BOOK 3: PSALM 74 OF 89 – THE DEFENDER OF THE FAITH

74 O God, why do you cast us off forever?
Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?
Remember your congregation, which you have purchased of old,
which you have redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage!
Remember Mount Zion, where you have dwelt.
Direct your steps to the perpetual ruins;
    the enemy has destroyed everything in the sanctuary!

Your foes have roared in the midst of your meeting place;
they set up their own signs for signs.
They were like those who swing axes
in a forest of trees.[b]
And all its carved wood
they broke down with hatchets and hammers.
They set your sanctuary on fire;
they profaned the dwelling place of your name,
bringing it down to the ground.
They said to themselves, “We will utterly subdue them”;
they burned all the meeting places of God in the land.

We do not see our signs;
there is no longer any prophet,
    and there is none among us who knows how long.
10 How long, O God, is the foe to scoff?
Is the enemy to revile your name forever?
11 Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?
Take it from the fold of your garment[c] and destroy them!

 

+++

 

12 Yet God my King is from of old,
working salvation in the midst of the earth.
13 You divided the sea by your might;
you broke the heads of the sea monsters[d] on the waters.
14 You crushed the heads of Leviathan;
you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
15 You split open springs and brooks;
you dried up ever-flowing streams.
16 Yours is the day, yours also the night;
you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.
17 You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth;
you have made summer and winter.

18 Remember this, O Lord, how the enemy scoffs,
    and a foolish people reviles your name.
19 Do not deliver the soul of your dove to the wild beasts;
do not forget the life of your poor forever.

20 Have regard for the covenant,
for the dark places of the land are full of the habitations of violence.
21 Let not the downtrodden turn back in shame;
let the poor and needy praise your name.

22 Arise, O God, defend your cause;
remember how the foolish scoff at you all the day!
23 Do not forget the clamor of your foes,
the uproar of those who rise against you, which goes up continually!

 

Psalm 74, like many of the psalms, begin with the despair of the psalmist.  This is a cry of a holy man against the world.  He is distraught by how God’s sanctuary is profaned; he is troubled by the fact that God’s signs are replaced with worldly signs; that God’s prophet is replaced by a worldly seer.  If we think that the Maskil of Asaph (simply meaning an instructive psalm by Asaph) sounds like it is a product of its time, stop and consider this: we are in a world which treats not God’s sanctuary with the same level of respect as the Temple or tabernacle had received.

As Spurgeon says:

“Alas, poor Israel! No Urim and Thummim blazed on the High Priest’s bosom, and no Shechaniah shone from between the cherubim. The smoke of sacrifice and cloud of incense no more arose from the holy hill; solemn feasts were suspended, and even circumcision, the covenant sign, was forbidden by the tyrant. We, too, as believers, know what it is to lose our evidences and grope in darkness; and too often do our churches also miss the tokens of the Redeemer’s presence, and their lamps remain untrimmed. Sad complaint of a people under a cloud! There is no more any prophet. Prophecy was suspended. No inspiring psalm or consoling promise fell from bard or seer. It is ill with the people of God when the voice of the preacher of the gospel fails, and a famine of the word of life falls on the people. God sent ministers are as needful to the saints as their daily bread, and it is a great sorrow when a congregation is destitute of a faithful pastor. It is to be feared, that with all the ministers now existing, there is yet a dearth of men whose hearts and tongues are touched with the celestial fire. Neither is there any among us that knoweth how long. If someone could foretell an end, the evil might be borne with a degree of patience, but when none can see a termination, or foretell an escape, the misery has a hopeless appearance, and is overwhelming. Blessed be God, he has not left his church in these days to be so deplorably destitute of cheering words; let us pray that he never may. Contempt of the word is very common, and may well provoke the Lord to withdraw it from us; may his long suffering endure the strain, and his mercy afford us still the word of life.”

The enemy strikes at the heart of our faith, because the enemy knows that the sanctuary is our place of refuge, our place of worship.  It is not different today: the debates that take place within the church, even amongst believers, demonstrate that the enemy’s plans are still very much in operation.  We profane his House when we do not even preach His Word faithfully; we fall to the evil one’s temptations when we cater to the desires and concerns of man, rather than faithfully bear witness to God’s plans this day.  On a daily basis, the church is being torn down – brick by brick; not physically, but spiritually.  Every day, our beliefs are being eroded by the worldly agenda; and Jesus becomes that much more distant and less real to us.  “Thus sayeth the LORD” is slowly, but surely, being replaced by “Thus sayeth the man” – the man whom the world respects, the philosopher who frequently denounces His Lordship, the teacher whose musings distract us from the truth, the scientist who forces on us evidence which purportedly support the theories which, apparently, contradict His Word.

