Solomon's Temple: The Altar Equal to the Holiest

2 Chronicles 3:1‑4:5  •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 5
(Read 2 Chron. 3:1-4:51Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where the Lord appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite. 2And he began to build in the second day of the second month, in the fourth year of his reign. 3Now these are the things wherein Solomon was instructed for the building of the house of God. The length by cubits after the first measure was threescore cubits, and the breadth twenty cubits. 4And the porch that was in the front of the house, the length of it was according to the breadth of the house, twenty cubits, and the height was an hundred and twenty: and he overlaid it within with pure gold. 5And the greater house he cieled with fir tree, which he overlaid with fine gold, and set thereon palm trees and chains. 6And he garnished the house with precious stones for beauty: and the gold was gold of Parvaim. 7He overlaid also the house, the beams, the posts, and the walls thereof, and the doors thereof, with gold; and graved cherubims on the walls. 8And he made the most holy house, the length whereof was according to the breadth of the house, twenty cubits, and the breadth thereof twenty cubits: and he overlaid it with fine gold, amounting to six hundred talents. 9And the weight of the nails was fifty shekels of gold. And he overlaid the upper chambers with gold. 10And in the most holy house he made two cherubims of image work, and overlaid them with gold. 11And the wings of the cherubims were twenty cubits long: one wing of the one cherub was five cubits, reaching to the wall of the house: and the other wing was likewise five cubits, reaching to the wing of the other cherub. 12And one wing of the other cherub was five cubits, reaching to the wall of the house: and the other wing was five cubits also, joining to the wing of the other cherub. 13The wings of these cherubims spread themselves forth twenty cubits: and they stood on their feet, and their faces were inward. 14And he made the vail of blue, and purple, and crimson, and fine linen, and wrought cherubims thereon. 15Also he made before the house two pillars of thirty and five cubits high, and the chapiter that was on the top of each of them was five cubits. 16And he made chains, as in the oracle, and put them on the heads of the pillars; and made an hundred pomegranates, and put them on the chains. 17And he reared up the pillars before the temple, one on the right hand, and the other on the left; and called the name of that on the right hand Jachin, and the name of that on the left Boaz. 1Moreover he made an altar of brass, twenty cubits the length thereof, and twenty cubits the breadth thereof, and ten cubits the height thereof. 2Also he made a molten sea of ten cubits from brim to brim, round in compass, and five cubits the height thereof; and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about. 3And under it was the similitude of oxen, which did compass it round about: ten in a cubit, compassing the sea round about. Two rows of oxen were cast, when it was cast. 4It stood upon twelve oxen, three looking toward the north, and three looking toward the west, and three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east: and the sea was set above upon them, and all their hinder parts were inward. 5And the thickness of it was an handbreadth, and the brim of it like the work of the brim of a cup, with flowers of lilies; and it received and held three thousand baths. (2 Chronicles 3:1‑4:5))
And now look again at this molten sea. Do you see the little oxen cast with the sea, ten in a cubit? And then of course you see those twelve large oxen on which the sea stood. "Three looking toward the north, and three looking toward the west, and three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east." Do you not see patience and strength typified in the ox? We scarcely know this in this land. I remember watching with much interest the patient tread of four large oxen, a little way from P-, drawing a vessel on a canal. Nothing could illustrate more strikingly patient endurance. And have we not found the most amazing patience in our Great High Priest, mighty to save to the uttermost? And oh how He bears with us!—so unlike our bearing with one another. Surely not to overlook our defilements (suffer not such a thought for a moment); but in mercy and faithfulness to wash our feet.
Why did three of the oxen look every way? North, east, west, south? Ah, not a temptation can come against us but the eye of our patient and mighty watching Jesus sees it and knows it before it comes. As I write these lines, or as you read them, Satan may be plotting, or men may be taking counsel against us; but the eye of Jesus sees it all, whether it may be from north, east, west, or south. He who is gone up on high, still watches His little flock in the desert, His few loved ones in the wind-tossed boat. How comforting this is! however great the trial it cannot surprise our patient Deliverer. He saw the temptation coming against Peter, and He saw his fall; yet He says to him, "I have prayed for thee, that
thy faith fail not." Now what love this is,, is it
not? Do you thus know the patient loving heart and watchful eye of Jesus—watching for us every way? We may indeed say, I will not fear what man can do unto me.
