on the other side of the curtain

The Word for today:
Exodus 36:8-37:9

Q. What is Jesus doing right now, at this very moment?

A. He’s praying for you and for me. In fact, according to the Book of Hebrews, he prays night and day for us:
Therefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25)

Q. Where is Jesus right now, at this very moment?

A. He’s praying at the altar of incense in the heavenly tabernacle. (Incense is a symbol of the sweet savor of prayer (1), ascending to the Father.)

Q. “The heavenly tabernacle?”

A. I don’t want you to get seasick, but the Tabernacle has tipped! When it was down here, it was horizontal. But now it’s vertical. The gate is down here, but the Most Holy Place (where Jesus is) is up there.

And we’re up there with him–in him–on the other side of the curtain that only the High Priest can enter!

This is illustrated by the fact that in Exodus, the altar of incense was outside the curtain (or veil) that encloses the Most Holy Place (2). But in the New Testament book of Hebrews, the altar of incense has moved inside (3).  Jesus took our prayers, and us, in with him!

Through the death of Jesus on the cross, we entered through the veil, which is his flesh:
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. (Matthew 27:50-51)

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Most Holy Place 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 with a true heart in full assurance of faith. (Hebrews 10:19-22)

Now, because of Jesus our High Priest, we can come boldly into God the Father’s presence:
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens…let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

***

Before Jesus died for our sins, we were on the outside of the curtain, still separated from God. But now, through him, we can go right in.

These concepts may seem a little far out, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t real.

In fact, the tabernacle on earth was just a copy of the real tabernacle in heaven (4). And the High Priest, Aaron, was just a shadow of our real High Priest, Jesus.

If you want to get real and stop living in Shadow Land, then you’ve got to start to see that the tabernacle is tipped on its end, the High Priest is Jesus, and you’re with him on the other side of the curtain…

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(1) See Psalm 141:2; (2) see Exodus 26:33; (3) Hebrews 9:4; (4) Hebrews 8:5

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Please pass the bread.

The Word for today:
Exodus 35.1-36:7

Today, our tour of the Tabernacle will be stopping at the Table of Showbread (1), which is a pictorial prophecy of Jesus, the Bread of Life…

Most importantly, of course, the Table of Showbread is a prophetic picture of the Savior:
On the night in which he was betrayed he took bread; and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body which is broken for you…” (1 Corinthians 11:23-24)

But we sometimes forget that the Table of Showbread is also a preview of our Creator/Sustainer:
Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. (Matthew 14:19)

***

Scripture records that when Jesus fed the 15,000 (2) he gave thanks. But I wonder how many of them thanked him?

Thanksgiving, where I come from, is the day between the biggest bar night of the year and the biggest shopping day of the year. It’s sort of a rest between a doubleheader of conspicuous consumption.

I once watched the entire Macy’s Parade just to see if any one of the announcers would announce “Thanks.” I must have heard the word “Thanksgiving” a hundred times. But not once did I hear thanks given.

Continuing my experiment, I watched the Detroit Lions football game. I heard the word “Thanksgiving” another hundred times, but I still never heard thanks given.

Finally, I watched the Dallas Cowboys football game. I figured that someone from the southern so-called Bible Belt might hold up a sign saying, “Thanks, God.” I figured wrong.

This is no holier-than-thou appeal to remember to “say grace” (whatever that means). I’m not asking anyone to parade his piety. It just seems to me that God, as Creator, provides all food for man and beast. So whether we like it or not, we eat every day at His table in the physical realm. All holy hokum aside, it’s just downright rude and crass not to give thanks to God.

Maybe thanking the Savior of our souls, whose body was broken for our redemption, can be classified as a spiritual exercise — as a matter of prayer.

But saying thanks for our physical food isn’t anything more than simple table manners.

Anyway — How ’bout them Cowboys…

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(1) Most modern versions translate “Showbread” as “Bread of the Presence” (2) The number of woman and children accompanying “5000 men” would have at least tripled the crowd.

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the Light is always on

The Word for today:
Exodus 34

The Tabernacle is God’s picture book, illustrating the great doctrines of the Christian faith. And Stand in the Rain has been commissioned by God Himself (Matthew 28:18-20) to be your official Tabernacle tour guide…

The most beautiful article in the Tabernacle was the golden lampstand. It is the tabernacle’s most perfect picture of Jesus, the true light that shines on everyone. (John 1:9/CEV)

The lampstand held seven lamps filled with oil. The oil is representative of the Holy Spirit, who takes the things of Christ and makes them known to us. (John 6:14-15)

***

I love light. Nothing is as exquisite.

I love light so much that I sometimes try to think of words associated with it, and I say them out loud:

Shine
Glimmer
Flash
Sparkle
Twinkle
Gleam
Glisten
Flicker
Glint
Glow

Colors are reflected fragments of light.

Diamonds cause light to echo and bounce.

Mirrors send the light back where it came from.

Nothing is quite as lovely as light. Nothing is as delicate, or as powerful, or as practical, or as poetic.

***

When I think of God, I get a mental image of Jesus. But it’s important to understand that in order to translate the eternal Word into flesh, Jesus had to empty himself (1), divesting himself of what is called Shekinah glory. That’s the dazzling light that emanated from the Holiest Place in the tabernacle; the light that was a pillar of fire in the wilderness night; the light that burned, but did not consume, the bush; and the light that he is clothed in right now (2).

One time, and one time only, God let some Apostles glimpse Jesus in full Shekinah array. We call that moment the Transfiguration:
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. (Matthew 17:1-2)

Moses got a glimpse of this Shekinah glory when God hid him in the rocks of Mt. Sinai:
While my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. (Exodus 33:22)

The light was so substantial that it clung to Moses’ face even after he descended the mountain.

