« PreviousContinue »
THE JEWISH NATION-ITS RITUAL AND WORSHIP.
The state of the world at the close of the patriarchal dispensation had become very awful. Idolatry prevailed in almost every part, and among every people, excepting the family of Abraham. The Egyptians were the wisest and most celebrated nation, the Assyrians the first powerful empire, the Canaanites the most warlike nation, and the Phænicians more engaged in commerce and foreign trade than any other people: but all these were corrupted by absurd and impious idolatries. In mercy to mankind, God at this period selected the family of Abraham, and caused it to multiply into a nation, among whom the worship of the true God should be preserved; whose history should exhibit an example of the Divine Providence continually superintending their conduct; and through whom the blessed tidings of the promised Saviour should be made known to all the earth, Gen. xii. 1–3. For this people, so chosen, a code of laws was prepared, which in every part had reference to the only and true God, who made himself known to them as JEHOVAH ! a name signifying self-existence, eternity, and almighty power.
The tabernacle first, and afterwards the temple, were emblematical parts of this peculiar system. That building was not to be deemed a dwelling-place for an earthly monarch, but as a royal mansion, erected for their God and King, in which he was considered to take up his abode, as a supreme and almighty Governor among his subjects. To this place the people might always have recourse, to receive his commands, to offer their petitions, and to learn his will, while peculiar manifestations of his august presence were visibly made there. The sanctuary was, in consequence, splendidly furnished, and a numerrous retinue of servants and ministers were always in attendance. Hence many of the peculiar rites and ceremonies under the Jewish dispensation; and the express directions that the ritual worship of the Jewish church should be offered nowhere but at the holy place. We must not, however, for a moment suppose, that the High and Lofty One, who inhabiteth all space, dwelt really, or, as it is expressed, bodily, in this habitation, Acts, vii. 48, xvii. 24, though it is true, he there gave a more visible manifestation of his presence than is now exhibited on earth.
In the tabernacle and the temple, a part of the sacred building was partitioned off. In this inner place was seen a bright shining cloud, which the Jews called the shekinah, the symbol of Divine presence. It appeared as if resting between two figures, or angelic representations, called cherubim, upon the top of an ark or chest, called the mercy-seat, Exod. xl. 34-38, and 2 Chron. vii. 1, 2, and at times it filled all the sanctuary. These holy places and their furniture, were figurative representations of heaven, of Christ, and of the worship of the church; the believing Israelites were thus reminded continually of the peculiar dispensation under which they lived, having the presence of their Lord and God among them, in a symbolical representation, in a manner very different from what was the case with any other nation. Some writers have said, that many parts of the Jewish rites and ceremonies, and even the form of the tabernacle, were copied from similar things among the Egyptians. But Witsius has fully shown, that not the least reliance can be placed on any statements of this kind; and that the Jewish ritual, with all its ceremonies, and restraints as to food, was very strongly contrasted to the gross inventions of idolatry. It more opposed heathenism, and marked the peculiar state of the Jewish people more decidedly, than the simple and purely spiritual worship, which was also taught them, would alone have done. Thus Josephus says, that all their actions and studies, and all their words, according to the law of Moses, taught the Jews religious or pious feelings towards God; for He had left nothing of this nature undetermined. It is impossible here to go at any great length into this subject; and the English reader may refer to Lowman and Dean Graves; they say quite enough to silence the cavils of those who think that the Jewish ritual, so expressly directed by the holy Lord God, could in any respect be derived from the vile human inventions of idolatry, though these in many cases were imitations of parts of the patriarchal and Mosaic institutions.
Here then we arrive at the conclusion, that the Jewish WORSHIP was two-fold.
1. There was a ritual worship, in which they recognised God's peculiar dealings with them as a nation, and by a number of rites and ceremonies, testified their sense of his favours : while these rites continually pointed the attention of the worshipper to the promises of that great Saviour who should come among them at the appointed time. This was the tabernacle, or temple worship, with the sacrifices and offerings; and every ceremony connected therewith gave some useful instruction, or would help to guard against idolatry, while it prepared for the more perfect and spiritual state of religion under the Messiah.
2. There was a personal, family, and congregational spiritual worship, in which the believer, both in private and public, offered prayer and praise. The synagogue worship belonged to this class : it resembled the worship of the Christian dispensation, which spiritual worship has continued, while the temple worship, with its ceremonies and offerings, have been done away by the coming of Christ; that is, by the fulfilment, or coming to pass of the events those ceremonies represented or shadowed forth.
The tabernacle was the only place where the public ritual of Jewish national worship was to be celebrated. The directions how it was to be constructed were given by the Lord to Moses, Exod. xxvi. This place is mentioned under different names in the Old Testament. It is called a tent, a habitation, a sanctuary, a house, the dwelling-place of Jehovah's glory, Jehovah's tent, and the tent of the congregation, and sometimes the palace, although these names are not always preserved distinctly in our English version. There was another tabernacle erected a short time before, see. Exod. xxxiii. 7, called the tabernacle of the congregation, probably a large tent, where Moses transacted public business.
The engraving shows the appearance of THE TABERNACLE, as it may properly be called, which it will be seen was a movable place of worship, that could be taken to pieces, and carried from place to place. The reader will find an account of the tabernacle, and the articles it contained, in Exodus xx. to xxx. and xxxvi. to xl.
The outer inclosure was the court of the tabernacle, about 150 feet long and 75 feet broad. This was surrounded on all sides with linen curtains, hanging from silver rods, which extended from one column to another. On the east and west sides were ten columns, twenty on the north, and as many on the south. These columns were of shittim wood, a sort of acacia ; or some think it was cedar. Each post was fixed in a socket, or large piece of brass. Near the top of the columns silver hooks were fixed, on which the curtain rods rested. The entrance was on the east. A curtain, or piece of tapestry, richly wrought with blue purple, and scarlet, hung on the four middle columns of that side, which was drawn up, and thus left three entrances adjoining each other.
The tabernacle or tent was placed about the middle of the western side of the court. It was an oblong square, about 54 feet long from west to east, and 18 feet from north to south. The walls or sides were formed of forty-eight wooden planks of shittim wood, each rather more than two feet and a half broad, and 18 feet long. Twenty of these boards formed the north side; as many were used for the