Carrying the Ark Part 7

So, having talked about what David did in setting up the Ark of the Covenant in Jerusalem, the worship that took place (most of our Psalms flowed from and were written in the context of this prophetic worship), and how David lived in a an aged of grace before it existed, what is the New Testament significance? Acts 15 was the first church conference and is known as the Jerusalem Council. The church was initially seen as a sect within first century Judaism and the followers known as those who were of the Way (remember Jesus is the way).

6  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6 (NKJV)

2  and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Acts 9:2 (NKJV)

23  And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way. Acts 19:23 (NKJV)

19  Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20  by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, Hebrews 10:19-20 (NKJV)

I believe David’s behaviour also prophetically pointed to this way in that the Hebrews reference above refers to Jesus making a way into something through His shed blood, that something being the Holy of Holies, the home of the Ark of the Covenant, Yahweh’s dwelling place. How does this further tie together? The first Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 was a debate about the role of Gentiles in what was a predominantly Jewish church, as noted above. The issue was essentially whether the Gentile converts needed to practice Judaism to truly be saved. The conclusion was that they did not and the matter was essentially closed when Jesus half-brother James, the lead apostle in Jerusalem at this point, stood up and quoted the prophet Amos from the Old Testament.

16  ‘After this I will return And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, And I will set it up; 17  So that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the LORD who does all these things’ Acts 15:16-17 (NKJV)

At first glance we might wonder what on earth this has to do with the subject at hand. Have you ever had the experience where on the surface something didn’t make sense and then suddenly the light came on? Years ago in some writing I defined discernment as ‘seeing the reality that lies behind appearances.’ This is what happened here. Through the spirit of revelation James suddenly saw and shared what he saw. He knew the Old Testament and recognized that David lived before his time and there was free worship before the Ark of the Covenant.

James realized that the Holy Spirit falling on Gentiles, baptizing them into the body of Christ and imparting spiritual gifts was a fulfillment of what David did. The Gentiles did not have to follow numerous rules and regulations to encounter His presence, the Holy of Holies. Access was open and free. Just as David left the sacrifices, rules and regulations functioning at the Tabernacle of Moses at Gibeon and promoted open and free worship in Jerusalem before the Ark. This worship that released the anointing of the Holy Spirit on the worshippers before the Ark, just as was now happening in the New Testament church.

So let us embrace and pursue Him as we learn to live out of His presence. Not performing rituals so we can encounter Him but rather embracing the truth of His word.

19  Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20  by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, Hebrews 10:19-20 (NKJV)

The Tabernacle of David has been restored; we have open access and can live everyday out from His presence!

Carrying the Ark Part 6

So David now has the Ark of the Covenant in a tent at Jerusalem? Why is this important and what happened next? David made a radical decision to follow his heart. We know from what Yahweh taught through Moses that the priesthood was Levitical and everlasting. In referring to Aaron’s sons this is what Yahweh said.

15  “You shall anoint them, as you anointed their father, that they may minister to Me as priests; for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations.” Exodus 40:15 (NKJV)

The priesthood came through Levi, Moses and Aaron were both in this lineage, and what is described above was still happening when Jesus was born. Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, as a descendant of Levi was ministering before Yahweh in the temple when the angel appeared to him and announced the birth of John the Baptist. The exception to all of this was during the reign of David in Jerusalem, a 33 year period, the same number of years Jesus walked the earth. The subsequent transition following David’s exception, which is the subject of the book of Hebrews, is when Jesus as the new high priest forever replaced the Levitical priesthood.

Though he was not a priest David established open worship before the Ark in a tent. The picture below is a good illustration of what David established.

thHFPLZCHV

The only way for David to have open worship before the Ark was live for 33 years in another age, the age of grace. He and others had no authority to minister before the Ark. So what did David establish?

4  And he appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the LORD, to commemorate, to thank, and to praise the LORD God of Israel: 5  Asaph the chief, and next to him Zechariah, then Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, and Obed-Edom: Jeiel with stringed instruments and harps, but Asaph made music with cymbals; 6  Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests regularly blew the trumpets before the ark of the covenant of God. 1 Chronicles 16:4-6 (NKJV)

37  So he left Asaph and his brothers there before the ark of the covenant of the LORD to minister before the ark regularly, as every day’s work required; 38  and Obed-Edom with his sixty-eight brethren, including Obed-Edom the son of Jeduthun, and Hosah, to be gatekeepers; 39  and Zadok the priest and his brethren the priests, before the tabernacle of the LORD at the high place that was at Gibeon, 40  to offer burnt offerings to the LORD on the altar of burnt offering regularly morning and evening, and to do according to all that is written in the Law of the LORD which He commanded Israel; 1 Chronicles 16:37-40 (NKJV)

