BROTHER BEEBE: –As I have never troubled you with any request before, if it is not asking too much of you, I would be pleased to have the benefit of you, I would be pleased to have the benefit of your understanding of John ii. 17, especially of the words, “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” What kind of zeal was that, and whose house?
As ever, your sister in hope of immortality beyond this vale of tears,
Fort Worth, Texas, Dec. 21, 1879.
REPLY. – Dr. Watts, in paraphrasing this subject, seems to have understood the zeal spoken of as the zeal of our Lord Jesus Christ, as he renders it in verse,
“Zeal for the temple of his
Consumed his life, exposed his blood;
Reproaches at his glory thrown
He felt, and mourn’d them as his own.”
And it is very true that the holy zeal of our Redeemer was such as to require a perfect devotion of all that pertained to him as the Mediator and Redeemer of his people. He gave himself for us, he laid down his life for his sheep, and nothing less than himself could suffice to accomplish the work which he came from heaven to do, and to suffer in the execution of the will of the Father. In the sense of his own, his own personal zeal and perfect, unreserved self-devotion to his great work, may be fitly expressed as having eaten him up.
But it is said in our text, as also in Psalm lxi. 9, “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” To our mind there is a great difference between his own zeal and that of those of his house. Their zeal was exemplified in making his Father’s house a den of thieves; while his zeal was signally manifested in driving the desecrators of the temple from the house which was ordained to be called a house of prayer.
The temple itself was a figure of the body of our Lord, which by divine appointment was to be destroyed, or put to death, and raised up again in three days, as we are informed in the verses immediately following our text. The body in which Jesus was to suffer and arise was the seed of Abraham, which he took on him in being made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death. The Jews, as the carnal seed of Abraham, occupied the temple at the time when Jesus came suddenly, according to Malachi iii. 1, and fully demonstrated who they were who should not abide the day of his coming. The carnal Jews, at the time of his coming, stood as high in religious profession and zeal as to the Pharisees of our day; but they made void the law of God by their traditions. In their zeal and mad infatuation they had ignored the law of God by their traditions, in which they had presumed to make such modifications, amendments and improvements of God’s law as their carnal wisdom suggested, until Christ as the anti-type of the temple was eaten up and swallowed out of sight.
It may be well for the religious will-worshipers of our times to observe how the zeal of their prototypes made void the law of God by their traditions. The laws of God are always perfect and positive; they cannot be changed, improved, or in any wise changed, and still remain the law or laws of God. The law of God required the Israelites to bring offerings of oxen, and sheep, and doves, or pigeons, and money, at certain times; and as some of the people of Israel lived in distant localities from Jerusalem, and it was not so convenient to bring the required offerings with them, the rulers of the temple seemed to have a very plausible plea for laying in a stock of oxen, sheep, doves &c., suitable for offerings, and what a labor-saving accommodation it would be to find the necessary offerings at the very place where they were to be offered. And as the monetary currency in use at that time and place, much of it bore the image and superscription of Caesar, it was not thought suitable for the treasury of the Lord, that difficulty was obviated by the zeal of pious brokers who spread their tables in the temple, ready for a small percentage to furnish the orthodox coins required. This kind of business prevailed and monopolized the temple, which was sacredly consecrated to God as a house of prayer, until the zeal of those who profaned it concealed all its typical representation of the Messiah which was to come.
Elder Gilbert Beebe –Editorial
Middletown, N. Y., February 1, 1880
Signs of the Times
Volume 48, No. 3
February 1, 1880