9. That ancient chat

Words brought the world into existence, words flung the stars into space; words spoke the light into being and set the oceans their boundaries. Then God formed man from the dust, the woman from the man and spoke a blessing over them to give them authority over all things. Genesis 1:28:

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

God’s first words to man was spoken in His Presence in that beautiful perfect garden, setting the scene for continuous and constant communication. He never ceased to speak. Not even sin could thwart the voice of God.

I am not sure what you think of prayer. Just the word might bring bad associations – forced prayer, awkward moments, heartless prayers, judgmental prayers, long windedness, religious rituals and so forth. Just think for a moment what is your intellectual and emotional response to the mentioning of prayer. Are you excited by the thought, or do you feel guilty? Are you hesitant or joyful? Do you feel indifferent; having decided long ago it doesn’t work or are you enthusiastic about recent answer to prayer?

Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden as royalty to reign over the magnificence of creation. They dwelt in perfect communication and entered into the rest God planned for them. Remember, their first day on earth was the Sabbath. One can never reign effectively and victoriously without entering into the rest of the Sabbath with God, relaxing and finding fellowship with Him. That was the first, fabulous consequence of communication – rest and peace.

Then in the darkness that followed the decision to listen to that challenging half-truth of satan, came the distancing of shame and failure, fleeing from the Presence and conversation. Satan questioned God’s words, and Eve added some of her own understanding when she said: we are not to eat or touch the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. God never said not to touch, only not to eat. Sin comes to us in various ways, but it is the participation and immersion in it, that corrupts and destroys. It exposes our nakedness without the covering of God’s Presence. God’s love is our protection against our own failures and destructive decisions. 1 Peter 4:8:

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Eve gave Adam to eat; they saw their own nakedness and hid from God – as if it is possible. That same day, not letting the sun go down on their devastation, God came and called in the wind: Adam where are you? Do you really think He needed information about Adam’s whereabouts? Do you think the all-Knowing God did not know exactly where Adam and Eve were and exactly what happened in the garden that day? He knew off course! And He came…. and called.

Sin did no end the conversation. No sin can ever end the conversation. Today He says: Isaiah 1:18: [The Message]

“Come. Sit down. Let’s argue this out.” This is God’s Message:

“If your sins are blood-red, they’ll be snow-white.

If they’re red like crimson, they’ll be like wool.

What an amazing invitation! This is the answer to sin. Get it out of the way. Walk on. Come back into the Presence. No detours, no guilt, no hiding from God. Come back, call out – forgiveness is guaranteed. If God said it, it is life-giving and life-changing – powerful, miracle-working words. His words of forgiveness will lift you up and out of failure and hopelessness.

Why did God ask questions? Not to get information, but to get the talking going. Adam had to talk it out, tell God why they are hiding, confess, explain and in spilling the secret, be healed and forgiven. Sin is so often a secret, so often unspeakable and shameful, so much that it holds you captive just by the sheer shame of it. Talking about it is rendering it powerless. God has an answer, a miracle, for the biggest scandals you can think of. He will not allow satan to defeat you and your potential in this world. His plans are steadfast and sure. Proverbs 19:21: [The Message]

We humans keep brainstorming options and plans, but God’s purpose prevails.

What happens in the garden? God prevails – until His voice calls them out of hiding. He gets them to talk. The whole story is blurted out with blame and accusations. As always God’s judgment comes sound and clear, not to man – who will off course carry the consequence of sin, always with God by his side, but to satan, who will bear the ultimate defeat at the cross, when his head will be crushed. Genesis 3:15:

God told the serpent:

“Because you’ve done this, you’re cursed, cursed beyond all cattle and wild animals,

Cursed to slink on your belly and eat dirt all your life.

I’m declaring war between you and the Woman, between your offspring and hers.

He’ll wound your head, you’ll wound his heel.”

After this declaration of judgment, God did a very important thing. He covered their nakedness His way. He killed an animal – I believe it was a lamb, but the Bible does not say – and clothed them with the symbolism of innocent blood flowing for the cleansing and cover of their sin. Their own efforts with fig leaves did not spare them the shame of their failure. Only God could cover them to live on the cursed earth, the brokenness that we today still live in.

They were covered by the blood of a lamb; we are covered by the blood of THE Lamb. By His blood the Garden is restored and we can walk with God in His Presence, talking with our Father as of old, before sin.