 

However, at all times, Asaph does not lose sight of God’s absolute sovereignty.  The enemy creates this chaos only because God has allowed it.  The chapter opens not with a ‘woe-to-me’ expression in response to the enemy’s acts; rather, the chapter opens with O God, why do you cast us off forever?  Why do You, with a capital Y – indeed, it is the LORD who is doing the casting off, rather than the evil one.  Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep, against the congregation whom He has purchased of old (v2)?

Asaph recognizes that both blessing, and judgment, comes from the same God.  He is no Marcionist; he believes that God’s capacity, ability, and discernment in judging is tied to his act of loving; there is no schizophrenia, or dichotomy, between the God of the Old or New Testaments.  Jesus is as much the sacrificial lamb, as He is the one who returns to judge the world (see John 5:22-30, 9:39; 2 Corinthians 5:10;  Revelation 19:11).

This theme, and understanding, of sovereignty stretches through to the remainder of the chapter.  Starting from v12, Asaph pleads the creation argument; this God who has the power to allow evil to roam (a mystery which only He can unveil to us), is the same God who has been working salvation in the midst of the earth, from of old (v.12).  He divides (v.13), he crushes (v.14), he splits (v.15), he dries (v.15), he established (v.16), he fixed (v.17) – this is a God whose actions are never-ending.

Do we react to our troubles in the same way?  Do we resort to our own actions to defend our faith, defend our church, use a worldly form of apologetics and philosophy to ‘explain away’ Christianity to those who poke at our beliefs?  Or do we understand that we are dealing in the realm of spiritual warfare, waging a war that only spiritual tools can address (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-5)?

Ultimately, we must put our own faith, our sanctification, our livelihood, our very salvation in the hands of God.  We plead the covenant that He made with those whom he purchased (vv.2, 20), the covenant of blood sealed by Christ on the cross; for if He is for us, who can be against us?  In the words of Spurgeon:

“What a mighty plea is redemption. O God, canst thou see the blood mark on thine own sheep, and yet allow grievous wolves to devour them? The church is no new purchase of the Lord; from before the world’s foundation the chosen were regarded as redeemed by the Lamb slain; shall ancient love die out, and the eternal purpose become frustrate? The Lord would have his people remember the paschal Lamb, the bloodstained lintel, and the overthrow of Egypt; and will he forget all this himself? Let us put him in remembrance, let us plead together. Can he desert his blood bought and forsake his redeemed? Can election fail and eternal love cease to glow? Impossible. The woes of Calvary, and the covenant of which they are the seal, are the security of the saints.”

 

If only those who recognize and paint the blood of the lamb on their door are saved, then what will happen to the scoffers who remain so until their dying breath?  Time will tell, but the enemy who has been destroying our sanctuaries will, himself, not experience any sanctuary himself.   There is but only one defender of the faith, He who is sovereign above all, and has the authority to determine where we are born and where we go.

 

BOOK 3: PSALM 74 OF 89 – THE DEFENDER OF THE FAITH

Genesis 27-29: The one who cheats vs. the one who promises

1.  Isaac blesses Jacob (Genesis 27)

2.  Esau and an Ishmaelite (Genesis 28:1-9)

3.  Jacob’s dream: the stairway to heaven (Genesis 28:10-22)

4.  Jacob’s marriage with Leah and Rachel (Genesis 29)

1.  Isaac blesses Jacob (Genesis 27)

Here is a picture of an old Isaac with dim eyes.  God’s blessing on Jacob had been pronounced in Genesis 25:23; but it appears that this promise has been ignored by Isaac and Esau.  Isaac would rather rely on his own works to please Jacob.  He would cheat his way back into the birthright which he had despised by resorting to the one thing he knows – that is, to hunt game for Isaac.  Where is God in this picture?  No-where – though Jacob be a Schemer, at least he values the birthright.  Here, we see two people joining together to disobey God’s plan which had been announced two chapters ago.

Which is why Rebekah is especially quick to act when she hears Isaac and Esau speaking to one another.  What is Rebekah’s solution?  Take the place of Esau, by pretending to be Esau!

But there is something very apparent.  Jacob is a smooth man!  And Esau is hairy!  Such an important physical difference, let alone difference in personality should be enough to distant his father from his son.  Jacob is fearful of this, and wishes to stay away: “Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be mocking him and bring a curse upon myself and not a blessing”.

Indeed, such is the same fear when we present ourselves to our heavenly Father when he expects something but we present something entirely unacceptable.  Instead, Jacob is advised to wear the goat skin to be in the place of Esau.  And who is to receive the curse?  Rebekah.  Who appeased the father’s wrath?  Rebekah, essentially.  Yet, who does Isaac look favourably on?  Jacob, in the place of Esau.  Not only goat skin, but also Esau’s best garments.

