From Tent to Temple - George H. Warnock
CHAPTER 1 - THE TABERNACLE IN THE WILDERNESS
The Sanctuary Is For God
"And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them" (Ex. 25:8).
This, we believe, is the key verse in this whole subject concerning the Temple of God. How it would help us in all our Christian service and ministry, if we could recognize this one important principle: the sanctuary is for God's abiding place in the midst of men. The whole message of the Gospel is off-center unless it is properly centered in God. We are inclined to relate the Gospel primarily to ourselves, from the standpoint of our need, our lost condition, and our approach toward God. But actually it begins in God, centers about Himself, and reaches forth toward man for the delight of His own heart. The greatest of all sins is our failure to recognize His supreme Lordship in our lives. Before God all men are equally estranged from Him, and therefore equally sinful. "There is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:22-23). When the glory of God becomes the standard of our acceptance before Him, then all men come equally short of that standard.
God begins from His own heart, reaches out toward man, and draws him unto Himself, for His own glory. I need God, that is true. But because I am so unlike God by nature, and so lacking in His attributes of love and mercy and truth that long to flow forth from His being, I fail to recognize that He needs me. Oh, yes, we would quickly acknowledge that He needs us for service... because He has no hands but my hands to serve Him... no feet but my feet to carry the gospel of peace... no mouth but my mouth to speak forth His Word. We picture Him as being so helpless as a Spirit--Being that He must have us to do His work! But that is far, far from the truth. For He really does not need us so much for the service that we can render. Ten thousand times ten thousand stand at His beck and call. And if these were not sufficient, by the word of His mouth He could create ten million more to "post o'er land and ocean without rest." We have all heard that old slogan of the Church: "We are saved to serve!" But this is far from the truth. It is like a man saying concerning his bride, "I married her because I needed a slave."
God does need us. But primarily for fellowship, to satisfy the eternal longing of His own heart for companionship and friendship with one in His own image and likeness. He needs a place where He might live, a place that He can call "Home." When He lives within us He will direct us in paths of service as the need arises, but this is secondary. He really desires, and He will have, a true habitation for Himself in the Spirit--a Home, with sons and daughters that are obedient unto Him as they grow up in His family, from babes to maturity. Without such a home God continues to be the lonesome God that He was before creation, with no one to share His own heart of love and mercy and truth and long-suffering and kindness.
Martha was surprised that Jesus would spend so much time just talking to Mary, when He knew there was so much work to be done; and Mary should have been helping her--helping her to serve the Lord who had come to visit them. But Jesus told her plainly that Mary had chosen the better part, and that no one was to take this portion from her. Evidently He took greater delight in fellowshipping with Mary, than He did in Martha's efforts to prepare Him a good meal. Now the Marthas are beloved of the Lord too. They are busily engaged in the work of the Lord, trying to get the job done. Yet too often they do not recognize what God really desires, and how He intends to accomplish the things that need to be done in the earth. For truly God's plan is not merely to "get the job done." He is creating a people that will be to the praise of His glory. And this can only come about as they submit to His Word and Spirit, and become vitally one with Christ Himself; and consequently one with His many brethren. What instruments and resources God may use from time to time and from one generation to another in working out His purposes in the earth are really quite incidental. Nor do we mean to criticize any of the "means" that men are using today to evangelize the world, if God is indeed giving direction. But we are rather amazed that men will continue to ignore the one and only way that God has ordained for the world to see and hear the Gospel, and know that Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God. For He has shown us clearly that the world will know and believe only when God has a people "sanctified" unto the will of the Father, and made one with the Lord Jesus, as He is one with the Father. (See Jn. 17:17-21.) God's people have always been prone to turn from God's way when they judge it to be impossible; and then do it their way if it seems to be more practical. Men of faith are not concerned as to how God may bring to pass what is impossible. They simply believe what He has declared, embrace the promise, and wait expectantly (though with much trial of faith) for the performance of that which God has decreed.
My Soul Wait Thou Upon God!
The soul that waits upon the Lord is not one that lacks vision. Rather he is one who is learning to see things as God sees them, and who desires to become involved with Him not only in His plan, but also in His Way; because they know His plan can only be fulfilled by and through a people who walk in His Way. Let us not be disturbed by slogans such as this: "Some people are waiting for God, but God is waiting for them." We hear this a lot, but it is not scriptural. Take your concordance and check it out...
