Daily Thoughts from Exodus: The Glory of God in Us

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “On the first day of the first month you shall erect the tabernacle of the tent of meeting…Then you shall take the anointing oil and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it, and consecrate it and all its furniture, so that it may become holy…Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and shall wash them with water and put on Aaron the holy garments. And you shall anoint him and consecrate him, that he may serve me as priest.

This Moses did; according to all that the LORD commanded him, so he did. In the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, the tabernacle was erected…Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud 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 people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys. (Exodus 40, ESV)

Can you imagine getting up in the middle of the night in your encampment in the wilderness, walking outside your tent and seeing a burning fire in and around the Tabernacle, or during the day seeing a cloud emanating from it?  From the first day that the glory of Yahweh filled the Tabernacle there was powerful evidence that God was with His people in demonstrative form.  If the cloud was lifted off of the Tabernacle it was the signal that it was time to move and you packed up all your belongings and your tent, while the Levites attended to dismantling the Tabernacle and preparing it for transport.  Perhaps you hoped you could stay longer rather than shorter.

God showed in the way He displayed His glory in the Tabernacle that He really did want to dwell with His people and that His dwelling with them was not going to be a passive one.  He is always about pursuing the purpose of restoring His kingdom in this fallen world.  He went after a nation that He would use to be a witness to all nations of His greatness.  He is leading this nation through the wilderness after having judged Egypt for its wickedness and with a judgment for the nations of Canaan who have filled up their iniquity to the fullest (Genesis 15:16).

We are to pray daily for His kingdom to come (Matthew 6:10).  We are to move when He moves and stay when He stays as we look for opportunities to redeem the time because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16).  We are the Tabernacle of God on earth today, His temple, His people, from whom He wants to demonstrate His glory.  People ought to see an evidence of His glory permeating our lives, fire and cloud.  The most obvious evidence of that glory, according to Jesus, will be our love for one another and for our neighbors (John 13:35).

How are we doing?

Advertisements

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: The Hidden, Glorious God

And all the craftsmen among the workmen made the tabernacle…These are the records of the tabernacle, the tabernacle of the testimony, as they were recorded at the commandment of Moses, the responsibility of the Levites under the direction of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest. Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made all that the LORD commanded Moses; and with him was Oholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, an engraver and designer and embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen.

All the gold that was used for the work, in all the construction of the sanctuary, the gold from the offering, was twenty-nine talents and 730 shekels, by the shekel of the sanctuary.

From the blue and purple and scarlet yarns they made finely woven garments, for ministering in the Holy Place. They made the holy garments for Aaron, as the LORD had commanded Moses. (Exodus 36:8-39:1, ESV)

This lengthy step-by-step description of how the Tabernacle was made shows that it indeed followed the instructions given to Moses based on the model Moses saw on the Mountain, the heavenly version of what was being built on earth (Exodus 25:40; Hebrews 8:5; 9:23-24). And God used these skilled craftsmen to accomplish the job. They must have felt very privileged to be included in this holy enterprise. No doubt craftsmen of cathedral projects have felt the same way. But are we supposed to be building such structures today?

It would seem in principle that it is not wrong to spend amazing amounts of the peoples’ money on such buildings as we long to honor God with everything we have and show Him to be glorious. But we have not been so instructed as Moses was to do such building. The church building we most frequently erect is decidedly not a temple or sanctuary, despite how much we use those terms. The people of God are the temple, not the building. We are the intersection of heaven and earth because the Holy Spirit indwells us. People meet God in us, not a building. The way into the Most Holy Place has been opened by Jesus and His sacrifice and we are living testimonies that the sacrifice availed for us.

We hope that in the building we erect for the purpose of meeting, if such a thing is deemed wise, people will meet the living God in us and the building itself will not be a deterrent to that.  If we can make it attractive or suggestive of the glory of God, and the Spirit so directs us to invest in that, we have freedom to do so.  But we must count the cost of such architecture and décor to make sure that it is not something that puts us in debt, prevents us from really ministering to the needs of our community, or even distracts from realizing that the people are the church, not the building.