We live in the dispensation after the cross of Jesus and know that satan was defeated by the resurrection of Christ. Jesus taught His disciples a revolutionary prayer – to call God Father. For the Jews at the time, God was a distant, untouchable, holy and strict God-figure. They never dreamed of calling Him DAD. Jesus said that whoever have seen Him, have seen the Father, Creator-God, the high and holy One, living and breathing amongst us. John 14:7:

“If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”

His compassion and love shown in His time on earth is the character of God: forgiving, compassionate, righteous, approachable and close, and above all GOOD.

While we are looking way way back to creation, we might as well take a quick, fresh look at the Flood and the Ark. God invited Noah into the Ark. God was on the inside. In His Presence there is everything you need – safety, provision, care and protection for as long as you need it until you are safely directed to your next step in life. The dove, symbol of the Holy Spirit, will show you life and how to make a living. He will bring you the branch of provision. Genesis 8:11:

Then the dove came to him in the evening, and behold, a freshly plucked olive leaf was in her mouth

In the conversation with Him – prayer – you submit your next step to His guidance and plan. He has a plan for you, to give you a future and a hope. [Jeremiah 29:11]

In Pebbles number 5 we talked about sin of the golden calf in Exodus 32 and Moses’ plea for the people before God. He knew that they could never dream of entering into the promised land, without the Presence of God. To this day, this is what defines true Christianity. The line of communication with our heart in submission to His directive, our chat to God to hear His heartbeat in His Presence in prayer.

How will we function as powerful, effective, victorious Christians? Exodus 33:15,16

“If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.

For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth.”

That is our only mark – the Presence of God. Not religious ritual, faithfulness in works, unfailing service to man, wealth or fame, success, beauty or any other lofty achievement can elevate us to a life of excellence. In His Presence we will find the ultimate life.

Then only we will be prepared for the brokenness of this world. Jeremiah 12:5: [The Message]

“So, Jeremiah, if you’re worn out in this footrace with men,

    what makes you think you can race against horses?

And if you can’t keep your wits during times of calm,

    what’s going to happen when troubles break loose

        like the Jordan in flood?

Until next time.

8. The promise is guaranteed – you are the winner.

We have taken a walk deep into the beautiful symbolism of the desert Tabernacle and how God was approached in ancient times. Now that you know how careful the old Hebrews had to be in their worship, you will appreciate and rejoice in the work of Jesus on the cross. In the most dramatic events in the history of mankind, the curtain parted and God came to live in us.

David lived about a thousand years before Jesus walked the earth. He rejoiced in the presence of the Ark of the Covenant and his son Solomon was bestowed the honour to build the Temple in Jerusalem placing the Ark in the place where it belonged in the most Holy part of the temple, with great rejoicing. Without going to deep into history again, one must take note that the Ark did not remain there until Jesus walked in Jerusalem.

Sin and backsliding brought the conquest of other nations and God’s people went into exile under pagan rulers who had no respect for the holiness of God. They destroyed the Temple and in the bloodshed and chaos the Ark was lost forever. Many stories were written and even movies made, because of the fascination with such a holy treasure. I am not surprised that the Ark has never been found, as it fits in beautifully with what happened on the cross.

The stage for the coming of Jesus was set throughout the Old Testament. Everything that happened was to prepare them to recognize the Son of God. Prophet upon prophet spoke about it, promised it, sang it, rejoiced in it – but they were killed and ignored by so many. When Jesus came it was so unexpected and different from what they conjured in their selfish hopes of earthly vision, that they argued with Him, condemned Him and eventually killed Him.

This makes me tremble in fear of the limitations of a selfish outlook and confined thoughts, ruled by the here and now and not by the heavenly perspective that God promises through the Holy Spirit. My desire is for deep insight into the unseen and mysteries of God. He promises in

Psalm 25: 14,15:

The secret of the sweet, satisfying companionship of the Lord have they who fear, revere and worship Him, and He will show them His covenant and reveal to them its deep, inner meaning. My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for He will pluck my feet out of the net.

And my favourite – I will quote this scripture often until it is burning in your mind: Jeremiah 33:3: NIV

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’

Amplified:

…great and mighty things, fenced in and hidden, which you do not know (do not distinguish and recognize, have knowledge of and understand).

The Message:

Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.’

What a promise to rejoice in!

The promises of God always have a condition and I can sometimes just jump for joy when I see what is required to qualify for His precious gift.

Do you see in this promise what you must do? Read it and mark it in bold red: Call.

