“Taking Pleasure in the House of My God”
“We should not neglect the house of our God.”—Neh. 10:39.
1. Describe the structure for true worship originally erected by the Israelites in the wilderness.
MORE than thirty-four centuries ago, in the inhospitable wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula, a magnificent tent was erected. It was only fifteen feet wide, fifteen feet high and forty-five feet long. Yet it, together with its courtyard and all furnishings, cost well over two million dollars. (Ex. 38:29-31, footnotes b, c, 1953 edition) This was the marvelous tabernacle as set up in 1512 B.C.E. at God’s command by the Israelites, liberated by Jehovah from Egyptian bondage. (Ex. 36:2–38:20) This grand tent served as Israel’s center of true worship for some 485 years.
2, 3. (a) What structure to Jehovah’s praise did Solomon inaugurate in 1027 B.C.E.? (b) Outline the later history of the temple in Jerusalem.
2 In 1027 B.C.E. Solomon, son of David and king of Israel, inaugurated in Jerusalem another structure to Jehovah’s praise, a temple for which his father had received the architectural plan by divine inspiration. (1 Chron. 28:11-19) Inside, its temple sanctuary measured thirty feet in width, ninety in length and forty-five in height. (1 Ki. 6:2) Constructed mainly of limestone and cedarwood, the temple was decorated with gold and precious stones and was undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and expensive buildings ever built. Upward of five billion dollars in gold and silver had been contributed for its construction. Almighty God surely took pleasure in it, for after Solomon’s moving prayer at its dedication, “the fire itself came down from the heavens and proceeded to consume the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and Jehovah’s glory itself filled the house.”—2 Chron. 6:12–7:3.
3 The temple Solomon built was destroyed by the Babylonians in 607 B.C.E. and the Jews were then taken into exile. (2 Ki. 25:8-12) Released from Babylon seven decades later by Persian king Cyrus, they returned to Jerusalem, and the temple was eventually rebuilt there under Zerubbabel’s supervision. (Ezra 1:1-4; 3:8-11; 6:14, 15) Centuries thereafter, Herod the Great gradually reconstructed this temple, and that later structure was standing when Jesus Christ was on earth. However, due to the Jews’ unfaithfulness to Jehovah and as Jesus foretold, that temple was razed when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 C.E.—Matt. 24:1, 2.
4. What has replaced the tabernacle and later material temples? Please describe it.
4 The temple was fittingly spoken of as the “temple of Jehovah,” the “house of the true God” and the “house of Jehovah.” Jesus also called it “the house of my Father.” (2 Chron. 26:16; Ezra 3:8; John 2:16) Israel’s early tabernacle and the later material temples exist no longer, but an even more glorious spiritual temple has taken their place. Concerning it the Christian apostle Paul told fellow believers in Ephesus: “Certainly, therefore, you are no longer strangers and alien residents, but you are fellow citizens of the holy ones and are members of the household of God, and you have been built up upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, while Christ Jesus himself is the foundation cornerstone. In union with him the whole building, being harmoniously joined together, is growing into a holy temple for Jehovah. In union with him you, too, are being built up together into a place for God to inhabit by spirit.” (Eph. 2:19-22) The spirit of God dwells in the persons comprising this temple, and they are “living stones” being built up as a “spiritual house.” (1 Pet. 2:4, 5; 1 Cor. 3:16) Those comprising the spiritual temple number only 144,000, of which but a small remnant are yet alive on earth.—Rev. 7:4-8; 14:1-5.
5. In what way do praisers of Jehovah having earthly hopes show they appreciate any contact with the temple class?
5 The spiritual temple may be represented in a local congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses by the presence therein of one or more anointed followers of Jesus Christ. However, due to the small number of such ones still alive on earth, congregations of God’s servants in some areas consist only of dedicated praisers of Jehovah having earthly hopes, a “great crowd,” depicted in Revelation as standing before God’s throne and “rendering him sacred service day and night in his temple.” (Rev. 7:9, 15) These persons keenly appreciate any contact they have with the temple class and show this by cooperating fully with the “faithful and discreet slave,” made up of all anointed Christians on earth as a class. (Matt. 24:45-47) For doing good things to Christ’s “brothers,” his anointed followers, they will be rewarded with everlasting life.—Matt. 25:34-40, 46.
