Aspects, by David Lampel - "Tabernacle"


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ASPECTS

a monthly devotional journal by David S. Lampel / Issue #98, January, 1999

For eight years encouraging believers to know God and His ways, and to enjoy a more intimate communion with Him


TABERNACLE

"Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
Exodus 40:34-35


The Christian must, at some point in his or her life, face the important distinction between knowing God and apprehending Him--the difference between visiting God and actually living with Him.

Every born again believer knows God, but only some have truly apprehended Him. Only some have taken hold of the reality of holy God dwelling in them, coursing through their veins, filling their lungs with His Spirit.

 

A Peculiar People


Imagine a nation--a people singled out by God--living in abject servitude, day after day, year after year, for 430[2] years. Imagine these people--numbering something more than a million[3] souls--living all this time, enduring their plight under a steady stream of different Pharaohs, never having any contact with their God--never even having a prophet or priest to speak in His name.

(In our convenient arrogance we cluck our tongues at their wilderness demonstration of fragile faith, but really, after the silence they endured for more than four centuries, we should respect them for keeping any faith at all.)

But then, finally, at the time appropriate for His eternal plan, God did indeed hear their cries and put into motion events which would result in the people of Israel being released from their Egyptian bondage.

"Then have them make a sanctuary for me,
and I will dwell among them."
Exodus 25:8

On their circuitous journey from Egypt to Canaan, Jehovah God gave detailed instructions[4] to Moses for the construction of a place--a tabernacle,[5] or 'Tent of Meeting'--where He could descend to meet with His people.

What a marvelous opportunity this was for the people! After four centuries of silence, they would now have the eternal God actually in their midst.

Access to His presence, however, was severely restricted. Only Aaron, the high priest, and Moses could enter into the most holy place where the glory of the Lord appeared. Only the high priest could represent the sins of the people to the Lord; only the high priest could receive the yearly atonement.

For the common person, this was as good as it got. Even so, this was an improvement over the old; at least one could stand outside worshipping in confidence, knowing that holy God was actually nearby--no longer silent, His cloud or fire visible to everyone.


Because of the blood of Christ, the modern believer need not settle for only 'nearby.' Christians have no need for a representative, such as a priest, to speak for them and offer up confession for sins. Christians need not carry around with them, or travel to a tabernacle--a place of meeting--for God is always with them, wherever they are.

When communing with His people, God requires a place. In the time of the ancient Hebrews it was a tent--later a stone building in Jerusalem; today it is the body of each believer.

The tragedy is that so few of His people have actually apprehended that presence. Oh yes, when one accepts Christ as Lord, the holy presence comes in to take up residence. But that indwelling is not the same as the believer fully taking hold of that presence--fully realizing and enjoying continuous, steady communion with Father, Son and Spirit.


For me, O Lord, the world is all too small,
For I have seen Thy face,
Where Thine eternal love irradiates all
Within Thy secret place.
And therefore from all others, from all else,
Draw Thou my soul to Thee ...
Yea--Thou hast broken the enchanter's spells,
And I am free.

Gerhard Tersteegen[6]

 

INFINITE RICHES

 

At Home

For two decades my wife and I kept Southern California at arm's length. For twenty years we lived, worked and played in the beautiful Mediterranean climate of San Diego, making friends, making enemies, and making a living until we finally left there to return to our native Iowa.

All that time--from March, 1971 to late December, 1990--we kept our distance from the culture and people of the area.

We mostly, and especially near the end, had a siege mentality. We considered our modest home to be our refuge, our safe haven, into which we barricaded ourselves from everything surrounding us. A woman lived next to us for years; we never knew her name. People on all sides moved in and moved out without our caring or even noticing. We kept our doors locked and our windows closed to their noise.

There were few trees in our neighborhood, yet we could not tell you what kind they were. There were some birds, but we didn't know their names. When relatives would visit and ask, "What is this bush?" or "What flower is this?" we couldn't say.

