In the last post I talked about how we are the tabernacle of God. The symbolism of the tabernacle and how it relates to us is quite astonishing, really. Of course you have to get past the legal categories, the good-bad filter and the desperate need for a literal understanding of the Bible. Are you lost on that last concept?
Let me shock you for a moment. What if the red sea wasn’t parted by Moses? What if there weren’t these two towering walls of water like the Cecil B. Demille version? What if “parting the red sea” was a metaphor? Does your “faith crumble” and your “head boil with anger” or you “throw your hands and run to the atheist for answers?” I hope not. Still our reaction to the question, however ridiculous the question, tells us a lot about our faith. Do we have faith in a Bible? Do we have faith in data? Do we have faith in historical records? Do we have faith in the “works of God?” Or do we have faith IN GOD. Does that hurt your head? It shouldn’t. This is why God said He would “write His laws on our hearts” and “we would have no need to teach one another” because “we would all know Him.” I hope you can see that our faith is in the “person” of God, the nature of God , the character of the creator, the truth of Jesus, the interwoven beauty of our triune Father and Abba and Brother and Groom and Teacher and so much more. Our faith is in His faithfulness. This journey we are on is a relationship not an academic instruction with a test at the end. The data are meaningless without a conversation. Are you getting this?
OK, rubbing some salt on the “did He part the red sea?” wound, let me suggest that the “facts of the story” as “factual evidence” and therefore “something to be learned and memorized and trust” is a huge exercise in missing the point. In the ancient system and language and conversation of the day, water was a symbol of chaos. The Israelites needed some good material to share with their potentially hostile neighbors. The God of Israel would need to be bigger and badder and more powerful than any of the neighboring g.o.d.s. So a story that has God parting chaos for His people is pretty awesome. God delivering His people from their enemies and manipulating nature to do it, was a fantastic story. In their customs and cultures, the truth of the data (how deep was the water, how long did it take, how did Moses do it, was God doing or using Moses to do it…bla bla bla…when did it happen, did anyone see it, is there evidence…bla bla bla) was not part of the conversation. That is a western, Greek cosmology way of approaching the story. These people were fired up by just the “idea” of such a God. All the other g.o.d.s were mean and hostile and hard to please and needed child sacrifices to be happy and brought severe famine and horrific diseases just because the people didn’t worship right or bring the right sacrifice or bow down or whatever…. This God of the Israelites “saves” His people. Come on!!!! This is amazing and powerful and something to be envied. Jehovah Jireh provides a way out. This was unheard of. The “fact that He did it” in such as spectacular way (or not) was the “so what” in the story. The FACT that He did it AT ALL was mind-blowing.
Now with a reframing of sorts, how about another look at the tabernacle and the ark?
Step back into the Holy of Holies. The walls are these “boards” of acacia wood that are covered with gold and held together with acacia wood poles which are also covered with gold. Remember gold would be the “God stuff” and wood would be the “man stuff.” Even in the structure is the evidence of the union of God and man. Now in this room there was the glory or presence of God. His presence was so strong that the room glowed with a divine light. Now imagine yourself as the tabernacle. This glory or presence is in you. Oh, yeah.
Now back to the ark. Again this is an ark made of wood (the dirt part of us) and gold (the divine union God has with us). Our basic human desire parts are on the inside of the ark covered by the mercy seat (Jesus). The jar of manna represents what we need, food and stuff. If we trust God we have plenty at the right time and it is good. If we horde and worry and store up because we don’t have faith in God, it spoils and the worms eat it and all that “Appolyon” stuff. In the ark is also the budding rod which represents structures and plans and leadership and authority. When we trust God’s plan it works out and dead sticks produce flowers and buds and fruit. When we take matters into our own hands, it turns into ashes and death and wars. And of course the tablets of stone. When we make the laws or use the laws of God as an accusatory tool against another, we are the voice of the accuser. The Bible calls that “the satan.” Ouch. If we let the law do what is was intended, namely show us how to love one anther, then we have means to surrender our fallen way of community to a divine way of community. So, I hope you see, the ark and the tabernacle could be a metaphor of us, right? How about a verse?
John 14:20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. (ESV)
The ark is in the Holy of Holies (God’s place) and the ark is Jesus in union with us with our carnal human desires inside the ark? Maybe it is just me….
Let’s have some fun.
There is a story where Eli has two sons. Eli is running the show for Israel. Samuel is the “heir apparent” but Eli is still in power. Eli has two sons that are not being faithful to the Levite tradition and God’s intended purpose of the “religion” of Israel. No, they instead are using the “church” for profit. They are making themselves “wealthy” by making the “church’ a business. What happens next? The Philistines come and steal the ark. The “secular world” takes the “core identity” of Israel. Too much of a stretch? OK, if the ark is us and Jesus as one, our core identity, then what happens when we “lose the ark?” What happens when WE or the church looses their identity? What happens when we forget that we have this union with God? What happens when we start thinking in terms of separation? What happens when money and profit and “stuff” becomes our “idols” as a church or a person? Could it be that our identity is lost?
The fun part of that imagery is the idea that the “world” takes it but the world now “has it.” As my dear friend said “the world stole Jesus.” Look around. Is there more Jesus in a church that is condemning and accusing and threatening or in a homeless or battered women’s shelter? Just saying.
One more fun one.
The Temple is a “structural” representation of the tabernacle. God didn’t want a Temple but He let David and Solomon have their way. Yes, because He loved them that much. In the metaphor we become this rigid form of ourselves when we are bound by religion. Maybe that is a stretch, but ask yourself if you are “free” to ask the hard questions inside the walls of “religious structures?” Can you ask the pastor or priest about mass genocide in the Bible and get a satisfactory response? Can you question “doctrines” and “dogmas” and “rituals” and “practices?” In most settings, not so much. The fear of being proven wrong keeps the questions suppressed and ignored. Instead the “structure” needs the security of certainty to maintain integrity. That is faith in religion not in God.
So Jesus comes on the scene and says the Temple will be destroyed and He will rebuild it in three days. They think He is crazy. In one sense the physical Temple was destroyed. This Temple was empty oh by the way. There was no ark in this temple. It had been long-lost or misplaced or hidden or taken. The temple was missing its “core identity” if we are sticking with the metaphor.
In another sense Jesus is the temple or tabernacle just like us. He is the first fruit. His is the God-man. He is the perfect human. His “ARK” is perfectly intact. He knows that He knows who His Dad is and who He is in His Dad and who the Holy Spirit is and what She is doing and how He is joined to both of them. He knows the wood and the gold in the Holy of Holies. His “body” or “tabernacle” was “destroyed” on a cross. In that process mankind gets to see the true nature of God. This is a God who forgives mankind for killing and rejecting and ignoring and ridiculing Him. He is raised on the third day to prove He is who He says He is and “seal the deal” on the forgiveness thing. He doesn’t come out of the tomb to condemn but to save. He resurrects the temple (tabernacle) and in doing so shows us who we are and who our Father is and what our ark looks like.
Come on. Isn’t that cool?
Maybe it is too much of a stretch for some of you but let your mind of Christ ask these kinds of questions and ponder the “things of God.” It is our journey to have this conversation. It is our privilege as His kids to talk to our Father. We get to let Jesus reveal these truths. We get to let the Holy Spirit illuminate the relationship. We get to meander about in the green pastures by the still waters. Go ahead and take a walk and explore the nature of you as the tabernacle of God. That is pretty awesome.