Serving at the Entrance of the Temple

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“… and do not compare yourself with others or you will become vain and bitter.” —Desiderata

A_BevOne of our greatest areas of self-inflicted pain has its source in our determination to measure ourselves against other people, evaluating how much better or worse we are in comparison to them. Friends, family, colleagues, neighbours—no one escapes the scrutiny that springs from our neverending search for personal worth as we try to work out how we’re doing compared to everyone else.

The bronze washbasin and its bronze pedestal were cast from the bronze mirrors donated by the women who served at the entrance of the Tabernacle. -Exodus 38:8

Why does it matter what the brazen laver was made of? What was the job description of the women who served at the temple entrance? What does bronze symbolise? They must have needed to look right for their jobs, but how would they know; they’d given their mirrors away.

Most of us don’t have a title, but we’re all called to serve at the entrance to the Temple. In the Old Testament it was a place, but the new covenant means every individual Christian is a Temple. Therefore, any love we show—talking someone through relationship issues over coffee, encouraging them to go again when they’ve been disappointed, organising a conference where people will be encouraged and empowered—is serving at the entrance to their Temple. Whether we’re speaking at an event or praying for someone or counseling them, or fixing their hair or their computer, we are ministering at the entrance to their Temple.

Literally, we serve at the entrance to other peoples’ relationships with Jesus whether they know Him or not. The reason there’s no job description is because each of us is uniquely designed to serve Him in our own way. If this verse told you what they did, we’d automatically start categorising our value by it, and we’d affirm or despise ourselves (or other people) based on how well we fit the description.

What makes you better than anyone else? What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if all you have is from God, why boast as though you have accomplished something on your own? —1 Corinthians 4:7

Truth is, none of our gifts or talents or abilities come from us. God designed us with those qualities for the specific purposes He plans to use our lives for. He says we’re His workmanship, created especially for the jobs He had in mind for us since the beginning of time. That’s why it’s so futile for us to envy each other, or try to impress each other, and that’s why false modesty is so useless, because it tries to convince us to deny the beautiful gifts God has created in us.

In the Bible, bronze always symbolises judgment. If you’ve ever looked into a bronze plate you will know that it is difficult to judge your appearance by it; it is not a true reflector. No matter how highly polished the plate is, your reflection is still warped.

When we judge ourselves by how others are doing, we are shaping our lives by everyone else’s standards, causing horrendous damage to who we really are. The fear of people’s opinions is like a steel trap, grabbing whatever limb is available with its cruel teeth. It won’t let go and the only way to escape is by losing something of yourself. It is horribly common for an animal like a fox or a rabbit to gnaw its own leg off in desperation to get free from a trap, but even if it escapes, the result is still death.

Fear of other people’s opinions causes us to lose vital characteristics of our personhood that are unique. Our desperation to win other people’s approval means we cut away the inherent value of the characteristics that make us irreplaceable in order to look like something we think will make us more acceptable.

We all have our personal bronze mirror that we use to check ourselves with, using other people as the measure of what we should be like. In doing so we end up doing things we wouldn’t normally ever do, and acting in a way that is totally out of character, just to gain acceptance. It’s a broken world out here and people fake all sorts of attitudes and philosophies to get other people’s attention and favour.

Those serving women clung to their mirrors in a desperate effort to avoid rejection. They used their warped mirrors to judge how well they were doing, what they looked like, who was noticing, whether or not they had approval and admiration from the people around them.

But something happened to them as they began to take up their differing roles as servants of the Temple. The more their desire rose to contribute to the building of God’s House, the more their hearts changed. Slowly, they came to understand that however good they looked to other people, only God’s approval really matters. Giving away their mirrors meant they were willing to let God show them who they were and what they should be like. They gave up their rights to judge themselves and they also gave up their rights to judge other people. They were ready to give the One-Who-Sees His full rights to be the Judge of all.

When we are willing to let go of our warped ideals that have been framed by our society and our culture and let God show us who we are, everything about the way we see ourselves and our world changes. Making the Word of God our mirror sets us free from the need to perform to gain people’s approval.

Giving up their mirrors was a sacrifice to God, and because God is the ultimate recycler, the mirrors were transformed into the vehicle through which God alone is the Judge. The brazen laver, filled with the water that the priests used to see themselves, symbolises the vessel that carries the Word of God.

If the Church is to fulfill our mandate to change the world, something has to change about how we look at ourselves and each other, what we judge ourselves by, how we measure worth!

It’s been many years since the Lord first challenged me about surrendering the mirrors I used to judge myself and my world. Ultimately, I made the decision to let go of my warped, foggy, dysfunctional, rebellious, fearful, proud mirror of judgment and performance and let Him replace it with His perspective. I decided that henceforth I would only see myself as God sees me—not as my history dictates, not what my peers are saying, and not what my ambitions and fears and pride try to push me to be and do. That decision has been challenged me often and I haven’t always passed the test, but God continues to work in me, helping me see myself as He sees me.

That means being transparent, and living transparently means that I am able to repent when I want to justify myself, that I am able to forgive when I want to reject someone who has hurt me or who doesn’t live up to my expectations. It means that when I catch myself thinking wrongly, I can intentionally chase those thoughts through to see what’s really hidden behind what I think I’m thinking. It gives me room to tell myself the truth and get my heart right.

Do I always do it? No, but I’m working on it, and I’m a lot further along than I used to be.

The last point is deeply relevant to all of us who long to serve God. Many years after Moses, Samuel brings us the subject of those women serving at the entrance to the Temple again, referring to Eli’s corrupt priest sons seducing some of them. It’s too easy for us to begin ministering out of a servant heart and end up being seduced by religion into legalism, pride, a martyr attitude, by the need to be someone else’s saviour or trying to make them be yours … instead of simply taking our place at the entrance to their temple and serving in whatever way God has gifted you to… and having the grace to allow them to do the same for you.

Giving up the right to judge yourself is one of the hardest challenges in our relationship with God, but it’s one of the most vital. Our old mirrors are so compelling, so addictive; we’ve had them for such a long time we think they’re part of us. And yet, their judgements are cruel and destructive; we live in constant fear of their edicts. The only mirror that heals and restores and sanctifies is the one that comes from heaven direct to us. It is so beautiful, so powerful, so transforming. It’s made of pure glory—our old fractured mirrors are seen for what they really are in the light of that glory. There’s no comparison.

But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NASB)

(This subject is addressed more completely in “Mirror Mirror on the Wall” which is chapter 8 of Bev’s book, Catalysts: You Can Be God’s Agent For Change)

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Image credit: aussiegall

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