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Bible Commentaries

Seiss' Lectures on Leviticus and Revelation

Leviticus 24

Verses 1-23

Twentieth Lecture.
The Sanctuary and Its Furniture

Leviticus 24:1-23

The three Apartments of the Tabernacle—Types of the three states of man in his progress from Condemnation to complete Redemption—The Golden Candlesticks—The Shew-bread—Salvation in the Church only—True members of the Church have but a veil between them and heaven—Shelomith’s son.

It has been said of the principal part of this chapter, chat it gives "what may be called the private duties of the priest." But this is not all that it contains. It embraces provisions which do not refer to the priest at all. It lays commands directly upon the people, as well as upon the priest. It gives what would be much better described by the caption, Arrangements for the daily service of the Sanctuary. It speaks of the lamps, and how they were to be kept continually burning; of the oil by which they were to be fed; of the table of shew-bread, and how the loaves were to be made and exchanged; and of the ordering of other things pertaining to the ordinary services of the sanctuary.

Here, then, more than in any preceding portion of this book, are we brought to the consideration of sacred places. We have been looking at sacred things, sacred persons, sacred times; but very little at sacred edifices or. their furniture. Concerning these, not much is directly said in Leviticus, for the reason that everything pertaining to the Tabernacle was already so fully described in the preceding book. Still, as the regulations for the services which were never to cease in the sanctuary are here brought before us, if we are to speak at all of the sacred places in this connection, this is the proper point for it to be done.

The Tabernacle of Moses, and the Temple of Solomon, (which was only a more substantial and permanent renewal of the same thing,) were as much typical "of good things to come," as the priests who officiated, or the services that were celebrated in them. They were a part of the same grand system, by which God, in those early times, shadowed forth his future dispensations. And we are the more easily led to entertain this belief, from the fact that everything pertaining to the form and furniture of these sacred structures was of divine origin. The model was exhibited to Moses from heaven. God said to him, "Thou shalt rear up the Tabernacle according to the fashion thereof which was showed thee in the mount." Paul says that "Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the Tabernacle." From all this we would naturally suppose that God meant to express something in the very form and architecture of this sacred building, as well as in the services which it was meant to accommodate. Nay, when we come to an examination of the New Testament, in which the Old receives its explanation and fulfilment, we can have no room for cavil or doubt. The inspired apostle speaks of these "holy places made with hands," and declares them to have been "the patterns of things in the heavens," and "the figures of the true Tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not man." (Hebrews 8:2-13; Hebrews 9:1-24.) We do not, therefore, dream when we undertake to read prophecies from the very beams of the temple, and even from the lamps, tables, and curtains of Israel’s sacred tent.

To conceive of the shape and appearance of the Tabernacle, you must measure out in your imagination a level ground-plot, about one hundred and fifty feet long, and about seventy-five feet broad; that is, an oblong square, inclosed with linen canvas fastened on stakes, and cords about ten feet in height. Everything relating to the Tabernacle was inside of this inclosed area, which was called the court of the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle proper was a smaller inclosure, at the far end of this court, equally distant from the two sides of it. It was formed of boards, overlaid with gold, fifteen feet high, set up alongside of each other in sockets of silver, and held together above by golden bars passing through golden rings fastened to the boards on the outside. The roof of this inner inclosure was formed of heavy curtains of several thicknesses thrown over these rows of upright boards from side to side. This was the Tabernacle proper, which was divided again into two apartments by heavy curtains dropped from the roof. The inmost of these covered chambers, was the Holy of holies; and the other, which was the ante-chamber to it, was the Sanctuary, otherwise called the Holy place.

You thus observe three departments in this sacred structure: first, the inclosed uncovered space outside of the Tabernacle proper; then, the Sanctuary, or first room of the covered part; and third, that peculiarly sacred room in the deepest interior, called the Holy of holies. Nor could any one come to the most holy place, except by passing in through the court, and through the Sanctuary. In all this I see a symbolic history of redemption, and of the sinner’s progress from his state of condemnation and guilt to forgiveness and peace in Christ, and to his final glory in the presence of his Lord.

