(Ezekiel 23:4)

“And the names of them were Aholah the elder, and Aholibah her sister: and they were mine, and they bare sons and daughters. Thus were their names; Samaria is Aholah, and Jerusalem Aholibah.” (Ezekiel 23:4 KJV)

The names “Aholah” and “Aholibah” are found in the Ezekiel’s prophecy in chapter 23. They were specially chosen by the LORD to explain to the Jewish exiles in Babylon why the coming destruction of Jerusalem was justified and inevitable.

The first name “Aholah” was given to the Northern Kingdom. The meaning of the name is “her tent”. The name comes from the Hebrew ohel which means “tent” or tabernacle”. This calls into mind the Tabernacle of God which was constructed during the time of the Exodus. It is the place where God chose to manifest His dwelling presence to the children of Israel. It is also the place for corporate worship, judgement and the teaching of God’s Word. It was called the “Tabernacle of the LORD” (c.f. 1 Kings 2:28) and “The House of the LORD” emphasising how the Tabernacle belongs to the LORD God Himself.

However, the name given to the Northern Kingdom was not “his tabernacle” but “her tabernacle”. The tabernacle set up in the Northern Kingdom was not of the LORD but of the Northern Kingdom’s own design. This recalls the two centres of golden calf worship which were set up by king Jeroboam shortly after the split from the Southern Kingdom (1 Kings 12:28-29). This was the start of the rampant idolatry in the Northern kingdom. She brought in many false gods from the surrounding nations. For her gross idolatry, the Northern kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians. The capital Samaria fell to the hands of Shalmaneser V in 722 B.C. Her “nakedness” was “uncovered”, “they seized her sons and her daughters . . . and she became a byword among women” (Ezekiel 23:10).

The second name “Aholibah” was given to the Southern kingdom. The meaning of the name is “my tent is in her”. This reminds the hearers that Jerusalem was chosen to be the place of his “tabernacle”, and hence the chosen place of worship.

Sadly, the Southern kingdom did not heed the warning of her sister’s destruction. Neither did she listen to the teaching of God’s Word despite being the centre of worship. Being the place where God has chosen to place his tabernacle, the Southern kingdom ought to be God’s witness of holiness to the nations around her. Instead, she waxed worse than her sister by committing spiritual adultery with the false gods of the foreign nations. She also brought in the worship of false gods into the sanctuary of God. Because of her lewdness, Jerusalem will surely be destroyed just like how Samaria received the just retribution from the LORD.

The Christian church today is not any better. Instead of being a godly witness to the world, the world instead is found in the church. There is little preaching of God’s Word. God’s Word is instead manipulated to suit the tickling of the hearers and enlarge the pockets of the preachers. Wickedness abounds in professing Christians. Local churches function more like community centres than places of sober worship directed to God.

We thank God that Tabernacle BPC has her name based on the Hebrew ohel. Thus we must take heed not to follow in the footsteps of “Aholah” and “Aholibah”. Instead, Tabernacle BPC must be a place where God’s glory is truly manifested. Hence, the faithful preaching of God’s Word must be the center of our worship. The pulpit must be jealously guarded where only those with the highest view of God and His Word should be allowed to preach. Every decision made by the leadership must also follow the Biblical pattern that is set forth in God’s truth.

But the responsibility for Tabernacle BPC to be a true ohel of God is not just of the leaders but everyone in the congregation. We must all take care to follow and obey His Word. When we come to worship God on Sunday, let us view it as a most sombre duty and the highest privilege. Let us come to worship God with clean hands and pure hearts!

May God find it pleasing to bless Tabernacle BPC to be a godly witness for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. By the grace of God, let us fulfil our responsibility to keep Tabernacle BPC as “the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). Amen.

Preacher Clement Chew