Monday, August 22, 2016

Cultivating the Presence of God

I’m working with a group through L. Michael Morales’ excellent Who Shall Ascent theMountain of the Lord? on Tuesday mornings. As I’ve been preparing for tomorrow morning and making some notes, I wanted to take a point of his further so that we can make a very practical application from this rich biblical theology.

On pg. 100, Morales reminds us that “another parallel” between Eden and the tabernacle “is in the terms used to describe the work of the priests within the tabernacle complex and that of Adam within the garden of Eden, ‘to worship and guard/obey’” (pg. 100).

Let's look at those parallels.

Adam in the garden: “Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate [עָבַד] it and keep it [שָׁמַר] (Genesis 2:15).[1]

The Levites in the tabernacle:
·         They shall perform [שָׁמַר] the duties for him and for the whole congregation before the tent of meeting, to do [עָבַד] the service of the tabernacle. They shall also keep [שָׁמַר] all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, along with the duties of the sons of Israel, to do [עָבַד] the service of the tabernacle” (Numbers 3:7,8)
·         “…you and your sons with you shall attend [שָׁמַר] to your priesthood for everything concerning the altar and inside the veil, and you are to perform [עָבַד] service. I am giving you the priesthood as a bestowed service…” (Numbers 18:7).

Here’s the further point I want to make: these same verbs are used together in describing how God’s people, “a kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6; 1 Peter 2:5,9; Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 20:6), could maintain fellowship with God (as in the garden and tabernacle, but on a daily, personal level):
·         “You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep [שָׁמַר] His commandments, listen to His voice, serve [עָבַד] Him, and cling to Him” (Deuteronomy 13:4).
·         “Only be very careful [שָׁמַר] to observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God and walk in all His ways and keep [שָׁמַר] His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve [עָבַד] Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Joshua 22:5).

Just as Adam maintained the place of fellowship with God (the garden) and the Levites maintained the place of fellowship with God (the tabernacle), the old and new covenant people of God, as “a kingdom of priests,” maintain fellowship with God through an obedience-producing faith.

Now, with this in mind, hear afresh Jesus’ words the last night before His death as He walked with the disciples between the upper room and the garden of Gethsemane: Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words [Christ’s words are His presence] abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love(John 15:4-10).

We cultivate the garden/tent of our fellowship with God in Christ when we lovingly work out our faith by bringing His words into us (hearing, reading, meditation, memorization) and by taking ourselves into His words (obeying them in our thoughts, affections, and actions).

[1] I haven’t given these Hebrew words as they appear in the text, but in their root forms so you can see the similarities.

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