HONORING JEHOVAH WITH VALUABLE THINGS
6, 7. (a) How did the Israelites respond when privileged to contribute toward the construction of the tabernacle and the temple? (b) In what manner do Jehovah’s servants now respond to opportunities to support true worship? (c) Does this giving result in poverty?
6 The Israelites were privileged to contribute gold, silver, copper, wool, linen and other things for the construction of the tabernacle. Joyfully, willing-hearted ones gave this “contribution for Jehovah,” giving so much, in fact, that the donations had to be halted because the contributed materials “proved to be enough for all the work to be done, and more than enough.” (Ex. 35:4-9, 20-29; 36:4-7) Centuries later, aged David took such pleasure in the prospective temple to be built in Jerusalem that he contributed heavily toward its construction, giving such things as gold, silver, copper, iron, mosaic pebbles and precious stones. But David said: “Since I am taking pleasure in the house of my God, there is yet a special property of mine, gold and silver; I do give it to the house of my God over and above all that I have prepared for the holy house.” He gave additional gold and silver in great quantities. Invited to share in such giving, his fellow Israelites contributed liberally, and “the people gave way to rejoicing over their making voluntary offerings, for it was with a complete heart that they made voluntary offerings to Jehovah; and even David the king himself rejoiced with great joy.”—1 Chron. 29:1-9.
7 Jehovah’s servants respond in a similar manner today when some structure for true worship is about to be built. They are glad to support such a project materially, whether to expand facilities at the headquarters of the Watch Tower Society or at one of its branch offices, or to construct a new Kingdom Hall locally. For that matter, often they personally assist, spending time and energy when building a Kingdom Hall. Jehovah prospers them, making Christian generosity of various kinds possible. (2 Cor. 9:8-12) Supporting true worship by making contributions to advance the interests of God’s kingdom as one is able does not result in poverty, for Proverbs 3:9, 10 states: “Honor Jehovah with your valuable things and with the first fruits of all your produce. Then your stores of supply will be filled with plenty; and with new wine your own press vats will overflow.”
8. Because they do not wish to neglect God’s house, what has been done by God’s servants?
8 The Israelites were privileged to support the tabernacle and later temples, as well as priestly and Levitical services at them. In Nehemiah’s day, for instance, the Jews resolved to keep God’s law and to make contributions to maintain pure worship at Jehovah’s sanctuary, realizing that they should not neglect God’s house. (Neh. 10:32-39) Jehovah’s witnesses of today are not guilty of neglecting the house of God. For one thing, they contribute, as they are able, toward the maintenance of their Kingdom Halls and toward the furtherance of the work of preaching the good news of the Kingdom. (Matt. 24:14; Mark 13:10) This they do cheerfully, thus showing that they take pleasure in the house of their God, while acting in harmony with Paul’s words: “Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”—2 Cor. 9:7.
9. In view of examples involving the temple, what should be done when Kingdom Hall repairs are needed?
9 With the passing of time the temple built by Solomon needed some repairs, as in the days of Judean king Jehoash, for instance. Responsible ones did not then act promptly, but eventually the sanctuary was repaired. (2 Ki. 12:4-15) Later, King Josiah of Judah was also concerned about repairing the “house of Jehovah.” (2 Ki. 22:3-7) God’s present-day servants show that they take pleasure in the house of their God by attending to the upkeep of the local Kingdom Hall, not procrastinating when repairs are required and endeavoring then to engage the services of industrious and honest workmen.
