In the opening of this consideration of
the great revelation in the Scriptures of the House of God we noted the fact
that God, in His creation of the world, had in view His dwelling with man. The
end of the revelation sees that realised when the great declaration is made,
"The Tabernacle of God is with men." At the beginning there was something which
pointed to this in that He walked in the Garden and conversed with unfallen man.
Then things became unsuited to His presence, for His rights had been challenged
and man was found on the side of the challenge rather than on that of the
Challenged: and more, man was - and has for ever since been by nature - on
the side of the challenger. This fact comes out invariably when faith in God is
subjected to certain tests.
From the time when He could no longer move
freely in a state suited to Him, the Lord sought to have a place among men, and
thus He never abandoned His original purpose, but persistently broke in and
sought to have His rights recognised. Men of faith who had taken up the
testimony to the utter rights in Lordship of God have always had to meet the
full impact of a spiritual hierarchy which is set on keeping God out of the
world. "The whole world lieth in the wicked one," hence, that which is God's
house must be utterly separated from the world: though linked with it in
testimony, yet not one wit of it. This leads us to the first and
pre-eminent feature of God's House: remembering that believers individually and
corporately are His house, His dwelling (this we shall consider more fully
We proceed then to consider what, in Ezekiel,
"The Law of the House."
"This is the law of the house: upon the top of
the mountain the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy. Behold this
is the law of the house." Ezek. 43:12.
This principle of suitability to the presence
of the Lord runs throughout the revelation of all His associations with man.
Holiness has often been taught as a branch of truth in itself, but every great
aspect of truth in the Word of God is related to a centre, and that Centre is
the Lord Himself. To have the adequate motive for any one requirement it must be
seen in its setting with its great eternal and universal background. It is
perilous to concentrate upon a fragment or a phase and give it a place in
itself, and it robs it of its own dynamic to do so. So holiness must be
seen - like all other Divine elements - in connection with the one great
all-inclusive purpose of God, and the "House of God" is intended to be a
cumulative, concrete, crystalisation of all the Divine features as capable of
impartation to man. (This does not include Deity.)
Thus the matter of holiness applies to the
whole desire and intention of God to make His dwelling with man, and carries
with it the fitness for that abiding.
Seeing - as we have previously pointed out - that
the House of God first definitely comes in with Jacob at Bethel, we go back in
that connection to take up this "law of the House." From the time of his meeting
with God first at "Bethel" till the time when he was Divinely commanded to
"arise and go to Bethel" (Gen. 35:1) twenty years elapsed. What a twenty years
it was! suffering, testing, being sinned against, sifting, and proving God. He
had had plenty of time for thinking over the events and elements of that
historic night, and of coming to some fuller understanding of its meaning and
implications. So it was that when - after twenty years - the command came he
instantly gave to his household some significant instructions. "Put away the
foreign gods from among you." "Bethel," the house of God, is no place for other
gods, that which suggests the false god, "the god of this age," or divided
worship. That is unholiness and is utterly unfitting for the presence of the
Lord. Not only is this so in the case of worship, but it is also true in the
matter of the whole resource of the flesh. Before the Lord commanded Jacob to go
up to Bethel there had taken place that terrific episode at Jabbok where the
sinew of his thigh - the symbol of his self-strength - had been withered. To the end
of his life he carried that weakness, and when at length, an old man, he blessed
his sons, he did so in faith, "leaning upon the top of his staff." What a
reminder that faith in self has to be broken and faith in God is
our only strength. Yes, from that time onward this great fact is always kept in
view, that the flesh is altogether out of keeping with the House of God.
never has committed Himself to man's "flesh," and He never will do so. If Paul
brings in the House of God more fully than any other, then he will have more
than any other to say about the "flesh" and the need for its putting away. Note
this in connection with every reintroduction of the House of God.
What elaborate precautions were taken in connection with the Tabernacle that
all who were associated with it should have their flesh covered. Linen robes
long enough to cover the ankles. Linen, without an admixture of wool lest
perspiration of flesh should be induced. The holy anointing oil was not to
come upon man's flesh apart from the blood. There were to be no steps to the
altar lest lower extremities should be uncovered in going up. The physical flesh
of the Old Testament was but a type of that moral "flesh" of the New. It would
seem that the one great concern in all this exhaustive system was to guard
against man's natural life as such coming uncovered before God.
Then when the Temple comes in through David the
same law is immediately met with. David must not build the House of God because
of his hands being stained with blood. This was true in a general way, but there
was also that specific thing which had made him unclean and had weakened him for
good. He had been the cause of death and plague in a realm which was not just
straightforward warfare, but where Satan had had a hand, and where the "flesh"
had governed. So, while the plan could be given to David, the execution was
committed to Solomon. Then again there is the elaborate care that everything
shall be suitable to God.
