Then brought he me the way of the north gate before the house: and I looked, and, behold…
As the heart is vital to the body, and sends its tide of life to every organ in the system, so the sanctuary is the central source of spiritual life to the human commonwealth. What the Church is, the home will be, the town will be, the nation will be. The guilt contracted by Israel in the temple was a fount of iniquity whence defilement spread to every part of the body politic. The sin of the sanctuary was the sin of sins. On the other hand, the sanctuary may be a well-spring of salvation. The loftiest expectations cherished here God will satisfy. "This is my rest for ever; here will I dwell." Here, "he that asks, receives." "I looked, and, behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house."
I. CHURCH-WORSHIP IS SUPREMELY IMPORTANT. "Son of man, mark well, and behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, all that I say unto thee concerning all the ordinances of the house." Of such moment to human interests are these laws and ordinances, that the prophet must give concentrated attention to the matter. Every faculty of soul must be engaged to learn the will of God, and to do it. There are subtle bonds of vital connection between the human soul and temple-worship, which easily escape the notice of the eye. To gain the good which God intends we must prepare the heart and mind beforehand. "Mark well the entering in of the house" High expectation of blessing should be raised. A state of mind free from selfish care should be fostered. As the photographer carefully prepares his plate to receive a faithful impression, so equally concerned should we be to prepare our hearts for high and intimate converse with God. Nor should we be unmindful how we depart from that august Presence. What care is needed to bury deep in our memory the truths we have received! What care ought there Be to retain the anointing of holy influence upon the soul!
II. CHURCH-WORSHIP EMBRACES ELEMENTS VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE. To be acceptable worshippers God required that they should Be circumcised in flesh and circumcised in heart. The one was designed to be the visible symbol of the other. To circumcise the flesh would Be useless if there was not also the circumcision of the heart. The circumcision of the flesh was instructive and disciplinary - was a test of obedience. To neglect this was a willful and open breach of the covenant made with Israel. In our present earthly state, outward religions forms are highly useful; but if they remain only forms - done without heart or willinghood - they are barren of blessing to men. As the race advances in religious culture, simpler and fewer forms will suffice. Men will be able to rise to communion with God without the intervention of rites. In the heavenly home no temple is found, for God himself is the Temple, and the redeemed have immediate access to his presence. But for the present, visible ordinances are the best channels by which we can gain fellowship with God.
III. CHURCH-WORSHIP REQUIRES PURITY OF CHARACTER. Had the God of Israel demanded internal purity as the condition of approaching him, he would have shut out the whole race of men from his house. But his high design is to create holy character among men, and every arrangement of temple-worship has purification for its end. The uncircumcised Gentiles were allowed to enter an outer court; the circumcised could have nearer approach; an inner circle was reserved for the children of Levi; and only one of all the human race was permitted to enter the holiest sanctuary - the very presence-chamber of Jehovah. In this way the world was taught the value of moral purity. In proportion to holiness of character is the nearness of access to God, The pure in heart shall see him. Hence the cardinal distinction between the circumcised and the uncircumcised, which God so wisely imposed. With that man God dwells who has a humble and contrite heart. To promote moral purity is the proper design of Church-worship.
IV. CHURCH-WORSHIP DEBASED IS THE FOULEST OFFENCE. It is to repel God in the act of his most gracious approach to men. It is to wound God in the tenderest part of his nature. Sacrilege has always been counted a most heinous offence. To secularize the temple is to destroy the only ladder by which we can climb to heaven. To trifle with religion is to commit spiritual suicide. On this head our Lord asks, "If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!" As new-fallen snow is among the most beautiful of natural objects, so tarnished snow is most offensive to the eye. If the only fount of living water be poisoned, how can the life of men Be sustained? To abuse the ordinances of the sanctuary is to starve one's own soul, is to make religion obnoxious to our fellows, is to insult Jehovah. This is man's crowning sin - "a sin unto death."
V. RELIGIOUS SERVICE MUST BE PERSONAL AND INDIVIDUAL. "Ye have not kept the charge of mine holy things: but ye have set keepers of my charge in my sanctuary for yourselves/' In the eyes of God it was a foul offence that the priests had delegated their work to others - to persons whom Jehovah had not appointed, did not approve! It is impossible for any man to devolve his service for God upon another person. God's service cannot be discharged by proxy. Just as no man can transfer to another his talents, or his qualities, or his position, so no man can transfer his responsibilities or his work. Already God has supreme claim to the entire service of that man to whom I may wish to transfer my task. Already he is under tribute to serve the same Master. Moreover, by abandoning my service, I abandon my reward and my joy. Delegation of service in God's kingdom is forbidden. "Each one of us must give account of himself before God." Rightly understood, service is privilege. To serve is to reign. - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then brought he me the way of the north gate before the house: and I looked, and, behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD: and I fell upon my face.