Many like to exercise their muscles outside because by killing cattle and sheep, they can exercise their strength and fleshly energy. However, if you ask them to go to a quiet, solitary place where no one can see them, they are not able to do this. The sanctuary is an extremely dim place. Within there are only seven olive oil lamps which may not be as bright as seven candles! Many consider that ministering to the Lord in the sanctuary is not that interesting. But this is the place where the Lord wants us to be. Here it is calm and dark, and there are no crowds or great multitudes of people. Yet here one finds the genuine ministry to the Lord. Brothers, we cannot find a genuine servant of God or true minister to the Lord who does not minister in this way.
Now let us consider what the Levites were doing. They were killing cattle and sheep outside the house. Men can see you in such a place; the work is very apparent. Others will praise you, saying that you are wonderful and strong because you have killed many cattle and sheep and tied them to the altar. Many people are thrilled at the outward achievements of the work.
But what is involved in ministering to the Lord? Verse 15 says very clearly, "But the priests the Levites, the sons of Zadok, that kept the charge of my sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from me, they shall come near to me to minister unto me, and they shall stand before me to offer unto me the fat and the blood, saith the Lord God." The basis for the ministry to the Lord, the basic requirement for ministering to the Lord, is to draw near to the Lord. It is to be bold enough to come before Him, to sit firmly before Him, and to stand before Him. Brothers, do we know how to draw near to the Lord? How often we find that we have to drag ourselves into His presence! Many indeed are fearful of being left alone in a dark room. They are afraid of being alone and cannot stand being shut in by themselves. Many times even though they are in a room, their heart is wandering outside, and they can no longer come near to the Lord. They cannot be alone by themselves and quietly learn to pray before Him. Many are very happy to work, join the crowd, and even preach to men. But how many can really draw near to God in the Holy of Holies? Many cannot draw near to God in that dim, quiet, and solitary sanctuary. However, no one can minister to Him without drawing near to Him. No one can minister to the Lord without approaching Him in prayer. Spiritual power is not the power of preaching but the power of praying. How much you pray indicates how much inner strength you really possess. No spiritual matter requires more strength than prayer. It is possible to read the Bible without exerting much effort. I am not saying that there is no effort involved in reading the Bible, but this is something that is rather easy to achieve. It is possible to preach the gospel without much effort, and it is possible to render help to the brothers without exerting much spiritual strength. In speaking, it is possible for one to rely on his memory to do the job. But in order to come to God and kneel before Him for an hour, there is the need for one to exert the strength of his whole being. Indeed, if one does not strive in such a way, he will not be able to maintain such a work; he will not be able to persevere. Every minister of the Lord knows the preciousness of such times: the sweetness of waking at midnight and spending an hour in prayer before going back to sleep, and the wonderful feeling of rising up very early in the morning for an hour’s prayer. Unless we draw near to God, we cannot minister to Him. It is impossible to minister to the Lord and stand afar off at the same time. The disciples could follow the Lord from a far distance, but none of those who followed in that way could minister to Him. It is possible to follow the Lord secretly at a distance, but it is impossible to minister to Him in such a way. The sanctuary is the unique place where ministry to Him is possible. You can approach the people in the outer court, but you can approach God only in the sanctuary. Actually, those who can render help to the church and can do something are those who are near to God. If the labor before God is merely for the brothers and sisters, how poor the work will be.
If we want to minister to the Lord, we must draw near to Him. What should our condition be before God? "They shall stand before me" (v. 15). It seems to me that we always want to be on the go, as if standing still were an impossible thing to do. We cannot stand still. Many brothers and sisters are extremely busy. There are many things before them, and they feel that they have to keep going. If you ask them to stand still and wait for awhile, they will not be able to do it. But all spiritual persons know what it is to stand before God.
(Ministering to the House or to God?, Chapter 1, by Watchman Nee)