To be sure, this was not twenty years of misery. We had times of profound joy, and established relationships with people that continue to this day. But we never considered ourselves a part of the community--we never considered it to be home.

Even on our own property we had no regard for the outside; in our minds that area, being so close to the rest of the neighborhood, was up for grabs. While we kept the inside of our home nice--even adding on to the house--the outside was left a virtual wasteland. The condition of our lawn became a point of good-natured derision among our friends; one old acquaintance, trying to locate our house without recalling the street address, nevertheless located us simply by the deplorable state of our front lawn.

After living in the same house for seventeen years, when the time finally came to pack up and leave, we departed without regret or the smallest measure of sentimentality over the house, the neighborhood, or the community.


When we took up residence in our present home, we felt, almost immediately, that we were, indeed, home. In only a matter of months we knew our eleven-and-a-half acres more intimately than we ever had our one-third acre in San Diego.

In Southern California, as soon as we would step outside the house, we felt ourselves in alien territory. But here the house and out-of-doors are fused into one: our home. Here the windows are flung wide, the doors unlocked, the sounds and smells of the outside permeate, traveling throughout all the rooms.

Now we know almost all the trees and bushes by name. We understand their ways, their seasons; we know when the leaves will fall, and when they will return. We know when the bushes will flower, and when they will dry in the autumn wind. Their upkeep is our happy responsibility.

The lawn is kept mowed and trimmed. Annuals and perennials bloom from early spring through to the first frost, and are often cut and brought into the house to brighten the rooms. Fruit trees are managed, to supply apples, pears and cherries for the table; vegetables are raised and eaten fresh, as well as canned for winter consumption.

When a bird sings outside our window we now know its name, and whether it is male or female. We know when it will leave, in the late autumn, and when to expect it back in the spring. We know where it has built its nest--and quite often how many eggs have been deposited there.

We know when to look for the arrival of the wood ducks, and when to expect the year's new fawns. We are learning their behavior and sounds, their ways.

Put simply, we have invested ourselves in this place--in ways never imagined or pursued in California. We have committed ourselves to having a relationship with this place we now call home--to truly know it.

 

To Know Him


It is our responsibility--each of us as an individual, not as a collective group--to have a relationship with God. No one else can do it for us, and the Father never forces Himself on anyone. It is up to us.

What began many centuries ago as a simple tent, then was transformed into an elaborate stone temple, now exists privately and intimately in each us. God has chosen to 'tabernacle' with us individually--to meet with us one on one.

The pursuit of God never ends; since it is impossible to ever know Him completely (in this life), the pursuit continues. It does, however, mellow with time. At first we pursue Him as a child: sporadically, emotionally, in fits and starts and pouting disappointment when things don't go our way.

Later, as the pursuit mellows with our gathering maturity, it gradually evolves into a comfortable cohabitation: two friends living together. At least that's how it should be.

But many of us keep God at arm's length. We know He's out there; we see signs of His presence. But we prefer Him to stay in His place, while we stay in ours. Just a little bit of Him is all we really want.

The Kingdom is filled with people bobbing and weaving through their spiritual walk--like a boxer trying to dodge incoming blows. God is patient, but He nags, and we resist His subtle advances as if they would do us harm.

For many of us our intention should be this: to stop thinking as a renter, and begin conducting ourselves as a homeowner.


As I mentally compare what we were in California to what we are now, two truths reveal themselves: First, we missed out on a lot by not having more of a connection with the society around us and, second, it was our own doing.

We could have invested ourselves more in that community, and we would have been the better for it, but we chose not to. Here, in our present home, we have assimilated more into everything around us--and we are the better for it.

Just so with the Lord God. He is with us, in us, all around us--there for the having. He contains the wealth and riches of eternal knowledge and grace, and offers it to us in eager, outstretched hands. Yet we take Him into out hearts thinking that's the end of it--that that's as good as it gets, all the while missing out on His limitless bounty.