"My soul, wait thou only upon God; For my expectation is from him" (Psa. 62:5).
"Our soul waiteth for the LORD: He is our help and our shield" (Psa. 33:20).
"Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion" (Psa. 65:1).
(For even true spiritual praise, like any other aspect of ministry, waits for the direction and control of the Holy Spirit, as God's people anticipate what He will do.)
"Blessed are all they that wait for him" (Isa. 30:18).
"For the vision is yet for an appointed time...Though it tarry, wait for it" (Hab. 2:3).
(So often when we fail to see the vision fulfilled we try to fulfill it ourselves, only to mar the beautiful thing that God would do.)
"They that wait upon the LORD Shall renew their strength" (Isa. 40:31).
These are just a few examples; but there are many more. On the other hand God has much to say about those who think God is waiting for them to get the job done:
"They soon forgat his works; They waited not for his counsel" (Psa. 106:13).
We must attain to complete victory over our own impatient spirit. The prophet said to Saul: "Seven days shalt thou tarry, till I come to thee, and shew thee what thou shalt do" (1 Sam. 10:8). Saul waited the seven days but the prophet did not come. However, that did not release him to act on his own. Some get so concerned about fulfilling a prophecy they have received or some vision that God has given them rather than simply walking with God today. God alone can fulfill the prophecy or the vision. And He will do it when He is ready, and when we are ready--not when we think we are ready. Because of Saul's act of disobedience God cut his kingdom short. He "forced himself," he told Samuel; but in so doing he made the wrong decision, and took upon himself the role of a priest, which a king in Israel had no right to do. God is always late by man's timetable. But He moves consistently onward and forward according to His own eternal purpose. The frustrations that we experience as we seek Him and wait for Him are a necessary part of His discipline in our lives as He seeks to quiet our spirit and bring forth the fruit of patience. Few saints there are who are "quieted" in spirit, and "behaved" as a weaned child (Psa. 131:2).
The Man Who Built The Tabernacle
We have dealt considerably with this matter of "waiting", because we (like Moses) must come to know God's ways if we are to become involved with Him in the true Tabernacle "not made with hands." At the age of 40 Moses may well have argued with himself: "What am I waiting for? I am Israel's deliverer. I shall go forth and do what I can." We all know what disappointment and frustration he suffered. Nevertheless in the wilderness of Midian Moses learned much of God's ways. It took him 40 years, but he learned the lesson well. He learned about his own inadequacy and helplessness, his own unworthiness and his own deficiencies. A learning course of this nature will usually require a lot longer period of time than the three or four years one might spend in a Bible School or Seminary to discover one's abilities and potential!
But what was the result of it all? Moses accomplished in one single night what he had longed to accomplish as a powerful young prince in Egypt at the age of 40. God waited till he was 80 years of age--alienated from the favor he once had with Pharaoh, and stripped of all confidence in his own abilities--before God called him as a helpless shepherd, with nothing but a stick in his hand, to go back to Egypt and deliver a whole nation out of slavery. He had learned much of God's ways as he tended the sheep in Midian. He would learn much more, as he became the first shepherd of Israel. He would talk with God "face to face," as God gave him living oracles, written with the finger of God on tables of stone. And to Moses was given the pattern for the Tabernacle, which was to become God's dwelling place in the midst of His people.
Is God Really Late?
Yes, God is always late by man's standards; but He is right on time according to His own plan and purpose. And this is what makes it all the more frustrating to those who embrace His Word and promise. If only He would delay the promise until the time drew near for Him to fulfill it! Then perhaps we could bear up under it, for we would not have the Word of the promise to torment our impatient spirit.
But we have learned that this is all part of the training course. It is in this "waiting period" that we find time to do our best--to try, and fail, and try again. Or perhaps to try again and succeed, or at least assure ourselves that we have succeeded, only to come to still greater devastation when God comes on the scene and rejects our vain efforts to build His Kingdom. May we learn this important lesson once for all: that in our natural strength and wisdom we can do nothing, and that what things we consider to be successful must be laid aside as mere refuse, for the knowledge of Christ.
God gave Abraham the promise early, but fulfilled it late. As Abraham waited (and no doubt experienced much trial and frustration) he learned the ways of the Lord and became the father of the faithful for all generations to come.
