Friday, February 24, 2012

A Glorious Church

2 Chronicles 1:3-4 Then Solomon, and all the assembly with him, went to the high place that was at Gibeon; for the tabernacle of meeting with God was there, which Moses the servant of the Lord had made in the wilderness. But David had brought up the ark of God from Kirjath Jearim to the place David had prepared for it, for he had pitched a tent for it at Jerusalem.

This passage gives us look at two different tents of worship:

The Tabernacle was the tent that God set up in the wilderness. Moses built it in the book of Exodus. Once he set it up, the Bible says that God's glory filled it. The priests weren't even able to go in at first, because of the glory of God. The Ark of the Covenant was there – a majestic symbol of God's presence. When Israel finally entered the Promise Land, the tabernacle came with them It was set up in Shiloh.

While the Tabernacle was at Shiloh, something devastating happened to it. 1 Samuel chapters 4-6 tells the story: A single, ungodly act by the Israelites caused the Ark of the Covenant to be captured. Although God brought the Ark back to Israel seven months later, it never entered the Tabernacle again. The Tabernacle still functioned though; and it moved from Shiloh to Nob to Gibeon – where it was in the time of Solomon. The priests still performed the religious rituals and ceremonies. From the outsiders point of view, it looked the same. But this tent of worship was missing the Ark, the very symbol of God's presence!

Enter David. God loved David and David loved God! When David became king in Jerusalem, his heart's desire was to have the symbol of God's presence (the Ark) close to him. At the time, the Ark was being cared for by the family of Abinadab in the town of Kirjath Jearim. David's desire was to move it to Jerusalem. After a three-month pit stop at Obed-Edom's house (while David learned a lesson on the proper way to usher in God's presence), the Ark was brought to Jerusalem. David set up a tent for it and appointed Zadok and Abiathar to be priests. A multitude of singers and musicians were there to constantly praise and worship God.

The difference between these two tents was striking. One was beautiful on the outside, the other was rather plain. One had all the religious traditions and customs, the other had heartfelt service and genuine worship. One had the presence of God inside it, the other was hiding its emptiness.

It's the same difference between churches today. One type is all about forms and customs, the other is devoted to God's presence. One can be found in 2 Timothy 3:5 “having a form of godliness but denying its power.” The other can be found in Ephesians 5:27 “a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”

It's not about how relaxed or how formal your church is. God's presence was in the Tabernacle first, with all it's ceremonies and traditions. And then after staying in David's informal tent, the Ark went to the Temple, with its ceremonies and traditions. So being formal or casual has nothing to do with this. What it's all about is this; are you in a place where God's presence is?

But beyond the local church, are you personally housing God's presence? Or, like so many professing Christians, are you going through the rituals and traditions of “church” without ever seeking the presence of God? You could be in the most devout, powerful and sincere church on the planet and still be worshiping in an empty Tabernacle personally. If I were you, I would find out how to be a part of Jesus' glory-filled church and leave empty traditions behind!

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