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and shall pour out his blood at the bottom of the altar of burnt offering." Verse 25. In this case the blood was not carried into the sanctuary and sprinkled before the veil. It was put upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering in the court, and the rest poured out at the bottom of the same altar.
The same was done with the blood when one of the common people sinned. The blood was put upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering and the rest poured out at the bottom of the altar. Verses 30,34. In each of these cases the fat was removed from the carcass and burned upon the altar of burnt offering. Verses 8-10,19,26,31,35. The carcass, however, was treated differently in the different cases. If the anointed priest sinned, the "skin of the bullock, and all his flesh, with his head, and with his legs, and his inwards, and his dung, even the whole bullock shall he carry forth without the camp unto a clean place, where the ashes are poured out, and burn him on the wood with fire: where the ashes are poured out shall he be burnt." Verses 11,12. The same was to be done with the carcass of the bullock offered for the sin offering of the whole congregation. The carcass was carried without the camp to a clean place and there burned on the wood with fire. Verse 21.
There is no instruction in the chapter under consideration as to what was done with the carcass when a ruler or one of the common people sinned. In the sixth chapter of Leviticus, however, in "the law of the sin offering," is found some further instruction. "In the place where the burnt offering is killed shall the sin offering be killed before the Lord: it is most holy. The priest that offereth it for sin shall eat it: in the holy place shall it be eaten, in the court of the tabernacle of the congregation." Lev.6:25,26. This statement is illuminating. The priest that offered the sin offering was to eat it. He was to eat it in a holy place, in the court of the tabernacle of the congregation. Verse 29 states: "All the males among the priests shall eat thereof: it is most holy." There is an exception to this, however: "No sin offering, whereof any of the blood is brought into the tabernacle of the congregation to reconcile withal in the holy place, shall be eaten: it shall be burnt in the fire." Verse 30.
It will be remembered that when the anointed priest or the whole congregation sinned, the blood was carried into the first apartment of the sanctuary, and there sprinkled before the veil. Some of the blood was also put upon the horns of the altar of incense in the holy place. In these cases the blood was brought into the tabernacle of the congregation in the holy place. These two cases, therefore, are referred to in the statement: "No sin offering, whereof any of the blood is brought into the tabernacle of the congregation to reconcile withal in the holy place, shall be eaten: it shall be burnt in the fire." When the anointed priest or the whole congregation sinned, the blood was carried into the holy place; the flesh was not eaten, but the carcass was taken outside the camp and burned.
When a ruler or one of the congregation sinned, the blood was put upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering and the rest poured out at the foot of the altar. The flesh was not burned on the altar, nor was it taken outside the camp to be burned as in the case of the bullock. It was given to the priests to be eaten in a holy place.
That this arrangement was not an arbitrary command without any special meaning, is clear from an incident recorded in the tenth chapter of Leviticus. Verses 16 to 18 read: "Moses diligently sought the goat of the sin offering and, behold, it was burnt: and he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, the sons of Aaron which were left alive, saying, Wherefore have ye not eaten the sin offering in the holy place, seeing it is most holy, and God hath given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord? Behold, the blood of it was not brought in within the holy place: ye should indeed have eaten it in the holy place, as I commanded."
The reader remembers that whenever a bullock was used as a sin offering -- as in the case of the anointed priests or of the whole congregation -- the carcass was taken outside the camp and burned. Not so, however, in the case of the goat or the lamb. When a ruler or one of the common people sinned, the blood of the goat or lamb was not taken into the sanctuary, but the flesh was eaten by the priests. The verses quoted before give the reason for this: "God hath given it [the flesh] you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord."
According to this the priests, by eating the flesh, took upon themselves the iniquity of the congregation; that is, they carried the sins of the people. The reason given for eating the flesh is this: "The blood of it was not brought in within the holy place: ye should indeed have eaten it in the holy place, as I commanded." 'When the blood was brought into the first apartment of the sanctuary, it was not necessary to eat the flesh. But, if the blood was not brought into the sanctuary, the priests were to eat the flesh, and in eating it, to bear the iniquity of the congregation. The sins were thus transferred from the people to the priesthood.
Some have been in doubt as to whether sin was ever transferred to the tabernacle by means of the blood, and whether it is possible for one to bear another's sins. The case before us is conclusive. Either the blood must be brought into the sanctuary and there sprinkled before the veil, or else the flesh must be eaten. "God has given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation to make atonement for them before the Lord." In eating the flesh the priests took upon themselves the sins which by the laying on of hands and by confession had been transferred from the sinner to the animal. The eating of the flesh was not necessary in cases where the blood was brought into the sanctuary. In such cases the sins were effectively disposed of by the carrying in of the blood into the sanctuary and in the sprinkling of it before the veil. The carcass was takenwithout the camp to a clean place and there burned.
The sequel of this incident as recorded in verses 19 and 20 of chapter 10 is also interesting. Aaron, Eleazar, and Ithamar had not eaten the flesh of the sin offering as they should have done. Aaron explained their breach by saying that a calamity had befallen him. Two of his sons, while under the influence of wine, had been killed while officiating before the Lord, as recorded in the first part of chapter 10. Aaron and the two sons who remained were apparently not entirely guiltless. While they perhaps did not partake of the wine, they were probably in perplexity about the justice of the judgment that had come upon their brothers and fellow priests. In that condition they did not feel that they could carry any one else's sins. They had enough in carrying their own. It was with this in mind that Aaron asked, "If I had eaten the sin offering today, should it have been accepted in the sight of the Lord?" "When Moses heard that, he was content." Verses 19,20. From this we may rightly draw the conclusion that God did not expect the priests to eat the sin offering and thus carry the sins of the people unless they themselves were clean. "Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord."
As noted above, in the critical study that of late years has been given to many parts of the Bible, doubt has been thrown upon the question of transfer of sin. While it is clear that in each case the sinner was to place his hands upon the sacrifice, it is denied that this indicated either a confession or a transfer of sin. It must be admitted, however, that something happened to the man who brought his sin offering. In each case mentioned in the fourth chapter of Leviticus, except that of the anointed priest, it is said that atonement was made and that the sin "shall be forgiven him." Lev.4:20,26,31,35. The man was forgiven his sin, and went away free.
It was not to the man only, however, that something happened. In some way the priests came to bear the sins that the man had borne before. The man had sinned. He had confessed his sin and been forgiven. But now the priests bear the sin. How was that transfer made? The inference seems clear. The man, the sinner, had placed his hands upon the innocent animal, had confessed his sin, and thus, in a figure, transferred his sin to the animal. Being a sinner, or at least made to bear sin, the animal was killed. The priest, in eating the flesh, took upon himself sinful flesh, and thus carried the "iniquity of the congregation."
That guilt was transferred on the Day of Atonement is clearly stated. "Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness." Lev.16:21. Here it is stated definitely that Aaron is to lay his hands on the head of the goat, that he is to confess over him the sins of the children of Israel and that he is to put these sins on the head of the goat. May we not believe that this is exactly the meaning in the case of the sin offering mentioned in the fourth chapter of Leviticus? That in some way the priests came to bear the iniquity of the congregation is clear. The statement to that effect is very emphatic. It is also clear that it was through the eating of the flesh that they took the sin upon themselves. This sin, of course, was not the sin of the animal, but of the sinner who had brought his sin offering for the purpose of forgiveness. The argument seems complete. The sinner originally bore his sins. Now the priests bear them. They received them by, eating the flesh of the animal. We therefore hold that the Bible teaches the doctrine of the transfer of sin.
The laying of the hands of the sinner upon the offering doubtless had a wider meaning, especially in the case of burnt offerings and peace offerings. After the sinner had confessed and had been forgiven, he was brought into fellowship with his God. A clear understanding of this truth is essential to a comprehension of the sacrifices involved.
Sin offerings were used in other cases besides those mentioned in the fourth chapter of Leviticus. An instance of this is the consecration of Aaron and his sons, as recorded in the eighth chapter of Leviticus. It is to be noted here, however, that it is Moses who performs the ceremony, and not the priest. Aaron and his sons, indeed, lay their hands upon the head of the bullock for the sin offering and kill it, but it is Moses who administers the blood and puts it upon the horns of the altar round about. It should also be noted that in this case, instead of polluting the altar, the blood purifies it. "Moses took the blood, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about with his finger, and purified the altar, and poured the blood at the bottom of the altar, and sanctified it, to make reconciliation upon it." Lev.8:15.
At the completion of the seven days of consecration of Aaron, a sin offering was commanded. Aaron was to take a young calf for a sin offering for himself before beginning his ministrations for the people. "Aaron therefore went unto the altar, and slew the calf of the sin offering, which was for himself. And the sons of Aaron brought the blood unto him: and he dipped his finger in the blood, and put it upon the horns of the altar, and poured out the blood at the bottom of the altar." Lev.9:8,9. "And the flesh and the hide he burnt with fire without the camp." Lev.9:11.
There were other occasions upon which sin offerings were required. After childbirth, a young pigeon or a turtledove was to be brought for a sin offering. Lev.12:6-8. In cases of defilement the Nazarite was to offer a turtledove or a young pigeon for a sin offering. Num.6:10. Also, when the days of separation were fulfilled, the Nazarite was to bring one ewe lamb of the first year without blemish for a sin offering. Verse 14. At the consecration and cleansing of the Levites, a young bullock was required for a sin offerings. Num.8:8,12. A sin offering was required at the feast of the new moon (Num.28:15), at the Passover (verse 22), at Pentecost (verse 30), on the first day of the seventh month (Num.29.5), on the tenth, fifteenth, and twenty second day also. Verses 10-38.
The ceremony of the red heifer deserves special consideration. It differed in many respects from the regular sin offerings; yet it served the same purpose. Numbers 19:9 says: "It is a purification for sin." The word here used is the same used elsewhere for sin offering. The American Revised Version reads: "It is a sin offering." We therefore include the red heifer among the sin offerings commanded by God.
Israel was commanded to bring a red heifer, spotless and without blemish, and give it to Eleazar the priest. Num.19:2,3. The priest was to bring the heifer without the camp and have some one kill it in his presence. The priest was then to take the blood with his finger and sprinkle the blood toward the tabernacle of the congregation seven times. Verse 4. After this was done, one was to burn the heifer before Eleazar, "her skin, and her flesh, and her blood, with her dung, shall he burn." Verse 5. As the heifer was thus being consumed, the priest was to take "cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer." Verse 6. Then the priest was to wash his clothes, bathe his flesh, and come back to the camp, and be unclean until evening. Verse 7. After this a man that was clean should gather up the ashes of the heifer and lay them up without the camp in a clean place. It was to be "a water of separation: it is a purification of sin." Verse 9.
The ashes thus kept were to be used in certain kinds of uncleanness, as the touching of a dead body. In such a case, the ashes were to be taken "and running water shall be put thereto in a vessel; and a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the vessels, and upon the persons that were there, and upon him that touched a bone, or one slain, or one dead, or a grave: and the clean person shall sprinkle upon the unclean on the third day, and on the seventh day: and on the seventh day he shall purify himself, and wash his clothes and bathe himself in water, and shall be clean at even." Num.19:17-19.
It will be noted that while this ceremony was "a purification for sin," no blood as such was used in the cleansing of the man from his defilement. The only time the use of blood is mentioned is at the time of the killing of the heifer when the priests took the blood and sprinkled it seven times before the tabernacle of the congregation. Verse 4. In the application to the individual person, however, there was no sprinkling of blood.
It should also be noted that the heifer was not killed within the confines of the court of the tabernacle where the other sacrifices were killed. The blood was not carried into the tabernacle, the blood was not sprinkled before the veil, it was not put on the horns of the altar of incense, it was not put on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, nor was it poured out at the altar of burnt offering; it did 'not come in direct contact with either the holy place or the altar of burnt offering.
In the ritual of cleansing it was required that a clean person officiate. Still another point is that this cleansing availed not only for the children of Israel, but also for the stranger. "It shall be unto the children of Israel and unto the stranger that sojourneth among them, for a statute forever." Verse 10.
It may be well to note the statement recorded in Numbers 19:13, that the tabernacle was defiled if a man did not purify himself. "Whosoever toucheth the dead body of any man that is dead, and purifieth not himself, defileth the tabernacle of the Lord." "But the man that shall be unclean, and shall not purify himself, that soul shall be cut off from among the congregation, because he hath defiled the sanctuary of the Lord: the water of separation hath not been sprinkled upon him; he is unclean." Num.19:13,20. That the sanctuary was defiled by confession of sin and sprinkling of blood is admitted by all. Here the statement is made that a man who does not purify himself, who does not confess his sin, defiles the sanctuary of the Lord. The doctrinal import of this statement should not be overlooked.
The occasional ceremony of the red heifer has deep significance for the reverent student of God's word. Purification from sin is here accomplished by the use of water in which ashes from the slain heifer have been put. This cleansing is for the stranger as well as for the children of Israel. Its ministration is without the camp apart from the ordinary worship of Jehovah, and is not directly connected with the usual round of the sanctuary service.
It is to this ceremony that the writer of Hebrews refers, when he says: "If the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" Heb.9:13,14. David's prayer is: "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." Ps.51:7.
A somewhat similar use of water for purposes of purification is mentioned in the fifth chapter of the book of Numbers. In case of certain sins, "the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel; and of the dust that is in the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water." Verse 17. The "holy water" thus prepared is called "bitter water" in verses 18, 19, 23. While it is not necessary to go into detail concerning the distressing ceremony mentioned in this chapter, we call attention to the twenty-third verse. The priest was to write these curses in a book, and then "blot them out with the bitter water."
While blood is mentioned in the Old Testament as the purification for sin, water is mentioned in the same way. The laver situated just before the tabernacle; the water used in the ceremony of the red heifer; the bitter water used for blotting out sin as recorded in the fifth chapter of Numbers, testify to the use of water for ceremonial cleansing. Of Christ it is written, "This is He that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood." 1John 5:6. At the crucifixion "one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith there came out blood and water, and he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true that ye might believe." John 19:34,35. The baptismal water, the precious ordinance of humility, does still "save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God)." 1Peter 3:21.
SIN OFFERINGS WERE FOR SINS DONE IGNORANTLY or in error, and did not cover sins done willfully or knowingly. When an Israelite had unwittingly done "somewhat against any of the commandments of the Lord," he was not held responsible until it "come to his knowledge." As soon as he was made aware that he had done wrong, he was to bring an offering "for his sin which he hath sinned." Lev.4:27,28. But, as stated, sin offerings did not in any way avail for transgression done knowingly. Sins of this nature were called trespasses, and demanded a different kind of treatment.
Ordinarily, a trespass is a willful sin, knowingly committed, a deliberate "stepping over." It might at times be unwittingly committed, but in such cases it was held that the man not only might have known better, but that he should have known better, and that he therefore was responsible for his ignorance. The Hebrew word for trespass offering, asham, might well be translated guilt or debt offering. It denotes a greater degree of guilt than the sin offering, though the sin itself may be no greater.
There are some sins which partake of the nature of a trespass. They are partly sin and partly trespass. A person may to some degree be ignorant of the wrong he has done, and yet not be entirely ignorant of it. It is doubtless for this reason that some transgressions mentioned in the first part of the fifth chapter of Leviticus are spoken of as both sins and trespasses. To these belong the with-holding of information (verse 1), the touching of any unclean thing (verse 2), the touching of the uncleanness of man (verse 3), and swearing rashly (verse 4). In these cases the sinner was commanded to bring a "trespass offering unto the Lord for his sin which he had sinned, a female from the flock, a lamb or a kid of the goats for a sin offering." Verse 6. It will be noted that the offering is called both a trespass and a sin offering. In verse 7 it is called a trespass offering. In verse 9 it is called a sin offering. Some Bible commentators treat these offerings as sin offerings; others count them as trespass offerings. In view of the fact that they are called both sin and trespass offerings, we may consider them as a kind of intermediate offering between the two, and call them sin-trespass offerings.
A person who sinned in any of the above-mentioned things was to bring a female from the flock, a lamb, or a kid of the goats for a sin offering. Verse 6. If he was unable to bring a lamb, he might bring a turtledove or a young pigeon. The blood was sprinkled upon the altar of burnt offering and the rest of the blood poured out at the foot of the altar, the same ritual as in the Bin offerings mentioned in the preceding chapter. Verses 7-9.
If the sinner was unable to bring a turtledove or a young pigeon, he might bring for his offering the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering. He was not, however, permitted to put oil or frankincense thereon. The reason for this is given: "It is a sin offering." The priest, in offering this, took a handful of flour and burnt it for a memorial upon the altar. The remnant belonged to the priest the same as in the meat offering. Verses 11-13.
We are here face to face with a rather remarkable development. Ordinarily a sin offering should be a blood offering, that is, the life of some animal must be taken and the blood sprinkled. Here, however, the offering of a tenth part of an ephah of flour is accepted. It is definitely stated that the priest should take a handful of this flour and burn it on the altar, "and the priest shall make atonement for him as touching his sin that he hath sinned in one of these, and it shall be forgiven him." Verse 13. Lest any should think that this is an ordinary meat offering, it is twice stated, "it is a sin offering." Verses 11,12. It seems clear, therefore, that in this case at least, a sin offering was accepted that did not contain blood, yet made atonement for sin.
This calls attention to the statement found in the twenty-second verse of the ninth chapter of Hebrews, "Almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission." While it is true in general that in the typical service there could be no remission of sins without the shedding of blood, we are not to forget the exemption here noted. The American Revised Version says, "According to the law, I may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and apart from shedding of blood there is no remission." The adverb "almost" probably qualifies both the clauses, so that according to the American Revised Version the statement might be read: "I may almost say all things are cleansed with blood," and "I may almost say apart from shedding of blood there is no remission." That is, the rule that there is no remission without shedding of blood, holds good, though in the types there is the exception here mentioned.
A similar situation confronts us with reference to the red heifer discussed in the preceding chapter. There was no immediate application of blood in the cleansing process there mentioned, but only of water and ashes. Yet it was a purification for sin, a sin offering. Num.19:9.
It is not our contention that sins are ever forgiven without the sacrifice on Calvary. The death of Christ is necessary for our salvation. It is, however, significant that in the above-mentioned types atonement and forgiveness of sin were sometimes accomplished without immediate and direct use of blood.
In searching for an application of this in the Christian economy, may we not believe that it signifies and applies to such persons as have no direct or definite knowledge of the Saviour and yet are living up to all the light they have, doing God's will as far as they understand it? May it not signify such heathen as have never heard of the name of Jesus and yet to a greater or lesser extent partake of His spirit? We believe that there are those who have never heard the blessed name of the Master, who know nothing of Calvary or of the redemption wrought for them on the cross, who have exhibited the Christ spirit and will be saved in the kingdom of heaven. To such, we believe, it applies.
The first case mentioned in the fifth chapter of Leviticus, verse one, is that of withholding information when under oath. "If a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity." The "voice of swearing" is called the "voice of adjurations" in the American Revised Version, and has reference to the oath administered in a Jewish court. When Christ was on trial, "The high priest answered and said unto Him, I adjure Thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether Thou be the Christ, the Son of God." Matt.26:63. Under these circumstances Christ could not keep silence, but answered: "Thou hast said." He felt compelled to answer when the adjuration was invoked, though He previously had "held His peace." Verses 63,64.
It is such a case as is here under consideration. The man is under oath or adjuration; he "is a witness," and has been asked "whether he hath seen or known" of the transgression. He refuses to answer; he does "not utter it." In that case "he shall bear his iniquity." Verses two and three refer to touching anything unclean, of "whatsoever uncleanness it be." The man may have done it unwittingly; it may have been "hidden from him," but "when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty."
The fourth case is that of a man who swears "rashly with his lips to do evil or to do good, whatsoever it be that a man shall utter rashly with an oath." A.R.V. When he knows of it, he also "shall be guilty." Verse 4.
In each of these cases, the appropriate offering was to be brought by the sinner for his transgression, "and it shall be forgiven him." It is sometimes urged that God in olden times did not require confession and restitution in order to grant forgiveness, but only asked the sinner to bring the required sacrifice. The ritual of the trespass offering should correct that impression. Confession was definitely required. "When a man or woman shall commit any sin that men commit, to do a trespass against the Lord, and that person be guilty; then they shall confess their sin which they have done." Num.5:6;7.
A general confession, however, was not sufficient. "It shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing." Lev.5:5. This statement is definite and decisive. He is not only to confess, but he is to confess that he has sinned in "that thing." It is "that thing" that counts. Only as he thus confesses can he receive the atonement.
In cases where fraud was involved, confession was not enough, even though the confession was specific. There must also be restitution. This restitution consisted of one fifth of the sum involved besides the principal. "He shall recompense his trespass with the principal thereof, and add unto it the fifth part thereof, and give it unto him against whom he hath trespassed." Num.5:7. In case it was not possible to restore the sum to the man against whom the trespass had been made, either because of death or otherwise, and there were no near relatives, the recompense was to be made to the priest. Verse 8. This restitution was in addition to the ram of the trespass offering.
From this consideration it is clear that God demanded more of His people than the bringing of an offering. He demanded confession and restitution. If it still be urged that nothing is said of repentance, the obvious answer is that God here deals with the outward acts of worship only. Had repentance been demanded as a requisite for forgiveness, it would have been possible for a priest to deny a sinner atonement even though the man had otherwise complied with God's ordinance. It would have left with the priest the decision regarding whether the man had really repented or not. This is too dangerous a power to give any man. So God wisely reserved that to Himself. If any doubt remains as to what God demands by way of repentance, and how the people understood God's demand, read the prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the temple, especially 1Kings 8:46-53. Or listen to David's supplication: "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." Ps.51:16,17. Israel had abundant occasion to know that what God wanted was not sacrifice, but a broken and contrite heart. Had they wanted to, they could have made their worship both beautiful and spiritual, as doubtless some did.
There were other occasions that demanded both a trespass and a sin offering, and hence belong to the category now considered. One of these was the cleansing of lepers. After being examined by the priest and proclaimed clean, the leper was restored to society and citizenship by a special cleansing ceremony described in Leviticus 14:1-8. Another ceremony was necessary, however, to restore him to church fellowship and permit him to take part in the sanctuary service. This is recorded in verses 9-32. The leper was to provide a trespass offering as well as a sin offering, in addition to the regular burnt and meal offering. The trespass offering, the lamb, was killed, and the blood sprinkled, not on the altar, but put upon "the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot: and the priest shall take some of the log of oil and pour it into the palm of his own left hand." Verses 14,15. After that the priest was to take oil and "sprinkle of the oil with his finger seven times before the Lord." Verse 16. He was then to anoint the leper, doing with the oil as he had with the blood. The priest was to put it "upon the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot, upon the blood of the trespass offering: and the remnant of the oil that is in the priest's hand he shall pour upon the head of him that is to be cleansed: and the priest shall make an atonement for him before the Lord." Verses 17,18. After this the priest was to offer the sin and the burnt offering. If the leper was poor, he might substitute for the two lambs, two turtledoves or young pigeons, "such as he is able to get." Verses 21,22. This statement occurs several times in the narrative. God asked only that which the man was able to provide.
It is significant that leprosy demanded a trespass as well as a sin offering. Are we to draw the conclusion from this that leprosy is the result of known transgression? We do not think so. It is better to believe that the ritual in the case of leprosy is merely illustrative of the fact, that there are sicknesses which result from willful transgressions and which cannot be charged to mere ignorance. Such is undoubtedly the case, though it would be hazardous for man to pronounce finally in any specific case.
Another occasion that called for a trespass offering was the defiling of a Nazarite during the period of his separation. If this occurred, he was to "bring a lamb of the first year for a trespass offering: but the days that were before shall be lost, because his separation was defiled." Num.6:12. Note the statement that even though atonement was made for him, yet "the days that were before shall be lost." Forgiveness may be had, yet in many cases there is a definite loss. This agrees with the New Testament statement: "If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." 1Cor.3:15. The man is saved, but he suffers loss.
The ritual of the trespass or guilt offerings is the same as for the sin offerings. The animals were killed in the same place and the fat burned on the altar of burnt offering in the same way. Lev.7:1-5. The priests were commanded to eat the sin offerings as provided in Leviticus 6:24-30, and the same held good for the trespass offerings. "Every, male among the priests shall eat thereof: it shall be eaten in a holy place: it is most holy. As the sin offering is, so is the trespass offering: there is one law for them: the priest that maketh atonement therewith shall have it." Lev.7:6,7.
