Christianity 201

January 8, 2019

Between the Wings of the Cherubim

NIV.Ps.5.7 But I, by your great love,
    can come into your house;
in reverence I bow down
    toward your holy temple.


CEB.Ex. 25.10 Have them make an acacia-wood chest. It should be forty-five inches long, twenty-seven inches wide, and twenty-seven inches high...

…17 Then make a cover of pure gold, forty-five inches long and twenty-seven inches wide. 18 Make two winged heavenly creatures of hammered gold, one for each end of the cover. 19 Put one winged heavenly creature at one end and one winged heavenly creature at the other. Place the winged heavenly creatures at the cover’s two ends. 20 The heavenly creatures should have their wings spread out above, shielding the cover with their wings. The winged heavenly creatures should face each other toward the cover’s center.

NIV.Ex.25.2 There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the covenant law, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites.

Often we begin here with some printed thoughts and end with a song. Today’s thoughts began with a song. First, they began with hearing of the passing of an older member of our congregation. When we began attending, Gwen was the pianist. My first contact with her was over a song she played that Sunday as an offertory, Commune With Me. Absolutely beautiful song, and I had to know what it is. She asked me if I played the piano, and I told her I did, never knowing that about a year later I would be the church’s first Director of Music.

As I thought about the song, I delved more deeply into the phrase that forms the title of today’s thoughts, and found a 2006 post at the blog The Voice of David:

“Commune with me” – that’s our communion/fellowship/one-ness with God
“I worship You” – our worship of Him
“I’ll meet You there” – again, speaking of fellowship, but also speaks of our eternal
reward and inheritance in Christ

The term “between the wings of the Cherubim” is taken from God’s promise in the Old Testament that He would meet and talk with the high priest… between the wings of the cherubim (that’s where the blood of the sacrifice was put) in the Holy of Holies, behind the veil, into which the high priest could only enter once a year on the day of atonement. Now we have Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God, the end of the Law of commandments in ordinances, whose blood was shed for us so that now, it is only in Christ that we have communion with God, it is only in Christ that we can worship Him, and it is only in Christ that we can finally meet God face to face.

Yet the wonder of all this is that no matter how much I try to explain this in words, my words will never be fully sufficient all that this means – all that it means to be in Christ, to commune with God, worship Him and to meet Him there between the wings of the cherubim. I dare say I am not fully able to comprehend this wonderful idea yet, either. It takes the Holy Spirit who indwells each person who believes in Christ to first implant the Word, then develop it until the Word becomes unto each one of us true revelation.

At the beginning of today’s devotional I quoted from Psalm 5. Bible Study Tools offers commentary on this verse:

With this verse the first part of the Psalm ends. The Psalmist has bent his knee in prayer; he has described before God, as an argument for his deliverance, the character and the fate of the wicked; and now he contrasts this with the condition of the righteous.

But as for me, I will come into thy house. I will not stand at a distance, I will come into thy sanctuary, just as a child comes into his father’s house. But I will not come there by my own merits; no, I have a multitude of sins, and therefore I will come in the multitude of thy mercy. I will approach thee with confidence because of thy immeasurable grace. God’s judgments are all numbered, but his mercies are innumerable; he gives his wrath by weight, but without weight his mercy.

And in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple, — towards the temple of thy holiness. The temple was not built on earth at that time; it was but a tabernacle; but David was wont to turn his eyes spiritually to that temple of God’s holiness where between the wings of the Cherubim Jehovah dwells in light ineffable. Daniel opened his window toward Jerusalem, but we open our hearts toward heaven.  (Emphasis added.)


In memory of Gwen Burgher

 

 

November 17, 2015

Why Did Uzzah Have to Die?

Today we pay a return visit to ecclesia.org and a Bible topic that often perplexes people. This passage is also the clearest statement by the scriptures on what is often called situation ethics. If you’re unfamiliar with this story, pause for a moment and read 2 Samuel 6:1-12. Ecclesia is a great resource; consider bookmarking this one in your computer.

David, Uzzah, and the Ark of the Covenant

The “Ark” means a box or chest. The pattern of the ark was revealed to Moses in Exodus 25. It was to be made of wood, rectangular in shape, gold plated inside and out. It had a decorative gold border around it forming a rim on the top of the ark. It had a cover made of gold called “the mercy seat”, and matched the dimensions of the ark. At either end of the cover was a hammered gold cherub (angel), with wings outstretched over the plate. You see the creatures as they pull their wings in front of their faces and look down upon the ark. They apparently were small because a solid gold piece would be extremely heavy if it were very large and the ark would be top heavy and awkward to carry. And the ark was mobile. Beneath the plate within the container were three objects: A golden jar that held the manna, Aaron’s rod, and the tables of the Covenant. God promised he would meet with the people of the mercy seat. The very Glory of God was shown on this Mercy Seat.

