Neglecting the House of the Creator of Heaven and Earth
1. With what reality does this “house” have to do?
THIS “house” has to do with the biggest reality in all existence. What is that? The great Creator of all created things, visible and invisible to us. Even the known universe, which has been brought within our range of vision by telescope and microscope, not to speak of radio, is too big for us to leave out of account its Creator.
2. (a) How does a recently discovered “quasar” compare with a star? (b) To astronomers, what does the expansion of the universe suggest as to how it got here?
2 As regards bigness, do you know what a “quasar” is? Recently astronomers have discovered what they have called Quasi-stellar Radio Sources, or, quasars, for short. These are astronomical objects that emit an enormous amount of energy in the form of light and in radio waves. Looking like a star, a quasar “is apparently millions of times larger and billions of times brighter. Some quasars pulse rhythmically.” There are about forty known quasars, the discovery of the most distant one of which was announced on May 17, 1965, and which is known as 3C-9.* It is stated that this celestial object is so far away that it seems to be close to the beginning of universal time. “The light is so far away that the light from it began to journey to earth soon after the postulated birth of the universe.” The life of those quasars probably ended during the billions of years that were required for their light to reach our earth. Says the report: “The observed rate at which the universe is expanding suggests that it was born in a single point some thirteen billion years ago—roughly three times the age of the earth.”—New York Times, May 18, 1965, pages one and two.
3, 4. (a) From this, what do we conclude as to God’s occupying a house on earth? (b) What does Christendom teach as to God’s making himself small, but what did Paul tell the pagan Athenians?
3 From the above discovery, what do we reasonably conclude? This: That God the Creator of such tremendously large things is too big to occupy a house here on earth. To speak of such a God as occupying a man-made house on our tiny earth sounds ridiculous, and rightly so to twentieth-century scientists. How could such a God make himself so small? And yet the clergy of Christendom speak of God as making himself so tiny as to occupy the minute egg cell in the womb of a virgin Jewish girl, Mary. The Holy Bible itself does not teach such a thing. What it does teach is that God the Creator transferred the life of his only-begotten Son from heaven to the womb of this Jewish virgin to become the man Jesus, who later came to be called Christ. According to what the angel Gabriel announced to the virgin Jewess Mary, her firstborn son was, not God himself, but the Son of God. She was, not the Mother of God, but the mother of the Son of God. (See Luke 1:26-33.) But as regards God the Creator himself, the Christian apostle Paul said to pagan Greeks:
4 “Men of Athens, I behold that in all things you seem to be more given to the fear of the deities than others are. . . . The God that made the world and all the things in it, being, as this One is, Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in handmade temples, neither is he attended to by human hands as if he needed anything, because he himself gives to all persons life and breath and all things. And he made out of one man every nation of men, to dwell upon the entire surface of the earth . . . Seeing, therefore, that we are the progeny of God, we ought not to imagine that the Divine Being is like gold or silver or stone, like something sculptured by the art and contrivance of man.”—Acts 17:22-29.
5. (a) Does God occupy a building as an idol occupies a temple? (b) What can God do with a building where his worship is carried on, as in the case of Solomon’s temple?
5 So the God about whom the Holy Bible teaches does not occupy an earthly material building in the way that some gold, silver or stone statue occupies a temple, pagoda or wat of one of the idolatrous religions of this world. However, the true God of heaven and earth can sanctify a tabernacle or temple that has been built in obedience to his commands. He can also put his name on such a building that he has thus sanctified or made holy. Such a temple can therefore be spoken of as “the house of God,” not a home in which he dwells literally in person, but a house where his pure worship can be carried on. This was true of the temple that King Solomon completed in Jerusalem in the year 1027 before our Common Era. In answer to King Solomon’s prayer, God said to him: “I have heard your prayer and your request for favor with which you requested favor before me. I have sanctified this house that you have built by putting my name there to time indefinite; and my eyes and my heart will certainly prove to be there always.”—1 Ki. 9:3.
