Chapter 11—“That I May Dwell Among Them”
When the Lord gave to Israel the original directions for the making of the sanctuary, that was to be a figure for the time then present, he said, “Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” (Exodus 25:8)
That He might “dwell among them” was the object of the sanctuary. This purpose of the sanctuary is more fully stated in the following: “And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle [margin, “Israel”] shall be sanctified by my glory. And I will sanctify the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar: I will sanctify also both Aaron and his sons, to minister to me in the priest’s office. And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them: I am the Lord their God.” (Exodus 29:43-46; also Leviticus 26:11:12)
This purpose was not that He should dwell among them simply and only by the tabernacle’s being set up in the midst of the camp of Israel. This is the great mistake that Israel made in the use of the tabernacle and so almost wholly lost the true purpose of the sanctuary. When the tabernacle was made and was set up in the midst of the camp of Israel, many of the children of Israel supposed that that was enough; they supposed that to be the way in which God would dwell in the midst of them.
It is true that by the Shekinah, God did dwell in the sanctuary. But even the sanctuary with its splendid furniture, standing in the midst of the camp—this was not all of the sanctuary. In addition to the splendid building and its furniture, there were the sacrifices and offerings of the people and the sacrifices and offerings on behalf of the people. There were the priests in their continual services and there was the high priest in his holy ministry. Without these the sanctuary was for Israel practically an empty thing, even though the Lord did dwell in it.
And what was the meaning and purpose of these things? Let us see: When any of the children of Israel had “done somewhat against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which should not be done,” and so was “guilty,” then “of his own voluntary will” he brought to the door of the tabernacle his sacrificial lamb. Before the lamb was offered in sacrifice the individual who had brought it laid his hands upon its head and confessed his sins and it was “accepted for him to make atonement for him.” Then he who had brought the lamb and confessed his sins slew it. Its blood was caught in a basin. Some of the blood was sprinkled round about upon the altar of burnt offering, which was at the door of the tabernacle; some of it was put “upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense, which is in the tabernacle of the congregation;” some of it was sprinkled “seven times before the Lord before the veil of the sanctuary;” and all the rest of it was poured out “at the bottom of the altar of burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.” The lamb itself was burnt upon the altar of burnt offering. And of all this service, it is written in conclusion: “and the priest shall make an atonement for his sin that he hath committed, and it shall be forgiven him.” The service was similar in case of the sin and confession of the whole congregation. Also there was a similar service, a continual service morning and evening, in behalf of the whole congregation. But whether the services were individual or general, the conclusion of it was always declared to be “The priest shall make an atonement for him [or them], and it shall be forgiven him.” (See Leviticus chapters 1 to 5.)
The course of service of the sanctuary was completed annually. And the day of the completion of the service, the tenth day of the seventh month, was especially “the day of atonement” or the cleansing of the sanctuary. On that day service was concluded in the Most Holy Place. That day was the “once every year” when “the High Priest alone” went into the “Holiest of all” or Most Holy Place. And of the high priest and his service that day it is written, “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.” (Leviticus 16:2-34; Hebrews 9:2-8)
Thus the services of the sanctuary, in the offering of the sacrifices and the ministering of the priests, and of the high priests alone, was for the making of atonement and for the forgiveness and sending away of the sins of the people. Because of the sin and guilt, because of their having “done somewhat against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which should not be done,” atonement must be made and forgiveness obtained. Atonement is literally at-one-ment. The sin and the guilt had separated them from God. By these services they were made at-one with God. Forgive is literally give-for. To forgive sin is to give for sin. Forgiveness of sin comes alone from God. What does God give, what has He given, for sin? He gave Christ, and Christ “gave himself for our sins.” (Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 2:12-16; Romans 5:8-11)
Therefore when an individual or the whole congregation of Israel had sinned and desired forgiveness the whole problem and plan of forgiveness, of atonement, of salvation, was worked out before their faces. The sacrifice which was brought was in faith of the sacrifice which God had already made in giving His Son for sin. In this faith sinners were accepted of God, and Christ was received of them for their sin. Thus they were made at one with God, and thus God would dwell in the midst of them; that is, He would dwell in each heart and abide in each life to make that heart and life “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.” And the placing of the tabernacle in the midst of the camp of Israel was an illustration, an object lesson and suggestion, of the truth that He would dwell in the midst of each individual. (Ephesians 3:16-19)