Ezekiel 1 shows us a vision of God that, as far as I can tell, resembles the shifting luminescence you’d see if you took my list of light-words (above) and mixed them together in a kaleidoscope:
As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. (Ezekiel 1:4, 27-28)

Revelation shows us that while Jesus is now the spiritual Light of the World, he will also be the physical light of the eternal cosmos:
And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. (Revelation 21:23)

***

Of all the beautiful verses in the Psalms, none is brighter, more beautiful, or more illuminating than this one:
In your light we see light. (Psalm 36:9)

What that means is that when God said, “Let there be light,” he wasn’t creating it. Light had forever been with him at his right hand. “Let there be light” was a command to reveal the Light of the World, to pull the veil off of our benighted eyes so we could see the Light that always was and always will be.

I know the darkness too well, but perhaps not as well as you do. And neither of us knows darkness like the Light of the World does. In the Psalms, the saddest line of all consigns Jesus to the dark:
My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? (3)

But God was there (4). Jesus just couldn’t see him for the while that our sin was upon him.

Darkness, you see, is a lie told by limited eyes, limited imaginations, and limited faith. When it seems dark, it only seems that way:
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)

The Light is always ‘on.’

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(1) Philippians 2:7/NASB; (2) Psalm 104:2; (3) Psalm 22:1; (4) see 2 Corinthians 5:19/NASB

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salvation doesn’t stop at the cross

The Word for today:
Exodus 33

The best way to avoid biblical misunderstanding is to understand the elements of the tabernacle.

That’s why we are taking our sweet time as we make our way through.

Today we move past the altar of burnt offering (representative of the cross) to the laver.

The laver was just a big basin of water. It represents our ongoing need for cleansing from sin.

Q. But I thought our sins were forgiven at the altar of burnt offering/cross.
A. They were, totally and forever.
Q. Then what do we need a big basin of water for?
A. Cleansing from sin.
Q. I don’t get it.
A. Neither did I–until I saw the pictures of our salvation, in their proper order, in the Tabernacle:

Salvation is a big, all-encompassing word.
It includes justification–which happened at the altar of burnt offering/cross.
It includes sanctification–which happens all the way from the laver to the ark of the covenant.
It includes glorification–which will happen when we are in the presence of God (represented by the ark.)

At the altar/cross, we were justified. There, the penalty of sin was removed.

But the power of sin and the presence of sin remain. That’s why saved people still experience sin. Sometimes, in fact, the newly saved can be overwhelmed by the power of sin!

Bother, bother.
This happens because the saved are suddenly more sensitive to sin, bothered by things that didn’t much bother them before.
This also happens because until they were saved, they didn’t bother the satanic forces! But the saved are a threat to the dominion of darkness and so they are under attack. The onslaught begins immediately upon conversion and intermittently thereafter.

At the laver, we begin the process of sanctification, during which the power of sin gradually diminishes as the saved believer becomes in experience more and more like Christ.

***

This table shows the contrast between justification and sanctification:

Justification                                                    Sanctification
took place the moment you trusted Christ…  is God’s lifelong process in you.
is an act of God……………………………                 is a work of God.
is for us……………………………………                    is in us.
declares the sinner righteous………………         makes the sinner righteous.
removes the guilt and penalty of sin………       removes the growth and power of sin.

The sanctifying, cleansing agents represented by the laver filled with water are–

1. The Word of God:
“Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3).\
“Sanctify them by your truth: your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

2. The Holy Spirit,
who administers the washing of water by the word. (Ephesians 5:25-26)

3. Confession of sin:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

***

The Tabernacle teaches us that salvation doesn’t stop at the burnt altar/cross. We are born again at the cross, but there is still a lot of growing up to do!

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the unconsumed

The Word for today:
Exodus 32

The Tabernacle is God’s picture book, illustrating the great doctrines of the Christian faith. And Stand in the Rain has been commissioned by God Himself (Matthew 28:18-20) to be your official Tabernacle tour guide…

***

We’ve come through the Tabernacle Gate, but we did not come in empty-handed. We brought the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (1).

Directly ahead of us is the altar of burnt offering, where the fire of judgment will consume sin.  This altar of burnt (totally consumed) offering is the primary Old Testament picture of the cross.

In a real way (not allegorically or figuratively) Jesus Christ became sin on the cross (2).  It is important to understand that the sins were not his own, but they belonged to (your name here).

At the same time, (your name here) became the righteousness of God in him (2). It is important to understand that the righteousness is not yours, but it belongs to Jesus.

But we “wear” his righteousness like a garment, and so we can approach God. Without Jesus’ righteousness, we could not proceed any farther. We would, in fact, get tossed from the Tabernacle! –

Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness.’ (Matthew 22:8-13)

Note that the man without the imputed righteousness of God was not only tossed out, but he was speechless! This illustrates that we cannot approach God, even verbally through prayer, unless we come in the Name and righteousness of Christ. For if we approach God in our own “righteousness”–which God views as filthy rags (3)–God’s holiness would (because it must) totally consume our sin.

So totally consumed would we be, that there would be nothing left but the ashes that were left when an animal was sacrificed in place of the sinner at the burnt altar of the Tabernacle.

But if by faith Jesus took your place at the altar of burnt offering/the cross, then you can forever join in with the forgiven, who will forever say–

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

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(1) John 1:29 (2) 2 Corinthians 5:21; (3) Isaiah 64:6

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