In other words, this ark was Holy. It was set apart to God. So careful with God that in the details of the drawing that he wrote in Exodus 25, he gave the dimensions, he said how it was to be covered, He even talked about how it was to be carried. At the base of each of the four corners was a fixed ring of gold. Through these rings were slipped gold plated poles by which the entire chest was to be carried. Numbers 3,4 and 7 clearly state that handling the tabernacle was to be done by Levites, and it was to be done on their shoulders.

Each one of these things were important to God. Even how the ark was transported from one place to another, because that’s where David got into trouble. David thought the best way to move the ark was on a cart (2 Samuel 6:3). So they got a new cart and set the ark on the cart and started to transport it, but something happened. Suddenly there’s a death (2 Samuel 6:7). What did Uzzah do to deserve death?

2 Samuel 6:6, “And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it.”

That’s all he did. After all, it’s a natural thing to do, if it’s going to drop you’ve got to grab it! But it wouldn’t have ever dropped if they would have done it right.

What’s the right way? The Levites were the ones who were suppose to carry the ark, the poles were to be put through the little ringlets at the bottom of the ark, the poles were to be placed on the shoulders of these specially chosen men, and they were to balance it as they carried it from one place to another. And David didn’t do that. He took a convenient route and changed the details to fit the expediency of the hour.

“It doesn’t matter what you do, do something, even if it’s wrong”. That’s the most stupid council I have ever heard. “Do nothing until it’s right, then do it with all your might”. That’s wise council.

Now here’s David standing next to a corpse and he gets mad (2 Samuel 6:8) because of the Lord’s outburst against Uzzah. We have David angry at the Lord when, in fact, the Lord was angry at David. Now understand David hasn’t done his homework, we often get in trouble when we don’t do our homework. We seek the Lord’s Will and we reach out on a lark and we want to do “that”, so, in expediency or convenience or because we’re in a hurry, we make “that” decision. And the Lord says, “Look, I have written a lot of things in my book about that decision you just made, and I want you to take council from me. That’s why it’s not working. And if you want to have a heart for me, then you check my Word and you find either precepts or principles, and you go according to that, and I’ll make you happy like you won’t believe. If you don’t, you will be miserable.”

People need to know the right way to do things and to practice them. Shortcuts or grandstand plays almost never work over time, and when they are substituted for careful execution, people are often hurt.

Uzzah undoubtedly meant well. On the surface he did a useful, helpful, even noble thing. But he did not do the right thing, and it cost him his life. In this strange circumstance, brought about because David, the leader, wanted to do things his way, the right thing would have been to let the ark touch the earth instead of Uzzah’s sinful hands.

David assembled thousands of people and had glorious music played in celebration of the Ark’s return to Jerusalem. It was a grandstand play. It would have been much better had he quietly followed the instructions and done it right. Enthusiasm must be accomplished by obedience. It is not enough to mean well. We must also do the right thing.

June 22, 2015

Remembering God’s Law, God’s Provision, God’s Mercy

Yesterday we looked at the topic of different things that can be used to remind us God’s faithfulness to us. Things like special places, memorial stones, etc. are permitted, but not if they become idols, that is not if they become objects of worship. One special reminder that Israel carried with everywhere they went was the Ark of the Covenant. To the best of my knowledge, we haven’t dealt with that here recently, so let’s dive in.

From the website, GotQuestions.com:

God made a covenant (a conditional covenant) with the children of Israel through His servant Moses. He promised good to them and their children for generations if they obeyed Him and His laws; but He always warned of despair, punishment, and dispersion if they were to disobey. As a sign of His covenant He had the Israelites make a box according to His own design, in which to place the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments. This box, or chest, was called an “ark” and was made of acacia wood overlaid with gold. The Ark was to be housed in the inner sanctum of the tabernacle in the desert and eventually in the Temple when it was built in Jerusalem. This chest is known as the Ark of the Covenant.

The real significance of the Ark of the Covenant was what took place involving the lid of the box, known as the “Mercy Seat.” The term ‘mercy seat’ comes from a Hebrew word meaning “to cover, placate, appease, cleanse, cancel or make atonement for.” It was here that the high priest, only once a year (Leviticus 16), entered the Holy of Holies where the Ark was kept and atoned for his sins and the sins of the Israelites. The priest sprinkled blood of a sacrificed animal onto the Mercy Seat to appease the wrath and anger of God for past sins committed. This was the only place in the world where this atonement could take place.

