Pillars of The Temple
There is a wealth of natural illustration in the Scriptures, using objects familiar to the natural eye, to convey to the mind an understanding of spiritual things. Among these is the Temple, used in both the Old and the New Testaments to portray the dwelling place of God in the future, when He will dwell with men, when He himself shall be with them, and be their God.
In Revelation 3:12 the promise is that the overcomers shall be pillars in that Temple, and in considering just this one detail of the larger picture we find much that is calculated to assist the overcomer in this day of preparation.
The first essential quality of a pillar is strength, for, although pillars are ornamental, their real purpose is to support some important part of the structure in which they are used. Before going on to consider this quality of strength we must first take note that the strongest pillar would be of little use unless erected on an even stronger foundation. There is no need to dwell upon the foundation upon which the overcomers are being founded, for in Matt.16:18 our Lord tells us. It is upon the great truth that Jesus is the Christ that we have any standing at all. Paul’s statement in Eph.2:20 that we are being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets is quite in harmony with our Lord’s statement, as is his further declaration in 2 Tim.2:19: "The foundation of God, standeth, having this seal, ‘The Lord hath acknowledged them who are his’" (Roth.).
Moses, in his triumph song, proclaimed that the Lord was his strength and song, and this theme is echoed and re‑echoed throughout both the Old and the New Testaments. The Lord is the source of all spiritual strength, but how does He impart this strength to his people? It is not conveyed through some mystic channel to those who merely ask for it; rather is it developed as a living, vital force in all those, who, having heard the call to become sons of God, are being dealt with as spiritual children of a loving Father.
The means used to develop this quality of strength are the lessons and experiences which God permits to come to those whom He is preparing to be pillars in his holy habitation. In the natural world materials possess various kinds of strength, e.g., tensile strength, or the ability to sustain stretching or straining; compressive strength, or the ability to sustain pressure or crushing; shear strength, or the ability to resist a cutting action; and impact strength, or the ability to withstand a sudden blow. It requires but little thought, to realise that we may need some or even all of these qualities if we are to be overcomers. The straining of earthly ties or relationships, crushing loads of anguish or distress, temptations to cut ourselves off from fellowships, so essential in these last days, (Heb.10:25), or sudden blows, shattering to our faith, may be our portion. Fiery trials, and the wearing influence of constant contact with the world, all combine to destroy faith, and must be resisted.
The illustration of the mason, at work with hammer and chisel upon the stones, is familiar, and applied to the pillars is well summed up in words well known:
"The temple stones God now prepares, oft cry you hurt me sore.
In modern times this method of making pillars has been largely superseded by a different method, which more aptly illustrates the development of that strength so necessary in the pillars of the Temple. In this process, steel and concrete, two entirely dissimilar materials, are used to form the pillars, or piers, as they are more commonly known, which are used in the buildings of today. Without going into details it is pointed out that each material has quite a different form of strength, and they are so arranged that the particular strength of each material is used to the best advantage, eliminating weaknesses which would exist if either were used alone. Bearing this brief outline in mind, turn to Isa.30:15, where the Holy One of Israel says "In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength." Here are two qualities of character, each in themselves strong, and of an entirely different type, but which COMBINED give great strength of character to those in whom they are developed.
For instance, Peter was very confident when he said he would die rather than deny the Lord, and he had confidence of a sort when he walked upon the water to meet the Lord, but in each case confidence was born of impetuosity; in later years, after many hardly‑learned lessons, Peter manifested a QUIET confidence vastly different from that which previously revealed his weakness. Quietness is defined as stillness, repose, silence. These all suggest immobility or stability, and remind us of Paul’s exhortation in 1 Cor.15:58: "Be ye steadfast, unmoveable."
But conditions are not always conducive to stillness and repose. Sometimes the affairs of life are very tumultuous, even frightening. In spite of the many promises in the Word, one may sometimes feel as did David when he cried: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from saving me, and from the words of my loud complaint? O my God! I call in the day‑time, but thou answerest not; and in the night I find no rest" (Psa.22:1 & 2 Leeser). But the very experience which wrings such a cry is sent that we might develop that quietness which gives strength; under such conditions one must wait before the Lord, and thus learn, BY EXPERIENCE, that they that wait upon the Lord shall "acquire new strength" (Leeser). Whilst thus waiting before the Lord, we may hear him, in the stillness, asking;‑
"When I to thy pleadings seem no heed to pay,
If the answer is "yes," we shall again say with David, "It is lovely to me that the Lord heareth my voice, my supplications. For he hath inclined his ear unto me: therefore throughout all my days will I call on him.... Return, O my soul, unto thy rest; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee" (Psa.116:1,2 & 7 Leeser).
