Wednesday, January 20, 2016

"Earthly pictures of heavenly things ..."

Day #20

Scripture Reading:  Exodus 25 - 28 ...

 “HEAVEN” ... What comes to mind when you hear that word?  Very simply, the Bible presents heaven as the dwelling-place of God.  Though all the "heavens" cannot contain Him, He dwells in the fullness of His glory in heaven.  In John 17, shortly before His crucifixion, Jesus was eager to get BACK to heaven.  He prayed, "And now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with the glory I had with You before the world began" (John 17:5).  And later in His prayer, He said, "Father, I want those You have given Me to be with Me where I am and to SEE MY GLORY, the glory You have given Me because You loved Me before the creation of the world" (John 17:24).  You will never understand the Bible until you realize that the goal of all that God has planned and accomplished in Jesus Christ is for those who are His children to live with Him in the presence of His glory forever!

As you read about the tabernacle in Exodus, you are reading about something more than a portable building where the people of Israel worshiped God.  The writer of Hebrews explains that the tabernacle was a COPY of something that exists in heaven:  the heavenly tabernacle.  "It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.  For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; He entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence" (Hebrews 9:23-24).  When Jesus is called our High Priest it is because HE goes into the Holy of Holies in HEAVEN!!!!  HIS blood is the perfect sacrifice for our sins and through faith in Him we can enter into heaven to behold the glory of the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit!!!

That makes reading about the tabernacle a snapshot of what we will actually see someday in the glory of heaven!  With all of that in mind, God told Moses to gather from the people of Israel some of the spoils they had taken with them when they left Egypt (remember, they were SLAVES!!).  "Then have them make a sanctuary for Me, and I will dwell among them" (25:8).  And God added, "Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you" (25:9).  If all you think of when you read these chapters is a portable tent that the people took with them through the wilderness, where the sacrifices were offered by the priests and where Moses would “meet” with God, you are missing the picture of the heavenly tabernacle, where God wants you to set your heart and your mind as you put your faith in Jesus today!  Then you’re looking only at the past and not at the future ... YOUR future!!

Reading through all the details of the tabernacle, everything points to God and His presence among His people.  From the "ark of the testimony" to the table and the "showbread," from the lampstand to the altar ... everything pointed to God dwelling with His people.  This is not about a daily Bible reading or about learning some interesting things ... this is about ETERNITY!  This is about living with the Creator of the universe forever in a perfect world.  This is about God giving us an earthly picture of heavenly things - things too wonderful for us to possibly comprehend!!

As we left Moses on the mountain at the end of Chapter 24, we read that he was on the mountain with God for forty days.  As you read through God's instructions for the tabernacle, there is a phrase that is repeated several times:  "See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain" (25:40; 26:30; 27:8).  While Moses was on the mountain, God was showing him something that no other human being has ever seen and in the tabernacle, and later in Solomon's temple and the rebuilt temple following the exile of Judah to Babylon, God was revealing a glimpse of ... HEAVEN!

The Ark of the Testimony was where God would "meet with" Moses (25:22).  The "bread of the Presence" on the table pointed to the "Bread of Heaven" (John 6), JESUS, coming to dwell with people on the earth and eventually God's presence with His people in the new heaven and the new earth.  The lampstand pointed to God's continual light, His Spirit, leading, teaching and guiding us to Him.  The altar, where the blood of the sacrifices was shed, pointed to the cross and the blood of the perfect Lamb being offered and carried to the perfect sanctuary of God in heaven.  These things represented so much more than mere physical pictures from the past.

And finally, the priestly garments ... the ephod (a sleeveless garment), the breast piece and the robe ... Chapter 28 ...  On the ephod and the breast piece were engraved the names of the tribes of Israel, so that when Aaron, the high priest, entered into the Holy of Holies and stood before the Ark of the Covenant, he took with him the names of those he was representing into the presence of God.  Now imagine Jesus, seated at the right hand of the Father, interceding for you and me, taking YOUR name and MINE before God.  Hebrews 2:17 and 4:15 point to Jesus as our High Priest.  All of these things pointed to heaven, and Jesus is already there on behalf of His people!  The writer of Hebrews goes on to say, “Therefore, He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

These are more than descriptions of earthly things.  They are earthly pictures of HEAVENLY things that are a reality even at this moment, as you read these words.  As you read and think and look and listen you catch a glimpse of your future.  We who believe in Jesus Christ are among those who are covered by the blood of Jesus and we believe there will be a time when, in all of His glory, the words of Revelation 21:3 are fulfilled:  "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them.  They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God."  The people of Israel saw a glimpse of God’s glory, but all who believe will see Him face to face!  By His grace, I am going to be there ... and I pray that you will be too!

"Father in heaven, I thank You for revealing Yourself through pictures that we can understand, even if in a limited way, as we live here on the earth.  By Your Spirit, help me to set my mind and my heart on things above, where Jesus is even now seated at Your right hand, interceding for ... ME!  I love You, Lord!  And I will praise You now and forever, in Jesus' name, Amen" 

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