Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the Cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord." What Ezekiel, in vision, observed upon the inauguration of the ideal temple was therefore in agreement with what had taken place upon two of the most memorable occasions in the history of the Jewish Church.
I. THIS WAS A RESTORED GLORY.
1. The prophet had seen the glory of the Lord depart from the temple by the way of the east, towards the Mount of Olives. In consequence of the sin of the people and the defilement of the sacred building, the holy Presence had been removed. The idolatry by which the temple and the city had been profaned had caused the withdrawal of the Divine favor. Man was constituted to be the temple of the Eternal; by his sin he alienated and repelled "the Divine Inhabitant."
2. The purification of the temple was the occasion of the return of the lost favor and glory. The presence of the Most High is represented as returning by the way by which it had departed. When man's nature is cleansed, when the way is made open for the restoration of relations long suspended, then the glory of God is once again displayed, and his favor once again enjoyed.
II. THIS WAS AN IMPRESSIVE GLORY.
1. As described in itself it is characterized by majesty. The figurative language employed is drawn from those sources by which the senses are chiefly impressed. When we read that the voice was as the sound of many waters, and that the earth shone with the splendor, we are assured that the spiritual majesty which such figures are employed to set forth was nothing ordinary.
2. And this assurance is deepened as we are led to recognize the manner in which the manifestation affected the prophet himself: he "fell upon his face," overcome with the grandeur of the spectacle. It is not every nature that is so affected by great spiritual realities. Yet there is nothing in the world so deserving of reverence, so truly fitted to call out emotions of awe, as the spiritual presence of the Eternal in his Church. It is only because men are so carnal, so insensible to true grandeur, that they can know of the Divine nearness and yet remain unmoved.
III. THIS WAS A DIFFUSED GLORY. In simple and sublime language the prophet relates what followed the marvelous return of Deity: "The glory of the Lord filled the house." How wonderfully does the Statement express the universal pervasion of the Church by the Divine presence and splendor! How fitted is such a representation to remove our misconceptions and our prejudices! There is no member of Christ's Church however lowly, there is no work in Christ's Church however unobtrusive, there is no section of Christ's Church however lacking in learning, wealth, refinement, or power, which is not full of the glory of the Lord - of that glory which is spiritual, which is apprehended by human minds when quickened and enlightened by the Spirit of God.
IV. THIS WAS A PERMANENT GLORY. The glory of the temple at Jerusalem passed away. In the appointed time the building perished, and not one stone was left upon another. But the temple which Ezekiel saw in his vision was a spiritual, and therefore an abiding, temple, whose walls shall never be taken down, whose ministrations and offerings shall never cease, and which shall ever echo with ten thousand voices uttering the high praises of our redeeming God. - T.
I. GOD'S UNCHANGEABLENESS IN HIS SELF-MANIFESTATIONS. "The visions were like the vision that I saw by the river Chebar." As the splendor of light had been the best imagery that could illustrate his presence in the past, so is it still. All that God had been to Israel in the ages gone, he was prepared to be again. The past condescensions of God were a pattern according to which he will act in the future. It was an accommodation to human weakness that the sun should image forth the essential nature of Jehovah, and, inasmuch as it worthily serves that purpose, it shall be a permanent dress in which Jehovah shall appear. But all metaphors are inadequate, all conceptions of him are inadequate. The light of his presence transcends far the brightness of the material sun. He is the Light of all light.
II. GOD IS UNCHANGEABLE IN THE PRINCIPLES OF HIS RULE. "The vision which I saw was according to the vision that I saw when I came to destroy the city." Although God had withdrawn his favor from Israel, although he had chastised his people sore, he had not altered a single rule of action nor abandoned any principle of covenant. He was the same God who had pledged himself to Abraham's seed, the same God who had delivered them from the hands of their foes, the same Cod who had given them over to the Chaldeans, who non, was preparing for them restoration and honor. God had acted throughout upon a line of clear consistency. The conduct and the loyalty of the people had changed; therefore they had felt the rod of his anger. The same fatherly heart which had rewarded obedience also punished rebellion. The man who turns his back upon the sun makes a shadow for himself, yet the sun has in no wise changed. The warm beams that penetrate and bless the ploughed furrows of the field only harden and injure the trodden surface of the soil. God remains, in the essential principles of his government, the same, although sometimes men bask in his friendship, and sometimes writhe beneath his rod.
