This sermon is number 2 in a series of 5
The Presence Of God - Part 2
"In The Tabernacle And Temple"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2010 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Let us pray: Father, we have entered Your gates with thanksgiving, and into Your courts with praise. We have sought, Lord, in our song to reverence You and Your presence. We have sought to enter into a more definite realisation that God is in our midst. Lord, we want now, as we come to Your truth, to see beyond the sacred page - for we seek Thee Lord. Our spirit pants for Thee, the Living Word. So Lord, we cry to You tonight: Lift the veil, if veil there be. Whatever is preventing us seeing the Lord high and lifted up, His train filling the temple; Lord, whatever is clogging our spiritual sight, or dulling our spiritual hearing - O God, by the power of the resurrected Christ, through the Holy Spirit we pray: may we see the Lord, may we hear His voice, may we have a sensitivity to His presence! Lord, we long for You. Deep cries unto deep, and so Lord we wait upon You, and we believe that we are not going to be disappointed, we believe that we have already sensed Your presence in this place among us. We pray now that as we look into Your word that, Lord, You will meet with us now. We need Your help, without You we can do nothing, and so Lord we wait upon You now in Jesus' name, Amen.
Now, as I've said, you're very welcome to this evening's meeting as we're looking at 'The Presence of God in the Tabernacle and Temple'. Last evening, if you were here, we were looking at 'The Presence of God in the Garden' - do make your way in there are plenty of seats at the front here, there's more seats here - come on ahead! We're looking tomorrow night at 'The Presence of God in Immanuel', and then we're looking on Thursday night at 'The Presence of God in Pentecost' or the Holy Spirit, and then on Friday night 'The Presence of God in the New Jerusalem'. There are some cards advertising the meetings and the subjects, and if you can use them we would appreciate that.
Perhaps if you want to turn to a passage of Scripture you could turn to Exodus chapter 29. While you're doing that, let me just explain something of the format of these meetings - not too different than your average ministry meeting, save to say that we will not be ending the meeting each night with a closing hymn, but what we will be doing is: after we finish preaching the word we will be just going to a time of waiting upon God. Now that is not a time of prayer per se, it is not a time really of praise or singing per se - it might involve singing and it might involve prayer, but our primary focus is upon the Lord. We want to practice and preserve His presence as He comes into our midst by the Holy Spirit. We want to learn this week - and some of us, we believe, learned last night, and some perhaps even confess for the first time, what it was to just wait in the presence of God. So do not feel obliged to hang on, and no one will think any the less of you if you have to go - some people have commitments and some people are under various pressures, and we realise that and understand it - so don't feel that your arm is up your back that you have to stay and if you go people will think you're very unspiritual! But if you are disposed to stay and at liberty to do so, you're welcome to do that, and you're welcome to just bask in the presence of the Lord.
Now I said last evening, and I will repeat it, that there is more in Scripture said about God's desire to dwell in the midst of His people than there is about human beings desires to be with God. It has always been the passion of the Divine heart to dwell in the midst of His people. It continues to be His passion, and it always will be, as we will see to the end of this series. It's a predominant theme in the book, this Bible that we have, from Genesis right through to Revelation. I have tried to encapsulate that, very briefly it has to be said, in five nights going from the beginning right to the end. We looked last night at the Garden of Eden, we will look tonight at the Tabernacle and the Temple, we will look tomorrow night at Immanuel, Thursday night at Pentecost, the work of the Holy Spirit, and then the New Jerusalem and the eternal state which is yet to be. But we also said that if that is the weight of the emphasis of the word of God, surely it therefore must be a major and pre-eminent focus of our personal Christian experience? To know the presence of God in our individual lives.