The Mercy Seat on the Ark was a symbolic foreshadowing of the ultimate sacrifice for all sin—the blood of Christ shed on the cross for the remission of sins. The Apostle Paul, a former Pharisee and one familiar with the Old Testament, knew this concept quite well when he wrote about Christ being our covering for sin in Romans 3:24-25: “…and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” Just as there was only one place for atonement of sins in the Old Testament—the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant—so there is also only one place for atonement in the New Testament and current times—the cross of Jesus Christ. As Christians, we no longer look to the Ark but to the Lord Jesus Himself as the propitiation and atonement for our sins.

From the Apologetics website, Tekton:

1 Kings 8:9 There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.

Heb. 9:4 Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant…

Contradiction? No. Kings and Chronicles refer to a time after Solomon. Hebrews refers to a time just after Israel left Egypt and when the Ark was first made. That’s a span of almost 500 years. Do you think the manna and the rod were still fresh? No, they were organic materials and would have crumbled away long since.

Some have noted that nothing in Exodus states that the rod or manna were put in the Ark. This is true; that they were there was an extrapolation of the rabbis and other Jewish writers based on Ex. 25:16, “And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee.” The gold jar tradition is testified to by Philo. One would have to assume that sometime in that 500 years, the jar was lost or removed, which does not seem unlikely given the loss of thousands of other artifacts through time.

Objection: The rod of Aaron would no more have rotted than the wooden portions of the ark itself.

It’s one thing to repair the tabernacle or the ark, and another thing to replace the rod of Aaron with a fresh substitute. The gold jar, admittedly, would not have rotted as would its contents. The jar’s value as a relic would be severely (totally?) reduced by the absence of supernatural contents. It is reasonable to suppose that the jar was set to a different purpose after the manna had been reduced to dust, or that the jar was taken in mischief.

The special status of the ark would have prevented any rearrangement of its contents.

Let us not neglect dealing with periods in Israel’s history (as in Judges) where Israel was occupied by invaders if not possessed by apostate leadership. We are not able to assume that the Levites were able to keep the ark completely safe and secure throughout the aforementioned 500 years (even as the fact that we have no idea where it is NOW speaks against this).

What about the fact that any non-Levite/non-Kohathite who improperly handled or looked on the ark would be instantly struck down by God?

Even assuming that the prohibitions associated with the death penalty were absolute rather than at God’s discretion, what would prevent heathens from seizing the poles and tipping the ark’s contents out?

Later Update: A reader has pointed out that Exodus 16:31-35 also implicitly indicates that the ark contained both the rod and the manna, particularly v. 34: “As the Lord commanded Moses, Aaron put the manna with the tablets of the covenant law, so that it might be preserved.” While this is not explicit, it does fit a natural assumption that they went together in the ark.

Hopefully that gets you started.

Go Deeper: For a further exhaustive study, including many scripture references, check out the Ark page on Bible.org

 

June 26, 2014

When God is in the Camp

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Last Sunday, my wife and I listened to a sermon from I Samuel 4.  Though it was not the focus of the message, I was arrested by verses 5, 6 and 7:

When the ark of the Lord’s covenant came into the camp, all Israel raised such a great shout that the ground shook. Hearing the uproar, the Philistines asked, “What’s all this shouting in the Hebrew camp?”

When they learned that the ark of the Lord had come into the camp, the Philistines were afraid. “A god has come into the camp,” they said. “Oh no! Nothing like this has happened before.

(I should also say that while our focus today is on verse 7, despite the Philistines’ reaction, this was not a particularly victorious chapter for the Israelites, who misused the ark of the Lord. To get the full context and see what happened next, click here.)

What follows below is a short excerpt from the middle of a sermon text posted at Sermon Central by John Lowe. While the story ended badly, the truth of the Philistine observation remains. John has a degree in Structural Engineering and currently maintains eight websites.  To read the entire transcript, click the title below:

 

Show Me That Our God Is In The Camp

…When God comes into the camp, new life is put into prayer. Instead of the repetition of holy phrases in a cold, feeble and lifeless fashion, the soul empties itself out before the Lord. It is the Holy Spirit that leads the prayer, for He knows best how you should worship, and what you need.

The presence of God in the camp brings fresh energy to service; He shakes men up and awakens their spiritual muscle. When the Lord comes to us with power, He makes us alive all over; every part of the man is speeded up with a divine energy; then men really work for Jesus and work successfully, too.

When God comes into camp, His presence has an effect on unbelievers. Sinners turn to the Lord, in so marvelous a way that we may be astonished. The last persons in the world that we expected to be saved come to our service and they find Christ. Many have heard the Gospel for years and their hearts appear harder than steel, but they are melted by the Word. When God comes into the camp, the Holy Spirit convinces men of their sin, and many turn to Christ in faith and love, and are saved.

When God is in the camp, His presence infuses daring faith. Weak men begin to grow strong, young men dream dreams and old men see visions. Many begin something for Jesus, which they would not have thought to do in their timid days. Other men reach a greater height of dedication. Adventurers for God are raised up; missionaries to the poor and shameful sinners that are not the popular objects for Christian workers. Because God is in the camp, many take up the work which at first only the truly brave believers dared to try.

