“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” (Ps. 62:5).
“Our soul waiteth for the LORD: He is our help and our shield” (Ps. 33:20).
“Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion” (Ps. 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” (Ps. 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 (Ps. 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 (Ps. 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” (Ps. 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” (Num. 23:9).
“How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob,
And thy tabernacles, O Israel!” (Num. 24:5).
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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. 6:5 1). 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?”
The Tables Of Testimony
These likewise were laid away in the ark of the covenant. Moses had been up on the mount with the LORD for 40 days and 40 nights, receiving the oracles of God and the pattern of the Tabernacle. The sight of the glory of the LORD was “like devouring fire” as the children of Israel beheld it; but Moses went right into the midst of the cloud and talked “face to face” with God. Before he returned to the camp God gave him two tables of stone, “written with the finger of God” (Ex. 31:18). But in the meantime the children of Israel were getting restless, and gathering together before Aaron they requested that he should make them “gods” which would go before them, as Moses seemed to have disappeared. Aaron yielded to them and made the golden calf, which the children of Israel began to worship. Though a redeemed people because of the passover lamb which had been sacrificed in Egypt, the idolatrous spirit of Egypt still clung to them. They had been delivered out of Egypt, but Egypt had not been taken out of them; and this is what the wilderness story is all about. As Moses returned from the mount with the two tables of testimony in his hand, and saw their rebellion and idolatry, he shattered the tables at the foot of the mountain. It speaks to us of a broken law, the law which no man could keep, the law which was later to be called “the ministration of condemnation” and “the ministration of death.” God knew that the law would become this kind of ministration before He gave it, but man in his self-confidence would never believe it until he proved it for himself. And God had to show him, through the ministration of the law, the exceeding sinfulness of sin and the weakness of the flesh, and demonstrate man’s inability to respond to God’s holy requirements. Therefore the law accomplished nothing for man except this (and of course this is important): it paved the way for the manifestation of the New Covenant by revealing man’s helplessness and depravity, and acting like a “schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ” (Gal. 3:24).
Moses, as a true priest of the Lord, interceded on behalf of the people, and God spared them, judged them, and instructed Moses to lead them forward to the Promised Land. For the task before him Moses sought the Lord for added grace and added glory. “Shew me now thy way,” he pleaded; and again, “Shew me thy glory” (Ex. 33:13, 18). Once again Moses is called up into the Mount of God; and once again God writes His holy law upon the two tables of stone that Moses took up with him. But for these two tables of the covenant God had a different purpose in mind.
God does not really repeat Himself–at least not in exactly the same way. Never does He do anything the second time, in like manner as He did it the first time. Let us always bear this in mind as we anticipate the restorations of God which He has promised in His Word. When He restores that which was lost, it is restored on a higher and more glorious level than before. Failing to recognize this can only lead to frustration, as we vainly seek to restore some religious structure of the past which God had used and then laid aside. God does not make a “second try,” and then a “third try.” He is doing exactly as He had planned. Therefore the second tables of the covenant did not mean that God was trying again. God was doing something new. This time God commanded Moses to put the tables inside the ark of the covenant. The ark was covered over with the mercy seat, behind the veil, in the holy of holies, entirely beyond the reach or the view of a disobedient and erring people.
God would instruct us that in giving the old covenant He knew that man could not keep it; and that in giving the new covenant, He Himself would be responsible to see that it was fulfilled. He Himself would write the new covenant upon the hearts and minds of His people. He took away the old covenant which demanded righteousness, and brought in the new covenant which provided it. He did not establish the new covenant so that man could sin and still be free from condemnation; but rather that man might be made free from both the sin and the guilt of it, and might love Him and serve Him on a far higher plane than was ever possible under the law. For the full intent of the law was that man should love the Lord God with all his heart and mind and strength, and his neighbor as himself. And when this has been fulfilled in the hearts of men, God is completely satisfied. God is Love… and therefore He cannot be satisfied until His own nature and character is formed within His people, who were created in His image. “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:34).