God gave Joseph the promise early, and fulfilled it late. The "word" that Joseph embraced as a promise became the "word" that tried him severely (Psa. 105:19). We need to remember this: the vision the Lord gives us becomes our trial. But that same "word" brought Joseph out of the dungeon to be a ruler and deliverer, and a sustainer of life to surrounding nations.
God gave David the promise early, and fulfilled it late. But the trials that he went through wrought in him a heart "after the heart of God." And the shepherd boy from Bethlehem became a shepherd-king over all Israel.
God gave the whole human race the promise early, and fulfilled it late. God promised that the "seed of the woman" would "bruise the serpent's head." Men almost despaired of the promise, but "in the fulness of time" He came forth: "Late in time behold Him come...Offspring of a virgin's womb."
No! God is not really late! Let us not submit to the pressure that is on God's people these days "to get the job done." God is faithful to "watch over His Word to perform it." He is not trying His best to get a job done, He is bringing forth a New Creation. We are His "workmanship," the "masterpiece" that He is working on. "Wait, I say, on the LORD" (Psa. 27:14). For "he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6).
The Pattern Of The Tent
"And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount" (Ex. 25:40). As Moses dwelt in the midst of the celestial glory for 40 days and 40 nights, talking with God face to face, God gave him very detailed instructions for the building of the sanctuary. In this pattern we have a picture of the heavenly realm which was to be made manifest in the fullness of time. Paul calls the whole Levitical order "the example and shadow of heavenly things" (Heb. 8:5). Notice this very carefully: it was not a perfect representation of the real, but only a type, only a shadow. "For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect" (Heb. 10:1).
Of course most Christians do not believe that "the very image" can bring perfection either. And if this be so God may be charged with abolishing a faulty religious system which could not bring perfection, and then replacing it with a new religious system which was still "faulty," if it too was not able to bring perfection to those who embraced it. We might just as well continue on with the sacrifices of bulls and goats, and the ashes of a red heifer, if the sacrifice of Christ can do no better. Why should He have suffered so much in vain? (God forbid the very suggestion! But it is not really mine. It is the suggestion of those who ignorantly deny the full efficacy of the blood of Christ to take away all sin.) For God has ordained that in the fullness of time the Substance of all Old Testament offering and sacrifice would be revealed; and that He would bring forth the perfection that the Old Testament pointed to in many of its types and shadows, but was never able to fulfill. The shadow speaks of an outline, a sketch. The "very image" speaks of that which is perfect, the real thing. So Christ is said to be the "image of the invisible God" and "the express image of His Person." He is not just a resemblance of God, but the exact similitude and expression of God in human form.
This is important for us to remember. For in our study of the tabernacles and temples of God we are going to discover that the pattern changes as one temple replaces another; and the tabernacle or temple that has gone into ruin and later restored is vastly different than the original structure. Why would God see fit to change the pattern from time to time? For the simple reason that it was just a shadow of the heavenly realm; and in changing it we have a different view of what God had in mind, as He outlined the substance in a somewhat different light, perhaps in a more brilliant light. Finally the heavenly Temple is revealed and manifested in Christ Himself Who declared Himself to be the very Temple of God in the earth. "Destroy this temple," He said, "And in three days I will raise it up" (Jn. 2:19). He was not the shadow, but the "very image". But there was to be a further expression of the "very image" as the Lord Jesus was glorified; that from the throne of Zion's holy mountain He might rule and reign as "head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:22-23). His intention being to build the Church together "for an habitation of God through the Spirit" (Eph. 2:22). Yes, God needs His people because He needs a permanent Home in which He might dwell--a Home that is compatible with His own nature and character.