III. GOD IS UNCHANGEABLE IN HIS CHOICE OF ABODE. "I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel forever." So long as they are children of Israel - men of faith and prayer - so long will God dwell among them. It is a permanent and unchangeable law that God finds delight among the sons of men, and wherever his presence is desired his presence will be found. If provision is made for him in the heart, in the home, or in social gatherings, he will speedily descend. If separation from sin has been made; if altars are reared and sacrifices are brought; if, in humility and reverence, he is sought, certainly he will come and dwell in their midst. In such circumstances, God may always be expected to come.
IV. GOD IS UNCHANGEABLE IN HIS MODE OF COMMUNICATING WITH MEN. "I heard him speaking unto me." It has ever been God's wont to communicate to the race by the agency era man. He speaks to one, that the one may convey the message to the many. He enlightens one, that the one may enlighten others. God honors the human family by making one a mediator between himself and the rest. The man selected to be a prophet is blessed thereby, and he learns the lesson of responsibility. To have at our disposal the well-being of many (if a man have the true prophet's spirit) elevates a man, and brings into activity all the best qualities of his nature. In every age God has thus dealt with men.
V. GOD IS UNCHANGEABLE IN HIS MORAL LIKINGS AND DISLIKINGS. "They have even defiled my holy Name... wherefore I have consumed them in my anger." That which was offensive to God in Eden was offensive to him in Jerusalem; and that selfsame thing is equally offensive to him today. Rebellion against his high authority, springing as it does from a lack of love, is to him an abomination. All sin is pollution, a stench in Jehovah's nostrils. To a refined mind, some forms of sin are offensive enough. Drunkenness is a sore offence to many. Murder is an abomination to a larger number yet. But in the esteem of God all forms of disobedience areas ghastly as murder, and to him murder is tenfold more vile than it is to us. Our spiritual sensibility is weakened by long indulgence in evil practice. By-and-by the redeemed will regard sin as God regards it; they will loathe it as God loathes it; they will esteem it as of all things the most abominable.
VI. GOD IS UNCHANGEABLE IN HIS CONDITIONS OF BLESSING. "Let them put away their whoredom... far from me, and I will dwell in the midst of them." In the eye of God all idolatry is whoredom. The heart had gone after a foul and unholy rival. And the abandonment of all idolatry is God's immovable condition for blessing men. If every idol is cast out of the human heart, God will dwell there. The greatest promise he has ever made to men is based on this condition, either expressed or implied. His inmost nature is the quintessence of purity, and if the taint of active sin is in the atmosphere, he speedily departs. God's gifts in nature always depend on fixed conditions. Light will come to us only through a proper condition of atmosphere. The electric message will travel to its destination only along conducting media. Health visits men only through fixed channels. And life itself is conveyed only through conditions that never change. To obtain the abiding presence of God we must concede to him his own terms. - D.
Ezekiel 10:18, 19; Ezekiel 11:23). He has now a happy vision of its return; and of that return he gives a very graphic description. It affected him. With solemn awe (ver. 3) as well as with sacred joy. He found himself transported to the place where, as a priest, he had an official right to stand (ver. 5), and there he saw the brightness of Jehovah's presence filling the sanctuary, while he heard the voice of the Lord communicating his holy will. The departure and the return of the Divine glory have various illustrations beside those which were witnessed in connection with the temple at Jerusalem. We may find this in relation to -
I. THE HUMAN WORLD When man was sinless he enjoyed the very near presence and the very close fellowship of his Divine Maker; and even after he sinned, before the world was utterly corrupted by its iniquity, men possessed not a little of the near presence and of the communications of God. But as sin advanced God retired and there came to be no converse between earth and heaven. Then the glory of the Lord had departed. But "in the fullness of time" God manifested himself to the world - he came in redeeming grace to raise and restore our fallen race. "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory" (John 1:14); we had "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6). As men looked upon him, as they heard his words, as they witnessed his life, as they beheld the glories of his goodness and his power, they had a nobler vision of the glory of the Lord than that of Ezekiel, as here described.