6. What did Solomon pray for God to do regarding the temple that Solomon had built?
6 When King Solomon, the temple builder, was dedicating this magnificent religious building on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, he plainly said that he did not expect the mighty Creator of heaven and earth to occupy this temple in a literal way. In his prayer of dedication King Solomon said: “But will God truly dwell upon the earth? Look! The heavens, yes, the heaven of the heavens, themselves cannot contain you; how much less, then, this house that I have built! And you must turn toward the prayer of your servant and to his request for favor, O Jehovah my God, to listen to the entreating cry and to the prayer with which your servant is praying before you today; that your eyes may prove to be opened toward this house night and day, toward the place of which you said, ‘My name will prove to be there,’ to listen to the prayer with which your servant prays toward this place.”—1 Ki. 8:27-29.
7, 8. (a) How was God’s presence represented in Solomon’s temple? (b) How does this agree with the Ten Commandments and God’s bigness?
7 King Solomon was reasonable. We too must be reasonable, just as the Holy Bible is, in the way that we think about God’s house. The temple that King Solomon built housed no man-made statue to represent God. The presence of Jehovah God at this temple was symbolized by what has been called the Shekinah light, a light that miraculously illuminated the innermost compartment of the temple, the Most Holy. When the high priest went in there each year on the Atonement Day to sprinkle the sacrificial blood of atonement before the sacred ark of the covenant, the high priest was privileged to behold this miraculous light.—Lev. 16:11-17.
8 Aside from that, there was no statue or image in the temple of Jehovah to represent him. In fact, the first and second of his Ten Commandments absolutely forbade the making and idolizing of handmade images or statues. (Ex. 20:1-6) This agrees with the fact that the living and true God wants worship by his creatures direct and he is too big to be housed by any man-made temple.
9. What did God say in warning to Solomon regarding the temple?
9 After the first temple was dedicated in Jerusalem, God said in warning to King Solomon its builder and to his royal successors: “If you yourselves and your sons should definitely turn back from following me and not keep my commandments and my statutes that I have put before you men, and you actually go and serve other gods and bow down to them, I will also cut Israel off from upon the surface of the ground that I have given to them; and the house that I have sanctified to my name I shall throw away from before me, and Israel will indeed become a proverbial saying and a taunt among all the peoples. And this house itself will become heaps of ruins. Everyone passing by it will stare in amazement and will certainly whistle and say, ‘For what reason did Jehovah do like that to this land and this house?’”—1 Ki. 9:6-8.
10, 11. (a) What shows whether this warning of God was an idle threat? (b) Can we lightly brush this historical fact aside, and what does Paul have to say regarding this?
10 The thing here warned of actually happened to the temple built by King Solomon. This was because the kings of Israel, with few exceptions, defiled and profaned Jehovah’s house or temple. In the summer of the year 607 B.C.E. it was laid in ruins by the Babylonian armies under King Nebuchadnezzar. Had Israel treated God’s house with due respect, this would not have taken place. But the Israelites did not respect the house on which God had put his name Jehovah, and so his warning proved to be no mere idle threat. For seventy years, from 607 to 537 B.C.E., it lay in ruins while the deported Israelites were exiles in the distant land of Babylonia. Can we of today lightly brush this historical fact aside as if having no meaning for us now? No; for the analytical commentator on Israelite history, the Christian apostle Paul, warns us:
11 “Now these things became our examples, for us not to be persons desiring injurious things, even as they desired them. Neither become idolaters, as some of them did; . . . Neither let us practice fornication, as some of them committed fornication, . . . Neither let us put Jehovah to the test, as some of them put him to the test, . . . Neither be murmurers, just as some of them murmured, only to perish by the destroyer. Now these things went on befalling them as examples, and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived. Consequently let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.”—1 Cor. 10:6-12.
NEGLECTING THE REBUILT HOUSE
12. Like what generation of Jews do we not want to be, but why do we want to be like Governor Nehemiah of Judah?
12 Future generations are apt to repeat the mistakes of previous generations, unless they take to heart the lessons taught by past history, especially Bible history. So, like people of the past, they suffer the same or similar bad consequences for the same bad conduct toward God’s house. We of the present generation should desire to be like Nehemiah, a governor of the province of Judah in the fifth century B.C.E. He took vigorous steps to halt the abandoning or neglecting of God’s house among His chosen people. This was not Solomon’s temple, which had been destroyed in the seventh century B.C.E., but was the temple that had been rebuilt in the sixth century B.C.E. after the remnant of worshipful Jews returned from the land of Babylon to Jerusalem. After mighty Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians in 539 B.C.E., the land of Judah became a Persian province under Cyrus the Great. In 455 B.C.E. King Artaxerxes of Persia appointed Nehemiah to govern the province of Judah and Jerusalem. Nehemiah did not ignore Jewish history up till then. He did not want the restored Jews of his generation to suffer calamity for mistakes like those of their ancestors. To that end he used the power of his governorship.
