Gold is good, controversial, unpopular, demoted by legend and greed, and destined for street paving. It is one of the few acknowledged by all as a symbol of excellence and high quality. The people of new Testament times received a wake up call demonstrating how gold as a sacred commodity did not cut it.
The origins of God’s golden decor
- Gold or golden appears on average 9 times per book in the Old Testament. The actual frequency is 383 times.
- In the New Testament the terms appear 23 times. That makes an average of 1.3 per book.
Guess where it peaks. Exodus with 22%, and at the other end Deuteronomy showing less than 1% (.007). Pure gold and gold covered items dominate the Exodus tabernacle construction narrative. Why does it matter?
Temple and fidelity
People used to swear by God’s life. They did not say “so help me God” but “As the Lord lives” and “by Yahweh’s life”, staking their promise or affirmation on God’s continuing existence. A person’s word should be reliable enough to take to the bank. In New Testament times the connection became quite transparent. They swore by the gold – the thing they supposed made the temple noble and majestic.
Matthew 23:16-22 has a set of warnings about common oath practices and the people developing policies regulating temple procedures increasingly swore – made vows – with respect to temple gold and not Yahweh’s life.
- Oaths and temple gold
- Oaths and the temple
- Oaths and Yahweh’s name
- Oaths and the altar
OUR LORD CLARIFIES THE ISSUE
- Whoever shall swear by the altar, swears by it, and by all things on it.
- Whoever shall swear by the temple, swears by it, and by him that dwells there.
- He who swears by heaven, swears by God’s throne and by him that sits on it.
When gold is at the top of our value list we very well may keep asking for the wrong things, as did a lame man who saw Peter and John near the temple. He was probably certain that the disciples had cash, as are many who observe churchgoers.
Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.Acts 3:6
Having gold or swearing by it did not advance the oath. The practice showed how people kept imposing distance and corruptible things between themselves and God. Food, drink, clothing, marital status, and yes, gold (silver, cash, credit) keep showing up as the genuine markers of our relationship with God.
Forasmuch as all of you know that all of you were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19. But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20. Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, 21. Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.1 Peter 1:18-21