II. THE CHURCH OF CHRIST. The glory of the Church is the presence of its Divine Lord - that presence as manifested by the indwelling and the action of his Holy Spirit. Great was its glory when that Divine presence was manifested on the day of Pentecost, not only (nor indeed chiefly) by the tongues of flame or the rushing mighty wind, but by the conversion of "three thousand souls." But there may come, as there often has come, a time when the glory of Christ has departed. When a Church sinks down into a condition of unbelief, or of spiritual pride and fancied independence, or of indulgence and (it may be) immorality, or of worldliness and prayerlessness, then might the prophet of the Lord, with inward eye, see the glory of the Lord "on the threshold" or on the summit of the mountain, no longer "filling the house." But when the sacred and the blessed hour of penitence and of prayer, of humility and of faith, arrives, then may be had another and happier vision - that of the Lord's return. Christ will come again, and he will reveal the glory of his goodness and his grace, imparting the blessings which once were lost, which had taken flight, and are now renewed; bringing with him power, beauty, joy, life, victory.
III. THE INDIVIDUAL SOUL. All outward pomps and all human distinctions are as nothing to the human soul compared with the glorious presence of the Divine Spirit in the heart of man. But though God comes to us thus and dwells with us, he will not abide with us if we do not retain our purity, our moral and spiritual integrity (see 1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16). Yet may there be, in individual experience, a blessed return of the glory of the Lord. If there be a sincere and deep humility; if there be an earnest seeking after God in prayer; if there be a cordial reconsecration of the heart and life to the Divine Redeemer; - then will there be a gracious and a glorious return of his presence and of his blessing to the soul. - C.
house, and has seen its courts filled with the mystic luster. He stands in the ironer court, the attendant angel being by his side. And the voice of the Lord, mighty as the sound of many waters, addresses him as the son of man, and assures him that the Eternal. Spirit has now takes up a perpetual abode within his consecrated temple, and that those courts shall henceforth be pure from every defilement, and shall be holy unto the Lord.
I. THE FACT OF THE DIVINE INDWELLING. It appears that this is set forth under two metaphors, both just and impressive, yet, even when taken together, inadequate to set forth the great reality.
1. The Church is God's dwelling, his home, where he reveals himself in his compassion and kindness, and where he admits men to his sacred fellowship, upon terms of delightful, though reverent, intercourse and familiarity.
2. The Church is God's throne, whence he rules by the publication of his Divine and righteous laws, and the exercise of his just, irresistible, and yet benign authority. It is as though he were at once the Father of the spiritual family and the King of the spiritual dominion. He is, indeed, all this, and more than this, to the Church he loves and has redeemed.
II. THE ACCOMPANIMENTS OF THE DIVINE INDWELLING. These, as represented in this passage, are:
1. Deliverance from past idolatries, by which humanity has been defiled, degraded, and disgraced.
2. By implication, reverence for God's holy Name, displaying itself in holiness, in obedience, in praise. It was the expulsion of evil abominations which made the return of the Lord a possibility; it is the prevalence of holy worship and affectionate service which secures the lasting residence and reign of the great and glorious Inhabitant. - T.
sanctuary of the Lord was the throne of the great King.
I. THE CHURCH OF CHRIST THE SPHERE OF DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY. AS God declared, through his prophet, that he would reign in the temple, so Jesus Christ claims to be the one and only Head and Ruler of his Church. "One is your Master, even Christ." We must not invade his "crown rights" in any way or under any consideration whatever.
