Saturday, 21 September 2013

Among us

Exeter Temple Corps
Sunday 15th September 2013
Bible notes:  Exodus 25:8

More space is devoted to the account of the Tabernacle or “The Tent of Meeting” A tabernacle was a special tent placed in the centre of the Israelite camp placed because on the instruction in Exodus 25:8 "Let them construct a sanctuary for me that I may dwell among them. Sinful people could not go to live with God because if their sin so he came to them.  The tabernacle was a place of grace for a sinful people where under certain conditions it was possible for them to have access to God through ceremonial cleansing and ritual. 
In that age there was an acute awareness of: the totality of God’s power and the complete gulf between man and God their sin had created. The tabernacle and sacrificial system of worship within it was not there as a sign of God being difficult but of his mercy in not destroying removing humanity and of his grace in he still wanting a relationship with them.
This system was the outworking of the first part of God’s plan to live permanently with humanity.  Such is God’s desire to be among humanity that he came in the person of Jesus Christ to live among us as a human being. "The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." John 1:14
The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus superseded the old way. Hebrews 10:20 calls this a new and living way, which all those who trust in Jesus can access to God.
And we are part of something even greater in God's plan to be among us.
Ephesians 2:19-22

1 It is his move 
When the Israelites settled in the Promised Land and they were no longer nomadic the question arose about where they were going to set up the Tent of Meeting.  God told them in Deuteronomy 12:5 “But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling.” The land of Canaan, where the Israelites settled was a place where high-places and green places were sacred as they believed they brought a worshipper nearer to the gods and greenness symbolized fertility.  
The Israelites faced the temptation to believe they must build their worship around already recognised holy places or the most convenient places or in the area of the tribe which was best at bidding for the privilege. We can’t cajole or persuade or influence God into blessing a place with His presence. He does not follow us, we follow him.
When we approach God on our own terms, when we dictate what must be acceptable to Him, we reverse the order of true worship.
The issue was not so much the location as establishing in the minds of the people that it was He who set the agenda, not their desires, and certainly not the culture that they were moving into.

 2. It is his home 
God seeks a dwelling place among his people. He does not want to be an absentee landlord but to make his home among them. 
Canaan pagan worship was like a corporate business affair where ruthless deals get done.  By contrast the worship of Israel was based upon God’s people their understanding of God’s mercy and grace.  Their offerings are received not because they have any real merit but because God has graciously entered into covenant with them.
From grace flows gratitude and celebration.  In the pagan worship, family members were often molested and murdered to appease the gods but in Deuteronomy 12: 7 there is a sense of family atmosphere.
God’s presence will be with us as we rejoice as a family in all He has done and underlying everything there is the deep joy of a covenant relationship based upon the grace of God. 

3. It is his presence that counts
We are told that the first location of the tabernacle in Promised Land was in Shiloh. Joshua 18:1 “The whole assembly of the Israelites gathered at Shiloh and set up the Tent of Meeting there”.  Jeremiah 7:12 confirms that this was where God first made a dwelling for His name. 
Shiloh literally means “resting place.” It carries a similar sense to the Hebrew word Shalom, meaning, “Peace.”
It became the main worship and political centre for Israel from the time of Joshua until the time of the priest Eli. Yet although hundreds of people visited Shiloh every year the time came when it became more of a museum that a meeting place with God himself.  The word of the Lord was rare, there were not many visions.
Samuel brought new hope. He grew up at Shiloh and heard the voice of God. He didn’t only hear God once but went on to keep the communication lines open. The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh to Samuel. God’s tabernacle was not at Shiloh so that he could be contained but so that people might connect with Him and that He might reveal His will to them. God does come to make His home among us so that we can shut him up, never allowing him to speak or move.
Jesus said, "If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you.”  Now this implies to me that is we let Jesus remain in us we let his words remain in us.
It means that we welcome Jesus into our lives and make room for him to live, not as a silent guest with no opinions or commands, but as an authoritative guest whose opinions matter more to us than anyone else's and whose commands are the law of our life.  We return to the idea that we follow a divine agenda not our own.
By 1 Samuel 4 the Ark of the Covenant which was housed in the tabernacle at Shiloh, was taken and used like a good luck charm.  Superstition took the place of faith and obedience.  Complacency towards the things of God took over. The neglect of God that took place at Shiloh resulted in the ark of Covenant being captured by the Philistines.  Eventually the ark was recovered but it never returned to Shiloh. It ceased to be a dwelling place for his name.  When the daughter in law of Eli the priest heard this news, as she gave birth to her son she said her baby was to be called Icahbod, which means the glory has departed.
Psalm 78:60 says that God abandoned the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent he had set up among men.
If we think that can’t happen to Christian people we need to see Revelation 2:4.  The church of Ephesus, like Shiloh had been a place where God’s presence was known and where his word was spoken but the angel said to it, “Yet I have this against you. You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen. Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent I will come and remove your lampstand from its place.”
4. It his God’s plan to stay
Shiloh lost its place as a dwelling for God’s name but that was not the end of the story.  God never gives up the idea that he wants to dwell among his people.  He never intended to be a tourist or a visitor but a permanent resident.             Shiloh fails but there was a glorious day when David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.  Eventually a temple is built. And there it rested for a few more hundred years until once again through disobedience that dwelling place was also destroyed and the people of God are taken into exile.  Nehemiah, Ezra, Haggai and others return to build the temple again. But God had wider plans regarding a dwelling place for his name.
In 2 Corinthians 6:16 Paul writing to Gentiles hundreds of years removed from the group of Hebrews who wandered through the desert tells them, “We are the temple of the living God. As God has said, “I will live with them and walk among them and I will be their God and they will be my people.”   Paul directly applies the promises of the OT to believers in Christ.
As people born again into the family of God through Christ we are called to be a dwelling place for his name.  If we are seeking the place that God will choose to manifest his presence and if we follow God’s agenda for worship and service then we won’t become a Shiloh, a place from which the glory departed and never returned.  Instead we will be a people that will go on being a dwelling for his name. 
2 Corinthians 6:16 “I will live with them and walk among them and I will be their God and they will be my people.”  
These are days when claiming that promise needs to be a priority among us.  There is no room for a grain of complacency when we look at what it means to be a mission in the UK in 2013.  We face huge challenges, None of us has what it takes without know God is among us.
God bless

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