13. What happened to God’s temple in 70 C.E., and what shows whether Nehemiah was at fault?
13 It was not Nehemiah’s fault that this rebuilt temple in Jerusalem suffered destruction by the Roman legions under General Titus in the year 70 of our Common Era. The temple of Jehovah that was then destroyed has never been rebuilt, and today we find on its former location a different structure known as the Dome of the Rock, dedicated to the Allah of the Moslems or Mohammedans. An investigation of the causes for this uncovers that it resulted from a misuse or abuse of the rebuilt temple of Jehovah. Truly Nehemiah had been concerned aright and he had not taken matters any too seriously. We do well to examine what measures he took.
14. What building work did Nehemiah first take care of, and on Tishri 24 thereafter how did the Israelite celebrators deport themselves?
14 First, Nehemiah enlisted the efforts of the restored Jews to rebuild the protective walls of Jerusalem, in fifty-two days. Then he turned his attention more to the things of the temple and to the spiritual condition of the people of Judah. (Neh. 6:15 to 7:5; 8:1-9) In the lunar month following the completion of the walls of Jerusalem, namely, on the twenty-fourth day of the month Tishri, the people who had just finished celebrating the festival of booths at Jerusalem gathered together in a more serious mood, “with fasting and with sackcloth and dirt upon themselves.”—Neh. 9:1.
15, 16. (a) On this occasion what was read, and there was a confession of what? (b) The prayer then offered closed with what reference to slavery and to a “trustworthy arrangement”?
15 By that time the writing of all the inspired Hebrew Scriptures (39 books) had been completed, with the exception of the books of Nehemiah and Malachi. However, on this solemn occasion there was a reading from only the “book of the law” (the five books of Moses) for a fourth part of the daylight period (three hours), after which they made confession of the sins of both themselves and their forefathers, and also bowed down in worship before Jehovah their God. Then prayer was offered up for the whole people by some ministerial Levites who stood upon a raised platform. The prayer closed with this statement, as recorded in Nehemiah 9:36-38:
16 “Look! We are today slaves; and as for the land that you gave to our forefathers to eat its fruitage and its good things, look! we are slaves upon it, and its produce is abounding for the kings that you have put over us because of our sins, and over our bodies they are ruling and over our domestic animals, according to their liking, and we are in great distress. So in view of all this we are contracting a trustworthy arrangement, both in writing and attested by the seal of our princes, our Levites and our priests.”
17. Who joined in sealing this written arrangement, and how did the people back up those sealing it?
17 Nehemiah himself was one of the princes or heads of the people to attest by seal to the binding power of this trustworthy arrangement in writing. All the rest of the people, clad as they were in sackcloth and with dirt upon themselves, backed up their princes, their priests and representative Levites, and put themselves under oath and the liability to a curse with regard to this trustworthy arrangement, all being determined to bring themselves into harmony with God’s laws and requirements.—Neh. 10:1-29.
18. What was determined upon with reference to marriage, the sabbaths, financial support of God’s house, and wood for the altar?
18 In this way they acknowledged again that they were obligated to avoid all mixed marriages with the pagan neighbors inside the land and roundabout. They would also insist on observing the weekly sabbath day and the sabbath year every seventh year with its cancellation of all debts owed by their Israelite brothers. And as for the “house of our God,” the sixty-one-year-old rebuilt temple of Jerusalem, they imposed upon themselves a head tax of a third of a shekel (about 20c in silver) each year toward the expenses of the temple, to maintain the services rendered there. Also, much wood needed to be provided for the fire of the altar on which the many sacrifices were offered each day; and the providing of the amounts needed regularly was distributed among the people.