The question I asked at the outset of last night's meeting, I ask again tonight: how much of the presence of God do you know in your personal life? Now, I'm sorry to repeat myself for anyone who was here last night, but I think it's important to say this much: when we're talking these evenings about the presence of God, we are not meaning simply the omnipresence of God - that is, that God is everywhere. We talked about that last evening, and you can get the recording perhaps. That's not what we're talking about, neither are we simply referring to the fact that Christ has promised to be where two or three are gathered in His name in the midst. As Head of the church, and the One we gather to, He is in our midst in a sense - but that's not what we're talking about. We saw last evening that we're speaking about something over and above that: a conscious sense of the presence of God in our midst, something that can be recognised, something that is manifest, something that is revealed, and something - essentially - that can be practised in our lives, and whenever we perceive it and recognise it we can preserve it. Whether it is in our individual walk or corporately as groups of God's people, the presence of God, when it is discerned - and there's so much talk these days about discernment, particularly in relation to discerning false doctrine - but one of the greatest gifts of discernment you can have is to discern the presence of God. I think that it's best described as 'the abiding presence'.
Now, one of the major ways God manifested His presence and dwelt with His people in the Old Testament was in the Tabernacle and in the Temple. Now I brought a slide, because I don't want to take anything for granted - because we assume that everybody knows what the Tabernacle is and what the Tabernacle looked like. Now we're not going to go into an extensive study of the Tabernacle tonight - that would be utterly impossible - but just to give you an idea. Essentially the Tabernacle was a tent, and God had given divine instructions of how it should be built, how it should be erected. As the children of Israel moved around the desert, the wilderness, for 40 years, this was the focal point of God's presence.
The purpose of the Tabernacle is given in this portion I asked you to turn to in Exodus 29, we're beginning to read at verse 42, God says: "This shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the LORD, where I will meet you to speak with you. And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by My glory. So I will consecrate the tabernacle of meeting and the altar. I will also consecrate both Aaron and his sons to minister to Me as priests. I will dwell among the children of Israel and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them up out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them. I am the LORD their God". Now look at verse 43: 'There I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by My glory'. Now God's glory that He's speaking of there, I referred to last evening without too much comment as 'Shekinah' glory. There are several ways you can spell it - and I'm not going to spell any of them! - but the Shekinah glory of God is very simply...well, let me explain it by telling you where that word is derived from. It's derived from the Hebrew for 'to dwell', 'shakan'. It's not a word that you'll find in the Bible as such, but you will find the root 'to dwell' in the Bible. So 'Shekinah' is the manifest presence of God - or you could put it like this: the visible manifestation of the presence of the invisible God. So, whenever God reveals Himself visibly, though He Himself is invisible, He often does it by Shekinah glory.
In the Old Testament, most of these visible manifestations took various forms such as light, fire, smoke or cloud, or even a combination of two or three of those manifestations. Now, when we come to the New Testament, as we will see tomorrow night, the Shekinah takes a new form: the incarnate Word - the Word becomes flesh and dwells among us. Here in the Old Testament at this particular juncture we see in verse 45 that the Tabernacle was for the purpose that God should dwell with the children of Israel in His Shekinah glory - verse 45: 'I will dwell among the children of Israel and will be their God'. The Hebrew for 'I will dwell' in verse 45 has the same root as 'Shekinah glory'. Now, once the Tabernacle was finished according to the specifications that God gave to Moses on the Mount, the Shekinah glory of God, the visible manifestation of the invisible God, took up residence within the tent.
Now let me show you where this happened - turn with me to chapter 40 of Exodus. Verse 34 of chapter 40 of Exodus: 'Then the cloud', the Shekinah, 'covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the LORD was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys'. Now verse 34 describes how the cloud covered the Tabernacle, and then the glory of the Lord, the glory of Jehovah, His Shekinah visible manifestation filled the whole house. Now, incidentally, the Hebrew word for 'tabernacle', the tent of meeting, is actually the Hebrew word 'mishkan' (sp?) - and again the root of that word has the same root as 'Shekinah', 'shakan', which means 'to dwell'. So you could translate the word Tabernacle: 'The dwellingplace of the Shekinah'. The tabernacle, therefore, was the earthly dwellingplace of the visible manifestation of the invisible God.