Then, let’s look at the blessing:

“See,(B) the smell of my son
is as the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed!
28May God give you of(C) the dew of heaven
and of the fatness of the earth
and(D) plenty of grain and wine.
29Let peoples serve you,
and nations(E) bow down to you.
(F) Be lord over your brothers,
and may your mother’s sons bow down to you.
(G) Cursed be everyone who curses you,
and blessed be everyone who blesses you!”

But let’s look at the blessing in detail.  Can this be a blessing strictly for Jacob the person?  No.  “Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you.” – within his lifetime, at most, only one nation bowed down to Jacob and his immediate descendants, that being the Egyptians when Joseph had aided the Pharoah.  But that is far from saying nation”s”… Secondly, Jacob has no other brother beside Jacob.  But the refrain in v. 29 is “Be lord over your brother”s”… and may your mother’s son”s” bow down to you”.

If anything, there is something interesting at play here – it is an entirely prophetic blessing, peering into the future of the nation Israel, the name of which means “God fights”.  If anything, this blessing seems to work… only in the context of Jesus Christ.  So what does Isaac mean in v. 37, when he says he made Jacob lord over Esau, and “all his brothers I have given to him for servants, and with grain and wine I have sustained him”?

Let me work on the typologies first lest I be misunderstood:

1.  Isaac = the Father

2.  Jacob = a son (note… not the son)

3.  Rebekah = Mediator, though she proclaims that the curse be on her, she was never actually cursed.

4.  Esau = a potential son… though not from the chosen race, he was given an option to serve.

5.  Goat skin = Christ

For point 4, Isaac told Esau (v. 40) that “By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; but when you grow resltess you shall break his yoke from your neck”. Thus, he is given an option to serve Jacob… but he refused.  If he had listened, then like Jacob, Esau could have become part of the covenant people; like Japheth the brother of Shem (representing the Gentiles), taking cover under Shem the covenant people.

So here, the Father loves Jacob, one of his sons clothed in animal skin and blesses him and his kingdom in Christ.  Esau came with the wrong dress (Matthew 22), and though he smelt like Esau, and provided game like Esau… Isaac still said: “Who are you?” (v. 32).  And in the same way, even though we cry Lord Lord, He will still tell us go to away… replying “I never knew you” (Matthew 7).

The animal skin points to Christ himself… and yet Rebekah plays the role of the Mediator.  The curse never actually falls on her – and I think this is significant.  This most likely points to the aspect of the mediatorial role offered by people like Job… and by people like Moses, Nehemiah and Daniel with their respective intercessory prayers (Exodus 9, Nehemiah 9, Daniel 9).  Does this make Moses, Nehemiah and Daniel a representation of Christ?  Merely a type… but the true curse doesn’t fall on them.  They merely imitate the true Mediator, the true Redeemer, Jesus Christ.  Rebekah intercedes for Jacob… but the one truly interceding is the goat skin which witnesses to Christ.

What think you?

2.  Esau and an Ishmaelite (Genesis 28:1-9)

So Isaac called Jacob and blessed him finally, accepting God’s chosen one.  He finally gives him the same advice that Abraham gave him – to note marry a Canaanite women.  Rather, he tells Jacob to go back to the house where Rebekah was found – to take a wife from one of the daughters of Laban, his uncle (Rebekah’s brother).  Thus, Jacob goes to Paddan-aram. We’ve already established the significance of physically marrying someone from the same race – that it represents spiritual wholeness, like a Christian should marry a Christian out of obedience to display the picture of Christ marrying a Christian church, rather than Christ marrying a non-Christian.

But then Esau overhears the instructions given to Isaac, and attempts to imitate Isaac.  So Esau, after his marriage to the two Hittites, decides to marry another wife!  He completely misunderstands the instruction!  He just wants to appear like Jacob now.  Such is the problem of many “Christians” today.  They sing with their hands clapping, they lift their eyes to the ceiling as they sing, they jump up and down, or they bow down low… all of these are just external actions.  But their heart is not cured.  Their actions are misrepresented, while they compromise the other aspects of their life.  Esau still missed the point… and still refuses to serve Jacob.  Rather, he still wants to replace Jacob, given his actions in attempting still to please his father.

3.  Jacob’s dream:  The stairway to heaven (Genesis 28:10-22)

Now we come to what Jesus was speaking of in John 1:51.  Here’s the verse 48-51 to refresh your memory:

48Nathanael said to him, “How(A) do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49Nathanael answered him,(B) “Rabbi,(C) you are the Son of God! You are the(D) King of Israel!” 50Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you,[a] you will see(E) heaven opened, and(F) the angels of God ascending and descending on(G) the Son of Man.” (John 1:48-51)

And here in v.12-13

12And he(A) dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder[a] set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold,(B) the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! 13And behold,(C) the LORD stood above it[b] and said,(D) “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac.(E) The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring.