Calling out to God and asking insight into His perspective and wisdom, denotes desire. He promises this throughout Scripture. In Luke 11:9 Jesus invites you: [The Message]

Here’s what I’m saying: Ask and you’ll get; Seek and you’ll find; Knock and the door will open.

James 4:7-10 in The Message describes a coming away from your defeat and serious focus in your desire to hear the heartbeat of your Father.

 So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.

This state of mind to enquire of God and to desire His insight, brings us back to Isaiah 55 where the invitation is once again confirmed: Verses 6 and 7:

Seek God while he’s here to be found, pray to him while he’s close at hand.
Let the wicked abandon their way of life and the evil their way of thinking.
  Let them come back to God, who is merciful,
come back to our God, who is lavish with forgiveness.

This chapter in Isaiah was so many times in my life the source of hope and renewed faith in God’s superior rule and the matchless power of His Word. The power in the promise and the rest in God’s goodness and almighty ability to change everything in my favour, are pure gold.

Faith in these words and the calm assurance flowing from this truth, is truly living a life of excellence.

Read with me and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart. Isaiah 55: 8-11:

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and snow come down from the heavens, and return not there again, but water the earth and make it bring forth and sprout, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

So shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth: it shall not return to Me void [without producing any effect, useless], but it shall accomplish that which I please and purpose, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

In the laws of nature God’s unfailing promises are illustrated and guaranteed. The rain does not stop halfway and go back to heaven. It accomplishes the task of watering the earth. I do not know if you have ever seen rain that does not fall on the earth, that stops in the sky and turn around and wash right back up! Ridiculous, isn’t it?

The rain that God sends, waters the earth so that the seeds can grow and the bread can be made and the people can be fed. This is the law of the seasons and of night and day. God said it and throughout all the ages without any interruption ever, so it happens.

Genesis 8:22:  For as long as Earth lasts,
planting and harvest, cold and heat,
summer and winter, day and night will never stop.

Now that you know that, back to the key words in Isaiah 55:11 to be memorized and absorbed:

So shall My word be….

We can rely on the fulfilling of the promises of God in the same way and with the same certainty that we know the sun comes up and goes down. Remember that when you panic about things happening in your life. Change can only be managed in the light of the constant assurance of God’s everlasting arms under you. [Deuteronomy 33:26-28]

You can confidently declare: [Hebrews 13:6, Ampl]

So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not be seized with alarm [I will not fear or dread or be terrified]. What can man do to me?

Rejoice! God is for you, who can be against you. Nothing that this world, this life can throw your way will destroy you. It is guaranteed. Call on Him. He promises to be with you always.

He will work things for your good. [Romans 8:28]

He will turn the curse into a blessing. [Nehemiah 13:2]

See you soon!

7. A place in the Presence.

In the previous discussion we learnt about the rules and rituals of prayer in the time of Jesus, based on the laws on approaching the most holy God, established in the desert Tabernacle.

Learning these ancient principles in prayer and worship, we are truly diving into the deep end of Christianity. Entering into the Presence of God was the plan for man all along. God has not changed. The dialogue began in the Garden of Eden, and has never ceased. God spoke to Adam, even after the fall into sin. Not even sin could stop the conversation. Everyone is invited into the Presence through the blood of Jesus.

The efforts of the church to prescribe and formalize prayer have distanced God from man. There is so much more for you than unfair and loveless judgment from organized religion.

Nothing should hinder your relationship with our loving and forgiving God ever. No person, no organization, no doctrine should cause you to doubt His love and devotion to you.

If you are unsure of this, or suffer from church-wounds – please write to me: pebblepals14@gmail.com.

Let us follow the history further to know why the promise of the mercies of David is so important to our worship.

After the death of Moses, Joshua took the people into the promised land. They laid their claim to the promise with many battles and many victories as well as defeats. According to the portioning of the land of Canaan to the tribes, the people settled down to make a living as a respected nation and not a bunch of slaves from Egypt.

Complacency and influence of the idol-worshipping indigenous people caused indifference and spiritual back sliding in Israel. During the time of the Judges things were often chaotic and cruel. People were oppressed by invaders and enemies. Sometimes they turned back to God in their time of need, and afterwards grew colder in their relationship with God. The tribe of Levi was appointed for spiritual care as the continuation of the priestly service, but, even amongst them, fraud and greed corrupted their commitment. Even the church and God’s appointed leaders are human and can disappoint. A personal relationship with God can never disappoint.

