The Gospel According to Moses
DAILY DEVOTIONAL READINGS BY KIM HARRINGTON
WeekXX: Build It According to the Pattern!
Day 134: Possessing the Land Gradually
I will not drive them out before you in a single year, that the land may not become desolate, and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land.
The verses above refer to the Israelites taking the land of Canaan. God said He would drive out the present inhabitants little by little, as the children of Israel were able to occupy the land and keep it fruitful. That way the earth wouldn’t lie fallow and unattended and be taken over by the beasts of the field by the time Israel was established and populous enough to really make use of it.
It strikes me that the Lord sometimes does this in our Christian growth, too. Instead of instantly delivering us from every sin, bondage, and character flaw all at once, He often does it gradually. First one sin, then another...lose that habit, take a little time to consolidate your gains, then move on to the next battle.
Sin can become so much a part of your personality and character that you’re completely lost without it. By the time I got saved, I had no concept of good clean fun. I didn’t enjoy sports, board games, or going out to a restaurant or a family movie. My idea of fun was drugs and alcohol, parties, sex, and blaring rock music. I was no longer the innocent child my parents raised.
Maybe you got a lot deeper into sin than I did, and became bound by pornography, serious substance abuse, or perhaps picked up deep emotional hurts and problems along the way. In such cases actual demons take up residence, and there is a need for radical deliverance. It may take you a little longer to get completely free. Sometimes it’s difficult to determine where your own personality leaves off and a demon’s begins—sin has become a part of you in a very real way.
That doesn’t mean you must continue in open sin, however. God knows how to set you free. What it does mean is that there will be a more gradual healing process deep in your heart, a slow but sure replacing of old sinful thoughts and emotional patterns with new sanctified ones.
Sometimes it’s best not to rush it—especially if it isn’t you we’re talking about, but a close loved one. Let God slowly drive out the Canaanites before them as they’re able to be fruitful and occupy that part of their own life. Don’t be too surprised if they still lose their temper or slip into some other irresponsible reaction to a trial once in awhile. Pray them through it, and be patient. Think about all the progress that’s already been made, instead of focussing constantly on what portions of the land still need to be taken.
If you are such a person, don’t use this teaching as a cop-out, but continue to take new steps of faith, continue to pray and trust God, and get more free every day. God said He wouldn’t drive the Canaanites out all at once—but He had no intention of allowing them to hang around indefinitely, either. Get on with the warfare!
Day 135: No Covenants with the Canaanites
You shall make no covenant with them or with their gods. They shall not live in your land, lest they make you sin against Me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.
It’s not a whole lot of fun to take a hard line stance on a particular subject, to draw a line and risk breaking the peace and destroying relationships, yet sometimes this is exactly what God calls the Christian to do. We are to attempt to live peacefully as much as we can with others, but not at the expense of biblical truth, and the well-being of our own walk with the Lord. Israel may well have wanted to make covenants, or treaties, with some of the Canaanites, but God forbid them to. Being bonded or yoked to an idolater would surely have a serious effect on their own spirituality. And sure enough, they disobeyed and that’s exactly what happened.
In the New Testament, we are reminded of the timelessness of this principle: "Do not be bound together with unbelievers...come out from their midst and be separate, says the Lord," (2 Cor 6:14,17). The reasoning is the same. If you enter a covenant or make a compromise with the world, you will eventually be dragged down to their level of spirituality. If you marry an unbeliever you will never rise to very great heights in the Lord. You’ll have a drag attached to you all the time, even if your spouse is just as reasonable as he or she could be. Most of the time they’re not reasonable at all, however, and you’ll end up a very unhappy Christian, living your life and raising your children surrounded by all the trappings of the world, the flesh, and the devil. The original compromise will eventually leak through to every area of your life.
Many try to live a born-again Christian life while staying in a church that is spiritually dead and unfulfilling; or worse yet, a church that may actually encourage idolatry such as prayers to saints and Mary. They want to be "missionaries" to their less enlightened brethren, but they usually end up a "mission field," having compromised until their own faith is little different than the pagans around them.