Some of that nation in every age saw in the sanctuary this great saving truth. But as a body in all ages Israel missed this thought, and stopping only with the thought of His dwelling in the tabernacle in the midst of the camp, they came short of having His own personal presence dwelling in their individual lives. Accordingly their worship became only outward and formal, rather than inward and spiritual. Therefore, their own lives continued unreformed and unholy, and so those who came out of Egypt missed the great thing which God had for them and “fell in the wilderness.” (Hebrews 3:17-19)
The same mistake was made by the people after they had passed into the land of Canaan. They put their dependence on the Lord only as He dwelt in the tabernacle and would not allow that the tabernacle and its ministry should be the means of His dwelling in themselves through faith. Consequently their lives only increased in wickedness. Therefore God allowed the tabernacle to be destroyed and the ark of God to be taken captive by the heathen (Jeremiah 7:12; 1 Samuel 4:10-22) in order that the people might learn to see and find and worship God individually and so find Him to dwell with them individually.
After the absence of the tabernacle and its service from among Israel for about a hundred years, it was restored by David and was merged in the grand temple that was built by Solomon. But again its true purpose was gradually lost sight of. Formalism with its attending wickedness more and more increased until in Israel the Lord was compelled to cry out: “I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. 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. Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy vials. But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.” (Amos 5:21-24)
Also in Judah, by Isaiah, He was compelled to make a like plea: “Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. 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 oblations; incense is an abomination unto Me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I can not 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. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:10-18)
Yet His pleas were not regarded. Israel was therefore carried captive and her land was left desolate because of their wickedness; and the like fate hung over Judah. And still this danger to Judah was from the same great cause that the Lord had been striving always to teach the nation and which they had not yet learned: the holding of the temple and God’s presence in that temple as the great end, instead of holding that as only the means to the true end which was that by means of the temple and its ministry in accomplishing forgiveness and atonement, He who dwelt in the temple would dwell in themselves. And so again the Lord pleaded with His people by Jeremiah that He might save them from this mistake and have them see and receive the great truth of the real meaning and purpose of the temple and its service.
Thus He said: “Behold, ye trust in lying words, that can not profit. Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; 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? Is this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the Lord.
“But go ye now unto My place which was in Shiloh, where I set My name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of My people Israel. And now, because ye have done all these works, saith the Lord, and I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not; and I called you, but ye answered not; therefore will I do unto this house, which is called by My name, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of My sight, as I have cast out all your brethren, even the whole seed of Ephraim. Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to Me: for I will not hear thee.… Oh that My head were waters, and Mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of My people! Oh that I had in the wilderness a lodging place of wayfaring men; that I might leave My people, and go from them! for they be all adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men. And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not Me.” (Jeremiah 7:8-16; 9:1, 3)
What were specifically the “lying words” in which these people trusted? Here they are: “Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, are these.” (Jeremiah 7:4) Thus it is made perfectly plain that the people though going through the forms of worship and of the temple service, went through all this merely as forms, missing entirely the purpose of the temple and its services, which was solely that God might reform and make holy the lives of the people by His dwelling in them individually. And missing all this, the wickedness of their own hearts only more and more made itself manifest. For this reason all their sacrifices, worship, and prayers, were only mockery and noise, so long as their hearts and lives were unreformed and unholy.
Therefore the word “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 your 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. For if ye thoroughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor; if ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, forever and ever.” (Jeremiah 7:1-7)
Instead of allowing God’s great purpose of the temple and its services to be met in themselves, the people utterly perverted that purpose. Instead of allowing the temple and its services which God in His mercy had planted among them, to teach them how that He in truth would dwell among them by dwelling in their hearts and making holy their lives, they excluded all this true purpose of the temple and its services and perverted it all to the utterly false purpose of sanctioning grossest wickedness and cloaking deepest, darkest unholiness.