The above verses establish that there was continual worship going on before the Ark while the evening and morning sacrifices continued at the Tabernacle of Moses at Gibeon. The word translated ‘regularly’ in verse 37 is translated as continually in the NASB and that is the normal usage and more literal meaning of the word. Further support for the different functions at the two different locations is found in Psalm 84:1 if it is read in a literal translation. It says,

1  To the Chief Musician. On an instrument of Gath. A Psalm of the sons of Korah. How lovely is Your tabernacle, O LORD of hosts! Psalm 84:1 (NKJV)

What is lost in the NKJV and most others is that the Hebrew refers not to a tabernacle or dwelling place. It is plural, as seen in the NASB.

1  How lovely are Your dwelling places, O LORD of hosts! Psalm 84:1 (NASB)

So while both places, Gibeon and Jerusalem, were described as lovely and as the dwelling places of Yahweh, the animal sacrifices happened at Gibeon and the passionate worship in Jerusalem before the Ark.

What most of us may not be aware of is the fruit of the worship before the Ark at Jerusalem. This is where most of our Psalms came from and why so many of them were prophetic, they were delivered/written in the context of anointed worship! This is what we are called to, to come deeply into His presence, encounter Him and release His words.

Carrying the Ark Part 5

We continue our journey with the Ark by looking at what happened to the Ark of the Covenant when David became king. Bear in mind that the Ark represented Yahweh dwelling among His people. At first glance one could say David found the Ark and restored the Ark to its rightful place in Israel. He brought if from obscurity to his new capital city Jerusalem. Yet David not restore the Ark, he did something radical. We know that the Ark was designed to dwell in the Holy of Holies inside the Tabernacle of Moses (Ex. 40:34-38). In fact when the Tabernacle of Moses was assembled for the first time His glory came and for the rest of the journey in the wilderness the movements of the nation were governed by the movement of His glory!

34  Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 35  And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 36  Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. 37  But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up. 38  For the cloud of the LORD was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys. Exodus 40:34-38 (NKJV)

This was an amazing place and time, yet David discovered something deeper. Have you ever felt driven to do something and felt you could not rest until it was accomplished? David had a deep insatiable longing in his heart. He was hungry for the Ark, for Yahweh’s presence.

Yet David had some challenges in satisfying this internal longing. 2 Samuel 6 describes what happened. First they tried to bring the Ark up on an ox cart and Uzzah died. Uzzah had grown up with the Ark as it had been in his father’s house for at least twenty years and he and his brother were driving the ox cart. Yet he did not seem to grasp the significance of Yahweh’s presence and when he touched the Ark he died. David presumptuously thought that if they worshipped while they traveled with it Yahweh would be pleased, He was not! These were His covenant people and Moses had taught them how to worship Him and hallow His name yet this was not being done.

After his aborted attempt to bring up the Ark David was both angry at Yahweh and afraid (2 Sam. 6:8-9). It would be good to pause and reflect on how we view His glory. David took time to pause and reflect. He left the Ark in Obed-Edom’s house for three months while he decided what to do. David still had his hunger for Yahweh’s presence so he prepared a tent for the Ark to dwell in and then looked at how to transport the Ark (the tent will become important later). He realized the problem lay with him and instructed the Levites to carry it as instructed by Moses.

13  For because you did not do it the first time, the LORD our God broke out against us, because we did not consult Him about the proper order.” 14  So the priests and the Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the ark of the LORD God of Israel. 15  And the children of the Levites bore the ark of God on their shoulders, by its poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the LORD. 16  Then David spoke to the leaders of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers accompanied by instruments of music, stringed instruments, harps, and cymbals, by raising the voice with resounding joy. 1 Chronicles 15:13-16 (NKJV)

David again incorporated worship and also included sacrifices.

26  And so it was, when God helped the Levites who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, that they offered seven bulls and seven rams. 27  David was clothed with a robe of fine linen, as were all the Levites who bore the ark, the singers, and Chenaniah the music master with the singers. David also wore a linen ephod. 1 Chronicles 15:26-27 (NKJV)

What is instructive in this passage is the meaning of the seven bulls and seven rams. As a number in scripture seven usually represents completeness, for example seven days complete a week. The other significance is the bulls were a sin offering and the rams a trespass offering (see Lev. Chapters 4-5). David realized he had sinned and trespassed against Yahweh in his presumption and enthusiasm.

The next step in the process is very important. Many believe Psalm 24 was sung when David brought the Ark into Jerusalem. It is below in its entirety.