Show Me Thy Glory!
This was Moses’ cry unto the Lord, as he earnestly sought God for the great task that lay before him. “There shall no man see me, and live,” saith God (Ex. 33:20). Then God put Moses in the cleft of the rock, covering him with His hand as He passed by, and Moses only saw the “backparts” of God. He only saw Him as He had gone by. I do not think Moses was content with this revelation, glorious as it must have been. Seeing God as He passed by? The way He used to work? What He had done in a past day? Many are content with that–but not Moses. And from what follows I am sure that God must have granted him a still greater revelation of Himself, but still falling short of the Glory that God had reserved for the New Covenant people.
God says, “There shall no man see Me, and live.” “Then, oh Lord, show us Your face! Let the time past of our lives be sufficient to have accomplished the will of the flesh! Let us see You in all Your glory–that in seeing You we might die, that in dying we might live again, to walk with You in newness of life. Let us see You as our dying substitute, taking upon Yourself our sins, and becoming ‘sin for us, who knew no sin.’ Let us see You as our very own corruptible flesh, crucified and cursed of God, that we might come forth in newness of life, henceforth to live and move in the power of Your resurrection.”
The Glory Of Moses’ Countenance
The more conscious we are of the presence and glory of God, the less conscious are we going to be of ourselves. “Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him” (Ex. 34:29). The clear implication is that the skin of his face shone because he was talking with God. This was conversation with God, not merely a prayer of asking. I think it would help us much if we realized this twofold aspect of true prayer. Too often we know exactly what we want, and are quick to tell God what we want, without listening to His voice in the matter. And until we come to the place where we have an ear that is open to His Word, and a heart intent upon doing His will, all our praying amounts to little more than the wailing at the broken-down walls of Jerusalem. True prayer is conversation with God. We talk to Him, yes. But more important than this, He talks to us. God says through the prophet, “If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father” (Isa. 58:13-14). We are talking about God’s true sabbath, and the apostle Paul tells us what this means. It is a ceasing from our own works, as God did from His when creation was finished.
It is resting in His plan and purpose for our lives, ceasing from our own fleshly striving, as God brings forth new creation life within us, enabling us to honor Him, going in His ways, doing His good pleasure, and speaking His words. (See Heb. 4:3-11.)
Unconscious of himself, but conscious only of the presence and glory of God, “Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone.” Aaron and the children of Israel saw the glory of his countenance and they were afraid to draw near. As Moses sensed the reason for their fear he called them. First Aaron and the rulers took courage, and came near. Then a little later the children of Israel gathered together fearfully, and Moses passed on to them the commandments that God had given him on the mount. He spoke to them with unveiled face, the glory of the Lord radiating from his countenance like beams of light. The glory was so great that the Israelites could not look directly at Moses’ face with fixed attention, but had to keep looking away, just as you would if you tried to gaze upon the reflection of the sun in a mirror. “The children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses” or, “They could not fix their eyes on the face of Moses.” The brilliance of the light was too much for their weak and sensitive eyes, but still Moses did not try to hide his face in order to accommodate them. Oh that God’s ministers might so talk with God that when they speak to the people there will be a shining forth of the very presence of God! Without that radiance and that splendor his message will not be effective. Oh, how we must hold fast to the vision of His purpose for His people. That we come to that place in God where we abide in Him, and He abides in us, and we minister only in virtue of His abiding presence! For “he that speaketh of [or, from] himself seeketh his own glory” (Jn. 7:18). But speaking out from the heart of God we seek only His glory. And so Moses ministered to the people the words that God had given him, with unveiled face, till something rather tragic began to happen. The glory of God began to fade away! Immediately Moses sensed the departure of the glory, though he was not aware of his shining countenance when he came down from the mount. Quickly he veiled his face, as he realized the beams of light were fading away. He must not continue to minister without that presence! Nor could he permit the children of Israel to behold the departure of the glory. We read, “Till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face” (Ex. 34:33). But the word “till” is in italics, indicating that it was not in the original, but added by the translators to make the sense clear. A better rendering would be, “When Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face.” This is the way it is rendered in other versions, and this is the way Paul understood it, where he says, “Not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished” (2 Cor. 3:13). Clearly, Moses did not want the people to see the end of the fading glory. He had spoken out from the presence of God’s glory, and he did not want the people to see it fading away. It was a transitory brightness, like the covenant he was mediating to them. The old covenant was given with the shining forth of God’s glory, but soon it would fade away. Paul very clearly is telling us that in the new covenant we have something better than Moses was able to bring to the people of God.
