Reading No. 1 – Friday, December 5,2003
By Ellen G. White
Adam, in his innocence, had enjoyed open communion with his Maker; but sin brought separation between God and man, and the atonement of Christ alone could span the abyss and make possible the communication of blessing or salvation from heaven to earth. Man was still cut off from direct approach to his Creator, but God would communicate with him through Christ and angels. -Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 67.
Nearly two thousand years ago, a voice of mysterious import was heard in heaven, from the throne of God, “Lo, I come.” “Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared Me. … Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God.” Hebrews 10: 5-7. Had He appeared with the glory that was His before the world was, we could not have endured the light of His presence. That we might behold it and not be destroyed, the manifestation of His glory was shrouded. His divinity was veiled with humanity, the invisible glory in the visible human form. -The Desire of Ages, pp. 19,23. Since Jesus came to dwell with us, we know that God is acquainted with our trials, and sympathizes with our griefs. Every son and daughter of Adam may understand that our Creator is the friend of sinners. For in every doctrine of grace, every promise of joy, every deed of love, every divine attraction presented in the Saviour’s life on earth, we see “God with us.” -The Desire of Ages, p. 24.
By their apostasy the Israelites forfeited the blessing of the divine Presence… -Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 343. God commanded Moses for Israel, “Let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25: 8), and He abode in the sanctuary in the midst of His people. – The Desire of Ages, p. 23.
The earthly sanctuary
The question, What is the sanctuary? is clearly answered in the Scriptures. The term “sanctuary,” as used in the Bible, refers, first, to the tabernacle built by Moses, as a pattern of heavenly things; and, secondly, to the “true tabernacle” in heaven, to which the earthly sanctuary pointed. At the death of Christ the typical service ended. The “true tabernacle” in heaven is the sanctuary of the new covenant. – The Great Controversy, p. 417.
For the building of the sanctuary great and expensive preparations were necessary; a large amount of the most precious and costly material was required; yet the Lord accepted only freewill offerings. -Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 343. All the people responded with one accord…. While the building of the sanctuary was in progress the people, old and young men, women, and children continued to bring their offerings, until those in charge of the work found that they had enough, and even more than could be used. -Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 344.
Jesus said, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”… It is for our own interest to secure heavenly riches. These alone, of all that you possess, are really yours. The treasure laid up in heaven is imperishable…. This treasure, which Christ esteems as precious above all estimate, is “the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.” The disciples of Christ are called His jewels, His precious and peculiar treasure…. Christ looks upon His people in their purity and perfection as the reward of all His sufferings, His humiliation, and His love, and the supplement of His glory. -Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings, p. 89.
The building was divided into two apartments by a rich and beautiful curtain, or veil, suspended from gold-plated pillars; and a similar veil closed the entrance of the first apartment. The sacred tent was enclosed in an open space called the court, which was surrounded by hangings, or screens, of fine linen, suspended from pillars of brass. In the court, and nearest the entrance, stood the brazen altar of burnt offering. Upon this altar were consumed all the sacrifices made by fire unto the Lord, and its horns were sprinkled with the atoning blood. Between the altar and the door of the tabernacle was the laver, which was also of brass, made from the mirrors that had been the freewill offering of the women of Israel. At the laver the priests were to wash their hands and their feet whenever they went into the sacred apartments, or approached the altar to offer a burnt offering unto the Lord. -Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 347. In the holy place was the candlestick, on the south, with its seven lamps giving light to the sanctuary both by day and by night; on the north stood the table of shewbread; and before the veil separating the holy from the most holy was the golden altar of incense, from which the cloud of fragrance, with the prayers of Israel, was daily ascending before God. In the most holy place stood the ark, a chest of precious wood with gold, the depository of the two tables of stone upon which God had inscribed the law of Ten Commandments. Above the ark, and forming the cover to the sacred chest, was the mercy seat, a magnificent piece of workmanship, surmounted by two cherubim, one at each end, and all wrought of solid gold. In this apartment the divine presence was manifested in the cloud of glory between the cherubim. -The Great Controversy, p. 412. No language can describe the glory of the scene presented within the sanctuary, the gold-plated walls reflecting the light from the golden candlestick, the brilliant hues of the richly embroidered curtains with their shining angels, the table, and the altar of incense, glittering with gold; beyond the second veil the sacred ark, with its mystic cherubim, and above it the holy Shekinah, the visible manifestation of Jehovah’s presence; all but a dim reflection of the glories of the temple of God in heaven, the great center of the work for man’s redemption. -Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 349.
The need of a substitute
The sacrificial offerings were ordained by God to be to man a perpetual reminder and a penitential acknowledgment of his sin and a confession of his faith in the promised Redeemer. They were intended to impress upon the fallen race the solemn truth that it was sin that caused death. To Adam, the offering of the first sacrifice was a most painful ceremony. His hand must be raised to take life, which only God could give. It was the first time he had ever witnessed death, and he knew that had he been obedient to God, there would have been no death of man or beast. As he slew the innocent victim, he trembled at the thought that his sin must shed the blood of the spotless Lamb of God. This scene gave him a deeper and more vivid sense of the greatness of his transgression, which nothing but the death of God’s dear Son could expiate. And he marveled at the infinite goodness that would give such a ransom to save the guilty. A star of hope illuminated the dark and terrible future and relieved it of its utter desolation.