10. What view should Christians take of Kingdom Hall property?
10 At times the temple was plundered, as when another Jehoash, the king of Israel, assaulted Jerusalem in the days of Judean king Amaziah and “took all the gold and silver and all the articles to be found at the house of Jehovah and in the treasures of the house of the king and the hostages and then returned to Samaria.” (2 Ki. 14:11-14) This incident may well cause a servant of Jehovah today to exercise care in using furnishings and other articles at the Kingdom Hall. Never would he want to become guilty of improperly appropriating for himself personally any items belonging to the congregation in general. Kingdom Hall property should be viewed with respect, as the possession first of Jehovah and then of the Christian congregation using that place of worship. Remember, too, Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar stripped Jehovah’s temple of its valuable articles and had that glorious building destroyed. (2 Ki. 25:8-17) Never, through misuse of the Kingdom Hall or items on hand there, would Christians want to be like that pagan monarch, even to the smallest degree!
THE NEED FOR CLEANNESS
11, 12. (a) What requirements as to cleanness had to be met by the people and priests of Israel? (b) Why was it necessary for Jews released from Babylonian captivity to be clean? (c) Does Isaiah 52:11 have any application to Christians?
11 Doing your part to clean the Kingdom Hall and maintain it in good condition is also a privilege. Furthermore, physical and spiritual cleanliness are essential for those desiring to serve Jehovah. The Israelites gave attention to bodily and religious cleanness, the washing of garments and bathing being incumbent upon them, for instance, in connection with uncleanness incurred because of certain bodily discharges. (Lev. chapter 15) Bodily and ceremonial cleanness were not the same thing, but one might involve the other, as just noted. Sanitary measures were taken regarding the disposal of human wastes. (Deut. 23:12-14) At the tabernacle and later at the temple provision was made for large basins to hold water for the priests to use in washing. So, they were to be clean physically as well as spiritually when ministering at Jehovah’s sanctuary. (Ex. 30:17-21; 2 Chron. 4:6) Prior to the Jews’ release from Babylonian captivity (in 537 B.C.E.) Isaiah was inspired to say to them: “Turn away, turn away, get out of there, touch nothing unclean; get out from the midst of her, keep yourselves clean, you who are carrying the utensils of Jehovah.” (Isa. 52:11) Think of it! They would be privileged to carry back to Jerusalem the sacred utensils Nebuchadnezzar had taken from Jehovah’s temple years earlier. Those holy utensils should certainly be borne only by clean worshipers of Jehovah, for God does not use unclean persons in his service.
12 Enlarging on the meaning of Isaiah 52:11 and applying that text to Christians, the apostle Paul wrote: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what sharing do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? Further, what harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what portion does a faithful person have with an unbeliever? And what agreement does God’s temple have with idols? For we are a temple of a living God; just as God said: ‘I shall reside among them and walk among them, and I shall be their God, and they will be my people.’ ‘“Therefore get out from among them, and separate yourselves,” says Jehovah, “and quit touching the unclean thing.”’” (2 Cor. 6:14-17) The faithful released Jewish remnant of ancient times got away from Babylon and her idolatrous false religion, so as to be free of defilement with her uncleanness and be clean in heart. Similarly, Christians have left Babylon the Great, the worldwide empire of false religion, and are not defiled with her uncleanness. (Rev. 18:1-8) Taking pleasure in the house of their God, Jehovah, they worship him with spirit and truth.—John 4:23, 24.
13. For what reason did Paul once urge Corinthian Christians to expel an immoral man from the congregation?
13 All dedicated Christians must be aware of the need for moral and spiritual cleanness. The Christian congregation in ancient Corinth once tolerated an immoral man in their midst, so that Paul had to urge his fellow believers there to oust that wicked one, handing him “over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, in order that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” Paul knew that action had to be taken against the wrongdoer because “a little leaven ferments the whole lump.” (1 Cor. 5:1-6) It was necessary to expel him from the congregation so that the spirit of the congregation based upon God’s written Word could be saved.
14. (a) Why must a Christian maintain fine conduct? (b) By what quality are Jesus’ disciples identified, and how did Paul define it?
