The Morning And The Evening Sacrifice
Prayer Before the Third Lot
Now the most solemn part of the whole service was about to begin. For the third time the priests assembled in the ‘Hall of Polished Stones’ in order to draw and third and fourth lots. Before proceeding any further, though, they prayed a prescribed prayer that years of tradition have preserved. The following are the words of prayer that the priests used:
‘With great love hast Thou loved us, O Lord our God, and with much overflowing pity hast Thou pitied us. Our Father and our King, for the sake of our fathers who trusted in Thee, and Thou taughtest them the statutes of life, have mercy on us, and enlighten our eyes [in Thy law; cause our hearts to cleave to Thy commandments; unite our hearts to love and to fear Thy name, and we shall not be put to shame, world without end. For Thou art a God who preparest salvation, and us has Thou chosen from among all nations and tongues, and hast, in truth, brought us near to Thy great name, Selah, in order] that we in love may praise Thee and Thy Unity. Blessed be the Lord, who in love chose His people Israel.’ (The part in the square italics is thought to have been added at a later date from when the Temple was first built).
Then they all assembled and said the ‘Shema’ which was their designated creed. This is found in Deuteronomy 6: 4 – Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. Actually, the whole thing consisted of three passages: Deuteronomy 6: 4 – 9; 1 1: 13 – 21; and Numbers 15: 37 – 4 1.
The Lot for Incense
After the prayer, the lot was cast for burning the incense. No priest could do this that had ever done it before, unless in the very rare case that every priest there had already done it before. While the other three lots were cast for both sacrifices, this one had to be done each time. The person to whom the lot fell could then choose two assistants to help him.
Finally, they came to the fourth lot. This designated those men who were to lay on the altar the sacrifice and the meat-offerings, and to pour out the drink-offering.
Offering the Incense
The incensing priest and his assistants now approached first the altar of burnt-offering. One filled with incense a golden censer held in a silver vessel. Another placed in a golden bowl burning coals from the altar. As they passed from the court into the Holy Place, they struck a large instrument called a ‘Magrephah’, which made a huge sound that alerted the priests that it was time for worship. It was also time for the Levites to occupy their places in the service of song; while the chief of the ‘stationary men’ started assembling the people together in an organized fashion so that the ones who wanted to could be purified that day.
Slowly the incensing priest and his assistants ascended the steps to the Holy Place. They were preceded by the two priests who had formerly dressed the altar and the candlestick. These same two priests were now removing the vessels that were left behind and worshipping as they withdrew.
Next, one of the assistants reverently spread the coals on the golden altar, while the other arranged the incense. Then the chief officiating priest was left alone within the Holy Place to await the signal of the president before burning the incense. This is thought to have been the time that the Angel of God appeared unto Zacharias while he was alone. (This is covered in a text in Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah – 3-2004 No. 10 – Zacharias, Father of John the Baptist. Go to the Archives Page on Home Page at top).
As the president gave the word of command, this marked that ‘the time of incense had come’, ‘ the whole multitude of the people without’ withdrew from the inner court and fell down before the Lord, spreading their hands in silent prayer. In this most solemn period, there was a deep and reverent silence that permeated throughout the vast Temple buildings. At this same time within the sanctuary itself, the priest laid the incense on the golden altar for it to rise up as a sweet savor to the Heavenly Father.
Prayers With The Incense
The prayers offered by priests and people at this part of the service are recorded by tradition as follows:
‘True it is that Thou art Jehovah our God, and the God of our fathers; our King and the King of our fathers, our Saviour and the Saviour of our fathers; our Maker and the Rock of our salvation; our Help and our Deliverer. Thy name is from everlasting, and there is no God beside Thee. A new song did they that were delivered sing to Thy name by the seashore; together did all praise and own Thee as King, and say, Jehovah shall reign who saveth Israel.’
‘Be graciously pleased, Jehovah our God, with Thy people Israel, and with their prayer. Restore the service to the oracle of Thy house; and the burnt-offerings of Israel and their prayer accept graciously and in love; and let the service of Thy people Israel be ever well-pleasing unto thee.’
‘We praise Thee, who art Jehovah our God, and the God of our fathers, the God of all flesh, our Creator, and the Creator from the beginning! Blessing and praise be to Thy great and holy name, that Thou hast preserved us in life and kept us. So preserve us and keep us, and gather the scattered ones into Thy holy courts, to keep Thy statutes, and to do Thy good pleasure, and to serve Thee with our whole heart, as this day we confess unto Thee. Blessed by the Lord, unto whom belongeth praise.’