The first book of Samuel opens with the beautiful story of a desperate barren woman pouring out her heart to God in the Tabernacle. At this time Eli was the high priest and his sons were supposed to be schooled in the priestly duties to take over the role of spiritual leadership. But, the story continues, they were especially evil. They used temple prostitutes under the influence of the pagan nations and took the best of the sacrificial meat for their own consumption.

Hannah’s plea for a child is heard and Samuel is born. According to her promise to God, he is brought to the Tabernacle in service, as a small boy. The custom at the time was to wean a child by the age of four. Most of his formative years were to be in the Tabernacle with a dysfunctional priest and his two evil sons. One would think this is the most ghastly circumstance for a young boy to live. But, Samuel grows up to be one of the greatest prophets of Israel and a man true to God in every way.

God is very patient with His servants. At the time of Hannah’s tearful supplication, Eli thought she was drunk. One would expect more discerning and compassion from the priest. When she informed him of her request, he blessed her and spoke the answer to her prayer over her. The result was Samuel, whose first encounter with the voice of God is recorded in much detail. He also had to confront Eli on the sins of his sons.

Samuel grows up, as the Bible says in a time when the Word of God was rare. [1 Samuel 3:1] The wrong practices at the Tabernacle continue. In this corrupted atmosphere the Philistines attack. When the battle turns against the Israelites, Eli’s sons decide to bring the Ark of the Covenant out of the Tabernacle to the battlefield as a sort of good luck charm to manipulate the outcome in their favour. This proves to be a disaster. Not only does Israel lose completely, but also the Ark is taken by the Philistines. Eli’s sons die in the battle along with 30 000 Israelites.

We find a detailed account of the Ark in the Temple of Dagon, the Philistine god. [1 Samuel 5] They bring, what they probably regarded as an idol image similar to their own, into their own god’s temple. The next morning the image of Dagon lay face down. Verse 3,4 and 5:

So they took Dagon and set him in his place again.

But when they arose early the next morning, behold, Dagon had again fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord, and his head and both the palms of his hands were lying cut off on the threshold; only the trunk of Dagon was left him.

This is the reason neither the priests of Dagon nor any who come into Dagon’s house tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.

There is no place for an idol in the Presence of the Most High God. Our God is almighty and is the Ruler of everything. No evil can exist in the Presence of God. It is only in the Presence of God that idols in your life are dealt with and destroyed.

Not only did their god image fall down and broke in the presence of the Ark, but also disease broke out. They passed the Ark on from the one city to the other, with disease and panic following, until they took it back to Israel just to rid themselves of it.

The symbols of God are not for the unbeliever. It only has meaning in the realm of faith and trust. This principle also applies to the Bible as a general reference for history, science or philosophy. The Bible is the living Word of God to the believer and to no one else.

The Ark is stored in the house of Abinadab and his son Eleazar, for more that 100 years, through Samuel’s entire judgeship, Saul’s reign, and well into David’s, when it was brought to Jerusalem.

David’s desire is to bring the Ark back to Jerusalem. A hundred years is a long time, more than two generations in biblical times. People forget – they are not used to having the Ark in the Tabernacle. They know the Most Holy is empty. Eli’s daughter in law named her son Ichabod – meaning the glory has gone. David wants to bring back the glory.

David’s desire for the Presence of God is recorded throughout Psalms. Just as an example – Psalm 27:4

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek, inquire for, and insistently require: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord in His presence all the days of my life, to behold and gaze upon the beauty, the sweet attractiveness and the delightful loveliness of the Lord and to meditate, consider, and inquire in His temple.

His heart yearns for it and expresses it in prayer and supplication to the Lord. He is acutely aware that the symbol of the Presence is stored somewhere, away from its designated place.

Let us have a quick look at 2 Samuel 5 and 6: Verse 4:

David was thirty years old when he began his forty-year reign.

He invaded Jerusalem and took the city from the enemy that   occupied it. He called it the City of David. Verse 10:

David became greater and greater, for the Lord God of hosts was with him.

His victories over old enemies, his establishment as king and the recognition of neighbouring kings of his reign, were not enough for David. His reign was already a testimony that God was with him, but he yearned for the Presence of God. He set his eyes on the Ark.

The Ark of the Covenant was the most holy element in the most holy place on earth and therefore strict rules prescribed the transport and general handling of the Ark. In 2 Samuel 6 we read about a new cart, musicians and instruments, an ox that stumbles, a hand on the Ark, instant death and a shocked halt to everything.