There are few more impressive things in the
Bible than the three great Confession chapters of Daniel (9), Ezra (9). Nehemiah
(9). Those all are related to the house of God at Jerusalem and the unhappy
state of things amongst the Lord's people. They represent one great cry and sob
because of conditions which are entirely out of harmony with the glory of God.
What were all the splendours and glories of Babylon to Daniel when the House of
his God at Jerusalem was in ruins. To him there was only one thing that mattered
and it was the glory of God. That glory was beclouded while things were
as they were there. That state of things, that departure of God from His house
was - as the confession makes clear - due to "flesh" being in evidence in the Holy
Place and in the holy things.
Ezra's prayer is a terrible thing, it moved all
who heard it to action, and action of the most drastic and costly character. The
holy seed had become mingled with what was foreign. Foreign wives had been taken
and there were families. Speaking in spiritual symbolism this represented the
affections being set on things beneath, and the results. It speaks of
affectional principles influencing the Lord's people earthward, and then the
responsibilities which follow. How difficult it is to get rid of these! How
costly this is in the matter of the Lord's presence and glory.
Carrying all this forward into the New
Testament we see, firstly, how the Temple is set aside because of inward
uncleanness. The Lord Jesus takes its place as the true Temple, but for those
who do not as yet recognise the significance of His Person He is saying and
doing those things which - being placed on record - will forever reveal His mind as
to what is related to the House of God. Vehement denunciations of all that is
not holy to the very core, and burning acts of indignation against any
caricaturing of the Divine dwelling. A passion for holiness and truth marked His
attitude to all who had any official connection with the Temple. Going on still
further we see that before the "Body" which is the Church, can be brought in in
Romans 12, all that work of chapter 6 has to be settled and a chapter 8 position
has to be occupied, leading on to 12:1, "Present your bodies a living sacrifice,
holy, acceptable, which is your spiritual worship: and be not conformed
to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind."
The same is true in both Ephesians and
Colossians, where death, burial and resurrection unto newness of life are placed
before going into the "House" or "Body" or "Church."
All this is one great prolonged emphasis upon
the words of the Psalm, "Holiness becometh Thy House, O Lord, for ever."
Again let us say that Holiness is not a
department of truth, a line of teaching, but it embraces the whole house of God
from centre to circumference, from foundation to top-stone, and all that is in
Men organise movements and constitute
societies. God sanctifies people as the instruments of His purpose. Men think
more of the work to be done. God thinks most of the spiritual state of His
Of the twenty-seven books comprising the New
Testament, six are largely history with much spiritual teaching in them, and all
the rest - twenty-one books - are devoted to the spiritual life and state of
God never guarantees to keep work or workers
going beyond the spiritual condition or standard that He requires. There
comes a point where men have to assume the responsibility and take the
strain, and the Lord lets it fall on them if the spiritual standard is lowered.
Bigness and what man calls success is not the
determining feature of spiritual value, but spiritual suitability to God. What
determines things according to God is whether they proclaim Him at every
The last verdict of man passed upon Christ here
on earth was, "truly this was a righteous man." Not "a successful man" or
"an able man" or "a clever man," but "a righteous man." Our chief concern
must be, not for what others will call successful, but for what God can
establish forever: what can be made to really serve His end - i.e., the
manifestation of Christ, and such must be above all else marked by holiness.
The one thing upon which the Lord Jesus could
challenge men as to Himself was the question of sin.
He did not say, "Which of you can charge me
with being unlearned, or without ability, or prestige?" but, "which of you
chargeth me with sin?"
Nothing is of value in God's eyes beyond the
degree of its holiness. The instruments which have been mostly used of God have
been those which had a spiritual state mostly in view. With these the spiritual
state of the Lord's people was of infinitely greater influence than the success
of the enterprise embarked upon.
Many great instrumentalities have sprung out of
ministries concerned with full sanctification. If Jacob is to be God's "Prince,"
which means to have power with God and man, and this is to be related to Bethel,
The House of God, then, if it takes twenty years to do it, God will discipline
and chasten and smite the flesh in order to make him a suitable head of the
House of Israel - which was God's dwelling.
It is important and helpful to note that often
the Lord gives some revelation of truth far ahead of it becoming effectual, and
then begins a history of dealings with us to bring us into
conformity - spiritually - with that truth. So it was with Jacob. When the time
arrives then we know quite well why He has so led us and dealt with us, and are
able to enter into it in a living way, rather than just a mental way.