Monday, November 3, 2008
Temple and Tabernacle
Here I hope to cover a large amount of progressive revelation in a small amount of space. Forgive me when I do not include your favorite nuance of corporate worship. We’ve said already that worship is the creature’s appropriate holistic response to the Creators divine and progressive revelation. It’s a relationship initiated by God. Abraham was charged with responding to God in a specific, concrete, personal way. We also mentioned that as God reveals more of Himself and His desires, we have more and more to be responsible for responding to. It’s like a parent-child relationship. As the child grows, the parent reveals more about being an adult, and this places more responsibility upon the child. We as a people of God have grown, and He has gradually shown more and more to us.
Sometimes the revelation is given as realities that are binding for all people, such as the curse placed upon humanity through Adam and Eve, or the covenant God made with Noah. Sometimes the revelation is given in great chunks that are only meant for certain people, such as the Levitical and kosher laws, meant for a certain group of people for a certain time. Sometimes the revelation is given in situations of individual conviction, such as when God told a particular King or prophet to respond to Him in a personally specific way.
Since God is unchanging and holy, His revelations cannot contradict one another. They only pull back the veil further to reveal more of the same: a God who seeks perfect community with a people who have sinned against Him. However, God Himself can fulfill some demands. This essay is meant to show that God has revealed certain parameters and elements that are integral to the assembly of His people, and that to consider any of them obsolete without His fulfillment, or outdated and irrelevant is an inappropriate response to Him (sin). We must ask ourselves what is essential according to His revelation for our corporate meeting times, and what in our current worship is idolatrous.
When Yahweh set aside a people for Himself, He revealed to them His wishes for their corporate response to Him. They were to establish a special place (He did not leave “special” any space for liberal interpretation) where He would dwell, and they would gather as one body, recount His revelation to them, offer sacrifices for their sin, and be sent out to live in harmony with God and one another. Four very specific areas to be accounted for, all of which are still demanded of us. Many will argue with me on this point, but I believe they will be wrong. I am not advocating temple worship for Christians… but then, I am. Remember that God’s revelation is progressive, and that none of it is ever revoked or expired, only continued or fulfilled. If this is true, then we should look at each of these four aspects of corporate worship and label them either continued or fulfilled.
Let’s begin with the place where God’s people gather as one body and He dwells with them. Jesus said that the earthly temple would be destroyed, and that God would dwell with them wherever they gathered in His name. This fulfills the need for the temple. Jesus pulls back the veil and reveals that God’s people are His dwelling place when they are righteous. The temple was not revoked and did not expire. The need for the temple was fulfilled when the assembly of the saints was established. It’s not that we no longer need to gather together in His name and presence, it’s that we no longer need the protection of the temple because we have His righteousness imputed upon us. He tabernacles in our praises.
The recounting of God’s revelation has not been fulfilled. In fact, it has grown as God has revealed Himself more through general and special means, and those leading should be intentional to represent it faithfully and completely. This point is not controversial, nor was the first. But the final two may be a bit more convicting.
Next was the sacrifice. When the Israelites came to the assembly, they brought personal sacrifices and they accepted their share in a corporate sacrifice. Christ’s death once and for all fulfilled the need for blood in sacrifice, but it did not fulfill the need for our participation in sacrificial worship. We still come to the dwelling place of God with hearts heavy from individual and corporate sin, and we offer our lives as living sacrifices made worthy by Christ’s ultimate dying sacrifice. We also gather as one body at the place of sacrifice and on Days of Atonement, we offer the completed work of Christ in ritual remembrance.
Finally, we are sent forth, having been changed by an encounter with the Living God (whether we feel like we did or not), charged to live in peace with God and man. God certainly has not fulfilled that requirement for us. We have got to actively pursue right relationship in order to appropriately respond to God’s revelation. Christ’s sacrifice does not fulfill our obligation to do this; it only atones for us when we fail to do so.
I still have not mentioned sermons or music. Fear not.