Early in the inspired record we read the command of God: "Let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them." Ex. 25: 8. And in this our day the servant of the Lord declares: "From the sacredness which was attached to the earthly sanctuary, Christians may learn how they should regard the place where the Lord meets with His people."—"Testimonies," Vol. V, p. 491.
As we study concerning the careful, detailed, and rich provisions for the sanctuary in the wilderness, we partially realize what God meant when He said: "Look that thou make them after their pattern, which was showed thee in the mount." Ex. 25:40. The divine pattern, the heavenly blue print, clearly indicated that no careless plans nor indifferent work would be acceptable to God. Heaven's requirements, which remain the same to this time, are that "all things be done decently and in order."
Wise the builders who have thus built, and happy the congregations that continue to maintain their church edifice in a condition befitting the place where God is worshiped.
It is painful to contrast God's requirements concerning the places of His worship with the many poorly kept church buildings of today! How inconsistent, and what a strange application of principle it must be in the sight of heaven, when we paint our private dwellings in whole or in part at periodic intervals, but fail to see that the church buildings are thus cared for! We rake the yards about our residences, seed our lawns, and plant shrubs around our homes, but year after year forget these same needs about God's house! We do more or less spring house cleaning—washing of woodwork, repapering, revarnishing, and general improving, but how often we fail to manifest similar interest in the property dedicated to God. While volunteer or appointed helpers regularly sweep the floor and dust the seats of the church, yet too often we allow the grimy walls and ceiling to go without much-needed renovation. The accumulated soot and dust of months, perhaps of years, lie in layers upon the electrical fixtures; the floors are in great need of renewed covering; the outside of the building may be in such poor condition that it resembles a lodge or a hall more than a church building.
Such lax conditions tend to bring into disrepute the cause represented by the buildings, and lower our people in the minds of those who exercise greater care for their churches. Many turn away in disgust, unwilling to consider our presentation of the truths for this hour. What a contrast is this unfortunate condition with the counsel, "The house where God is worshiped should be in accordance with His character and majesty."--/d., p. 268.
Many times the reason for this condition is that some "place their own interests above the interests of God's cause." The servant of the Lord frankly states: "They wonder that Joseph and Mary were obliged to find shelter in a stable, and that there the Saviour was born; but they are willing to expend upon themselves a large part of their means, while the house of -worship -is shamefully neglected." Read the entire statement in Volume V, pages 268, 269 of the "Testimonies." Through the prophet Haggai, God speaks to us today:
"Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your celled houses, and this house lie waste? . . . Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the Lord of hosts. Because of Mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house." "Go, . . . build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified." Haggai 1:4, 9, 8.
This passage of Scripture shows that the lack of temporal prosperity of God's people at that time was due to their neglect to put God's interests first. Spiritually they were in a deplorable state, and remained so as long as they chose to make their personal interests first and be indifferent to the ruined condition of the temple. With searching inquiry the prophet addressed them: Is it time for you to panel your houses with costly cedar planks, and allow God's house to be waste? Why do you feel concerned for your own buildings, and unconcerned for the Lord's buildings?
"The message of counsel and reproof given through Haggai was taken to heart by the leaders and people of Israel. They felt that God was in earnest with them."—"Prophets and Sings," p. 575. May the same message be taken to heart today, and may we as leaders and as people arise and build, or repair and beautify, the house of God. Encouragement and comfort will come to all those who do this Heaven-approved work. Although difficulties will be in the way, yet we should go forward in faith in response to the call of God, and labor diligently to restore the church in every particular. "Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the . . . heart, to beautify the house of the Lord." Ezra 7:27.
Trenton, N. J.