As the apostle Paul compares the old covenant with the new he arrives at this ultimate conclusion: the old covenant had no glory at all, “by reason of the glory that excelleth.” The former covenant was ushered in with glory, but was doomed to pass away; while the latter covenant was not only ushered in with great glory, it was destined to remain or subsist in glory. Let us remember this: it was not God’s intention that the New Covenant would begin in a burst of glory, and then dissipate with the apostasy of the last days! The old covenant was a ministration of death and of condemnation; the latter is a ministration of righteousness and life–a covenant that continues on in Glory! This comparison causes the apostle to declare with great boldness: “We use great plainness of speech, and not as Moses!” Not as Moses, who put a veil over his face so the Israelites could not see the departure of the glory!
Moses was faithful in God’s house as a servant. Nevertheless he was identified with a murmuring, disobedient people. Because of the veil on their hearts the glory of God could not penetrate their innermost being. We mentioned before that they had weak, sensitive eyes. But the apostle Paul explained that it was really a spiritual blindness. They lacked obedience. They lacked faith. They lacked vision. They could not see the glory into which God would bring them; and the veil that Moses put on his face was really because of the veil that was already there on their own hearts.
Therefore let us understand fully what God is saying. God does not–will not–hide His glory to accommodate the fear, the lack of vision, the hardness of heart, and the weak eyes of His people. His glory will shine forth, doing one of two things. Either the people will gaze upon Him till they die to self-to self-will, self-opinions, self-exaltation, self-seeking, and to their own selfish and dead works–or they will put a veil over their hearts, denying themselves the visitation that God intended them to have. But as surely as they do this they will open up the way for God to visit another people. He will not hide His glory to accommodate the fearful ones. He moves on with His people, and reveals His glory to those who are tired of endless religious activity, and who long for the sovereign moving of the Spirit of God in their lives.
Paul sums up the situation by saying, “Their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament.” Moses had put a veil over his own face, but Paul interprets this as meaning that the minds of the people “were blinded,” and the veil was still on their hearts.
But let us not be too quick in judging them and excusing ourselves because we are New Testament people. I am afraid the same thing can be said of vast numbers of people who hear the New Testament read every time they come together for worship:
“Until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the New Testament.” For we must understand that the New Testament is not simply the completed canon of scripture nor yet a system of Church ritual and activity. It is intended to be a ministration of life and of righteousness. And if we do not minister life and righteousness by the Spirit of God, we are simply making an old covenant out of the new by denying ourselves the glory that God intended it should bring.
“Nevertheless, when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.” Again the reference is to the veil on Moses face: “When Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he took the vail off, until he came out.” Then coming forth from God’s presence with a renewal of the glory, Moses was able to minister unto the people again as God intended. But when he sensed the departing of the glory, “Moses put the vail upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him [the LORD]” (Ex. 34:35). (See also 2
Where Is The Glory?
If we as God’s people would but examine ourselves with an honest heart, we would soon discover just how far short we have come with regard to the glory of God. Do we measure up to the outshining of God’s glory such as we find in the life of Moses? I am not speaking so much about the visible light that shone from his face, but of that inner light that God has for us in the New Covenant. I am sure we have all envied that marvelous experience that Moses had with the God of Israel. But hear what Paul says, “Not as Moses!… Not as Moses!… Not as Moses!” Clearly there is a ministration of the glory of God for us in this day of the New Covenant that far exceeds what Moses had, as far as the glory of the sun exceeds the glory of the moon!