When God is in the camp, His presence cannot be hidden, since in a delightful way it transforms joy into worship. People do not think that sermons are dull, when God is in the camp, and prayer-meetings are not thought to be “a waste of time.” God’s people enjoy fellowship and when Christians meet, and God is in the camp, they speak cheerfully about the Master. I hope that you have enjoyed many such pleasant occasions. We should be like those people mentioned by Malachi: “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord and that thought upon His name.” They had such a heavenly conversation that God Himself turned eaves-dropper to listen to what they had to say; and He liked it so much that He had it recorded; and He thought so much of it that He said He would preserve it; and a book of remembrance was made for them that feared the Lord, and that thought about Him often. The question is, would God think so much of our conversation that He would make a book of remembrance, in our day?

I cannot tell you of the infinite blessings that come to the camp of the Christian when God is there…

Go Deeper: As I’ve formatted today’s devotional, I’ve been listening to a very recently posted sermon on this passage by John Duff at Calvary Chapel Vista, north of San Diego (55 minutes)

 

June 22, 2014

Two Testaments, One God

Isaiah 6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.

Revelation 4:1 After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. 3 And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. 4 Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. 6 Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.

Isaiah 6:3 And they were calling to one another:“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”

Revelation 4:8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

“‘Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.”

Today we feature an excerpt from a new book, God is Near: His Promise to His People by Clark Bunch (Outskirts Press). Read a full review of the book at this link to Thinking Out Loud.

God is Near - Clark BunchThe camp of Israel was often on the move. Sometimes God in the tent became God in the box. The tabernacle was finely made from all of the very best materials, but it was basically a tent. The Ark of the Covenant was expertly crafted from the finest wood and ornately covered in pure 24-karat gold, but at the end of the day it was still a box. It was a very nice box, but yes, God lived in a box.

He didn’t even dwell “inside” the box, but rather on the lid of the box. Inside the Ark of the Covenant, also referred to as the Ark of Testimony, were the stone tablets carved by Moses, Aaron’s staff that miraculously budded, and an omer (small jar) of the manna which fell from heaven each night and fed the Hebrews for 40 years. On top of the ark was the mercy seat, and two cherubim made of solid gold covered the mercy seat by stretching their wings over it. It was on this mercy seat that the high priest would sprinkle the blood of atonement once each year. Only the high priest could do so, and only one time each hear. Let’s recap: God’s dwelling place was on the lid of a box, inside a tent, hidden behind a curtain. Why on earth would he do that? …

…Everything we know about the design of the tabernacle (and later the temple) is patterned after the design of heaven. Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4 both describe God sitting on his throne. One is Old Testament, the other New Testament. One is written in Hebrew, the other in Greek. Both accounts describe visions of the throne room of God, with thunder, lightning, smoke and worship that never ceases. The descriptions of the creatures may vary, but what they say is remarkably similar: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD God.”

Other passages in both Isaiah and Revelation describe a new heaven, new earth, and the city of New Jerusalem. The ark eventually disappears from mention in the Old Testament; the truth is we don’t really know what happened to it. In the New Testament it once again appears before God’s throne in Revelation. The tabernacle design, dictated to Moses by God, is like a scaled-down replica of heaven’s floor plan. There are many parallels between the events of this story and events in the New Testament…

Their story is an allusion to our story. The two are very much related… God is the same yesterday today and forever. The notion that God is angry and vengeful in the Old Testament and merciful and kind in the New is misguided. God gave the Hebrews another chance time and time again. The God of the Old Testament is long-suffering when dealing with mankind. In the New Testament God’s wrath is poured out on sin, as Jesus hangs on the cross. We live today in the Age of Grace but that window of opportunity will one day close. All will stand before the judgment seat as he judges the nations.

The typical hellfire and damnation sermon, all about God’s wrath, may fail to share the Gospel by leaving out grace. We are all sinners, but forgiveness is offered as a gift.

On the other hand, preaching only God’s grace and mercy may also fail to share the Gospel. We must be made aware of sin and our inability to do anything about it before we can accept the gift. God’s wrath and God’s grace are both opposite sides of the same coin. Both covenants, and therefore both testaments of the Bible, share both.

Jesus reprimands the Pharisees for keeping the letter of the Law but not understanding the spirit of the Law. They tithed out of their spice rack but let the widow starve in the street. When asked about the greatest commandment, it is worth noting that Jesus quotes from Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Rather than any one of the Ten Commandments, Jesus says we must love the LORD our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and also love our neighbor as one’s self. It is an eye-opener for many to realize those are Old Testament commands.

Clark Bunch, God is Near; pp. 51; 52-54