1. To him we must pay our worship, not placing any created being by his side upon his throne.
2. By his revealed will we must determine the constitution of his Church. Whether we gather that from his own words, or from the spirit of his life, or from the words and action of his apostles, we must make the will of Christ absolutely supreme in all our collective action, And his will not only affects us in deciding on the forms and the rules of our ecclesiastical association, but also as to the spirit in which we hold our post and do our work in his kingdom; we are essentially disloyal to him when our attitude or bearing toward any of our brethren is other than that which illustrates the spirit of Christ.
II. THE CHURCH OF CHRIST THE SOURCE OF DYING SOVEREIGNTY. The source in the sense of being instrumental in its promotion. For it is to the Church that God has committed that truth which alone will establish it; and it is of the Church he expects that life which will contribute so largely to its extension. The Church - every Christian Church - has:
1. To proclaim the sovereign rights of him who is the God of our life; to present God to men as the Divine Author of their being, Fountain of their joy, Source of all their comforts and their blessings, Father of their spirit, Preserver and Guardian of their life; as that Divine One in whom they "live and move and have their being, "with whom they have to do" in a deeper sense and to a far higher degree than they have with any human being.
2. To present the regal claims of the Lord of our salvation; to hold up before the eyes of men that Son of man who came down from heaven to be our Teacher, Leader, Friend, and Savior; who lived, taught, wrought, sorrowed, and died for our redemption; that Son of God who rose in triumph from the grave and ascended to the right hand of God; who has a supreme right to the trust, the love, the obedience, the full and entire devotion of all who have received the story of his dying love and living power.
3. To show the Way of a true, thorough, happy subjection to the Divine rule. Thus will the Church of Christ become "the place of his throne." - C.
I. THE SIN OF WHICH A JUSTLY SENSITIVE NATURE IS ASHAMED. The iniquities with which the prophet was directed to charge the people of Jerusalem, and for which he was instructed to reproach them, were their idolatrous practices, especially in connection with the temple precincts. The palaces of the idolatrous monarchs of Judah adjoined the consecrated edifice, and in those palaces heathen rites were celebrated. Not only so, some of the kings of Judah, as Ahaz and Manasseh, actually introduced idolatry into the very courts of the temple. Of such infamous conduct both monarchs and subjects may well have been ashamed. All who put the creature in the place of the Creator, who worship, whether with their lips or in their hearts, others than God, are virtually guilty of idolatry, and have need to humble themselves with shame and confusion of face.
II. THE MANNER IN WHICH SHAME FOR SIN IS AWAKENED.
1. The Word of God. Without propounds the sacredness and the exacting character of the Divine Law which has been violated, and summons the offender to contrast his conduct with the commandment which is holy, just, and good.
2. The voice of conscience within responds to the voice of the Word, testifies to its Divinity and its authority, rebukes the sinner for his rebelliousness, and awakens within the soul fear of the righteous judgment of God. No wonder that this conjunction should cause bitter humiliation, poignant shame, deep contrition.
III. THE PROPER EFFECTS OF SHAME FOR SIN.
1. The offence is loathed and forsaken; the idolater abandons his idols, the unjust, impure, and profane relinquish their sinful practices.
2. Reverence ensues for the Law and ordinances of God. Corresponding to the aversion and humiliation felt in the retrospect of evil courses now abandoned, is the aspiration which takes possession of the penitent, urging him to conformity to the Divine character, and subjection to the Divine will. To be ashamed of sin is to glory in righteousness, to boast one's self in God. - T.
I. GOD'S ABODE AMONG MEN IS THE HIGHEST PROOF OF HIS FAVOR. This is the climax of his condescension. Material gifts he imparts to all his creatures: "He makes his sun to shine on the evil and on the good." It is an act of kindness for God to speak to men through a messenger; an act of kindness to provide pardon for the penitent; an act of kindness to open the way to spiritual eminence and joy. But to dwell among inferior, wayward, rebellious creatures is the highest piece of condescension we can conceive. Such an idea overwhelmed Solomon's mind with surprise: "Will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth?" And the incarnation of God in the Man Christ Jesus will ever remain the mystery of mysteries. If God be with us we can have no need. If God be with us we are sure to conquer, sure to rise in excellence, sure to reach perfection.