The Ark is stored for another three months, until the Law is studied and the deep respect and fear for a most holy God is restored. David goes back and sacrifice an animal every six paces. This may sound excessive to any modern ear, but in the context of worship, it is of utmost importance to emphasize the flow of innocent blood in the Presence of God.

This is the key to true worship. It is only by the blood of Christ that we may enter. As we have seen, no idol can stand in the Presence; no sin can exist where a holy God is present. It is by the blood of God’s son, that we have the privilege to enter into the Presence of our most holy God, Who has not changed from the time of David. He is not less holy now that we do not have to slaughter animals. We live in the glorious dispensation of the Holy Spirit, Who communicates the truth of the blood of Jesus that cleanses, directly to our inner spirit.

Quick note: Holiness [qadosh in Hebrew] does not mean unreachable and elevated beyond understanding – it means set apart for a specific purpose. We are holy because we are apart from the rest of the world consecrated for a specific purpose as children of God.

When we fully recognize the fullness of forgiveness and the wonder of His love, this is the result:

And David danced before the Lord with all his might, clad in a linen ephod – a priest’s upper garment. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet.

We used to sing an old song: It’s the joy unspeakable and full of glory, and the half has never yet been told.

It was a joyful and loud procession, including the whole house of Israel. One always have the choice to stay out of it, like Saul’s daughter, David’s wife who criticized him for the fool he has made of himself by dancing before the Ark. She was barren as a result. She chose to look on and not participate.

The glorious rejoicing in the Presence of God is the promise of the restoration of the Tabernacle of David. In God’s Presence we can experience the sure mercies of David.

God rejoices in heart-worship. He waits for you to draw near in your inner being and submit your thoughts to Him in prayer. Zephaniah 3:17:

The Lord your God is in the midst of you, a Mighty One, a Savior Who saves! He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest in silent satisfaction and in His love He will be silent and make no mention of past sins, or even recall them; He will exult over you with singing.

The word in Hebrew describing God’s joy over you, describes an exuberant circle dance with loud demonstrative singing.

Can you imagine God being so glad about you? Just rest in this image of a joyful God and absorb the life-changing results of an existence in the Presence of the Almighty.

This is for you. This is made possible through the blood of Jesus. Just like the blood of the oxen, we can only enter by the blood of Jesus.

Can you jump up and shout for joy about this!

6. A place of shade and shelter.

The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand [the side not carrying a shield]. Psalm 121:5 Amplified.

We have established that God is alert over your life when you study His word. Furthermore, He promises to act when you believe His word and ask His direction. If God says it, He will do it. We are back in Isaiah 55 to study His confirmation of HIs unwavering commitment to His plan and promises.

Verse 3 and 4:

I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.

See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a ruler and commander of the peoples

To fully appreciate the depth of meaning in this scripture, we will need two sessions. Please stay with me as we plunge into the background to see the golden thread of true worship from the earliest times to the end of time, so beautifully revealed throughout the Bible.

God promises the mercies of David – a man after his own heart according to 1 Samuel 13:14. We know the story of David (the books of 1 and 2 Samuel) from his anointing as king of Israel as a young shepherd boy to his many victories in battle and battled love life, which are all carefully recorded for our benefit.

We also know David’s heart as recorded for us in the psalms of David in the Book of Psalms. Seventy-three of the 150 psalms are attributed to David. One of the Dead Sea Scrolls attributes 3600 tehilim (songs of praise) plus other compositions to him. It is not hard evidence that he wrote them all, but they are associated with him during his life. They are poems and songs that pour out his moods from dark depression: [Psalm 143]

For the enemy has persecuted my soul; 
 He has crushed my life to the ground; 
He has made me dwell in darkness, 
like those who have long been dead.

Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me;
 My heart within me is distressed.

 ….. to exuberant joy: Psalm 150:4

Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes!

The examples of his rejoicing in the Lord are too many to list here.

Whatever David felt and experienced, he poured out before God. His heart and mind were set on God and his life was fully and unconditionally submitted to God’s Hand and provision. His failures and sin are carefully recorded. His repentance and restoration are the powerful examples of God’s grace and forgiveness. He lived his life in full transparency to the Holy Spirit, bringing his doubt, hate and fears to the Presence of God as a firm statement that every solution to every situation is God. He declared God as his Source of life, the beginning and the end of his existence.

