Sanctuary, Scripture, and the Divine Presence

Introduction and Brief Review of Last Newsletter

In our previous newsletter we learned that the little horn of Dan 8 arose out of the western Greeks in Italy, which constituted one of the four horns that came up in place of the great horn that was broken. Since western Greece or Magna Graecia was the cradle of Greek philosophy, the attack on the heavenly sanctuary by the little horn of Dan 8 is a philosophical/spiritual attack that allegorized the specific literal and geographical descriptions of the sanctuary. In other words, the descriptions of the heavenly sanctuary such as thrones, doors, the holy place, and most holy place, constitute mere cultural expressions that bear no resemblance to their earthly counterparts. The ideas of the western Greeks like Parmenides and Pythagoras were later systematized by Plato and Aristotle and ended up exerting a very powerful influence on Christians after the death of the apostles. Since God is at the very center of the sanctuary (Exod 25:8), all who became infected with these ideas believed that the heavenly sanctuary itself was merely a symbol of the presence of God.

Relationship between the Sanctuary and the Divine Presence

In this newsletter, I will examine the interrelationships between the sanctuary, the authority of Scripture, a plain versus an allegorized and mystical view of Scripture, and how we understand the divine presence. Although the specific focus of this newsletter is on the relationship between the sanctuary and the divine presence, according to The Great Controversy pg. 423 the sanctuary is a complete system of truth that interconnects and interprets the subjects that are associated with it. Thus, as we dive into this study we will notice that the authority of Scripture and our view of Scripture is integrated with the sanctuary and the divine presence. The OT story that perfectly outlines the interrelationships between the sanctuary, the divine presence, and the authority and view of Scripture is the setting up of the calves of gold by Jeroboam in 1 Kings 12:25-33.

Links between God’s Presence and God’s Name

However, before we explore the disastrous effects of Jeroboam’s policy, we need to examine the relationship between the divine presence and the divine name. It all begins when Moses first encounters God at the burning bush in Exod 3:1-6. In this narrative, it’s important to notice that Moses does not immediately make the connection between the burning bush that is not consumed and God. As a matter of fact, Moses does not actually begin to recognize God’s presence and to worship Him until he hears God calling to him from the midst of the bush.

Later on, the narrative of Exod 3:14-15 further unfolds the significance of God’s name. It states: And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” Moreover God said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.’ There are several links here that we should explore.

  • I AM is God’s name and His memorial unto all generations. Moreover, Exod 3:14 points out that I AM sent Moses to the Israelites while Exod 3:15 reveals that the Lord God sent Moses to Israel. Thus I AM=Lord=God.
  • God’s name is synonymous with his presence.
  • God’s presence is only revealed by His voice, it is not revealed by his creation. The scope of what creation reveals about God is incredibly impressive but far more limited since it only discloses His infinite wisdom, power, and existence; beyond that, creation reveals nothing more about God.

In Deut 12:1-4, Scripture reveals that the Lord God does not want the Israelites to associate His presence with the idols that are worshipped in every place. It reads, “These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. You shall not worship the Lord your God with such things.

The contrast in Deut 12:5, which is the next verse, is striking. It states, “But you shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go.” In Deut 12:6, 11, and 14 the Lord states that the place where God chooses to place His name is where the Israelites would take their burnt offerings, sacrifices, tithes, offerings, the firstborn of their flocks and herds. Moreover, according to Deut 12:12 they are to rejoice in the place where God chooses.

Referring to the Passover, the Lord says, “Therefore you shall sacrifice the Passover to the Lord your God, from the flock and the herd, in the place where the Lord chooses to put His name” (Deut 16:2). In Deut 16:5-6, the Lord states, “You may not sacrifice the Passover within any of your gates which the Lord your God gives you; but at the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide, there you shall sacrifice the Passover at twilight, at the going down of the sun, at the time you came out of Egypt.” Also, all Israelites including their servants and the strangers among them “shall rejoice before the Lord your God…at the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide” (Deut 16 11).

When Solomon built the temple, we find that it became the place where God chose to place His name. In Solomon’s dedicatory prayer he requests “that Your eyes may be open toward this temple night and day, toward the place of which You said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that You may hear the prayer which Your servant makes toward this place.” (1 Kings 8:29). At the end of Solomon’s prayer God answers him, stating, “For now I have chosen and sanctified this house, that My name may be there forever; and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.”