In verse 35 we see that the cloud took its abode within Israel, and the word 'abode' is used in verse 35, or the word 'rested' is also used - and it's simply a translation again of the Hebrew word 'shakan', the same root for this term 'Shekinah glory'. Then finally in verses 36 through to 38 we see that the cloud, as it covered the whole tabernacle and the whole congregation, it was the visible presence of the invisible God that led the children of Israel through their wilderness experience. Now I'm not going to dwell on this tonight, but this is a vital principle of guidance in our Christian pilgrimage: that we are to follow God, we are to find out where His presence is, we are to look for where He is moving. Even the Lord Jesus said: 'I do the works that I see My Father do'. So when Jesus, if you'll excuse the expression, got up in the morning: He didn't ask God to bless what He was going to do, He asked His Father what He wanted Him to do, what He was doing, and He did those works. Now that's a vital principle of guidance in our Christian lives, and even in our churches. We need to ask the question: where is God working today? Where is God moving? Where is God blessing? What is God owning? What is God honouring? We will find that a lot of the things that we fiddle about with, God has nothing to do with them!
But that's a digression. Now when we look at the Tabernacle here, and if we were to see a model of it, even a life-size model of it, you would see that there is no external beauty to behold in this edifice. It was covered - you can't really make it out in this picture - by weatherbeaten skins of animals. The reason why it was so non-descript and underwhelming - there was an anti-climax when you saw what this Tabernacle was - the focal point was to be the Shekinah, the glory of God. The tabernacle was like the offset, the black backdrop to set off the diamond of this great shining glory of Jehovah. Now, if you were to go in through the gate - you couldn't do it of course - but if you were to go in through the gate, and through the court, and in the front entrance to the Holy Place which is the first section of the Tabernacle here which was the biggest section. It ended about here - when you entered there, there was artificial light, there was a candlestick, a menorah as you would see it in Israel - you maybe even have got one as a souvenir, but this was a life-size one. There was a table of shewbread, and then there was an altar of incense. We'll not go into the significance of those tonight - but there was artificial light there in that Holy Place, but when you entered into the Holiest Place of All, or The Holy of Holies, this cube box at the very end, there was no window and there was no artificial light. All there was was a piece of furniture called 'The Ark of the Covenant'. You might ask the question - and you ought to be thinking - how could the High Priest, once a year, perform his services and duties in complete and absolute blackness? The answer to that question very simply is that he had light: he had a manifestation, a visible manifestation of the invisible God through the shining of the Shekinah glory.
Now we're told - and this is only an artist's impression of course - that where the cherubim, these angelic figures, where their wings met on top of the Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant - this box of God of acacia wood, overlaid inside and outside by gold - the Shekinah dwelt there between the Mercy Seat and the cherubim, and there was light. Not natural light, but the light of God coming to rest upon the Ark, on this lid under the cherubim. Do you remember last night, I told you from the experience of Eden that whenever cherubim are mentioned on Earth it always signifies the meeting place of God with men? Here's cherubim on the top of the Ark of the Covenant, and here is the High Priest and the Shekinah glory - and it's resting upon this lid of the Ark of the Covenant. Now this lid is called the 'Mercy Seat'. The reason why it is called 'a seat' is because it is considered that the Lord was seated there on the Mercy Seat, and that's why the Shekinah glory is there. The Lord is seen to be enthroned under the two cherubim. It's called the 'Mercy' seat because once a year the High Priest - as you see him here - with his finger he sprinkled blood to make an atonement for Israel's sins, sprinkling for mercy the Mercy Seat by the blood of bulls and goats.
Now, I could enter in tonight - and it would be very profitable - to talk about how this is such a wonderful typical picture of our Lord Jesus Christ, His great redemptive plan before the ages were, and how this Ark in particular is a picture and portrait of the Lord Jesus: fully man, yet fully God. Fully man, just as this box is made of acacia wood; and yet Divine, overlaid and inside laid with gold - the Lord Jesus Christ's two natures. We could talk about how He is spoken of as our propitiation, and the great sacrifice that He made. He didn't have to make it once a year, He doesn't have to keep making it - it is made once and for all, by the shedding of His blood there is remission of sins. But the main point that I want to dwell on tonight is the fact that He still is the meeting place between God and men - Christ Jesus. He is the One who will bring us into God's presence.
