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Psalms of the Sanctuary

"In the beginning"

The purpose of Yahweh may be summarized in the Hebrew titles of the first five books of the Bible. It is not generally known that the titles in our English Bible are based upon the Greek Septuagint; they bear little or no resemblance to the Hebrew titles. Consider the summary below:

English title
Hebrew title
1. Genesis
"In the beginning"
2. Exodus
"Ve-elleh shemoth"
"These (are) the names"
3. Leviticus
"He (Yahweh) called"
4. Numbers
"In the wilderness"
5. Deuteronomy
"These (are) the words"

In each of the above cases, the Hebrew title is the first word or phrase of the book -- which serves as a keynote of its message. Carrying the observation one step further, we notice that the five titles, taken in order and supplying the ellipsis, also provide a message. Almost as poetry, they speak eloquently of the Deity and His comprehensive purpose, as Creator, Lawgiver, and Saviour of the world:

"In the beginning these were the names which Yahweh called. In the wilderness these were the words (which Yahweh spoke)."
"He called"

Let us concentrate on Moses' third book: Here we find a proclamation of God's purpose with those whom He has called. "I will be glorified... I will be sanctified in those who approach Me!" This is the main theme of Leviticus: God's sanctuary among men. God has proposed to erect a "house", in which He may be sanctified. A "house", Scripturally speaking, may be either a building or a family. But we think most often of the latter, for we realize that God may be worshipped anywhere -- He needs not temples made with men's hands (Acts 7:48).

"Wherever, Lord, Thy people meet,
There they behold Thy mercy seat;
Where'er they seek Thee, Thou art found,
And every place is hallowed ground."

Thus, when we consider God's Sanctuary and those who are called to it, we perceive that spiritual sanctification is more Important than physical sanctification -- even as our Lord said, "Be ye holy... be ye perfect..."

This rather forbidding book of Leviticus is not a "dead letter". It has a universal spiritual appeal, to those of all times who constitute the living sanctuary. God has called us all "out of Egypt" and built us up into a spiritual house in the wilderness, having through His Son set us an example of holiness and perfection.

The "Leviticus" Book of Psalms

The Hebrew Psalter is divided into five books, corresponding to the five books of the Pentateuch. Each "book" ends with a benediction, or blessing (41:13; 72:18,19; 89:52; 118:28,29; all of 150). By ancient Hebrew tradition, Leviticus was divided into seventeen Sabbath synagogue readings; the third book of Psalms (Psa 73 through Psa 89) consists of seventeen Psalms. There are strikingly similar arrangements in the other four pairs of Mosaic books and Psalms sections. (For detail, consult The Companion Bible, by Bullinger.)

Ten is the number of ordinal (numerical) perfection; seven, spiritual perfection and God's covenant. The sum of the two represents a perfection of spiritual order in God's covenant. In seventeen we see the "beauty of holiness", the "glory and beauty" of God's sanctuary, where all services are conducted "decently and in order" (1Co 14:40).

In almost every psalm of the seventeen, the sanctuary or the holy Place or the holy congregation is mentioned. The titles in this section refer to Asaph, Heman, and Ethan (the three "chief musicians" or choir directors) and the "sons of Korah" (doorkeepers in the tabernacle and temple -- 1Ch 9:19; Psa 84:10). The three directors stood officially "according to their order" (1Ch 6:32):

Left (1Ch 6:44)
Center (1Ch 6:33)
Right (1Ch 6:39)
Ethan (Psa 89) or Jeduthun (Psa 76)
Heman (Psa 88)
Asaph (Psa 73--83)
Of Merari
Of Kohath
Of Gershom

The group led by each man would play and sing its special hymns in the service of the tabernacle and the temple -- a perfection of spiritual order.

The Sanctuary of Yahweh

Certain themes emerge from these "Psalms of the Sanctuary", which demonstrate the relevance of Leviticus and the sanctuary to our day:

Psalm 73: Yahweh's sanctuary is the place of enlightenment, a lampstand shining in a dark and frightful world:

"For I was envious at the wicked... until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end."
Psalms 74; 79: The enemy is currently enthroned in Yahweh's sanctuary (Jerusalem and indeed all the earth), and the righteous remnant mourn and pray:

"Thine enemies roar in the midst of the congregation... Thy holy temple have they defiled... How long, Yahweh?"
Psalms 75; 76: But finally Yahweh will arise to cleanse His sanctuary: "God is the judge... in Salem also is His tabernacle, and His dwelling place in Zion... the earth feared and was still, when God arose to judgment..."

Psalms 80; 82: The people of Yahweh are the true and living sanctuary, built up around Christ, the ultimate sanctuary whom the Father strengthened for Himself (Psa 80:15,17):

"God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; He judgeth among the gods."
Psalms 83; 84: The tents of wickedness will eventually fall, but the sanctuary of Yahweh will stand firm:

"I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness."
Psalms 87; 89: Only one birth is of consequence, and that is the birth, or rebirth, in the sanctuary of Zion:

"Yahweh shall reckon, when He enrolls the people, that this man was born there... in the congregation and assembly of the saints..."
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