The first apartment was the outside court. It was here that the Jews came to offer their sacrifices. They accordingly appeared there as sinners. There was the altar of burnt-offering, representing Christ crucified as he is held up to a sinful world. By penitently looking to the victim consuming upon that altar, the devout Jew received absolution; and so the sinner by believing on Jesus as his Savior. Approach to that altar was an acknowledgment of sin. A little beyond the altar stood the sea of brass, or the brazen laver. This was between the altar and the door of the Sanctuary, and the priest, in passing into the Tabernacle, had always to wash here before he could proceed; thus acknowledging defilement, and pictorially showing that after justification comes sanctification, and that it is requisite for us to be both forgiven and cleansed before we can come into those higher manifestations found in the Tabernacle proper. The outside court, therefore, represents man in his native condition. It is our place or moral local so long as we are only beginning to believe on Christ and to cleanse ourselves from our filthy ways.

The third and most interior apartment, represents the heavenly, post-resurrection, or glorified estate of man. There was the visible presence of the Lord. It was the hidden and guarded place into which vulgar eyes could not look, or unholy ones at all enter. There were the cherubic figures, and there did Jehovah commune with his people. There was the seat of mercy and the throne of glory. It was the grand picture of that celestial invisible world, into which Christ as our forerunner and High-priest has entered, and which he holds in reserve for all his saints in the coming ages.

But, between the outside court and this inmost chamber of the Tabernacle, was the Sanctuary, or that department with which the text is directly concerned, and of which I propose more particularly to treat. Its position shows that it refers to a condition of things this side of the heavenly estate, and yet in advance of those rudimental experiences by which we come to be Christians. None but priests were allowed to enter it; but it was properly the priests’ apartment. I have heretofore explained who are God’s true spiritual priests. Peter says to all real Christians, "Ye are a royal priesthood." He does not say that they shall be priests hereafter only, but that they are priests now, called and ordained "to show forth the praises of him who hath called them out of darkness into his marvellous light." Leaning upon Christ as our sin-offering, and submitting to be washed in the laver of regeneration, we attain to "a holy priesthood," and are advanced to the apartments of the priests. But this process, by which we become priests of God, is the same by which we become members of the Christian Church. The typical reference of the Jewish Sanctuary may therefore be easily reached. It was a picture of the Christian Church estate, that is, of the immunities and relations in which we stand as the accepted followers and servants of Jesus while yet we remain in this world.

With this idea, then, let us take our station in the holy Sanctuary, and simply look around us upon the objects to which the text directs attention.

The chapter before us speaks of Lamps. These were the burners upon the famous seven-armed candlestick of gold, which God directed Moses to make for the holy Tabernacle. A full description of it is given in Exodus. To have an idea of this beautiful piece of workmanship, you must figure to yourselves a strong, massive, upright, tall, tapering shaft of gold, with a lamp upon the top. Upon this shaft you must imagine three arms branching out opposite each other on two sides, and curved upward to a level with the centre lamp, each having also a lamp on the top. You thus have a row of seven lamps, on seven different branches, and all supported by one central shaft or stem, to which each branch and lamp is attached as one piece. This fabric is what is called "the seven golden candlesticks." To feed these lamps, the children of Israel were commanded to bring pure oil, beaten from the olive, and the priest was to trim and replenish them night and morning perpetually that they might never cease to burn and shine.

Now, whatever the Jews may have understood from this significant construction, we can be in no great doubt concerning its typical meaning. The Savior himself interpreted it to John, when he said, "The seven stars (or lights) which thou sawest in my right hand, are the seven angels (or ministers) of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks are the seven churches." The central and all-supporting shaft, represented Christ; or rather, "the right hand" of Christ, on which everything Christian depends. As the seven candlesticks and their lamps were sustained by that massive golden stem, so Christ sustains every member, branch, institution and minister of his universal Church. It is he alone "that is able to keep us from falling." Take him away, and the precious faith and hope, which have been the consolation of millions of poor and sorrowing and dying ones in various ages, at once drops. Take him away, and you take away the foundation upon which humanity has built its last hopes of safety and salvation. Take him away, and you destroy the golden pedestal upon which have been carved and wrought the beautiful flowers and ornaments of grace and goodness in the lives and doings of the saints. Take him away, and the great golden candlestick set up of God for earth’s illumination falls with a crash, never to rise again.