1  A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’S, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein. 2  For He has founded it upon the seas, And established it upon the waters. 3  Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place? 4  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully. 5  He shall receive blessing from the LORD, And righteousness from the God of his salvation. 6  This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, Who seek Your face. Selah 7  Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. 8  Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, The LORD mighty in battle. 9  Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. 10  Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah Psalm 24:1-10 (NKJV)

This Psalm depicts a conquering King coming to His people. Read it and reflect on the power of the language,

  • King of glory
  • Strong and mighty
  • Mighty in battle

This language and Psalm make sense of what is described in 2 Samuel 6:16-23. There David danced half naked before the Ark in abandoned worship. His wife Michal, the daughter of Saul, despised his behaviour because she knew what it represented. In the culture of the day a conquering king would parade his captives or a conquered king naked before his people as he came into the city. In this procession David passionately danced before the Ark in abandonment to the King coming behind him, the One dwelling between the cherubim on the Ark, and by his actions declared, “I am His captive, He is the true King in Jerusalem.”

What do our lives declare about our devotion to His Lordship?

Carrying the Ark Part 4

I ended my last post noting, “We are called to an ongoing internal encounter with His glory within our spirits that is generally not observed by others, just as the ministry of the high priest before the Ark was not observed. Our mind, will and emotions are called to cooperate in this endeavour. Encountering Him deep within is carrying the Ark and I will delve deeper into the how of this in future posts.”

As Peter said on the day of Pentecost, “This is that.” The outward life and interactions we manifest should be the overflow of what is happening in our spirits. The Ark of the Covenant was carried into battle by Israel at times, and was a tangible reminder of God’s presence with them. However, it was not a magic charm. When it was taken into battle by Eli’s sons Hophni and Phinehas, and the hearts of Israel’s leaders were not right, it was captured by the Philistines (1 Sam. 4:1-17). The Ark was taken from the Tabernacle of Moses at Shiloh. When Yahweh opposed the Philistines because they had the Ark they returned it to Israel. However Israel neglected it.

1  Then the men of Kirjath Jearim came and took the ark of the LORD, and brought it into the house of Abinadab on the hill, and consecrated Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the LORD. 2  So it was that the ark remained in Kirjath Jearim a long time; it was there twenty years. And all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD. 1 Samuel 7:1-2 (NKJV)

The Ark of the Covenant was neglected by the nation and the sacrifices and other activities continued at Shiloh at the Tabernacle of Moses. A picture of how we can operate in religion with some power but lacking the true presence of God as the focus of our worship. The next mention of the Ark is under the reign of Saul.

18  And Saul said to Ahijah, “Bring the ark of God here” (for at that time the ark of God was with the children of Israel). 1 Samuel 14:18 (NKJV)

There is some scholarly debate as to whether this passage actually refers to the Ark of the Covenant or the ephod. Either way, under their current leadership the nation was still treating Yahweh as a good luck charm and tool to be used against their enemies rather than as the focus of their worship.

In a similar manner we can be in the habit of reading our bibles, attending services and signing worship songs, perhaps all well-intentioned, but still have a sense there is something more. That something more is Jesus. Not the Jesus of theories but the one who dwells within. As a habit, almost reflexively, we pray toward heaven. This is a good habit Jesus did it (see Jn. 11:41). Yet at the same time, as Israel neglected the Ark among them we can neglect the life within us.

Have you ever tried to find something you already have? Looked for the glasses you later discovered were on your head on looked for the keys you had in your hand? There is a song with the line, “Looking for love in all the wrong places.” We need to look for Jesus in all the right places. An ongoing theme for Paul was our need to encounter this life within.

4  Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words. 5  For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ. 6  As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7  rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 2:4-7 (NKJV)

To paraphrase the passage above, Paul is saying, ‘You have the right structure and you are faithful but make sure you get to know the one within you.” Paul exhorted us to walk in Him and the context of the writing is Paul refuting wrong teaching and establishing right teaching. He wanted his readers, and by extension us, to know that because we have Jesus in us we need to have our life rooted in Him, not just in right doctrine but a right experiential relationship. While Christianity is rooted in a doctrinal or belief system, our doctrine and belief is to lead to experiences of Him, being ‘rooted and built up in Him.’ In fact in the passage above, even though Paul was not physically present, because of the relationship he had developed with Jesus he described being spiritually present among the Colossians and seeing some of what they were doing (a literal translation of verse 5 from the Greek is ‘rejoicing and seeing’). I have had this happen, having the Holy Spirit show me something in a dream then seeing it played out. Years ago someone, I will call him Bob, described to me how a mutual prophetic friend relayed to Bob what had taken place at a meeting Bob was at. Even though the prophetic fellow was not present it was as if he had been at the meeting.