One distinction between the sin and the trespass offering is that of the sprinkling of the blood. In the sin offering, the blood was put upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering. Lev.4:25,30,34. This is not mentioned concerning the trespass offering. According to Leviticus 7:2, the blood of the trespass offering was sprinkled round about upon the altar, the same as the blood of the burnt and peace offerings. It is thought by some that the statement: "As the sin offering is, so is the trespass offering: there is one law for them" (Lev.7:7), has reference to the sprinkling of the blood. In that case, the blood of the sin offering as well as that of the trespass offering would he sprinkled round about upon the altar and also put on the horns of the altar. However, it appears that the "one law" has special reference to the eating of the flesh. In the absence of any clear statement concerning this, we conclude that the blood of the sin offering was put upon the horns of the altar, that of the trespass offering sprinkled round about upon the altar, and that in both cases the remainder was poured out at the base of the altar of burnt offering.
THE DAILY SERVICE
THE PRIESTS WHO OFFICIATED IN THE sanctuary were divided into twenty-four courses, or divisions, each of which served twice a year, one week at a time. The Levites were similarly divided, as were also the people. The lambs for the evening and morning sacrifices were provided by the people; and the section of the people who provided the lambs for any particular week would send their representatives to Jerusalem for that week to assist in the services, while the rest of the people remained at home conducting a special week of devotion and meditation. On occasion of a great feast, such as the Passover or the Day of Atonement, large numbers of priests would be called to the sanctuary at one time, and also a corresponding number of Levites.
The daily service included the offering of a lamb upon the altar of burnSt offering each evening and morning, with the appropriate meal and drink offerings, the trimming and lighting of the lamps in the holy place, the offering of incense, with the accompanying work, the offering of the meal offering of Aaron and his sons, and the offering of individual sacrifices, such as sin, burnt, meal, and peace offerings. Besides these daily duties, there were many others, such as purification sacrifices, offerings for lepers, for Nazarite vows, for defilements. Men were also needed to take care of the ashes, to provide and examine the wood used on the altar, to serve as watchmen, to open and close gates, and to act as general caretakers. The temple enclosure was a busy place from the first streak of dawn until the gates were closed in the evening.
While it was yet dark in the morning, the gates were opened and the people were permitted to come in. Lots were cast among the priests to determine who was to present the sacrifice, who was to sprinkle the blood, who was to remove the ashes, who was to offer the incense, who was to trim the lamps, and who was to provide the wine for the drink offerings. The priests had spent the night within the temple precincts, though only the older priests were permitted to lie down to rest. The others were expected to keep awake and be ready whenever called. In the morning before daylight, they bathed, and when the time came for the casting of lots, they were all ready.
In determining who was to offer incense, it was not expected that any priest who had officiated before should take part. When the sanctuary was first erected, Aaron and his sons officiated daily. In later times there were so many priests that lots had to be cast to decide who was to offer incense. It was therefore unusual for any priest to officiate in the burning of incense more than once in his career. As this particular part of the daily service brought the priest nearer the divine Presence than any other, it was considered a great honor as well as a responsibility, and a much-coveted prize.
As the priest entered the sanctuary to offer the incense, the lamb for the morning sacrifice, which had previously been selected and presented to the Lord, stood tied to one of the rings in the floor on the north side of the altar. The wind-pipe and gullet of the lamb were slashed with a knife, and the blood was caught in a golden bowl and sprinkled round about upon the altar. What remained of the blood was poured out at the foot of the altar. After this the animal was flayed and cut into several pieces. The inwards were placed upon one of the marble tables supplied for that purpose, and washed. After this, six priests carried these pieces to the top of the altar, where they were placed in order and burned. Another priest carried the meal offering of flour; still another, the baked meal offering of the high priest; and yet another, the drink offering. The offerings were all salted with salt before being placed upon the altar.
While this was going on outside, the priest whose work it was to offer the incense entered the holy place. He was ordinarily assisted by another priest who brought live coals from the altar of burnt offering in a golden vessel and placed them upon the altar of incense and withdrew. The priest whose duty it was to offer the incense would then raise the lid of the censer containing the incense and pour it upon the coals on the altar. As the incense ascended in a cloud of smoke he would kneel before the altar in silent adoration.
It must have been a solemn experience for a priest to be alone in the holy place, near the awful presence of Jehovah, the Lord of hosts. As, in most cases, it was the first time he had ever so officiated, it was not a common experience. No priest ever forgot the moments he was alone with God. And if, as at times it happened, the Lord revealed Himself in the cloud above the mercy seat, the impression of God's holiness left upon the mind of the priest, was so profound that it never could be erased. He had seen the glory of the Lord and was not consumed.
The offering of incense was concluded about the same time that the priests finished their morning work at the altar of burnt offering. As the last act -- the pouring out of the drink offering -- was being finished, the Levites began singing the appointed psalm, which was interspersed with blasts from the silver trumpets blown by the priests. Whenever the trumpets sounded, the people fell down and prayed. The high priest proceeded to the steps of the temple and with out-stretched hands pronounced the priestly benediction upon the people. This concluded the morning service. The evening service, which took place about three o'clock in the afternoon, was similar to the morning service. The lamb was slain, the blood sprinkled, incense offered, and the priestly benediction again pronounced. At dark the gates were closed.
Thus the daily service was carried on every day in the year, including Sabbath and feast days. On the Sabbath two lambs were offered in the morning and two in the evening, instead of one as on week days. On certain feast days the number was increased to seven, but otherwise the service remained the same.
The lamb offered in the daily service was a burnt offering. It was representative of the whole nation, a kind of summary of all offerings. It contained in itself the vital characteristics of each of the sacrifices: it was a blood offering, signifying atonement; it was a substitutionary offering-"it shall be accepted for him" (Lev.1:4); it was a dedicatory offering, wholly given to God and consumed on the altar; it was a sweet-savor offering, "an offering made by fire, of a sweet savor unto the Lord." Verse 13.
Though the morning and evening sacrifice was for the nation as a whole and did not avail for any specific person, it nevertheless served a definite purpose for the individual. When an Israelite had sinned, he was to bring an offering to the temple and there confess his sin. It was not always possible, however, to do this. An offender might live a day's journey, or even a week's, distant from Jerusalem. It was impossible for him to come to the temple every time he sinned. For such cases the morning and evening sacrifice constituted a temporary atonement. It provided a "covering" until such time as the sinner could personally appear at the tabernacle and offer his individual offering.
This is illustrated in the case of Job. His sons "went and feasted in their houses, every one his day." Job 1:4. At such feasts, happenings doubtless occurred which were not pleasing to God. Job himself feared that his sons might sin, and also that they might forget, or delay to bring, the necessary sacrifice. For this reason Job "rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually." Verse 5.
Job offered a burnt offering for each of his sons. "It may be that my sons have sinned," he said. He believed that this offering would provide a temporary atonement for them until such time as they recognized their fault and were ready to come to God themselves.
In like manner, the daily morning and evening sacrifice provided temporary atonement for Israel. It signified both consecration and acceptance by substitution. Of the individual burnt offering it is said: "It shall be accepted for him." Lev.1:4. If the individual offering was thus "accepted for him," may we not believe that the national offering was accepted for the nation?
Christ died for all. Saint and sinner alike share in the sacrifice of Calvary. It was "while we were yet sinners" that He gave His life a ransom. Many will not make personal application of the sacrifice, but the fact remains that Christ died for them. His blood covers them. Full and ample provision has been made for their salvation. Christ "is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe." 1Tim.4:10. Every soul living today owes his life to Golgotha. Had it not been for "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world," Adam would have been without hope. The words, "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die," would have sealed his fate for eternity. Rev.13:8; Gen.2:17. But Adam was spared. He did not die. The Lamb took his place.
So it is now. God has not changed. Sin and sinners have no right to exist. Sin is as offensive in God's sight now as in the Garden of Eden. Sinners are permitted to live and are granted a stay of execution only by virtue of the atoning blood of Christ. Because the Lamb died, they live. Probation is granted them. From day to day Christ gives them life, "if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him." Acts 17:27.
As the morning and evening sacrifices were for the nation, and covered provisionally all sin committed during the preceding night or the day, it is readily understood that some of the sins thus covered were not confessed, and perhaps never would be. Unless it is believed that every man in Israel was immediately made aware that he had transgressed, and confessed his sins, some time must intervene between the commission of the sin and its confession. This would, of course, be still more accentuated if some weeks or months elapsed before confession. In case of the impenitent or those who apostatized, their day of grace expired on the Day of Atonement. Whoever at that time did not afflict his soul was "cut off from among his people," that is, he was put outside the pale of the church, excommunicated. Lev.23:29.
The question of whether all sins committed were transferred to the sanctuary, is sometimes raised. Our study thus far has led us to believe that sins were temporarily provided for in the morning and evening sacrifice, when the lamb was offered on the altar of burnt offering for the nation. The blood of the sacrifice used in burnt offerings was always sprinkled "round about upon the altar." Lev.1:5,11. In case a fowl was used, the blood was "wrung out at the side of the altar." Verse 15. We therefore accept the view that in the daily service through the blood sprinkled on the altar there was a transfer of sins made to the altar of burnt offering, and that the sins thus transferred included the sins of all the people. If it be admitted that the burnt offering provided atonement for sin, as stated in Leviticus 1:4; if it be admitted that the daily burnt offering was for the nation, and that it did the same work for Israel that Job's burnt offerings did for his sons (Job 1:5); if it be considered highly improbable that all sins were immediately known and confessed before the time of the next morning or evening sacrifice, the conclusion seems unavoidable that all sins were temporarily provided for when the lamb was offered in sacrifice on the altar.
It hardly needs to be repeated that this temporary provision became efficacious to salvation only as the offender made personal confession of sin and brought his individual sacrifice for sin, just as a sinner is now saved by Christ's sacrifice on Calvary only if he personally accepts Christ. The death of the Lamb of God on Golgotha was for all men, but only those who accept the sacrifice and make personal application of it will be saved. The death of the lamb on the Jewish altar was for the whole nation, but only those who repented and showed their faith by bringing a personal sacrifice were included in the reconciliation on the Day of Atonement. The others were "cut off."
It should be noted, however, that these unconfessed sins were not transferred to the sanctuary proper, but to the altar of burnt offering. The priests did not eat the flesh of the burnt offering -- it was all burnt on the altar; so the priests did not bear these sins. Lev.1:13. The blood was not placed on the horns of the altar, as in the case of sin offerings, nor was it carried into the sanctuary, but was sprinkled "round about" upon the altar of burnt offering. Lev.1:5,11; 4:25,30,34. It is therefore clear that these sins were transferred to the altar of burnt offering and not the sanctuary proper.
The morning and evening sacrifices were symbolic, not only of the atonement provided through the lamb, but also of the nation's consecration to Jehovah. The victim, wholly burned on the altar, was emblematic of those who daily dedicated themselves to God, whose all was on the altar, and who were willing to follow the Lamb wheresoever it might lead them. Morning and evening their prayers ascended to the God of Israel, mingled with the sweet incense of Christ's righteousness and perfection.
The shewbread was a perpetual offering to the Lord, and might therefore be considered a part of the daily service. It consisted of twelve cakes placed in two rows upon the table in the first apartment of the sanctuary. This bread was renewed every Sabbath at the time when the courses of the priests were changed. The bread which was always before the Lord, was called the "presence bread." Ex.25:30, A.R.V. As the morning and evening sacrifice symbolized the daily consecration of the nation to God and also its dependence upon the atoning blood, as the offering of incense symbolized the merits and intercession of Christ, as the lamps in the candlesticks represented the light of God shining in the soul and enlightening the world, so the shewbread represented man's acknowledgment of his dependence upon God for both temporal and spiritual food, to be received only through the merits and intercession of Christ who is the bread which came down from heaven. John 6:48-51.
The daily service thus provided atonement through the blood of the lamb; intercession through the ascending cloud of incense; life, physical and spiritual, through the bread of the presence; and light through the lamp on the candlestick. Viewed from man's side, the daily service signified consecration, illustrated by the lamb on the altar; prayer, through the smoke of the incense; acknowledgment of complete dependence upon God for daily food; and realization that only through the light which God sheds upon our pathway can our darkened minds and lives be illuminated. The daily service symbolized and signified man's need of God, and also God's complete provision for supplying that need.
The services so far described have been of a general nature, for the nation. There was another kind of equal importance, namely, the offering of sacrifices brought by individuals for specific purposes. These were divided into two classes; sweet-savor offerings and nonsweet-savor offerings. The sweet-savor offerings were such as denoted consecration, dedication, or thankfulness. They were burnt offerings, peace offerings, and meal offerings. The nonsweet offerings were sin and trespass offerings. With the exception of the meal offerings these were all blood offerings, and as such had atoning value, though they were not specifically offered for sin. The burnt sacrifice was an offering of consecration and dedication, yet it had atoning significance. Lev.1:4. So also had the peace offering. The offerer placed his hand upon the head of the victim and killed it at the door of the tabernacle; after that the priest sprinkled the blood upon the altar round about. This procedure was the same as in the burnt offering, and signified atonement. Lev.3:2.
The sin and trespass offerings were the most important. They atoned for individual sins and restored the offender to favor with God. As these offerings have been discussed elsewhere, it is not necessary to go into detail with regard to the ritual. Some observations, however, may be in order.
The blood of the sacrificial victim was not always carried into the holy place, there to be sprinkled before the veil. This, as has been noted before, was done only in the case of the anointed priest and of the whole congregation. Lev.4:5,6,16,17. When an ordinary person or a ruler sinned, the blood was sprinkled on the altar of burnt offering outside the tabernacle, and the flesh was eaten by the priests. Lev.4:25,34; 6:30.
When the anointed priest sinned, there was none higher in rank to bear his sin. In such a case the flesh was not eaten, but the blood was carried into the holy place and there sprinkled before the veil. The same was done in case the whole nation sinned as a nation. The flesh was not eaten, but the blood was carried into the holy place, and there sprinkled before the veil.
When one of the common people sinned or one of the rulers, the situation was different. For them the priesthood could bear sin. The flesh was therefore eaten, and the priest who ate it, by that act took upon himself the sin of the individual. Besides the priest's eating the flesh, the blood was put upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering. From this it will be seen that individual sins which were confessed were transferred to the sanctuary in two ways. When the anointed priest or the whole congregation sinned, the sin by means of the blood, was transferred to the sanctuary, to the holy place. When a ruler or one of the common people sinned, the sin, by means of the eating of the flesh, was transferred to the priesthood, and by means of the blood, to the altar of burnt offering.
When the sanctuary service was first instituted, Aaron, as well as his sons, ministered daily in the first apartment of the sanctuary. The high priest offered the meal offering, cared for the lamps, lighted them, and burned incense in the holy place. Lev.6:19-23; 24:2-4; Num.8:2,3; Ex.30:7,8. At a later time, it became customary for the priests to officiate in the first apartment, and only occasionally did the high priest serve there, as on Sabbath or feast days, and especially on the Day of Atonement and the week preceding. It is significant that although in the daily service the high priest officiated clad in his official high-priestly garment, he wore the priestly white garments when he entered the most holy on the Day of Atonement. Lev.16:4,23,24. In summing up the work of the daily service in the sanctuary, the following points stand out prominently:
1. A general, provisional atonement for the nation is provided in the morning and evening sacrifice of the lamb upon the altar of burnt offering. The blood of the lamb both registers the sins committed and provides the atonement for them until such time as the offender brings his individual sacrifice for sin, or, if he fails to do that, until the Day of Atonement. The body of the lamb signifies Israel's consecration to Jehovah, and is typical of Christ who "hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor." Eph.5:2. The sins provided for temporarily and provisionally in the morning and evening sacrifices are, generally speaking, unconfessed sins. These, as well as other sins, defile the tabernacle of the Lord. Num.19:13,20.
2. The individual sacrifices for sin constitute a record of sins forgiven. Each sin has already been recorded by the sprinkling of the blood of the morning and evening burnt offering. The bringing of an individual offering records forgiveness for these same sins. It is as though books were kept and a faithful record made of all sin. Then, as the offender repents of his sin and asks forgiveness, pardon is recorded against his name.
3. The unconfessed sins are recorded on the altar of burnt offering outside the tabernacle. The confessed sins are recorded in the holy place, or else on the horns of the altar of burnt offering. However, all confessed sins eventually find their way into the sanctuary. As the priests partake of the flesh of the offerings, the blood of which is sprinkled on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, the sins are, through the priests' offerings as well as by the daily offering of the high priest (Heb.7:27), transferred to the holy place. We are therefore warranted in saying that all confessed -- and only confessed sins -- are in the sanctuary proper. When the Day of Atonement comes, only confessed sins come in review and only such sinners as have by repentance and confession already received forgiveness and have had their sins transferred to the sanctuary, receive the atonement, the blotting out of sins.
Thus day by day, throughout the year, sins were transferred to the sanctuary, defiling it. This, of course, could not continue indefinitely. A day of final reckoning must come, a day of cleansing. Such a day was the Day of Atonement. It was the day of judgment, the high day of the year. To this we shall now give our attention.
THE DAY OF ATONEMENT WAS THE GREAT day in Israel. It was peculiarly holy, and on it no work must be done. The Jews called it Yoma, the day. It was the keystone of the sacrificial system. Whoever did not on that day afflict his soul, was cut off from Israel. Lev.23:29. The Day of Atonement, occurred on the tenth day of the seventh mouth, called Tishri, about the latter part of our October. The special preparation for this day began ten days earlier. Of this the Jewish Encyclopedia, article "Atonement," says: "The first ten days of Tishri grew to be the ten penitential days of the year intended to bring about a perfect change of heart, and to make Israel like newborn creatures, the culmination being reached on the Day of Atonement when religion's greatest gift, God's condoning mercy, was to be offered to man." --Vol.11, p.281. "The statement is further made that the idea developed also in Jewish circles that on the first of Tishri, the sacred New Year's Day and the anniversary of creation, man's doings were judged and his destiny was decided, and that on the tenth day of Tishri the decree of heaven was sealed."--Ibid.
A Jewish conception of what took place on the Day of Atonement is given in the Jewish Encyclopedia as follows: "God, seated on His throne to judge the world, at the same time Judge, Pleader, Expert, and Witness, openeth the Book of Records; it is read, every man's signature being found therein. The great trumpet is sounded; a still, small voice is heard; the angels shudder, saying, This is the day of judgment: for His very ministers are not pure before God. As a shepherd mustereth his flock, causing them to pass under his rod, so doth God cause every living soul to pass before Him to fix the limit of every creature's life and to foreordain its destiny. On New Year's Day the decree is written; on the Day of Atonement it is sealed who shall live and who are to die, etc. But penitence, prayer, and charity may avert the evil decree."--Id., p.286.
On the third day of the seventh month the high priest moved from his house in Jerusalem into the temple precincts. There he spent the week in prayer and meditation, and also in rehearsing the ritual for the Day of Atonement, so that he would make no mistake. There was with him also, at least in later years, another priest, who, in case the high priest should become sick or die, could go on with the service on the Day of Atonement. Generally, one of the older priests was also with the high priest during this time, instructing and helping him, and making sure that all was understood and would be done in the approved manner. The night before the Day of Atonement, the high priest was not permitted to sleep, lest some defilement should come to him.
On the Day of Atonement all were up early. The high priest officiated in the daily morning sacrifice, which was conducted on this day as on other days. Num. 29:11. After this service was over, the special services began. The record in the sixteenth chapter of Leviticus yields the following information:
The high priest was first to bathe and put on the holy white garments. Throughout the year he had been wearing the high-priestly insignia, the beautiful robe and ephod with the precious stones and breastplate. On this day, however, before going into the most holy, he put off these garments and put on the white garments of the priest, the difference between his attire and that of the priest being that the girdle was white, and that he wore the linen miter of the high priest instead of the bonnet of the priest. Lev.16.4; Ex.28:39,40; 39:28. As he begins the service, the high priest receives from the congregation two goats and a ram, which, together with his own sin offering, a bullock, are presented before the Lord. He kills the bullock, which is for himself, and a priest catches some of the blood in a bowl, stirring it so that it will not coagulate while the high priest performs another part of the service.
After the bullock is killed, the high priest takes coals from the altar of burnt offering, and puts them in a censer. He also takes his hands full of sweet incense, and carrying both the coals and the incense, he goes into the tabernacle and enters the most holy. There he places the censer on the mercy seat, "that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not." Lev.16:13.
Having finished this part of the ceremony, he goes outside and receives from the priest the blood of the bullock, which he carries into the most holy. There he sprinkles the blood with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward, "and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times." Verse 14. By this act he makes "atonement for himself and for his house." Verse 6.
Before the bullock is killed, another ceremony has taken place. Lots have been cast upon the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat. Verse 8. The goat upon which the lot fell for the Lord is to be offered as a sin offering. The other, the scapegoat, is to be presented alive before the Lord, "to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness." Verses 9,10.
After the high priest comes out from the most holy, having performed the ritual with the blood of the bullock, he kills the goat of the sin offering that is for the people. He again enters the most holy, and sprinkles the blood of the goat as he sprinkled the blood of the bullock upon the mercy seat and before the mercy seat. Verse 15. This makes atonement for the most holy, "because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins." Verse 16. He then does the same thing for the tabernacle of the congregation, that is, the holy place. Having made atonement for the sanctuary, he goes out to the altar and makes atonement for it, putting upon the horns of the altar both of the blood of the bullock and of the blood of the goat. He sprinkles it with his finger seven times, to "cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel." Verse 19.
Having thus "made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat: and Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: and the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness." Lev.16:20-22.
This part of the service being finished, Aaron puts off the linen garments, washes himself in water, and puts on his regular high priestly garments. Verses 23,24. He then comes out and offers a burnt offering for himself and one for the people. Verse 24. The fat of the sin offering is then burned on the altar. The man who led the scapegoat into the wilderness is to bathe himself and wash his clothes before he can come back into the camp. The man who disposed of the bullock whose blood was brought into the sanctuary and whose body was burned without the camp, must also wash his clothes and bathe himself in water before he can return. Verses 26-28. The special offering mentioned in Numbers 29:7-11, consisting of a bullock, a ram, and seven lambs for a burnt offering, and "one kid of the goats for a sin offering; beside the sin offering of atonement," is then offered before the regular evening sacrifice, which closes the services of the day.
Of the work done on that day the record states, "On that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord." Lev.16:30. A summary is given in verse 33: "He shall make an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar, and he shall make an atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation."
In the reading of the record of the Day of Atonement as given in the sixteenth chapter of Leviticus, some questions present themselves which we shall now consider. If the question is asked, Just what was accomplished by the services of the Day of Atonement? the answer of course is that atonement was made. If the further question is asked, For whom, or for what was atonement made? the answer is, in the language of the thirty-third verse, that atonement was made for the holy sanctuary, for the tabernacle of the congregation, for the altar, for the priests, and for all the people.
This divides the atonement into two parts, atonement for the sanctuary, that is, for the holy things; and atonement for persons, that is, for priests and people. The purpose of the atonement for the people is said to be "to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord." Verse 30. As for the sanctuary, the statement is made, "He shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgression in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness." Verse 16. Concerning the altar it is stated, "He shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel." Verse 19.
It will be noted that the holy places and the altar were cleansed not because of any inherent sin or evil in the sanctuary or altar as such, but "because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel," and "because of their transgressions in all their sins." The same is true of the altar. The priest is to "cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel." Verse 19.
These statements make it clear that it was the sins of Israel that defiled the sanctuary and the altar. This defilement had taken place throughout the year in the daily ministration. Each morning and evening a lamb had been slain and its blood sprinkled upon the altar "round about." This had defiled the altar. Offenders had brought their sin and trespass offerings. In the case of a priest or the whole congregation, the victim's blood had been sprinkled in the holy place. This had defiled the sanctuary. In the case of a ruler or one of the common people, the blood had been put upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and the flesh had been eaten by the priests. This had transferred the sins to the priesthood as well as defiled the altar. Through these means the sanctuary and the altar had been defiled, and the priesthood made to bear sins. The services of the Day of Atonement were to dispose of all these sins and to cleanse both sanctuary and priesthood as well as people.
The question may well be raised, Why was any cleansing needed by the people? Had they not brought their sacrifices from time to time throughout the year, confessed their sins and gone away forgiven? Why would they need to be forgiven twice? Why should "a remembrance" be "made of sins every year"? Should not "the worshipers once purged" "have had no more conscience of sins"? Heb.10:2,3. These questions demand an answer.
It may be pertinent to remark that our salvation is always conditioned upon repentance and perseverance. God forgives, but the forgiveness is not unconditional and independent of the sinner's future course. Note how Ezekiel puts it: "When the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, it them shall he die." Eze.18:24.