Now we think of these terms often in relation to our redemption, and our salvation, and eternal life, and to our standing before God - but I want us to think about this in relation to our present-day experiential knowledge of the manifestation of the presence of God in our life. You've got to understand Christ, and you've got to value Christ, and you've got to cherish Christ - not just as the crucified One who was buried, but as the risen, glorified Great High Priest who is your life! He is the One to bring us into the presence of God!
Now, we're skipping out a lot of time here as far as history is concerned, but during the period of the Judges - which was a very long period of time in the Bible, Joshua and Judges - the people of God took the presence of God for granted. Now that seems a staggering statement when you think about it. These people were able to look out of their tent door at night and see a flaming pillar of Shekinah glory. They were able to look out of their tent in the daytime and see a pillar of cloud, smoke, Shekinah glory. Now and again it would move off, and they would lift their tents and move with it - yet this people took for granted the visible presence of the invisible God in their midst. It was demonstrated in their behaviour towards, in particular, the Ark of the Covenant, which was the focal point of God's presence. Just as Christ is the focal point of God's presence today, the Ark of the Covenant was the focal point of His presence then - we saw the Shekinah hovering over it. Do you know how they treated the Ark? As a kind of talisman, as a good luck charm. We see an incident of this whenever they were getting into trouble in battle, their backs were against the wall and they were losing, and they cried: 'Bring the Ark to the scene!'. They thought: 'If we bring the Ark on the field, it's as if we're bringing God behind us!'.
Essentially what they were doing was: they were using and abusing the presence of God. Now, believer, before you point the finger and start standing in judgement over the ancient Israelites, ask yourself the question: do you do this in your own personal experience? When your back is against the wall, you call God in! 'Where is the presence of God? Where is my help?' - and so often we use and abuse His presence. Rather what they should have been doing is what we are exhorting you to do in these meetings: they should have recognised the presence of God in their midst and, having recognised it, reverenced it. But because they neither recognised nor reverenced it, the ultimate happening was: they lost it! What a lesson!
The story goes in the Judges time that the Ark was captured by the Philistines. You remember that Eli's daughter-in-law had a child at that time, and she named him 'Ichabod', which means 'the glory is departed' - 1 Samuel 4. The lesson is - and we could preach a whole series of sermons on that alone - but the lesson is: if you do not covet the presence of God, if you do not recognise the presence of God, if you do not reverence the presence of God if and when you have it, you will lose it! Eventually, the story goes that Israel recovered the Ark - and though that child was called 'Ichabod', the glory didn't depart at that particular time. But during the time of Samuel the prophet, the Ark of the Covenant was not restored to its rightful place in the Tabernacle - I have a hunch that Samuel believed that it didn't have the rightful place that it ought to have had in the hearts of the people. But eventually a king came along after God's own heart, whose name was David, and David had a passion - his passion was the passion and the heartbeat of the Almighty, and that is: that God should again dwell in a reverenced, recognised place in the midst of His people! David wanted the Ark of the Covenant to be back in a place of prominence among the people. You can read this in his Psalms and in other parts of the historical record of this event, how his heart grieved and broke, and how he mourned because there was no place in Israel for God's glory to rest.
Believer: is that the passion of your heart? That there is no place in the church, there is no place in our lives for a visible manifestation of the invisible God? Well, of course, David, though it was in his heart and God honoured him for it, he himself was not allowed to build the Temple. That privilege would be given to his son, Solomon - and that Temple he built, of course, became known as 'Solomon's Temple'. We'll not go into the details of this, you can read about it in 1 Kings chapter 8 and in 2 Chronicles 5 right through to chapter 7 - but the Shekinah glory that had previously been in the Tabernacle, in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle, then at the dedication of Solomon's Temple was transferred to the Holiest Place of All, the Holy of Holies, over the Ark of the Covenant again in the Temple. We read that a very similar thing happened when Solomon was praying - just as it happened to Moses in the tent - as Solomon was praying the Shekinah glory, the great cloud of God's visible presence, filled the whole house.