I know a Pentecostal man who married an evangelical woman, with the clear understanding that tongues and spiritual gifts would never come between them. However, they had to choose a church to attend: her evangelical church or his charismatic fellowship. She won out, for she was convinced that tongues-speaking and other manifestations of the Spirit were illegitimate. He sacrificed the things of the Spirit for her, compromised his own beliefs, lost her respect, and abdicated the leadership of the home to her. She eventually left him. A compromise of convictions will always end in some sort of disaster, small or large
So don’t make any treaties with those of differing beliefs. You’ll have to live with the compromises a long time, and you may eventually die because of them. Be loving, but be firm. You may have to risk a relationship, but you’ll never risk the most important one of all—the one with Jesus.
Day 136: Dining with the Lord
And they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself. Yet He did not stretch out His hand against the nobles of the sons of Israel; and they beheld God, and they ate and drank.
Here we have a beautiful picture of the kind of fellowship God has always wanted to have with His people, in the New Testament of course, but even back here in the Law of Moses. He wants to dine with them and enjoy their company.
Jesus ate with His disciples all the time, and he often ate in the home of a new convert, just to get them established and comfortable with Him. "He ate in my house...I’m not as unclean as I thought, not as unworthy as the Pharisees have always told me I was...now that I’m a follower of Christ." Our Lord also spoke of a future day when He would return for His church, and He would eat and drink with us again. In His letter to the lukewarm Laodiceans in Revelation three, after warning and reproving them, He expresses the desire to dine with them: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock, and if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to Him and sup with Him and He with Me."
We’re so unbelieving, and our own hearts are so cold, and filled with guilt, that we can’t imagine or understand His desire to dine with us, fellowship with us. Moses expresses amazement in our text that the elders of Israel weren’t smitten by some sort of a plague just for having the misfortune to get close to God. How legalistic and Old Testament of him to think that! Still, we New Testament believers are much the same. We accept that the Lord has forgiven us, and will usher us into heaven someday as perfected glorified saints, but we find the idea of Him wanting to fellowship with us right now a little hard to believe. What could He possibly see in me? Why would He desire my company? What about my conversation could an omniscient God stimulating or pleasing in any way?
Perhaps He wants us to find Him stimulating and interesting—in and of Himself, not for any benefits He might give us. Maybe He longs for His children to look on Him and love Him and feel that He’s the greatest Dad in the universe. Perhaps He wants us to become more like Him as we enjoy His fellowship... reflected from glory to glory as it says in Second Corinthians three. You become like who you hang around with, after all.
It’s those times around the supper table that are some of the best times in your life, when hearts are knit together, and souls made one. American families have suffered a great deal from neglecting mealtimes together... and many otherwise good Christians have failed to really enter into the intimacy and fellowship that they need and desire deep inside—and that God Himself desires to have with them—by not sitting down and dining with the Lord.
Day 137: Our Unhurried God
And the glory of the Lord rested on Mt. Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud.
In this modern day of fast food, microwave ovens, and instant cash machines, there is still someone who insists on doing things the old fashioned way, who still takes the time to do things right, and who cannot be rushed or pushed into jumping into anything prematurely. That someone is God, of course, and try as we might, we just can’t seem to bring Him into our hurried Twenty-first Century values and lifestyle. He just won’t be pushed and rushed.
Moses sought the Lord in the most concentrated and earnest way he knew, including an absolute fast. Still he sat for six days without a response from Heaven. God cannot be rushed; He comes when He will, and His timing is always perfect. Perhaps then Moses should have just waited six days, or five at least, before ascending into the mount—he could have accomplished a lot of daily duties in the interim. God would still have kept Him waiting, for the six-day wait did things in Moses’ heart and mind that needed to be done, too; everything has a good purpose when God does it, whether it makes sense to us or not. "My ways are not your ways," He says later to Isaiah, and "one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as a day," He also informs us in the Scripture. Time is not that important to the Timeless One. He can move quickly or slowly, depending on what He’s doing.
You can’t rush Him. Kick and fuss all you like; it won’t change His mind. He won’t respond any faster for your emotional outbursts or because you think you’re at the end of your rope right now—you just make the wait more uncomfortable by trying to force His hand. He won’t be manipulated. You might as well make your requests known, take the necessary steps that you can, and then wait patiently on the Lord. "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." Relax and enjoy the rest if you’re in the waiting process, because when He does respond you’ll be plenty busy just trying to keep up.