This text states that when a man turns away from the right, all his good deeds "shall not be mentioned." The converse is also true. If a man has been wicked, but turns from his evil way, "all his transgressions that he has committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him." Verse 22.
God keeps an account with each man. Whenever a prayer for forgiveness ascends to God from a true heart, God forgives. But sometimes men change their minds. They repent of their repentance. They show by their lives that their repentance is not permanent. And so God, instead of forgiving absolutely and finally, marks forgiveness against men's names and waits with the final blotting out of sins until they have had time to think the matter through. If at the end of their lives they are still of the same mind, God counts them faithful, and in the day of judgment their record is finally cleared. So in Israel of old. When the Day of Atonement rolled around, each offender had a chance to show that he was still of the same mind and wanted forgiveness. If he was, the sin was blotted out, and he was completely cleansed.
The Day of Atonement was the day of judgment to Israel, as evidenced by the quotations at the beginning of this chapter. Day by day during the year, the transgressors had appeared at the temple and received forgiveness. On the Day of Atonement these sins came in review before God, or as Hebrews puts it, there was "a remembrance again made of sins." Heb.10:3. On that day every true Israelite renewed his consecration to God and confirmed his repentance. As a result, he was not only forgiven, but cleansed. "On that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord." Lev.16:30. It must have been with happiness in their hearts that Israel went home in the evening of that day. "Clean from all your sins." Wonderful assurance! The same promise is given in the New Testament: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1John 1:9. Not only forgiven, but cleansed! Cleansed from "all unrighteousness," from "all your sins!"
O the bliss of the glorious thought --
My sin, not in part but the whole.
Of the final judgment the revelator says: "I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the book, according to their works." Rev.20:12. "The dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books." The Day of Atonement was a type of that day. There were no books kept in the sanctuary. But there was a record of sin. Every drop of blood on the altar of burnt offering sprinkled in the morning and evening service constituted a record of sins committed. On the horns of the same altar, and also on the holy place, a record of sins forgiven was made by the sprinkling of blood as sinners came with their personal sacrifices to obtain forgiveness. On the Day of Atonement the sins of those who had already obtained forgiveness were blotted out. The others were "cut off." Thus the sanctuary was cleansed of the record of sin accumulated through the year. This cleansing of the record also effected the cleansing of the people whose sins already had been forgiven. The sins were blotted out. They did not any longer remain as a witness against the people. Atonement was made, and the people were not under condemnation. They were cleansed, free, happy. Even the record existed no more.
It now becomes our duty to inquire just how this atonement was brought about. The observing student will wish to know how the sanctuary can be cleansed by the sprinkling of blood, when it was by that very means that the sanctuary was defiled. Would not more blood still further defile, rather than cleanse? The student will also wish to know why a bullock is used as a sin offering as well as a goat, and what each accomplished; and lastly, why a scapegoat is necessary.
In any study of the sanctuary and of the levitical priesthood, it is to be remembered that no type is an exact counterpart of that which it is intended to portray. The real work of the atonement in heaven involves so many factors that it is quite impossible to find an earthly parallel. Christ lived, died, and rose again. How can a fitting type be found to illustrate this? A lamb may represent Christ and be slain as he was. But how can the resurrection be shown? Another live animal may be used, but the type is not perfect.
The high priest typified Christ. But Christ was sinless, and the priest was not. Any offering which the high priest offered because of his own sins, could therefore not be true to type. For these reasons various ceremonies were necessary to illustrate the complete work of Christ; and yet they failed to illustrate fully. The priest typified certain aspects of Christ's ministry. So did the high priest, the veil, the shewbread, the incense, the lamb, the goat, the meal offering, and many other items in the sanctuary service. The holy apartment had its signification; so had the most holy, the court, the altar, the laver, the mercy seat. Almost everything was symbolical, from the priests' dress to the ashes used in sprinkling the unclean. Yet all of it put together did not constitute a complete type, and much of it did but imperfectly mirror its original.
In another chapter the statement is stressed that Aaron not only represented the people, but was practically identified with them. What he did, they did. What they did, he did.
The high priest "represented the whole people. All Israelites were reckoned as being in him." In him "everything belonging to the priesthood gathered itself up and reached its culmination." "When he sinned, the people sinned."
Adam was the representative man. By him "sin entered into the world." By his "disobedience many were made sinners." And so "by one man's offense death reigned by one," and "through the offense of one many be dead." Rom.5:12,19,17,15.
Christ also was the representative man. He was the second man and the last Adam. "The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven." 1Cor.15:47. This second man, "the Lord from heaven," undid all that the first man had done by his transgression. By the disobedience of the first man "many were made sinners." By the obedience of the second man "shall many be made righteous." Rom.5:19. By the offence of the first man, "judgment came upon all men to condemnation." By the righteousness of the second man, "the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." Verse 18. And so, "as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." 1Cor.15:22.
The high priest was a type of Christ and a representative of the nation. As a representative of the nation, he was identified with their sins and was worthy of death. As a type of Christ he was their mediator and savior. In either case he transacted with God for the people. In this sense he was the people. If God accepted him, He accepted the people in him. If God rejected him, He rejected the people in him. For this reason the people were anxious to hear the sound of the bells and the pomegranates on the Day of Atonement. When at last the atonement had been effected and the reconciliation was complete, the sound of the bells as the high priest resumed his high-priestly garments was the sign that God had accepted the substitute. As he stepped outside and the sound was clearly heard by all, their joy and thankfulness were profound. God had once more accepted them in the person of the high priest.
When the high priest went into the most holy on the Day of Atonement, he went in as the representative of the people. In him Israel appeared before the Lord to give account of the sins of the year. The record of these sins appeared in blood on the altar of burnt offering and in the holy place. With the Day of Atonement the day of reckoning had come, the day of judgment when all sins were to come in review before God. The high priest appears in God's presence, while the veil of incense shields him. For the first time that year sin is brought before God in the most holy. The high priest sprinkles the blood of the bullock "upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times," and receives "atonement for himself, and for his house." Lev.16:14,11. He is clean. Whatever sins he is identified with, whatever sins he is responsible for, have in figure been transferred to the sanctuary. He is clean; but the sanctuary is not.
What has thus far been accomplished is this: The high priest in his representative capacity has appeared before God and the law. He has acknowledged his sins and sprinkled the blood. The law has in effect asked:
"Have you sinned?"
The high priest has answered: "I have sinned, and I have confessed my sins."
The law says: "The wages of sin is death. I have no other choice than to demand life."
The high priest replies: "I have brought the blood of the victim. Accept it."
The blood is sprinkled on the mercy seat. A substitute has been accepted instead of the sinner. On this substitute the sin has been placed; it is made sin, and as such has died. It has paid the penalty of transgression. It has died in the sinner's place and for sin. It has paid the debt due because of sin.
In our consideration of sacrifices for sin, stress has been laid on the placing of hands upon the victim's head, thus transferring sin to the victim. In each case the victim dies with guilt upon its head, dies for sin. Thus Christ took our sins upon Himself and was made sin. Being made sin, He must die; for the wages of sin is death.
Christ however, died not only for sin, but for sinners. When He died for sins He died because He identified Himself with us and took our sins upon Himself. He died for sins because our sins were laid upon Him, and He must bear the penalty. Dying thus for sinners, He satisfied the claims of the law.
Christ died not only as a substitute for the sinner, but also as the Sinless One. Taking our sins upon Himself -- we say it reverently -- He ought to die; the law demanded it. But personally Christ has not sinned. He was sinless; yet He died. And the death of the Sinless One is a definite part of the plan of God. The death of the sinner satisfies the claim of the law. The death of the Sinless One provides the ransom and frees the sinner from death.
After the high priest had offered the bullock and sprinkled its blood upon the mercy seat and before the mercy seat, he was told to "kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the veil, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat: and he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness." Lev.16:15,16.
It has before been noted, but should here be emphasized, that the blood of the bullock and that of the goat accomplish two different things. The first makes atonement for Aaron and his house. The second makes atonement for the people and the sanctuary. Verses 11,15,16. Nothing is said of the blood of the bullock making atonement for or cleansing the sanctuary, but this is definitely stated of the blood of the goat. Verses 15,16. This may be accounted for on the following grounds:
In all cases where atonement is made for a person -- with one minor exception discussed elsewhere -- the atonement is accomplished by means of blood, and indicates transfer of sins to the sanctuary. The sinner transfers his sins to the victim which is slain, and the blood is sprinkled on the altar of burnt offering or in the holy place in the sanctuary. The blood which -- because of sin having been confessed on the victim -- might be called sin-laden blood, typically and ceremonially defiles the place where it is sprinkled. Thus the sanctuary is made unclean.
When the high priest comes out after sprinkling the blood of the bullock, he is cleansed. Whatever sins he carried for which he was responsible had been confessed and transferred to the sanctuary. When he steps out of the most holy, he is cleansed, free, holy, a type of Christ, the Sinless One. He has confessed his sins, they have been forgiven him, and he has no further confession to make for himself. The Lord's goat, whose blood he is about to sprinkle, also typifies the Sinless One, the sin bearer. In all the offerings during the year the death of Christ as the Sinless One was portrayed. He was made sin who knew no sin. In the goat on the Day of Atonement He is typified as the chosen of God, harmless, undefiled.
To repeat: In the goat offered on the Day of Atonement we have symbolic reference to the death of the sinless Christ "who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens." Heb.7:26. The blood of this goat has cleansing efficacy. It makes possible the cleansing of the sanctuary.
The sprinkling of the blood of the morning and evening sacrifices for the nation "covered" all sin done throughout Israel for that particular day. The daily sacrifice on the altar represented Christ who died for us "While we were yet sinners;" who gave "Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor;" who "is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." Rom.5:8; Eph.5:2; 1Jhn.2:2. The daily burnt offering is therefore symbolic of Him who gave Himself for the sin of the world, dying for all men, thus making provision for all who will come to Him to be saved. The sprinkling of the blood "round about upon the altar" denotes the temporary or provisional atonement provided, and also constitutes a record of sins committed but not as yet individually atoned for.
The individual offerings, such as sin, trespass, and burnt offerings, constituted, in effect, a record of sins for which atonement was sought. The sins had already been recorded in the daily morning and evening service. Now the individual offenders register their repentance by bringing the required offerings, and the blood is duly placed on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, or sprinkled on the altar of incense, or on the veil. The blood thus sprinkled recorded confessed sins. It has already been noted that all confessed sins found their way eventually into the sanctuary; for in cases where the blood was not carried directly into the sanctuary, the flesh was eaten by the priests who thus carried sin; and when the priests offered sacrifices for themselves, these sins would, with their own, be carried into the holy place.
This earthly tabernacle service was typical of the work carried on in the sanctuary above, where a complete record is kept of sins committed and of sins confessed. When the Day of Atonement came, all Israel were supposed to have confessed their sins and to have that confession recorded in blood in the sanctuary. To complete the work it was now necessary to have the record removed, to have the sins blotted out, to cleanse the sanctuary of its blood defilement. Before this specific cleansing was done, the high priest went into the most holy with the blood of the bullock and made atonement for himself and for his house. This having been done the work of cleansing begins. The most holy is cleansed with the blood of the goat, and then the holy. Thus the record of sin is blotted out. After this the altar is cleansed.
"He shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel." Lev.16:19. Thus he makes "an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar." Verse 20. All is now cleansed, reconciled, and atoned for.
It will be noted that thus far in the record nothing has been said of the people's cleansing. This is as it should be. The people had already confessed their sins. They were forgiven. Only the record of their sins remained, and on this day that was blotted out. And with the blotting out of the record, that last vestige of sin is removed from the sanctuary, and the people are clean. "On that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord." Lev.16:30. All those who had sent their sins beforehand to judgment had them blotted out. The blotting out of the record constituted the cleansing of the people. They began the new year with a clean slate.
We would call attention to one more thing, namely, the putting of the bullock's blood on the horns of the altar. Verse 18. That the goat's blood is put on the altar needs no further explanation, for that is to cleanse it. But why the blood of the bullock?
The high priest represents the whole people. He transacts for them with God. As Christ's representative he typically effects atonement, so that when his work is done on the Day of Atonement all sin has been dealt with, and all confessed sin blotted out. When he therefore confesses these sins, he does so on behalf of Israel and receives atonement. Hence the high priest is said to make "atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins." Verse 30.
There were doubtless those in Israel who delayed their confession until it was too late to bring an individual sin offering before the Day of Atonement. They were repentant, but they had been delayed in coming to the sanctuary. Others were sick and could not come, or were on a journey in far lands. None of these had brought their sin or trespass offerings. Were they to be left out?
Their sins were recorded by and in the daily morning and evening sacrifice, but no confession had been recorded in the sanctuary, because they had brought no sacrifice. What is to be done? The high priest puts of the blood on the horns of the altar, thus recording confession and forgiveness for them. He does the work which they would have done had there been time or had they been able, and because of their repentance they are included in the atonement. Of such are the thief on the cross and others.
Thus the work of the Day of Atonement is finished, as far as all confessed sins are concerned. Every one who has confessed his sins and repented of them has the assurance of sins blotted out. He has heard the bells as the high priest resumes his high-priestly garments, telling of the completed work. He is not only a pardoned sinner, he is not only forgiven, he is cleansed. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1John 1:9. The forgiveness has been accomplished in the daily service; the cleansing on the Day of Atonement. Even the record of sin is blotted out. Israel is clean.
IN THE CONSIDERATION OF THE DAY OF Atonement we omitted one important part of the service which deserves special treatment, namely, that of the scapegoat. On this subject much has been written and different interpretations have been given. We shall give that which we consider the true view and which harmonizes best with the general purpose of the atonement.
The scapegoat is brought into prominence on the Day of Atonement after the work of reconciliation is complete. After Aaron "hath made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat: and Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: and the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities into a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness." Lev.16:20-22.
It will be remembered that the blood of the Lord's goat cleansed the holy place, the most holy, and the altar of "the uncleanness of the children of Israel," and "of their transgressions in all their sins." Lev.16:16,19. It was emphasized that this was not merely forgiveness, but cleansing. Forgiveness had been obtained in the daily service when individual sin offerings were brought. The blood had then been sprinkled and the sin forgiven. It is repeatedly stated that "the priest shall make an atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him." Lev.4:26,31,35. The record of the sin remained, however, until the Day of Atonement, when it was finally blotted out. This is exactly what happens in the great day of judgment, of which the Day of Atonement was a type. Then the books are opened, and the sins of the righteous blotted out. Acts 3:19; Rev.20:12; Dan.7:10. Those who do not have their sins blotted out, will have their names blotted out. Ex.32:33; Rev.3:5; Ps.69:28. This means eternal loss.
The scapegoat served a definite purpose in the service of the Day of Atonement. The high priest confessed "over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat." Lev.16:21. The goat bore the sins "unto a land not inhabited." Verse 22. This ceremony removed the sins from the camp of Israel and was the last act of the high priest before he washed himself and resumed his usual garments. Verses 23,24.
Two questions demand consideration: Whom or what does the scapegoat represent? and, Just what is its part in the services of the Day of Atonement?
When lots were cast upon the two goats taken from the congregation, one lot was for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat. The word here used for scapegoat, Azazel, has been the subject of much discussion. Some believe the two goats to be symbolic of Christ, merely representing two phases of the same work. Others believe that they represent two opposing forces, and that if one is "for the Lord," and the other "for Azazel," the latter must mean "for Satan." Some scholars, probably the majority, hold that Azazel is a personal, wicked, superhuman being; others contend that it means "one who removes," especially "by a series of acts." It seems most reasonable to believe that as one goat is for "the Lord," a personal being, so the other should also be for a personal being. Moreover, as the two goats are evidently antithetical, the most consistent view would be that which holds that Azazel must be opposed to "the Lord." He could be no other than Satan.
While we believe that the weight of evidence is in favor of considering Azazel as the name of a personal, wicked spirit, there are certain apparent difficulties which this view brings to the front, which should have consideration. Chief among these is the statement that the scapegoat "shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness." Lev.16:10. If Azazel means "a wicked spirit," Satan, how can it be possible to "make an atonement with him"? Surely, it is said, atonement cannot be made with a goat representing Satan.
We believe that a consideration of the office of the scapegoat furnishes a solution to this problem. After the atonement with the Lord's goat is finished, after reconciliation and cleansing have been made for the sanctuary and the altar, the goat for Azazel is brought out. Note, the priest has "made an end of reconciling;" the sanctuary and the altar have been cleansed; atonement has been made; an end has been made of cleansing; then, and not until then, does the scapegoat appear in its special role. We therefore hold that the scapegoat has no part in the atonement which has already been accomplished with the blood of the Lord's goat. That work is completed. The scapegoat has no part in it whatever.
The objection may be made that as it is the iniquity of the children of Israel that is put upon the head of the scapegoat, our argument cannot be sound. The text in question reads that Aaron should "confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness." Lev.16:21. Let us consider this.
Most sins committed admit of shared responsibility. The person committing the sin is often mostly to blame, but this is not always the case. Some people are more sinned against than sinning. The man who educates a child to steal for him, cannot escape responsibility by saying that he himself has not stolen. The one who lures a girl into sin, though not participating in it himself, is guilty. The parents who fail to instill right principles into their children, must someday give an account. This is as it should be. Responsibility for sin is seldom traceable to one person only. Ordinarily it is shared.
This is particularly true of Satan's share in the sins of the righteous. The true Christian does not wish to sin. He abhors it. But Satan tempts him. A thousand times the man resists, and a thousand times Satan comes back. At last the man yields; he sins. But he soon repents; he asks forgiveness. The sin has been recorded in heaven. Now forgiveness is placed against it. The man is happy. He is forgiven. The Lord has been gracious to him. Then comes the judgment. The sin is blotted out. The man's record is clear. But what about Satan's part in the sin? Has that been atoned for? It has not. Satan must atone for it himself with his life.
Ideally the Christian should not sin. Yet there is the possibility. An incident that occurred years ago may be of interest:
In a certain college, a student janitor was attempting to close the windows during the convocation in chapel. He was quietly walking along the outside aisle with a long pole upraised, his eyes on the windows. A fellow student saw an excellent opportunity that he felt should not pass unimproved. As the young man with the pole passed by, intent on his work, the student put out his foot, and with a resounding crash janitor and pole went to the floor. A prompt rebuke for his clumsiness was as promptly rescinded when the circumstances were understood. One man did the falling. The other was responsible.
So, ideally, it should be with the Christian. He may fall but if he does, it should only be because Satan trips him up. But often he himself is to blame, at least partly. He tempts Satan to tempt him, and he cannot escape his share of the responsibility. It would not be just to blame Satan entirely for that of which we ourselves are partakers. On the other hand, Satan cannot escape his share. He is the instigator of sin. He continually tempts men. He is a partaker of all sins committed.
It is conceivable that some men have come to the place where they enjoy sin, and where Satan hardly needs to urge them on. While Satan must bear the first responsibility, the men themselves must bear their share. Not so with the righteous. They hate sin; they loathe and abhor it. But Satan is continually on their track. Sometimes he succeeds in tripping them. He must bear his share of the responsibility.
Thus every sin involves joint responsibility. Satan has a part in them all. When, on the Day of Atonement, the faithful in Israel had their sins blotted out, it was because they had previously repented and been forgiven. Their share in each sin was atoned for, but not Satan's. He had not repented; he had not confessed; he had not by faith placed his sin on the great Sin Bearer. He must therefore bear the sin himself. And so the sins of Israel which he has tempted them to commit are placed on him.
But this does not constitute a blood atonement in any way. There is no blood shed. The goat for Azazel is not killed. The blood is not sprinkled. It is not carried into the holy place. It is not put upon the horns of the altar. The flesh is not eaten by the priests. The body is not burned without the camp. The fat is not put upon the altar, nor the inwards washed and burned. None of the things which constitute an offering or sacrifice for sins is done. The goat atones for sins, only in the way a criminal atones for his sins by suffering the penalty of the law.
We therefore believe that Azazel represents Satan, and that as such he has no part whatever in the atonement effected by our Lord. The first goat represents Christ. His blood is shed, and by means of it the sanctuary, is cleansed. Not until this is done and completed, does the goat for Azazel appear. This goat accomplishes a definite work which we shall now consider, but this in no way affects or influences the atonement already completed. This point should be emphasized.
If the view here presented is correct, we have in the two goats a complete extermination of all sin. The sins of God's people are atoned for in the blood of the Lord's goat. The sanctuary is clean; the people are clean; the priesthood is clean. Into this cleansing we cannot admit Satan. He has no place in it. Christ did a complete work and does not need Satan's help. Satan, typified by the scapegoat, atones for his own sins, and for his part in those sins which he has caused others to commit.
There are sins other than those committed by God's people. Christ died for all men; but all men do not choose to avail themselves of His atonement. Hence, they must bear their own sins and the penalty of them. Christ has died for them. He has borne their sins. But the time is coming when He will bear them no longer. Upon Satan as the originator and instigator of sin will be put all the sins for which he is responsible.
When the two goats therefore were set before the Lord on the Day of Atonement, they represented Christ and Satan. The people could choose one or the other as their representative. If they chose the Lord's goat, they identified themselves with Christ. If they chose not to accept the proffered pardon, they automatically allied themselves with the powers of evil. The choice was before them. On that choice hung their destiny.
It has been mentioned before, that the whole service of the Day of Atonement is symbolic of the day of judgment. The final judgment includes more than the blotting out of the sins of the righteous. It includes the eradication of sin from the universe. It includes placing upon the head of Satan all sin for which he is responsible. It includes the eventual "cutting off" of all who have not afflicted their souls. So in the sanctuary service the sins were placed on the head of the scapegoat after the cleansing of the sanctuary had been completed. Then those who had not repented were "cut off." Lev.16:20-22; 23-29.
"When the ministration in the holy of holies had been completed, and the sins of Israel had been removed from the sanctuary by virtue of the blood of the sin offering, then the scapegoat was presented alive before the Lord; and in the presence of all the congregation the high priest confessed over him 'all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat.' In like manner, when the work of atonement in the heavenly sanctuary has been completed, then in the presence of God and heavenly angels, and the host of the redeemed, the sins of God's people will be placed upon Satan; he will be declared guilty of all the evil which he has caused them to commit. And as the scapegoat was sent away into a land not inhabited, so Satan will be banished to the desolate earth, an uninhabited and dreary wilderness." --The Great Controversy, p.658.
"As the priest, in removing the sins from the sanctuary, confessed them upon the head of the scapegoat, so Christ will place all these sins upon Satan, the originator and instigator of sin. The scapegoat, bearing the sins of Israel, was sent away 'unto a land not inhabited;' so Satan, bearing the guilt of all the sins which he has caused God's people to commit, will be for a thousand years confined to the earth, which will then be desolate, without inhabitant, and he will at last suffer the full penalty of sin in the fires that shall destroy all the wicked. Thus the great plan of redemption will reach its accomplishment in the final eradication of sin, and the deliverance of all who have been willing to renounce evil."--Id., pp.485,486.
The banishment of the scapegoat represents the final eradication of sin. He therefore plays an important part in the services of the Day of Atonement. In him sin is finally destroyed and Israel is safe.
The Day of Atonement was the great day in Israel. On that day there was a division of the people into two groups. The one group afflicted their souls. They had confessed their sins; they had made restitution and brought their offering. Now they awaited the outcome. When the bells of the high priest were heard as he finished the work of atonement, they knew that all was well. God had accepted them. They were cleansed, happy, free. Their sins were blotted out.
The other group had no part in the atonement. They had not afflicted their souls. They had not confessed nor made restitution. Now their sins returned upon their own heads. They were "cut off."
Thus the Day of Atonement was the great day of division. There were two classes on that day, and only two. One was forgiven, cleansed, saved. The other was unrepentant, filthy, "cut off." Each had made his own decision. Their decision settled their destiny. When the day was done, the camp was clean. One of two things had happened to each person. Sin had been removed from him, or he himself had been removed. In either case the camp was clean.
Thus it shall be in the end of the world. "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." Isa.4:3. God shall again cleanse His people. "Those that remain in Zion shall be holy, every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem." The rest will be shaken out, cut off.
It must have been with profound feelings that Israel witnessed the final removal of sin from the camp. When the goat was led away carrying its load of sin, they knew that but for the grace of God they would themselves be carrying their sins to execution. They had seen the Lord's goat die. It had died for them. Now they had visibly presented to them the removing of sin from Israel. The goat was being led away to a fate unknown. Eventually, death would result. That also would have been their doom unless the Lord had helped them.
