God’s Presence and the Tabernacle

Exodus 40 16 17

Text: Exodus 40

 

As we leave the Garden, the state of God’s relationship with his creation is strained. Adam and Eve have been kicked out of the garden because of their defiance, and no longer have access to God’s presence like they had before. They are effectively exiled.

 

Let’s jump ahead to Moses. Now, there is much that happened between the garden and the introduction of Moses, and it is important stuff to know, but I want to race ahead to our topic of God’s presence.

 

As you probably know, Moses was a man chosen by God to lead God’s people (the Israelites) out of captivity in Egypt. It’s quite the epic story, and it is crucial to the Israelites. It reminds them how God chose them as his people and was faithful to them, bringing them out of captivity.

 

So now the Israelites, under the leadership of Moses and the miraculous deliverance of God himself, have escaped the clutches of Pharaoh. While they are in the middle of nowhere, at the foot of Mt. Sinai, God begins to form a deeper relationship with them. He begins by giving them some basic guidelines of being his people, part of which is what we know as the Ten Commandments.

 

In Exodus 25, God begins giving Moses some very specific (exhaustive!) guidelines for building a tent structure called the tabernacle. It is important to ask why, just like how we asked why God would create us in the first place. And I think the answer to why he created and the answer to why he wanted a tabernacle built are the same answer: In 25:8, God says, “Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.”

 

Simple enough. But God has been interacting with his people all along. We can see how he worked in Noah, Abraham, and Joseph, just as a few examples. And now he has entered into a very special relationship with Moses, and by extension, to the rest of the Israelites. So if God is working among them and has a relationship with them, why do they need a tent thing?

 

I don’t know why God chose a tent specifically, but there is something special about it. God wanted to use it to dwell among his people, in a way that was closer to how he dwelt in the Garden. It was a much more intense dwelling and presence than he had been able to have among his people for a long time, since the Garden. Mankind lost special access to God’s presence after the Garden was off limits, but with the tabernacle, God was providing them with a new way to access his presence again. God is in the business of restoring.

 

God’s intentions and vision for this tabernacle are made more clear by the frequent callbacks to creation. In chapters 25-31, there are seven sections that begin, “the LORD spoke to Moses…” followed by detailed tabernacle plans. This is a reference back to the seven days of creation, when God commanded the cosmos into order. The sixth speech mentions craftsmen and priesthood, where day six of creation features mankind created in his image. The seventh speech is a reminder to the Israelites about the importance of the Sabbath, while day seven of creation is when God rests.

 

The tabernacle and creation accounts are further connected in structure with key phrases: Gen 1:31 vs Ex 39:43 (seeing what was done), Gen 2:1 vs Ex 39:32 (completing), Gen 2:2 vs Ex 40:33 (finishing work), Gen 2:3 vs Ex 39:43 (blessing), and Gen 2:3 vs Ex 40:9 (sanctifying).

 

Additionally, there are several symbols in the tabernacle that are connections back to Eden. The lampstand in 31:8 is a symbol of the tree of life, and the ark may symbolize the tree of knowledge (it contains the law, and you die if you touch it). There are images of cherubim in the tabernacle, reminding us that cherubim guarded the entrance to the garden. Gold and precious stones may also be symbols that tie the tabernacle back to Eden.

 

Similar connections to creation and the garden exist when looking at Solomon’s Temple, but I’ll leave that unexplored to return to our regularly scheduled program.

 

What is the purpose of all these references to creation and the garden? I believe God wanted his people to recognize the symbolism as his attempt to bring the garden back to them, in a way. God wanted to commit to his people and assure them that they could again have access to his presence. God wanted them to know that dwelling with them was his plan from the very beginning, and he will restore it. And we know that God’s intent is to dwell with us too, in ways that far surpass the tabernacle among the Israelites, and in ways that far surpass even the garden.

