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.

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