But the plan of redemption had a yet broader and deeper purpose than the salvation of man. It was not for this alone that Christ came to the earth; it was not merely that the inhabitants of this little world might regard the law of God as it should be regarded; but it was to vindicate the character of God before the universe. The act of Christ in dying for the salvation of man would not only make heaven accessible to men, but before all the universe it would justify God and His Son in their dealing with the rebellion of Satan. It would establish the perpetuity of the law of God and would reveal the nature and the results of sin. -Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 68. In the temple in heaven, the dwelling place of God, His throne is established in righteousness and judgment. In the most holy place is His law, the great rule of right by which all mankind are tested. The ark that enshrines the tables of the law is covered with the mercy seat, before which Christ pleads His blood in the sinner’s behalf. Thus is represented the union of justice and mercy in the plan of human redemption. This union infinite wisdom alone could devise and infinite power accomplish; it is the union that fills all heaven with wonder and adoration. This is the mystery of mercy into which angels desire to look-that God can be just while He justifies the repenting sinner and renews His intercourse with the fallen race; that Christ could stoop to raise unnumbered multitudes from the abyss of ruin and clothe them with the spotless garments of His own righteousness to unite with angels who have never fallen and to dwell forever in the presence of God. -The Great Controversy, p. 415.
The service in the sanctuary
The ministration of the earthly sanctuary consisted of two divisions; the priests ministered daily in the holy place, while once a year the high priest performed a special work of atonement in the most holy, for the cleansing of the sanctuary. Day by day the repentant sinner brought his offering to the door of the tabernacle and, placing his hand upon the victim’s head, confessed his sins, thus in figure transferring them from himself to the innocent sacrifice. The animal was then slain. “Without shedding of blood,” says the apostle, there is no remission of sin.” The blood… was carried by the priest into the holy place and sprinkled before the veil, behind which was the ark containing the law that the sinner had transgressed…. The sins of Israel were thus transferred to the sanctuary, and a special work became necessary for their removal…. Once a year, on the great Day of Atonement, the priest entered the most holy place for the cleansing of the sanctuary. … Two kids of the goats were brought to the door of the tabernacle, and lots were cast upon them, “one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat.” The goat upon which fell the lot for the Lord was to be slain as a sin offering for the people. And the priest was to bring his blood within the veil and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat and before the mercy seat. The blood was also to be sprinkled upon the altar of incense that was before the veil….
The whole ceremony was designed to impress the Israelites with the holiness of God and His abhorrence of sin, and, further, to show them that they could not come in contact with sin without becoming polluted. Every man was required to afflict his soul while this work of atonement was going forward. All business was to be laid aside, and the whole congregation of Israel were to spend the day in solemn humiliation “before God, with prayer, fasting, and deep searching of heart. -The Great Controversy, pp. 418-420.
We should take broader and deeper views of the life, sufferings, and death of God’s dear Son. When the atonement is viewed correctly, the salvation of souls will be felt to be of infinite value. In comparison with the enterprise of everlasting life, every other sinks into insignificance. -Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 215.
Heaven viewed with grief and amazement Christ hanging upon the cross, blood flowing from His wounded temples, and sweat tinged with blood standing upon His brow. From His hands and feet the blood fell drop by drop, upon the rock drilled for the foot of the cross. The wounds made by the nails gaped as the weight of His body dragged upon His hands. His labored breath grew quick and deep, as His soul panted under the burden of the sins of the world. All heaven was filled with wonder when Christ was offered in the midst of terrible suffering,- “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”… God’s love has been expressed in His justice no less than in His mercy. Justice is the foundation of His throne, and the fruit is love
By His life and His death Christ proved that God’s justice did not destroy His mercy, but that sin could be forgiven and that the law is righteous and can perfectly be obeyed. -The Desire of Ages, pp. 760,762.
Our God is a tender, merciful Father. … He is His children’s best friend; and when they worship Him, He expects to be with them, to bless and comfort, them filling their hearts with joy and love. The Lord desires His children to take comfort in his service and to find more pleasure than hardship in His work. He desires that those who worship Him shall carry away with them precious thoughts of His care and love, that they may be cheered in all the employments of daily life, that they may have grace to deal honestly and faithfully in all things. -Steps to Christ, p. 103. But the gift of Christ reveals the Father’s heart. It testifies that the thoughts of God toward us are thoughts of peace, and not of evil. It declares that while God’s hatred of sin is as strong as death, His love for the sinner is stronger than death. Having undertaken our redemption, He will spare nothing, however dear, which is necessary to the completion of His work. No truth essential to our salvation is withheld, no miracle of mercy is neglected, no divine agency is left unemployed. Favor is heaped upon favor, gift upon gift. The whole treasure of heaven is opened to those He seeks to save. Having collected the riches of the universe, and laid open the resources of infinite power, He gives them all into the hands of Christ, and says, All these are for man. Use these gifts to convince him that there is no love greater than Mine in earth or heaven. His greatest happiness will be found in loving Me. -The Desire of Ages, p. 57.
Let us look up
We must gather about the cross. Christ and Him crucified should be the theme of contemplation, of conversation, and of our most joyful emotion. We should keep in our thoughts every blessing we receive from God, and when we realize His great love we should be willing to trust everything to the hand that was nailed to the cross for us. The soul may ascend nearer to heaven on the wings of praise. God is worshiped with song and music in the courts above, and as we express our gratitude we are approximating to the worship of the heavenly hosts…. Let us with reverent joy come before our Creator, with “thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.”… Let its raise our eyes to the open door of the sanctuary above, where the light of the glory of God shines in the face of Christ, who “is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Rim”-Steps to Christ, pp. 103,104, 102.