II. GOD'S AMAZING KINDNESS IS THE SOURCE OF PENITENCE. The end of this gracious revelation by Ezekiel is "that they may be ashamed of their iniquities." "What the Law could not do" love has accomplished. So constructed is the human heart that love (if mighty enough) shall move and conquer it. The exile in Babylon had ploughed deep furrows in the hearts of the Hebrews, and now the dew and sunshine from heaven had fallen on them to make the Soil fruitful. The purity of the human. soul is an end so transcendently great that no measures are too costly by which such an end can be gained. The magnificent provision which God was making, in Ezekiel's day, for dwelling again in the midst of Israel was welt calculated to awaken remorse and shame in every breast. Jehovah's good will, in spite of provocation, was enough to melt the stoutest heart.
III. MAN'S PENITENCE IS THE GROUND OF FURTHER REVELATION FROM GOD, "If they be ashamed... show them the form of the house," etc. Right moral dispositions are essential to an understanding of God. "To the froward God will appear as froward." To the Jews of his day Jesus said, "How can ye believe, who receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God only?" As natural light cannot find its way into our dwelling if the window be barred with shutters so cannot God's truth enter the mind if the mind be choked with worldly things. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him;" "To the upright there ariseth light in the darkness." For God to reveal his will to sin-loving men would be "to cast pearls before swine." That heart must be right towards God that desires to know the truth; and whensoever a man eagerly desires the truth, God will reveal it unto him. The man who has a docile mind shall see a light that others do not see, shall hear a voice that others do not hear.
IV. GOD'S REVELATIONS TO MEN HAVE A PRACTICAL ASPECT. "Write it in their sight, that they may keep the whole form thereof." God has seen fit never to indulge human curiosity. Questions that have no practical bearing on conduct God will not answer. To indulge the curiosity of men would divert them from the great practical tasks required of them - tasks which are the largest channel of blessing. Further, God has condescended to put his will in a written form, that it may be more clearly known, and may have permanence amid the dissolutions of mankind. These chapters in the prophet's book which seem to us void of interest, were written by special command of God. They have served a useful purpose in the past; they may fulfill a beneficent mission in time to come. "All Scripture, written by inspiration of God, is profitable" - it promotes some noble end. The fashion of the temple, its court within court, its many gates and porches, all conveyed important lessons to the Jews, they convey momentous lessons still.
V. GOD'S TEMPLE IS A VISIBLE AND IMPRESSIVE REVELATION OF HIS HOLINESS. "The law of the house" is this, viz. holiness. The sanctuary of God incorporates men's idea of God. Unless men adopt God's thoughts and cherish God's feelings, they will not build God's temple after God's plan. This is the visible and eloquent witness for God, age after age. If it be truly a temple of God, and God reside in it, it will be a center of light and purity and blessing to the neighborhood. The purifying power will touch every worshipper. The gracious influence will be felt in the home, in the city, in every commercial circle; it will spread through the nation; it will bless the world. "The whole limit thereof round about shall be holy." What the sanctuary is, the town or city will be. What the combined sanctuaries of the land are, the nation will be. This law of God's house is influential holiness - holiness that uplifts and ennobles and beautifies humanity; the holiness that springs from love. - D.
I. THE FACT OF DIVINE LAW IN THE CHURCH. With the increase of habits of observation and of accuracy, with the diminution of superstition, men have come to recognize throughout the universe the presence and operation of law. Many different opinions prevail regarding natural law; but it is recognized as a reality. No wonder that a settled conviction should have formed itself in men's minds that "order is Heaven's first law." It would be strange, indeed, were the Church, God's noblest revelation of himself now on earth, exempt from what seems a condition of all God's works. As there was a law of the house in the Jewish temple, so also is there in the Church of the redeemed, the living temple of the Spirit.