__________ (Selah) _________

His priest am I, before Him day and night,
Within His Holy Place;
And death and life, and all things dark and bright,
I spread before His face.

Rejoicing with His joy, yet ever still,
For silence is my song;
My work to bend beneath His blessed will,
All day, and all night long--

For ever holding with Him converse sweet,
Yet speechless, for my gladness is complete.

Gerhard Tersteegen


 

REMOVED FROM THE REALM
OF THE COMMON[9]

Haven't we all marveled at the stories of contemporary saints of the faith who seemed to exist on an entirely different plane from the common believer ...

What made them extraordinary? Why did they stand out so in the kingdom?

Here were men cut from the same cloth as any of us, flesh and blood sinners, imperfect members of the body of Christ. Here were men who were not without their critics. So what set them apart? What was it about their lives that made them shining examples for all of us?

I believe one answer to be that each of these men would say, along with the apostle Paul in his letter to the believers at Philippi,

"I want to know Christ ... becoming like him ..."

One thing that made these men (along with many others) remarkable was their commitment to knowing the person of Christ, with their purpose being to emulate Him. They were determined to "remove themselves from the realm of the common"--to fully invest themselves in the person of Christ, and the cause of His kingdom.

 

Leaving Childish Things

When I left the shores of the United States aboard the U.S.S. Chicago, headed for Vietnam in the year 1970, I was a fresh-faced lad of a grand total of eighteen years. Barely old enough to tie my own shoelaces, here I was headed off across the waves to visit foreign lands and participate in a most bizarre war understood by no one.

Over a six-month period our ports of call included Hawaii, The Philippines, Japan and Hong Kong. One of my lingering and more uncomfortable memories from that time is how I, as one of the younger members of the group, would spend my liberty, in contrast to the older members of the group.

As I now recall, it seemed that at almost every port-of-call I would fritter away this valuable time in pursuits both silly and frivolous while the more mature members of the group would be off taking advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the sights. While I was down on the Hong Kong docks buying plastic trinkets, they would be off on a train trip to the Red China border; while I slept away the evening in my rack, they'd be visiting a museum or a theatre. How I wish now that I had been older--or at least a little less stupid.


Scripture gives us very good word pictures of the Spiritually immature contrasted with the mature. In Ephesians, Paul describes the immature as those who are constantly changing direction, easily tossed about by crafty liars with false doctrines.

But when we invest ourselves in the way of the Lord, when we "grow up into Him", we are on our way to preparing ourselves--as well as others--for His important work.

Jesus, in one of His parables, described how the good news of the gospel would not take root in the lives of those who were childish, those without any real depth to their lives.

Because even His disciples were not mature enough to understand the parable, Jesus explained it to them.

Finally, the writer to the Hebrews comes right out and compares them to babies incapable of digesting anything but warm pabulum.

 

To Become Like Christ

The Christian does not leave childishness by declaring he'd rather be an adult; neither does he attain maturity by setting out to leave behind his childish ways. The sincere believer becomes mature as a by-product of living with Christ. The goal is not to become mature; the goal is to become like Christ.

Only when we stop keeping Him at arm's length will we begin to truly understand His ways, and begin to work those ways into our life. Only when we dare to step above the common-place--when we let Him draw us up toward His higher plane--will we truly know Him.


__________ (Selah) _________

I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.
Refrain
I need Thee, O I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
O bless me now my Saviour,
I come to Thee!

I need Thee every hour, stay Thou near by;
Temptations lose their power when Thou art nigh.

I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide, or life is vain.

I need Thee every hour, most Holy One;
O make me Thine indeed, Thou blessed Son!

Annie S. Hawks


 

LIVING OTHER-WORLDLY

To many, the counsel to live 'other-worldly' flies in the face of all logical considerations. To them it sounds as if they are being told to live outside reality--to live with their head in the clouds. But living according to the eternal kingdom-world places our feet on a foundation much more solid than anything manufactured by this world. There is no greater reality than the reality of Christ's kingdom.