19, 20. (a) What other presentations were to be made according to God’s law in addition to the tithe? (b) All such material support was rendered in payment for what services?
19 Besides that, there were the firstfruits that the law of God commanded to be presented by the Israelites, the firstfruits of their fields and of their orchards, and the firstfruits of their flocks and herds and also of the human womb, their firstborn sons.
20 These offerings were in addition to the tenth part or tithe of their increase each year, to support the priests and the ministerial Levites who regularly served at the “house of our God.” Even the Levites who served at the temple were under law to offer up a tithe or tenth part of what they received, this to go to the priests, so that thus the temple Levites shared in the tithing arrangement and made their proper contribution in support of God’s house. (Num. 18:26-32) At the temple was where the “utensils of the sanctuary” were and also the priests to use such, besides the gatekeepers and the singers. All these needed material support, in payment for their spiritual services.
21. What would a neglect in rendering all those things mean, and why would the Israelites not want to be guilty of such neglect now?
21 A neglect in rendering all these necessary things to support the temple servants and to maintain the temple operations would be a neglecting of the house or temple of Jehovah God. Especially now, in the face of the attested “trustworthy arrangement” in writing and the oath and the liability to a curse from God as now undertaken by the Israelites, they should not again become guilty of such neglect. Nehemiah the governor of Judah included himself under the obligation when he said: “We [not, you] should not neglect the house of our God.”—Neh. 10:30-39.
WORTH REMEMBERING AND OBSERVING
22. What interest did Nehemiah’s revisit to Jerusalem show, but what proneness of fallen flesh did he find on the part of the Jews?
22 What a powerful statement worth remembering and observing is Nehemiah’s statement to Jews who were dedicated as a nation to Jehovah God and who were professing to be his worshipers! How prone the fallen human flesh is to give in to materialism and to overlook the spiritual interests and benefits and thus to fall into a neglecting of God’s house! Governor Nehemiah found that out. After serving as governor for twelve years he returned to the royal palace of the Persian king, namely, “in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes the king of [conquered] Babylon.” (Neh. 13:6) Then after an absence from Jerusalem, the length of which he does not tell, he returned to Judah and Jerusalem with permission of the Persian king. He himself had not lost interest in God’s house, but sadly he found out that the people in Judah had lost interest.
23. Whom had high priest Eliashib admitted to occupancy in the temple, and what did Nehemiah do about this?
23 Eliashib the high priest had admitted an enemy Ammonite, Tobiah, who had opposed the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, into the temple. He had also become a relative of Tobiah and had assigned to his personal use one of the dining halls in the temple courtyard, where formerly supplies for the support of the temple servants used to be stored. This was contrary to God’s command in Deuteronomy 23:3-6. What seemed all right to the temple high priest was tolerated by the people. But not by Nehemiah! He tells us: “It seemed very bad to me. So I threw all the furniture of Tobiah’s house outside the dining hall. After that I said the word and they cleansed the dining halls; and I proceeded to put back there the utensils of the house of the true God, with the grain offering and the frankincense.”—Neh. 13:4-9.
24. What had high priest Eliashib failed to do in behalf of the temple Levites, and with what results?
24 Not only had high priest Eliashib admitted to the temple dining hall an undesirable enemy Ammonite, but he took no steps to keep the legitimate Levites at their God-given posts of duty at the temple. He let the contributions of the tenth parts or tithes of the Israelites drop off, so that the ministerial Levites did not receive the necessary material support. Many of these felt obliged to leave the temple work and go home to their Levite cities and work their garden lands roundabout for food supplies for themselves and their families. So what did Nehemiah do?
25. What did Nehemiah report doing about this?
25 He reports: “I got to find out that the very portions of the Levites had not been given them, so that the Levites and the singers doing the work went running off, each one to his own field. And I began to find fault with the deputy rulers and say: ‘Why has the house of the true God been neglected?’ Consequently I collected them together and stationed them at their standing place.” He did not wait any longer for action by the deputy rulers but arranged that all the inhabitants of Judah bring in the tenth parts to the temple storehouses.—Neh. 13:10-12; Num. 35:1-8.