I am not saying this should be our goal, just that it illustrates what can flow from knowing Him and interacting with the One over the Ark, not just knowing about Him. Let’s get to know the One within.

In my next post I will pick up the natural journey of the Ark of the Covenant, David’s choices in relation to it, and the implications for our spiritual life.

Carrying the Ark Part 3

The description Yahweh gave to Moses of how to build the Tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant covers Exodus 25-30. I won’t go into all the details, they are in the scriptures, however it is important to note that is was divided into three parts, an outer court, Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, which I believe correspond to our triune nature. If you go from the inside out the Holy of Holies represents our spirit, designed to hold His presence. The Holy Place corresponds to our soul and the outer court, the most visible part, corresponds to our bodies. All were ultimately created for His purpose.

23  Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (NKJV)

The inner court contained three objects, the lampstand which represents our mind (light and illumination), the table of showbread which represents our will, supposed to be broken (the ground grain) and submitted to His will, and the altar of incense, which represents our emotions and desires. The altar of incense was positioned right outside the Holy of Holies so the fragrant incense entered into the Holy of Holies, into His presence. Our desires are to be directed toward Him.

However, just at our lives truly only have eternal value and purpose when He dwells within us, even so the Tabernacle of Moses, and later Solomon’s temple, found their true value in the One who dwelt within it!

One of the great tragic scenes in scripture is in Ezekiel. In Ezekiel the priest and prophet Ezekiel is taken into a prophetic experience where he sees the Glory of Yahweh depart from the Temple in Jerusalem. Ezekiel is in Babylon at the time as part of the captivity so he is shown this in the spirit realm.

Imagine being Ezekiel, passionately committed to Yahweh, your nation, and His temple and seeing Him depart and no one noticing and going on with their lives as if He were still there! The Hebrew word for His glory is kabod and connotes a brightness and heaviness. The word Ichabod means, there is no glory, that is, the glory is gone. The key verses in Ezekiel chapter 10 are below, and below that the source of the expression of Ichabod.

4  Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub, and paused over the threshold of the temple; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the LORD’S glory. Ezekiel 10:4 (NKJV) 18  Then the glory of the LORD departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim. 19  And the cherubim lifted their wings and mounted up from the earth in my sight. When they went out, the wheels were beside them; and they stood at the door of the east gate of the LORD’S house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them. Ezekiel 10:18-19 (NKJV)

21  Then she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. 22  And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.” 1 Samuel 4:21-22 (NKJV)

In this description, before and after this event Yahweh showed Ezekiel the wickedness of the leaders in Israel. The great tragedy is that after He lifted off from between the Cherubim on the Ark of The Covenant He paused and waited to see if anyone would notice and repent. When no one did He continued and left the temple.

So, how does this relate back to us? See the picture below.

Ark of the Covenant

Yahweh’s glory dwelt over the mercy seat (the lid of the Ark) between the outstretched wings of the Cherubim. While the Ark of the Covenant was beautiful, it only had real value when Yahweh’s glory dwelt between the Cherubim. Without His glory it was just an elaborate and expensive storage chest! Paul described us as being His temple.

16  Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16 (NKJV)

The key part in the temple, the Holy of Holies is what Paul referred to in the verse above. Solomon informed us that our spirit was His lamp.

27  The spirit of a man is the lamp of the LORD, Searching all the inner depths of his heart. Proverbs 20:27 (NKJV)

We need the light of His presence dwelling within and then we need to learn how to cooperate with His grace to spiritually mature. I believe we grow through intentional encounters with Him and through spending time in His word and presence. While the Ark was beautiful it was rarely seen. In the same way, Paul not only said we have this treasure, His glory, in earthen vessels, he also pointed us to something else.

6  For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6 (NKJV)

We are called to an ongoing internal encounter with His glory within our spirits that is generally not observed by others, just as the ministry of the high priest before the Ark was not observed. Our mind, will and emotions are called to cooperate in this endeavour. Encountering Him deep within is carrying the Ark and I will delve deeper into the how of this in future posts.

 

Carrying the Ark Part 2

To better understand the Ark of the Covenant and how it is a journey into Yahweh’s heart and presence it is helpful to see how it contextually fit into the Tabernacle of Moses. Below is a depiction of the Tabernacle which grew out of Yahweh’s command to Moses.  

8  And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. Exodus 25:8 (NKJV)
Tabernacle of Moses

In the depiction above the outer court is the area where the sacrifices took place on the altar. The large bronze bowl was the laver for washing and behind that, the tent like or curtained off area contained first the Holy Place and behind it the Holy of Holies, the home of the Ark of the Covenant when the tabernacle was set up as the nation camped.