For such a system there was no remedy but destruction. Accordingly the city was besieged and captured by the heathen. The temple, their “holy and beautiful house” was destroyed. And with the city and the temple a heap of burnt and blackened ruins, the people were carried captive to Babylon, where in their sorrow and the deep sense of their great loss they sought and found and worshiped the Lord in a way that so reformed their lives that if they had done it when the temple stood, it would have stood forever. (Psalm 137:1-6)
God brought them back from Babylon a humbled and reformed people. His holy temple was rebuilt and its services were restored. The people again dwelt in their city and their land. But apostasy again ensued. The same course was again repeated until, when Jesus, the great center of the temple and its services came to His own, the same old condition of things again prevailed. (Matthew 21:12, 13; 23:13-32) In their hearts they could persecute and pursue Him to the death and yet outwardly be so holy that they could not cross the threshold of Pilate’s judgment hall “lest they should be defiled”! (John 18:28)
And the Lord’s appeal to the people was still the same as of old—that they should find in their own personal lives the meaning of the temple and its services and so be saved from the fate which had overtaken their nation through all its history, because of this same great mistake which they were repeating. Accordingly, one day in the temple Jesus said to the multitude there present, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But He spake of the temple of His body.” (John 2:19-21) When Jesus in the temple spoke thus to that people, referring to “the temple of His body” he was still endeavoring, as through all their history, to get them to perceive that the great purpose of the temple and its services always was that by means of the ministry and service there conducted, God would dwell and walk in themselves as He dwelt in the temple, making holy His dwelling-place in themselves, as His dwelling in the temple made that place holy so that their bodies should be truly temples of the living God, because of God’s dwelling in them and walking in them. (2 Corinthians 6:16; 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17; Leviticus 26:11, 12; 2 Samuel 7:6, 7)
And still they would not see this truth. They would not be reformed. They would not have the purpose of the sanctuary met in themselves, that God should dwell in them. They rejected Him who came personally to show to them this true purpose and the true Way. Therefore again there was no remedy but destruction. Again their city was taken by the heathen. Again the temple, their “holy and beautiful house,” was burned with fire. Again they were taken captive and were forever scattered, to be only “wanderers among the nations.” (Hosea 9:17)
Again let it be emphasized that the earthly sanctuary, the earthly temple, with its ministry and services, was as such only a figure of the true, which with its ministry and services was then in heaven. When the thought of the sanctuary was first presented to Moses for Israel it was stated by the Lord to him, “See… that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.” (Hebrews 8:5; Exodus 25:40; 25:30; 27:8) The sanctuary on the earth was therefore a figure of the true, in the sense of its being a pattern of the true. The ministry and services in the earthly were “figures of the true” in the sense of being “the patterns” of the true—“the patterns of things in the heavens.” (Hebrews 9:23, 24)
The true sanctuary of which this was a figure, the original of which this was a pattern, was then in existence. But in the darkness and confusion of Egypt, Israel had lost the true idea of this, as they had also of many other things which were plain to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob; and by this object-lesson God would give to them the knowledge of the true. It was therefore not a figure in the sense of being a type of something to come that did not yet exist, but a figure in the sense of being an object-lesson and visible representation of that which then existed but was invisible, to train them up to such an experience in faith and true spirituality that they should see the invisible.
And by all this God was revealing to them and to all people forever that it is by the priesthood, ministry, and service of Christ in the true sanctuary or temple which is in heaven, that He dwells amongst men. He was revealing that in this faith of Jesus, forgiveness of sins and atonement is ministered to men so that God dwells in them and walks in them, He being their God and they His people, and thus they be separated from all the people that are upon the face of the earth—separated unto God as His own true sons and daughters to be built up unto perfection in the knowledge of God. (Exodus 33:15, 16; 2 Corinthians 6:16-18; 7:1)
(To be continued)
(This article was taken from pages 62-75 of the book, The Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection, by Alonzo T. Jones. Some editing has been done for this publication. Editor)