‘Appoint peace, goodness, and blessing; grace, mercy and compassion for us, and for all Israel Thy people. Bless us, O our Father, all of us as one, with the light of Thy countenance. For in the light of Thy countenance hast Thou, Jehovah, our God, given us the law of life, and loving mercy, and righteousness, and blessing, and compassion, and life, and peace. And may it please Thee to bless Thy people Israel at all times, and at every hour with Thy peace. May we and all Thy people Israel be remembered and written before Thee in the book of life, with blessing and peace and support. Blessed be Thou, Jehovah, who blessest Thy people Israel with peace.’
When these prayers had ended, the priest who had formerly trimmed the candlestick once more entered the Holy Place to kindle the two lamps that had been left unlit. Then he took his stand with the incensing priest on top of the steps which led down to the Court of the Priests. The other three who had ministered within the Holy Place gathered with the other two while they still carried the vessels of their ministry. The rest of the priests grouped themselves on the steps beneath.
In the meantime, the priest on whom the fourth lot had fallen had already ascended to the altar. His helpers handed him piece by piece the sacrifice, which he pressed with his hands. Next, he flung the pieces chaotically upon the fire so that the flesh of the sacrifice might be scattered as well as its blood sprinkled. After that, he arranged them in their certain order to imitate as nearly as possible the natural shape of the animal. This part of the service was many times performed by the high-priest himself.
The priests who were already arranged in their places on the steps to the Holy Place, now lifted up their hands above their heads and spread and joined their fingers together in a peculiar manner. They joined their two outspread hands by making the tips of the first fingers touch each other. At the same time, the first and second, and the third and fourth fingers on each hand touched together. while a division was made between the fingers by spreading them apart.
The Incensing Priest repeated in an audible voice, followed by the others the blessing in Numbers 6: 24 – 26 – ‘Jehovah bless thee, and keep thee: Jehovah make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: Jehovah lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.’ To this the people responded – ‘Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.’
After learning all these details, it is much easier to understand the wonder and awe of the people as Zacharias stood before them and was speechless because he had just been visited by the Angel. He was supposed to give the benediction, and he had no words – just wonder and awe from what had just happened to him.
After the priestly-blessing the meat-offering was brought and oil was added to it. Then it was salted and laid on the fire. Next, the high-priest’s daily meat-offering was presented. This consisted of 12 cakes broken in half, with 12 halves offered in the morning and 12 in the evening. Finally, the appropriate drink-offering was poured out upon the foundation of the altar.
The Temple Music
After all the previous had been done, the Temple music began. The priests stood on the right and the left of the marble table on which the fat of the sacrifices was laid. At the proper time it was their duty to blow the blasts on their silver trumpets. There could not be less than 2 blasts nor more than 120 during the whole service. The first number was the number of blasts at the original institution of the Temple, and the latter was the number at the dedication of the first Temple in 2 Chronicles 5: 12.
The priests looked eastward facing the people, while the Levites crowded the fifteen steps which led from the Court of Israel to that of the Priests and looked westwards to the Sanctuary. On a signal given by the president, the priests moved forward to each side of the one who struck the cymbals. Immediately the choir of the Levites were accompanied by instrumental music and began the Psalm of the day. There were no less than 12 voices which harmonized together beautifully. They were selected specially and were young sons of the Levites. They stood by their fathers as they were thrilled to be a part of this service. Some of the families who had intermarried with the priests were also allowed to participate in this part of the service.
The Psalm of the day was always sung in three sections. At the close of each section, the priests drew three blasts from the silver trumpets, and the people bowed down and worshipped. This closed the morning service.
This was immediately followed by the sacrifices and offerings that private Israelites might have to bring. At feast times, these sacrifices and offerings might continue to almost the time for the evening service to begin.
The evening sacrifice was the same as the morning except that the only lot cast was for the incense, and also that the incense was burned after, not before, the pieces of the sacrifice had been laid on the fire of the altar, and the priestly blessing was generally omitted.
The Order of Psalms
The following was the order of the Psalms in the daily service of the Temple.
On the first day of the week they sang Psalm 24 (The earth is the Lord’s), in commemoration of the first day of creation.
On the second day they sang Psalm 48 (Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised). This was because on the second day of creation the Lord ‘divided His works and reigned over them.’
On the third day the sang Psalm 82 (God standeth in the congregation of the mighty), because on that day the earth appeared.
On the fourth day Psalm 94 was sung (O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth), because it was on this day that God made the sun, moon, and stars, and will be avenged on those that worship them instead of the real God.
On the fifth day they sang Psalm 8 1 (Sing aloud unto God our strength), because of all the creatures that were made that day to praise God.
On the sixth day they sang Psalm 93 (The Lord reigneth), because it was on that day that God finished His works and made man.
On the Sabbath day they sang Psalm 92 (It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord), because the Sabbath was symbolic of when the Lord would reign over all, and His glory and service fill the earth with thanksgiving.
This has concluded the morning and evening sacrifice, and the next text will cover Sabbath in the Temple.