You will observe that the number of lamps and branches of this peculiar fabric was seven—the complete number—indicating that the whole Church was thereby represented. All rested upon the one central shaft; indicating that there is no true Church, and no branch of the true Church, which does not repose in Christ as its great and only foundation and dependence. The whole fabric was of one piece. The parts were all solidly joined together as one continuous mass of solid gold. And so the holy Catholic Church is one. All the branches are compactly joined together in one central support and stay, which is Christ Jesus. And yet, in that unity there was multiplicity and diversity. There were seven branches, and these seven were not all exactly alike. Some were shorter and lighter, and some were longer and heavier; some looked towards the east, and some towards the west; some seemed to diverge very far from the central shaft, others rose immediately by its sides. There was multiplicity and diversity, and yet perfect, unbroken, graceful unity. Beautiful picture of the Church of Jesus! It is not confined to one nation, one dispensation, one denomination, but takes in all who are really united to Christ, and built upon him as their only dependence, no matter how diverse or remote from each other they may be in other respects. The Savior never meant his Church to be hemmed in to one form of outward manifestation, worship, government, or details of individual belief. The Gospel itself is four, with four separate names, and marked with four distinct individualities; and yet these four are one.

There are people who are greatly offended with Christendom for its many parties, divisions, and denominational distinctions. As well might they revile Creative Power for not making all the planets of one size, form, motion, and distance from the sun—or for making trees of more than one kind, limb and leaf—or for making birds to sing different songs and to wear different plumage—or for making flowers of more than one sort and fragrance—or for not making one man’s face just like his neighbor’s! Even God himself, in whom unity reaches its deepest intensity, has been let forth to us as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—three distinctions in adorable and eternal oneness. Why should we have difficulty, then, in finding the one great Church of the Redeemer, embracing many and differing branches and families? It is what we ought to expect. It is accordant with all analogy. There may be distinction without separation, as there are many members in one body, living one and the same life. And so the Church has different outward forms and branches, but one indwelling spirit—variety of provisional organization, but one communion—"diversities of operations," but "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in all." And with all the seeming discordances, and the many lines of individual and denominational distinction, which diversify Christendom, all who do inwardly believe and build upon the Lord Jesus Christ as their only hope, though "distinct as the billows," are still "one as the sea."

The object of these candlesticks and lamps was, to furnish light to the sanctuary. The place had no windows, no other modes of illumination. The light which characterizes Christendom as such, is not from nature—not from human reason and philosophy—but from Christ and that pure Spirit which flowed and shone through him and his inspired ministers. Without Christ, and the light which comes from the golden candlesticks of his glory, and the pure olive oil of his Spirit, mankind are in darkness on all sacred things. The night of ignorance, sin and affliction is heavy upon them. Here and there a feeble and uncertain ray may peep into their gloomy habitation to keep up an idea of a better order of things, but not sufficient to dissipate the reigning and distressing obscurity. But in the sanctuary there is light, in which all the priests of God may walk in safety and in peace. The Sun of Righteousness shines for them, if not in unveiled splendor, yet in strength enough to light the soul onward in the holy service of its Maker. "I am the light of the world," says Jesus; and all his people are "the children of light, and the children of day." When God sent his Son into the world, he said, "I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles, to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house." With his advent, "the Day-star from on high visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet in the way of peace." In him and his words, we have the light of wisdom, such as the greatest of earth’s sages never knew. In him and the heavy stroke that fell upon him on Calvary, we have the light of forgiveness of sins, purification, and hope, such as all the hecatombs, and prayers, and priestly services of the heathen never could impart. In him and his lifting up in the holy sanctuary, we have the light of joy and peace in the midst of our toils, such as no earthly power could ever give. In him and the lamps he upholds, bright rays of the sunlight of another and better world are made to illumine the steps of mortals, and stars of glory rise even upon the deep darkness of the awful grave.

Yes, "Light is come into the world!" From the watch-towers of ancient prophecy, Isaiah saw its rising beams from afar as they first fell on Moriah’s golden minarets, and cried, "Arise; shine; for thy light is come!" Full-orbed, it rose upon the land of Zabulon and Nepthalim by the way of the sea, and "the people which sat in darkness saw a great light." Jewish priests in their bigotry, and heathen rulers in their bloody tyranny, sought to quench it; but they did but trim its glorious flame and hasten its ascension. And to this day it shines in the ministrations of God’s people with a brightness that cannot be extinguished, lighting up the south with a brilliancy superior to its sunny skies, and kindling glory in the north superior to the play of the sunlight on its crystal mountains of unspotted ice. "Light is come into the world!" but many see it not, and feel not the mellow bliss that floats exhaustless in its beams. Sin hath blinded their eyes and barred their hearts against its joyous radiance. To behold it, man must come out from the cavernous dens of vice, and throw off the bandages of false philosophy, and lift up his eyes to the heavens. Evil-doers have no willingness for this. Because their deeds are evil, they love darkness rather than light, and come not to where the light shineth, and so abide in the gloom of sin and death. "But he that doeth truth cometh to the light," and thus is made a son of light, whose path shall ever shine more and more unto the perfect day.