The type is not in all respects true to facts. In the final disposition of sin, the wicked are destroyed. This was not done in Israel. They were "cut off." That ordinarily meant exclusion from the privileges of Israel, or what we would now mean by exclusion from the church. It was therefore possible for an unrepentant sinner to see the scapegoat being led away and excluded from the camp. That was typical to him of his own exclusion. He would no longer have any part in Israel. He was being cut off from God's people, an outcast, fit only for destruction. This would constitute a powerful object lesson to him, and might lead to serious reflection and repentance.
IN THE TWENTY-THIRD CHAPTER OF LEVITICUS are recorded the feasts and holy convocations which the Lord commanded His people to observe. There are seven in all. Three of them are the great festivals of the year, the Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. Of these it is written: "Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God in the place which He shall choose; in the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and in the Feast of Weeks, and in the Feast of Tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the Lord empty." Deut.16:16. (See also Ex.23:17; 34:23.)
The two words used to denote "feasts" and "holy convocations" differ considerably in their meaning. Hag, which belongs especially to the three feasts above named, means "a joyous occasion, a festival, a feast." Moadeem has reference rather to appointed times, stated observances, holy convocations, or solemn meetings. An example of Moadeem would be the Day of Atonement, which was not a feast or festival in any sense of the word, but a holy convocation. Lev.23:26-32.
Besides the Passover, Pentecost, the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Day of Atonement, there were three others, namely, the Feast of Trumpets, occurring on the first day of the seventh month, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Feast of First Fruits. Lev.23:24,6,9-14; Ex.12:17; Num.28:17. The two last-named feasts were celebrated in connection with the observance of the Passover, but are plainly spoken of as distinct from it. Ex.12:12,15,17; Num.28:16,17; Lev.23:9-14. As they are mentioned separately and as they have special significance, we are placing them among the seven feasts of the Lord.
The Passover was observed on the fourteenth day of the first month, the Feast of Unleavened Bread began on the fifteenth day of the same month, and the first fruits were waved on the sixteenth day. Lev.23:5,6,11. The first three feasts thus came in the first month of the year. The last three feasts came in the seventh month: the Feast of Trumpets on the first day, the Day of Atonement on the tenth day, and the Feast of Tabernacles on the fifteenth day. Verses 24,27,39. The Feast of Pentecost came between these two groups of feasts, fifty days from the "morrow after the sabbath," by which is meant the sixteenth day of Abib, the first month. This would bring Pentecost in the latter part of the third month of the Jewish year, our May or June. Verses 15,16.
The Passover was instituted as a memorial of Israel's deliverance from Egyptian bondage. On the tenth day of the first mouth a lamb was selected for each household, "according to the number of the souls," or if the household was small, two or more households could unite about one sacrifice. The lamb was kept until the fourteenth day, when it was killed in the evening, and the blood sprinkled on the doorposts. Ex.12:1-7. The same night the flesh was eaten, not boiled as usual, but roasted. Only unleavened bread could be used, "and with bitter herbs they shall eat it." Verse 8. In later years, there were some modifications of this ritual, but the essential points remained the same.
The Passover sacrifice is distinguished by being called "My sacrifice." Ex. 23:18; 34:25. While it is probably not best to stress such an expression, it is at least worthy of notice. The Passover commemorated Israel's departure from Egypt. The New Testament makes it also a forward-looking ordinance. "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us." 1Cor.5:7. With this symbolic representation in mind, some analogies are easily perceivable. In the crucifixion not a bone of Christ's body was broken. John 19:36. Not a bone of the Passover lamb must be broken. Ex.12:46; Num.9:12. The Passover was killed the fourteenth day of Abib and eaten on the fifteenth. Ex.12:6-10. Christ died at Passover time. John 19.14. The sprinkling of the blood meant a "passing over" in mercy, a deliverance from death. Ex.12:13. So through His blood there has been a passing over of the sins done aforetimes. Rom.3:24. The Passover sacrifice was a lamb. Ex.12:3. So Christ was "the Lamb of God." John 1:29. The lamb was to be without blemish. Ex.12:5. So Christ was without blemish. 1Peter 1:19. The flesh of the lamb was to be eaten. Ex.12:7. So we are to partake of His flesh. John 6:51.
Closely connected with the Passover, yet distinguished from it, was the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The two feasts were in reality part of the same observance, so that the names are used interchangeably; yet in purpose they were somewhat different. The command of God was explicit as to what should be done. "Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel." Ex.12:15. God's commentary on this reads: "Let us keep the feasts, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." 1Cor.5:8.
The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are fruitful in their teachings of gospel truths. In the slain lamb, provision was made for saving the first-born. But the death of the lamb was not enough to assure salvation. The blood must be struck on the doorpost. There must be individual application of the sacrifice. The sprinkling of the blood was as important as the death of the lamb. Yet this was not enough. The flesh must be eaten, and it must be eaten under proper conditions. "Thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord's Passover." Ex.12:11. And even this was not enough. All leaven must be purged away. "Whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land." Verse 19.
The Passover is symbolic of Christ's death. He is our Passover. 1Cor.5:7. On the cross He died for us. Provision was there made for every one to be saved who abides by the conditions of life. But the cross itself saves no one. It only provides salvation. There must be individual application of the blood provided.
The command to Israel was: "Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason." Ex.12:22. The promise was that if they did this, then when the Lord "seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you." Verse 23. The provisions here mentioned saved the first-born from the destroying angel. The death of the lamb provided the means of salvation; the application of the blood made efficacious the means provided. Both were necessary.
It is one thing to be saved from death. It is another to have the means of sustaining life. This was provided positively in the eating of the flesh, negatively in the abstention from leaven. Christ says: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." John 6:51. Israel was told to roast the lamb entire. The command was to "roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof." Ex.12:9. Each family was to gather a sufficient number of people together so that all the flesh would be eaten. Verse 4. Nothing was to he carried out of the house, and nothing left until morning. Whatever remained of those parts that could not be eaten was to be burned. Verses 10,46. This could prefigure nothing else than an entire assimilation of Him whom the lamb represented by those for whom the blood was shed. It means the entire identification of Christ and the believer. It means the acceptance of the fullness of God.
Leaven was to be entirely excluded. We are not left in doubt as to the spiritual meaning of leaven. It stands for malice and wickedness. 1Cor.5.8. It stands for false doctrine as exemplified in the teachings of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Herodians. Matt.16:6; Mark 8:15. The leaven of the Pharisees is greed and injustice (Matt.23:14), a dog-in-the-manger spirit (verse 13), false zeal (verse 15), wrong estimates of spiritual values (verses 16-22), omission of judgment, mercy, and faith (verse 23), vain punctiliousness (verse 24), hypocrisy (verses 25-28), intolerance (verses 29-33), cruelty (verses 34-36). The leaven of the Sadducees is skepticism (Matt 22:23), lack of knowledge of the Scripture and of the power of God (verse 29). The leaven of the Herodians is flattery, worldliness, and hypocrisy (Matt.22,16-21), and plotting evil against God's servants (Mark 3-6).
The New Testament counterpart of the Passover is found in the Lord's supper, the communion service. After Christ had come, there could be no more virtue in slaying the Passover lamb, prefiguring His coming. But there would be virtue in commemorating the sacrifice of Calvary, and its sustaining power. For this reason the Lord instituted the sacrificial meal of communion to call to mind the facts of our salvation and the provisions made on the cross. Like its prototype, it points both backward and forward. We are to remember Calvary "till He come." 1Cor.11:26.
"These types were fulfilled, not only as to the event, but as to the time. On the fourteenth day of the first Jewish month, the very day and month on which, for fifteen long centuries, the Passover lamb had been slain, Christ, having eaten the Passover with His disciples, instituted that feast which was to commemorate His own death as 'the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.' That same night He was taken by wicked hands, to be crucified and slain. And as the antitype of the wave sheaf, our Lord was raised from the dead on the third day, 'the first fruits of them that slept,' a sample of all the resurrected just, whose 'vile body' shall be changed, and 'fashioned like unto His glorious body.'" --The Great Controversy, p.399.
The observance of the presentation of the first fruits was a part of the celebration of the days of unleavened bread. The presentation took place on the "morrow after the sabbath" the sixteenth day of Abib. Lev.23:11. This day was not one of holy convocation, nor was it a sabbath, but an important work was nevertheless done on that day. On the fourteenth day of Abib a certain portion of a field of barley was marked off to be cut down in preparation for the presentation on the sixteenth. Three selected men cut the barley in the presence of witnesses, having already tied the sheaves together before cutting them. After being cut, the sheaves were all tied together into one sheaf and presented before the Lord as "a sheaf of the first fruits." "He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it." Lev.23:11. Besides this, "a he-lamb without blemish," and a meal offering mingled with oil, and a drink offering were offered to God. Verses 12,13. Not until this was done could Israel begin to use any of the fruits of the field.
This offering was an acceptance offering. It was a presentation of the first fruits. Doubtless it has reference, first of all to "Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at His coming." 1Cor.15:23.
If we sum up the teachings of the Passover observance, we have the following important reflections: The Passover is symbolic of the death of Christ. As the Passover lamb died, so Christ died. The blood of the lamb delivered Israel of old from the destroying angel. The blood of Christ now reconciles.
The Passover is symbolic of the resurrection as typified in the wave sheaf. The type is perfect even as to time. The lamb died on the evening of the fourteenth day of Abib. On the sixteenth, the "morrow after the sabbath," the first fruits, which had previously been cut down, were presented before the Lord. Christ died Friday evening. He rested in the grave over the Sabbath. The "morrow after the Sabbath," "Christ the first fruits" was raised from the grave and presented Himself before the Lord for acceptance. The "morrow after the sabbath" was not "a holy convocation," nor a sabbath, either in type or antitype, but an important work was done that may need amplification.
When Christ arose the first day of the week, it was necessary for Him to ascend to the Father to hear the words of God's acceptance of the sacrifice. On the cross His soul was in darkness. The Father hid His face from Him. In despair and agony He cried out: "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Matt.27:46.
"Satan with his fierce temptations wrung the heart of Jesus. The Saviour could not see through the portals of the tomb. Hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the grave a conqueror, or tell Him of the Father's acceptance of the sacrifice. He feared that sin was so offensive to God, that their separation was to be eternal. Christ felt the anguish which the sinner will feel when mercy shall no longer plead for the guilty race. It was the sense of sin, bringing the Father's wrath upon Him as man's substitute, that made the cup He drank so bitter, and broke the heart of the Son of God." --The Desire of Ages, p.753.
Now the resurrection had taken place. The first thing Christ must do was to appear in the presence of the Father and hear from Him the blessed words that His death has not been in vain, but that the sacrifice was accepted as amply sufficient. So He must ascend to the heavens above and in the presence of the universe hear from the Father Himself the words of assurance; then He must come back to earth again to those who were yet sorrowing for His death, not knowing that He had been raised, and show Himself openly. This He did.
"Jesus refused to receive the homage of His people until He had the assurance that His sacrifice was accepted by the Father. He ascended to the heavenly courts, and from God Himself heard the assurance that His atonement for the sins of men had been ample, that through His blood all might gain eternal life. The Father ratified the covenant made with Christ, that He would receive repentant and obedient men, and would love them even as He loves His Son. Christ was to complete His work, and fulfill His pledge to 'make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.' All power in heaven and on earth was given to the Prince of life, and He returned to His followers in a world of sin, that He might impart to them of His power and glory.
"While the Saviour was in God's presence, receiving gifts for His church, the disciples thought upon His empty tomb, and mourned and wept. The day that was a day of rejoicing to all heaven was to the disciples a day of uncertainty, confusion, and perplexity."--Id., pp.790-793.
The scriptures were fulfilled to the letter. "Christ arose from the dead as the first fruits of those that slept. He was the antitype of the wave sheaf, and His resurrection took place on the very day when the wave sheaf was to be presented before the Lord. For more than a thousand years this symbolic ceremony had been performed. From the harvest fields the first heads of ripened grain were gathered, and when the people went up to Jerusalem to the Passover, the sheaf of first fruits was waved as a thank offering before the Lord. Not until this was presented, could the sickle be put to the grain, and it be gathered into sheaves. The sheaf dedicated to God represented the harvest. So Christ the first fruits represented the great spiritual harvest to be gathered for the kingdom of God. His resurrection, is the type and pledge of the resurrection of all the righteous dead. 'For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.'
"As Christ arose, He brought from the grave a multitude of captives; the earthquake at His death had rent open their graves, and when He arose, they came forth with Him. They were those who had been colaborers with God, and who at the cost of their lives had borne testimony to the truth. Now they were to be witnesses for Him who had raised them from the dead."--Id., pp.785,786.
The Passover is typical of communion. The eating of the Passover lamb brought together families and neighbors. It was a communal meal typifying deliverance. An exchange had been effected, and their firstborn was spared because the lamb died. Such a deliverance called for consecration. All sin must be put aside. There must be no leaven anywhere. Every corner must be examined, every nook searched for traces of it. "Holiness unto the Lord." Nothing less would be accepted.
All this and more the Passover meant to Israel of old. As the Lord's supper is the New Testament substitute for "the Lord's Passover," it should mean no less to us than it did to them. There is grave danger that we forget or fail to appreciate the wonderful blessings God has in store for those who "worthily" partake of the ordinances of the Lord's house. We would do well to study the Passover as given to Israel, that we may appreciate more the Christ who is our real Passover Lamb, and whose death is commemorated in the communion service.
Pentecost came fifty days after the presentation of the wave sheaf on the sixteenth of Abib. From that day "shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord. Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the first fruits unto the Lord." Lev.23:16,17.
As the wave sheaf was presented at the beginning of the harvest before any of the new yield could be used, so Pentecost came at the end of the harvest of all grains, not only of barley as in the case of the wave sheaf, and represented the joyous acknowledgment of Israel's dependence upon God as the giver of all good gifts. At this time it was not a sheaf that was presented, but two wave loaves of fine flour, baked with leaven, together with "seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams." Verses 17,18. This was accompanied by a goat for a sin offering and two lambs for a peace offering. Verse 19.
In the Passover celebration, it was particularly enjoined that no leaven was to be eaten or found. At Pentecost two loaves were to be presented, "baken with leaven." Verse 17. The wave sheaf is "Christ the first fruits." He was without sin. The bread is not God's immediate creation. It is partly man's work. It is imperfect, it is mixed with leaven. But it is accepted. It is waved "before the Lord, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the Lord for the priest." Verse 20.
Pentecost is symbolic of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. As the wave loaves were offered fifty days after the wave sheaf was presented, so there were just fifty days between the resurrection of Christ and the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost. Acts 2:1-4. Forty of these days Christ spent on earth instructing and helping His disciples. Acts 1:3. Then He ascended, and for ten days the eleven disciples continued in prayer and supplication until "the day of Pentecost was fully come." With Pentecost came the fullness of the Spirit.
These ten days were important ones for the church on earth. They were also important in heaven. When Christ "ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." Eph.4:8. Those who had been raised at Christ's death and had come "out of the graves after His resurrection," ascended with Him to heaven, and were then presented before the Father as a kind of first fruits of the resurrection. Matt.27:52,53.
"All heaven was waiting to welcome the Saviour to the celestial courts. As He ascended, He led the way, and the multitude of captives set free at His resurrection followed. The heavenly host, with shouts and acclamations of praise and celestial song, attended the joyous train.
"As they draw near to the city of God, the challenge is given by the escorting angels, --
'Lift up your heads, O ye gates;
And be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors;
And the King of glory shall come in!'
"Joyfully the waiting sentinels respond, --
'Who is this King of glory?'
"This they say, not because they know not who He is, but because they would hear the answer of exalted praise--
'The Lord strong and mighty,
The Lord mighty in battle!
Lift up your heads, O ye gates;
Even lift them up, ye everlasting doors;
And the King of glory shall come in!'
"Again is heard the challenge, 'Who is this King of glory?' for the angels never weary of hearing His name exalted. The escorting angels make reply--
'The Lord of hosts;
He is the King of glory!'
"Then the portals of the city of God are opened wide, and the angelic throng sweep through the gates amid a burst of rapturous music.
"There is the throne, and around it the rainbow of promise. There are cherubim and seraphim. The commanders of the angel hosts, the sons of God, the representatives of the unfallen worlds, are assembled. The heavenly council before which Lucifer had accused God and the Son, the representatives of those sinless realms over which Satan had thought to establish his dominion, --all are there to welcome the Redeemer. They are eager to celebrate His triumph and to glorify their King.
"But He waves them back. Not yet; He cannot now receive the coronet of glory and the royal robe. He enters into the presence of His Father. He points to His wounded head, the pierced side, the marred feet; He lifts His hands, bearing the print of nails. He points to the tokens of His triumph; He presents to God the wave sheaf, those raised with Him as representatives of that great multitude who shall come forth from the grave at His second coming. He approaches the Father, with whom there is joy over one sinner that repents; who rejoices over one with singing. Before the foundations of the earth were laid, the Father and the Son had united in a covenant to redeem man if he should be overcome by Satan. They had clasped their hands in a solemn pledge that Christ should become the surety for the human race. This pledge Christ has fulfilled. When upon the cross He cried out, 'It is finished,' He addressed the Father. The compact had been fully carried out. Now He declares, 'Father, it is finished. I have done Thy will, O My God. I have completed the work of redemption. If Thy justice is satisfied,' 'I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am.'
"The voice of God is heard proclaiming that justice is satisfied. Satan is vanquished. Christ's toiling, struggling ones on earth are 'accepted in the Beloved.' Before the heavenly angels and the representatives of unfallen worlds, they are declared justified. Where He is, there His church shall be. 'Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.' The Father's arms encircle His Son, and the word is given, 'Let all the angels of God worship Him.'
"With joy unutterable, rulers and principalities and powers acknowledge the supremacy of the Prince of life. The angel host prostrate themselves before Him, while the glad shout fills all the courts of heaven, 'Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing!'" --The Desire of Ages, pp.833,884.
"When Christ passed within the heavenly gates, He was enthroned amidst the adoration of the angels. As soon as this ceremony was completed, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples in rich currents, and Christ was indeed glorified, even with the glory which He had with the Father from all eternity. The Pentecostal outpouring was Heaven's communication that the Redeemer's inauguration was accomplished. According to His promise He had sent the Holy Spirit from heaven to His followers, as a token that He had, as priest and king, received all authority in heaven and on earth, and was the Anointed One over His people." --Acts of the Apostles, p.38.
Feast of Trumpets
The Feast of Trumpets came on the first day of the eleventh month, and was preparatory to the Day of Atonement which came on the tenth day of the month. It was a solemn call to all Israel to prepare to meet their God. It announced to them that the day of judgment was coming, and that they must get ready for it. It was a merciful reminder to them of the need of confession and consecration. As we have elsewhere discussed the matter of atonement, it may not be necessary here to emphasize either the Feast of Trumpets or the Day of Atonement.
Feast of Tabernacles
This was the last feast of the year and came ordinarily in the latter part of our October, after the harvest was over and the fruit gathered. It was a joyous occasion for all. The Day of Atonement was past, all misunderstandings had been cleared up, all sins confessed and put aside. Israel was happy, and their happiness found expression in the Feast of Tabernacles.
The feast began with a day of holy convocation. Lev.23:35. The people were to take "boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days." Verse 40. These branches they were to make into booths, and in these they were to live during the feast. On the Day of Atonement they were to "afflict their souls." At the Feast of Tabernacles they were to "rejoice before the Lord your God seven days." It was altogether the most happy occasion of the year when friends and neighbors renewed communion and dwelt together in love and harmony. In this respect it was prophetic of the time when the great ingathering of God's people shall take place, and they shall come "from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven." Matt.8:11.
The Feast of Tabernacles was commemorative of the time when Israel lived in tents in the wilderness during their forty years of wandering. "Thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt: and thou shalt observe and do these statutes. Thou shalt observe the Feast of Tabernacles seven days, after that thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine: and thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within thy gates. Seven days shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the Lord thy God in the place which the Lord shall choose: because the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice." Deut.16:12-15.
It is well to remember how God has led us in times past. It is well to bring to mind His providences. We are sometimes inclined to complain. Might it not be well to think of the many blessings God has bestowed upon us, and the wonderful way He has led us? It would make us more appreciative and thankful. And that is a vital part of religion.
EVERY SACRIFICE OFFERED WAS IN REALITY a prayer to God for help. It might be, as in the case of sin and trespass offering, a prayer for forgiveness. Or it might be a prayer of thanksgiving and praise as in the peace offering. Again it might be a prayer of consecration and dedication as in the burnt offering, or of communion as in the meal offering. It might be a prayer of thanksgiving for a special deliverance, or a prayer for a thing much desired as in the vow and freewill offering. Or it might be that God had healed of a sickness, or a woman had been brought safely through childbirth, or some great deliverance had been wrought. All such occasions called for special thanksgiving and praise and an appropriate offering.
In its highest exercise, prayer is communion. This needs to be emphasized, for to many Christians prayer is merely a means of getting something from God. They feel their lack in certain respects. What easier way is there than to ask God for that which they need? Has not God promised to supply that which we lack? As a result of this way of thinking, many prayers consist mostly of asking for things, some of them good, some not so good, some positively harmful, some impossible of fulfillment. To such people God is the source of supply, the great giver, the inexhaustible fountain of gifts. All they need to do is ask, and God will do the rest. They measure their Christianity by the answers they receive to their petitions, and feel that their prayers are not effective when the request is denied. Their prayers mostly take the form of petition. They are continually asking for something, and they believe that God does or should answer their petition. As the prodigal son, they pray, "Father, give me." Luke 15:12.
It cannot be denied that prayers of petition -- asking for things -- are a legitimate form of prayer. We shall always need to ask God for the things we desire. But it is to be emphasized that prayers of petition must not become the prevailing form of prayer. Prayers of praise, thanksgiving, and adoration must always have the preeminence. Submissiveness to the will of God, complete dedication to Him, and thorough consecration would indicate the form prayers should take. When our prayers are changed from an effort to get God to do what we want into an intense desire to find out what God wants, our prayers will not so often take the form of asking merely for things, and demanding that God forth-with answer our prayers in the specific way we desire.
It would indeed be better for most of us to cease asking for things for a while and concentrate our entire efforts on what God wants us to have or to be. When we find this out we are on sure ground. Then we can ask of God, confident that His will is to be done. The great problem confronting us is to find out God's will, and then search our hearts to make sure that we really want God's will to be ours.
Some one has said that prayers are an effort on the part of the petitioner to have God change His mind. Many are making no effort to find out what God wants, although they are very clear themselves on what they want. Their prayer is really, "Thy will be changed," not, "Thy will be done." They are struggling with God. They are agonizing in prayer. They are demanding of God that which they believe should be done. It does not occur to them that the first thing to find out is, Does God really want me to have the thing that I so much desire? Is it for my good? Is it God's will? Has the time come for it to be done? Is there something I must do first? Am I really willing to submit everything to God, so that if He does not give me what I desire, I will be satisfied and thank Him for what He does give; or am I really more intent on getting what I want than I am on ascertaining God's will?
It may be well to enumerate some things that prayer is not. It is not a substitute for work. A Christian confronted with a hard problem has a right to ask God's help and to expect that He will respond. But this does not excuse him from hard, taxing labor. God will strengthen the intellect, He will invigorate the mind; but He will not accept prayer as a substitute for mental effort or give to those who are merely slothful. Such as are capable of learning the multiplication table and have the opportunity to do so, must not shun the effort necessary, trusting that God through prayer will do for them that which will make unnecessary any mental exertion. In most cases, work and prayer go together. Neither one is sufficient in itself.
The aim of prayer is not merely to get God to do something we want. Some apply worldly methods and have a worldly philosophy in their approach to prayer. They have learned that as far as the world is concerned, to get anything they must "go for it," and so they take for granted that to get anything out of God they must "go for it." They act as though God were not willing to grant their petition without a great deal of coaxing, and seem to believe that by persistency and wheedling they can get out of God that which He would not otherwise give them. They take the importunate widow as their example, not seeming to realize that this parable is given to show what God is not. No one can get out of God that which he desires, merely by continually annoying Him. It needs to be emphasized that God is not like the unjust judge. He is a father, more willing to give good gifts to His children than they are to receive them. Wheedling, coaxing, cajoling, teasing, annoying, mere persistency, does not avail with God.