Now the moon reflects the glory of the sun, and is likened to the Church which reflects the glory of Christ. But hear what the prophet says about the moon: “Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun…
Beloved, can we not see what God has in mind for His people? A people who shall walk in the full glory and radiance of the Sun of Righteousness Himself, the Lord Jesus! And does this in any way detract from the glory of the exalted Christ? Ah, no! Rather it means that as God’s glory increases in His people, that glory redounds again and again to the glory of the exalted Christ, for the prophet continues:
“And the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, As the light of seven days, In the day that the LORD bindeth up the breach of his people, And healeth the stroke of their wound” (Isa. 30:26).
Oh, that God’s people might comprehend this glorious fact, that it is only when the people of the Lord are walking in total union with Christ, and the glory of Christ shines forth through them, that Christ Himself is truly glorified. Jesus was charged with blasphemy and for robbing God of His glory because He claimed to live in total union with the Father, and did only what the Father was pleased to do through Him. The fact that Jesus performed miracles was no problem. They would crown Him King for that! But when He said, “It is not I, but the Father who doeth these things,” He got into all kinds of trouble. As surely as God’s people begin to walk in union with Him who is pure Light, there is going to be a radiating of that glory to those about us. And this will mean a releasing of the glory of God to those who sit in darkness, and who long for deliverance; but at the same time we can expect to receive a lot of scorn and ridicule from those who love darkness rather than light.
“Dear Lord, when You were crucified on Calvary, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. And even as the veil was torn asunder, the high priest as he stood at the altar of incense could look within and see for himself that the glory of God was not there, for the Glory had long since departed. Nevertheless the dying priesthood of an old order continued to carry on with a religion of dead works, and patched up the old veil that was rent because their own hearts were veiled in blindness. But give us, oh Lord, perceptive hearts and minds, that as we behold Your flesh torn asunder for us, we might see Your glory revealed in the Temple not made with hands. Let us not draw back from beholding Your glory, like Israel of old; but give us more grace to come to the Light, that all the works of darkness within us might be dispelled by the radiance of Your presence, even as the shadows of night dissolve at the breaking of the day. May our whole being be flooded with Light, as we come under Your shadow to abide, that there might be a complete transformation within and without; and that men might know that Christ has indeed visited His people once again.”
Changed Into His Image
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).
Paul tells us that because the veil has been removed from our face we now reflect, as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord one to another; and it is this that changes us into His own image.
The Greek word for “changed” in this passage is “metamorphoo,” and signifies a complete changing of form. It is used on three different occasions in the New Testament: in the above passage; in the account concerning the transfiguration of Christ (Matt. 17:2; Mk. 9:2); and in Romans 12:2 where it is translated “transformed.” This is the word that men chose from the Greek to signify the change that takes place in certain creatures, known as “metamorphosis.” And because of the great spiritual truth that we discover in this phenomena, we want to examine it further.
Sometime in the middle of this century we read of a young Harvard scientist who had spent many hours making various experiments with the silkworm, in an attempt to discover the secret of metamorphosis. After some ten years of tedious experiments he discovered the secret. By dividing the worm into segments, and watching to see which sections went into metamorphosis and which remained the same, he discovered that there were two hormone-producing centers in the worm, one in the brain and the other in the thorax; and that these hormone centers caused the worm to change form. Neither could cause metamorphosis working by itself, but together they did. Briefly this is how he made his discoveries. Removing the brains from the caterpillars he found that they would live on, but only as worms. No change would take place. Then after implanting a bit of the brain containing the hormone, metamorphosis would begin to take place. But if after implanting the hormone in the brain the worm was immediately tied off in the center, no change would occur. This proved that the worm could derive no benefit from the hormone in the head alone; it had to work in conjunction with the thorax. So if he allowed a certain amount of time to elapse after implanting some of the brain before he tied the worm in the center, the worm would go into full metamorphosis on both sides of the knot. By these and similar experiments he effectively proved that two hormone centers were involved in the process, and that it was the brain hormone that triggered the thoracic center into action.
