The side rooms surrounding the temple widened at each successive level, because the structure surrounding the temple ascended by stages corresponding to the narrowing of the temple wall as it rose upward. And so a stairway went up from the lowest story to the highest through the middle one.
adytum of the Jewish temple.
I. THE PRIMITIVE SIGNIFICATION OF HOLINESS IS SEPARATION, AND THE MOST HOLY PLACE WAS ONE MARKED OFF AND SET APART FROM ALL AROUND. A purpose was served by the distinction between the sacred and the profane - a distinction which may, in the highest stage of spiritual culture, be transcended. Men have to be taught by their senses; and the separation of a certain spot, a certain building, a certain portion of a building, from all around, contributes to the formation of the idea of sanctity. This might not be necessary in a world where no sin exists; but in this world, where sin has reigned, and where sin still so largely prevails, the evil has impressed itself on men's minds as normal, and the pure and Divine as exceptional. Hence the consecration of sites, and temples, oracles, and holy places.
II. THE MOST HOLY PLACE SERVED TO EDUCATE THE JEWISH PEOPLE IN MORALITY AND IN TRUE RELIGION. The whole ceremonial and sacrificial dispensation established by Moses, with all the observances of the Levitical Law, may justly be regarded as instructive and disciplinary, in the first place for Israel, and then for all mankind. Those who looked upon the temple and its sanctuary could not but be reminded that here was the peculiar dwelling-place of a holy God. The degrees of holiness attaching to the several parts of the sacred edifice, culminating in the sanctity of the most holy place, were fitted to elicit the spiritual apprehensions, the reverence, the devotion, the penitence, of those who felt themselves in the presence and under the training of the all-holy God. To a certain extent every Israelite not specially disqualified might draw near to Jehovah; the priests were suffered and required to approach still nearer to the shrine; but the high priest alone was permitted, and that only upon a special occasion, to enter the most holy place. Such arrangements and provisions were admirably adapted to educate the Jewish people in the idea and in the practice of holiness.
III. RECONCILIATION BETWEEN A SINFUL NATION AND A JUST AND PURE GOD WAS EFFECTED THROUGH THE MEDIUM OF THE MOST HOLY PLACE. In the holy of holies was performed the especially solemn and sacred service in which, upon the Day of Atonement, the high priest alone was suffered to take part as the representative of the people of the covenant. On that occasion the federal relation of Israel was conspicuously set forth. To the pious Jew the contents of the holy of holies, the vestments of the officiating high priest, the blood of atonement, must all have possessed a very special and very sacred interest. And that interest centered in the idea of reconciliation between Jehovah and the chosen nation - reconciliation rendered necessary by the sins of the people, and by the perfectly holy character, the perfectly righteous government, of God. Consecrated to this use, the inmost sanctuary was naturally invested with a sacredness altogether unique.
IV. THE MOST HOLY PLACE BECAME ASSOCIATED WITH COMMUNION BETWEEN ISRAEL AND ISRAEL'S GOD. Reconciliation naturally led to fellowship. The enlightened Jews doubtless took a spiritual view of the Divine presence, and sympathized with the sublime language of Solomon at the dedication of the temple: "Will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built!" Still, it was by means of this temple, its priesthood and its services, that the Jewish nation generally were, by Divine appointment and intention, made familiar with the possibility and privilege of fellowship with the Eternal. It was inculcated upon them that such communion was only possible in virtue of the condescension and compassion of the Most High, and that there was needed on their part, in order to the enjoyment of the privilege, a peculiar preparation, a spiritual cleansing. The thoughtful and devout Jew learned, by means of the temple services, to form such an idea of God as led him to seek a spiritual discipline. He knew that the sacrifices in themselves were insufficient, and that the sacrifices required by the Searcher of hearts were spiritual, consisting in humility, penitence, faith, and obedience. Those thus prepared might draw near unto God, and God would draw near unto them.
V. THE MOST HOLY PLACE, AS THE SCENE OF HIGH PRIESTLY MEDIATION, SYMBOLIZES THE MEDIATORIAL WORK OF CHRIST. In order to understand the symbolical, and indeed typical, character of the holy of holies, and of the ministration therein performed by the Jewish high priest, it is important to study the ninth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews. In that portion of Scripture is as authoritative and lucid explanation of the spiritual meaning of the central scenes and observances of the Jewish economy. It is shown that the shadow was in Christ superseded by the substance, and that in the new and spiritual dispensation we have the fulfillment of ancient promise. The transactions which, on the great Day of Atonement, took place within the holy of holies prefigured and adumbrated the great events by which, not Israel only, but humanity as a whole, was reconciled to God. For when Christ expired upon the cross the veil of the temple was rent in twain; and thenceforth, through the rent veil of Christ's humanity, the way into the holiest of all was opened up; the alienation of the human race from God was abolished; and perpetual communion was provided between a gracious Father and his restored and accepted children. The most holy place into which through Christ we have access is nothing else than the favor, the fellowship, the love of God. - T.
And there was an enlarging, and a winding about still upward.Isaiah 55:5; Colossians 3:1). Indeed it is the nature of grace to enlarge itself still upward, and to make the heart widest for the things that are above. The temple, therefore, was narrowest downwards, to show that a little of earth or this world should serve the Church of God. One may say of the fashion of the temple, as some say of a lively picture, "it speaks." I say, its form and fashion speaks; it says to all saints, to all the Churches of Christ, Open your hearts for heaven, be ye enlarged upward. I read not in Scripture of any house, but this that was enlarged upwards, nor is there anywhere, save only in the Church of God, that which doth answer this similitude. All others are widest downward, and have the largest heart for earthly things. The Church only has its greatest enlargements towards heaven.
( John Bunyan.)
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