Try as Israel may, therefore, to bring about a restoration of her glory to something that might equate the glory she had in the days of David, or Solomon, she will not succeed. And try as the Church may to bring about a restoration to something that might resemble the glory of early apostolic days, she too is going to be greatly frustrated and perplexed. Whether we speak of natural Israel or the Church, in striving for something that is far below God's intention, we fail to see and to anticipate the greater glory that God has in mind. For He has promised "the glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former" (Hag. 2:9). Many good ministers are puzzled as they try their best to re-establish the order and structure of the "New Testament Church." But if God has something "new" in mind, the Holy Spirit (Who is the Vicar of Christ on earth) will not seek to accommodate those who are endeavoring to bring about this kind of restoration. God has still greater things in mind. Certainly He will restore that which was lost, and the years that the caterpillar, the cankerworm, the palmerworm, and the locust have eaten. But when God has a new order in mind, in vain do we try to restore the old one. Fundamental principles of truth remain unchanged, for Jesus Christ is the Truth, and therefore eternal and unchangeable. But until the fullness of Christ is formed within His people, God will continue to do new things and bring about a new order wherein His people shall walk. And all this will be in strict conformity to the revealed Word of God, quickened and made alive to His people in the day when He arises to perform the intentions of His heart. Invariably when God moves forward with His people it is the quickening Word that leads them forth into new things. It is always according to scripture. And God always confirms what He is doing in many, many ways, so as to encourage His people to move on with Him. The trumpet sound is certain and clear. His sheep know the Voice, and they seek to follow in obedience.
The General Plan Of The Tabernacle
The Tent was situated in the very center of the camp of Israel, and over the Tent the cloud of His glory rested, day and night: by day as a pillar of cloud, and by night as a pillar of fire. It was God Himself dwelling in the midst of His people. The Tent faced the east, and there in the front of the gate were the tents of Moses and Aaron, who were responsible for the conduct of all who ministered in the sanctuary. Facing the east, it would speak to us of the promise of a "new day." The Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem also faced the east. For the promise is, "Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings" (Mal. 4:2).
As one might look down upon the Tabernacle from the hillsides, with thousands of little tents surrounding it, and God's glory covering the sanctuary like a canopy, one could not help but be aware that here was a distinct people, a separate people, a holy nation. Balaam the sorcerer wanted to curse them. He was going to be paid well for doing it. But in the spirit of prophecy he was compelled to say:
"From the top of the rocks I see him,
And from the hills I behold him:
Lo, the people shall dwell alone,
And shall not be reckoned among the nations"
"How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob,
And thy tabernacles, O Israel!"
And yet, even at that very moment the people were disheartened, discouraged, and disobedient. They were filled with murmuring and complaining because of the bitterness of the way, and the drought and barrenness of the wilderness journey. Oh, that we had eyes to see, and ears to hear, and a heart to perceive, that we might behold ourselves for a moment from God's viewpoint, and from the viewpoint of angels and principalities and powers of the heavenly realm! We may excuse Israel, for theirs was a covenant of death, a covenant of fading glory. But how shall we excuse ourselves who have been made partakers of a covenant of life, and a covenant of ever-increasing glory, and dwell in a Tabernacle "which the Lord pitched, and not man"?
The Tent itself had a partition called the veil, which separated the holy place from the most holy. Then surrounding the Tent, as well as the laver and the brazen altar which were outside the Tent, was an enclosure composed of fine linen hanging on posts which were placed in brazen sockets in the desert sand. This was called the outer court; and the linen surrounding it was much like a fence, which the priests entered from the east side in the course of their ministry. Altogether, then, we have three areas: the outer court, the holy place, and the holy of holies. There at the eastern gate the sinning Israelite would bring his sacrifice to the priest. The priest and Levite would then take the sacrifice to the brazen altar which was situated just inside the gate, sacrifice it unto the Lord, and the sinning Israelite could go away free--until he sinned again. Nor could he go into the sanctuary itself, for that was reserved for the priests. This was no arbitrary arrangement on God's part. His heart longed for a whole nation of kings and priests, and in the fullness of time He would create such a nation. God had promised them: "Ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation" (Ex. 19:6). Because of their disobedience they could not attain to it then, and the promise remained unfulfilled. When the true Sacrifice was made, and an unchanging priesthood was established in Christ, the promise was once again brought forward from God's heart: "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people" (1 Pet. 2:9). This too has failed to materialize in fullness, but the promise is there, and it remains for those who will go God's way--all the way. Let there be no misunderstanding here: what God declares concerning us is true. But He makes His declarations in the New Covenant that we might embrace them by faith and appropriate them, until the truth becomes practical and vital in our lives.
This truth we must emphasize over and over again, for we are living in a day when so-called positional truth, and dispensational truth have almost nullified the Word of God, and robbed God's people of the glory that He has for them. If men do not like the truth they can readily relegate it to some dispensation other than the one we are living in. Or if it is definitely truth for this dispensation, then they have a way of relegating it to the heavens. "That's positional truth. It's not something you experience today." But the answer is clear from the Word of God: It is ours and we must press toward the mark, "if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:12). What God has elected and chosen for me, to that end I must press on. I know I cannot go beyond faith, or beyond the Word, nor do I desire to do so. But "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Rom. 10:17).
