Thus said the LORD of hosts; If you will walk in my ways, and if you will keep my charge, then you shall also judge my house…
The prophet has just been describing a vision of judgment in which the high priest, as representative of the nation, stood before the angel of the Lord as an unclean person. He is cleansed, and clothed, and a fair priestly garment, with "Holiness to the Lord" written on the front of it, put upon him. And then follow a series of promises, of which the climax is the one that I have read. "I will give thee a place of access," says the Revised Version, instead of "places to walk"; "I will give thee a place of access among those that stand by"; the attendant angels are dimly seen surrounding their Lord. And so the promise of my text is that of free approach to God, of a life that is like that of the angels that stand before His face. So, then, the words suggest to us —
I. WHAT A CHRISTIAN LIFE MAY BE. There are two images blended together in the great words of my text: the one is that of a king's court, the other is that of a temple. With regard to the former, it is a privilege given to the highest nobles of a kingdom — or it was in old days — to have the right of entree, at all moments and in all circumstances, to the monarch. With regard to the latter the prerogative of the high priest, who is the recipient of this promise as to access to the Temple, was a very restricted one. Once a year, with the blood that prevented his annihilation by the brightness of the Presence into which he ventured, he passed within the veil, and stood before that mysterious Light that coruscated in the darkness of the Holy of Holies. But this High Priest is promised an access on all days and at all times; and that He may stand there, beside and like the seraphim. This Priest passes within the veil when He will. Or, to put away the two metaphors, and to come to the reality far greater than either of them, we can, whensoever we please, pass into the Presence before which the splendours of an earthly monarch's court shrink into vulgarity, and attain to a real reception of the light that irradiates the true Holy Place, before which that which shone in the earthly shrine dwindles and darkens into a shadow. Our lives may on the outside thus be largely amongst the things seen and temporal, and yet all the while penetrating through these, and laying hold with their true roots on the Eternal. Our Master is the great Example of this, of whom it is said, not only in reference to His mysterious and unique union of nature with the Father in His Divinity, but in reference to the humanity which He had in common with us all, yet without sin, that the Son of Man came down from heaven, and even in the act of coming, and when He had come was yet the Son of Man which is in heaven. Such a conversation in heaven, and such association with the bands of the blessed, is possible even for a life upon earth.
II. Let us consider this promise as a PATTERN FOR US OF WHAT CHRISTIAN LIFE SHOULD BE, and, alas! so seldom is. There is no greater sin than living beneath the possibilities of our lives, in any region, whether religious or other it matters not. Sin is not only going contrary to the known law of God, but also a falling beneath a Divine ideal which is capable of realisation. And in regard to our Christian life, if God has flung open His temple gates and said to us, "Come in, My child, and dwell in the secret place of the Most High, and abide there under the shadow of the Almighty, finding protection and communion and companionship in My worship," there can be nothing more insulting to Him, and nothing more fatally indicative of the alienation of our hearts from Him, than that we should refuse to obey the merciful invitation. What should we say of a son or a daughter, living in the same city with their parents, who never crossed the threshold of the father's house, but that they had lost the spirit of the child, and that if there was no desire to be near there could be no love! So, if we will ask ourselves: "How often do I use this possibility of communion with God, which might irradiate all my daily life?"
III. Again, my text suggests to us what EVERY CHRISTIAN LIFE WILL HEREAFTER PERFECTLY BE. Some commentators take the words of my text to refer only to the communion of saints from the earth, with the glorified angels, in and after the resurrection. That is a poor interpretation, for heaven is here today. All that here has been imperfect, fragmentary, occasional, interrupted, and marred in our communion with God, shall one day be complete. And then, oh! then, who can tell what undreamed of depths and sweetnesses of renewed communion and of intercourses begun, for the first time then, between "those that stand by," and have stood there for ages, will then be realised?
IV. Lastly, notice, not from my text, but from its context, HOW ANY LIFE MAY BECOME THUS PRIVILEGED. The promise is preceded by a condition: "If thou wilt walk in My ways, and if thou wilt keep My charge, then...I will give thee access among those that stand by." If we are keeping His commandments, then, and only then, shall we have access with free hearts into His presence. But to lay down that condition seems the same thing as slamming the door in every man's face. But let us remember what went before my text, the experience of the Priest to whom it was spoken in the vision. His filthy garments were stripped off him, and the pure white robes worn on the great Day of Atonement, the sacerdotal dress, was put upon him. It is the cleansed man that has access among "those that stand by,"
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by.
WEB: "Thus says Yahweh of Armies: 'If you will walk in my ways, and if you will follow my instructions, then you also shall judge my house, and shall also keep my courts, and I will give you a place of access among these who stand by.