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  • Writer's pictureRick LoPresti

Between the porch and the altar

God told Moses to build a tabernacle in the wilderness. This would be a place where God would meet with the people, and they could bring their offerings to Him. There were many specific details on how the tabernacle was to be built and administered (Ex 25-Lev 27, etc.). It was enclosed by an outer curtain which separated the area of the tabernacle. There was an outer veil through which the priests would enter this area. The first piece of furniture in this area was the altar where animals were sacrificed. Then there was the laver of water where the priest would wash before entering into the tent of the tabernacle itself. Inside were two chambers which were separated by a veil. In the first section were the lamp, the altar of incense, and the table of shewbread. In the second chamber was the ark of the covenant (Heb 9). The tabernacle was to be the spiritual center of Israel’s spiritual activity in the wilderness and later in the promised land until the temple was built under the direction of king Solomon (2Sam 7, 1Ki 5-8). The temple was largely based on the tabernacle but expanded and elaborated on its design. The temple had a porch at the entry (1Ki 6:3, 1Ki 7). This temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. It was rebuilt later (Ezra, Haggai). This second temple was greatly expanded on by Herod the Great shortly before the birth of Jesus Christ, around 20 B.C. According to Biblical prophecy, there will be a third temple built in the last days (Dan 9:24-27, Eze 40-48, Mt 24:15, 2Thes 2:3-4, Rev 11:1-2).

There are several places in the Bible the area between the entry of the temple and the altar of sacrifice are mentioned. The first is at the dedication of the temple which Solomon had built (1Ki 8:64). They offered so many animal sacrifices that the altar could not receive them all. They used the courtyard area at the entry to offer more sacrifices. About 200 years later, the prophet Joel called the people to repentance. He called for the priests to pray between the porch and the altar for the mercy of God (Joel 2:17). Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest was killed in this area (2Chr 24:20-21, Mt 23:35). Ezekiel was a prophet who was in captivity in Babylon. When God gave him a vision of Jerusalem and the temple, he saw four progressively worse abominations being done by the people in this court area (Eze 8). It is also where he saw God’s glory and angels (Eze 10:3-5). Around the same time, Jeremiah was preaching in this court (Jer 19:14, Jer 26:2, Jer 36:10). Jesus walked in this porch (John 10:23). It is where Peter denied the Lord (Mt 26:17, Mk 14:68). It was where the early church gathered and apostles ministered (Acts 3:11, Acts 5:12). The outer court will be given to the Gentiles during the second half of the seven-year tribulation period (Rev 11:2).

Between the porch and the altar is an interesting area. It was not quite the profane or common but neither was it in the holy temple itself. As the title says, it was between. Many people’s spiritual location is between. They want to be near the holy things of God, but not too far in. They want to stay close to “the city” while also being able to have access to the holy things of God to some degree. We need to do like Ezekiel and as the old song says, “Step into the water, wade out a little deeper” (Eze 47:1-12). We can just wet our feet, go in up to our knees or up to our thighs, or we can go to where there are waters to swim in. God calls us but will not force us.

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