II. THE RANGE OF DIVINE LAW IN THE CHURCH. Referring to the context, we observe that the prophet notes the application of law to the form, the furniture, the ordinances, the holiness, of the temple. When we come to consider the range within which law is observable in Christ's Church, we find ourselves constrained to believe that the principles are universal and unmistakable, but that in the details there is uncertainty. Opinions differ as to the measure in which law of an explicit character governs the constitution, the ministry, the observances, etc., of the Church of Christ. Some students are disposed to look to Scripture and to primitive usage for more explicit instructions regarding Church matters than are others; and this holds good of those taking different views of what are known as ecclesiastical principles. But all are agreed that mutual love is a universal obligation, that acceptable worship must be spiritual, that efforts are to be made for the enlightenment and salvation of mankind. And such laws as these are of far more importance than many customs and regulations upon which different opinions prevail.
III. THE AUTHORITY OF DIVINE LAW IN THE CHURCH. It is the authority of right, which, however it may be misunderstood and practically repudiated by any, is not denied, but is admitted by all. It is also the authority of love; the Divine Lawgiver himself declared, "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you."
IV. THE BLESSINGS OF DIVINE LAW IN THE CHURCH. These are apparent to those who consider how wretched would be the state of a Church without a law, and how little less wretched the state of a Church handed over to the control of fallible and imperfect human legislators. The past history of the Church shows that it has truly prospered just so far as the rules laid down for it by Divine authority have beer obeyed, just so far as man has been kept in abeyance, and human policy and human selfishness have been repudiated. Beside the direct blessings which have accrued to the Church itself through subjection to "the law of the house," it must be borne in mind that the world has benefited by the example which has thus been set to earthly institutions and secular rulers, that owe more than they are forward to acknowledge to those principles of authority and subjection which by the Church have been introduced into and impressed upon the world. - T.
- universal holiness. "The law of the house, what was pre-eminently entitled to be called the law, consisted in the whole region of the temple mount being most holy. Not, as hitherto, was this characteristic to be confined to a single apartment of the temple; it was to embrace the entire circumference occupied by the symbolical institutions of the kingdom - the chambers allotted to the priests, and even the courts trodden by the people, as well as the immediate dwelling-place of Jehovah. All were to have one character of sacredness, because all connected with them were to occupy a like position of felt nearness to God and equally to enjoy the privilege of access to him." For the glory of the Lord - his manifested presence - filled the house; every one, therefore, in every part of the sacred precincts, stood in very close and hallowed relation to the living God, and-character must correspond with privilege. The Church of Christ is now the "house" of the Lord, and respecting its holiness we have -
I. ITS TWO SPIRITUAL CONSTITUENTS. These are:
1. Felt nearness to God. He only can be truly said to be holy who realizes continually how near he is to the living God, how intimate is the relationship in which he stands to him, how free is his access to him; and who, realizing this, does in truth "walk with God" and "have fellowship with the Father."
2. Separateness from sin. The holy man is he who, like the righteous and holy Father himself, "hates all manner of iniquity," puts far from him, far from his sight and from his sympathy as well as from his conversation and his conduct, everything that defiles and dishonors; he is the man who repels from his soul, and therefore banishes from his life, all falsehood and falsity, all impurity, all covetousness, all forms of dishonesty and intemperance, all irreverence and. profanity.
II. ITS UNIVERSAL PREVALENCE. "The whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy." Not one particular compartment, but the whole "mountain of the Lord," Thus with the Church of Christ, holiness is to characterize:
1. All its members, whatever their position or function may be, whether they be ministers or whether they hold no official position at all. There is, indeed, a peculiar and emphatic demand made upon those who speak for Christ, that they should be holy; but any one member of the Christian household who does not realize his nearness to God and does not separate himself from sin, is not qualified to take his place there, he is not obeying "the law of the house," he is a disloyal subject, an unworthy inmate.
2. Its members in all their relationships. Not only, though markedly and unmistakably there, in all their distinctively religious engagements, but in every sphere in which they move - domestic, social, literary, artistic, municipal, political. At all times and in every place the people of God are to have respect to "the law of the house," for wherever they are they are members of the household of God.