Now, I will get you to turn to 1 Kings chapter 8 for a moment to that account for the purposes of looking at one verse - 1 Kings chapter 8 verse 13, and this is in the prayer that Solomon makes at the dedication of the Temple. He says this, verse 12: 'Then Solomon spoke: 'The LORD said He would dwell in the dark cloud'', Shekinah, ''I have surely built You an exalted house, and a place for You to dwell in forever''. Now that was a prayer, and that was a spiritual prayer, and it was a prayer in the will of God - but it was a prayer that would not be fulfilled in Solomon's Temple. Let me show you the reason why, and for this we have to go to the book of Ezekiel. Turn with me then to the great prophet Ezekiel - Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, if you can find that - and in Ezekiel we have the story of the departure of the Shekinah glory from the Temple. This happened in four stages, and the reason why this happened, the reason why the Shekinah glory departed from Solomon's Temple was simply because of the sin of the children of Israel. We read here that God left reluctantly in four stages.
Now can I just remind you, if you were here last night, that I said that Adam and Eve in the Garden, they heard the footsteps of God - I believe it was a pre-incarnate form of the Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ in the Garden, I believe that that's how they fellowshipped with God Almighty. They dined with the Lord Jesus Christ in the cool of the day at late afternoon, but they heard Him approaching - and that is always the emphasis of Scripture: that God is wanting fellowship with us. Haven't we said it? God wants to dwell with us more than we want to dwell with Him. Here we see it again, because though God's Shekinah is departing from the Temple in Solomon's Temple, He is doing it reluctantly - and that is demonstrated in the four stage pull-out of God's Shekinah. He doesn't want to move, but He is evicted by His own people's sin! If you read Ezekiel's prophecy, you will find out that the particular sin that evicted the presence of God was that of idolatry. The people of God had got to such an idolatrous state that they had erected an idol which was called 'The Image of Jealousy' at the Northgate of the Temple, an image to a false god in the house of God! What a lesson!
You remember I said last night that this abiding presence of God that we're emphasising is something akin to what John 15 talks about as 'abiding', but what John then talks about in 1st John, 2nd and 3rd John, as 'fellowship'. Can you remember what the last verse in the first Epistle of John is? 'Little children, keep yourselves from idols' - it's interesting, isn't it? Idolatry robs us of the visible presence of the invisible God manifest in our lives, this abiding presence. Where there are two Gods in the Temple, one will have to move - for this God Jehovah, the true and living God, will not share His glory with another. Therefore it is better for all of us to remove any false presence, or false idol or deity, rather than to lose the true One, rather than the true presence depart.
In this instance it was sin that caused God to evacuate His own house...and I believe that God has evacuated His own house today. Now, you can argue with me all you like about the omnipresence of God, and where two or three are gathered...I think I've dealt with that enough. What I'm talking about is this visible, conscious, manifest, definitely aware, almost tangible, sensitive presence of God that we can experience and know as individuals and collectively when we're met together - God has evacuated, in that sense, primarily because of the sin of His people - and most of our sin is idolatry!
Now let's look at this four stage pull-out of God's presence. If you turn to chapter 9 of Ezekiel, in verse 3 we see the first stage of the departure of the Shekinah from the Temple. This first stage was from the Holy of Holies to the threshold of the door of the Temple, a very short journey - God is reluctant as He pulls out. Verse 3, the first part of verse 3 of chapter 9: 'Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub, where it had been, to the threshold of the temple'. We read the same in chapter 10 verse 4: 'Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub, and paused over the threshold of the temple; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the Lord's glory'. It moves from the cherubim at the Ark's lid, the Mercy Seat, and to the threshold of the door of the Temple, and pauses there - the first stage. He's not wanting to move, but He's being put out by another god.