The implications for God’s presence are as follows:

  • God’s presence is not to be confused with creation from which idols are constructed.
  • God chooses a specific place where He will reveal himself. During the wilderness wanderings, this was the portable sanctuary, but afterward it was the permanent location of the temple in Jerusalem.
  • God’s name constituted the very center of Israelite life that included their sacrifices, and worship.
  • Only God’s presence sanctified the temple where He dwelt (see Exod 3:1-6).
  • In 2 Chr 20:8-9 king Jehoshaphat reveals that God’s name is synonymous with His presence. He states, “And they dwell in it, and have built You a sanctuary in it for Your name, saying, ‘If disaster comes upon us—sword, judgment, pestilence, or famine—we will stand before this temple and in Your presence (for Your name is in this temple), and cry out to You in our affliction, and You will hear and save.’”
  • A plain reading of God’s Word reveals that He literally dwells in a specific place of His choice.

Divine Presence, Sanctuary, and Scripture

We can now examine the devastating effects of Jeroboam’s policy on the way in which the sanctuary interconnects the divine presence with the authority and nature of Scripture recorded in 1 Kings 12:25-31.

Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the mountains of Ephraim, and dwelt there. Also he went out from there and built Penuel. And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom may return to the house of David: If these people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn back to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and go back to Rehoboam king of Judah.”

Therefore the king asked advice, made two calves of gold, and said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt!” And he set up one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan. He made shrines on the high places, and made priests from every class of people, who were not of the sons of Levi.

Jeroboam ordained a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the feast that was in Judah, and offered sacrifices on the altar. So he did at Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he had made. And at Bethel he installed the priests of the high places which he had made. So he made offerings on the altar which he had made at Bethel on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, in the month which he had devised in his own heart. And he ordained a feast for the children of Israel, and offered sacrifices on the altar and burned incense.

Let’s summarize what 1 Kings 12:25-33 reveals about the interrelationships between the sanctuary and God’s word as the authoritative source for interpreting God’s presence. In 1 kings 12:28 the king asked advice that resulted in constructing two calves of gold. The advice he received came from the surrounding philosophy, culture, and science of his day, and not from Scripture. Deut 4:12-15 gives a stern warning against conflating and confusing the divine presence with creation (see also Exod 20:4-6). Thus, the king’s source of authority for interpreting the divine presence was not Scripture but philosophy and tradition.

The king placed the calves of gold in Dan and Bethel, and also set up shrines on the high places. Now God’s presence would allegedly be revealed in all places because his presence is linked with the material creation. By this bold act the king prevented the people from going to the temple in Jerusalem where God stated that He would place His name, meaning that He would reveal His presence at that particular location. The temple in Jerusalem would no longer function as the ground from which we interpret God’s revealed presence. Also, those seeking an encounter with God at Dan and Bethel would not be encountering God there since He stated that He would only be placing His name at Jerusalem. Thus, although God is omnipresent, He only reveals His presence in the place of His choice. The encounter at Dan and Bethel would be with Satan and his lying spirits. In a similar way this is what Eve experienced in the Garden of Eden. She ventured into the area of the forbidden tree, and the serpent spoke to her there.

1 Kings 12:35-33 clearly reveals that when Scripture is no longer the sole authority for doing theology, the sanctuary no longer functions as the place where God chooses to place his name. The inevitable result for the divine presence is that it is inextricably linked with creation thereby resulting in nature worship.

Moreover, in light of the fact that the divine presence is now linked with all of creation, the inevitable result for how we view Scripture or the nature of Scripture is that we must employ an allegorical and mystical reading of the divine presence and the sanctuary. For instance Exod 25:8 states, “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” This text assumes that God actually dwelt above the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant (Exod 25:17-22), and that the sanctuary is a literal spatio-temporal structure in which God dwells. Yet, according to 1 Kings 12:28 God’s presence and his sanctuary is no longer limited to the temple in Jerusalem since He allegedly reveals His presence in many places. This is completely incompatible with a literal plain reading of Exod 25:8. This observation reveals an integral relationship between the sanctuary, Scripture, and the divine presence. When one interprets the sanctuary in a mystical and spiritual way, then the same methods will be applied to Scripture and to the divine presence.

In our next newsletter, we will look at how Christianity largely followed Jeroboam’s view of Scripture, the sanctuary and the divine presence.

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