To fully appreciate the promise of the sure mercy (kindness, goodwill, and compassion) promised to David [Amplified], we have to go back and familiarize ourselves with the worship in the desert Tabernacle when it was established many, many years before David’s story. This is directly applicable to our lives. In Amos 9:11 the Tabernacle of David is promised:

In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David, the fallen hut or booth, and close up its breaches; and I will raise up its ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old,

The day came when Jesus walked on the earth and this is confirmed by Peter in Acts 15:16:

After this I will come back, and will rebuild the house of David, which has fallen; I will rebuild its [very] ruins, and I will set it up again,

Peter is explaining the fulfillment of the prophecy of Amos in the coming of Jesus and especially the restoration of true worship in a new and liberated way. By the time Jesus came, prayer was so regulated and ruled by the leaders of the synagogue, that all effort went into compliance with the law and not in making contact with a loving Father.

Prayer was prescribed for certain times of the day and in some instances, even certain places. Some rabbi’s went so far as to say that prayer was only powerful at the Temple and as a result, customs developed to go to the Temple at the hours of prayer. In Acts 3:1 it is mentioned that Peter and John went up to the Temple for the hour of prayer. The danger was off course that people would think God is confined to certain spaces.

Prayers were formalized and memorized and had to be recited, wherever a person finds himself throughout the day, at set times. The first prayer by first light, the last by sunset, also at the third, the sixth and the ninth hour – roughly 9am, 12pm and 3pm. The devoted Jew prayed with his heart, others gabbled the formula and used the summaries provided. There were prayers for every occasion, clearly to invite the Presence of God as life happened. Good intentions became mindless repetition muddled by legalism and false judgment.

This state of affairs is better understood, if you get a feel for the clear and strict prescriptions of worship in the first Tabernacle.

The Tabernacle – one could almost call it a take-away church – was built in such a way that it could be transported to a new destination in the desert. The first permanent building was the Temple built by Solomon, which was so grand that it was regarded as the peak of the ancient Hebrew civilization.

The desert Tabernacle was divided into three sections. In the outer court in open air was the Altar of Burnt Offering – symbolizing the sacrifice for sin, cleansed by innocent blood, as well as the Bronze Laver with water where the priest washed his hands symbolizing baptism – cleansing by water.

Inside the tent were two sections: the Holy and the Most Holy. The first part contained the Table of Showbreads – literally specially baked bread symbolizing the Word of God, the Golden Lampstand, symbolizing the light of God for illumination on His Word to bring it to life and the Altar of Incense, symbolizing worship. The incense was the lovely fragrance of true worship. This image is repeated in Revelation 5:8:

Each was holding a harp, and they had golden bowls full of incense (fragrant spices and gums for burning), which are the prayers of God’s people.

What a delightful reassurance we have in this confirmation of the special place of our prayers before the Throne of God.

In the Most Holy, the Ark of the Covenant stood as a symbol of God’s Presence. The ark was built of acacia wood and completely covered in gold. On the lid were two golden cherubs, one on each side of the Mercy Seat. Inside the Ark were three elements: the rod of Aaron that blossomed in one day [Numbers 17], the stone tablets on which the Law was written, carried down the mountain by Moses and the golden pot with manna that stayed fresh. Nothing ever goes bad in the Presence of God.

According to the laws governing the Tabernacle only the priests had access to the three sections and went in on behalf of the whole nation. Only once a year the high priest was allowed into the Most Holy. The blood of the sacrificial animal was sprinkled over the Mercy Seat symbolizing Christ’s blood shed in mercy for our sins. That day was specially marked as a day of fasting – the Yom Kippur – to repent and be cleansed of sin. It was (and is still today) the most holy Jewish feast. If he entered unworthy and arrogant, he died on the spot. No one else was allowed. The high priest wore a robe with bells along the seam, so that those outside could hear him moving around. If the bells fell silent, they used a hook to get his corpse out. These details serve to illustrate the uncompromisingly holiness and strict measures regarding the Most Holy part of the Tabernacle.

The fatal consequence of unworthy entry into the Most Holy, explains the efforts of the spiritual leaders to carefully formalize and institutionalize prayer and worship in their eagerness to please God.

The goal of prayer is to enter into the Presence of God. David knew that. That is why he declares the ultimate place of safety to be the Presence. Psalm 91:1:

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand].

Please read the whole Psalm and make it your own. This is truly a pillar of trust and faith in every situation.

To further explain the wonderful example of worship set by David and the importance of the declaration in Acts that the tabernacle of David is restored, we have to follow the history of the desert Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant a little bit further.

Look out for Pebbles number 7.