"Therefore, Oh Lord, give us hearing ears that we may hear Your truth. Give us open eyes to behold Your glory. Give us understanding hearts to perceive Your ways. There are no limits in You, and You have erected no barriers to the man of faith. But there are barriers that we often erect in our own hearts--hearts which are prone to presumption and unbelief. But as You would possess our reins with the pure and holy mind of Christ, then we shall truly walk with You in the pure light of Your holiness and truth, and abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Truly You are Light and Life in all Your Being, and if we abide under Your shadow we shall walk, not in darkness, for Your shadow is one of pure light; and every trace of sin and the carnal nature must vanish away in the pure Light of Your presence."
The Furnishings Of The Tent
Inside the Tent, as we mentioned, there were two compartments: the first called the holy place, and the second (behind the veil) called the holy of holies. Entering the holy place through the five pillars we would see the table of shewbread on our right (the north), the candlestick on our left (the south), and the altar of incense toward the west just in front of the veil. It really belonged inside the veil (according to Hebrews 9:4) but was placed just outside the veil so the priests would always have access to it. Then behind the veil, as one would enter, we would find the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat.
Everything in the Tent speaks of Christ, and of His people who are in union with Him. Nothing on earth could adequately portray and symbolize that which pertains to His glory; and that is why so many, many types are used, that in each type and symbol some particular aspect of His glory may faintly be seen. The shittim wood (or acacia) would speak of the weakness of Christ's humanity, and the gold that covered it, His divine Glory. The lamb or goat or turtledove that was slain would speak of His sacrifice; the blood of His own incorruptible Blood. The priest speaks of our great High Priest; and the veil he went behind to make atonement for sins speaks of His flesh, that was torn asunder for us at the Cross, that we might enter into His presence. The ark would speak of God's presence, the place where God's glory dwelt. The hidden manna in the ark, of that living bread which came down from Heaven. The linen curtains, of His own righteousness, by which we are clothed, and in which we are enclosed. And so we could go on and on. We will not touch on a lot of this detail, as we are primarily concerned in this study with the broad outline of the Tent, and its relationship with the other sanctuaries that would follow in the days to come. And so here we will concentrate upon the holy of holies and the contents of this area; for this was the particular dwelling place of the Most High.
The Ark Of The Covenant
The ark of the covenant (the covering of which was called the mercy seat) was hidden away behind the veil in the holy of holies. It was there before the ark of the covenant that the high priest would stand "once in the year" with the blood of goats; and while there, clothed upon with holy garments, and with Urim and Thummim in his breastplate, he would have a brief time of communication with God. God said to Moses, "They shall make an ark of shittim wood... And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee. And there will I meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat." (See Ex. 25:10-22.) God begins here with the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat. We would be inclined to begin with the outer court, the doorway into it, and the brazen altar, for this is what we would see first as we drew near to God. But God's order is different: He begins from Himself and draws near to man. Jesus said, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (Jn. 6:44). Our life in Christ is the result rather than the cause of our salvation. We find it difficult to reconcile the sovereign call of God with our responsibility to that call; and no doubt this is the reason there has been so much argument in this whole matter of election and free will. Usually we would emphasize one aspect of truth to the neglect of the other, because it is difficult for us to reconcile opposites of truth in our thinking. Perhaps it is for this reason that God has seen fit to raise up different ministries from time to time and anoint them to emphasize what others have neglected. Calvin was sent of God to establish the truth of God's sovereignty. But as men began to presume that they were "elect" of God because they believed in the doctrine of election, God saw fit to raise up others who would exhort men to make their "calling and election sure." In God's portrayal of truth we have many opposites; and there is no way we can reconcile them by human reasoning, or by diluting the truth with compromise in order to make it appear acceptable and logical. Many speak of man's free will as if that were more important than God's sovereign will. I must be sufficiently sovereign to choose or reject God. But God must not be so sovereign as to choose or reject me! The Potter must not really have any right over the clay, but the clay in the final analysis must have the deciding vote! The distinction that God made between Jacob and Esau was not because of goodness in the one, or evil in the other. "(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger" (Rom. 9:11-12). The apostle makes it very clear that good or evil in the two boys was not to be considered as a motivating factor in God's choice of the one, and His rejection of the other. It was simply that it was God's choice "that the purpose of God according to election might stand."