If we think about how the Tabernacle functioned in ancient Israel, it did give a sense of how glorious the God of the universe is, though even in its beauty it could not approach that fully.  But it also created a mystery about God and how things functioned inside, hidden from all but the high priest.  It mostly communicated that you could not approach this holy God without following His precise instructions.  Humans are too intent on creating their own path to God, believing that we have that capability and that God is okay with that, even endorses it.  Just the opposite is true.

“If God had wished to overcome the obstinacy of the most hardened, He would have done so by revealing himself to them so plainly that they could not doubt the truth of his essence, as he will appear on the last day with such thunder and lightening and such convulsions of nature that the dead will rise up and the blindest will see him. This is not the way he wished to appear when he came in mildness because so many had shown themselves unworthy of his clemency that he wished to deprive them of the good they did not desire.  It was therefore not right that he should appear in a manner manifestly divine and absolutely capable of convincing everyone, but neither was it right that his coming should be so hidden that he could not be recognized by those who sincerely sought him. He wished to make himself perfectly recognizable to them.  Thus wishing to appear openly to those who seek him with all their heart and hidden from those who shun him with all their heart, he has qualified our knowledge of him by giving signs which can be seen by those who seek him and not by those who do not.  There is enough light for those who desire only to see, and enough darkness for those of a contrary disposition.” [Blaise Pascal, Pensées, 79-80]

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: The Journey

Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you. You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. And when you come to the land that the LORD will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” And the people bowed their heads and worshiped.

Then the people of Israel went and did so; as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.

At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead. Then he summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, “Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as you have said. Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also!”

The Egyptians were urgent with the people to send them out of the land in haste. For they said, “We shall all be dead.” So the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading bowls being bound up in their cloaks on their shoulders. The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. And the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.

And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds. And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.

The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. It was a night of watching by the LORD, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this same night is a night of watching kept to the LORD by all the people of Israel throughout their generations.

And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the statute of the Passover: no foreigner shall eat of it, but every slave that is bought for money may eat of it after you have circumcised him. No foreigner or hired worker may eat of it. It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones. All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.”

All the people of Israel did just as the LORD commanded Moses and Aaron. And on that very day the LORD brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts.  (Exodus 12:21-51 ESV)

God knows how weak we are.  He knows that if He did not institutionalize the Passover it would have been forgotten.  By making it a required festival it was assured that every year there would be opportunity to recount to themselves and their children what happened in Egypt on that fateful night, 430 years to the day that they entered Egypt and became slaves.

With the death of Pharaoh’s firstborn and the firstborn of all Egyptians and even their flocks and herds, Pharaoh has had enough and commands the people to leave immediately, with the Egyptians hurrying them out of fear of more deaths.  Yahweh gives Moses more instruction about how to observe the Passover and who may partake of it.  Those who are not Jewish must basically become converts to Judaism in order to participate in Passover.

The people bring with them great wealth donated by the Egyptians as well as their own herds and flocks.  So begins a journey of faith into the wilderness and on toward the land of Canaan.  They are not done with Pharaoh yet because God has more to show them.

God is still working in this way in our lives.  We are on a journey toward Christlikeness and we are on this journey as a family of believers.  Those not yet believers can become so and join us.  We have not arrived.  The journey is a process of never stopping to grow and never stopping loving one another as we await the coming kingdom.

Ephesians 5:31-33 — Conversations with God

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.  However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Lord Jesus, everything You have created seems to have a paradigm in heaven.  And here You are saying through the apostle Paul that our marriages are analogous to Your marriage to the church.  Our marriages are meant to picture Your relationship to us.  Just as we have become one flesh through marriage, you have become one with Your church.  There is this unbreakable bond you have with us that You will never abandon.