III. THE SECRET OF ITS MAINTENANCE. How are we to be holy, and to maintain our sanctity in all the rush and strife, under all the burdens and provocations, in all the unwholesome atmosphere, of daily life?
1. By being much, in thought and prayer, with Jesus Christ, the holy Savior. Much of his friendship will mean much of his spirit, for we constantly grow into the likeness of him we love.
3. By seeking and obtaining the cleansing and renewing influences of the Holy Spirit. - C.
must come "with clean hands and a pure heart." Hence everything and every one had to be carefully purified or consecrated in preparation for the solemn service. In these verses we have the same idea once more affirmed in the prophet's vision. The priests who officiated were to be duly consecrated (ver. 26); the animals slain were to be very carefully selected, only those without blemish being allowed (vers. 22, 23, 25). And even the altar itself, which might have been thought to be incapable of any impurity, had to be formally purged and cleansed (ver. 20). Sin offerings and burnt offering were to be presented, not forgetting the salt (ver. 25), that the altar might be perfectly prepared for use, and that the worshippers who approached it might find acceptance with the Lord (ver. 27). Such preparation by sacrifice is unknown to the Church of Christ, the old ritual having happily become obsolete. But the essential idea of it remains and will never disappear. Before we draw near to God in public worship it becomes us to make-Reparation answering- to the purification of the older time. There is -
I. THE PREPARATION OF THE BODY. Our Lord said there was a certain "kind" of evil which could only be expelled after prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:21). We must recognize the fact that one bodily condition is much more favorable to pure and sustained devotion than another; e.g. a wakeful rather than a somnolent one; a wisely and moderately nourished state in preference to one incapacitated by indulgence on the one hand or by prolonged abstinence on the other. Not in weariness and exhaustion, nor yet in a disabling and unfitting fullness, should we bring our offering of prayer or praise, of exhortation or docility, unto the house of the Lord.
II. THE PREPARATION OF THE MIND. They who have undertaken the sacred task of speaking for God should surely prepare for this high and exalted work. If we carefully prepare to speak in our own name, how much more should we do so when we speak in his! Should we not gather all the knowledge we can anywise obtain, think our subject through to the best of our ability, search the Scriptures to sustain the truth we are to utter by the Word of God, lay all our mental acquisitions and information under contribution to give clearness and cogency to our argument or appeal, order and arrange our thoughts that we may present them as freely and as forcibly as we can?
III. THE PREPARATION OF THE HEART. This preparation, more than that of the body or the mind, answers to the purification described in the text. Our hearts need to be "cleansed and purged" (ver. 20). It has to be cleansed from:
1. All self-seeking; so that we aim, not at our own honor or advancement, but at the glory of Christ and the good of men.
2. All worldliness and vanity; so that when we bow in prayer or assume the attitude of attentiveness we are not lost in the remembrance or the anticipation of bargains in the market or of pleasures in society.
3. The search for enjoyment rather than the seeking after God; the temptation to come to the house of the Lord to partake of that which is sweet unto our taste rather than that which is strengthening to our character and nourishing to our soul. Such preparation or purification as this must be wrought in the secret chamber of devotion, when we are alone with God, in solemn contemplation and in earnest and believing prayer. - C.
I. ACCEPTANCE IS OF GOD'S GRACE, AND IS UNDESERVED.
II. ACCEPTANCE IS IN VIRTUE OF THE HIGH PRIEST'S MEDIATION AND INTERCESSION.
III. ACCEPTANCE IS FOR THE OBEDIENT, THE COMPLIANT, THE SUBMISSIVE.
IV. ACCEPTANCE IS ALIKE OF THE PERSON AND OF THE SERVICE.
V. ACCEPTANCE INVOLVES THE ENJOYMENT OF ALL THE MANIFESTATIONS AND CONSEQUENCES OF THE DIVINE FAVOR
1. One aim of a spiritual ministry to men is to convince them that in their sinful state they are without acceptance with God.
