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Imagery in the Apocalypse
It is this most solemn period, when throughout the vast Temple buildings deep silence rested on the worshipping multitude, while within the sanctuary itself the priest laid the incense on the golden altar, and the cloud of 'odors' (Rev 5:8) rose up before the Lord, which serves as the image of heavenly things in this description (Rev 8:1,3,4): * 'and when He had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour...And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand.'
Prayers with the Incense
The prayers offered by priests and people at this part of the service are recorded by tradition as follows: * 'True it is that Thou art Jehovah our God, and the God of our fathers; our King and the King of our fathers; our Savior and the Savior of our fathers; our Maker and the Rock of our salvation; our Help and our Deliverer. Thy name is from everlasting, and there is no God beside Thee. A new song did they that were delivered sing to Thy name by the sea-shore; together did all praise and own Thee as King, and say, Jehovah shall reign who saveth Israel. **
* A few details for those who wish fuller information. Tradition has preserved two kinds of fragments from the ancient Jewish liturgy in the times of the Temple. The one is called the 'Tephillah,' or Prayer, the other the 'Eulogies,' or Benedictions. Of the latter there are eighteen, of which the three first and the three last are the oldest, though four, five, six, eight, and nine are also of considerable antiquity. Of the ancient Tephilloth four have been preserved--two used before and two (in the morning, one) after the Shema. The first morning and the last evening Tephillah are strictly morning and evening prayers. They were not used in the Temple service. The second Tephillah before the Shema was said by the priests in the 'Hall of Polished Stones,' and the first Tephillah after the Shema by priests and people during the burning of incense. This was followed by the three last of the eighteen Eulogies. Is it not a fair inference, then, that while the priests said their prayers in 'the hall,' the people repeated the three first Eulogies, which are of equal antiquity with the three last, which we know to have been repeated during the burning of incense?
** Now follow in the text the three last 'Eulogies.'
'Be graciously pleased, Jehovah our God, with Thy people Israel, and with their prayer. Restore the service to the oracle of Thy house; and the burnt-offerings of Israel and their prayer accept graciously and in love; and let the service of Thy people Israel be ever well-pleasing unto Thee.
'We praise Thee, who art Jehovah our God, and the God of our fathers, the God of all flesh, our Creator, and the Creator from the beginning! Blessing and praise be to Thy great and holy name, that Thou hast preserved us in life and kept us. So preserve us and keep us, and gather the scattered ones into Thy holy courts, to keep Thy statutes, and to do Thy good pleasure, and to serve Thee with our whole heart, as this day we confess unto Thee. Blessed be the Lord, unto whom belongeth praise.
'Appoint peace, goodness, and blessing; grace, mercy, and compassion for us, and for all Israel Thy people. Bless us, O our Father, all of us as one, with the light of Thy countenance. For in the light of Thy countenance hast Thou, Jehovah, our God, given us the law of life, and loving mercy, and righteousness, and blessing, and compassion, and life, and peace. And may it please Thee to bless Thy people Israel at all times, and at every hour with Thy peace. [May we and all Thy people Israel be remembered and written before Thee in the book of life, with blessing and peace and support.] Blessed be Thou, Jehovah, who blessest Thy people Israel with peace.'
These prayers ended, he who had formerly trimmed the candlestick once more entered the Holy Place, to kindle the two lamps that had been left unlit; and then, in company with the incensing priest, took his stand on the top of the steps which led down to the Court of the Priests. *
* According to Maimonides, it was at this part of the service, and not before, that the sound of the Magrephah summoned the priests to worship, the Levites to their song, and the 'stationary men' to their duties.
The other three who had also ministered within the Holy Place gathered beside him, still carrying the vessels of their ministry; while the rest of the priests grouped themselves on the steps beneath. Meanwhile he on whom the fourth lot had fallen had ascended to the altar. They whose duty it was handed to him, one by one, the pieces of the sacrifice. Upon each he pressed his hands, and next flung them confusedly upon the fire, that so the flesh of the sacrifice might be scattered as well as its blood sprinkled. After that he ranged them in order, to imitate as nearly as possible the natural shape of the animal. This part of the service was not unfrequently performed by the high-priest himself.