14 It is vital that a Christian maintain fine conduct (1 Pet. 2:12), for what he does can affect the congregation with which he associates. He also does well to remember the psalmist’s words: “O Jehovah, who will be a guest in your tent? Who will reside in your holy mountain? He who is walking faultlessly and practicing righteousness and speaking the truth in his heart.” (Ps. 15:1, 2) It was Paul’s desire that the Philippian Christians “be filled with righteous fruit, which is through Jesus Christ, to God’s glory and praise.” (Phil. 1:9-11) He urged Roman fellow believers to owe no one anything but love (Rom. 13:8), and he was inspired to give a sterling epitome of that splendid quality in writing to Christians in Corinth. He showed that love is long-suffering, kind and not jealous. It does not brag, get puffed up, behave indecently, look for its own interests, become provoked, keep account of the injury, or rejoice over unrighteousness. It rejoices with the truth, and it bears, believes, hopes and endures all things. “Love never fails.” (1 Cor. 13:4-8) Disciples of Jesus Christ are identified by the love that prevails among them. (John 13:34, 35) And, by his godly conduct in general, a Christian shows that he takes pleasure in the spiritual house of God, that he cherishes his relationship with it and with Jehovah God.
“TO THE HOUSE OF JEHOVAH LET US GO”
15. For what annual festivals did the Israelites gather at Jehovah’s sanctuary? What benefits resulted from being present?
15 What a pleasure it was to gather with others at Jehovah’s sanctuary in ancient times! The Israelites were privileged to do so three times a year—to celebrate the festival of unfermented cakes, the festival of harvest and the festival of ingathering. (Ex. 23:14-17) When the temple stood in Jerusalem, anticipation ran high as the multitudes approached that city. Having an elevation of almost 2,600 feet, it was indeed “pretty for loftiness, the exultation of the whole earth.” (Ps. 48:1, 2) There at the temple one could hear the reading of Jehovah’s Word, observe the priests in action and hear the many musical instruments and Levitical voices blended in songs of praise to Jehovah. Services at the earlier tabernacle were highly beneficial spiritually, too, and so no wonder David exclaimed: “I rejoiced when they were saying to me: ‘To the house of Jehovah let us go.’”—Ps. 122:1.
16. What benefits are realized when Christians meet for instruction in God’s Word?
16 Christians today do not assemble three times annually at a particular tabernacle or temple, though they meet weekly for Bible study and discussion at their Kingdom Halls and also meet in convention from time to time. When they gather together for instruction in God’s Word, they incite one another to love and fine works. (Heb. 10:24, 25) At such meetings they receive encouragement, even as Christians in Antioch did nineteen centuries ago, Luke reporting: “Judas and Silas, since they themselves were also prophets, encouraged the brothers with many a discourse and strengthened them.” (Acts 15:30-32) Association with fellow believers also sharpens them up spiritually, for the Scriptures state: “By iron, iron itself is sharpened. So one man sharpens the face of another.”—Prov. 27:17.
17. What advice is given on answering questions and listening at Christian meetings?
17 To derive the greatest benefit from Christian meetings, think searchingly when questions are posed by the servant conducting the meeting. In commenting on a question, endeavor to express the idea in your own words, for it is rarely sufficient merely to read an answer from a Christian publication. Understanding what is meant therein is important. The Ethiopian eunuch to whom Philip preached might have been able to answer some queries about Isaiah’s prophecy, for he was reading it. He could read what it said. But he was unable to understand what was meant in one of its Messianic prophecies. The deeper meaning was obscure to him until Philip, starting with the particular scripture, “declared to him the good news about Jesus.” (Acts 8:26-39) Similarly today, a person who thinks deeply and listens carefully to the expressions of others at Christian meetings may come to understand a difficult Biblical matter. How wise it is, therefore, to reason actively on the information furnished at such a gathering by means of a Biblical discourse, a demonstration or other presentation.
18, 19. What encouragement is there for those who are shy and find it difficult to express themselves verbally at Christian meetings?