2. Another aim of such a ministry is to exhibit the divinely appointed method of obtaining and enjoying acceptance with God.
3. Yet another aim is to expose false and delusive representations of the way of acceptance. "There is one God, and one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." - T.
I. ACCEPTANCE WITH GOD IS MAN'S PRESSING WANT. All other needs are subordinate to this. God's favor converts man's hell into heaven. To bring men into reconciliation with God, all these visions were vouchsafed to Ezekiel. For this, all the sacrifice of animal life had been made. For this, the temple had been erected, and was now to be reconstructed. For this, the office of priesthood had been instituted. For this, every written revelation has been given. For this, God's mind has been deeply concerned.
II. FOR MAN'S ACCEPTANCE WITH GOD A MEDIATING PRIEST IS REQUIRED. The work of bringing men back to God is so full of difficulty that it must be accomplished by distinct stages. A priest serves many useful purposes. He is an instructor, by deed, if not by utterance. He is a sympathizing helper. He has near access to God, and interest with him. The priest must be, of all men, the least erring. His mission must be marked as specially sacred. Every circumstance which can lend sanctity to his office must be provided. He must be mature in years, experienced in human needs. His person must be free from blemish. Frequent ablutions must be practiced. Exact obedience to the commands of God must be observed. He must be a pattern man. God has been pleased to do for us through a Priest what he will not do without a Priest. And all the complicated arrangements of the priesthood were designed to impress men's minds with the gigantic evil of rebellion, and with the difficulty of regaining the lost place in God's regard.
III. FOR MAN'S ACCEPTANCE VICARIOUS DEATH IS NEEDED. The necessity for substitution for the endurance of penalty prior to reconciliation with God may be a necessity on God's rode as well as a necessity on man's side. The maintenance of the Divine government throughout the universe is an object of supreme moment. To make pardon cheap and easy would loosen the bonds of loyalty, and depreciate the value of righteousness, in men's esteem. As law had expressed the moral relations between God and men, law must be maintained. The penalty of sin must be met. Innocent lambs and heifers must die that sentiments of penitence may be deepened in the human soul. So valuable is reconciliation between man and God that it is worthwhile to sacrifice hecatombs of inferior animals in order to gain the end. This was an educational process, that men might perceive how devoid of efficacy any sacrifice must be, short of the perfect sacrifice of God's Son. Whether our minds can comprehend the reason of the atonement or not, it is clearly the will of God that restoration of man can come only by the channel of vicarious sacrifice.
IV. FOR MAN'S ACCEPTANCE A COMPLETE CYCLE OF TIME FOR PREPARATION MUST ELAPSE. "When these days are expired, it shall be." Day after day, for seven days, a victim slain was demanded in order to purify the altar. The Jewish altar had been grievously desecrated and polluted; hence a complete purgation was required. Not until the completion of the week could the priests proceed to present any offerings for guilty men. A cycle of time was to be spent in the work of preparation. In like manner, the patriarchal and Levitical periods were a time of preparation for Messiah's work. Until men have learnt the tremendous evil there is in sin, until they have learnt that without Divine interposition moral renovation is impossible, they will not value a Savior from sin; they will not listen to him. Therefore "in the fullness time" - then, and not till then - "the Son of God came forth."
V. FOR MAN'S ACCEPTANCE COMPLETE CONSECRATION OF SELF IS DEMANDED. The offerings appointed to be laid upon the altar were "burnt offerings." The burnt offerings must precede the peace offerings. By a burnt offering is meant that which must be wholly consumed. The sacrifice must be complete. A profound moral lesson is here inculcated; it should be written in capitals. Salvation means complete surrender to God, complete devotion to his service. If we keep back anything from God, we still grieve his heart, we mar our characters, we imperil our salvation. If one foe remains in the citadel, the city is not safe. One weed left in the garden may spread and spoil the whole. One germ of disease in the system may issue in death. Loyalty, to be worth anything, must be complete. In order to be saved, the Son of God must reign supremely in us, King over every thought. - D.