Even so, it is difficult, in affliction of body or of mind, to wait patiently before the Lord; if so, we should do well to consider Lamentations, Chapter 3. For the first 20 verses Jeremiah dwells upon all the calamities that may befall the faithful, but in verses 21 to 23 a complete change takes place. He continues: "This, will I bring back to my heart, therefore will I hope. The lovingkindnesses of YAHWEH, verily THEY ARE NOT EXHAUSTED. Verily! Not at an end, are his COMPASSIONS: New things for the mornings! Abundant is THY faithfulness" (Rotherham). Many, indeed, are the afflictions of the righteous, but, as Jeremiah continues (verse 33): "For He (God) doth not afflict his children willingly" (from his heart, of his own will). So, we may ask, why does God afflict us at all? The answer is found in Heb.12:10 (margin): "For they verily (indeed), for a few days chastened (chastised) us as seemed good to them; but He FOR OUR PROFIT, that we might be PARTAKERS OF HIS HOLINESS."
Quietness is also defined as "peace of mind, seclusion, freedom from disturbance, or alarm." Only those who are hidden in the seclusion of the shadow of the Almighty can find complete peace of mind. And only those who are trusting in all the promises of the Word can be free from disturbance or alarm.
O, blessed peace of a perfect trust
If under all the varying circumstances of life we have that quietness which comes with such a perfect trust we are blessed indeed, but even as in the natural picture the concrete is not sufficient of itself, so this quietness needs to be coupled with and supported by confidence.
To be confident is to be positive—bold. How are we to attain this quality? Once again we look to the Lord, this time as the source of our confidence. The wise man says (Prov.3:26): "For the Lord shall be thy confidence," and in Prov.14:26 he shows us how, for he says: "In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence." What is fear? Again the wise man says: "The fear of the LORD is to hate evil" (Prov.8:13). David says (Psa.5:7): "In thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple." So "fear" may be summed up as that attitude towards God which urges us to a life of sanctification and holiness (2 Cor.7:1). But how does reverence bring confidence? Reverence engenders faith, and faith brings confidence.
Many are the promises to those who reverence God; Psa.25:14: "The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him." Psa.33:18: "The eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him." Psa.34:7: "The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him." These, and many others, do, if accepted by faith, become a real basis for confidence, and are well summed up in Eccl.8:12: "It shall be well with them that fear God."
The writer to the Hebrews says (3:6,14 Moffatt): "Now we are this house of God (Temple), if we will only hold on, confident and proud of our hope. For we only participate in Christ provided that we hold firm to the very end, the CONFIDENCE, WITH WHICH WE STARTED". Looking back to the time when we started out on our pilgrimage, we may recall the enthusiasm and the confidence with which we started; but, is that confidence maintained? Even as in the natural picture each material needs the support of the other, so we, if we are going to maintain our confidence to the very end, shall need to combine with it that quietness which is developed by completely trusting in our Father in every experience. In these last days it is most essential that our confidence is rightly placed, for the Scriptures warn us that if it were possible even the very elect would be deceived.
The clouds of trouble over the earth today are indeed the very chariot in which our Lord is returning in triumph; He is indeed walking on the wings of the wind of adversity—that wind which is causing "the earth (to) be removed, and…the mountains to be carried into the midst of the sea" (Psa.46:2).
But, someone may say, I believed all this, and am quietly waiting before the Lord and have confidence in him, yet I am still conscious of my own weakness. Hebrews 1:34 (Moffatt) speaks of those who "from weakness won strength." Likewise, Paul said: "When I am weak then am I strong," yet he asked the Lord to remove his weakness (thorn in the flesh), but God’s reply was: "My grace suffices for you, for POWER MATURES IN WEAKNESS" (2 Cor.12:9 Weymouth). Power (strength) did mature in Paul, but not before he came to the full realisation of his own weakness, and learned, from experience, that he could put his whole confidence and trust in God. So with us, it is well that we feel our own weakness, providing always that we have learned that confidence in God, through Christ, and quiet waiting before him will enable us to become pillars of strength. We may have to wait long and patiently, but even as in the natural picture the pillar cannot take its load until it has matured, so we must, even after we have attained a high standard of strength, stand in this evil day, and, having done all, to continue to stand, so that in the final test we may prove worthy to take our place as a pillar in God’s eternal habitation.
But strength is not the only quality to be found in the Temple pillars: beauty, too, will surely be seen in every saint who is elevated to this greatest of all honours.
Beauty and strength are not always combined. So often, in the natural world, strength goes hand in hand with tyranny and brutality, but in Jesus, our example, beauty and strength were combined to such a degree that as He stood before his accusers Pilate marvelled, and was constrained to exclaim: "Behold—the man." It was the power of the Holy Spirit, with which our Lord was filled, that was made manifest in the beauty of holiness which crowned his earthly ministry; so we, as we are filled with the same spirit, must develop the fruits thereof as we become stronger and stronger, so that, as power is matured in us, we may attain that growth in holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.