The second stage, we find it in chapter 10 also, and this second stage - verses 18 through to 19 - is from the threshold of the door of the Temple to the Eastern gate. Verse 18: 'Then the glory of the LORD departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim. And the cherubim lifted their wings', these angelic creatures carried this presence, 'and mounted up from the earth in my sight. When they went out, the wheels were beside them; and they stood at the door of the east gate of the Lord's house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them'. The first stage from The Holiest Place of All above the cherubim and the Ark of the Covenant, and the presence moves to the door of the Temple. Then the presence moves from the door of the temple to the Eastern gate of the Temple.
Look at the third stage, chapter 11 this time, verse 22. This stage is from the Eastern gate moving out, right out of the city jurisdiction, to the Mount of Olives - outside city limits. Verse 22 of chapter 11: 'So the cherubim lifted up their wings, with the wheels beside them, and the glory of the God of Israel was high above them. And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain, which is on the east side of the city' - that is, the Mount of Olives. Now, do you know what that means? The city is now doomed. Jehovah, their God, Lord, Covenant Keeper and Protector, has vacated the holy city.
Now, my friend, I really want you to grasp these truths tonight. I would love to have time - and we don't - to go into the second and third chapter of Revelation and see how Christ assumes the position of the Judge Priest, the Head of His church, and how He comes to certain local assemblies in Asia Minor and He threatens them if they do not repent, that He will come and take away their candlestick. Taking away their candlestick was not taking away their light, it was not taking away their testimony, it was meaning they are doomed, they're finished! This is serious stuff!
The fourth stage is when the presence moves - and it's inferred of course in this book and its conclusion, and the rest of the Old Testament Scripture - the fourth stage is when it moves from the Mount of Olives, and leaves Israel completely and disappears from Jewish history. Now here's a lesson if ever there was one: the visible manifestation of the presence of the invisible God, when it departs, departs in stages. It can take 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, 50 years. In rabbinic tradition, it's not biblical, but the rabbis believed that the Shekinah glory, when it went to the Mount of Olives in this third stage of departure, that it hovered there, it waited there for three and a half years before it finally went away - in order that Israel might repent and again receive the presence of God.
Now think about this, the significance of this is incredible, because it was from this very spot on the Mount of Olives that our Lord ascended to glory after three and a half year's ministry in Israel. More than that: after His ascension in A.D. 70, the Temple would be destroyed, and our Lord pronounced that their house would be left desolate to them because they rejected the very presence of God, the greatest manifestation of God's presence that has ever been - Immanuel. It will be to the same spot that the Shekinah glory in His greatest revelation will reappear again at the second coming of our Lord Jesus. Remember, He said himself in Matthew 16: 'The Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father', that's the Shekinah glory!
So you see how this all transpires: in the Tabernacle God gives them a place to meet with Him and share and enjoy His presence. They take it for granted, they lose it. They regain it. It lies dormant for a long time, and then eventually a man after God's own heart with a passion for God's presence puts it in its rightful place, along with his son. The people of God again turn to their idolatry and their wickedness, and God reluctantly starts to move away - four stages, think of it! Then, perhaps for three and a half years, hovers over the Mount of Olives, not wanting to go, waiting on His people to repent! But He has to go.
But that's not where the story ends either, because you will know - if you know your Old Testament history - that Solomon's Temple was not the last Temple that was ever built, there is the second Temple, Zerubbabel's Temple. But there is a marked distinction and contrast between Zerubbabel's Temple and Solomon's Temple - do you know what it is? The Shekinah glory was not in it. Let me show you this, turn with me to Haggai - go to the end of your Old Testament and come back a couple of books and you will come to Haggai. Chapter 2 verse 3, the children of Judah have now come out of exile in Babylon, and they are now starting to rebuild the Temple as God instructed them to do. It has taken them a while to get their act together, but they're now doing it - but the old men start to weep, because this new Temple pales into insignificance in comparison to the old one. In verse 3 of chapter 2 we read: 'Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? In comparison with it, is this not in your eyes as nothing?'. Now, how could they say it was in their eyes as nothing? Simply because the thing that made it anything, the thing that made it something was the manifest visible presence of God, this great Shekinah, this light and fire and cloud.