What a beautiful illustration from nature of the wonderful truth concerning transformation! We believe we are going to discover many wonderful truths in the world about us as we go on with the Lord. In the early part of the human race this was the only Bible men had, and yet God said He was clearly revealed in the things that He had made. “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made” (Rom. 1:20). The reason men do not see Him there now is because of the apostasy and the blindness that has overpowered the human race through sin and unbelief.
From Worm To Butterfly
David said of himself, “I am a worm, and no man.” Such we are by nature–helpless, foolish, earthbound, purposeless. We cannot change ourselves. But the Lord from Heaven came into our nature and our likeness in order that He might bring about a transformation into His nature and likeness. He does not change us by a sovereign act of His will alone; for then He would be working counter to His plan whereby He would have willing and obedient sons, desiring to do His will. And yet we know, “Apart from Him, we can do nothing.” From Him therefore who is the Head, there comes to us as members of His Body, that Divine hormone–that Divine influence of the Spirit–which reacts upon and works in conjunction with our hearts and minds, thereby bringing about a spiritual metamorphosis, a complete changing of our whole being: spirit, soul, and body. This is God’s order in restoring Man to His image, just as it was the order in which Man fell from that image. For Adam continued to live on in the natural long after his spirit had “died” as far as his relationship with God was concerned. So in redemption God restores first our spirit, then our soul, and ultimately our body. Therefore we hear the apostle praying for God’s people; for the perfecting of their “spirit, soul, and body,” in that order (1
Thess. 5:23). Knowing the corruption of this human body many would teach that there is no hope of coming into the image and likeness of Christ until our bodies put on immortality. But this is not so. Christ walked in perfect union with the Father, though dwelling in a mortal body. But He was sinless, we are reminded. True… and that’s what redemption is all about. He fully dealt with our sin at the Cross, and it is the work of the Spirit of God within us to render the body “dead indeed unto sin” and to make it to be the very temple of God in the earth. And until we are eventually glorified God has made provision for a “quickening” of our mortal body, by His Spirit that dwells within (Rom. 8:11). And so the groaning continues within us that we might be “clothed upon” with our new house from Heaven, and enter into immortality. But it is not God’s intention that we continue to groan in the bondage of sin. It is a groaning rather to be released from the limitation and humiliation of our mortality, that we might know and experience the new life for the body that we have experienced, and are experiencing, for our soul and spirit. God purposed it this way, that now in the midst of our weakness and mortality we might be the fragile vessels He needs as vessels for His glory. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (2
Transfigured By Divine Light
“Jesus… was transfigured before them” (Matt. 17:1-2).
“And as he [Jesus] prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering” (Lk. 9:29).
This was on the Mount of Transfiguration. Again the word used is “metamorphoo.” The Son of man appeared in Glory, and the three disciples with Him had a preview of the Kingdom of God as Jesus had promised (Matt. 16:28). His raiment was not merely “glistening.” That would imply light reflected from another source. But He Himself was the Light, and His garments were “glistering.” It was light shining out from within, like flashes of lightning, such as had radiated from the countenance of Moses on another mountain many centuries earlier. Once again Moses is there, along with Elijah, and in the midst of that glory they are talking with Jesus about His imminent death on the Cross. It was not the fullness of the Kingdom, but all the ingredients of the Kingdom of God were there on that mountain. It was a foretaste of the Glory that will be revealed when Christ comes again “to be glorified in the saints.”
Transfigured By A Renewed Mind
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2).