The impression must not prevail, however, that there is no such thing as wrestling in prayer, or that we need only mention to God once and for all what we want and it will be forthcoming. Prayer is not quite as simple as that. No, there is need of agonizing, prevailing prayer, prayer that goes to the heart of things, and is not satisfied till lives and things are changed. Jesus prayed all night; Jacob wrestled with the angel; Daniel sought the Lord with prayer and fasting; Paul besought the Lord again and again. We need not less prayers, but more. And we need to learn to pray in faith. This perhaps is the vital point.
Prayer is not monologue. It may be audible, or it may be the unspoken desire of the soul. In either case, ideal prayer is communion. Some pray at length, informing God of things of which he is already aware. They call His attention to many matters that need correction. They seem to believe that God is in danger of forgetting certain things that need to be done, and their prayers take the form of reminding God of what He should do. Having called God's attention to the need of the world as they see it, they feel they have done their duty. They have "said their prayers" and informed God of their own needs and those of others, and with an "Amen" their "conversation" stops. It has been a monologue entirely. They hope that God will use judiciously the information which they have conveyed to Him, and that He will do something about the matters concerning which they have prayed.
Many consider prayer a one-way communication, man speaking to God. Yet this is not the highest form of prayer; for as stated above, ideal prayer is communion. In true prayer God speaks to the soul as well as man to God. True friendship will not last long where one does all the speaking. In our prayers we too often do all the talking and expect God to do all the listening. And yet, may it not be possible that God would like to communicate with us as well as we with Him? This he often does by bringing certain scriptures to our remembrance. Is it too much to believe that after we have offered an earnest prayer which we believe God in heaven has heard, He might wish to say a word to us? Is it possible that after we have said "Amen," God is just ready to communicate with us, but we get up from our knees and do not give God a chance to speak? We hang up the receiver, as it were. We "ring off." Can it be conceived that the true Christian is forever speaking to God and God has no message for him? It must be painful to God to be shut out just at the moment when He is ready to communicate with us. It would seem that after this has happened several times, God can come to no other conclusion than that we are not very anxious to have communion with Him. We merely "say" our prayers, and when we are done, we walk away. Such prayer surely cannot be all that God means by "communion."
Let us repeat, prayer is communion. It is more than conversation; it is intimate fellowship. It is an exchange of views and ideas. It presupposes sympathetic understanding and confidence. It need not always be accompanied by words. Silence may be more eloquent than torrents of oratory. It is rather a kind of friendship grounded in quiet confidence and assurance, unaccompanied by spectacular demonstrations or outbursts.
Meditation is a vital ingredient of prayer. It may almost be said to be its better part. And yet it is mostly neglected. We appear before God, present our petition, and depart. Next time, we do the same. We keep God informed in regard to our status, tell Him of some things that need attention, and having thus delivered our souls, we close the interview. This is repeated day after day, but it cannot be said to be a very satisfactory experience. Is there nothing better? There must be.
The psalms, especially those of David, sound the depths of Christian feeling. David passed through some soul-harrowing experiences. Once he was fleeing from Saul into the wilderness. There he penned the sixty-third psalm. It is the cry of a soul longing for God, for a deeper knowledge of and acquaintance with God, especially in prayer. David was evidently not satisfied with his prayer experience. God seemed far away. He did not answer. David experienced the feeling of seeming to address nobody, in an empty room. Yet he longed for God. His soul thirsted for the living God. Was there no way in which he could get into real communion with Him?
Then David found the way. He found satisfaction. He learned the real meaning and method of prayer. Of this he speaks in Psalms 63:5,6, "My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: when I remember Thee upon my bed, and meditate on Thee in the night watches." Note the wording: "My soul shall be satisfied...when I remember Thee upon my bed, and meditate." David had prayed before. Now to prayer he adds meditation, and says that when he does this his "soul shall be satisfied." To him it is as "marrow and fatness," and he praises God "with joyful lips." At last his soul is satisfied.
This record is of great value. Many souls, like David, cry out for the living God. They are not satisfied. They believe that there must be something better than they are experiencing. They pray and pray and pray, and yet God seems far off. He does not reveal himself. Once in a while they have a fleeting glimpse of Him, and then He is gone. Is there anything better in store or is this all that Christianity and prayer hold for them? There must be something better. And David found it. "My soul shall be satisfied." How wonderful to have the soul hunger satisfied! And this possibility may become a reality! David points the way when he says that it may be obtained through remembering God and through meditation. Most Christians remember God. They pray. In fact it may be said, and rightly, that no one can be a child of God and not pray. But not many are practiced in the art of meditation. They pray, but do not meditate. Yet one is as important as the other. It was when David added meditation to prayer that he at last could say that his soul was satisfied. It may be that we shall have the same experience.
Few Christians meditate. They are too busy. Their work makes too many demands upon them. They rush from one thing to another and have little time to counsel with their own souls or with God. There is so much to be done. Unless they strain every nerve and are busy every moment, they are certain souls will be lost. They have no time to sit at the feet of the Master while the world is perishing. They must be up and doing. Activity is their watchword. Withal they are honest and conscientious.
Yet how much is lost to themselves and to the world because of lack of meditation! No soul can rush into the presence of God and out again and expect to enjoy communion with Him. The peace that passes understanding does not dwell in a restless heart. "Take time to be holy," is more than a mere sentiment. It takes time to commune with God, time to be holy. "Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah!" Ps.4:4. The last statement needs special emphasis. "Be still." We are too restless. We need to learn quietness with God. We need to be still.
"My soul, wait thou in silence for God only." Ps.62:5, A.R.V. Let these words sink deep into each consciousness. "My soul." This is addressed to every Christian. This is a command and also a promise. Wait in silence. Wait in silence for God. Wait thou in silence for God. Wait thou in silence for God only. And the one who waits in silence for God only, at His invitation, will not be disappointed. He will be satisfied.
What a wonderful invitation this statement is! You have prayed, you have poured out your soul to Him who alone understands. Do not say "Amen" and walk off. Give God an opportunity. Wait for him. Wait in silence. Wait for Him only. And in the silence of the soul God may speak. He has invited you to wait. Let your whole soul be intent upon Him. Wait for him only. It may be that God through the still small voice will make Himself known. Wait in silence upon God.
To some Christians this is no new doctrine. They know what it is to commune with God. They have had precious seasons alone with Him. They have learned to wait in silence. And precious have been the revelations which have come to them.
To others, however, this may be a new experience. They have learned to pray, but they have not learned to wait in silence upon God. Meditation as a part of prayer has not been important to them. They have conceived of prayer as a certain form of words reverently addressed to the Father in heaven. With their "Amen" the communion is at an end. And so indeed it may be, though God does not intend it thus. Amen may mean the end of man's speaking, but it should not be the end of the interview. God invites us to wait in silence. He may wish to speak, or He may not. In any event, we are to wait. And as we wait, God may see fit at once to bring conviction to our minds.
Many are inclined to speak too much. We have all had experience with persons who come ostensibly to seek counsel, but who in reality come only to present their own views. They seem anxious for the interview, yet hardly an opportunity is afforded for any counsel, for they occupy the time themselves and seem satisfied when they have presented their story. When some measure of agreement with their view is elicited, they are content. The impression is distinct that they did not come for counsel, but to impart information.
So, too often, with prayer. The most important part is not our speaking to God, but God's speaking to us. True, God loves to have us pray. Our prayers are music to Him. We cannot tire Him. And yet, would it not be well to give God an opportunity to communicate with us? Would it not be well for us to have a listening attitude? Would it not be well for us to do exactly what we are counseled to do, wait in silence for God only? Surely God will not let us wait in vain. Who has not felt the tremendous power of the few moments of silence after the benediction? Who has not felt the presence of God in the stillness of the sanctuary? It would be well for us to explore the power of the realm of silence. God is there.
There is always danger of going to extremes. There are those who reject or think lightly of the instruction given in the Bible and depend almost wholly on impressions. Such are in great danger. We believe that God will lead those who are willing to be led, but we believe also that such leading will always be in harmony with God's revealed will, and will not in any way contradict the written word. Wonderful as is the privilege of communing with God, and wonderful as is the privilege of meditation, there is danger of their misuse. Especially should the younger Christians be on their guard. Only long experience in the things of God, backed by a life of obedience to God's will, enables one to judge the processes of the mind. Satan is ever near to suggest his own thoughts, and spiritual discernment is needed to know the voice speaking. This, however, should not cause even young Christians to omit meditation. Far from it. God is ever near, to help and guide, and we may believe that the quiet hour spent with God will yield large results for the kingdom. We are only issuing a warning to such as would be led by a voice speaking to the soul and neglect the voice speaking through the Word.
In the sanctuary of old, sacrifice and prayer were combined. Sacrifice stood for sorrow for sin, repentance, confession, restitution. When the lamb was placed on the altar, the repentant sinner in type laid himself and his all on the altar. It signified his acceptance of the justice of the law that demanded a life, it signified his consecration to God. Without this attitude, the sacrifice of a lamb was only a mockery. So our prayers may be only a mockery unless we from a sincere heart abstain from sin and dedicate ourselves entirely to God. Prayer must have sincerity as a foundation and background. It must be grounded in repentance and godly sorrow for sin. It must be evidenced by confession and restitution. A prayer thus conditioned will not remain unanswered. God is true to His word.
ALL THE SERVICES OF THE SANCTUARY were performed with reference to the law of God kept in the ark in the inmost apartment of the tabernacle. It was when this law was broken, that sacrifices were to be brought. "If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which ought not to be done, and shall do against any of them: if the priest that is anointed do sin according to the sin of the people; then let him bring for his sin, which he hath sinned, a young bullock without blemish unto the Lord for a sin offering." Lev.4:2,3.
It was the transgression of "the commandments of the Lord" that necessitated the sacrificial system. It was sin against God's law that set in motion the entire ritual of the temple. Sin was the background of the morning and evening sacrifice, the services of the Day of Atonement, the offering of incense, and the individual sacrifices for personal sins. And sin is the transgression of the law.
John the beloved had a vision of the temple of God in heaven. In that temple he saw the law of God, "the ark of His testament." Rev.11:19. The law is central even in heaven. So much is this so, that the temple is called "the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony," not the temple of incense, or of blood, or even of the ark. It is "the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony," the temple of the law of God. Rev.15:5.
The most sacred city in Old Testament times was the city in which God had chosen to make His abode. The most sacred place in that city was the temple. The most sacred place in the temple was the place called the most holy. The most sacred object in the most holy was the ark within which were the tables of stone upon which God had written with His own finger the ten commandments, the law of life, the oracles of God. This law was the center around which the whole service revolved, the ground and reason of every ritual. Without the law, the temple service would be meaningless.
Law is an expression of character, a revelation of mind. For this reason, the law of God is important. It is a part of God, as it were. It reveals Him. It is a transcript of His character, a finite expression of the infinite. In it we are given a glimpse of the very mind of God; a view of that which is the foundation of His government. As God is perfect, so His law is perfect. As God is eternal, so the principles of the law are eternal. As God is unchangeable, so the law is unchangeable. This must of necessity be so. The law, being a transcript of the character of God, cannot be changed unless a corresponding change takes place in God. But God does not change. "I am the Lord, I change not." Mal.3:6. With God there "is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." James 1:17. He is "the same yesterday, and today, and forever." Heb.13:8.
The law of God as contained in the ten commandments has always been a fruitful field of study for God's children. Numerous are the references in the Bible to the delight which the saints of God have found in looking into the perfect law of liberty. Far from its being a task, they have regarded it a pleasure to contemplate the deep things of God. Hear the psalmist: "I love Thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold." "Thy testimonies are wonderful." "Thou through Thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for Thy testimonies are my meditation." "I have seen an end of all perfection: but Thy commandment is exceeding broad." Ps.119:127,129,98,99,96.
The ten commandments were first proclaimed by God at Sinai, and then written by Him on two tables of stone. Ex.20; 24:12; 31:18. These tables were placed in the ark in the most holy place of the sanctuary, directly under the mercy seat and covered by it. Ex.25:16, 21. The writing contained on them, as recorded in the King James Version of the English Bible, is as follows:
"I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
1. "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
2. "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me, and keep My commandments.
3. "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain.
4. "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.
5. "Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
6. "Thou shalt not kill.
7. "Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8. "Thou shalt not steal.
9. "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
10. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's." Ex.20:2-17.
The ten commandments are not arbitrary decrees imposed upon unwilling subjects. They are rather the law of life without which national existence, personal security, human liberty, or even civilization is possible. This will become more patent as we proceed.
The commandments are divided into two sections, the one section -- the first four commandments -- defining man's duty to God, and the other section -- the last six commandments -- defining man's duty to his fellow men. Christ recognized this division when He stated that the two great principles of the law are love to God and love to man. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." Matt.22:37-40.
The occasion for the proclamation by God of His law at Sinai, was His entering into covenant relation with Israel. God had selected Israel to be His people. He had brought them out of Egypt and was about to bring them into the Promised Land. He had promised to bless them and to make of them a holy nation and a royal priesthood. These promises, however, were subject to their acceptance and cooperation. God had promised to do much for them. Would they on their part love and obey God? Would they faithfully observe the provisions of the covenant? They had been acquainted in a general way with the law of God. But now God proclaims it to them from heaven, so there can be no doubt as to what is expected of them. Holiness must not be left to private interpretation. God gives a standard of righteousness. That standard is perfect. "The law is holy, and just, and good." It is an expression of God's will concerning man. It is the perfect rule and contains the whole duty of man.
It is a matter of some perplexity to find Christians opposed to the law of God. What possible objection can they have to a law that enjoins love to God and man, that frowns on evil and encourages good? What possible objection can they have to a law the author of which is Jehovah, the end of which is holiness, and which is enshrined in the sanctuary of God? Sinners might be expected to oppose it, for it exposes and condemns sin. But Christians are on another level. With the psalmist, they cry out: "O how love I Thy law! it is my meditation all the day." Ps.119:97
As law in general is the foundation of government, so the law of God is the foundation of God's government. Ten short, clear-cut statements proclaim the entire duty of man. As a constitution, it is complete, concise, perfect. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. Law is emblematic of security, stability, faithfulness, uniformity, equality. Absence of law means chaos with its attendant evils. The world is built on law, the universe is obedient to it. Infraction of universal law would mean annihilation of the creation of God. Every part is related to every other part, and what happens in one place reverberates to the ends of the universe. This makes universal law necessary. One law must control wherever creation exists. Two conflicting laws would bring disaster.
The one fundamental moral law of the universe is the law of God, embodied from eternity in the two great principles of love to God and love to man. These principles were amplified and applied to humanity, and the ten commandments were proclaimed, for man's guidance, at Mt. Sinai. They constitute the basic law of life and existence. As has been stated before, they are not arbitrary requirements imposed for the sake of authority. They are such as God in His wise foresight saw were necessary if men were to live together, and human society become possible. And men's experiences have confirmed God's wisdom. The world has demonstrated that obedience to God's law is necessary to existence, to security, to life.
The great World War was a demonstration of this fact. Men laughed at the ten commandments. They made light of them. They began to kill and destroy one another. Each nation felt that should it win the war, great benefit would accrue not only to itself, but incidentally to the world. But the world has been disillusioned. It has learned that there is no profit in hatred, --or in killing. The World War was a forceful illustration of the folly of rejecting the commandments of God. Not only were millions maimed and killed, immense debts piled up, and general disaster imminent, but many were definitely convinced that a continuation of war would mean the end of civilization and national life. Men were appalled at the magnitude of the calamity facing them. They began to believe that the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill," was not an arbitrary decree, but one of the laws of life. Keep the commandments and live; reject them and die -- that was the lesson.
The same lesson is being taught nations today. Crime is rampant, aggressive, defiant. There have always been wicked men, but never on such a scale as today. Crime is now organized, in some cases carrying on what amounts to real war against society. In some cases, criminals are better armed and organized than the forces of law and order. It is only of late that governments have really awakened to the fact that they are face to face with disintegrating agencies that are bent on overthrowing civilization. They are now making every effort to stamp out the evil, but find it no easy task. It is costly; it is exhausting; it is at times discouraging; but it must be carried to a successful issue, or disaster will result. The governments' attempt to curtail graft, to eradicate vice, to stop racketeering, to uphold the sacredness of family relations, to compel honesty in public relations, and to protect property, is an admission on their part that God is right, that men ought not to lie, steal, or commit adultery; that the transgression of these commandments leads to disaster and disruption, and that the government is justified in taking any measures necessary to better conditions.
The whole movement to stamp out crime is a mighty testimony to the integrity and enduring value of the commandments of God. Men and governments are learning that crime does not pay; that crime is costly; that crime ruins and destroys. This is the lesson God wants them to learn. And they are finding out in their own way the value of obedience to law. Never has the world had such an object lesson in the cost of crime, the cost of transgression. The world itself both furnishes the material for the demonstration and pays the cost of it. This makes the lesson that much more effective.
Law is an expression of the will, nature, and character of the governing power. Any law that is not such an expression soon ceases to function and becomes obsolete. Human law is ordinarily the result of experience, of thought-out purpose based on the discovery of what is and should be, and an attempt to formulate into concise statements, rules for proper and appropriate conduct and procedure. It must have will as a basic factor, and be an expression of that will, and also of the nature and character of the lawgiver. Law therefore argues personality, and defines and reveals that personality.
The expression "law of nature," as ordinarily employed, is misleading, and should be used only in an accommodated sense. Properly speaking, there is no law of nature as such, for nature has no will or thought of its own, and no way of expressing such will or thought. What is generally meant by "law of nature" is the orderly process in which nature acts, a definite mode of sequence that is generally predictable. The Christian believes the laws of nature to be the laws of God, an expression of personal will, and does not endow nature with attributes belonging only to personality, to God.
A.H. Strong uses an illustration which points an important lesson. As the Christian sees a shaft turning a large and complicated piece of machinery, and in his attempts to find out what makes the shaft revolve, comes to a brick wall from which it protrudes and beyond which he cannot see and cannot go, he does not arrive at the conclusion that the shaft turns itself. He cannot see, he cannot prove, the existence of the engine beyond the brick wall that gives the shaft its power. But he knows it is there. Good sense tells him this. The mere scientist sees the shaft, and marvels at its inherent power. The Christian sees the shaft also. But he sees beyond it. He sees the invisible, and he knows that there is a hidden power behind the shaft. To him it is simple, clear, nothing mysterious. He only wonders that all cannot see what seems to him so evident. So likewise through nature he sees nature's God; and the laws of nature are to him merely the laws of God.
The law of God is a transcript of the divine nature, and as such is not "made" as human laws are made, any more than God is "made." The law cannot be said to have had a beginning any more than God had a beginning. Being a revelation of what He is its existence is coeval with God's. It can be changed only as God changes. It is not temporary, as God is not temporary. It is not an expression of arbitrary will, but a revelation of being. It is not local or confined to specific situations only, as God is not local. It is incapable of modification, representing as it does the unchangeable nature of God. It is immutable, holy, and good, because God is immutable, holy, and good. It is spiritual; it is just; it is universal. All this the law is and must be, being a transcript of the essential nature of God.
Besides the written moral law of God, there is an elemental law, imprinted in the very fibers of every moral creature, unwritten but authoritative. It existed before Sinai, and is also an expression and reflection of the moral nature of God, though it is not as clear as the written law. The heathen who "have not the law [in written form], do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves; which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another." Rom.2:14,15.
This unwritten law is so authoritative that God is justified in using it in the judgment. "For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law." Verse 12. The heathen "do by nature the things contained in the law," that is, they have an inherent sense of right and wrong, and by this they are judged. "These, having not the law, are a law unto themselves." According to the light they have, or might have had, they are judged.
This elemental law, though unwritten, has all the characteristics of the written law of God, and, in its field, is of equal authority. No man can violate natural law and expect to escape the consequences. The laws of nature are inviolable, and are administered without respect of persons. Whoever transgresses, be he prince or pauper, pays the penalty. A king who unknowingly or deliberately steps off into space when climbing a steep mountain incline, is crushed against the rocks below as surely as his lowliest subject. Men have learned the certainty of natural law and are trusting to its unfailing uniformity. They are convinced that the laws of physics, of mathematics, of stress, do not change overnight. So they plan, build, live, and work, depending on the surety of law. And God does not fail them. Men can depend on God and on His law in nature.
The unwritten moral law is just as sure. The conscience bears witness to a power higher than man's, a compelling power, an almost irresistible power. True, the moral law moving in higher realm than the physical may not be capable of the immediate demonstration, and the effects of transgression may not be as apparent as in the violation of physical law. But they are nevertheless as sure.
Not all violation of physical law is punished immediately. A man touches a highly charged live wire and is struck dead immediately. Another violates the law of his being in living and eating and does not note any immediate effect. Years after, the results become apparent. But though the results may be delayed, they are sure and inevitable. So with moral law. The results of transgressions may be delayed. But they are surely coming. They may not even be apparent in this life, but may be reserved for the judgment to come. But in any case, the results are sure and unavoidable -- but for the grace of God.
There is a reason for God's mode of action. If punishment were always meted out immediately, character building would be very much hindered if not made impossible. Every physical sin, however small, has in it the seed of death. If that death came immediately, there would of course be no opportunity for the person concerned to learn any lesson from the experience. Also, others, knowing that the result of disobedience was immediate death, would be deterred from transgression not from principle but from fear. To give men a chance to repent of physical sins and also to give them opportunity to do so uninfluenced by fear of immediate death, God must delay the consequences of transgression for a time. This He does, and the results justify the procedure.
This principle is even more applicable to the moral law. God must not execute punishment for the transgression of moral law immediately, lest He vitiate His plan and make salvation hard, if not impossible. Though at times it is true that "because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil," yet God must not immediately execute judgment lest He do more harm than good. God knows what He is doing. He has set for Himself the task of saving men, and He goes about it in the best way possible.
The written law of God as contained in the ten commandments summarizes man's whole duty to God and to man. The God that made the law of nature is the same God who made the ten commandments. Both laws are given by God, and though they move in different realms, they are equally binding and cannot be transgressed with impunity. The law of God as written on two tables of stone, as well as in the heart of the believer, is in harmony with the general and unwritten law of God.
But nature nowhere indicates a definite day of rest. That appears in the written law of God. The heathen have perceptions of right and wrong, and their consciences accuse or excuse them. This does not seem to be the case, however, with the seventh-day Sabbath. There is nothing in nature to lead the mind to the observance of one day in seven, much less, a definite seventh day. This may require some study.
The Sabbath was instituted at creation. It was then "made for man." Mark 2:27. By His own example of resting, God sanctified the day and blessed it. Out of all the days of the week He chose one and set it apart for holy use. Henceforth it was blessed among days, sanctified by God Himself.
The choice of the particular day of the week was a distinct act of God which can be known only by revelation. Nature gives no clue whatever as to which day is the Sabbath, or indeed, to any Sabbath at all. The commandment to keep holy the seventh day is a pronouncement by the sovereign God, setting apart a particular day as holy time. While it seems fitting that the last day of creation week should be chosen as the day of rest, it is conceivable that Wednesday or any other day might serve the purpose as well, had the Creator so ordained. Thus choice of the seventh day rests not upon any fact in nature, but upon a positive command of God, unaccompanied by any sustaining elemental or natural law. It rests entirely upon a "Thus saith the Lord."
We believe there is a reason for this. We shall proceed with this study.
"REMEMBER THE SABBATH DAY, TO KEEP IT HOLY. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor they son, nor they daughter, thy manservant, nor they maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it." Ex.20:8-11.
If a person who had not previously known of the ten commandments should suddenly come face to face with them, he would at once be struck with their reasonableness and good sense. As he read the commandment, "Thou shalt not steal," he would agree that it is a good commandment. So with the commandments, "Thou shalt not kill," and, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." He would doubtless observe that most nations had similar laws and had found them necessary and good. He would be unable to find any fault with the law of God.
One thing, however, might be puzzling to him. Why should the seventh day be considered holy? He would be able to see reason for the other commandments, but the Sabbath commandment would seem arbitrary. From a health viewpoint every fifth or sixth day, or eighth or tenth day, would serve as well. And anyway, why select the seventh day of the week rather than just one seventh part of the time? The other commandments are reasonable, he would think, but the Sabbath commandment is of a different nature. It is not grounded in nature or human relations, but is an arbitrary decree without sufficient reason for obedience or enforcement.
The writer once had a conversation with a person in which the arguments here set forth were advanced. The person in question was well educated. The conversation turned upon the law of God, especially the Sabbath commandment. His argument ran somewhat as follows:
"I appreciate the contribution your denomination is making toward law and order. In an age such as this, in which crime and lawlessness prevail, we must depend on the churches to stand stiffly for righteousness. I am sorry to note that some of the churches are not doing this. They are making light of the law of God, and this cannot but react in civil affairs. If God's law can be ignored with impunity, it is easy to take a like attitude toward civil law. I am glad, therefore, that you are preaching the law as well as the gospel. Both are needed.