Sometimes it is hard to reconcile a truth like this with other aspects of God's dealings with men, as we hear Him crying out to his rebellious people to pay heed to His gracious call, and to walk in His ways. Nor does believing in the doctrine of election make me to be one of the elect. I cannot afford to presume. For my part, I must be diligent to make my "calling and election sure," and follow on to know Him. Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them." And this gives me great courage and confidence, as it was intended to do. But it also goes on to say, "My sheep... follow me." And therefore I must not presume to be one of the elect sheep of God's pasture if I am not hearing His voice, and seeking to follow Him. Those who stand with the Lamb on Mount Zion are not only called and chosen, they are also faithful. Why must I be able to reconcile the seeming opposites in God in order to believe what He says in either case? I, who am but dust and ashes? Must I dilute the clear declarations of God's Word in order to make them acceptable in the minds of the people, or understandable in my own finite mind? Can we not simply recognize that as yet we "see through a glass darkly" and find joy in believing where we cannot understand, simply because the infinite God has declared it?
God begins with the ark of the covenant because it is His dwelling place, and He must begin from Himself because He is God. When I come on the scene I hear His creative call, and I obey and begin to serve Him. I have the feeling that I am drawing near to Him, that I am being obedient and faithful, and all this is true. But sooner or later I must confess: "Lord, You caused me to approach unto You! You called me, and I came forth because it was a creative Word, just as when You called light to come forth out of darkness in the beginning." (See 2 Cor. 4:6.) No mere invitation that! It was a sovereign, commanding, creative Word that I heard. I yielded to His love, and I submitted to His dealings in my life, that is true. But then, shall the snowflake boast of yielding and melting when the sun sends forth its torrid rays upon the earth? Or shall the sands of the seashore that are overwhelmed with the oceans rise up and say, "Well, after all, I surrendered to the rising of the tides"? Or the flimsy reed that bends and breaks when the winds blow upon it, is it going to boast, "But don't forget, I submitted to the winds that blew"? Or is the apostle Paul, smitten down on the Damascus Road by a mighty lightning stroke from Heaven going to boast, "I did my part, when God shone forth from heaven and blinded my eyes, I fell off my horse"?
We do not really need to understand all about it now, nor yet be troubled with what appears to be conflicting areas of truth. One day we will know and understand that everything God ever did was consistent with His justice and righteousness--and at the same time consistent with His heart of pure love!
God begins with the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat, because He begins from Himself, works His way out toward Man, and draws him unto Himself. God wants us to know that "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). Let us not draw back from the truth because we are not always able to reconcile it with God's justice or with His love. But let us embrace the truth because He declared it... and because we know and are assured that He will do the thing that is absolutely right. Let us embrace the truth He declares, not to fortify ourselves with arguments, but that we might enter into true rest. For indeed this is why He makes the truth known to our hearts and minds.
"For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:29-30). Let us start with God. We miss so much if we start with the word "justified." God begins from Himself.
Foreknowledge.God knew His people long before they were born--even from the foundation of the world. This knowledge does not merely concern things He knew about them, or things they would do; for God certainly knows everything and everybody, and all that they will do, whether they be good or bad. But here God speaks of certain ones "whom he did foreknow."
Predestination.This comes next... and it is not a frightening word. It simply means "to mark out beforehand." When I seek God and live for Him and seek to walk in His ways, I am not framing my own destiny. I am rather fulfilling a destiny that was predetermined from the foundation of the world. That is why "there remaineth therefore a rest [a sabbath] to the people of God" (Heb. 4:9). I know and believe that the pathway that He has marked out for me is one that is good, and that it is intended to bring me into full conformity to the image of His Son. My sins and faults and failures, and the fleshly strivings of my carnal mind, all these are inevitable; and I must not blame God for that. But I also know that He does not intend to change His plan because of my weakness. He knows what I am made of. And by the wonder of His grace and power He takes each failure, each mistake, transforms them one by one into steppingstones along the divinely chosen pathway in which I walk, giving "beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit heaviness."