Again the word is “metamorphoo.” With hearts and minds yielded to God, these bodies in which we dwell though still mortal are no longer unholy or unclean. By the application of the blood of Christ and the washing of the Spirit they become a fitting habitation for the Spirit Who is holy–and He comes to make us holy. This body in which we dwell must be so presented to God that God may accept it as “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable [well-pleasing] unto God.” By His sacrifice and indwelling Spirit, and according to His promises, we are to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2
Cor. 7:1). Paul tells us that in doing this, it is our “reasonable” service; but he is referring to a priestly service, a worship service to God. I know we have fallen far short of this, but it is there in the New Covenant, and we must believe and anticipate this kind of holy living. And having done this we are to expect a “metamorphosis” experience in the mind–a transfiguring, transforming renewal of the mind. We can’t make it happen, I know. But our Mediator is there in the heavens to minister the grace and power and life to make it happen… if we are willing to submit to His dealings…
The Cocoon Of His Dealings
God deals with His own in a very individual and specific way; and therefore we are not to criticize anyone who is doing God’s will in the realm of his personal walk with the Lord. But we can be assured of this, if we really mean to go on with the Lord, all of us are going to experience some very drastic changes in our lives as He leads us from one degree of glory to another. God is far more concerned about His people coming to know Him than He is in our doing many good works. And the reason should be self-evident: for if we do not truly know Him, we can never perform His works. But if we are truly willing to be changed, and become what He wants us to become, we cannot fail to do what He would have us do.
The cocoon, therefore, (whatever it may be in your life and mine) is not to be considered as some strange thing that has happened, to hinder us in our quest for true fulfillment. Rather it is a sure token that we are walking in His ways, seeing Him, and seeing ourselves for what we really are: helpless, needy, confined, limited, and ineffective in all our ways. We look for a new life, a life beyond the veil of our own flesh, a life in the heavenly realm where we are in vital union with Christ, and reigning in life by Christ Jesus. As a boy I was greatly fascinated with the process of metamorphosis long before I knew there was such a word. Every spring I would look for a furry worm, put him in a ventilated jar along with some green leaves, and watch the process. What a thrill to watch him two or three weeks later coming forth as a beautiful butterfly… a one-time crawling worm, and now flying in the atmosphere above! Little did I know then that in the days to come I myself would find myself in a cocoon designed by my Creator–a cocoon of His own dealings. There is a labor to enter into His rest. There is a struggle. But it is the struggle of life, a struggle that God ordained. You cannot snip the cocoon with a pair of scissors when you see the butterfly struggling to emerge. No matter how careful you are he will not be able to fly… because it takes the struggle within the insect to pump the life into his wings that will enable him to fly. Let us not seek to remove the impediments from our lives or from the lives of God’s people that God deliberately put there for our transformation.
Something else we must consider. What causes the releasing of the hormones in the worm to set in motion the process of metamorphosis? The scientist we mentioned discovered that it was caused by the warmth of the spring season! The timing of God is so important. God has “seasons” for whatever He would do; and when the season arrives He prepares His people for what He has in mind. So we must not compare ourselves with other men, nor yet with men of other generations, and feel that we have all that God has in mind if we measure up to them. When we speak of a life in God and a revelation of His glory that was not given to previous generations, it is not that we are better, or have more favor with God, or more knowledge of the scriptures. They served God according to the provision of grace that He supplied for their generation. But now in view of the tremendous onslaught of evil and corruption about us, God knows we need more of His grace and more of His glory… and He is causing us to know it, that we might seek after Him and find it.
So in this hour the rays of the Sun of Righteousness are beaming forth upon His people who have grown weary of the worm-life, and long to explore their inheritance in heavenly places. Oftentimes men of this world are “wiser than the children of light.” We have witnessed in our generation a new thing in the earth. Men have been able to escape the power of earth–gravity and orbit about a new center, and even walk on the moon, completely free from the pull of the earth. Yet the children of light find it difficult to believe that God has sufficient power and wisdom to thrust us forth from realms of flesh-bondage into realms of spiritual liberation, where we too may find a new center and source of life in God alone. But there is a people in the earth who believe that God is willing to do this very thing… and to these God would speak words of great encouragement.
“Fear not, thou worm Jacob,
And ye men of Israel;
I will help thee, saith the LORD,
And thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.
Behold, I will make thee
A new sharp threshing instrument having teeth:
Thou shalt thresh the mountains,
And beat them small,
And shalt make the hill as chaff.
