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A Little Taste of the Promise

“Afterwards, Abraham buried Sarah, his wife, in the cave of the field of Makpelah toward Mamre (which is Hebron), in the land of Canaan. The field and the cave which is in it were given up to Abraham as a possession for a grave from the Sons of Cheth.”

(Genesis 23:19-20)

 

And with dignity and with a foretaste of what is to come, Abraham buries Sarah, his wife. Later, Abraham will also be brought to this site for burial. Though Abraham never saw fulfillment of the promise of the land, he did close his life owning a piece of property within the inheritance that God promised him. And in that, he was satisfied.

So much about Abraham’s life is about waiting and anticipating, it is no wonder that he is referred to as the Father of the Faithful (Romans 4:11). And much like Abraham, we too are called by God to wait on Him and upon His timing. How often we grow impatient at waiting for God to fulfill his promises. How often, because of our impatience, we miss the partial fulfillments that God places in our lives. For Abraham, the partial fulfillment took the form of a burial plot for Sarah. For us, our promised inheritance is in heaven, kept free from decay and defilement (1 Peter 1:4-5), but does not God give us little tastes of heaven in the context of Worship? Is not the gathered body of Christ meant to be a foretaste of heaven to come?

How often the worship of God’s people is little more than going through the motions. Beloved, when worship is only about what you are doing, then you will only ever get out of it what you put in…there is a zero sum gain. But when worship is only about God and what he is doing, then you taste his glory, which is a gain of everything and more. If you focus your worship on man, you will only find the walls of man’s own limitations. If your focus is upon God, then walls are broken down and we will come face to face with the transcendent God. For Abraham, his longing was for God himself; for you, what will it be?

The Glory of Christ Before Creation

“And now, glorify me, Father, with yourself, in the glory, which I had with you before the cosmos existed.”

(John 17:5)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word with God, and God was the Word. This one was in the beginning with God.

(John 1:1-2)

In these last days he spoke to us through the Son, whom he established as heir of all things, through whom he also created the ages. Who being the radiance of the glory and the exact image of his essence, also bearing all things in the word of his power; after making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

(Hebrews 1:2-3)

The one who was from the beginning, the one we have heard, the one we have seen with our eyes, the one which we have seen and touched with our hands-concerning the Word of life.

(1 John 1:1)

Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God, was with God from the beginning, came to earth to take on flesh, suffer, and die for a sinful people, and was then exalted back into glory to the praise of his glorious name, forever and ever, amen.  This is one of those passages of scripture that we need to come back to over and over again, not only for our devotional nourishment, but also to remind us and embolden us against those who reject the spiritual truth that this short verse sets before us.

There are many in this world who like to think of Jesus as a wise teacher and some form of exalted man.  The Jews claim that Jesus was a prophet, but nothing more; the Muslims claim he was a prophet who ascended into heaven.  The Mormons hold that Jesus was a divine human, one who, by a perfect life, was given the reward of being a god.  Many “New Agers” hold that Jesus was a form of mystic, a guru from which wise lessons can be learned, and atheists hold every position possible from that he was a wise teacher to that stories of him were manufactured by the church to gain power—a great conspiracy theory.  Yet, the Bible is clear that Jesus is God and he was never created, but has always existed as the second member of the Trinity.  Jesus speaks here of the glory he had with the Father (as they are one) before the cosmos began.  Oftentimes the term ko/smoß (cosmos) is translated as “world in our Bibles, and such is a legitimate translation, but in the context of this passage, the cosmos is meant to include the whole of the created order—all there is, everything that exists in the universe, the visible and the invisible which came into being through the Son (Colossians 1:16).  Here, Jesus is reminding us that when Genesis 1:1 begins with the language, “In the beginning God…” it is speaking about him.  Thus, if you deny that Jesus is God or that he was pre-existent, then you are denying the Bible itself as well as what Jesus taught about himself.  Such is true of all false religions.

Yet, what does it mean for Jesus to speak of desiring to be glorified with the glory he once had?  Is this to imply that Jesus somehow lost his glory during the time of the incarnation and had to gain it back?  Not exactly.  The Apostle Paul addresses this question to the Philippian church, describing Jesus as having veiled his glory in flesh for the purpose of coming and redeeming his people (Philippians 2:6-8).  In turn, God has publicly glorified his Son, not only exalting him above all creation, but in the last days, that exaltation will be public to all of the world and then every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:9-11)—some to glory and some to their own condemnation (John 3:18).