We are to submit to You as our “husband” and follow Your direction.  And You love us enough to die for us and have actually done that.  So we should mimic You in our marriages and demonstrate to the world what it means to be in relationship with You.  Why would You tie Your image to our weak attempts at modeling our relationships after You?  You know how much we have failed and are going to fail.  Does this not frustrate You endlessly?

Somehow You value this connection and are unwilling to back off from calling us to imitate You.  You are always modeling what it means for us to love one another and be committed to each other and how order should be kept in a chaotic world.  You’re our marriage manual, our marriage Counselor and Mentor by example.  Your interaction with Your church is our couple therapy.

Make my marriage a credit to Your character.

Ephesians 4:11 — Conversations with God

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers…

You have always given generously to Your church, Lord Jesus.  The apostles You trained and gave to us and those You called after Your ascension have continued to provide a solid foundation upon which to build.  I love that they have been able to speak authoritatively for You without being overbearing or controlling.  The truths they were able to communicate in that first 60 or so years have faithfully guided us all these centuries.

Your prophets have been faithfully leading us all these centuries, as well, and those with prophetic gifts still serve to keep Your church on track.  Their insight from You has served as needed correctives and positive vision to lead Your church.

And the evangelists — what an extraordinary gift You have given us in men and women who faithfully proclaim the gospel and help people find an entrance into Your family and the church!  We need them and we need the pastors and teachers who faithfully, week after week, serve to train and equip us for ministry to each other and to a lost and dying world.

Lord, You have always supplied Your church with exactly what we need.  Please help us to recognize the gifted persons You have placed among us and not despise their gifts.  If You think we need them, we do.

Ephesians 4:1-6 — Conversations with God

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called ; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Lord Jesus, I want to walk in a manner that is worthy of Your calling.  You called me from absolute darkness to brilliant light.  You forgave all my sins, past, present and future.  You gave me Your Holy Spirit to live within me and help me to be all You made me to be.  You brought me into the fold of the promises to Israel and made me part of a sacred temple and holy family of redeemed ones from every nation.

It only seems right, then, that I show all humility and gentleness, rather than treating any believer as less than me or expecting others to submit to me.  I should show tolerance and patience to all my brothers and sisters in You.  I should never fail to work hard at promoting our unity, the unity to which the Holy Spirit called us.  I must seek to preserve the bond of peace You died to create.

And so I acknowledge one body and one Spirit.  Your true followers among Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox churches are my brothers and sisters, my arms and my legs, and those who have a share in the Spirit.  We share the same hope of our calling — life with You forever.

I acknowledge one Lord, You, my Savior, and one faith made possible by Your death and resurrection. There is only one baptism and I must not refuse anyone into my fellowship who has submitted to it.  And Father, I acknowledge You as the only God and Father of all, who rules over all that is, is using all that occurs to complete Your plan, and who is in every believer in the most intimate and grace-filled of ways and even at work in those who have not yet submitted to Your rule.

Ephesians 3:20,21 — Conversations with God

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Father, I’ll admit it…I think small.  If Jesus had told me to feed the 5,000 I would have done what the disciples did and have failed to see the possibilities with Jesus there.  But I’m also afraid to think big.  When I have had an occasion to try believing  something big and it didn’t turn out I’ve felt disappointment and foolish for expecting something so outrageous and it not happening.

I’m helped by Paul’s admission (he does include himself in the “we,” right God?) that he asks less of You than You are able to do.  I take from his words that he believed You were more than willing to do beyond what we ask or think.  That encourages me.  I have seen You demonstrate this on more than one occasion, but I still struggle to trust You.  I’m sorry.

I know that in the context Paul is immediately referring to Your ability to reveal Your love for us and generate our love for one another and fill us to Your fulness.  It seems impossible to me at times that such rich love and unity within the church is going to occur.  But Paul is urging me to think big.

So help me think big (or at least bigger) about unity and love right in my own congregation (with maybe a little left over for the rest of the church worldwide).  Help me think bigger about all You want to accomplish in Your world.  And, of course, answer this prayer even beyond what I was able to ask or think.

To You be the glory!