Thou shalt fan them,
And the wind shall carry them away,
And the whirlwind shall scatter them:
And thou shalt rejoice in the LORD,
And shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel” (Isa. 41:14-16).
Just a worm! Just an insect! But it becomes a threshing machine, a new one… “having teeth”! In vain are we going to put any “teeth” into our efforts to reach the nations and gather in the harvest, until we partake of the changing, transfiguring, transforming work of the Spirit of God in our lives. Think of it! God is going to use a worm to thresh the mountains, and crush the powers of evil into dust. The kingdoms of this world are to become “the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ.” And God says “all nations shall come and worship before Him” when His judgments are made manifest in the earth! (See Rev. 15:4.)
The Cloud Covers The Tent
In this writing we are emphasizing the Presence of God and the Glory of God. There is much that we have left unsaid concerning the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, but we must hurry on. But first we must consider the Rule of the Cloud, which is the Rule of His Glory.
The Tabernacle was a portable structure. It does not have the meaning of a solid, permanent structure. It was but a Tent–easily taken down and reassembled. A permanent temple would come later when the kingdom was established. But here God would teach His people that they must move on “from glory unto glory” until they would come to their true rest in God.
The presence and glory of God was really the whole purpose and meaning of God’s temples… and it must be so in our Church gatherings today. Without His presence there is no purpose for a temple, no purpose for us gathering together. Therefore we must learn to diligently follow the Rule of the Cloud. “As long as the cloud abode upon the tabernacle they rested in their tents… whether it were two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle, remaining thereon, the children of Israel abode in their tents, and journeyed not: but when it was taken up, they journeyed.” (See Num. 9:15-23.)
The Rule Of The Cloud
The walk in the Spirit is entirely contrary to much of our present-day teaching concerning ministry and service for the Lord. Everywhere we find that people are being encouraged to move out for God, and if they do God will follow them and bless their efforts. You take the initiative, and God will be there to establish and confirm. But this is contrary to the Rule of the Cloud, and it is contrary to the Law of the Spirit. God must give direction, He must go before. And as we follow, we will discover His glory will also follow after…
“For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the LORD will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rereward” (Isa. 52:12). In other words, you cannot rush ahead of God-that would be “haste.” Nor can you run away from some job you do not like, some disagreeable circumstance that you want to get rid of–that would be “flight.” He must go on ahead and open up the way. He must also follow after to confirm and establish. He gives clear direction, you follow Him, then He gives positive confirmation.
The Rule of the Cloud must have seemed quite ridiculous to surrounding tribes and peoples, but this did not matter. We are inclined to become very sensitive to criticism if God’s ways lead us contrary to reason and logic. Because of this many simply refuse to move on with God once they have discovered a quiet resting place in their religious wilderness–a nice little oasis, a beautiful Elim of God’s provision. They know God led them there, so there they will remain. But when the Cloud moves on we must pull up our stakes and move forward with Him.
It will not always be quite that way. For when the ark of the covenant moved into Solomon’s Temple the staves were withdrawn, and the long, tiring wilderness journeying came to an end. Of course there is still a going on with God even in that realm, as we shall discover. But the blight of the wilderness becomes a thing of the past, and the experiences of life which were intended of the Lord to unsettle us, and shake us, and cause us to move forward in God, have fulfilled their purpose that henceforth we might abide in Him-joined unto the Son, as the Son is joined unto the Father.
The Rule of the Cloud is the rule of liberty. But it is a rule. Many would mistake the bondage of the flesh for the liberty of the Spirit. They boast of their freedom in God–freedom to move out in ministry, freedom to activate their ministry in any way they want to–because God has enriched them with gifts and graces and talents of various kinds. But we will never know true liberty in the Spirit until we come under subjection to the Rule of the Cloud. For in Christ Jesus the only way that is acceptable to God and liberating to our spirit is the rule of New Creation Life: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision [neither religious tradition, or the lack of it], but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God” (Gal. 6:15-16).