"There is one thing, however, in which I believe you are mistaken. You are keeping the seventh day, and you believe that God requires you to do this. Though I honor your belief and think you are honest, I also think you are mistaken. I have given some study to the question, and I believe that God's will and intent could be served just as well by your keeping the first day of the week as by your keeping the last; and it would be a great deal easier for you, and your influence would be enhanced. While I personally believe that it is immaterial whether I keep one day or another, or no day at all, I honor those who do. But I do think you are mistaken in believing that you must keep the seventh day. God does not require it of you. The most He could expect would be for you to keep one day in seven.
"The Sabbath commandment is of a different nature from the other commandments. The fourth commandment stands alone in not being grounded in the nature of man as the other commandments are. If a group of men who had never heard of the ten commandments were to live together, they would soon evolve a series of laws for their own guidance. Heathen nations and savage tribes have rules against stealing, killing, and adultery. I believe that such primitive peoples would after a while construct a code of laws in conformity with the ten commandments; but I do not see how they could ever evolve a Sabbath law. There is nothing in nature that could guide them in such an undertaking. This I believe proves my contention that the Sabbath law is not founded on natural law, is not grounded in man's nature as are the other commandments, and that men sustain to that commandment a different relation from what they do to the others. I consider the other commandments binding, but not the Sabbath commandment."
To this, answer was given along the following line:
"Without admitting the truth of all your contentions, let us grant that the Sabbath commandment is on a different basis from that of the rest of the commandments, and that man unaided by revelation could never arrive at a belief in a seventh-day Sabbath.
"That the Sabbath commandment occupies a unique place in the law of God is, I believe, conceded by most students. It is the one commandment that deals with time. It has the distinction of declaring certain things right if done at a stated time, and the same things wrong if done at another time. It creates wrong and right by definition without any discernible reason grounded in nature. In that it is different from the other commandments.
"It was this commandment which God selected in olden times to be the test commandment. Before the law was publicly proclaimed at Sinai, 'Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: and the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into the wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.' Ex.16:2,3. The situation was critical. Something had to be done. 'Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in My law, or no.' Verse 4.
"The gathering and the preparation of the bread which the Lord sent from heaven constituted the test for Israel to 'prove them, whether they will walk in My law or no.' Every day they were to gather enough for the day's need, but on the sixth day they were to gather twice as much, so as to have enough to last them over the Sabbath. While the manna ordinarily would not keep fresh more than one day, on the sixth day God miraculously preserved the manna from corruption. So 'On the sixth day they gather twice as much bread.' Verse 22. 'And he said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord: bake that which ye will bake today and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning. And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein. And Moses said, Eat that today; for today is a Sabbath unto the Lord: today ye shall not find it in the field. Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the Sabbath, in it there shall be none.' Ex.16:23-26.
"Some of the people were not satisfied, however. They went out 'on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. And the Lord said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep My commandments, and My laws? See, for that the Lord hath given you the Sabbath, therefore He giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. So the people rested on the seventh day.' Verses 27-30.
"Of all the commandments God chose the fourth as the test commandment. When He wanted 'to prove them, whether they will walk in My law or no,' He told them to gather manna each day sufficient for their need, twice as much on the sixth day, and none on the seventh. That was the test. When they disobeyed, it was not merely the Sabbath they broke; it was the whole law. 'How long refuse ye to keep My commandments and My laws?' God said. Not, 'Why do ye not keep the Sabbath?' The question was larger than that. It involved the whole law. The keeping of the Sabbath was the test. If they kept that, they were obedient. If they broke it, they broke the whole law.
"It is to this and to later experiences that Ezekiel has reference when he quotes God as saying in the wilderness: 'I gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them.' Eze.20:12. The statement is here made that God's Sabbaths are a sign of sanctification. In verse twenty the Lord's Sabbaths are called 'a sign between Me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God.' In the first verse quoted the Sabbaths are called a sign of sanctification, in the second a sign 'that I am the Lord thy God.' In both they are called signs.
"It is interesting to note the connection in which these statements are made. The elders of Israel had come to inquire of the Lord, but the Lord declared emphatically that He would not be inquired of by them. Eze.20:3. He had spoken to them so many times, and they had not hearkened. Why should He communicate with them, when they refused to do what He commanded them? They were like their fathers, God said. The fathers had not been obedient, neither did these show any inclination to hearken. When Ezekiel feels inclined to plead for them, the Lord commands him to tell them plainly wherein they have failed. 'Cause them to know the abominations of their fathers,' the Lord says. Verse 4. This Ezekiel does by recounting to them the difficulty the Lord had in bringing Isreal out of Egypt into the Promised Land, and in getting them to keep His commandments, especially the fourth.
"While they were still in Egypt, God had commanded them to cast aside all idols. This they had not done. Nevertheless, God brought them out of Egypt into the wilderness and proclaimed to them His law. In that law He points out the Sabbath, saying that it is His sign of sanctification and that He wants them to keep it holy. 'But the house of Israel rebelled;... My Sabbaths they greatly polluted: then I said, I will pour out My fury upon them in the wilderness, to consume them.' Verse 13. God, however, decides not to consume them. On the other hand, He feels that He cannot 'bring them into the land which I had given them,...because they...polluted My Sabbaths.' Verses 15,16.
"God pleads with them: 'Walk ye not in the statutes of your fathers, neither observe their judgments, nor defile yourselves with their idols: I am the Lord your God; walk in My statutes, and keep My judgments, and do them. And hallow My Sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between Me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God.' But 'the children rebelled;...they polluted My Sabbaths: then I said, I will pour out My fury upon them, to accomplish My anger against them in the wilderness.' Verse 21. God decides that He will 'scatter them among the heathen, and disperse them through the countries; because they had not executed My judgments, but had despised My statutes, and had polluted My Sabbaths, and their eyes were after their fathers' idols.' Verses 23,24.
"Twice the statement is made that the children of Israel 'rebelled;...they polluted My Sabbaths.' God at last decides to 'purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against Me,' and to see to it that 'they shall not enter into the land of Israel.' Verse 38. The connection between 'rebels' and those that pollute the Sabbath seems quite intimate.
"No one can reverently read this chapter without coming to the conclusion that God makes much of the Sabbath, that it is a test, a sign, that it is selected above the other commandments as a proof of obedience. 'I will prove them,' God says, 'whether they will walk in My law or no.' The keeping of the Sabbath is the proof. It is the sign of sanctification. It is the sign that 'I am the Lord your God.'
"Just why did God select the Sabbath commandment as a test rather than one of the other commandments? Admitting the contention that the Sabbath rests upon a 'Thus saith the Lord' only, special prominence and significance is thereby given to it. The other commandments are founded not only on a decree of God, but also in the nature of man, a part of the elemental or natural law. One commandment is singled out from the rest, to stand as a test, a sign, that if a person obeys that, he is in harmony with the whole law.
"It is as if God should reason thus concerning the other nine commandments: I have given them My law. I have written it upon their hearts; it is traced in every fiber of their being. They know instinctively what is right and what is not. Their own conscience witnesses to the truthfulness of My law. There is one thing needful, however. The law is so plain, it is so evident to all that these basic commandments are necessary to existence, to peace and life, that men might fail to accept them as of divine origin. Some will contend that the nine commandments are so vital and evident that unaided by any divine direction, the people would of themselves be able to make a law comparable to Mine. They will boast that through the passing of the ages men have through experience arrived at the conclusion that it is not good to steal or lie or kill, and have evolved appropriate laws concerning such matters, and that these laws are not of divine origin, but are the result of human experiment and are definitely ingrained in the race. They will point with assurance to tribes and races who for centuries have been out of touch with civilization and yet have rules covering many points in the law. They will claim that this is proof that man unaided by any divine power can duplicate My law. They will assert that the law is not of divine origin, that men are simply following a law which their own experience teaches them is for the good of mankind.
"God continues: I will make one provision in My law that is not based on elemental or natural law; that does not have any correspondence in nature; that will be a definite command, and for which they will be unable to find any reason aside from My command. For the other commandments man can see a reason. They appeal to his good sense. But for this commandment there will be no other reason than My word. If they obey it, they obey Me. If they reject it they reject Me. I will make that commandment a test, a sign. I will make it a test of whether they will keep My law, or no. I will make it a sign that I am the Lord.
"I will make the Sabbath and ask them to observe it. There is nothing in all the world to indicate a sabbath of rest. If they keep the Sabbath commandment, it will be because I command it. I will make it a test and tell them so. This will prove whether they will walk in My law or no. The Sabbath will be My sign, My test of obedience. The seventh day, not one day in seven. Whoever keeps it, obeys Me. Whoever rejects it, rejects not only the Sabbath, but the whole law. More than that, when they reject the seventh day, they reject Me. The keeping of the seventh-day Sabbath is a sign that they accept Me as their God.
"In course of time there will arise men who will claim to be religious, but who in reality are leaning to their own understanding. Many of them will reject the story and the God of creation, substituting their own theories of how things came to be. While they were not present at creation when I spoke things into existence, they will pronounce learnedly of how it was done, rejecting My testimony as to the event. Some of them will definitely reject Me. Others will claim to believe in Me, and yet when it comes to a conflict between My word and their findings, they will reject My word and accept their own theories. Rejecting the story of creation, they will naturally reject the memorial of creation, the Sabbath. They will not accept that which they cannot reason out. Their own mind is their final source of authority. I will give them a test which will show whether they believe in Me or not. I will prove them, whether they will really walk in My law or no. If they accept My sign, My test, My Sabbath, they acknowledge in that acceptance a mind higher than their own. If they reject My Sabbath, they reject Me, My word, My law. I will make the Sabbath the test.
"Men will understand the challenge. They will not be able to evade the issue. They will clearly see that in the acceptance of the Sabbath they must and do accept My word by faith, rather than by their own reasoning. The keeping of the Sabbath rests upon faith only. Men cannot reason it out upon the basis of human experience or research. If they accept the Sabbath at all, they accept it because of their faith in Me. "The evil one, My adversary, will make every effort to destroy the faith of My people. He will attempt to counterfeit My work. He will advocate a spurious day of rest, and make it more convenient and popular than the day I chose at creation. And he will succeed with a large number of people who will accept him in preference to Me. He will challenge My day of rest and rally the people under his banner. The people will have a clear-cut issue before them. It will be a question of My Sabbath and My word on the one hand, and the spurious Sabbath of My adversary on the other hand. I have My sign. He has his. It will be for each one to choose under which banner he will stand.
"Knowing the end from the beginning, I have deliberately chosen the Sabbath as the test, to prove whether men will walk in My law, or no. This is why I have placed it in the bosom of the law. This also explains why I have chosen not to connect it with natural law. It stands absolutely alone and rests only upon My word. I have made it the test commandment."
It is not our contention that God passed through such a process of thought as is here suggested. He knows all things. For good and sufficient reasons He gave the Sabbath as a sign, a test. We believe we can see some reasons for this. It behooves us to place ourselves wholeheartedly on God's side in this important matter.
The Sabbath commandment has a vital bearing on the atonement. It was with reference to the transgression of the law that the blood was sprinkled in the sanctuary service. It was when one had done "somewhat against any of the commandments of the Lord" that he needed atonement. Lev.4:27. Does the transgression of the Sabbath commandment constitute "somewhat" against one of the commandments? Numbers 15 contains a lesson in point.
The Lord, speaking to Israel, says: "If ye have erred and not observed all these commandments which the Lord hath spoken unto Moses,...it shall be forgiven all the congregation of the children of Israel, and the stranger that sojourneth among them; seeing all the people were in ignorance." Num.15:22-26.
Any sin which Israel or the stranger might do ignorantly should be forgiven. "Ye shall have one law for him that sinneth through ignorance, both for him that is born among the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them." Verse 29.
If a man sinned willfully, he was treated differently. "The soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hath broken His commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him." Verses 30,31.
An illustration follows as to what is meant by sinning "presumptuously:" A man was found gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. The leaders were uncertain what should be done, and so "they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him." Verse 34. The Lord did not long keep them in suspense. "The Lord said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the Lord commanded Moses." Verses 35,36.
God had proclaimed to Israel His commandments. He had told them to remember the Sabbath day. He had announced that it was His test whether they would walk in His law or no. There was no excuse. When the man went out gathering sticks on the Sabbath, he was not in ignorance. He was rebellious. He "despised the word of the Lord." He broke the commandments. There was but one law for him. He had sinned presumptuously.
It is one thing for men on earth lightly to think to change the day of the Sabbath. It is another thing for them to touch the eternal law of God, which is the foundation of His throne in heaven above. These commandments constitute the basis and ground of the atonement. A copy of them was kept in the sacred ark in the most holy place in the sanctuary on earth. None but the high priest could ever enter the most holy. The law was the very foundation of God's throne and government. When on a certain occasion a man touched the ark, he was immediately smitten. 1Chron.13:9,10. What would have happened should he have put his hand into the ark and attempted to change God's writing on the tables! Yet men impiously consider such a possibility! They forget God's holiness and the sacredness of the law, not to mention the impossibility of changing that which is engraved in stone, and that by God's own finger!
Is it possible that the law which is the ground of the atonement and which necessitated the death of the Lord, has been changed? If the Sabbath commandment has been changed, have others also been changed? Did Christ die for one thing in the Old Testament and for another in the New? Did God demand the death penalty for willful transgression of the Sabbath commandment the day before Christ died on the cross, and not the day after? Or was there a "neutral" zone as to the death penalty? There may be differences among Christians as to many things. Can there be any difference of opinion as to the need of atonement? Is Christ still our High Priest? If so, for what does He atone? Is the law still beneath the mercy seat in the ark?
Without the law the atonement becomes a farce, Christ's incarnation a pious fable, His death a miscarriage of justice, Gethsemane a tragedy. If the law -- or any of the commandments -- can be transgressed with impunity; if the law has been abrogated or its precepts changed; if the law as given by God Himself has ceased to be the standard in the judgment, then Christ's death becomes unnecessary, the Father Himself ceases to be the embodiment of justice and kindness, and Christ cannot escape the charge of being party to a deception. Let all Christians cry out against such doctrine! If the law is destroyed, the atonement is not needed, nor is Christ. Let the facts ever remain clear in all minds: Christ lived, suffered, died, and rose for us. We had sinned, transgressed the law, and were doomed to death. Christ saved us, not by doing away with law,--for then He would not have needed to die,--but by dying for us, thereby forever establishing the claims of the law. He now ministers His precious blood for us in the sanctuary above. He is our Advocate, our Surety, our High Priest. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. By faith in Him we are saved.
THE LAST CONFLICT
IN DANIEL 8:14 OCCURS A STATEMENT which now claims our attention. It reads: "Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed."
Any statement concerning the sanctuary is important. The text quoted above is particularly so. It states that at a certain time the sanctuary shall be cleansed. This is rather unusual, for the earthly sanctuary was cleansed every year, on the Day of Atonement. Why, then, should a certain time, twenty-three hundred days, elapse before this particular cleansing should take place?
The eighth chapter of Daniel contains an important prophecy. It describes a vision which Daniel had concerning a ram and a he-goat: "In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared unto me, even unto me Daniel, after that which appeared unto me at the first. And I saw in a vision; and it came to pass, when I saw, that I was at Shushan in the palace, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in a vision, and I was by the river of Ulai. Then I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and, behold, there stood before the river a ram which had two horns: and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last.
"And I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward; so that no beasts might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will, and became great. And as I was considering, behold, a he-goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground; and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes. And he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing before the river, and ran unto him in the fury of his power. And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns: and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him: and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand. Therefore the he-goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven." Dan.8:1-8.
The interpretation is given in verses 20, 21: "The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia. And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king."
Among commentators there is unanimity that the "great horn" is Alexander the Great. While he was yet "strong, the great horn was broken." Verse 8. In its place came up four others, denoting the four divisions of the Greek Empire at the death of Alexander. Verse 22. The part of the prophecy in which we are especially interested begins with verse nine. "Out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land. And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them. Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. And a host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practiced, and prospered. Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden underfoot? And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed."
It is evident that the prophecy turns upon the "little horn" which waxed "exceeding great." Alexander is "the great horn." Dan.8:21. The power symbolized by the little horn began in an inconspicuous way, but became "exceeding great." It is noteworthy what this horn does. It shall "destroy wonderfully" the people of God. Verse 24. This is done, not so much by war as "by peace." Verse 25. It is wise and crafty, and has a definite "policy." Verse 25. It is powerful, "but not by his own power," and shall "prosper, and practice." Verses 24,12. It is a proud power, for "he shall magnify himself in his heart," "yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host." Verses 25,11. It is a persecuting power, for it destroys "the mighty and the holy people," and a whole "host" is given him "to be trodden underfoot." Verses 24,10,13. It teaches false doctrines and it "cast down the truth to the ground." Verse 12. It wars against the truth; the sanctuary is "cast down" and "trodden underfoot," and this "by reason of transgression." Verses 11-13. The climax is reached when he stands "up against the Prince of princes." He is then "broken without hand." Verse 25. When Daniel saw all this in vision, it so affected him that he "fainted, and was sick certain days." He was "astonished at the vision," and neither he nor any one else understood it. Verse 27.
We are especially interested in the time mentioned in verse fourteen. The conversation carried on between the two angels was evidently for Daniel's benefit. The vision of the ram and the he-goat seems to be related merely to lead up to the story of the little horn that became "exceeding great." When Daniel saw the persecutions carried on by this power, and how it should prosper by crafty methods and magnify itself and "destroy wonderfully," he naturally wondered how long this would continue. In the conversation of the angels he is told that there is to be a period of twenty-three hundred days during which time "both the sanctuary and the host" is "to be trodden underfoot," and this evil power will prosper.
How could this power "be mighty, but not by his own power"? That seems a contradiction in terms. How could it "cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground" and stamp upon them? How could it cast down the sanctuary and tread it underfoot? How could it "cast down the truth to the ground," and prosper in so doing? Yet all this it was to do. Verses 24,10-12,25. Daniel was astonished, and did not understand the vision.
But he was more than astonished. When he saw what this power would do to the sanctuary, to religion, to God's people, to the truth, he "was sick certain days." Verse 27. Here was a blasphemous power that would persecute God's people and attempt to destroy the truth, and prosper in so doing. Even the sanctuary would be cast down and trodden underfoot. The one ray of hope in the whole vision concerned the time. The sanctuary and the truth would not always be trodden underfoot. The truth would come into its own again. It would be vindicated. At the end of twenty-three hundred days the sanctuary would be cleansed. To that time God's people were to look.
This in itself, however, could not be of great comfort to Daniel. What did the twenty-three hundred days mean? When did they begin? When did they end? He did not understand. He began to study more earnestly than ever before. His study led him to understand "by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolation of Jerusalem. Dan.9:2. But he had as yet no light on the twenty-three hundred days. Had they anything to do with the end of the seventy years? Perhaps they began when that period ended? He did not know. And so he betook himself to prayer. He must have light on the question.
Some commentators hold that the little horn that became exceeding great stands for the kingdom of the Seleucidae, especially under such kings as Antiochus Epiphanes and Antiochus the Great. This view is open to serious objections. These kings did persecute. They were crafty, impious, proud. It can hardly be said, however, that they were such more than many others, before and since. It cannot be claimed that they were greater than Alexander the Great. Yet the vision demands this. Antiochus Epiphanes, whom many believe is especially referred to, was a persecutor; he did interfere with the sanctuary service; but he was not so outstanding as to merit the attention given the little horn in the vision. He did his little part in the drama for a few years and passed on, leaving no mark such as Alexander did, and would long ago have taken his place among the petty kings of the period had it not been for the persistent effort of commentators to give him undue prominence.
The vision in the eighth chapter of Daniel is not an isolated vision. Medo-Persia and Greece are not here spoken of for the first time. The seventh deals with a related subject and mentions the beasts which represent Medo-Persia and Greece, and also refers to a "little horn." The prophet says: "I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things." Dan.7:8. This little horn intrigued Daniel. He wanted to know more "of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows." Verse 20. He had seen that it "made war with the saints, and prevailed against them." Verse 21. He saw, moreover, that it should "speak great words against Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and, laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time." Verse 25. At last, however, "the judgment shall sit, and they shall take, away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end." Verse 26. The chapter ends: "Hitherto is the end of the matter. As for me Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart." Verse 28. It is easy to see that this prophecy deals in a general way with the same events as the prophecy in the eighth chapter.
Daniel was troubled by what he had seen. He had -- in the seventh chapter -- been brought face to face with a persecuting power that wore out the saints of the Most High, that spoke great words against God, that would think to change times and laws, that was diverse from other kings (verse 24), and that at last should be destroyed. This power was the "little horn" that had eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth that spoke great things. Who might that power be? Daniel did a great deal of thinking and was perplexed. "My cogitations much troubled me," he confesses. Verse 28. But he kept the matter in his heart. He was sure God had greater light. "Hitherto is the end of the matter," he said. The word "hitherto" is significant. Daniel does not say: "This is the end of the matter," but, "Hitherto is the end." That is, "This is the end so far. There is more to come. We stop now, but more is coming." That is the meaning of "hitherto." And more did come. The eighth chapter deals again with this power, and the ninth chapter has further explanation.
It is impossible to conceive of the little horn of Daniel 7 as Antiochus Epiphanes or any other Antiochus. Practically all Protestant commentators of the old school agree in referring it to the Papacy, in which it is seen to meet a complete fulfillment. How could it ever be true of any Antiochus that he "made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom"? Verses 21,22. Antiochus is long since dead. He ruled but a short time. Of what other power than the Papacy is it true that it wore out the saints of the Most High, or attempted to change times and laws? Are not the sagacity, the wisdom, the far-reaching policies of the Papacy, expressively suggested by the horn that had "eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things"? Verse 8. We believe we stand on solid exegetical ground when we hold that the little horn of Daniel 8 is Rome, first pagan, later papal, and the little horn of Daniel 7, the Papacy.
These considerations will help us in our attempt to establish the meaning of the twenty-three hundred days of Daniel 8:14. They occur in the midst of a prophecy dealing with a power that has existed longer than any other power on earth. Since this is part of a prophecy, doubtless prophetic time is here mentioned. If so, the twenty-three hundred days stand for twenty-three hundred years, according to well-established prophetic interpretation. "I have appointed thee each day for a year." Eze.4:6.
If we accept the view that the little horn of Daniel 8 refers to imperial Rome and the Roman Catholic Church, it becomes our duty to discover any possible connection between it and the sanctuary as mentioned in Daniel 8:14. To this study we shall now address ourselves.
The Roman Catholic Church is an attempt to reestablish the old theocracy of Israel with the accompanying sanctuary service. The Catholic Church has taken over the essential ritual from Judaism with certain ceremonials from paganism. It has an established sanctuary service with its priests, high priest, Levites, singers, and teachers. It has a sacrificial service culminating in the mass, with the accompanying ritual and offering of incense. It has its high days patterned after the Israelitish custom. It has its candles, its altar of incense, its table with the bread, and its high altar. The laver with holy water is in evidence; the daily mass is observed. The parallel between the old Israelitish religion and the Roman Catholic religion is almost complete.
All this would not be very important were it not for the fact that it constitutes an attempt to obscure the real work of Christ in the sanctuary above. When the Old Testament period closed, when Christ began His work in the heavenly sanctuary, it was God's intent that the sanctuary services on earth should cease. The veil of the temple was rent in twain, --and later the temple was entirely destroyed, --signifying the cessation of the service on earth and the inauguration of the service in heaven. Christ entered into a temple not built with hands. He entered into heaven itself, there to minister on our behalf. Men are invited to come to Him with their sins and receive forgiveness. The service in the earthly tabernacle had prepared men to look to the real sanctuary in heaven. The time had come for the transfer to be made.
The Catholic Church completely fails to understand or appreciate the work of our High Priest in heaven above. It fails to understand that the earthly sanctuary service was no longer of avail. It reestablished the old ceremonies and beliefs, and attempted to bring men back to a discarded ritual. And it succeeded in doing so to a large extent. "All the world wondered after the beast." Rev.13:3.