While it was the whole sanctuary that was described as Yahweh’s dwelling place, He in fact only dwelt in one place in the tabernacle, over the mercy seat which was the lid of the Ark of the Covenant. What was different after the tabernacle was built was that previously Yahweh had dwelt outside the camp as a pillar of fire (at night) and as a cloud (by day). If we carefully read Numbers chapter 2 we discover that once it was built the tabernacle was set up in the midst of the nation, and when viewed from above the nation, the camp would have looked like a cross the way the 12 tribes were directed to arrange themselves, with the tabernacle and ark at the intersection of the crossbars. Obviously when we step from time into eternity we will discover many things the Holy Spirit was pointing to but we can discover some now. This is an example of what Solomon wrote in Proverbs

2  It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter. Proverbs 25:2 (NKJV)

The principle inherent in this proverb is that Yahweh hides things not from us, but for us. What is hidden in Numbers 2 is a prophetic message pointing to the cross, the glory of God is hidden in the cross. It is hidden because though the Ark was in the Tabernacle of Moses, and later the Temple of Solomon, it could not be seen and unless it was carried into battle or before the nation as it moved, it was only observed once per year by one man, the High Priest on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. We will later discover a glorious exception in the life of David but this was in general how it worked. His glory was present but usually concealed. Paul, well aware of this described us as containing this treasure in earthen vessels. He first informed us that as believers we are His temple.

16  Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16 (NKJV) 19  Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 1 Corinthians 6:19 (NKJV)

The phrase temple that is used here refers not to the whole edifice but to the Holy of Holies, the dwelling place of the Ark of the Covenant. Building on this he made his declaration in 2 Corinthians.

6  For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 2 Corinthians 4:6-7 (NKJV)

Paul’s message is that God is not ‘out there somewhere.’ When we are born again He is ‘in there somewhere’ and we need to get to know this One who dwells within that we may reveal Him without.

 

 

Carrying the Ark Part 1

I want to spend some time looking at the Ark of the Covenant and how it relates to our spiritual lives. I will begin with the concept it expresses then explain where and why it was created and look at the history of the Ark in Israel, including its loss and restoration and what connection it had to the Tabernacle of Moses once it was restored to Israel. I will include what it prophetically points to for us as New Testament believers.

The first mention of the ark is in Exodus 25:10 in the context of Yahweh’s instruction to Moses to make a sanctuary that He might dwell among His people Israel.

8  And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. Exodus 25:8 (NKJV) 10  “And they shall make an ark of acacia wood; two and a half cubits shall be its length, a cubit and a half its width, and a cubit and a half its height. Exodus 25:10 (NKJV)

Yahweh’s focus was to dwell among His people. To this point He had only visited them and manifested His presence. The word dwell is significant because it refers to His abiding presence among His people.

  1. ‏שָׁכַן‎ shākhan

verb

to settle, to abide, to stay

Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary.

Many people are familiar with the concept of the Shekinah Glory of God. What most may be unaware of is that the word is not found in the Old or New Testaments. It came from the Hebrew above, shakhan. During the 400 year period between the two testaments the Rabbi’s coined the term Shekinah from this word to refer to Yahweh’s dwelling presence among His people. No, ‘dwelling presence’ is not words out of order, it is very important to understand His ‘dwelling presence’ rather than His presence for a time dwelling. Some examples of where this concept is expressed in the New Testament are Ephesians and John.

22  in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:22 (NKJV)

17  that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, Ephesians 3:17 (NKJV)

14  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 (NKJV)

2  In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. John 14:2 (NKJV)

2  “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. John 14:2 (NASB)

What John and Paul were telling us, from their first century Hebrew mindset, was that the Shekinah glory came and dwelt among us in Jesus and He still desires to do that through His church today. The Ephesian verses refer to an act and location and are the equivalent of the Hebrew word shakhan. The words in John are two different Greek words that carry the same meaning. The word ‘mansions’ in John 14:2 is a very poor translation. As demonstrated above the NASB translates it as ‘dwelling places,’ as does the new MEV bible, and in fact in the original release of the NKJV it was translated as dwelling places.

Suffice to say this is an important scriptural concept. I know I have thus far only introduced it but I will go back to the OT to look at how Yahweh’s dwelling, His Shekinah Glory is connected to Moses face to face encounters with Yahweh, and the importance of His command to build the tabernacle, the heart of which was the Ark of the Covenant.

What is Your Gift? Part 3

In my previous two posts I have written about understanding and exercising our gifts, motivational and spiritual. In this post I want to focus in further on what Paul has written below to understand how to function in and respond to spiritual gifts in a group or congregational context.