Now, of course, there's a promise in this chapter, and it's found in verse 9 - a hard one to work out when you think that the Shekinah was not in this second Temple - Haggai says: ''The glory of this latter temple'', the second Temple, ''shall be greater than the former'', that is, Solomon's, ''says the LORD of hosts. 'And in this place I will give peace,' says the LORD of hosts'. What a promise! What God is saying is: this second Temple is going to contain in a greater measure, some day, the Shekinah glory of God. Did it ever? Well, one day a poor teenage mother and a carpenter father carried a bundle of Divine flesh into this temple - Immanuel, God with Us! One day this Messiah, as a Man, walked into this Temple - many days He walked into it - but one day He walked into it and He cleansed it! Then He walked out of it, and He walked up the Mount of Olives, and He wept over it!
He's going to come back to the Temple one day, but unlike the Tabernacle and the first Temple of Solomon's, the second Temple did not begin with a manifestation of the Shekinah glory of God - but rather it ended with that manifestation when Jesus stood, in Matthew chapter 12, and said: 'I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple'. Wonderful!
My friend, what am I getting at? Well, let's tie this together with last night as we bring all this to a close. There is a sense in which the Tabernacle and the Temple actually represent Eden. I don't know whether you've ever heard this before, but Eden after the fall was barred to man. Now we noted last night that God did not destroy Eden when man fell into sin, what He did was: He marked it as the place of His presence by putting those cherubim there, and also a flaming sword which is Shekinah glory, and He marked it as still the meeting place that we can have with God - but there had to be a sacrifice, there had to be a redemption, there had to be a price paid, there had to be a way back. We found out, didn't we, that we can even enter that Eden now by the Spirit - and we saw that to the church at Ephesus, that we can come if we overcome, we can eat of the Tree of Life in the Paradise of God. One day that will be completely realised in the New Jerusalem, and we will see that on Friday night. But we noted that Eden was not destroyed because of sin, it was destroyed because of neglect, it deteriorated. It has always been God's all-consuming desire to keep coming, to keep coming, keep coming to His people to meet with them. But He's got a problem, and His problem is sin, but He's continually overcoming the problem to meet with His people!
So do you see how the Tabernacle is so like Eden after the fall? It's fenced off, you saw it didn't you? Fenced off, and you're not allowed into it, no Jew was allowed even into the court other than the priestly class. The death penalty was upon you if you even approached the presence of God like that. Eden, barred - God wants to meet, and He devises this whole ritualistic priestly system to let His people come to Him, and allow Him to dwell in the midst of His people. We all know it's pointing forward to that great sacrifice. Let's go to that sacrifice, turn with me to Hebrews chapter 10 please, verse 19 - now this is for you: 'Therefore, brethren, having boldness', or confidence, 'to enter the Holiest', the Holy of Holies, no one ever entered there only the High Priest once a year, 'Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter', confidence to enter, 'the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near' - let us draw near! - 'with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water'.
Now listen: I said last night that we can know God better than Adam and Eve knew God in idyllic Eden, the Paradise of God, before the fall of man into sin! We can know Him better now through Christ! I asked you: do you believe that? But tonight we're looking at the Tabernacle and the Temple, and I'm saying to you again: we can know the presence of God in a greater way than the whole congregation of Israel did in the desert around the Tabernacle pitched there! We can know God in a greater way than those who entered the Temple, even than the priestly class, even than the High Priest who entered the Holiest of All once a year and saw the Shekinah with his own eyes! Do you believe that? Do you believe you can - now listen to what I'm saying, and I'm not saying it lightly - you can experience God in a way that they never did?