We used to sing a song that said, "You can’t hurry God, you just have to wait..." I was always fond of adding, "But when He does move you better grab the hem of His garment and hang on for dear life!" People sometimes ask us how we ever went to India as missionaries, and my answer to them, upon sincere reflection, is "so fast that our heads didn’t stop spinning for a couple of months." One minute we were grilling brats in our own backyard, and seemingly the next we were on the other side of the planet. Don’t get impatient if you’re temporarily in a holding pattern. It’ll be over just as soon as God—and you—are ready for the next stage.
Day 138: The Tabernacle in the Wilderness
Tell the sons of Israel to raise a contribution for Me...and let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.
The rest of the book of Exodus, from chapter twenty-five through chapter forty, is largely taken up with the description and instructions for building the tabernacle in the wilderness. At first glance it seems to be a rather unspiritual way to fill up so many chapters of Scripture, but as we look deeper, we’re going to discover that this tabernacle, its furniture, and the various ceremonies, holidays, and offerings connected with it are profoundly spiritual. They provide, in fact, the basis of the rest of the Bible in a very real way.
The tabernacle was the central feature of Israel’s worship of Yahweh, the one true God. It was more than that, though; it was the central feature of all life in Israel, it was what knit them together as a nation and provided the basis of their whole culture. Israel was a religious state, with God at the center of everything, and God’s Law was the state law—in much the same way that some nations are fundamentalist Islamic nations today with sharia law. The worship of other gods and the practice of other religions was prohibited. The worship of the true God apart from what was prescribed in the Law and the tabernacle worship was also prohibited.
The tabernacle provided Israel with its national identity. They had no land yet, no history—except as slaves in Egypt, and the distant memory of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They had no national anthem, no significant national holidays that commemorated old victories, the end of wars, the nation’s birthday, etc. They did all speak Hebrew, but they also spoke Egyptian, and many no doubt spoke Egyptian better. They had little religion to speak of—though many clung to vague beliefs about the God of Abraham, they also practiced the various dark arts of Egyptian occultism, and many worshipped the Egyptian gods outright. Thus they had no common value system.
The Law, with the tabernacle as its central feature, provided all these things for them, and knit them into a cohesive nation over the next two or three generations. A nation needs a common language, religion, world-view and value system, and recognized holidays to really be a nation, a people significantly different from those around them with an identity of their own.
The tabernacle in the wilderness provided them with a center of worship and religion—and wherever it was subsequently set up became the capital, the heart, of the nation. Certain days were set aside for special tabernacle observances—special feast days—and these became the basic holidays of Israel, with only a few additions in the thousands of years since then. Observing the tabernacle worship and the Law gave the people a common religion, a common set of values, a God-centered culture they could call their own, and which was—and is—distinctly Jewish. Soon they had a history, too—and most of it centered around how this king did or didn’t keep the Law and honor God’s tabernacle or temple. The sons of Israel became a nation, a distinct people, because of the tabernacle and the Law.
That’s no small accomplishment, and plenty of reason to devote so much space to this subject, but tomorrow we’ll see that the tabernacle is even more important than that.
Day 139: Tabernacle Types
Tell the sons of Israel to raise a contribution for Me...and let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.
Yesterday we saw that the tabernacle was the foundation upon which Israel’s national identity and entire culture was built upon. It provided the center for their worship of the Lord, and a hub around which their whole life as a nation revolved. In a very real way, the tabernacle, and the Law as a whole, knit this extended family of slaves into a people with all the necessary ingredients of a nation.
The tabernacle has a more far-reaching purpose than the unity of Israel, however; it has a universal dimension that has touched nearly every other nation in the world today, and which will one day turn this entire world around to God. The tabernacle is not just a specially designed worship center for an ancient people, it is the model from which we get most of our New Testament theology. It displays in symbolic form the teachings and doctrines of Christianity. It is the pattern that Paul looked to and received revelation from concerning the nature of God, the plan of redemption, and the meaning of the work and ministry of Jesus Christ.
