Monday, January 31, 2011

Why Leave Egypt?

"For the generations to come this burnt offering is to be made regularly at the entrance to the tent of meeting, before the LORD. There I will meet you and speak to you; there also I will meet with the Israelites, and the place will be consecrated by my glory. So I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar and will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. 
"Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God."
– Exodus 29:42-45 (NIV)


Egypt is headline news this week, with sociopolitical upheaval bordering on anarchy.  May God comfort and sustain that nation, and may His will prevail speedily.


Of course, it won't be the first time Egypt makes global headlines.  One well known instance was about 3500 years ago.  That's the time when Pharaoh's impressive cavalry was defeated at the Battle of the Red Sea, where God fought for His people and thereby led them out of slavery.

But, why did God do it?  In His own words, "...So that I might dwell among them."

He wanted to be close with them, and not just in a poetic sense.  In fact, they were instructed to build a portable

temple, which included an inner sanctum that was accessible only to those who had undergone a painstaking, and very bloody, ritual of consecration.  Because God was in there to meet them.  And speak to them!

Like most of the Old Covenant order of worship, the tent of meeting, with its Holy of Holies, was a glorious shadow of things to come.  Revelation chapter 21 discloses the final scene, of the final act, of God's dramatic story of love for His people, when Evil is defeated at last and the New Jerusalem descends out of Heaven with its magnificent temple that is the dwelling place of God Himself.  Among us.  Forever.

Like cosmic bookends, the passages of Exodus and Revelation describe strikingly similar events.

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.'"
– Revelation 21:3-4 (NIV)

But what of the present?  Do we serve a God Who inhabits only the "long, long ago" and the "someday yonder?"  Certainly not.

Jesus came to consecrate us with His blood, and also to personally deliver the Good News of the Kingdom that blood ushers us into.  "The Kingdom of God is within you," He said.  Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, Who is Jesus Himself dwelling among us---within us, in His Holy of Holies, to meet us and speak to us---until we see His face again in the New Jerusalem.

Jesus.  Emmanuel.  His very name means "God with us."

We're part of that cosmic love story.  Somewhere between the two bookends, true, but we can meet Him, talk to Him, experience His presence just as tangible as the shekinah cloud that filled the tent of meeting and, later, the temple in Old Jerusalem.

Let's not count too high the cost of painstakingly pursuing Him, of being daily consecrated anew in His blood, of hating even the sight of our robes smeared with the vile filth of our own sin.  For the heart of God yearns as a Lover to meet with us, speak with us, spend time with us.

It's not poetic.  He's more tangible---and much closer--- than that TV remote in my hand.  How about let's shut the thing off and spend some time in the kingdom...in the temple...in the presence of the Lamb of God who paid with the last drop of His blood to purchase a dwelling place...within us?

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