 

What? Yes! We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. Now to Exodus 40 before I get too excited. When everything for the tabernacle was done according to God’s instructions to Moses, God’s presence rested in it:

 

Ex 40:34-38 (NASB): “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the sons of Israel would set out; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day when it was taken up. For throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel.”

 

If you are Moses, then this is a fairly anti-climactic way of ending Exodus. He didn’t even get to go in! There is still apparently a problem with sin. If you go into the holy of holies and are not clean enough, you die. Only the high priest can go in, once a year, offering blood to cover for the sins of him and the people (Hebrews 9:7). Looking back at the garden, and how sin and the presence of God are incompatible, maybe kicking Adam and Eve out of the Garden could have been more of an act of mercy than a harsh punishment.

 

But here is God, dwelling among his people again, restoring and guiding them. My prayer for you today and every day is that you will seek to be where God is, by following that cloud. That you will linger when the cloud lingers and that you will set out when the cloud is taken up. That God will show you where and how he is moving and invite you in on the action.

 

Jay Laurent

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What Fills YOUR Heart?

Matthew 12

matthew 12 34 b

We find in Matthew 12 that Jesus hasn’t slowed down. In fact, all the surrounding naysayers,  the Pharisees, are turning the criticism up. They were obviously feeling threatened. What I find most interesting though in these 50 verses is how familiar it all sounds. Just like then, the Pharisee in many of us now is also killing the mission and effectiveness of the church too.

 

Not uncommon in today’s age is to view a Pharisee as bad, yet the Pharisees were, to some extent, well-meaning people. They studied the law and knew it as well as anyone. Some were sincerely seeking God. After all, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, both Pharisees, arranged for Jesus’ burial. They were sympathetic to Christ and, from what I can tell, ultimately ended up following him. The mission of the early church was radically advanced by a converted Pharisee – Paul. The irony is the people who declared to love God the MOST ultimately killed his offspring when he showed up to heal and teach the nation.

 

Rightfully, Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their pride, lack of compassion and hypocrisy. Observe some of their exchanges in this one chapter alone and you might find it leaving a bad taste in your mouth, too. They were always trying to trip him up and I can’t recall one time where he was praised for his tireless work.  In verse 34 Jesus compares the Pharisees to a cluster of snakes and remarks “for the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” How all too often do I find myself under pressure or stressful situations looking to my own self-justification and self-importance, just like the Pharisees. Denying God is exactly what I do when my attitude justifies me more than reflecting the heart and love of Christ.  

 

The religious leaders of the time were obsessed by their rules and detailed interpretations of the Old Testament law but they had largely ignored the key points of it – justice, mercy and faith. Oh that we learn this lesson in our congregations today opening wide the doors to welcome in the broken, bruised and hurting. Jesus is interested with reality. It is easy to pretend that everything is okay and that we have everything together. If we want to pretend that everything is fine when it isn’t that is up to us, but we shouldn’t expect other people to live up to the standards that we are pretending to live by.

 

The gig is up for me. I won’t do it anymore. My heart is full and declaring just like Paul that “but for the grace of God go I.” (1 Corinthians 15:9) I am imperfect and Jesus is restoring me everyday. Use me, Lord, as you will to build your church.

 

-Julie Driskill

Plan for Eternity – Seek Today!

Matt 6 33

In Matthew 6:33 we are instructed to seek first the kingdom of God.

Now that you have that song in your mind, let’s take a Biblical journey of what that means. Ever since Adam and Eve exited the garden, man has wanted to get that place with God back. God made a promise to Abraham that one day his seed would again inherit the earth and that is what Jesus tells us to seek first. It’s not just the land we seek but a place where we can walk with God as Adam did. Deuteronomy 6 says that closeness with God should be with Him on our mind at all times of the day. Are you and I seeking that first?

I think it is the importance of that kingdom which drives us to be different. For Abraham it was leaving everything he knew behind, for Moses it was trusting God was in control, for Joseph it was facing trials and success knowing God has a plan, for David it was facing a giant, for Jesus it was giving up this life for others, and for you and I it is living a life to show others that light.

