Sunday, November 28, 2010

Acts 29 - Part 2 (Pattern of Heaven)

The author of Hebrews tells us that the instructions given to Moses in Exodus were a pattern of what Heavenly worship is like. After the completion of Christ's sacrifice, which was the fulfillment of all needed sacrifices, Christians still kept to this Heavenly pattern, with the unnecessary sacrifices removed.

What did this Heavenly pattern look like? After the instructions were given, the Isrealites built what was called the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle was made to be an elaborate tent-like structure that was portable enough to go with the people of Isreal wherever they wandered. The Tabernacle was always placed in the center of their encampment and thus was the center of their worship.

By the time of David, the Jewish were people more or less unified and living in one location. They had moved from living in tents and started living in permanent houses. So it was time for a permanent Tabernacle: the Temple. It would be built to the same pattern as the Tablernacle, but on a larger scale and used the famous cedars of Lebanon. It was completed by David's son Solomon in 957 BC and survived for about 500 years. The Temple was later destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzer of the Babylonians in 586 BC, and the Israelites were put into captivity.

During their captivity, the notion of Synagogue began forming. Synagogue means "the place for meeting together" and they usually met at someone's house-the bigger the better. At the Synagogue, Jews would gather to pray and to hear and be taught the (Old Testament) Scriptures. While there could be only one Temple, there could be Synagogues in every town. Many Jews would later worship in the Synagogue daily then make a pilgrimage to the Temple once a year always keeping a connection the central location of their faith.

When the Isrealites had returned from captivity, construction for the second Temple began 48 years later in 538 BC and was completed in 515. This second temple would later begin to be completely renovated in 19 BC by Herod the Great. Herod had it torn down piece by piece and rebuilt on a larger scale to leave as a legacy among other pagan temples he was also rebuilding, but it was done in such a way that sacrifices were able to continue daily. The temple itself was made from white marble that was a sharp contrast to all the other stone, making it quite a site for visiting pilgrims. This is the Temple Jesus and His Apostles would have known. Later this temple, as predicted by Christ in the Gospels, would also be destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans in "The Siege of Jerusalem".

The structure of worship from the time of the Tabernacle up until the destruction of second Temple remained, for the most part, unchanged. This is generally what took place:
When entering the Tabernacle, you would be in the court area which would contain the Altar of Sacrifice, the Laver, and Holy Place. The animal that was being sacrificed would be taken into the Holy Place after the priest had washed his hands and feet in the Laver. The Holy Place was the inner court and only a priest was allowed into this section. Inside the Holy Place, on the right (north side) would be the alter of Showbread which was 12 loaves of bread baked daily as an offering to God and on the southside was a 7 branched lampstand. The priest would walk between the two and approach the alter of Incense. A coal from the altar of sacrifice would be used for the incense as prayer and worship. Past the altar of Incense was a heavy veil dividing the room. Behind the veil was the Holy of Holies in a perfect cube of 15 feet. This is where the Israelites physically directed their faith because over the Ark was God's presence. Inside the Holy of Holies was housed the Ark of the Covenant which contained the 10 Commandments, a jar of manna, and Aaron's rod. Only the high priest was allowed in the Holy of Holies and then only once a year on the Day of Atonement to offer annually the blood of a sacrifice.

The church adapted this pattern to retain the Jewishness of our faith and reflect the light of Jesus onto our worship service. The structures of early churches are clearly modeled after the pattern of Heavenly worship given to Moses. The court area symbolizes the created universe and corresponds with the Narthax of the church. Prior to entering the Holy Place (which corresponds to the nave of a church and symbolizes the people of God) are the Altar of Sacrifice, (which is Christ) and the Laver (which is baptism). And since we have been made priests by Christ, we are allowed entry to the Holy Place. The altar of showbread represents the Eucharist. Incense would have filled the Holy Place as it does in churches worldwide. The Holy of Holies corresponds with the altar of the church where we mystically offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving.

It was this pattern of worship combined with the fulfillment of Christ's sacrifice that provided the foundation for the early Christians transformation of synagogue worship...

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