Our text contains a message to the people of Judah from God concerning impending judgement spoken by the prophet Jeremiah at the gate of the Temple in Jerusalem. The people of Judah had fallen back into the ways of idolatry and sin, but they thought they could appease God by coming to His house for worship. They believed that they were secure because His Temple was in their midst. Now, God was giving them an opportunity to "amend" their ways. If they would repent, they could continue to dwell in the land He had given them. However, if they would not, then he would repeat what He had done at Shiloh. He urged them to consider His house at Shiloh to "see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel". In this lesson, we shall do just that. We will go to the city of Shiloh to see what became of the Tabernacle and its furniture, and find that the lessons God wanted Israel to learn there are just as fitting for this day and age.
Numbers 9:15-23 contains a wonderful summary of how God personally led the Israelites through the wilderness. During their 40 years of wandering, they spent much of their time in the area around Kadesh-Barnea in the desert of Zin. Then came the day when they were again allowed to enter the Promised Land, when the portable house of God could be pitched for the last time.
When the land of Canaan was "subdued before them", the whole congregation of Israel assembled at Shiloh and set up the Tabernacle (Joshua 18:1). For over 300 years covering almost the entire period of the judges, the Tabernacle would remain at Shiloh. It was a perfect location being in the central part of Canaan for the best access to all Israel. It was to Shiloh that Hannah came to pray for a son (1 Samuel 1:9). When Samuel was weaned, Hannah brought him to Shiloh to stay in the house of the Lord.
During this time, the priests apparently kept up with their duties in the Tabernacle though Israel did not obey God perfectly (compare Deuteronomy 16:16 with 1 Samuel 1:3). However, by the time Samuel arrived in Shiloh, even the priests were involved in wickedness. Eli was the high priest at that time and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were wicked beyond belief (1 Samuel 2:12-17, 22-25). Eli himself was accused by God of honoring his sons more than he honored God (1 Samuel 2:29).
By this time, God's mercy and patience had ended. Israel had been under oppression from the Philistines for about 20 years when war broke out anew. 1 Samuel 4:1-22 describes the whole situation beginning with the account of how the Philistines won the first battle killing 4,000 Israelites. The elders of Israel believed that if they had the Ark of the Covenant to go before them in battle, God would deliver them from the Philistines. Hophni and Phinehas brought the Ark to the camp of Israel where there were great expectations. In the second battle, however, the Philistines slaughtered Israel killing 30,000 men including Hophni and Phinehas. In addition, the Ark of the Covenant was captured. When news reached Eli at Shiloh, he fell backwards from his chair and broke his neck. The wife of Phinehas heard too and it caused her to deliver her baby prematurely. She named the baby Ichabod for she said, "The glory is departed from Israel" (1 Samuel 4:21).
The Philistines kept the Ark for 7 months before returning it (1 Samuel 6:1). However, it was never brought back to Shiloh but was instead taken to Kirjathjearim. It was not until after David was King over all Israel that the Ark was moved again, for David brought it to Jerusalem where he had made a special tent for it (1 Chronicles 17:5, 2 Chronicles 1:4). Why the Ark was never returned to its proper place within the Tabernacle is unknown.
What happened afterwards at Shiloh can only be surmised from passages such as our text, Psalm 78:60, and another prophecy in Jeremiah 26:6,9. These passages indicate that the Tabernacle was destroyed presumably by the Philistines. However, this would appear to contradict the several passages in which it appears again in Nob (1 Samuel 21:1-6) and in Gibeah (1 Chronicles 16:39, 21:29; 2 Chronicles 1:3-6). One explanation is that it was not utterly destroyed. Perhaps enough of it remained to continue most of the services. At least it is clear that the Brazen Altar, Laver, and some of the vessels remained.
As David sat in his house of cedar and thought of his God dwelling in a tent, it came into his heart to build a house for God (1 Chronicles 17:1-15). However, God would not allow David to build Him this house but promised that his son would be given this opportunity.
2 Chronicles 5 describes the great day when Solomon finished the Temple and moved the Ark of the Covenant as well as the other furniture into the new House for God. The Temple of Solomon was twice the size of the Tabernacle, and it contained 10 Golden Lampstands and 10 tables for the Shewbread. A larger Brazen Altar was constructed, 10 Lavers, and a "molten sea" capable of holding over 20,000 gallons of water. Most importantly, it had been over 100 years since the incident at Shiloh had separated the furniture and service of the Tabernacle, but now the glory of God was again seen in His dwelling place. Yet, returning to our text, it was this Temple upon which God threatened to repeat the event of Shiloh. Unfortunately, Judah did not amend their ways and God allowed His house to again be destroyed. This time it was the Babylonians who in 586 BC utterly destroyed the Temple.
