All in Lord's Day Morning
HARK! ten thousand voices crying
"Lamb of God" with one accord;
Thousand thousand saints replying,
Wake at once the echoing chord.
John, unlike the other significant contributors to the New Testament, Luke and Paul, keeps us in suspense as to his purpose in writing. He waits until the penultimate chapter of his gospel and the final chapter of his first epistle! To summarise: he wrote his gospel to explain how one might be saved (Jn 20:31), and his epistle, to describe how one might know that they are saved (1 Jn 5:13). His gospel is therefore evangelistic in purpose, while his epistle is pastoral.
When the Lord lifts us out of discouraging times, we may be tempted to look around for our recourse. Now that God has humbled us, we may think, it’s time to be put in our rightful place. Yet what if time goes on and the expected results still haven’t panned out? The Jews rebuilding the temple had relapsed into discouragement. They had been discouraged, and Haggai encouraged them to tend to the Lord’s house. The building project was in full swing. But now discouragement clawed back as a less-glorious version of the temple went up. Memories of past glory caused negativity to spread among the people. Graciously, God would meet them with another message to strengthen them to simply be obedient to Him. He will do the same for us.
The servant sun illumined the orient,
Threw back the sable curtains of the night
And introduced the day. It was dawn
Different from every other it had known
Since first its ordered functions it performed
At God’s command. A man had conquered death;
Not only for the future, but unlocked
Its ancient prison-house for all His own,
And kept the mighty keys. High heaven had mocked
The seal of Rome upon the Son of God:
An angel of the Lord rolled back the stone,
And sat on it. It was exceeding great;
Too great for feeble human hands to move.
John’s ‘I Am’ statements are known the world over, by theologians and Sunday school children alike, they take a few moments to learn but a lifetime to ponder and appreciate. This morning as we consider the Light of the world, may we seefresh truth about the Lord Jesus, and worship him accordingly.
Based on the words of the Lord on the road to Emmaus we have a legitimate foundation to see Christ in all the Scriptures (Lk 24:27). As we shine the doctrinal spotlight of the New Testament on the picture book of the Old it suddenly becomes alive with beautiful portraits and foreshadows of the Lord Jesus. As we walk through the Old Testament art gallery this morning and consider a few types, may the New Testament tour guide help us see the glory of Christ in his word – after all, he is the central theme of the Bible.
The dawning of a new Lord's Day provides a fresh opportunity to answer the dying request of our Lord to 'remember' Him. We have fallen into the happy habit of referring to the gathering as the remembrance, but Scripture is on two occasions, much more specific: 'do this in remembrance of me' (1 Cor. 11:24, 25) This urges the question, do what? We need not look very far, for the very next clause states: 'as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup' (v 26). The Scriptures describe the taking of the bread and cup collectively as the 'breaking of bread.'
A well-known hymn on a Lord’s day morning is; “we saw thee not when thou didst come, to this poor world of sin and death …”. These words are true for most of the human race down through the ages of time. The overwhelming majority of people in human history, have never seen the Son of God with their physical eyes. Initially this might concern us, until we are reminded of the words of the Lord Jesus; “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (Jn 20:29). Though our mortal eyes have never seen him, the eye of faith has seen him very clearly, and we say with Peter; “we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (Jn 6:69).
In this final instalment of these Tabernacle studies, we reach the Mercy Seat, the covering that sat above the Ark of the Covenant. We have seen already that together they formed the throne of God, the place where God dwelt and communed with His people. As the exact location of God's dwelling place, it is crucial within the Tabernacle, but we will discover that there are multiple layers of truth to this last article.
Such was the significance of the Ark of the Covenant that it is no exaggeration to assert that the remainder of the Tabernacle complex existed to house it and give it meaning. That is to say, there was no need for a Tabernacle if the Ark didn't exist, and there was no reason for God to have provided additional furniture if He had no place for an Ark. The Ark was primary, principal and prominent within the Tabernacle.
Having cleared the outer Courtyard and the first compartment we are now ready to move into the Holy of Holies. This was where the Ark of Covenant resided, and the remainder of our articles will survey various aspects of that central piece of furniture.
In our consideration of the Brazen Altar or the 'altar at the door,' we saw that there were two altars within the Tabernacle complex. Inside the first partition stood the Golden Altar, or the Altar of Incense, or as scripture occasionally refers to it, 'the altar before the Lord.' This last description is instructive, and it is to its position that we turn first.
As we noted before, within the tent of the congregation, there were only three pieces of furniture. These were the Lampstand, the Golden Altar and the Table of Shewbread. It is to the latter that we now turn our attention in our meditation on the Tabernacle.
To some this may be the title of a catchy song, to others, love conjures up ideas like ‘falling in love’, a ‘happily ever after’ or mere feelings, but how does the Bible speak about love?
According to Hebrews 9, the first article within the tent was the candlestick. But before we move inside to explore its beauty, we will first make some general observations.
As we advance through the courtyard, we next approach the Brazen Laver. In moving past the Altar, we are already beyond the furniture that was available to the common man. The Altar, while attended by the priest on behalf of the offerer, was where a man came to bring his sacrifice. But the Laver, despite its courtyard location, was only for the use of the priest in readiness for service.
Having addressed the fatherhood, transcendence, holiness and omnipotence of God, we now address His sovereignty – “thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth”. His will is supreme to our own, his interests trump ours and our desires are to align with his.
At the gate of the taberbacle compound, stood the altar, sometimes referred to as the Brazen altar or ‘the altar...at the door’ (Lev 4:7). It is to this item that we turn to first, as we move our way inwards towards the holiest of all. This will commence our investigation of the typical purpose of the tabernacle.