Ellen G. White Writings

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The Signs of the Times

June 24, 1880

The Sanctuary

By Mrs. E. G. White

The tabernacle constructed by the Hebrews in the wilderness was made according to the divine command. Men called of God for this purpose were endowed by him with more than natural abilities to perform the most ingenious work. Yet neither Moses nor these workmen were left to plan the form and workmanship of the building. God himself devised and gave to Moses the plan of that sacred structure, with particular directions as to its size and form, the materials to be used, and every article of furniture which it was to contain. He presented before Moses a miniature model of the heavenly sanctuary, and commanded him to make all things according to the pattern showed him in the mount. And Moses wrote all the directions in a book, and read them to the most influential of the people.

Then the Lord required the people to bring a free-will offering, to make him a sanctuary, that he might dwell among them. “And all the congregation of the children of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. And they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, and they brought the Lord's offering to the work of the tabernacle of the congregation, and for all his service, and for the holy garments. And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing-hearted, and brought bracelets, and ear-rings, and rings and tablets, all jewels of gold; and every man that offered, offered an offering of gold unto the Lord.

“And every man, with whom was found blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goat's hair, and red skins of rams, and badger's skins, brought them. Every one that did offer an offering of silver and brass brought the Lord's offering; and every man, with whom was found shittim wood for any work of the service, brought it.

“And all the women that were wise-hearted did spin with their hands, and brought that which they had spun, both of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine linen. And all the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom spun goat's hair.

“And the rulers brought onyx stones and stones to be set, for the ephod, and for the breastplate; and spice, and oil for the light, and for the anointing oil, and for the sweet incense.”

Great and expensive preparations were necessary. Precious and costly materials must be collected, but the Lord accepted only the free-will offerings. Devotion to the work of God, and sacrifice from the heart, were first required in preparing a dwelling-place for the Most High. And while the building of the sanctuary was going on, the Israelites, old and young, men, women, and children, brought their offerings, until those in charge of the work decided that the people had brought enough, and even more than could be used. And Moses proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, “Let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary. So the people were restrained from bringing.”

The repeated murmurings of the Israelites, and the visitations of divine wrath because of their transgressions, are recorded in sacred history for the benefit of God's people who should afterward live upon the earth; but more especially to prove a warning to those who should live near the close of time. Also their acts of devotion, their energy, and liberality in bringing their free-will offerings to Moses, are recorded as an example for all who truly love the worship of God. If God's people prize the blessing of his sacred presence, they will manifest zeal and liberality in preparing a house where he may meet with them. And their interest in this work will be as much greater than that shown in preparing dwellings for themselves as heavenly blessings are esteemed of more value than earthly comforts.

Many will expend means freely to erect comfortable and even elegant houses for themselves; but when they would prepare a place in which to receive the presence of the high and holy One their offerings are bestowed grudgingly, and they are continually studying in what manner the sacred building can be made to cost the least, and yet answer the purpose as a house of worship. Some manifest more interest in building barns for their cattle, than they do in preparing a place for the worship of God. Such persons value sacred privileges just in the proportion which their works show. And their prosperity and spiritual strength will be according to their works. God will not cause his blessing to rest upon those who have so little appreciation of the value of divine things. Unwilling and stinted offerings are not accepted of God. Those who manifest an earnestness to bring to the Lord acceptable offerings, of the very best they have, as did the children of Israel in bringing their gifts to Moses, will be blessed in proportion to their estimate of the value of sacred things.

It is of some consequence that a building prepared expressly for divine service should be arranged with care,—made comfortable, neat, and convenient; for it is to be dedicated to God; he is to be entreated to abide in that house, and make it sacred by his holy presence. An amount sufficient to accomplish the work should be freely given, and the workmen be able to say, Bring no more offerings. A house built for God should never be left in debt, for he would thereby be dishonored. He is acquainted with every heart, and will reward all who freely return to him, when he requires, that which he has given them. If any withhold that which belongs to God, he will afflict them in their families, and cause decrease in their possessions, just according to their disposition to rob him.

The tabernacle was so constructed that it could be taken apart and borne with the Israelites in all their journeyings. Yet it was a structure of extraordinary magnificence. The walls consisted of upright boards heavily plated with purest gold. The sacred building was composed of two apartments, separated by a rich and beautiful curtain, or vail. A similar vail closed the entrance of the first apartment. These vails, with the curtain which formed the ceiling of the tabernacle, were of a variety of colors, most beautifully arranged; while inwrought with threads of gold and silver were cherubim, to represent the angelic host, who are connected with the work of the heavenly sanctuary, and who are ministering angels to the saints upon the earth.

In the inner apartment was the ark, which was the most sacred object connected with that system of worship. It was a chest of precious wood, overlaid within and without with pure gold, and having a crown of gold about the top. In the ark were placed the tables of stone upon which God had engraved with his own finger the ten commandments. It was made expressly for this purpose, and hence was called the ark of the covenant, and the ark of the testament, since the ten commandments were God's covenant, and the basis of the covenant made between God and Israel.

