It is, The Iniquity of the Sanctuary, a particular sin committed by the ones serving God and working for God, something that is against God’s holiness and offends God to the uttermost.
An iniquity can be many things, something related to individual persons, a household, the assembly, the priesthood, the holy city, and the land.
The iniquity of the sanctuary is a unique kind of a sin, mentioned in Numbers 18:1, implying any kind of misconduct, transgressions, sins, committed against the holiness of God’s sanctuary.
This is the most serious iniquities one can commit. The personal sins and iniquities offend God, but if in God’s work we do something to offend His holiness, it is most offensive and serious.
We need to see what this sin is, how to avoid it, and keep the principle of having God as the initiator of the work, God as the means for the work, and God as the One who gets the glory for the work we do for Him. May God get all the glory!
May we give Him the first place and not be rash about suggesting, initiating, or doing things for God according to what we think we should do!
What is the Iniquity of the Sanctuary?
The iniquity of the sanctuary is mentioned in Num. 18:1, which is a continuation of Numbers 16-17.
In these chapters we see how Korah and 250 leaders of God’s people rebelled against Moses and Aaron, challenging the position, responsibility, and authority of these two ones. Korah was a leading Levite, and the others were leaders among God’s people.
God was very upset with this situation, and He caused the earth to open up and swallow up Korah and the rebellious leading ones with their families and all they had – alive! This is the worst kind of punishment God passed on to His people.
These ones were leaders in God’s people and serving ones to God, yet they committed something serious against God’s authority.
In chapter 17 we see how the 12 rods for the 12 tribes were presented to God, and only Aaron’s rod budded – only the priestly service of Aaron was approved by God. And then, chapter 18 starts with the sin of the sanctuary.
This sin can be committed only by the serving ones, those who serve God. As we serve God in working for Him and with Him, we need to be cautious and warned that there may be a possibility for us as serving ones to commit the iniquity of the sanctuary.
Taking Heed of How and with What We Build
In a parallel passage in the New Testament, in 1 Cor. 3 we see Paul speaking of taking care of how we build.
Christ as the foundation has been laid, but we need to take heed what and how we build upon it. It is not enough to be diligent and faithful to the Lord in working for Him, but we need to make sure we build with gold, silver, and precious stones.
If we build with hay, wood, and stubble, we will mar, destroy, or damage the building of God – and if we do this, God will destroy us (see 1 Cor. 3:17-18).
We need to be open to the Lord and allow Him to shine on us, in all the areas of our being, that we can be helped and preserved in our serving the Lord.
Especially as young ones entering into our service to the Lord, whether full time or with our full free time, we need to see this.
We need to realize that it is not enough to be diligent or faithful in the Lord’s work – there is the iniquity of the sanctuary, which can be committed quite easily, and we don’t need to be big leaders to sin in this way.
When our flesh is manifested in God’s work, when our self-will is exposed, and when we speak rashly or make suggestions in a quick way, we often commit this special sin that pertains to the Lord’s work. Sinning in this way offends God in His holiness, glory, and sovereignty.
May the Lord shine on us and show us this, that we may serve Him by building with gold, silver, and precious stones, not with our natural man or natural ability!
3 Important Considerations in God’s Work
Brother Watchman Nee points out three important considerations in working for God – which we should never forget.
- The initiation of God’s work must be according to His will – we shouldn’t initiate the work by ourselves (Rom. 11:36). What is the source of our work? The sovereign God must be the initiator of the work. May we tell the Lord, Lord, I don’t want to initiate any of God’s service! May we know God’s will, know what He desires to do, and stay in the fellowship with the others under the Head, Christ, that we may NOT initiate things outside the will of God.
We need to know God’s will and His intention that we may not do things against His will or running from His will. If we don’t know what God’s will is, we will be disqualified. The fire will test it all – whether it is of God, whether it is gold! You may do a large amount of good work, helping others – but was it initiated by God? Is it of gold, silver, and precious stones?
- The advance of God’s work must be according to His power – we shouldn’t carry out the work of God by our own strength (Acts 1:8; Zech. 4:6; Phil. 4:13; 2 Tim. 2:1). The end doesn’t justify the means. Our good reason for doing something does not justified the way we do it. The source must be holy, and the means must be also of God. We need to serve by the Spirit of God, waiting on the Lord and depending on Him.
We may many times ask, If we know that THIS is the will of God, to do this particular work, then why do we need to wait? Let’s do it! – just as Saul didn’t wait a bit longer on Samuel but he wanted to act and be zealous for God’s purpose and he was disqualified from his kingship, so we can be disqualified if we trust in ourselves, our own strength, and we don’t do things in Christ and by His power.
- The result of God’s work must be for God’s glory – we shouldn’t gain any glory as a result of our work for God (John 7:18; Eph. 3:21; 2 Cor. 4:5). There’s nothing in the work of God for us – no glory, no acknowledgement no recognition. Our ambition needs to be exposed and dealt with. The destiny of our consecration to God is to become ashes, precious in God’s sight yet worthless in man’s consideration. There’s no glory in God’s work for ourselves.
Even the thought of getting some glory, stealing some of God’s glory for ourselves, will cause us to commit this sin. We need to learn from brother Watchman Nee and Witness Lee, the latter who said, I only know how to labor. We shouldn’t expect any reward, and we shouldn’t have any expectation or any desire to be acknowledged. Glory belongs to God, and He jealously won’t share it with anyone!
God Doesn’t Need Your Advice
Many times in the Lord’s work we can initiate something “to help God out”, we may rashly give our opinion on what to do to accomplish something for God, or we may do something because it is what the people want or it is the logical thing to do producing good results.
In Job 38:2-3 we see that God doesn’t need our advice, our counsel, or our knowledge – these rather darken His counsel than help Him. Man loves being God’s adviser, His counselor – but God doesn’t need our advice or counsel!
We need to take Christ as our Head, allow His thoughts to become our thoughts, and be one with Him and with the saints we are serving with, so that we may not overstep our measure, speak something rashly, misrepresent God, or do something in and of our flesh.
May we all learn to be careful in the Lord’s work, allowing God to initiate everything, waiting upon Him, listening to Him, depending on Him, doing things by His power, and giving Him all the glory. May the Lord have mercy on us to see this!
Lord, have mercy on us as we learn to serve You and work together with You. May we not initiate Your work but allow You to initiate everything. Lord, may we work in everything by Your power. Lord, all the glory is Yours. Save us from our ambition, personal desires, or rash suggestions in doing this or that. Lord, shine on us that we may see the sin of the sanctuary and not offend Your holiness!
References and Further Reading
- Sharing inspired from brother James Lee’s sharing in the message and portions in, The Collected Works of Watchman Nee (vol. 42, pp. 359-361), as quoted in the Holy Word for Morning Revival on, The Unique Work in the Lord’s Recovery, week 5 (entitled, The Iniquity of the Sanctuary versus Building with Gold, Silver, and Precious Stones).
- Buy this morning revival book online via Living Stream Ministry.
- Hymns on this topic:
# Serve and work within the Body, / Never independently; / As the members of the Body, / Functioning relatedly.
# That recovery may proceed / Real priests are what we need— / Those who live in Christ indeed, / O glory be to God! / Saturated with the Lord, / They have Christ as their reward. / These the building work afford / In the local churches now.
# Pray to labor with the Lord; / Let the Lord initiate / All the plan and all the work; / Then thru us He’ll operate.
- Picture credit: taken by a friend (somewhere in Montana, USA).
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