Beloved, how clear it will be on that day, yet, do not think that it is so unclear today.  God has given us his word and plainly taught us that no man can be saved apart from faith in Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Romans 10:9; 1 John 2:23).  And God has testified as to the truth of his word through signs and prophesies all fulfilled in history.  And to we who believe, the Spirit testifies in our hearts (1 John 5:7).  If such is true, why are Christians so often timid in sharing that which we know is true?  Some will say, I suppose, that they don’t wish to offend, yet will not be concerned about offending if a conversation about politics arises.  Others will say that they don’t feel equipped enough or knowledgeable enough to speak on these matters, yet never pursue that knowledge through a study of God’s word.  Loved ones, let us not make excuses, but prepare ourselves well to engage the culture and speak of what we know to be true.  It will only be in doing so that this culture will be turned from its wicked ways and will repent; will you not be a part of God’s great work of salvation by sharing truth with an unbelieving world, one person at a time?

David in the Wilderness: Psalm 63 (part 3)

“Thus, in the Holy Place, I have seen you;

seeing your might and your glory.”

(Psalm 63:3 {Psalm 63:2 in English Bibles})

 

Now, a question of translation arises in the first clause.  This verse begins with the words vd<QoB; !Ke (ken baqodesh), which mean “thus, in the Holy Place.”  The interpretive question that must be asked is whether or not David is referring generally to the sanctuary of God, as many translate it, which would likely speak of the Tabernacle and the grounds around it, or whether he is literally referring to the “The Holy Place” within the Tabernacle. 

The parallelism that we find in the second verse does not help us too much in answering that question given that it really highlights the second part of the first clause.  David says that he has seen God in the first part of the verse, then clarifies the statement at the end of the verse with the language of having seen God’s might and glory.  Indeed, this is something that David had witnessed early on in his life, but far more so by the later days (again, suggesting the probability of a later date).

So, how ought we to understand this first clause?  We can certainly take this as a general reference to the Tabernacle as a whole, but my suggestion is that this is a very specific reference to the Holy Place within the Tabernacle.  The structure of the tabernacle was that there were outer courts where the people could pray and worship, but when you entered the Tabernacle proper, there were two separate rooms, the Holy Place, where only priests were permitted to go and then the “Holy of Holies,” where the high priest alone was allowed to go once a year to take the blood of the sacrifice on the day of Atonement.

If only the priests were allowed to enter the Holy Place, how is it that David might have seen it?  There were three pieces of furniture within the Holy Place.  The first was the altar of incense, where incense was burned perpetually before the Lord to represent the perpetual prayers of the saints.  The second piece of furniture was the menorah, the seven-branched lampstand. This was kept lit through the night, not only providing light within the Holy Place, but also as a symbol of the light of truth to the world.  Lastly, there was the Table of Shewbread (also called the bread of the presence).  There were 12 loaves of bread that were put on the table on the first day of the week and left there until the Sabbath, when the priests would eat them and new loaves would be brought.  The twelve loaves represented the twelve tribes of Israel and the loaves together in the Holy Place represented the people of God in the perpetual presence of their God.

In 1 Samuel 21:1-9, we learn that at one point in David’s life, when he was fleeing from Saul, he and his men came to Nob (where the tabernacle was at the time) and asked for food.  The only food that was available was the shewbread—something that was only allowed for the priests to eat.  Yet, these loaves were given to David and his men.  Now, we are not told that David himself went into the Holy Place to retrieve these loaves, but this is not totally un-probable. 

Regardless on where you may fall in this discussion, the point is the same:  in the midst of David’s darkest hour, in the middle of spiritual dryness, his strength comes from his reliance on the Lord.  Oh, how often we falter, dear friends, because we seek to rely on our own strength rather than on the strength of God.  How often we allow the world to overrun or at least intrude into our spiritual lives.  How easily distracted our prayer time can be.  Beloved, what David is reminding us of is just how we rely upon God for our strength and apart from God, we will wither away—much like the plants of the land do when they are without water.  It is in God and in his glory that we must rest—it is in Christ and only in Christ that we can find health and joy.  Oh, beloved, seek his face, pursue the Lord and rest in him—no matter what the state of the world around you.