Called.Once we recognize that He foreknew and predestinated us, then we know for sure that His call was a creative Word, and not a mere invitation. There is a cause behind the call that reaches back and beyond the foundations of the world. And the cause is hidden in His own heart of Love--He doesn't tell us why He loved us so.
Justified.This is something we become aware of as we embrace Jesus Christ as our Savior; and therefore we might be inclined to think it all started here. But it all started away back from the foundations of the world, in the heart of God.
Glorified.This is yet to come. But it is used in the Aorist tense in the Greek; and I am told this can indicate a once-for-all action in the past, or an action in the future that is sure to come to pass! God is speaking from the mercy seat, and He says He has glorified us! For He is looking at the finished product as One speaking from the viewpoint of eternity, as One Who is well able to declare the end from the beginning, because He is able to bring it to pass.
Contents Of The Ark
Three different things were placed in the ark of the covenant, at different intervals.
The Pot Of Manna
When the manna fell in the wilderness, the people did not know what it was, and they asked one another, "What is it?... What is it?" And so that is what they named it; for "manna" simply means, "What is it?" Nobody in Israel could answer that question adequately. All they were to know was this: it was bread from heaven. Jesus alone could give the real answer: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (Jn. 6:51). But the pot of manna was to be kept as a memorial. No one ate of this bread. And unlike the rest of the manna that fell around the camp, this bread did not go into corruption, or waste away. Laid away in the ark of the covenant it was to be kept throughout their generations. Israel had the manna-bread daily as it fell from heaven.
The priests had sabbath-bread which they ate weekly: the shewbread that had been on the table in the holy place throughout the previous six working days, but not eaten until the sabbath day.
But here in the holy of holies was "hidden manna." It was not available even to the priests. It was not seen by any mortal eye. It is a type of the Living Christ. It is bread that has been reserved for the overcomer. For Jesus said, "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna" (Rev. 2:17).
Aaron's Rod That Budded
A controversy had arisen in Israel over the authority of God's priests. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, along with certain others, rose up against Moses and Aaron and charged that they were exalting themselves above the others by keeping the priesthood to themselves. It is awesome how God vindicated His chosen ones; for the very ground next to the Tabernacle opened up and swallowed the gainsayers alive into the pit of Sheol. The next day the people went on murmuring, complaining that Moses and Aaron had slain the Lord's people. Then God sent a great plague, which was removed only when Aaron ran into their midst with a burning censer, and stood between the living and the dead.
God always vindicates His own in one way or another. But they must not seek to vindicate themselves, as they do so often. Not so in the case of Moses and Aaron. They fell on their faces before God when they were challenged, and God came forth on their behalf. Not only so, but when the plague fell on the murmurers they sought God on their behalf, as true priests of God, and stood between the living and the dead with the burning censer. In type they were saying, "Lord, if our life is unto You as sweet incense, then hear our prayer, and lay not this sin to their charge." God gives authority to His servants who least desire it, and there is no need on their part to try to maintain it. They did not seek it in the first place, then why should they try to uphold it? Invariably, we have observed, when men try to grasp authority or to maintain the authority they have, they lose it. If God gives it, then it is His responsibility to stand behind His chosen ones.
To settle the whole matter Moses ordained that each of the tribes present their "rod" before the Lord. Each rod was a dead, dry stick. Their name was to be clearly marked on the rod, and the rod of Aaron was placed among them. They were all laid together before the ark of the covenant, and the next morning they were brought out and presented to the people. All the rods were the same as before, except Aaron's. Overnight it had brought forth buds, blossoms, and almonds. (See Num. 17:7-10.) (And let this be a reminder to God's people who seem to have the notion that God must have years and years and years to bring forth this glorious and fruitful Church that He has promised. He can do it overnight if He chooses to do so!)
The word "almond" means "awaker," because it is one of the first trees to bud in the time of spring. It speaks of Christ in resurrection life, the firstfruits unto God, risen and glorified at God's right hand. But it also speaks of resurrection life revealed in the mortal flesh of His people--in such as are planted together with Him in His death. You will recall how Aaron's rod was used to swallow up the rods of the magicians in Egypt, and then it became an ordinary stick again in his hands. Death is to be swallowed up in life. Just overnight it became a fruitful branch, and brought forth almonds!
"O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"
Next: Chapter 1 (Continued) - The Tables of Testimony
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