Living other-worldly means that while our feet may be planted on this temporal plane, our heart and soul reside with the Lord. It means that while our body is fed by this world's food, our spirit is fed from above. It means that when we are forced to choose between kingdoms, we choose the only one that will last forever.

 

An Uncommon Trio

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had been taken as captives from their native Israel to Shinar by the conquering Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. From the beginning they had distinguished themselves--along with their friend, Belteshazzar (or Daniel)--as intelligent, astute, and in wisdom and understanding "ten times better than all the magicians and conjurers who were in all his realm."[10]

What was responsible for the impressive abilities of these four young men? Was it their schooling in Israel? The wise upbringing of their parents? Were they prodigies, born with remarkable wisdom and intelligence?

These men had feet planted firmly on the temporal plane of Babylonian exile, but their minds were with Jehovah. Nebuchadnezzar may have had possession of their bodies, but the Lord had possession of their hearts.

Later, after the three had been given positions of authority in Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were brought before the furious king, accused of refusing to bow down before his gods and personal likeness.

The charge was perfectly true--if not racially motivated. The three had stayed true to the God of their fathers, and certainly had not bowed down to the graven images of the land.

Nebuchadnezzar was filled with rage over this--especially after going to the bother and expense of having a huge statue erected of himself for all the people to worship. Made of gold and measuring nine feet wide and ninety feet high, the statue had been erected on the plain of Dura and designated as an object of worship for everyone--no exceptions.

But Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego took great exception, and refused to bow down before this or any other graven image. Their explanation to the king is most revealing. Here were three men clearly living other-worldly:

Obligingly, the king ordered his furnace to be stoked to a temperature seven times greater than normal and the three to be bound and thrown in.

Over the charred remains of his own soldiers, Nebuchadnezzar stared into the blazing inferno and was stunned to discover that not only were the three men not being consumed, but were actually walking about freely in the flames with a fourth person! The king described this unexpected guest as having an appearance "like a son of the gods."[11] Almighty God had not only spared their lives, but had actually come down to accompany them through the fire.

As a result, king Nebuchadnezzar repented before Jehovah.


The Bible is replete with potentially mysterious references to such things as

In this age it can be difficult at times to grasp the reality of such things. They sound hazy, ephemeral--like trying to describe last night's dream. They seem to have no basis in fact for a world constructed on the foundation of logic and reason.

The truth of the matter is that it is precisely this age that is on shaky ground. Living other-worldly means that when this world's authorities confound you with their facts and figures and absolutes (all of which seem to change from day to day), you can turn with confidence to the only firm foundation there truly is.

When the latest paleontologist finds a new set of bones that proves incontrovertibly that women evolved from gibbons, but men evolved from gorillas; when astronomers inform us that "we now know that" God lives in the Delta Quadrant; when sociologists tell us that all people are essentially good, so it's unfair to blame the gunman who just sprayed bullets around the Burger King--when all the senses want to scream from the overload, the person who is living other-worldly need only turn to the comfortable truth of God living in his life.

 

FROM THE INSIDE OUT

What does it really mean to apprehend God? How do we accomplish it? Again, Tozer:

God has designated certain parts of our bodies to have the ability to respond and deal with the Spiritual world: our mind, our spirit, our senses, our faith. The more we exercise and use these faculties, the better attuned we will be to God's Spirit.

To 'tabernacle' with God means to dwell with Him, to hear His voice at any and all times, to seek and comprehend His counsel before any other's, and to view all of life from His perspective.

__________ (Selah) _________

O for a heart to praise my God,
A heart from sin set free,
A heart that always feels Thy blood
So freely shed for me!

A heart resigned, submissive, meek,
My great Redeemer's throne;
Where only Christ is heard to speak,
Where Jesus reigns alone;

A heart in every thought renewed,
And full of love divine;
Perfect, and right, and pure, and good,
A copy, Lord, of Thine!

Thy nature, gracious Lord, impart;
Come quickly from above,
Write Thy new name upon my heart,
Thy new, best name of Love.

