'And let them make me a holy place
, that I may dwell
among them.' -- Ex. xxv.8.
'And the tent shall be sanctified by my glory, and I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God.' -- Ex. xxix.43, 45.
The Presence of God makes holy, even when it descends but for a little while, as at Horeb, in the burning bush. How much more must that Presence make holy the place where it dwells, where it fixes its permanent abode! So much is this the case, that the place where God dwells came to be called the holy place, 'the holy place of the habitation of the Most High.' All around where God dwelt was holy: the holy city, the mountain of God's Holiness, His holy house, till we come within the veil, to the most holy place, the holy of holies. It is as the indwelling God that He sanctifies His house, that He reveals Himself as the Holy One in Israel, that He makes us holy too.
Because God is holy, the house in which He dwells is holy too. This is the only attribute of God which He can communicate to His house; but this one He can and does communicate. Among men there is a very close link between the character of a house and its occupants. When there is no obstacle to prevent it, the house unintentionally reflects the master's likeness. Holiness expresses not so much an attribute as the very being of God in His infinite perfection, and His house testifies to this one truth, that He is holy, that where He dwells He must have holiness, that His indwelling makes holy. In His first command to His people to build Him a holy place, God distinctly said that it was that He might dwell among them: the dwelling in the house was to be the shadowing forth of His dwelling in the midst of His people. The house with its holiness thus leads us on to the holiness of His dwelling among His redeemed ones.
The holy place, the habitation of God's Holiness, was the centre of all God's work in making Israel holy. Everything connected with it was holy. The altar, the priests, the sacrifices, the oil, the bread, the vessels, all were holy, because they belonged to God. From the house there issued the twofold voice -- God's call to be holy, God's promise to make holy. God's claim was manifested in the demand for cleansing, for atonement, for holiness, in all who were to draw near, whether as priests or worshippers. And God's promise shone forth from His house in the provision for making holy, in the sanctifying power of the altar, of the blood and the oil. The house embodied the two sides that are united in holiness, the repelling and the attracting, the condemning and the saving. Now by keeping the people at a distance, then by inviting and bringing them nigh, God's house was the great symbol of His own Holiness. He had come nigh even to dwell among them; and yet they might not come nigh, they might never enter the secret place of His presence.
All these things are written on our behalf. It is as the Indwelling One that God is the sanctifier of His people still: the Indwelling Presence alone makes us holy. This comes out with special clearness if we note how, the nearer the Presence was, the greater the degree of holiness. Because God dwelt among them, the camp was holy: all uncleanness was to be removed from it. But the holiness of the court of the tabernacle was greater: uncleanness which did not exclude from the camp would not be tolerated there. Then the holy place was still holier, because still nearer God. And the inner sanctuary, where the Presence dwelt on the mercy-seat, was the Holiest of All, was most holy. The principle still holds good: holiness is measured by nearness to God; the more of His Presence, the more of true holiness; perfect indwelling will be perfect holiness. There is none holy but the Lord; there is no holiness but in Him. He cannot part with somewhat of His holiness, and give it to us apart from Himself; we have only so much of holiness as we have of God Himself. And to have Himself truly and fully, we must have Him as the Indwelling One. And His indwelling in a house or locality, without life or spirit, is only a faint shadow of the true indwelling as the Living One, when He enters into and penetrates our very being, and fills us, our very selves, with His own life.
There is no union so intimate, so real, so perfect, as that of an indwelling life. Think of the life that circulates through a large and fruitful tree. How it penetrates and fills every portion; how inseparably it unites the whole as long as it really is to exist! -- in wood and leaf, in flower and fruit, everywhere the indwelling life flows and fills. This life is the life of nature, the life of the Spirit of God which dwells in nature. It is the same life that animates our bodies, the spirit of nature pervading every portion of them with the power of sensibility and action.
Not less intimate, yea rather, far more wonderful and real, is the indwelling of the Spirit of the New Life, through whom God dwells in the heart of the believer. And it is as this indwelling becomes a matter of conscious longing and faith, that the soul obeys the command, 'Let them make me a holy place, that I may dwell among them,' and experiences the truth of the promise, 'The tent shall be sanctified by my glory, and I will dwell among the children of Israel.'
It was as the Indwelling One that God revealed Himself in the Son, whom He sanctified and sent into the world. More than once our Lord insisted upon it, 'Believe me, that I am in the Father and the Father in me; the Father abiding in me doeth the works.' It is specially as the temple of God that believers are more than once called holy in the New Testament: 'The temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.' 'Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.' 'All the building groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord.' It is -- we shall later on learn to understand this better -- just because it is through the Spirit that the heart is prepared for the indwelling, and the indwelling effected and maintained, that the Spirit so peculiarly takes the attribute of Holy. The Indwelling Spirit is the Holy Spirit. The measure of His indwelling, or rather of His revealing the Indwelling Christ, is the measure of holiness.