Do you say, Well, I mostly look to Him in great trials, to help me in great temptations; but what hinder my soul, and vex it most, are the little worrying trials of life? "The little foxes that spoil the vines." Have you not noticed also those little oxen? not only the great oxen, looking every way; but the patient, watchful care of our tender High Priest, in His preserving, restoring service, over all or in all the little trials of our wilderness path? yes, even though it be ten in every cubit.
And they were cast, when the molten sea was cast. It is the inseparable part of His blessed work, as He says so sweetly, "I am among you as he that serveth." (Luke 22:2727For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth. (Luke 22:27).)
But let not this precious word be used as a cover for indifference about evil; as if He lovingly allowed the least evil or defilement. Nothing can be more false or dangerous. He does not allow it; but lovingly takes the towel and girds Himself to serve. He pours the water into the basin, not to allow or overlook evil; but to wash it away, to restore our consciences. The Lord grant that we may do the same to one another in the fear and love of the Lord!
We thus need, and we thus have, Jesus, in the smallest secret failure, as in the strongest temptation, or gross and open sin. The smallest dot of leprosy must be brought to the priest. It cannot be overlooked, without the gravest danger of public dishonor to Christ. Satan is seeking to set this aside: "Oh, it is nothing, it is nothing: the Lord overlooks our faults." And thus the Holy Spirit is grieved. Let us give Jesus His true place in washing our feet. Let us be more real in confessing our sins to Him. God is faithful and just in forgiving our sins, and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.
Now do you see why there were large oxen looking every way and little oxen, even "ten in a cubit?" Even thus was the Son of God "made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God." Heb. 2:1717Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2:17). "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." Heb. 4:1515For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15). The Captain of our salvation has trodden the road before us in every step; He is made perfect as our Captain through sufferings. "In every point." Therefore He is able to save us from all temptations: be they great, from north, east, west, or south; or be they small, even ten in every cubit of our path.
Do you notice the brim of the molten sea? What are those flowers? Flowers of lilies. It is said in the Song of Songs, "as the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters." And again, "He feedeth among the lilies." Does not all this say then, "I must wash your feet, according to what you are in My sight—what I have made you."
There are three things said of Christ. 1) "Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it." 2) "That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word." 3) "That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." Eph. 5:25-2725Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25‑27).
How fair, how spotless white the lilies of Christ! How sweet the perfume of Christ! Surely if we look at our old condemned, crucified nature, we may well say, "Black as the tents of Kedar." And little washing do these black Arab tents get. But it is just as we know ourselves as the lilies of Christ; as we know our acceptance and completeness in Him, that we can say, "without spot," "no condemnation."
If He feeds among His lilies, our feet must be washed; all defilement must be confessed to Him, and put away, washed by the water of the word—our feet must be washed as becomes His presence; washed according to His thoughts of us, not our thoughts of one another. Oh how little we have of the mind of Christ as to one another! Think of those words, "Forever perfected." "As He is, so are we in this world." "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God." 2 Cor. 5:17, 1817Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 18And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; (2 Corinthians 5:17‑18). "He hath made us accepted in the Beloved." Eph. 1:66To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. (Ephesians 1:6).
Now seriously, do you believe that all these statements of God's word are true of every Christian on earth? that every Christian is a lily of Christ? Are you a believer? Have you passed from death unto life? Then I ask, Are these statements of God to you true or false? Do you say, I thought that such scriptures as these pointed to a higher christian life—a state of perfection to which few, very few, attain? "Attain!" did you say? oh! fearful mistake! Is there one thought of attainment either in these types of the temple or in these plain statements of scripture?
The great stones, that were lifted out of the pit with such strength and power, and were made ready before being brought, and built in the temple; was this their own work? and is it the work of great sinners, dead in trespasses and sins, to raise themselves from the dead? or is this the wondrous work of God? see Eph. 2. Or did the lofty trees of Lebanon attain to be cut down, to be rolled down the sides of Lebanon into the sea, and again floated to Joppa, and lifted out of the water, and built in the temple? Was not all this done to them? and the gold that covered them, was this attainment? Did they cover themselves with it?
