Christianity 201

March 18, 2016

God’s Idea of a Clean Room

Once again we’re paying a return visit to Mary Agrusa from the blog The Thought Just Occurred to Me. You’re encouraged to click the headline below to read this at source. Mary’s blog always presents a challenge choosing which item to run. If you like C201, you’ll like the devotions there.

Dust Bunnies, Creepy Crawlies and the Holy of Holies

“But only the High Priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood which He offered for Himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance” Hebrews 9:7

A study of the tabernacle and later temples provides not only detailed descriptions of the structures but also a comprehensive list of those who served there and their official functions. One position is conspicuously absent – a janitor for the Holy of Holies.

Moving through the wilderness necessitated the assembly and dis-assembly of the tabernacle on a periodic basis. At that time the Holy of Holies got a much needed airing out. Dust bunnies and creepy crawlies got the boot.

Solomon built the first permanent temple which lasted about 400 years. The second temple built by Ezra and later enlarged and embellished by Herod stood for 586 years. The most notable difference between these two magnificent structures was the absence of the Ark of the Covenant in the second building. The Ark disappeared sometime around the Babylonian invasion and subsequent destruction of Solomon’s masterpiece. The Ark, the visible, tangible manifestation of the presence of God was gone.

The Holy of Holies was an enclosed room. Once a year the High Priest entered with incense and blood. Upon completion of His assigned duties he left. The room wasn’t entered into again until the same time the following year.

In almost 1000 years of combined existence in the two temples, the Holy of Holies was never cleaned. My house has a basement that until recently was rarely visited. It takes no time for dust to build up and unwanted visitors to arrive there. By the time either temple was demolished the Holy of Holies would have accumulated hundreds of years of stale incense smell and dried blood. Add to that a thick coating of dust, cobwebs and all types of critters. Surprisingly, God didn’t seem to mind. He didn’t appoint an anointed custodian to regularly sanitize and freshen up His room. There’s a lesson to learn from this.

In the same way that God dwelt in the innermost part of the tabernacle/temple, He chooses to reside in the innermost part of man, the heart. He seems more interested in being invited in and permitted to live there than on the heart’s initial condition. He’ll take any heart in any state of disrepair and disorder.

No one was allowed to clean up God’s room (mother’s don’t tell your kids this). Similarly, no one can adequately clean up oneself and through self effort make them self acceptable to God. To those of us who aren’t clean freaks, we knew we liked Him!

God’s idea of a clean environment rubs our religious spirit the wrong way. The maturation process of sonship does bring essential and necessary changes to our lives. We all have dust bunnies and creepy crawlies but they don’t send God packing and heading for the exit. If we allow Him, He’ll set up a housekeeping schedule on His terms and develop us into a great place to live.

How about you? When you made Jesus your Lord, how messy was your life? What did God overlook when He accepted your invitation to set up His abode in you? What works better- a rigorous self-improvement program or having Him isolate the grime and together working with you to remove it? His concept of an ideal environment can look very different from ours. Since it is His house, why not let Him do things His way?

State of the Heart

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