That joy that we are a part of causes us to think: what will I do in my first 100 years. We focus our finances in a way to live out our retirement here on earth, how much more should we think and plan for eternity. Start today by selling God for you and others and maybe we can keep that campfire song in our mind as a reminder of what God through Jesus has in store.

-Joseph Partain

For the Love of Truth

Deut 4 29

What is going to keep you in your church or in this movement – Church of God General Conference?  The nice people that go there?  The music?  The youth group?  Fuel?

If you really think about it, I can pretty much guarantee that most churches in your neighborhood have nice people in them, maybe they even have bigger bands and bigger youth groups.  But, do they have biblical truth?  Unfortunately, I have seen many people leave our movement for “better” music and bigger youth groups.  They sacrifice the truth that will save them for temporary pleasures and personal preferences.

2 Thessalonians 2:10-11 says that people refused to love truth and so be saved. “and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.  For this reason, God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false,”

If people do not love truth enough to genuinely seek for it, then God will allow them to keep believing what is false.

But, God promises to be found if we truly seek Him! “… from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.”   (Deuteronomy 4:29)

Is our attitude that of Daniel’s?  “… I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes.” (Daniel 9:3)

Hosea 4:6 tells us that the Israelites were destroyed for lack of knowledge.

The road is narrow that leads to life, and truth and righteousness are what that road is paved with.  Most likely your church or this movement will not be able to provide all that other churches or mission’s organizations can provide, but please never forget what they do provide.  Truth is a treasure and if you have to choose between popularity, great worship music or bigger youth groups, never settle for less than that which can save you!

Don’t take the easy road and leave when something “better” comes along.  If you want different music or bigger, more active youth groups, then don’t compromise truth, just do something about it!  No organization or group will be perfect, but if there is solid truth as a foundation, you can build anything you want, as high as you want.

Here are a few more verses to consider and meditate on.  Read them and consider the result of seeking God with all your heart.  Psalms 63:1; 2 Chronicles 15:12, 31:21

Will you make a covenant to always seek God?

-Tracy Zhykhovich

 

Tracy went to Oregon Bible College and then spent 17 years in Russia as a missionary.  She is passionate for biblical truth and that is why she went alone to Russia and not with another mission organization.  Upon returning to the United States she remains very active in evangelism and global missions and continues working as a missionary through internet evangelism and partnering with indigenous missionaries that are doing mission work overseas.   She currently partners with people in Russia, Pakistan and the Middle East.  She is president of the MN Missionary Society and is a member on Lord’s Harvest International missions board, and is the co-founder of Kingdom of God Ministry & Missions.  http://www.kogmissions.com

Are you Ready for Truth?

Acts 22

acts 22 1

Oh Paul! You are a Jew! And you know the Jews so well. In the past you worked hard to be not simply a Jew, but a Jew worthy of being called a Jew. You know how the Jews can be. You know that going to Jerusalem is a terrible idea. You know that taking Greeks into the temple will not be accepted by the Jews. You know this isn’t going to end well. And yet you went…

Chapter 22 shows us the best of Paul. We have seen the worst and in this speech he admits his worst. I love the emotional appeal that Paul puts into his speech. “Listen to me, brothers. I understand you. I was just like you and I was shown a better way. Please, let me show you a better way.” It’s an effective strategy especially because it bears truth. Unfortunately, the Jews were not ready for truth. Look what they did to Jesus. It really wasn’t that long ago that Jesus, too, went to Jerusalem and the Jews didn’t accept him either.

Ultimately Paul’s message was the same as Jesus’. The Jews could NOT consider a message that tore up their religious traditions. How heartbreaking for Paul. We must ask ourselves if we stand behind our traditions for tradition’s sake or if we are continually seeking God.

-Melissa New