18 Yet, it is difficult for some persons to comment, to express themselves. They are shy and would rather remain silent, letting others speak. However, such individuals can be encouraged by the fact that others with similar feelings have made spiritual progress. Paul lovingly told Timothy: “God gave us not a spirit of cowardice, but that of power and of love and of soundness of mind. Therefore do not become ashamed of the witness about our Lord.” (2 Tim. 1:7, 8) Surely, Jehovah, “who daily carries the load for us” and who “cannot possibly allow your foot to totter,” will help you to express your faith verbally at Christian meetings and elsewhere.—Ps. 68:19; 121:3.
19 If a person is not a fluent speaker, he is somewhat like Moses. When Jehovah determined to use him in effecting Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, Moses said: “Excuse me, Jehovah, but I am not a fluent speaker, neither since yesterday nor since before that nor since your speaking to your servant, for I am slow of mouth and slow of tongue.” But Jehovah set matters straight and then told Moses: “I myself shall prove to be with your mouth and I will teach you what you ought to say.” God next arranged for Moses’ brother Aaron to accompany him, and He assured Moses: “I myself shall prove to be with your mouth and his mouth, and I will teach you men what you are to do.” (Ex. 4:10-17) True, Aaron served as Moses’ spokesman, but Moses himself spoke a great deal personally, too. For instance, the book of Deuteronomy consists of discourses Moses gave to the Israelites after Aaron died and shortly before his own death. (Num. 20:22-29; 33:37, 38; Deut. 10:6; 34:1-8) So, look to Jehovah for aid and make verbal expression of your faith at Christian meetings. This is one way to show that you take pleasure in the house of God. David said: “I will declare your [God’s] name to my brothers; in the middle of the congregation I shall praise you.” (Ps. 22:22) If you feel the same way, show it at Christian meetings by participating in them at every opportunity.
BLESS JEHOVAH ALL DAY LONG
20. Those delighting in the house of God now offer sacrifices of what kind to Jehovah? Why?
20 Centuries ago David exclaimed concerning Jehovah: “All day long I will bless you, and I will praise your name to time indefinite, even forever.” (Ps. 145:2) Do you feel that way? If so, you will want to bless Jehovah and praise his name constantly. When the Israelites took pleasure in the house of God, they faithfully offered suitable sacrifices to Jehovah, both animals and harvest fruits. Those delighting in the house of God today offer acceptable sacrifices of a different kind, doing so because they wish to bless Jehovah and praise his name. Long ago, erring Israel was urged: “Do come back, O Israel, to Jehovah your God, for you have stumbled in your error. Take with yourselves words and come back to Jehovah. Say to him, all you people, ‘May you pardon error; and accept what is good, and we will offer in return the young bulls of our lips.’” (Hos. 14:1, 2) Jehovah’s servants now offer the ‘young bulls of their lips’ and heed the admonition: “Through [Jesus Christ] let us always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.” (Heb. 13:15) Yes, they joyfully praise Jehovah verbally, as in the Kingdom preaching and teaching work. Show your delight in the house of God by regularly offering such praise to Jehovah.
21. In what ways, then, can one show that one takes pleasure in the house of God?
21 Though a magnificent material tabernacle or temple of Jehovah no longer stands on some earthly site, show that you take pleasure in the more glorious spiritual temple. Cooperate fully with the spiritual temple class. Continue to manifest your pleasure in the house of God by such works as honoring Jehovah with your valuable things, by maintaining spiritual cleanliness, by attending and participating in Christian meetings and by joyfully praising Jehovah all day long. Let your attitude toward Jehovah, his worship, and the house of God, be like that of David, who declared: “One thing I have asked from Jehovah—it is what I shall look for, that I may dwell in the house of Jehovah all the days of my life, to behold the pleasantness of Jehovah and to look with appreciation upon his temple.”—Ps. 27:4.
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God’s people take pleasure in meeting together to incite one another to love and fine works; this sharpens them spiritually