26  How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 27  If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. 28  But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. 29  Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. 30  But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. 31  For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. 32  And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 33  For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. 1 Corinthians 14:26-33 (NKJV)

 

I have written and spoken often of the need for revelation, interpretation and application. I believe Paul had that in mind when he laid out a framework for the use of spiritual gifts. In essence, he says that when the church comes together they all have something they can offer, however not everything can be given. Paul thus says only 2-3 people should give a message in tongues or a prophetic word and that these words should be judged. He also says “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” His points are that we can choose whether or not to share what to have and that the body is responsible to discern and apply what has been shared – Revelation, Interpretation, Application. Another important piece is that if we view what is given as spiritual food, then just like natural food, we need to take in and digest what we have eaten before eating more.

In laying out the guideline of 2-3 people speaking Paul was not creating an absolute that meant that someone had somehow deeply grieved the Holy Spirit if four people shared. Paul’s point was order and being clear and understandable. We as a body are to do those things which build up and support one another and help to mature the body of Christ. This was Paul’s motivation as is clear in the tone and tenor of 1 Corinthians.

A piece I want to address in a bit more detail is the use of tongues as it has often been divisive, both in how people use and respond to the gift. I think it is important to consider context. When someone asks that worship in tongues be followed by an interpretation what are they really asking for? Are they seeking to defend a particular perspective or view of scripture or seeking to hold fast to the scriptures? These questions are important because as John Wimber used to say, “God often offends our minds to reveal our hearts.” A corollary being something the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart when I knew something was going to be taught at a group that was new and unfamiliar to many of the members. He prompted me to ask/share with the group the thought, “Just because something is unfamiliar does that mean it is unscriptural?”

While I believe that if a message is shared in tongues with a group of believers or a congregation, there should be an interpretation given, I do not equate someone worshipping or praying in tongues as doing the same thing. Their communication is not directed at the group but at the Lord.

While 1 Corinthians is the only clear teaching we have in scripture on the congregational use of tongues, there are other passages that reference tongues. Acts 2:1-8 is often used as a corrective for those who want to worship in tongues because it tells us that the languages were understood. See the passage below.

1  When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3  Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5  And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6  And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. 7  Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8  And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Acts 2:1-8 (NKJV)

Yet this passage (2:6) specifically informs us that the multitude was confused by what was happening, and while different ones understood different dialects, because this first use of tongues was known languages, those who spoke different dialects understood their language, they did not understand the rest. They did not all understand all that was being said, does this mean Peter should have silenced them and called for interpretation so everyone understood everything? That is the inference if every instance of someone speaking in tongues requires an interpretation. Yet in fact what we often confuse is interpretation and translation.

The next clear instance we have is Acts 10:44-46, we again have a group spontaneously speaking in tongues as the Holy Spirit falls on them but no suggestion at all that all that was said was interpreted for the rest of the group. The next instance is Acts 19:6-7, again we have the whole group speaking in tongues and no hint of any interpretation. What do we make of this? The answer is in 1 Corinthians 14:1-4, Paul is correcting a problem in the church at Corinth and the context of these first verses makes it clear that when Paul uses the term “speaks” he is referring to someone addressing the congregation, everyone assembled. It is in this context that he says a message in tongues must be interpreted.

If we look carefully in 1 Corinthians 14:13-15 Paul refers to three different uses of tongues, speaking, praying and singing in tongues and only requires an interpretation for the speaking that is addressing the congregation. This is the plain meaning of verses 27-28. Another thing to reflect on, if we want every instance of someone praying or singing in tongues to be interpreted then why are we not insisting that the contents of every sermon be publically assessed as per the directions in 1 Corinthians 14:29-31 and why do we not encourage everyone in every meeting to prophesy as this passage says we should do? If we are going to apply a standard to one gift, then to be consistent we must apply what we perceive to be the scriptural standard to the other gifts, particularly since these instructions are provided in the same context as the teaching on the use of tongues.

We need order in the church; we just need to make sure it is His order and not ours! We need to exercise the gifts the Holy Spirit has given us, seek a greater release of gifts, and seek to build up the rest of His body through their exercise.

What is Your Gift? Part 2

In my last post I referenced the motivational gifts in Romans 12:3-8. In this post I want to look at the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, bearing in mind that 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter, is very intentionally between chapters 12 and 14 to remind us that expressing love always needs to be our goal in exercising spiritual gifts.

So how do 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 fit in with spiritual gifts? For those who believe they exist what I have generally heard taught is that we may have one or more gifts sovereignly given and we can function in that gift or gifts as the Holy Spirit leads. This conclusion is drawn from the passage below.