The tabernacle in the wilderness is without a doubt the greatest "type" of Christ in the Old Testament. We’ve mentioned types quite a bit already in our study of Moses and the Law, but let’s stop and define the word here. A type is a physical foreshadowing of a spiritual reality. It can be a person, place, thing, event, office, action, or ritual. A type is a kind of symbolic physical prophecy. Joseph was a type of Christ, as was David, because their physical lives represented truths about Christ. The rainy cycle of Israel is a type of historic revivals. The Israelites themselves, delivered from Egypt, baptized in the Red Sea, and daily eating and drinking from supernatural sources, are a type of the Christian life.
Nowhere in the Bible will you find more profound and detailed types than in the tabernacle of Moses. The materials used represent spiritual truths, the articles of furniture represent various aspects of the ministry of Christ, the offerings and rituals connected with the tabernacle speak of greater spiritual things to come. The priest was a picture of Christ. Even the feast days which divided the Israeli calendar foreshadow a greater spiritual timetable.
As already stated, much of our theology is taken right from the tabernacle types. The Apostle Paul received great revelation from God regarding the typology of the Old Testament, and as a result, was able to explain to the church the deeper truths of the atonement. This is one more tremendous reason for the New Testament believer to take the Law of Moses very seriously. It’s as relevant to us as our faith in Christ Himself!
Day 140: Build It According to the Pattern
According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it.
Some 3500 years ago God called His servant Moses up into Mount Sinai, and during the period of fasting and prayer that followed, He appeared to Moses, giving Him a glimpse of His glory. He traced with His own finger His moral law in the tablets of stone; and He gave to His servant explicit instructions regarding the building of the tabernacle in the wilderness, a place where His glory would dwell temporarily among the children of Israel.
He instructed Moses to build everything strictly according to the pattern given in the mount. That pattern was quite detailed, too. Specific measurements were given and exact materials were specified. It was actually quite complicated at times, but Moses was clearly instructed that there was to be no departure from the heavenly blueprint, no substitution of materials, no modification of the measurements.
God had, in fact, insured that all the right materials would be on hand. When the children of Israel left Egypt He told them to ask their neighbors for articles of gold, silver, and clothing—and He also touched the hearts of the Egyptians to give to them—so they would have sufficient materials to build the tabernacle (see Exodus 3:22, 12:2,3, etc.).
God has a purpose for everything He does, and His purposes are often far beyond our comprehension. Little did the Israelites know that the articles they received from their neighbors would soon go into the building of a glorious tabernacle that God Himself would visit. Little did Moses and the builders of the tabernacle realize that every detail of their structure was part of an intricate picture of the redemptive work of Jesus, the Messiah that would not come to Israel for another 1500 years or more.
Details were important in the building of the tabernacle and they are important to us today. We sometimes have a tendency to be a bit sloppy in our obedience to the pattern given in the New Testament; we follow a worldly pattern for our structures and methodology, even in the basic government of the church, assuming that God doesn’t really care about the details as long as our hearts are right, and we haven’t tampered with the basic gospel message of salvation through Jesus Christ. If someone says that we ought to stick a little closer to the scriptural pattern he’s quickly dismissed as divisive and legalistic.
Suppose the pattern has a purpose—suppose it’s a blueprint that must be followed to insure the ultimate success of the venture. Actually, the rest of the Bible would seem to bear this view out rather than the more casual approach. Our text from Exodus 25, by the way, is repeated in the New Testament in Hebrews 8:5, "...see, saith He, that you build it according to the pattern shewed thee in the mount." Paul took it seriously, as Moses before him did. It’s been my deep conviction of many years that the great majority of our troubles in the church are a direct result of our carelessness with the pattern. God may go along with us for awhile because He desires to bless in any case, and He can’t get through the hardness of our hearts, but if we introduce too many alterations, too many of our own touches here and there, and eliminate some of the biblical features that seem inappropriate to us, we may eventually find that we’re not building God’s church at all. It’s worth thinking about...
All Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Version unless marked otherwise.
Copyright © 2005 Kim Harrington, Masterbuilder Ministries. All rights reserved.