Around 520 BC by the decree of Cyrus, Zerubbabel returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the Temple. This house for God was inferior to Solomon's Temple (Ezra 3:12) but especially because it lacked the most important piece of furniture - The Ark of the Covenant. No one knows what happened to the Ark when the Babylonians destroyed the first Temple, and it is not mentioned again in Scripture until the Book of Hebrews. Some believe that it was destroyed, some believe it was hidden somewhere beneath the Temple, and some believe it was moved prior to the Babylonian conquest. To this we can only speculate.
Many things happened to Zerubbabel's Temple which one can learn about through extra-biblical accounts. We know that Herod the Great did much beautification and reconstruction to it shortly before the birth of Christ. In AD 70, this Temple too was destroyed. An arch built in Rome was dedicated to emperor Titus for his destruction of Jerusalem and contains images of the Golden Candlestick and other vessels from the Temple. Since that time Israel has been without a Temple (though God has not been without a house - 1 Corinthians 3:16), and in the place where the Temple was there now stands the Moslem Dome of the Rock.
This completes all that has taken place thus far of the Tabernacle and its furniture which we have been studying. This is a good time then to reflect and consider what took place at Shiloh for there are many lessons to glean.
Because of their sin, God had purposely delivered Israel into the hands of the Philistines in order to get them to turn back to Him. Though they wanted deliverance from this problem, they wanted it their way. How hypocritical to bring the Ark, containing the words of the Covenant which they had broke, into battle hoping that God would help them. They knew they needed help from God, but they didn't want to do what God said in order to be helped . Consider the difference between the battle at Aphek where the Ark was lost and the battle at Mizpah (1 Samuel 7:3-12) where God brought victory. God wants man to repent and turn to Him for salvation. How many people with needs come to the Church or turn to the Bible looking for help, but they want it for free. They want deliverance without obedience.
The people that Jeremiah prophesied against wanted to live in sin, but they thought that if they worshipped God occasionally He would keep them safe. How many people come to Church once a week or read their Bible on occasion thinking that will satisfy God enough to keep them from trouble. God is not mocked, whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
It is ironic that the elders of Israel put their trust in the very symbol that condemned their way of life and pointed to their need for a repentance. Notice their words, "when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies". They sought help from the symbol of God's presence rather than the Savior Himself. Judah too made this mistake - "The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD". So also do those today mistakenly put their trust in the symbolic. How many trust in a cross and not the One who died on the cross? How many trust in baptism with no faith in the One who died, was buried, and rose again?
It is no coincidence that the people who experienced the second Shiloh were just like those involved in the first. It should not be a surprise when looking over a long period of history to see the same sins repeated. The truth is that we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. It is better to recognize early what Elijah came to know "I am not better than my fathers" (1 Kings 19:4). The sooner we realize this, the more we will be able to learn from our fathers.
Let us never come to the point where we think that we are above being judged or punished by God. If God can bring Shiloh upon the people called by His name and the place where He set His name, do not think you are too special. It doesn't matter whether you profess to be a Christian, it doesn't matter what position you are in within the Church, and it doesn't matter how much work you do for the Lord - God requires obedience and Holiness.
Oh how cautious we ought to be with our Church lest we find that the Glory of the Lord has departed. We need to keep a watchful eye to make sure that as a Church we are doing what God would have us do. We need to be in prayer for one another and for our Pastor. Look at the other denominations and countless Churches which at one time had the presence of God but which we might now call "Ichabod". Maintain standards of Holiness, watch out for the little things, stay with the Word of God, keep focused on advancing God's kingdom, and never lose the desire for evangelism and edification.
Looking at the long span of time covered in this lesson, one cannot help but get a sense of the longsuffering and patience of God. Think of the hundreds of years that passed before he brought about the events at Shiloh. Then hundreds more years passed again before Shiloh was repeated. All of this was preceded by warning after warning, "rising up early and speaking". In addition, he gave them as a nation not just one chance to turn to Him, but after the 70 year captivity in Babylon He let them return for a third opportunity. Even now he has not totally cast Israel away. Praise God that He is "longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
Finally we should consider that God brought Shiloh upon Himself that we might have everlasting life. At Calvary God allowed His Tabernacle to be judged and punished, not for His iniquity but for ours. Jesus said in John 2:19, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up", but "he spake of the temple of his body". What a picture of grace!