But the chapter before us speaks of Bread as well as lamps and light. Twelve loaves, baked of fine flour, arranged in piles on a table of gold, ever stood in the holy sanctuary. These loaves were to be renewed every Sabbath, and were to be eaten by the priests in the holy place. This golden table, the same as the supporting* shaft of the golden candlesticks, represented Christ, and these unleavened loaves upon it, that pure bread from heaven which he giveth for the sustenance of them that are his.

"Man liveth not by bread alone." There are wants and cravings in our nature which cannot be satisfied with the produce of the fields. There is in us a spiritual man, which must be fed and nourished with spiritual food, or it languishes and dies. "Man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." Dives, amid all his earthly plenty and sumptuous fare, became an everlasting starveling. We need higher supplies than this world can furnish, and which can be found only in the holy sanctuary. Jesus furnishes those supplies. "I am the bread of life," says he; "he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever." It has been touchingly remarked, that "every sigh of Jesus was a crumb of imperish able bread to us." The breaking of his body on the cross has furnished the sublimest feast of time. There "they that hunger and thirst after righteousness" are forever filled. There wisdom hath furnished her table, saying, "Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled." Here love hath poured out all her lavish fulness for the famishing children of men. Here the great King throws open his banquet halls, and says, "Come, for all things are now ready." And whosoever will but consent to be made a priest of God, shall find the sacred loaves laid up for him in the holy place, upon which he may be satisfied for ever.

There were to be twelve loaves ever on the golden table—a loaf for every name upon the jewelled breastplate of the priest. And they were ample loaves. One omer of manna was enough to serve a man for a day; but each of these loaves contained two omers. The bounties provided for our souls in Christ Jesus are superabundant—far more than enough for all that will ever come to partake. Yes, poor, perishing prodigal, in your Father’s house there is "enough and to spare"—plenty to satisfy you, and welcome besides, if you will but cast away the husks of sensuality and sin, and come home from your wicked wanderings.

Neither did these loaves ever wax old or become stale. Every Sabbath they were carefully renewed, and thus kept always fresh and sweet. The bread which Jesus gives never moulds, never spoils, and never loses its relish on the tongues of his priests. It is just as fresh and delightful to the aged saint on his dying day, as when first he tasted of it in the days of his youth. It is just as pure and good to us now, as it was to the apostles when they believed on him and were satisfied. Every Sabbath day, rightly spent, brightens it up again with ever renewed beauty and preciousness. It is not that "meat that perisheth;" but "meat which endureth unto everlasting life."

And blessed is he that knoweth of this bread, and cometh to partake of it! His mouth shall be satisfied with good things, so that his youth is renewed like the eagle’s. And at the end of days, like Daniel in the school of Melzar, his countenance shall be fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which eat of Nebuchadnezzar’s meat.

—Lord, evermore give us this bread."—

Having thus looked at the beautiful provisions for light and sustenance which characterized the holy sanctuary, there is yet a thought or two respecting its relation to the holy of holies, to which I will direct your attention.

I have said, that the holy of holies was meant to represent heaven, or that invisible and glorious state into which Christ has entered as our priest and forerunner, and into which all his saints shall enter in time to come. Now, the way into this most holy place was through the Sanctuary. There was no other way of entering it. May not this be meant to signify that the way to heaven is through the Church? I know that there has been much unrighteous abuse of the doctrine, that, outside of the Church there is no salvation. It has been the weapon of bigotry, the parent of fanaticism, the shield of harsh uncharitableness; and when limited to any one form or outward order of the Church-state, it is a huge falsehood. But still, there is a solemn truth underlying it. What is the Church? It is the community of those who believe in Christ, and submit themselves to follow and obey him according to the best light within their reach. And unless a man has so far advanced in spiritual things as to be rightfully rated as a member and citizen of this spiritual commonwealth, it would be a contradiction of Christ and all his Gospel to hold out to him the hope of Christian salvation. A man must have faith, and submit to serve Christ, and thus attain to the Christian Church state, or he never shall be where Jesus is. Christ says, "I am the door." "He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber." "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; and he that believeth not shall be damned." We need no plainer words than these; and they are the words of him who openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth. The way to heaven is through the Church; not this or that particular denomination; not the company of those who stickle for these or those outward forms and ceremonies; but that universal brotherhood of such as take Christ as their Savior and only hope, and honestly act up to their best light and convictions as to what he requires of us. And if there is any way of salvation outside of this holy Catholic Church. I cannot find it revealed in the Scriptures, and fearful is the risk of him who ventures to trust in it.