Why else would the writer to the Hebrews say: 'Let us come boldly' - they couldn't come boldly, they came in fear and trepidation! The High Priest was under fear of his life, but we can come boldly! He could go in once a year, we can come in every moment of every day! Boldly! With confidence! In and out and find pasture! Go in and out and dine with Him and He with us! What do we know of this? What do we know of this? This is our privilege, and yet we waste it, we don't avail of it! Most of us, if we're honest, know nothing about it - and it's the very thing that God envisaged from His heart before the fall, after the fall, and in Calvary and the resurrection, and everything that He's ever done at any time in eternal history and the plan of redemption - it's all been for this: that He might meet with us, dwell with us, and that we might - listen, using the term advisedly - experience God Almighty.
Vance Havner said: 'Nothing is scarier today in Christians and churches than the absence of the presence of God' - and I agree with him! He goes on to say: 'Moses asked, 'How shall we know that we are Thy people? Is it not that Thou goest with us?'', He continues, 'The devil will do anything to destroy the awareness of God's presence. One of his favourite tools is annoying circumstances'. Vance Havner goes on to tell this anecdote of a preacher he knew called 'Old Bud Robinson', and he went to hold a series of meetings in what he called 'a spiritually dead church'. He was staying in the pastor's house, and he said that one evening he was in the room praying rather loudly - he could have been heard a mile away - and the pastor poked his head around the door, and looked in and said: 'Bud, dear brother, God's not deaf you know'. Bud turned to him, still on his knees, and he said: 'I know He's not deaf, but He's a long way from this place!'.
Is God a long way from your place? In Israel there was an impediment to the sense of the presence of God, an impediment that shut out a sense of God's presence. Now listen carefully to what I'm saying: the reason why we lack a sense of the presence of God in our churches is simply because it's not in our individual lives. This isn't rocket science: if you're filled with the Holy Spirit, and you have a tangible manifestation of God in an abiding presence every day of your life, and you get half a dozen people like that and put them in a room the presence of God will be overwhelming! The presence of the risen Christ will be almost overbearing. This is what we need - and let me say this to you: without it we have nothing! We have nothing.
A. J. Gordon, I don't know whether you've heard of him or not but he lived in 1836 through to 1895. He was converted at the age of 15 and he was a Baptist minister, the author of several books, for years a pastor of Clarendon Street Baptist Church in Boston. The secret of his powerful ministry is described in a book he wrote, 'When Christ Came to Church'. It's a hard one to get your hands on, but in the book he relates a dream that he had early in his Christian ministry when he was at Clarendon Street Baptist Church. In the dream, he dreamt he came to his pulpit and he stood there at the start of the service. He began the service as per usual, and the door opened at the back and the usher admitted a very fine looking gentleman - that's how he described him. The usher brought him down the aisle and showed him his seat. He says in the book: 'The man had a very refined face, there was something very elegant about it'. Through the whole service Gordon said he couldn't take his eyes off the man, he couldn't help noticing him and wondering who he was. After the service, when the people had gone home, Gordon sought out the usher and asked him about the man: 'Who is that gentleman that you ushered into his seat tonight?'. 'Oh', came the reply from the usher, 'didn't you know? That was Jesus Christ. He came into the service and asked that he might sit there - didn't you realise that?'. Didn't you realise that?
Gordon suddenly awoke from his dream, but from that moment on his ministry was turned upside down. The next time he went into his pulpit he seemed transformed, refreshed, renewed and revived - why? Because he was aware of the presence of Jesus there, he was aware that Jesus was in the pew, that Jesus was in the aisle, that Jesus was in the pulpit with him, that Jesus was at the door, that Jesus was there. Oh, let those words of that usher in that dream echo in your soul tonight - 'Didn't you realise?'. Didn't you realise who is here? Maybe the question is rather: don't you recognise?
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered in The Lifeboat Fellowship in Moy, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the second recording in his 'The Presence Of God' series, entitled "In The Tabernacle And Temple" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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