26. In this connection what appointments to service did Nehemiah make in behalf of the temple servants?
26 Besides this, Nehemiah did not wait upon the delinquent high priest Eliashib, but, as he says: “I put Shelemiah the priest and Zadok the copyist and Pedaiah of the Levites in charge of the stores; and under their control there was Hanan the son of Zaccur the son of Mattaniah, for they were considered faithful; and upon them it devolved to do the distributing to their brothers.” (Neh. 13:13) So now the ministerial Levites had no reason to run home!
27, 28. (a) On the basis of what deeds did Nehemiah pray to be remembered for good? (b) Why did he take action against a grandson of the high priest, and how?
27 Afterward, when Nehemiah prayed to Jehovah God to remember him for good, to what did Nehemiah refer as a basis for such a plea? Did he mention that he had left his position as cupbearer of the king of Persia and had made the long journey to Jerusalem and had rebuilt its wall in fifty-two days despite enemy threats? No! But he spoke of what he had done in behalf of the house of God. He prayed: “Do remember me, O my God, concerning this, and do not wipe out my acts of loving-kindness that I have performed in connection with the house of my God and the guardianship of it.” He insisted on clean servants ministering at God’s house; but not so the high priest Eliashib, for he had let a grandson of his enter a mixed marriage and marry the daughter of the Samaritan enemy, Sanballat the Horonite. As regards this, Nehemiah says:
29. According to his concluding words, what did Nehemiah do with regard to the defilement of the priesthood and the covenant of the temple servants?
29 The report of this action for the benefit of God’s house Nehemiah follows up by saying at the close of the book that bears his name: “Do remember them, O my God, on account of the defilement of the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and of the Levites. And I purified them from everything foreign and proceeded to assign duties to the priests and to the Levites, each one in his own work, even for the supply of the wood at appointed times and for the first ripe fruits. Do remember me, O my God, for good.”—Neh. 13:29-31.
REMEMBERED FOR NOT NEGLECTING
30, 31. (a) Will God answer Nehemiah’s prayer, and what rule as given in Hebrews 6:10 applies in this respect? (b) What appropriate words did the prophet Malachi write regarding fearers of Jehovah?
30 Will Jehovah God answer that prayer of Nehemiah’s of twenty-four centuries ago? Yes; for Nehemiah’s everlasting good. Jehovah God is not unrighteous so that he has forgot and will leave unrewarded all the good that Governor Nehemiah did for the house of God in Jerusalem. He has kept Nehemiah’s prayer for remembrance on permanent record by having it made a part of the inspired Holy Scriptures. To the Hebrew followers of Jesus Christ, who has done even greater service in behalf of the true “house of our God,” it is written: “God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name, in that you have ministered to the holy ones and continue ministering.” (Heb. 6:10) So too with Nehemiah. He truly feared Jehovah God; and in the writings of Malachi, who was evidently a contemporary of Nehemiah in the rebuilt city of Jerusalem, we find these appropriate words included:
31 “At that time those in fear of Jehovah spoke with one another, each one with his companion, and Jehovah kept paying attention and listening. And a book of remembrance began to be written up before him for those in fear of Jehovah and for those thinking upon his name.”—Mal. 3:16.
32. (a) How will Nehemiah be rewarded, and what will he then learn? (b) Of what will he be an outstanding example?
32 Nehemiah yet sleeps in death in Sheol or Haʹdes, the common grave of dead mankind. But during the thousand-year reign of “Messiah the Leader,” Nehemiah will be rewarded with a resurrection from the dead. (Dan. 9:24-27) He will then find no longer a material temple of Jehovah God standing on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. He will learn what happened to the last one of the Jewish temples there in the year 70 of our Common Era, as foretold by Jesus Christ the Son of God. (Matt. 23:37 to 24:2; Luke 19:36-44; 21:5, 6) He will learn about the spiritual temple of God, the one that was prefigured by that material temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. He will learn how the spiritual temple was kept from being neglected by the followers of the great High Priest of this temple. Nehemiah himself will join other faithful ones on earth in worshiping Jehovah God through this exalted spiritual temple. He will be an outstanding example of how persons who do not neglect God’s house are fully rewarded without fail.
The symbol 3C-9 refers to radio source No. 9 in the third Cambridge University Catalogue of Radio Sources.
[Picture on page 745]
Bringing material support for the temple servants