* The high-priest lifted his hands no higher than the golden plate on his mitre. It is well know that, in pronouncing the priestly blessing in the synagogue, the priests join their two outspread hands, by making the tip of the first fingers touch each other. At the same time, the first and second, and the third and fourth fingers in each hand are knit together, while a division is made between those fingers by spreading them apart. A rude representation of this may be seen in Jewish cemeteries on the gravestones of priests.
One of their number, probably the incensing priest, repeated in audible voice, followed by the others, the blessing in Numbers 6:24-26: 'Jehovah bless thee, and keep thee: Jehovah make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: Jehovah lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.' To this the people responded, 'Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.' In the modern synagogues the priestly blessing is divided into three parts; it is pronounced with a disguised voice and veiled faces, while the word 'Lord' is substituted for the name of 'Jehovah.' *
* Dr. Geiger has an interesting argument to show that in olden times the pronunciation of the so-called ineffable name 'Jehovah,' which now is never spoken, was allowed even in ordinary life. See Urschrift u. Uebers d. Bibel, p. 259, etc.
Of course all this was not the case in the Temple. But if it had been the duty of Zacharias, as incensing priest for the day, to lead in the priestly blessing, we can all the better understand the wonder of the people as 'he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless' (Luke 1:22) while they waited for his benediction. After the priestly blessing the meat-offering was brought, and, as prescribed in the law, oil added to it. Having been salted, it was laid on the fire. Next the high-priest's daily meat-offering was presented, consisting of twelve cakes broken in halves--twelve half-cakes being presented in the morning, and the other twelve in the evening. Finally, the appropriate drink-offering was poured out upon the foundation of the altar (perhaps there may be an allusion to this in Revelation 6:9, 10).
Upon this the Temple music began. It was the duty of the priests, who stood on the right and the left of the marble table on which the fat of the sacrifices was laid, at the proper time to blow the blasts on their silver trumpets. There might not be less than two nor more than 120 in this service; the former in accordance with the original institution (Num 10:2), the latter not to exceed the number at the dedication of the first Temple (2 Chron 5:12). The priests faced the people, looking eastwards, while the Levites, who crowded the fifteen steps which led from the Court of Israel to that of the Priests, turned westwards to the sanctuary. On a signal given by the president, the priests moved forward to each side of him who struck the cymbals. Immediately the choir of the Levites, accompanied by instrumental music, began the Psalm of the day. It was sustained by not less than twelve voices, with which mingled the delicious treble from selected voices of young sons of the Levites, who, standing by their fathers, might take part in this service alone. The number of instrumental performers was not limited, nor yet confined to the Levites, some of the distinguished families which had intermarried with the priests being admitted to this service. *
The Psalm of the day was always sung in three sections. At the close of each the priests drew three blasts from their silver trumpets, and the people bowed down and worshipped. This closed the morning service. It was immediately followed by the sacrifices and offerings which private Israelites might have to bring, and which would occasionally continue till near the time for the evening service. The latter resembled in all respects that of the morning, except that the lot was only cast for the incense; that the incense was burned, not, as in the morning, before, but after the pieces of the sacrifice had been laid on the fire of the altar, and that the priestly blessing was generally admitted.
The Order of Psalms
The following was the order of the Psalms in the daily service of the Temple (Tamid, sect. vii, and Maimonides in Tamid). On the first day of the week they sang Psalm 24, 'The earth is the Lord's,' etc., in commemoration of the first day of creation, when 'God possessed the world, and ruled in it.' On the second day they sang Psalm 48, 'Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,' etc., because on the second day of creation 'the Lord divided His works, and reigned over them.' On the third day they sang Psalm 82, 'God standeth in the congregation of the mighty,' etc., 'because on that day the earth appeared, on which are the Judge and the judged.' On the fourth day Psalm 94 was sung, 'O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth,' etc., 'because on the fourth day God made the sun, moon, and stars, and will be avenged on those that worship them.' On the fifth day they sang Psalm 81, 'Sing aloud unto God our strength,' etc., 'because of the variety of creatures made that day to praise His name.' On the sixth day Psalm 93 was sung, 'The Lord reigneth,' etc., 'because on that day God finished His works and made man, and the Lord ruled over all His works.' Lastly, on the Sabbath day they sang Psalm 92, 'It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord,' etc., 'because the Sabbath was symbolical of the millennial kingdom at the end of the six thousand years' dispensation, when the Lord would reign over all, and His glory and service fill the earth with thanksgiving.'