Lesson 6: A Humanitarian at the Temple
Study Guide Pages 42-51
How would you like to worship God without once being able to enter the church building? You would come to church and be restricted to standing on the front lawn. This is how it was for the people in the Old Testament. Although the temple was magnificent, with the inside walls overlaid with gold, the vast majority of people never saw the inside. They could only go as far as the courtyard of the temple. Only the priests, the male members of Aaron’s family, could enter the temple proper. And even they did so rarely.
In this striking way, God taught the people about the seriousness of sin. Sin separates mankind from God. Any and every sin. It doesn’t matter whether we think it’s only a minor infraction. To God, all sin is extremely serious. Scripture is clear. James 2:10 says:
“Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”
But God didn’t use the temple only to teach about the seriousness of sin. He also showed that the blood of a sacrifice was needed to remove sin. Day in and day out, the temple courtyard resembled a slaughterhouse as countless animals were sacrificed. This occurred from the very beginning. At the temple’s dedication, Solomon sacrificed no less than 120,000 sheep and goats and 22,000 cattle!
No matter how many animals were sacrificed, however, they couldn’t take away sin. They all pointed ahead to Jesus, the true Lamb of God, who alone could remove sin. Scripture emphasizes this point.
“And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God”Hebrews 10:11-12
At Jesus’ death, God again used the temple to teach an important truth. The temple veil, for centuries, had symbolically separated God from man, When Jesus died, it was suddenly torn from top to bottom. This was miraculous since the veil was four inches thick! In this vivid way, God demonstrated that Jesus had reconciled God and mankind.
Treasure this incident because it shows that Jesus has already paid for all your sins. In him, you can be worthy not only to enter but to remain in God’s presence – for all eternity! Trust in him alone!
Key Bible Verses
Humans tend to downplay their sins and the problem of evil in general. James provides a clear and devastating picture of sin and its effects.
For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
Day after day, week after week, month after month, season after season, year after year, for a thousand years plus more, the blood flowed, the offal piled up, and the smoke went to the heavens. Until one day, a lamb went to a hill called Calvary and gave his life upon a cross, and the veil in the temple, dividing sinful man from Holy God, God ripped in two from top to bottom. And suddenly, we had access to the holiness and the grace of God. And the high priest sat down! And it was done. And it was finished!
We were made right with God by one sacrifice for all—and all time. And we could rest from saying, “What more do I have to do? What else do I have to do? How many times? How many years? How much more blood? How much more work?”
And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.
Questions to Consider
- Imagine being an ancient Israelite, making a trip to the temple in Jerusalem.
- What would the experienced there teach you about God and his attitude toward sin?
- What was the structure of the temple designed to teach?
- What were the sacrifices intended to teach?
- Humans tend to downplay the severity of our sin and sin in general. First, why do we do this? Second, why doesn’t God let us get away with downplaying sin?
- How do we know that the sacrifice that Jesus made is enough? In what visual ways did God emphasize the sufficiency of Jesus’ sacrifice?
- How do the temple’s spiritual truths help us better understand God and his relationship with us now through Christ Jesus?
- Agree/disagree: Because of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice, we no longer need temples.
- Agree/disagree: Jesus’ perfect life and death allow me to be judged based on my best efforts.
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