4  There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5  There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6  And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. 7  But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 8  for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 9  to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 10  to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11  But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (NKJV)

So to reiterate, what is generally taught regarding the verses above is that the Holy Spirit distributes a specific gift or gifts to us and that is what we are able to operate in at various times under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. I think there is some truth here but not a complete truth. This is where I have another paradigm. I do agree with and believe the interpretation that the Holy Spirit gives different gives as He wills (vs. 11) yet we are also told to desire these gifts (14:1). However, the context of 1 Corinthians 12-14 is about how the gifts of the Spirit operate in a congregational meeting not an individual life.

It is very important to understand the congregational context and what Paul was addressing. The city of Corinth had a population of about 700,000 people but only one church made up of many small congregations. Remember, though we tend to refer to building as churches, it is actually scripturally inaccurate. The buildings are where the church meets. If we have no true Christians in any given location we have no church, no matter how many buildings we have.

In the early centuries the church met in small groups in homes. In this environment everyone could participate in a meeting so Paul provided guidelines around how they were to conduct themselves. Unlike most of our modern church meetings and church culture that focus on being ministered to, the early church functioned ministering to one another. That is why Paul wrote what he did below.

7  But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 1 Corinthians 12:7 (NKJV)

1  Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14:1 (NKJV)

26  How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 27  If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. 28  But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. 29  Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. 30  But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. 31  For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. 32  And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 33  For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. 1 Corinthians 14:26-33 (NKJV)

Paul viewed everyone as contributing to a congregational meeting and everyone coming with an expectation of giving. Paul expected that the Holy Spirit could and would move through each believer to bless those around them. He particularly highlighted the blessing of prophecy. I have often heard it taught that prophesying is preaching. However, while there may be a prophetic element in any given sermon that is certainly not what Paul was referring to here. If there were twenty adults and their children in a meeting do we think Paul was suggesting 20 different sermons be given? The meaning of the Greek word translated as prophecy is below.

4253. προφητεύω prophēteuō verb

Prophesy, speak by divine inspiration, foretell the future, be a prophet.

Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary, The

Paul said in verse 31 that all of the Corinthians could prophesy, that is they could all speak by divine inspiration. I believe Paul highlighted this gift because prophetic words given to congregations or individuals tend to release and reveal God’s mind for the moment about their lives. However, I also believe that anyone in the congregational meeting could function in any of the gifts at any time. Paul was clear in 1 Corinthians 14:1 that we are to pursue love and desire gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. This verse alone should suggest the idea that we do not receive a specific gift or gift and that is it. Paul told all the Corinthians they should desire the gift of prophecy. Why would he tell them that if the gift were reserved for a few? Did Paul want all of them to pursue it in hopes the special few called to function in prophecy would receive the gift? It seems far more plausible to conclude that the Holy Spirit would give the gifts required for the specific needs or a particular congregation when they met.

Something to bear in mind is how to function in gifts that are given. In his teaching Paul reminded the Corinthians “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” (14:33). The problem in Corinth was not a lack of willingness to participate in a home church meetings, it was managing everything that people wanted to give, hence Paul’s exhortation above. It reminds me of a story I heard.

A new young country preacher had a circuit of congregations. At one he showed up and there was only one person there, an old farmer. So he said, “Since you are the only one here do you think I should still give the sermon?” The farmer replied, “If I go out into the field and only one cow shows up, I still feed her.” So the young preacher gave his message and at the end said to the farmer, “So what did you think?” The farmer replied, “If I go out to the field and only one cow shows up I don’t give her the whole load!”

The illustration above speaks to Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians that the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. We need to learn to receive but also how to give. When someone is receptive, as the farmer above, then we need to give. At the same time, we need to know how much to give and when. I have received words for people that I gave at a later time and I have received words for people that I never gave and simply prayed about. We need His wisdom to know what to feed when and the right amount.

Lastly, we need to come to the Holy Spirit desiring to see His gifts freely functioning in our lives to be a blessing to others. He is in us and He wants out!

What is Your Gift? Part 1

Over the years I have walked with Jesus I have heard a variety of teachings regarding the use of spiritual gifts, different teachings on how they function, and various opinions on whether or not they even exist today. Let me outline a few thoughts and the option of a different paradigm regarding parts of 1 Corinthians chapters 12 and 14 (this will come in a future post). Prior to looking at 1 Corinthians there is a key passages I would like to address, Romans 12:3-8. Here I believe Paul is referring to motivational gifts, manifestations of who we are.

