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!

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