Charles Wesley

 

Signs of Intimacy

I'm not sure anyone can tell another person how to go about this. I don't think it works to compile and distribute a neat, bulleted list of steps that will ensure success in living a life wholly enveloped by God. This is too personal. What works for one will not necessarily work for another. It is spiritual; the spiritual world can rarely be quantified.

What can be itemized, however, are the results. If we cannot set forth the method, we can at least set forth the evidence that the method is working.

Someone who is living other-worldly, who has substantially apprehended the presence of God in their life will reveal that perspective in a variety of situations.

When perplexed about a situation, this person will, like Nehemiah, be quickly on his or her knees:

It is also true, however, that the person who has lived for a long time with the presence of the Lord need not always discover the Lord's will knelt in prayer. The more we live with Him and listen to His voice, the more often we will know His ways, and His choices for our life.

When tragedy strikes, the person close to God will view the moment through the wide-angled lens of His perspective, just as Job did:

The close companion of God takes comfort in knowing that his life is not his own.

When good fortune presents itself, the companion of God knows that no matter what it is--whether property or money, goods or good times--it has come from the Lord, just as James tells us--

--and King David proclaimed publicly:

When confronted by evil, it is the Lord God who is called upon, as David did:

When the heart is filled with joy, that joy is raised as an offering of praise to a generous and gracious God, as did the sons of Korah:


In the tabernacle, as well as in the later Jerusalem temple, there was a veil that kept the average person from entering the Holy of Holies--the place where God came down to associate with mankind.

At Calvary, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ resulted in that veil being torn in two, so that never again would the believer need to go through another to dwell with God. From that point on the Lord became a personal, intimate God; from that point on, through Christ, He would be a friend and companion.

But that relationship is still up to us. Will we spend our days continually looking for Him--searching expectantly for that infrequent moment of visitation? Or will we once and for all, with joyful confidence take hold of the privilege He's offered us, and spend the rest of our days--every moment of every day--in happy communion with Him?


NOTES, COPYRIGHT & SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION

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NOTES

1 NIV: for you are a people holy to the LORD your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the LORD has chosen you to be his treasured possession. Deut. 14:2

2 Exodus 12:40-41.

3 Exodus 12:37.

4 Exodus 25:9-27:21.

5 mishkan, mish-kawn', Hebrew Stg 4908; from Hebrew 7931 (shakan); a residence (including a shepherd's hut, the lair of animals, figurative the grave; also the Temple); specifically the Tabernacle (properly its wooden walls) :- dwelleth, dwelling (place), habitation, tabernacle, tent.

6 Thank you, Mike.

7 All quotations in this issue by A.W. Tozer--except where otherwise noted--are from The Pursuit of God (Christian Publications, 1982).

8 The Divine Conquest (Christian Publications, 1978), p22.

9 "Anything that is 'holy' is set apart. It is removed from the realm of the common and moved to the sphere of the sacred." (Lawrence O. Richards, Expository Dictionary of Bible Words (Zondervan, 1985), p339.)

10 Daniel 1:20 NASB.

11 Daniel 3:25 NASB.

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

All original material in Aspects is Copyright © 1999 David S. Lampel. This data file is the sole property of David S. Lampel. It may not be altered or edited in any way. It may be reproduced only in its entirety for circulation as "freeware," without charge. All reproductions of this data file must contain the copyright notice (i.e., "Copyright (C) 1999 David S. Lampel."). This data file may not be used without the permission of David S. Lampel for resale or the enhancement of any other product sold. This includes all of its content. Brief quotations not to exceed more than 500 words may be used, with the appropriate copyright notice, to enhance or supplement personal or church devotions, newsletters, journals, or spoken messages.

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture is from the New International Version. NIV quotations are from the Holy Bible: New International Version, Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible Society. Used by permission. NASB quotations are from the New American Standard Bible © 1960, 1962,1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977 by The Lockman Foundation.

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