3  For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4  For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5  so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6  Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7  or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8  he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:3-8 (NKJV)

What do I mean by ‘manifestations of who we are?’ I believe the types of gifts in this list are illustrative not exhaustive. They are given by grace and are specific to us as individuals. The grace is that the Holy Spirit builds motivational gifts into who we are, our personality. The development of them is an art. We have a part and He has a part, and as has been said, “God won’t do our part and we can’t do His part.” The gift or ability is given but it must be developed. We need to work to develop it and pray for His help in the process. For years an ongoing part of my prayer life has been asking for wisdom as to what to give and when and where to minister.

To illustrate how a motivational gift can work itself out in our lives let me us my own life as an example and also address the blessing and challenges that can come with a gift. A dominant gift in my life is teaching. Even though it is a double negative, I would say I cannot not teach. For example, recently my wife asked me what I thought of the sermon. My response was to lay out my view of the passage the pastor had preached from and my view of it. This later led to a further conversation and a further explanation on my part which she said clarified the passage for her. What led to this is I was thinking as a teacher while listening to the message.

Where my gift is both a blessing and curse is that I find it difficult to listen to a sermon or teaching session and simply receive. I automatically start weighing things against what I know and understand about scripture, the historical context etc. It is something like what I heard John Wimber once describe. John had been a professional musician prior to his conversion and, among other things, a gifted worship leader and song writer after. He said that while he loved worship he found it hard to listen to it at home because he heard everything in the music; how the instruments functioned, the focus etc. He found himself analyzing the worship rather than engaging in it.

So, let me use my own life further. When I was younger one way my teaching gift manifested is that I would see other or different ways of doing things. I remember trying karate at age 19 and as I learned suggesting to the teacher another way of doing a technique. He actually took my suggestion and applied it and jokingly named the new technique after me. Over time I have continued to see other ways of doing things and a negative manifestation, that it took me awhile to become aware of, was that I thought there was the way I did things and a number of wrong ways! That is, I thought my way was best. I am, for the most part, over this and I see and accept that there are many ways to do many things. Getting to this place has strengthened my teaching gift as it helps me to help others see options in how to get from point A to B. This obviously does not apply to everything; there are some core truths such as what Jesus said in John 14 that make it clear there is only one way to do something.

6  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6 (NKJV)

My tendency to teach comes out whether at work, home or in other areas of my life. I usually use it to support and help others but when I work out at the local recreation centre I frequently have to resist offering ‘help’ to others. I have learned that when someone is not ready to receive it is not a good time to offer a different way of doing things! It has also ‘occurred’ to me that what they are doing may be working well for them.

A good way my gift manifests is that when I see someone doing something different I often ask why and learn new ways of doing things. For example, I have a well-trained dog and have had a number of them over the years. The way I got here was that when I got my first dog about 30 years ago I talked to a friend with an extremely well trained dog and sought his advice. He recommended a book and shared some aspects of how he trained his dog. I read the book, applied the theory in it along my friends teaching, and it has worked very well over the years.

Bring strongly motivated by teaching I am always internally driven to see, analyze and teach and needed to develop understanding and maturity in my gift and wisdom around how and when to apply it and I still need to develop much greater understanding and maturity. In our lives wisdom and understanding are not automatic; they are acquired, or may be acquired. As the expression goes, “Age is inevitable, maturity is optional.”

There is an expression, ‘Teachers make complicated things simple. Theologians make simple things complicated.’ (A host of professions could be inserted here). The real gift lies in the simplicity. I recently read in a marketing book that referenced research that while university students think they will appear more intelligent using large words the professors actually believe the people who can communicate clearly in simple language are more intelligent.

I am aware that at times I complicate things for people and I am also aware that I also have a tendency to try and take people to far too fast and need to be pay attention to this and know when to pull back. In my life this manifests as trying to do too many things at once. I know the concept of doing a few things well compared to many poorly, and have shared it with others. Yet I still have to fight the urge to do many things poorly!

The reason this post is later than usual is a good friend told me to take more time and sit on what I had written before sending it out. Given he is a gifted English teacher (he would say correctly, ‘A teacher of English’) I have tried to heed his advice.

Another thing I see operating in my life is that I regularly see gifts, callings and abilities in the lives of others and it took me some time to realize that I need to relate more to who they are than who they are called to be, while at the same time encouraging and supporting them to get there. I still have a lot to learn regarding how to do this.

So, how do we apply this to our lives? We look at Paul’s list in Romans 12 and reflect on what drives us. We then need to look around to find others who can help us develop and walk out our gifts so we can be a blessing to others. It is also important to recognize that properly walking in a gift will cost us something. The gift is free; the development of it tends to be costly. I recently heard Bobby Connor say something very crucial in an online teaching. He talked about our tendency to want to be able to do what the saints of old did but then asked, “Are we willing to do what they did to get what they got?” Are we?