But, connected with this is another and more sunny thought. If the Sanctuary is the way to heaven, those who are in that way are very near heaven. Every true member of the Church has but a veil between him and the glorious presence of God and angels. I say every true member of the Church; for not all are Israel who are of Israel. There was a Nadab and Abihu among the sons of Aaron. There was a Judas Iscariot among the twelve disciples. There was a Simon Magus among the baptized at Samaria. And the man of sin has never failed from the visible temple. There never yet was an assembly of the saints, but "Satan came also among them." There is therefore a church-membership which is only nominal and outward, possessing nothing of that living power which inwardly connects with Christ and avails for salvation. We may receive upon us the waters of Baptism, and the solemn vows of discipleship, and take and eat of the sacred elements of the Savior’s broken body and shed blood, and yet be in the gall of bitterness and the bonds of iniquity. "I have seen a branch," says an eloquent preacher, "tied to a bleeding tree for the purpose of being engrafted into its wounded body, that both might be one; yet, no incorporation followed; there was no living union Spring came singing, and with her fingers opened all the buds; and summer came, with her dewy nights and sunny days, and brought out all the flowers, and brown autumn came, to shake the trees, and reap the fields, and with dances and mirth to hold harvest-home; but that unhappy branch bore no fruit, nor flower, nor leaf. Just held on by dead clay and rotting cords, it stuck to the living tree—a withered and unsightly thing. And so, alas, it is with many; having a name to live, they are dead. They have no faith; they want that bond of living union which alone can make the graft a part of that on which it is grafted—the sinner a real member of the Savior." And, of course, so long as this inward life-principle does not circulate in both, let the man be in what visible Church he may, he is not reached by saving power. He must be vitally joined to Christ. He must partake of his life, drink in his Spirit, and put forth in his strength, or be none of his. But, if our Christianity be real, our faith sincere, our exercises those of the honest heart, our endeavors such as our profession implies, then are we already more than half-way to heaven. A single curtain is all that hangs between us and everlasting glory. As the Sanctuary was the ante-chamber to that in which Jehovah dwelt between the cherubim, so is the Church to those mansions of glory where the pure in heart shall see God. The poet has said,

Heaven lies around us in our infancy;

but heaven lies around us in our manhood too, provided that manhood has attained to citizenship in the community of saints. With heart and spirit set on Christ and good, and earnestly obedient to all the known will of our Lord, we walk in the genial light of golden lamps, and eat of sacred bread from golden tables, waiting only for the lifting of the curtain, when we shall be at home with angels and with God, in the sublime and everlasting dwelling-place of our enthroned Redeemer.

O glorious rest! O blest abode!

We shall be near and like our God!

And flesh and sense no more control

The sacred pleasures of the soul!

We come now, in course, to another episode in this book—another accident (so to speak) in the progress of the arrangement of these holy laws, akin to that narrated in the tenth chapter. I will not detain you with it, though it might profitably be made the subject of detailed examination. It was a sort of co-operation of providence with direct revelation to confirm the authority of the Giver of these laws, and to draw an outward fence, as Bonar says, around the pavilion of the great King. "The son of an Israelitish woman, whose father was an Egyptian, and a man of Israel, strove together in the camp; and the Israelitish woman’s son blasphemed the name of the Lord, and cursed." This seems to have occurred whilst Moses was within the tabernacle conversing with God. It reminds us of that description of the heavenly city given in the last of Revelation where the good come into blessed communication with God, and have a right to the tree of life, whilst "without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie." And sad is the reflection, that, while Almighty God is engaged in merciful dealings with men, some are quarrelling, striving, and blaspheming. But verily, they shall have their reward. "The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp, and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him." Sin in Nadab and Abihu brought with it a fearful end, and so did also the profaneness of Shelomith’s son. God will not allow his name to be abused, any more than his house to be desecrated with unholy fire. "He that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall stone him;" was the solemn injunction of Jehovah to Israel. And it is written, "the children of Israel did as the Lord commanded."

And now, standing, as it were, by the bruised and mangled corpse of the fallen blasphemer, let me suggest to your thoughts those solemn words of the apostle—"He that despised Moses’ law, died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord.

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!"

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Bibliographical Information
Seiss, Joseph A. "Commentary on Leviticus 24". Seiss' Lectures on Leviticus and Revelation. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/sei/leviticus-24.html.