Do you ever wonder why God included all those descriptions of the temple in the Old Testament? Why it needed to be made of certain materials? Why it had to have certain furniture? Why the priests had to perform certain sacrifices? Most Christians have wondered these questions and others like them but haven’t found satisfactory answers, or answers compelling enough that they want to read books like the last half of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy as part of their regular Scripture meditations.
My hope is that in this short article, you might gain a sense of wonder and awe at the things contained in these books and be encouraged to delve deeper into meditating upon these often-neglected parts of Scripture. The temple texts in the Old Testament can only be rightly understood if we remember these two sets of Scriptures from the New Testament. First, John 2:19-21 reminds us that all the temple texts must be interpreted in light of Jesus Christ who is the fulfillment of all that was pictured before. So if we get bogged down in the descriptions of the temple, the furniture or the sacrifices, we need to ask, “What might these pieces of furniture, sacrifices or descriptions be foreshadowing about the life and work of our Savior?”
For example, the Lamp that always burns in the temple lighting the way towards the Holy of Holies is none other than Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. The bread constantly laid anew on the golden tables in the Holy place and subsequently eaten by the priests is none other than Jesus Christ, our daily bread. The incense that must always be kept burning picture the unending intercession of our Savior for his people. The Curtain that separates the world from the Lord is Jesus the Gate of life. The washing required before any may enter the temple is a picture of the Spiritual renewal, i.e. baptism of the Spirit, that every believer undergoes in order to enter into God’s presence and the sacrifices offered all foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our Passover Lamb.
Even the requirements for the people to be in Jerusalem 3 times per year for the Feasts of unleavened Bread, Pentecost and Tabernacles were orchestrated by God to ensure that every male in the nation would be in the city when Jesus was born into the world, when he was Crucified and Resurrected and when the Holy Spirit was sent upon the Church. Not one family would fail to have a representative who could speak personally about what they had seen, heard and experienced. It’s no wonder the men on the road to Emmaus declared, “Are you the only one who doesn’t know what has happened?” God had planned it so that the revelation of Jesus Christ would be clear and accessible to all. The whole temple structure was meant to give people a foretaste of the coming of the Redeemer.
The second set of passages we must keep in mind is 1Cor 3:16 and 6:19. These texts declare that all believers are the embodiment of the temple in the world today. We are the very image of Christ in a dark and broken place. We are the bearers of the gospel message. Our life is to be lived as men and women interceding for others, sharing true spiritual food, and washing one another with repentance and forgiveness. We are the ones called to testify to what we have seen and heard and experienced. We are God’s people called to point the way to God’s throne room through Christ.
Our calling is to re-present Jesus in all his glory and majesty to everyone in the world. We are the royal priesthood called to help others to engage in proper worship of God. We are the holy nation called to be separate but a blessing. We are the people belonging to our God, called to serve our Lord. And at the same time we are the ones experiencing the blood of Christ poured onto our hearts and minds, being washed in pure water. We are the ones in which the Spirit of God dwells and makes holy. We are the participants in the true temple, where worship in spirit and truth occurs and will never cease.
I hope this short excursus has spurred you on to examine anew the wonder of some often-neglected books of the Scriptures. I hope that you have gained a new pair of glasses with which to view all the Scriptures, for they all testify to whom Jesus was, is and forever will be. May his people never forget, these are the Scriptures, Old Testament and New, which testify to Our Savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God.