The cover of this sacred chest was called the mercy-seat. This was a costly and magnificent piece of workmanship. It was beaten out of one solid piece of gold, and two cherubim were made, one standing on each end, beaten out of the same piece of gold. Their faces were turned toward each other, and were looking reverently downward toward the mercy-seat, which represents all the heavenly angels looking with interest and reverence to the law of God deposited in the ark in the heavenly sanctuary. One wing of each angel was stretched forth on high, while the other covered their forms. The ark of the earthly sanctuary was the pattern of the true ark in Heaven. There, beside the heavenly ark, stand living angels, each with one wing overshadowing the mercy-seat, and stretching forth on high, while the other wings are folded over their forms in token of reverence and humility.

The vail of the sanctuary did not reach to the top of the building. The glory of God, which was manifested above the mercy-seat, was partially visible from the first apartment. Directly before the ark, but separated by the curtain, was the golden altar of incense. The fire upon this altar was kindled by the Lord himself, and was sacredly cherished by feeding it with holy incense, which filled the sanctuary with its fragrant cloud, day and night. Its fragrance extended far around the tabernacle. When the priest offered the incense before the Lord, he looked toward the mercy-seat. Although he could not see it, he knew it was there; and as the incense arose like a cloud, the glory of the Lord descended upon the mercy-seat, and filled the most holy place, and often so filled both apartments that the priest was unable to officiate. As the priest in the holy place, directed his prayer by faith to the mercy-seat, which he could not see, so the people of God direct their prayers to Christ before the mercy-seat in the heavenly sanctuary. They cannot behold their Mediator with the natural eye, but with the eye of faith they see Christ before the mercy-seat, and direct their prayers to him, and with assurance claim the benefits of his mediation.

These sacred apartments had no windows to admit light. The candlestick, beaten out of one solid piece of gold, was kept burning day and night, and gave light to both apartments. The gold-plated walls, reflecting the light from the seven lamps of the golden candlestick, the richly embroidered curtains of blue and purple and scarlet, with their shining cherubim, the table of show-bread and the altar of incense, glittering like burnished gold, presented a scene of magnificence and glory which no words can describe.

No mortal eye but that of the high priest could look upon the sacred grandeur of the inner apartment, the especial dwelling-place of God's visible glory. Only once a year could the high priest enter there, after the most careful and solemn preparation. With trembling he went in before God, and the people in solemn silence waited his return, their hearts uplifted to God in earnest prayer for the divine blessing.

Before the mercy-seat, God conversed with the high priest. If he remained an unusual time in the most holy, the people were terrified, fearing that because of their sins, or some sin of the priest, the glory of the Lord had slain him. But when the sound of the tinkling of the bells upon his garments was heard, they were greatly relieved. He then came forth and blessed the people.

After the building of the tabernacle was completed, Moses examined all the work, comparing it with the pattern, shown him in the mount and the directions he had received of God, and all the multitude of Israel pressed in crowds around the tabernacle, set upon an eminence, to view it with critical eye. They regarded it perfect. They saw the golden furniture carried in, the altar and laver put in position, and while they were contemplating the full effect with reverent satisfaction, suddenly their attention was attracted to the pillar of cloud which had conducted their travels through the wilderness. The cloud arose and floated over the tabernacle, then descended and embraced it. There was a revealing of divine majesty, and the dazzling splendor was overwhelming; even Moses was not able to enter the burning glory which enshrouded the tabernacle until the cloud had in a measure hid the exceeding brightness, for every human eye had been shaded.

Thus the Lord signified that he accepted the tabernacle built for his presence; and ever after this manifestation, when the children of Israel encamped, directly over the tabernacle rested the pillar of cloud by day, and the bright glory in the pillar of fire by night. When the cloud ascended they knew this was the signal for them to resume their march onward. When it continued to rest over the tabernacle they were to rest from their journeying. When the Lord signified his acceptance of their work in the manifestation of his glory, the hearts of the people were inspired with awe, and with gratitude. There was no noisy demonstrations of joy but with softened hearts, and flowing tears they murmured low, yet earnest words of thankfulness that God had approved the work of their hands, and had condescended to dwell more directly with them than ever before.

The Lord directed the Israelites in all their travels through the wilderness. When it was for his glory and the good of the people, that they should pitch their tents in a certain place, and there abide, God signified his will to them by permitting the pillar of cloud to rest directly over the tabernacle. And there it remained until God would have them journey again. Then the cloud was lifted up high above the tabernacle, and they journeyed again. In all their journeyings they observed perfect order. Every tribe bore a standard, with the sign of their father's house upon it, and every tribe was commanded to pitch by their own standard. And when they traveled, the different tribes marched in order, every tribe under their own standard. When they rested from their journeyings, the tabernacle was erected, and the different tribes pitched their tents in order, in just such a position as God had commanded, around the tabernacle, at a distance from it.

When the people journeyed, the ark of the covenant was borne before them. “And the cloud of the Lord was upon them by day, when they went out of the camp. And it came to pass, when the ark set forward, that Moses said, Rise up, Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate thee flee before thee. And when it rested, he said, Return, O Lord, unto the many thousands of Israel.”

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