This, as has been noted above, tended to obscure the work of Christ. Men lost the knowledge of the sanctuary in heaven and of Christ's work there. Their attention was called to the rival work of His pretended vicar on earth. While Christ in heaven forgives sin, the priest on earth claims to do the same. While Christ intercedes for the sinner, so does the priest. And the terms of the priest for the forgiveness of sin are much more easily met than the terms of Christ. Men forgot entirely that there is a sanctuary in heaven. That truth was cast to the ground. Century after century rolled by and the church kept men in complete ignorance of the all-important work going on in heaven above, while it extolled its own wares and made merchandise of all that is most sacred. The Papacy thus in a real sense became a competitor, a rival of Christ. It attempted to supersede Him in the minds of men, and succeeded to a remarkable degree. It is the church's God-given work to call attention to Christ and the truth. It is the one agency God has to instruct men. When Christ ascended on high to begin His ministry in the sanctuary above, it was the duty and the privilege of the church to proclaim that news to the ends of the world. Henceforth, there were to be no more sacrifices on earth. That belonged to the old dispensation. The Levitical priesthood had also ceased. The veil was rent and a new and a living way opened for man. Men had free access to God and might appear boldly before the throne of grace without any human intercessor. All God's people had become a royal priesthood and henceforth no man was to step between a soul and its Maker. The way of access was opened to all.
That the Papacy had become a rival, a competitor of Christ, is no mere figure of speech. Consider the situation. Christ is our High Priest. On Calvary He died as the Lamb of God. He shed His blood in our behalf. The Mosaic sacrifices had been prophetic of this for centuries. Now the reality had come, of which the other had been shadows. As in the Old Testament the death of the lamb was not enough, but must be supplemented by the ministration of the priest as he sprinkled the blood on the altar or in the holy place, so with the death and blood of Christ. The blood having been provided, Christ became "a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man." Heb.8:2. Thus "Christ being come a high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." Heb.9:11,12.
The holy place here mentioned does not have reference to the tabernacle on earth. "For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." Heb.9:24. Before the presence of God Christ pleads and ministers His blood which not merely sanctifies "to the purifying of the flesh" as did the blood of bullocks and goats of old. "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" Heb.9:14. Any one who wishes to have his conscience purged may therefore with "boldness... enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, though the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and having a High Priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water." Heb.10:19-22. In the Old Testament none but the priest could enter the sanctuary. Now all may come. It is a "new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us."
This blessed new and living way it is the privilege and duty of the church to proclaim. Every one may come to Christ direct. Not as in the sanctuary on earth need a priest intervene. That is done away with. Every man may face his Maker direct without human interference. He may boldly enter through the veil.
But the Papacy thought and taught otherwise. It attempted to reestablish the Old Testament belief, that man can approach his Maker only through special representatives, such as the priests. Men were put farther from God than ever. The church closed the new and the living way opened by Christ, and had men approach God through the priesthood, who had to appeal to some patron saint who had influence with Mary, who had influence with Christ, who had influence with God. The whole system was an attempted reincarnation of the Mosaic ordinances which had definitely been abolished, and which were not to be compared to the new and living way of the New Testament.
What has been the result? Men have flocked to the Church of Rome and forsaken the sanctuary and the Minister of the sanctuary in heaven. The Roman church has effectively obscured the ministry of Christ, so much so that few Christians even know that there is a temple in heaven, much less that there is a service going on there. Day after day Christ stands waiting to minister His blood, hoping that men will find the new way. But very few come. On the other hand, millions flock to the Roman church, there to receive indulgence and forgiveness of sin on acceptable terms.
The Papacy has nearly succeeded in making of none effect Christ's ministry. It has inaugurated another ministry, established, not on the promises of the gospel, not on the new covenant basis, not on Christ as the High Priest, but on the vain promises of an earthly priesthood which itself needs forgiveness and the power of the atoning blood of Christ.
In saying that the Papacy has attempted to substitute a false mediatorial system for the true mediatorial work of Christ, we are well aware of the fact that the Roman Catholic Church believes in Christ's sacrifice on the cross, that He is man's advocate and intercessor and that through Him we are saved. On this the following statements are to the point:
nothing from which the faithful should derive greater joy than from the
reflection that Jesus Christ is constituted our advocate and intercessor with
the Father, with whom His influence and authority are supreme." "True, there is but one mediator, Christ the Lord, who
alone has reconciled us through His blood (1Tim.2:5), and who, having accomplished our redemption, and having once entered
into the holy of holies, ceases not to intercede for us. Heb.9:12;
--Catechism of the Council of Trent, pp.59,247, Rev. J. Donovan's translation, 1829 edition.
"We can go to God with all confidence, says St. Arnold, because the Son is our mediator with the eternal Father, and the mother is our mediatrix with her Son."--Glories of Mary, Alphonus Ligouri, Doctor of the Church, p.224, revised edition.
It is in the ministration of the blood, in the relationship existing between man and Christ, that the Papacy has attempted to erect a false system. Here saints, and especially Mary, have been interposed between the soul and God. This we believe to be a most serious perversion of truth, in that it interposes extramediatorial persons as necessary to approach God, when the Scriptures teach that there is "one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus." 1Tim.2:5. The Bible recognizes no other as mediator, and for the church to teach otherwise, is to make of none effect the truth of God.
There are thus two ministrations that promise men forgiveness and the blotting out of sins: That of Christ in heaven, and of the Papacy on earth. Each has a priesthood and accompanying service. Each claims full pardoning power. The Papacy boasts of having the keys of heaven. It can open or shut. It has a treasury of merits without which few can be saved. It is in possession of the "host," the holy mystery of God. It possesses an infallible head. It has power over purgatory. It can remit punishment. It claims authority over the kings of the earth. It acknowledges no superior. It is supreme.
All these claims would fall to the ground if men were only cognizant of the true ministry of Christ. A knowledge of the sanctuary truth is the only antidote to the false claims of the hierarchy of Rome. For this reason it is important to the Papacy that the sanctuary subject remain unknown. For this reason God has made His people the depositories of His truth concerning the sanctuary.
We need not go into detail concerning the mathematical problems of the twenty-three hundred days. The reader is referred to "The Great Controversy," by Ellen G. White, and other standard Adventist works. Suffice it to say that these days -- or rather years -- began 457 B.C. and ended 1844 A.D. At this latter date, the sanctuary should be cleansed.
It is evident that this cleansing cannot have reference to the sanctuary on earth. That was long ago destroyed and its service discontinued. It must therefore have reference to the sanctuary in heaven, which indeed is spoken of as being cleansed "with better sacrifices than" those of the Old Testament. Heb.9:23.
We have already discussed in detail the matter of the cleansing of the sanctuary on earth. This cleansing was a type of the cleansing of the sanctuary in heaven. As the priests served in the first apartment of the tabernacle every day of the year until the great Day of Atonement, so Christ ministered in the first apartment of the heavenly sanctuary until the time of its cleansing. That time was 1844. Then Christ entered upon the final phase of His ministry. Then He entered the most holy. Then the hour of judgment began, otherwise called the investigative judgment. When that work is done, probation ceases and Christ comes. We would at this time call attention to the word "cleansed" as used in Daniel 8:14. In Hebrews it is tsadaq, and is translated "justified," to become or be counted righteous. Some translate: "Then shall the sanctuary be justified." Others, "Then shall the sanctuary be vindicated." Others again, "Then shall the sanctuary come into its own again." The word contains the idea of restoration as well as of cleansing.
These meanings of the word are significant in view of the fact that the subject of the sanctuary has been trodden underfoot and the truth cast to the ground. Shall the time ever come when the subject of the sanctuary shall again be given its rightful place, when God shall vindicate His truth, and error and secret machination be uncovered? Yes, answers prophecy, the time shall come; an evil power shall arise that will persecute God's people, obscure the sanctuary question, cast truth to the ground, and prosper in doing it. It shall set up its own system in competition with God's, attempt to change the law, and by its crafty policy deceive many. But it shall be unmasked. At the end of the twenty-three hundred days a people shall arise who will have light on the sanctuary question, who follow Christ by faith into the most holy, who have the solution to break the power of the mystery of iniquity, and who go forth to battle for God's truth. Such a people is invincible. It will proclaim the truth fearlessly. It will make the supreme contribution in its advocacy of the sanctuary truth. It will "build the old waste places;" it will "raise up the foundation of many generations;" it shall "be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in." Isa.58:12.
The final controversies will be clear-cut. All will understand the issues and the consequences. The chief point will be the worship of the beast or the worship of God. In this controversy the temple of God will be opened in heaven, and men will see "in His temple the ark of His testament." Rev.11:19. God's people on earth will have a part in showing men the opened temple. On the other hand, the apostate church will blaspheme "against God... blaspheme His name, and His tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven." Rev.13:6.
It is a special privilege to be permitted to have a part in such a work as this. But if we are to conquer, we must know where we stand and why. May God give us grace to be found faithful.
THE LAST GENERATION
THE FINAL DEMONSTRATION OF WHAT THE gospel can do in and for humanity is still in the future. Christ showed the way. He took a human body, and in that body demonstrated the power of God. Men are to follow His example and prove that what God did in Christ, He can do in every human being who submits to Him. The world is awaiting this demonstration. Rom.8:19. When it has been accomplished, the end will come. God will have fulfilled His plan. He will have shown Himself true and Satan a liar. His government will stand vindicated.
There is much spurious doctrine concerning holiness taught in the world today. On the one hand are those who deny the power of God to save from sin. On the other hand are those who flaunt their sanctity before men and would have us believe that they are without sin. Among the first class are not only unbelievers and skeptics, but church members whose vision does not include victory over sin, but who accept a kind of compromise with sin. In the other class are such as have no just conception either of sin or of God's holiness, whose spiritual vision is so impaired that they cannot see their own shortcomings, and hence believe themselves perfect, and whose conception of religion is such that their own understanding of truth and righteousness is superior to that revealed in the word. It is not easy to decide which is the greater error.
That the Bible inculcates holiness is indisputable. "The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1Thess.5:23. "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." Heb.12:14. "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification." 1Thess.4:3. The Greek word hagios in its various forms is translated "sanctify," "holy," "holiness," "sanctified," "sanctification." It is the same word which is used for the two apartments of the sanctuary, and means that which is set apart for God. A sanctified person is one who is set apart for God, whose whole life is dedicated to Him.
The plan of salvation must of necessity include not only forgiveness of sin, but complete restoration. Salvation from sin is more than forgiveness of sin. Forgiveness presupposes sin and is conditional upon breaking with it; sanctification is apart from sin and indicates deliverance from its power and victory over it. The first is a means to neutralize the effect of sin; the second is a restoration of power for complete victory.
Sin, like some diseases, leaves man in a deplorable condition, --weak, despondent, disheartened. He has little control of his mind, his will fails him, and with the best of intentions he is unable to do what he knows to be right. He feels that there is no hope. He knows that he has himself to blame, and remorse fills his soul. To his bodily ailments is added the torture of conscience. He knows he has sinned and is to blame. Will no one take pity on him?
Then comes the gospel. The good news is preached to him. Though his sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. All is forgiven. He is "saved." What a wonderful deliverance it is! His mind is at rest. No longer does his conscience torment him. He has been forgiven. His sins are cast into the depths of the sea. His heart wells with praise to God for His mercy and goodness to him.
As a disabled ship towed to port is safe but not sound, so the man is "saved" but not sound. Repairs need to be made on the ship before it is pronounced seaworthy, and the man needs reconstruction before he is fully restored. This process of restoration is called sanctification, and includes in its finished product body, soul, and spirit. When the work is finished, the man is "holy," completely sanctified, and restored to the image of God. It is for this demonstration of what the gospel can do for a man that the world is looking.
In the Bible, both the process and the finished work are spoken of as sanctification. For this reason the "brethren" are spoken of as holy and sanctified, though they have not attained to perfection. 1Cor.1:2; 2Cor.1:1; Heb.3:1. A glance through the epistles to the Corinthians will soon convince one that the saints mentioned had their faults. Despite this, they are said to be "sanctified" and "called to be saints." The reason is that complete sanctification is not the work of a day or a year, but of a lifetime. It begins the moment a person is converted, and continues through life. Every victory hastens the process. There are few Christians who have not gained the mastery over some sin that formerly greatly annoyed them and overcame them. Many a man who has been a slave to the tobacco habit has gained the victory over the habit and rejoices in his victory. Tobacco has ceased to be a temptation. It attracts him no more. He has the victory. On that point he is sanctified. As he has been victorious over one besetment, so he is to become victorious over every sin. When the work is completed, when he has gained the victory over pride, ambition, love of the world,--over all evil,--he is ready for translation. He has been tried in all points. The evil one has come and has found nothing. Satan has no more temptations for him. He has overcome them all. He stands without fault even before the throne of God. Christ places His seal upon him. He is safe, and he is sound. God has finished His work in him. The demonstration of what God can do with humanity is complete.
Thus it shall be with the last generation of men living on the earth. Through them, God's final demonstration of what He can do with humanity will be given. He will take the weakest of the weak, those bearing all the sins of their forefathers, and in them show the power of God. They will be subjected to every temptation, but they will not yield. They will demonstrate that it is possible to live without sin--the very demonstration for which the world has been looking and for which God has been preparing. It will become evident to all that the gospel really can save to the uttermost. God is found true in His sayings.
The last year brings the final test; but this only proves to angels and to the world that nothing that the evil one can do will shake God's chosen ones. The plagues fall, destruction is on every hand, death stares them in the face, but like Job, they hold fast their integrity. Nothing can make them sin. They "keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." Rev.14:12.
Throughout the history of the world, God has had His faithful ones. They have endured affliction even in the midst of great tribulation. And even in the midst of Satan's buffetings they have, as the apostle Paul says, through faith "wrought righteousness." "They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth." Heb.11:37.
And in addition to this galaxy of faithful witnesses, many of whom were martyrs for their faith, God will have in the last days a remnant, a "little flock" as it were, in and through whom He will give to the universe a demonstration of His love, His power, His justice, which, if we except Christ's godly life on earth and His supreme sacrifice on Calvary, will be the most sweeping and conclusive demonstration of all the ages.
It is in the last generation of men living on the earth that God's power unto sanctification will stand fully revealed. The demonstration of that power is God's vindication. It clears Him of any and all charges which Satan has placed against Him. In the last generation God is vindicated and Satan defeated. This may need some further amplification. The rebellion which took place in heaven and introduced sin into the universe of God, must have been a fearful experience both for God and for the angels. Up to a certain point, all had been peace and harmony. Discord was unknown; only love prevailed. Then unholy ambitions stirred the heart of Lucifer. He decided that he wanted to be like the Most High. He would exalt his throne above the stars of God. Not only that, but he also intended to sit "upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north." Isa.14:12-14. This statement is tantamount to an attempt to depose God and usurp His place. It is a declaration of war. Where God sat, Satan would sit. God accepted the challenge.
We have no direct biblical statement as to the means used by Satan in winning over to his side a multitude of angels. That he lied is clear. That he was a murderer from the beginning is likewise indisputable. John 8:44. As murder has its beginning in hatred, and as this hatred found its fruition in the killing of the Son of God on Calvary, we may believe that Satan's hatred was not only directed against God the Father, but also--and perhaps especially -- against God the Son. In his rebellion, Satan went farther than a mere threat. He actually did set up his throne, saying, "I am a God, I sit in the seat of God." Exe.28:2.
When Satan thus established his government in heaven, the issue was clear-cut. None of the angels could be in doubt any more. All must take their stand for or against Satan.
In case of rebellion there is always some grievance, real or fancied, given as the cause. Dissatisfaction arises in some, and failing to get matters remedied, these resort to rebellion. Those who sympathize with the rebel cause join it. The others remain loyal to the government, and must of course take their chance on its survival.
It apparently came to just such a pass in heaven. The result was war. "There was war in heaven: Michael and His angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels." Rev.12:7. The outcome could have been fore- seen. Satan and his angels "prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him." Verses 8,9.
Satan was defeated, but not destroyed. By his act of rebellion he had declared God's government at fault, and by the setting up of his own throne he had made claim to greater wisdom or justice than God. These claims are inherent in rebellion and in the establishment of another government. God could ill afford not to give Satan an opportunity to demonstrate his theories. To remove every doubt in the minds of the angels -- and later of man -- God must let Satan go on with his work. And so Satan was permitted to live and set up his government. For the last six thousand years he has been giving the universe a demonstration of what he will do when he has the opportunity.
This demonstration has been permitted to continue until now. And what a demonstration it has been! From the time when Cain killed Abel there have been hatred, blood-shed, cruelty, and oppression in the earth. Virtue, goodness, and justice have suffered; vice, vileness, and corruption have triumphed. The just man has been made a prey; God's messengers have been tortured and killed; God's law has been trampled in the dust. When God sent His Son, instead of honoring Him, evil men, under the instigation of Satan, hanged Him on a tree. Even then God did not destroy Satan. The demonstration must be complete. Only when the last events are taking place, and men are on the point of exterminating one another, will God interfere to save His own. There will then remain no doubt in the mind of any one that had Satan the power, he would destroy every vestige of goodness, hurl God from the throne, murder the Son of God, and establish a kingdom of violence founded in self-seeking and cruel ambition.
What Satan has been demonstrating is really his character, and the lengths to which selfish ambition will lead. In the beginning he wanted to be like God. He was dissatisfied with his position as the highest of created beings. He wanted to be God. And the demonstration has shown that oftentimes when a person has set his mind upon a selfish goal, he will stop short of nothing to attain it. Whoever stands in the way must be put out of the way. If it be God Himself, He must be removed.
The demonstration also teaches that high position is not satisfactory to the ambitious individual. He must have the highest, and even then he is not satisfied. A person in a lowly position is tempted to believe that he would be satisfied if his position were improved. He is at least sure that he would be satisfied if he had the highest position possible. But would he? Lucifer was not. He had the highest position possible. But he was not satisfied. He wanted one still higher. He wanted to be God Himself.
In this respect the contrast between Christ and Satan is very pronounced. Satan wanted to be God. He wanted it so much that he was willing to do anything to attain his goal. Christ, on the other hand, did not consider it a thing to be grasped to be like God. He voluntarily humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. He was God, and He became man. And that this was not a temporary arrangement only for the purpose of showing His willingness, is evidenced by the fact that He will ever remain man. Satan exalted himself; Christ humbled Himself. Satan wanted to become God; Christ became man. Satan wanted to sit as God on a throne; Christ, as a servant, knelt to wash the disciples' feet. The contrast is complete.
In heaven, Lucifer had been one of the covering cherubs. Eze.28:14. This seems to refer to the two angels who in the most holy apartment of the sanctuary stood on the ark, covering the mercy seat. This was doubtless the highest office an angel could occupy, for the ark and the mercy seat were in the immediate presence of God. These angels were the special guardians of the law. They watched over it, as it were. Lucifer was one of them.
Ezekiel 28:12 contains an interesting statement concerning Lucifer: "Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty." The expression to which we would call attention is: "Thou sealest up the sum." The meaning of this is not entirely clear. The reading is capable of varied interpretations. It seems evident, however, that the intent is to show the high position and exalted privilege that was Satan's before he fell. He was a kind of prime minister, a keeper of the seal.
As in an earthly government a document or law must have the seal attached to it in order to be valid, so in God's government a seal is used. God seems to have apportioned to the angels their work, the same as He has given to man his work. One angel is in charge of the fire. Rev.14:18. Another angel has charge of the waters. Rev.16:5. Another has charge of "the seal of the living God." Rev.7:2. While, as stated above, the reading of Ezekiel 28:12 is not entirely clear, some feel justified in translating it: "Thou attacheth the seal to the ordinance. " If this position is tenable, if Lucifer was prime minister and keeper of the seal, it gives an additional reason why he should wish to substitute his own mark for that of God's seal when he left his first abode.
That Satan has been very active against the law is evident. If God's law is His character, and if this character is the very opposite of Satan's, Satan stands condemned by it. Christ and the law are one. Christ is the law lived out, the law becomes flesh. For this reason His life constitutes a condemnation. When Satan warred against Christ, he warred also against the law. When he hated the law, he also hated Christ. Christ and the law are inseparable.
An interesting statement is found in the fortieth psalm. Christ speaking, says, "I delight to do Thy will, O my God: yea, Thy law is within My heart." Verse 8. While this is doubtless a poetical expression and should not be pressed too far, it is interesting, nevertheless, as an indication of the exalted position of the law. "Thy law is within My heart." A stab at the law is a stab at the heart of Christ. A stab at the heart of Christ is a stab at the law. At the cross Satan so intended it. But God meant it otherwise. The death of Christ was a tribute to the law. It immeasurably magnified the law and made it honorable. It gave men a new vision of its sacredness and worth. If God would let His Son die; if Christ would willingly give Himself, rather than abrogate the law; if it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one jot or tittle of the law to fail, how very sacred and honorable the law must be!
When Christ died on the cross He had demonstrated in His life the possibility of keeping the law. Satan had not succeeded in leading Christ into sin. Possibly he did not expect to be able to do that. But if he could have induced Christ to use His divine power to save Himself, He would have accomplished much. Had Christ done so, Satan could have claimed that this invalidated the demonstration God intended to make, namely, that it was possible for man to keep the law. As it was, Satan was defeated. But till the very last, he continued the same tactics. Judas hoped Christ would free Himself, thus using His divine power to save Himself. On the cross Christ was taunted: "He saved others; Himself He cannot save." But Christ did not falter. He could have saved Himself, but He did not. Satan was baffled. He could not understand. But he knew that when Christ died without his having been able to make Him sin, his own doom was sealed. In His death Christ was victor.
But Satan did not give up. He had failed in his conflict with Christ, but he might yet succeed with men. So he went to "make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." Rev.12:17. If he could overcome them, he might not be defeated.
The demonstration which God intends to make with the last generation on earth, means much both to the people and to God. Can God's law really be kept? That is a vital question. Many will deny that it can be done; others will glibly say it can. When the whole question of commandment keeping is considered, the problem assumes large proportions. God's law is exceedingly broad; it takes cognizance of the thoughts and intents of the heart. It judges motives as well as acts, thoughts as well as words. Commandment keeping means entire sanctification, a holy life, unswerving allegiance to right, entire separation from sin, and victory over it. Well may mortal man cry out, Who is sufficient for these things!
Yet this is the task which God has set Himself and which He expects to accomplish. When the statement and challenge is issued by Satan: "No one can keep the law. It is impossible. If there be any that can do it or that have done it, show them to me. Where are they that can keep the commandments?" God will quietly answer, Here they are. "Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." Rev.14:12.
Let us say it reverently: God must meet Satan's challenge. It is not part of God's plan, or a part of His purpose, to subject men to tests that only a chosen few can survive. In the Garden of Eden God could think of no easier test than the one He devised. No one will ever be justified in saying that our first parents fell because the test was too hard for them. It was the lightest test conceivable. If they fell, it was not because they had not been provided with strength to resist. The temptation was not held before them constantly. Satan was not permitted to molest them everywhere. He could have access to them only at one place, namely, at the tree of knowledge. That place they knew. They could stay away from it if they wanted to. Satan could not follow them. If they went where he was, it was because they wanted to. But even if they went there to examine the tree, they need not remain there. They could walk away. Even if Satan offered them the fruit, they need not take it. But they took it and ate. And they ate it because they wanted to, not because they had to. They deliberately transgressed. There was no excuse. God could not have devised an easier test.
When God commands men to keep His law, it does not serve the purpose He has in mind to have only a few men keep it, just enough to show it can be done. It is not in line with God's character to pick outstanding men of strong pur- pose and superb training, and demonstrate through them what He can do. It is much more in harmony with His plan to make His requirements such that even the weakest need not fail, so that none can ever say that God demands that which can be done by only a few. It is for this reason that God has reserved His greatest demonstration for the last generation. This generation bears the results of accumulated sins. If any are weak, they are. If any suffer from inherited tendencies, they do. If any have an excuse because of weakness of any kind, they have. If therefore these can keep the commandments, there is no excuse for any one in any other generation not doing so also.
But this is not enough. God intends in His demonstration to show, not merely that ordinary men of the last generation can successfully pass a test such as He gave to Adam and Eve, but that they can survive a test much harder than such as falls to the lot of common men. It will be a test comparable to the one Job passed through, and approaching that which the Master underwent. It will test them to the utmost.
"Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy." James 5:11. Job passed through some experiences that will be repeated in the lives of the chosen ones of the last generation. It may be well to consider them.
Job was a good man. God trusted him. Day by day he offered sacrifices for his sons. "It may be that my sons have sinned," he said. Job 1:5. He was prosperous and enjoyed the blessing of God.