We have seen what the various degrees of nearness to God's Presence in Israel were. They are still to be found. You have Christians who dwell in the camp, but know little of drawing nigh to the Holy One. Then you have outer court Christians: they long for pardon and peace, they come ever again to the altar of atonement; but they know little of true nearness or holiness; of their privilege as priests to enter the holy place. Others there are who have learnt that this is their calling, and long to draw near, and yet hardly understand the boldness they have to enter into the Holiest of all, and to dwell there. Blessed they to whom this, the secret of the Lord, has been revealed. They know what the rent veil means, and the access into the immediate Presence. The veil hath been taken away from their hearts: they have found the secret of true holiness in the Indwelling of the Holy One, the God who is holy and makes holy.
Believer! the God who calls you to holiness is the God of the Indwelling Life. The tabernacle typifies it, the Son reveals it, the Spirit communicates it, the eternal glory will fully manifest it. And you may experience it. It is your calling as a believer to be God's Holy Temple. Oh, do but yield yourself to His full indwelling! seek not holiness in the first place in what you are or do; seek it in God. Seek it not even as a gift from God, seek it in God Himself, in His indwelling Presence. Worship Him in the beauty of holiness, as He dwells in the high and holy place. And as you worship, listen to His voice: 'Thus saith the high and lofty One, that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit.' It is as the Spirit strengthens us mightily in the inward man, so that Christ dwells in our heart by faith, and the Father comes and makes with Him His abode in us, that we are truly holy. Oh, let us but, in true, true-hearted consecration, yield ourselves to be, as distinctly as was the tabernacle or the temple, given up entirely to be the dwelling of the Most High, the habitation of His Holiness. A house filled with the glory of God, a heart filled with all the fulness of God, is God's promise, is our portion. Let us in faith claim and accept and hold fast the blessing: Christ, the Holy One of God, will in His Father's Name, enter and take possession. Then faith will bring the solution of all our difficulties, the victory over all our failures, the fulfilment of all our desires: 'The tent, the heart, shall be sanctified by my glory; and I will dwell among them.' The open secret of true holiness, the secret of the joy unspeakable, is Christ dwelling in the heart by faith.
BE HOLY, AS I AM HOLY.
We bow our knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus, that He would grant unto us, according to the riches of His glory, what He Himself has taught us to ask for. We ask nothing less than this, that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith. We long for that most blessed, permanent, conscious indwelling of the Lord Jesus in the heart, which He so distinctly promised as the fruit of the Holy Spirit's coming. Father! we ask for what He meant when He spake of the loving, obedient disciple: 'I will come and manifest myself to him. We will come and take up our abode with him.' Oh, grant unto us this indwelling of Christ in the heart by faith!
And for this, we beseech Thee, grant us to be strengthened with might by Thy Spirit in the inner man. O Most Mighty God! let the spirit of Thy Divine Power work mightily within us, renewing our mind, and will, and affections, so that the heart be all prepared and furnished as a temple, as a home, for Jesus. Let that Blessed Spirit strengthen us to the faith that receives the Blessed Saviour and His indwelling Presence.
O Most Gracious Father! hear our cry. We do bow our knee to Thee. We plead the riches of Thy glory. We praise Thee who art mighty to do above what we can ask or think. We wait on Thee, O our Father: oh, grant us a mighty strengthening by the Spirit in the inner man, that this bliss may be ours in its full blessedness, our Lord Jesus dwelling in the heart.
We ask it in His Name. Amen.
1. God's dwelling in the midst of Israel was the great central fact to which all the commands concerning holiness were but preparatory and subordinate. So the work of the Holy Spirit also culminates in the personal indwelling of Christ. (John xiv.21, 23. Eph. iii.16, 17.) Aim at this and expect it.
2. The tabernacle with its three divisions was, as of other spiritual truths, so the image of man's threefold nature. Our spirit is the Holiest of all, where God is meant to dwell, where the Holy Spirit is given. The life of the soul, with its powers of feeling, knowing, and willing, is the holy place. And the outer life of the body, of conduct and action, is the outer court. Begin by believing that the Spirit dwells in the inmost sanctuary, where His workings are secret and hidden. Honour Him by trusting Him to work, by yielding to Him in silent worship before God. From within He will take possession of thought and will; He will even fill the outer court, the body, with the Holiness of God. 'The God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved entire, without blame. Faithful is He which calleth you, who will also do it.'
3. God's indwelling was within the veil, in the unseen, the secret place. Faith knew it, and served Him with holy fear. Our faith knows that God the Holy Spirit has His abode in the hidden place of our inner life. Set open your inmost being to Him; bow in lowly reverence before the Holy One as you yield yourself to His working. Holiness is the presence of the Indwelling One.