Oh no, the very opposite; the gold was put over them! And when the proud religious pharisee is cut down, and buried in the death of Christ, and raised out of death with Christ, completely and forever justified in Christ risen, is this attainment? Did not God give His Son to die for our sins? did not He raise Him from the dead, to be our everlasting subsisting righteousness? Now if we believe God, if we believe that all this was of God, and is of God, then where is our foolish notion of attaining to a state of higher perfection than God has given every believer in Christ? This does not call in question, but
Take any one of the above divine statements of the God of all truth. Take this, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." Surely that well describes a lily of Christ; so heavenly white and pure from sin that there is nothing that the eye of God can detect and condemn. I do not know that I can state the case stronger or clearer: Nothing to condemn in them that are in Christ Jesus. Can this state be a matter of attainment, when our best righteousness is only filthy rags? Yes, and if we say we have no sin we only deceive ourselves and are liars. Did you ever attain, for one hour, to such a state of love to God and man?—to such holiness of heart, that there was nothing that the eye of God could detect and condemn? Oh! if man could thus attain to sinless holiness, what need was there that the altar should be equal to the holiest? What need was there for the infinite sacrifice of the cross?
I grant you there is something passing wonderful in this declaration of God: there is "no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." How can this be? How? Blessed be God, Scripture answers very simply; the altar must be, and was, equal to the holiest. The cross of Christ met all God's claims against me, the sinner. All that the eye of God could detect in me, my sins, and my sin—all, all that I am, as a fallen sinner—was condemned, as God saw me; so God gave His Son to be condemned for me. Then if all that could be condemned—sins and self—has been condemned, judged to the uttermost, in Christ, how can there be anything left to condemn? All has been judged on the cross!
And more, not only if the old I has been thus crucified, beneath the wrath of God—not only has the old man, I say, thus passed away under the divine judgment on sin, in the Sin-bearer, whose one sacrifice met all the claims of God—but the new man is wholly of God—the new life is the justified life of the risen Christ—the new nature is the new creation of God; and, as we have seen, all things have become new, all is of God. New, and of God: can this be condemned? The old has been condemned: the new cannot be condemned. And "there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." And since all this is of God, how can it be one's attainments?
And now, before we part, do remember this blessed fact, that every Christian is a spotless lily of Christ. If not, how could every Christian give thanks, that he is made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light? See Col. 1:12-1412Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: (Colossians 1:12‑14).
Let us not say, Unto Him that loved us, and half-washed us from our sins Shall we not, and can you not say, O reader, "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood?" Rev. 1:55And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, (Revelation 1:5). Yes, once a mass of moral corruption, dead in sins (and death is corruption), now washed in the blood of the Lamb, a heaven white lily, having the life and perfume of the risen Christ.
A lily of Christ! what a starting point this is! And what an end, when He who thus loved the Church and gave Himself for it, and has thus sanctified it, in holy separation to God, shall present it to Himself, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.
The new nature in every believer must and will long to be holy, even as He is holy. The desire will be, that the walk may be in keeping with what we are in His sight. And if we fail, may we go to our Great High Priest, remembering the flowers of lilies in the molten sea.
And when tempted and harassed by the enemy of souls, may we remember that the molten sea was not half the size of the brazen altar. "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, MUCH MORE, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." Rom. 5:1010For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10). If thus reconciled by the death of the infinite Son of God offered on the cross, the sacrifice for sins, remember that, on the authority of God's Word, your final salvation is thus much more certain. Christ is for you in the heavens mighty to save, and the Holy Ghost is dwelling in you consequent on His work being finished to the glory of God.
Solomon's temple, with its types and shadows, has passed away; but the Church, as the dwelling-place of God, shall not pass away. In those coming bright millennial days, it is seen "descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal." Not one of the great stones, or lofty trees, brought by the Spirit of God, and built into the heavenly temple, can be lost.
Are you saved? Have you been brought to God? Have you passed from death unto life? Has all your religious pride been felled and laid in the dust? Have you been crucified with Christ? Have you been buried with Christ in death? Are you risen with Christ? Is the risen Christ your righteousness, redemption, sanctification, and all? What is the death of Jesus to your soul? Has it glorified God, even about your sins? Do you believe Him to be the Son of God? that His one sacrifice was equal to all the claims of God? Do you believe He is your Great High Priest? Do you need another sacrifice? Do you need another priest?
Oh no! the square of the altar was equal to the square of the holiest! and His priestly loving care knows no end. The brazen sea was round. Unto Jesus, Son of God, be everlasting praise.