Then came "a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them." Verse 6. A conversation is recorded between the Lord and Satan that concerns Job. The Lord says that Job is a good man, which Satan does not deny, but urges that Job is God-fearing merely because it pays him to be so. He states that if God will take away His mercies, Job will curse God. The statement is in the form of a challenge, and God accepts it. Satan is given permission to take away Job's property and otherwise to cause him sorrow, but not to touch Job himself.
Satan immediately proceeds to do what he is permitted to do. Job's property is all swept away, and his children are killed. When this happens, "Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshiped, and said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly." Job 1:20-22.
Satan is defeated, but he makes another attempt. At the next meeting with the Lord, without admitting defeat, he claims that he had not been permitted to touch Job himself. If he had, he claims, Job would have sinned. The statement is again a challenge, and God accepts it. Satan is given permission to torment Job, but not to take his life. He immediately departs on his mission.
All that the evil one can do, Satan does to Job. But Job stands fast. His wife counsels him to give up, but he does not waver. Under intense physical pain and mental anguish, he remains steadfast. Again it is recorded that Job stood the test. "In all this did not Job sin with his lips." Job 2:10. Satan is defeated and does not appear any more in the book.
In the succeeding chapters in the book of Job, we are given a little insight into the struggle going on in Job's mind. He is greatly perplexed. Why has all this calamity come upon him? He is not conscious of any sin. Why, then, should God afflict him? He, of course, does not know of the challenge of Satan. Neither does he know that God is depending upon him in the crisis through which he is passing. All he knows is that out of a clear sky, disaster has come upon him till he is left without family or property, and with a loathsome disease that nearly overwhelms him. He does not understand, but he retains his integrity and faith in God. This God knew he would do. This Satan said he would not do. In the challenge God won.
Humanly speaking, Job had not deserved the punishment that came to him. God Himself says it was without cause. "Thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause." Job 2:3. The whole experiment can therefore be justified only by considering it as a specific test devised for a specific purpose. God wanted to silence Satan's charge that Job served God only for profit. He wanted to demonstrate that there was at least one man whom Satan could not control. Job suffered as a result of it, but there seemed to be no other way. A reward was afterward given him.
Job's case is recorded for a purpose. While we grant its historicity, we believe that it has also a wider meaning. God's people in the last days will pass through an experience similar to Job's. They will be tested as he was; they will have every earthly stay removed; Satan will he given permission to torment them. In addition to this the Spirit of God will be withdrawn from the earth, and the protection of earthly governments removed. God's people will be left alone to battle with the powers of darkness. They will be perplexed, as was Job. But they, as did he, will hold fast their integrity.
In the last generation God will stand vindicated. In the remnant Satan will meet his defeat. The charge that the law cannot be kept will be met and fully refuted. God will produce not only one or two who keep His commandments, but a whole group, spoken of as the 144,000. They will reflect the image of God fully. They will have disproved Satan's accusation against the government of heaven.
A serious situation arose in heaven when Satan made his charges against God. The accusations in reality constituted an impeachment. Many of the angels believed the charges. They ranged themselves on the side of the accuser. One third of the angels--and that must have been millions -- faced God with their leader, the highest among the angels, Lucifer. It was no small crisis. It threatened the very existence of God's government. How should God deal with it?
The only way the matter could be satisfactorily settled so that no question would ever arise, was for God to submit His case to the ordinary rules of evidence. Was, or was not, God's government just? God said it was; Satan said it was not. God could have destroyed Satan. But that would be no argument, and would count against God. There was no other way than for each side to present its evidence, produce its witnesses, and rest its case on the weight of testimony adduced.
The picture, then, is that of a court scene. God's government is at stake. Satan is the accuser; God Himself is the accused and is on trial. He has been charged with injustice, with requiring his creatures to do that which they cannot do, and yet punishing them for not doing it. The law is the specific point of attack; but the law being merely a transcript of God's character, it is God and His character that are the points at issue.
In order for God to sustain His contention, it is necessary for Him to show that He has not been arbitrary in His requirements, that the law is not harsh and cruel in its requirement, but contrariwise, that it is holy, just, and good, and that men can keep it. All that is necessary is for God to produce one man who has kept the law, and His case is won. In the absence of such a case, God loses, and Satan wins. The outcome therefore hinges on the production of one or more who keep the commandments of God. On this God has staked His government.
While it is true that many from time to time have dedicated their lives to God and lived without sin for periods of time, Satan claims that these are special cases, as was Job's case, and do not come under the ordinary rules. He demands a clear-cut case where there can be no doubt, and where God has not interfered. Can such an instance be produced?
God is ready for the challenge. He has bided his time. The Son of God, in His own person, has met Satan's charges, and proved them false. The supreme exhibition has been reserved until the final contest. Out of the last generation God will select his chosen ones. Not the strong or the mighty, not the honored or the rich, not the wise or the learned, but just ordinary people will God take, and through and by them make His demonstration. Satan has claimed that those who in the past have served God have done so with mercenary motives, that God has pampered them, and that he, Satan, has not had free access to them. If he were given full permission to present his case, they also would be won over. But God is afraid to let him do this. Give me a fair chance, Satan says, and I will win out.
And so, to silence forever Satan's charges; to make it evident that His people are serving Him from motives of loyalty and right without reference to reward; to clear His own name and character of the charges of injustice and arbitrariness; and to show to angels and men that His law can be kept by the weakest of men under the most discouraging and most untoward circumstances, God permits Satan to try His people to the utmost. They will be threatened, tortured, persecuted. They will stand face to face with death in the issuance of the decree to worship the beast and his image. Rev.13:15. But they will not yield. They are willing to die rather than to sin.
God removes His Spirit from the earth. Satan will have a greater measure of control than he has ever had before. True, he may not kill God's people, but that is about the only limitation. And he uses every permission he has. He knows what is at stake. It is now or never.
God does one more thing. He apparently hides Himself. The sanctuary in heaven is closed. The saints cry to God day and night for deliverance, but He appears not to hear. God's chosen ones are passing through Gethsemane. They are having a little taste of Christ's experience those three hours on the cross. Seemingly they must fight their battles alone. They must live in the sight of a holy God without an intercessor.
But while Christ has finished His intercession, so that from His priestly ministry in the heavenly sanctuary none can obtain any more pardon for sin, yet the saints are still the object of God's love and care. Holy angels watch over them. God provides them shelter from their enemies; He provides them with food, shields them from destruction, and supplies grace and power for holy living. (See Psalms 91.) Yet they are still in the world, still tempted, afflicted, tormented.
Will they stand the test? To human eyes it seems impossible. If only God would come to their rescue, all would be well. They are determined to resist the evil one. If need be they can die; but they need not sin. Satan has no power -- and never had -- to make any man sin. He can tempt, he can seduce, he can threaten; but he cannot compel. And now God demonstrates through the weakest of the weak that there is no excuse, and never has been any, for sinning. If men in the last generation can successfully repel Satan's attack; if they can do this with all the odds against them and the sanctuary closed, what excuse was there for men's ever sinning?
In the last generation God gives the final demonstration that men can keep the law of God and that they can live without sinning. God leaves nothing undone to make the demonstration complete. The only limitation put upon Satan is that he may not kill the saints of God. He may tempt them, he may harass and threaten them; and he does his best. But he fails. He cannot make them sin. They stand the test, and God puts His seal upon them.
Through the last generation of saints God stands finally vindicated. Through them He defeats Satan and wins His case. They form a vital part of the plan of God. They go through terrific struggles; they battle with unseen powers in high places. But they have put their trust in the Most High, and they will not be ashamed. They have gone through hunger and thirst, but the time shall come when "they shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." Rev.7:16,17.
"They follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth." Rev.14:4. When at last the doors of the temple shall swing open, a voice will sound forth: "Only the 144,000 enter this place."--Early Writings, p.19. By faith they have followed the Lamb here. They have gone with Him into the holy place, they have followed Him into the most holy. And in the hereafter, only those who have thus followed Him here, will follow Him there. They will be kings and priest. They will follow Him in to the most holy where only the High Priest can ever enter. They shall stand in the unveiled presence of God. They shall follow Him "whithersoever He goeth." They will not only be "before the throne of God" and "serve Him day and night in his temple," but they will "sit down with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne." Rev.7:15;3:21.
The matter of greatest importance in the universe is not the salvation of men, important as that may seem. The most important thing is the clearing of God's name from the false accusations made by Satan. The controversy is drawing to a close. God is preparing His people for the last great conflict. Satan is also getting ready. The issue is before us and will be decided in the lives of God's people. God is depending upon us as He did upon Job. Is His confidence well placed?
It is a wonderful privilege vouchsafed this people to help clear God's name by our testimony. It is wonderful that we are permitted to testify for Him. It must never be forgotten, however, that this testimony is a testimony of life, not merely of words. "In Him was life; and the life was the light of men." John 1:4. "The life was the light." It was so with Christ, it must also be so with us. Our life should be a light as His life was. To give people the light is more than to hand them a tract. Our life is the light. As we live, we give the light to others. Without life, without our living the light, our words abide alone. But as our life becomes light, our words become effective. It is our life that must testify for God.
May the church of God appreciate the exalted privilege given her! "Ye are My witnesses, saith the Lord." Isa.43:10. There must be "no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God." Verse 12. May we be witnesses indeed, testifying what God has done for us! All this is closely connected with the work of the Day of Atonement. On that day the people of Israel, having confessed their sins, were completely cleansed. They had already been forgiven, now sin was separated from them. They were holy and without blame. The camp of Israel was clean.
We are now living in the great antitypical day of the cleansing of the sanctuary. Every sin must be confessed and by faith be sent beforehand to judgment. As the high priest enters into the most holy, so God's people now are to stand face to face with God. They must know that every sin is confessed, that no stain of sin remains. The cleansing of the sanctuary in heaven is dependent upon the cleansing of God's people on earth. How important then that God's people be holy and without blame! In them every sin must be burned out, so that they will be able to stand in the sight of a holy God and live with the devouring fire. "Hear, ye that are far off, what I have done; and, ye that are near, acknowledge my might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; he shall dwell on high: his place of defense shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure." Isa.33:13-16.
THERE IS A GROWING TENDENCY TO DISBELIEF in a bodily resurrection. Higher critics have long ago discarded the idea, and many Christians of the more conservative type are tending the same way. They can see no need of a resurrection of the body if the future existence is wholly spiritual.
For the same reason they consider a future judgment unnecessary. If the soul is already enjoying the bliss of ethereal existence, or if it is already experiencing the tortures of the damned, it would seem incongruous to interpose a judgment. That should have taken place before the future state was decided upon, not after. Belief in immediate bliss or damnation after death makes a future judgment at the end of the world not only unnecessary but inconsistent.
The Bible is plain in its statements concerning these two subjects. There is a bodily resurrection. There is a judgment. The Bible teaches both. As we are here chiefly concerned with the judgment, we shall confine our study to it, only remarking in passing that it seems so much more satisfying to believe that the future existence of the saved will be molded somewhat on the original plan of the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve enjoyed existence on a plane not unlike our present one, yet without sin. It seems reasonable to believe that God has not abandoned His original plan. If He has not, there must be a resurrection of the body.
The idea of a judgment at the end of the world presupposes that men do not enter upon their punishment or reward at death. This seems reasonable, quite apart from being supported by Bible evidence. Let us consider this a little more in detail.
Taking for granted a belief in punishment and reward, we would first remark that no man's record can be made up completely at death. His life is closed, but his influence continues,--his "works do follow" him. If we are responsible for our influence,--and this must be admitted, we believe,-- the record cannot be made up fully until the end of time.
In saying this we do not wish to infer that a man has not sealed his destiny when he dies. We believe he has. All we wish to affirm is that unless the judgment presupposes the same punishment or reward for all, the record cannot be made up at death. It may, indeed, be argued that it is known whether a person is saved or lost, and that therefore he may provisionally be admitted to one place or another. This may be granted, but does not solve the difficulty. Even in earthly courts the outcome of a committed crime is awaited before judgment is pronounced. If, in a shooting affray a man is wounded, judgment is not based on the immediate effect, but on the final outcome of the shooting. The wounded man may linger for a week or two. The criminal cannot demand an immediate trial and judgment, based, as it would have to be, on the fact that the wounded man had not as yet died, and that hence the criminal was not guilty of murder.
A man is responsible for more than the immediate effect of his acts. It seems altogether more reasonable that the judgment be delayed until all the facts are in, at which time a just estimate can be arrived at. If we admit that some will be punished with many stripes and some with few (Luke 12:48), the judgment cannot and must not take place until all factors can be considered. This can be done only at the time God designates,--the end of the world. In harmony with this is the statement that God will "reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished." 2Peter 2:9.
The wicked are to be judged by the righteous. "The saints shall judge the world." "The world shall be judged by you." 1Cor.6:2. As the angels have their work to do in heaven, so the redeemed will have theirs. God makes His plans known to His own, and gives them responsibilities to bear. The saints are given both the privilege and the responsibility of judgment. Humanly speaking, God does not want to run any risk of dissatisfaction or questionings. It is conceivable that some persons will be lost who others thought should be saved. If some one is missed in heaven, a question might come up concerning him in the mind of others as to why. It may be a person who was dear to us,--whom we loved and for whom we had prayed. Now he is lost. We don't know the circumstances; we don't know why.
If we have had a part in the judgment; if we ourselves have looked into the case and examined the evidence; if after weighing all the factors, we have at last concluded that the man did not want to be saved and would not be happy in heaven, no question will ever arise in our minds as to the justice of what was done. We had a part in the judgment; we know. We were there. We are satisfied. Moreover, this arrangement assures both a just and a merciful judgment. Some of those who will be lost, we have loved. We have prayed for them. We will be kind to them till the last. No one will be punished more than he deserves. God's plan assures that.
It should be noted that the saints are to have a part in judging those whom they have known. If part of the purpose of God in having us have a part in the judgment is to make sure that no question will ever arise in our minds, the saints must judge their own generation and their own acquaintances. This is both fearful and good. God must not run the risk of having some one say or think: "Some of my friends are lost, and I never had a chance to find out just what happened. I thought they would be saved. I understood them better than any one else. I wish I had known a little more of their case." Such a thing, of course, will never happen. God will see to that. Every one will be satisfied as to the justice and the mercy of God. God's plan is rightly arranged. We shall know why certain people are lost. We shall have a part in their judgment.
If what is said here is correct, there can be no judgment at death. A group of Christians are praying for a wayward young man. Day after day, year after year, they pray, but without result. Then suddenly the young man dies. What about the judgment? Those who know him, those who have prayed for him, are still living. If the young man is to be judged by the saints immediately, they would all have to die immediately if they are to have a part in his judgment. Otherwise he would have to be judged by others who did not know him. This holds true of all the wicked who have ever lived. They could not ordinarily be judged until a generation after their death, if they are to be judged by the saints. But not to be judged by the saints, or to be judged by others unknown to them, would frustrate God's plan and jeopardize it. We therefore hold that if the wicked are to be judged by the saints, they cannot be judged at death. God says the wicked are reserved unto the judgment at the end of the world.
While it is true that each generation best understands itself and should be judged in the light of its own knowledge, so that an Old Testament sinner should not be judged by New Testament standards, it is also true that before any consistent judgment can take place, there must be some knowledge as to general guiding rules and principles. This presupposes instruction and education, and this instruction must be based upon all factors involved. Christ's death must be reckoned with, also His atonement and teaching. Just how, in view of this, could the saints of the first generations on earth have judged the wicked of their generation? It is evident that the idea of the saints having any part in the judgment must be given up if the judgment takes place at death. It is an admirable plan as God has conceived it. God's plan to have the saints have a part in the judgment, makes heaven a safe place and raises an effective barrier against further questionings and doubts.
What about the judgment of the righteous? It is evident that some kind of investigation must take place before they are permitted to enter into eternal bliss. It must be decided whether their life and attitude warrant entrusting them with eternal life; and this decision must be arrived at before the Lord comes to take them home. It is no more reasonable to save the righteous and afterward have a judgment, than to damn the wicked and afterward place them before the bar. But there is one difference. The wicked are not destroyed until the end of the thousand years. Rev.20:4,5. That gives abundant time to judge them after the Lord comes. But not so with the righteous. If they are to be judged at all, if any reward is to be meted out to them, their cases must be decided before the Lord comes. When He comes, His reward is with Him. Rev.22:12. Hence their status must be determined beforehand.
Some have objected to this teaching. They do not believe that there will be a judgment of the righteous before the Lord comes. Yet this seems only consistent. The cases of the righteous must be settled before the Lord comes -- else how can it be known who is to be saved? If the objection be to the phrase "investigative judgment" which has been used, let another which is better be found. We are willing. It is not an executive judgment. The Bible calls it the "hour of judgment" as contrasted with the "day of judgment." Rev.14:7; Acts 17:31. We believe "investigative judgment" best fits the case in regard to the judgment of the righteous.
It seems eminently fitting that when the question of who are to be saved comes up, the angels should be present both to give their testimony and to follow the proceedings. Dan.7:9,10. They have been vitally concerned in our welfare; they have been ministering spirits. We are to associate and be with them, and they have a right to know who are to be admitted to the celestial abodes. This also is God's plan. The angels have experienced some of the results of sin. They have seen Lucifer apostatize. They have seen millions of angels go with him. They have seen the Saviour suffer and die, and they know the misery which sin has caused. They are vitally interested in knowing who are to have eternal life. They have no intention of repeating the experience with sin through which they have gone. It is therefore God's wise plan that they have a part in the proceedings.
The Day of Atonement is a fit type of the day of judgment. It would be well for the reader to review the chapter on the Day of Atonement in the light of the present discussion. On that day there was a separation between the righteous and the wicked. The decision hinged entirely on who had confessed their sins and who had not. Those who had brought their offerings and complied with the ritual had their sins blotted out. The others were "cut off."
We do not know of any record being kept in the sanctuary on earth as to who appeared during the year with a sacrifice. While possible, it is hardly likely that such a record was kept. We do know, however, that the sprinkled blood in itself constituted a record. God had commanded sacrifices to be brought. We believe He respected His own command and took notice of those who served Him in truth and uprightness. In His book they were recorded as faithful.
Of the judgment of the last day this is written: "Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." Rev.20:15. This text speaks definitely of the book of life, and says in effect that only those whose names are found in it are saved. Note the reading: "Whosoever was not found written in the book of life." This means an examination of the book to find which names are there recorded. "Whosoever was not found." What is this but an investigation? It is as though the command were given: "See if this name is found in the book." The report comes back, "I have found it," or, "I have not found it." Either report indicates an investigation. The expression, "Whosoever was not found," justifies the contention that there is a looking through of the record, resulting in a separation for salvation or condemnation.
It seems so clear that there ought to be and must be an investigation of the record kept in heaven before the Lord comes, that the wonder is that any can seriously or honestly doubt it. It is true that God could in a moment, should He so desire, settle all questions as to the future destiny of every one. With unerring accuracy He could consign one portion of mankind to be damned and another to be saved. But God could not do this and at the same time allow angels and men to have a part in the judgment. And this is vital. God must place every safeguard around the future existence. Men must, from their own investigation, be assured as to the justice of the punishment meted out. Angels who have been ministering spirits, must be present when the saints are judged. For this reason books are kept. For this reason millions of angels are present at the judgment. Dan.7:10. God takes every step needed to make the future safe. Heaven and earth must be protected. God will not suddenly admit millions of human beings to the bliss of heaven and the privilege of eternal life without consulting the angels.
We say this reverently. The angels have passed through some sad experiences because of sin. They have seen millions of their fellow angels lost. They have seen Christ die on the cross. They have known some of the sorrow of the Father because of sin. And should they not be interested in the question of the admittance of millions of redeemed sinners to eternal life? Should they not have some assurance that admitting men to heaven does not mean admitting sin? We speak after the manner of men. We believe they should have such assurance. And we believe that God gives it to them. They are present when the cases of the righteous are decided. As the saints have part in the judgment of the wicked, so the angels have part in the judgment of the righteous. This constitutes an assurance for the future. No question ever will or ever can arise in the mind of any one. God has seen to that.
During the thousand years the angels will have an opportunity to become better acquainted with us and we with them. We will work together with them in the judgment. During that time both men and angels will be judged. We will have a part in the judgment. The angels will have a part. Men and angels have fellow creatures who will be lost and in whom they are interested. God safeguards all interests so that sin will not arise the second time. The angels have kept the record. What is written in the books is their writing. Shall they have no part in the examination of the record when final decisions are made? They will have a part in the execution of the judgment. Rev.20:1-3; 18:21; Eze.9:1-11. At its conclusion they will give their testimony as to the justice of the decisions made. Rev.16:5,7. This they can do because they know the factors involved.
"The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hands." John 3:35. We may not be sure why the Father has given all things into the hands of the Son, but the statement occurs so many times that it is clear God wants us to know it. In addition to the statement quoted above, note the following: "Thou hast put all things in subjection under His feet." Heb.2:8. "All things are delivered unto Me of My Father." Matt.11:27; Luke 10:22. "Thou hast given Him power over all flesh." John 17:2. This power includes that of judging. "The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son." John 5:22. Christ is "ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead." Acts 10:42. God will "judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained." Acts 17:31. This includes the execution of the judgment, for the Father "hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man." John 5:27. In fact, this granting of authority to the Son may all be summed up in the sweeping statement of Christ Himself: "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth." Matt.28:18. This leaves no doubt as to the extent of the power given Him. It is all power in heaven and earth.
These statements become very interesting in view of their wording. The Father had all these powers, but for some reason He bequeathed them to the Son. Notice how God has "given," "put," "delivered," "committed," "given authority to," "ordained" His Son. All that the Father had, He gave to the Son. God at some time in the past put all things under Christ, told Him to reign, to execute judgment, and gave Him all power in heaven and earth.
The whole controversy reveals a trait in the character of God that is most comforting. God could have treated the rebels differently. He would not need to have heeded the charges placed against Him by Satan. But he submitted His case to be decided upon the basis of the evidence presented. He could afford to wait and let created beings decide for themselves. He knew that His case was just and that it could stand investigation. He was eminently fair and just in all respects.
This gives us ground for believing that the judgment to come will be conducted along lines that will measure up to the highest conceptions of justice and right, not to say mercy. God is not revengeful. He is not waiting for an opportunity to "pay back." He wills that all men be saved and come to repentance. He takes no delight in the death of the wicked. There are some things, however, that God cannot do. He would be happy to save all, but it would not be best to do so. For this there are several reasons. Many do not wish to be saved on the terms that alone can ensure life. The rules which God has laid down for our guidance are the rules of life, and not arbitrary decrees. Society cannot exist, either here or in heaven, if men do not stop killing one another. That seems so very evident that no one will attempt to dispute it.
Killing has its root in hatred. It would not be safe to permit one who hates his brother--or who hates any one--to live in heaven with others. To expect peace and harmony under such conditions would be folly. Men have abundantly demonstrated that hatred leads to murder. It needs no more demonstration. If God expects to have a peaceful heaven, He must exclude murderers. That means He must exclude all who hate.
But it means more. Love is the only effective antidote for hate. Only he who loves is safe. Absence of love means hatred sooner or later. Hence, love becomes one of the laws of life. Only he who loves complies with the law, hence only he has the right to live. That right should not be jeopardized by permitting hatred to flourish. Those who cherish hatred in their lives, violate the law of life. It would not be safe to save such, even should they want to be saved. There must be no murderers in heaven, no violators of the commandment which says, "Thou shalt not kill." The same argument holds true with respect to all the other commandments.
When God therefore admits men and angels to sit in judgment, He does more than merely take them into partnership. This is important. For the sake of the future it is necessary. We need the assurance that a personal part in the judgment will give us. But more is involved. When God admits saints and angels to a part in the judgment, they are in reality passing upon God's work. The rules, the principles, the laws governing men and angels, come under scrutiny. In a certain sense God is being judged. Rom.3:4.
In the light of these statements, the fact that men and angels at the end of the controversy express their belief in the justice and righteousness of God, takes on added significance. The great question always has been: Is God just, or are Satan's accusations true? At the end of the controversy, the angel of the waters says, "Thou art righteous, O Lord." Another angel says, "Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Thy judgments." "Much people in heaven" say, "Alleluia; salvation and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God; for true and righteous are His judgments." Those who have been victorious over the beast and the image say, "Just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints." And as God resumes the throne, "a great multitude" "as the voice of mighty thunderings" shout, "Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth." But God does not wish to reign alone. When "the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ," when the accuser is finally cast down, then the throne of God and the Lamb shall be set up. Glorious consummation of our hope! (Rev.16:5,7; 19:1; 15:3; 19:6; 11:15; 12:10; 22:5)