Last week on facebook I posed the question, why can people who claim to be Christian do profoundly evil things. I used the illustration of the New England puritans and some of the horrible things that they did. But the Puritans are not alone in this. We will find folk who claim to be Christian engaged in evil in almost every church. By evil I don’t mean fleshly sin, but rather deliberate acts of cruelty and injustice, that these Christians ( so-called) justify in the name of God. Some of these are great actions ( like war ) on the world stage and some of them are quite petty involving only a family or the local church. But they are alike in their evil and I could give you many examples. I have come to the conclusion that the reason that they do this is because their image of God is an incomplete and deficient caricature. If we wish to avoid being deceived into justifying evil behavior it is important that we have a clear and accurate image of God.
In the scripture we are given two foundational revelations of the image of God. In the old covenant, Israel was given the law as the representation of their God’s image , and the law consisted of both the ten commandments, also known as the moral law, and the tabernacle with its service. In the New covenant we are given Jesus, who is the fulfillment of the law. Hebrews 1:3 declares that Jesus, “The son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature.”
The book of Hebrews deals with the relationship between the tabernacle and Jesus, especially chapters 9 and 10, However here I just want to make the point that the tabernacle lays a foundation and points toward Jesus and Jesus is the fulfillment and the perfection of what was begun in the Tabernacle. The the tabernacle is a symbolic revelation and Jesus is an incarnate ( human ) revealtion. Viewed together they provide a very detailed and rich revelation of the nature of God.
The tabernacle was build under the leadership of Moses according to the pattern that he saw. Hebrews 8:5 says “This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain”. God was the architect of the tabernacle. The tabernacle was a portable building surrounded by a curtained wall. It was stationed in the very center of the Israelite encampment. It was very, very different from anything else in the ancient world. It and everything in it was a divine mystery.
What is a divine mystery ? A divine mystery is an object or metaphor that reveals and conceals at the same time. A divine mystery is God”s solution to a divine dilemma. The divine dilemma is that God is holy, and everything associated with Him is Holy, and man is very profane, unholy. How can God reveal Himself to profane man without compromising His holiness. He accomplishes this through the use of mystery. This lesson could described as a guided journey through the mysteries of the tabernacle of of Jesus.
A mystery is not a secret. Judaism andChristianity are not secret religions. Rather a mystery is a revelation of truth with many layers and we can access those layers only as we become more holy. Jesus said to Him who has more will be given. The person who has holiness will receive more revelation. But all people possess a measure of holiness for all people, however evil, have the opportunity to see Jesus on the cross, and to choose whether or not to believe. To believe is to begin the journey into Christlike holiness. Everyone begins at the cross, and the goal for everyone is to come to the fullness of the stature of Christ.
The purpose of revelation is to recreate you in God’s image.Ehesians 4: 13 explicity teaches this. “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” The purpose of idolatry is to create God in our image so that we can use the pseudo authority of our false god to justify that which we want to do regardless of how evil. Every nation around Israel was idolatrous and had temples in which was placed an image of their god. In stark constrast God, placed a tabernacle in their midst, and the tabernacle itself was the image. Everything that the Tabernacle says about God, it also says about Jesus and about the fullness of the stature of Christ, which is His plan for you.
The tabernacle was placed in the center of the camp which speaks of the presence of God among His people. The tabernacle is a physical reminder that God is with His people. In theological terms it says that God is immanent, meaning near, accessible, and involved. Immanance teaches that God cares not only For but about the behaviour OF His people. As the old Sunday School chorus teaches, be careful little hands what you do, theres a father up above looking down in tender love.. This is immanence.
However the tabernacle was not a commons or a playground. It was a holy space that had to be treated with great reverence. Non Israelistes could never enter and a non-priest could enter only to worship and bring his offering and then he could only proceed in as far as the altar of sacrifice. The priests could enter to accomplish their service during their rotation but their service in the tabernacle was carefully defined and they had to be sanctified and wear the temple garments and could only proceed as far as the first room in the tent called the holy place. The second room in the tent, called the holy of holies could only be entered by the high priest and that once a year. This careful attention to setting the Tabernacle apart as special and separate from everything profane, teaches that God is other or transcendant. He is in the world but He is not of it. He is to approached with reverence and Godly fear.
God directed Moses to build the Tabernacle exactly as he had been shown on the mountain, but God did not fully explain what the Tabernacle was. It remained among the Israelites as a mystery which teaches that God is more. No matter how much we come to understand God’s nature God is always more. Their is no limit to a mystery, beyond every layer is another. It is very important in my opinion to let divine mysteries remain mysteries. As I guide you on this journey through the mysteries of the tabernacle, I will seldom use words like this is such and such. Rather I will say this mystery suggests that , or leads toward or guides. Ultimately what a mystery means, is what it means to you at this time. As you grow in holiness its meaning for you may change.
Lets look at how Jesus reveals these three aspects of God’s nature, immanence, transcendence and more. In the Apostle Johns poetic narrative in his gospel we read,
14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
In this one verse we see both the closeness of Jesus, making His dwelling among us and his transcendence, revealing the glory of the Father. But Jesus was not just dwelling among us, He walked and ate with us. He called us friends. He was intimate with people like Peter and James and John and Mary and Martha and their brother Lazerous.
And of course we see His transcendence in the miracles that He did. We see his transcendence on the mountain and we see it perhaps most powerfully in his glorfified body after His resurrection from the dead. He was certainly not just a man.
And Jesus was certainly more. The apostle Paul uses the expression, the unsearchable riches of Christ, Ephesians 3:8 to describes the way in which Christ will always be more than we can fully know.
God is calling you to be like Him in immanence,transcendenceand more in His image.
To be immanent is to be fully engaged in the world, shining as lights, doing good works which glorify our Father in heaven. At the same time, we are called to be transcendent. We are to be holy for He is holy, and like Him we are to be other, separate from all that profanes, and the commonness of the world. We are not to love the world, nor the things in the world. And finally we are to accept that we are more in Christ. When we are in Christ we become a living mystery and we have no idea of what are becoming in Christ. Colossians 3:1-4 catches the sense of this mystery of what it means to be more in Christ.
1If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is youra life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Our own identify, our own fullness is now “hidden with Christ and it will not be fully revealed ( even to ourselves ) until ” Christ who is our life appears “.
The Lord bless you and cause you to hunger and thirst after righteousness, for as Jesus promised, you shall be filled.
Next week we will be looking at the revelation of the altar of sacrifice.