Who is the LORD?  Jesus Christ himself.  Jesus in the book of John testifies to the Christophany of himself in Genesis 28:13.  But he doesn’t spend a long time explaining it.  He expects Nathanael to understand it.  So here, we see Jacob putting his head on the rock of oath, of Beersheba which Isaac had established with Abimelech.  And on this rock of oath does Jacob, just like Nathaneal, see “heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” – Christ himself.

Then, we see Jacob wake up in delirium, setting up a pillar and pouring oil on top of it, calling the place Bethel (house of God), though the city was named Luz.  Luz, being a Canaanite name, renamed as Bethel.  This re-confirms that “God is with him and will keep him in this way” (v.20).  Does Jacob really think that Bethel is the house of God?  No – he just made the point that God is with him.  Yet, this is a reminder, an establishment which he raised as a place of worship, an altar placed on the rock of oath.  This rock which shall be set up as a pillar.  A place where the worship takes the form of giving a full tenth back to the Angel of the LORD, reminiscent of Genesis 14:20 when Abraham gave a full tenth back to Melchizedek, establishing the connection between the Angel and Melchizedek.

However, we must distinguish something important.  Jacob is still Jacob – and has not been renamed Israel yet.  He is still the one who cheats – and here, he is offering God a conditional obedience in v.20-22.  He is not quite ready to be rid of his ways.  He is still trying to control the situation, and still, to many an extent, trying to control/manipulate his own obedience to God.

4.  Jacob’s marriage with Leah and Rachel (Genesis 29)

Jacob kissing Rachel.  Laban kissing Jacob.  I think we can guess that this kissing is quite innocent.  Probably more along the lines of 1 Thessalonians 5:26.  Laban’s proclamation in v. 14 – “Surely you are my bone and my flesh!” is a repeat of Adam’s statement to Eve – it is a statement of oneness, a statement that we are of one flesh within the same church, the body of Christ. Such is the joy when we meet Christians whom we barely know, if at all – the hospitality of knowing that someone is striving in the race of faith as you are, whose founder of faith is the Spirit himself.

Something theologically profound in Chapter 29v.20 – “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her”.  Amazing.  7 years is not exactly a short time – but, just as the Trinity is awaiting the day that we marry into Christ; just as creation is awaiting the revealing of the sons of God (Romans 8:19).  But because Christ loves us, and strives for his Bride, the 7 years, let alone 7000 years are just like a few days. 2 Peter 3:8-13:

8But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and(N) a thousand years as one day. 9(O) The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise(P) as some count slowness, but(Q) is patient toward you,[a](R) not wishing that any should perish, but(S) that all should reach repentance. 10But(T) the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then(U) the heavens will pass away with a roar, and(V) the heavenly bodies[b] will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.[c]

11Since all these things are thus to be dissolved,(W) what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12(X) waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and(Y) the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13But according to his promise we are waiting for(Z) new heavens and a new earth(AA) in which righteousness dwells.

But Jacob has now met someone equally cunning – his uncle!  Firstly he gets Leah as the bride, then he has to work an extra seven years for Rachel, the true bride he had sought for.  However, even after Jacob’s struggle, the birth of children is still out of his hands.  The LORD continued with his unconditional promise by fulfilling the blessing which Isaac gave to Jacob, but through Leah, the neglected wife.  Through Leah is Jacob given 4 of the 12 tribes of the future nation of Israel – Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah.  Even this is out of his manipulative hands, and provides a leaping contrast between God’s faithfulness and unmoving promise; as opposed to Jacob and Laban’s trickeries and deceptions in order to struggle for what they both desire, even if it may not be pleasing to the LORD.

Genesis 27-29: The one who cheats vs. the one who promises

Genesis 1-3: the Garden of God

Here are a few popular views of the Garden of Eden:

1. Eden itself is the garden (aka the garden isn’t ‘in’ Eden, but the garden ‘is’ Eden)

2. The garden is in the middle of a flat wasteland

3. The garden is just like any regular garden, except that it is a souped-up godly version of a beautiful garden (aka SUPER-beautiful garden).

Here is a picture to fuel more popular conception:

Notice how God (the Son) is speaking to Adam and Eve? And that 3rd heaven is in sight? There are SOME theological truths in Louis Cranach (the same man who painted Luther’s portrait)’s rendition of the garden, but let’s find some Scriptural support to disprove the popular conceptions of Eden which to me is not Christo-centric enough.

I think by saying the three are ‘popular’ conceptions it is a big give-away that they are not what I believe. Firstly, Eden is a place mentioned throughout the Bible, especially Isaiah 37:12 and 2 Kings 19:12 which speaks of the “people of Eden, who were in Telassar” which the fathers of the Assyrians destroyed, whereas the garden is IN this place. Yet, at the same time, Eden is given an image of blessing – Isaiah 51:3 speaks of the waste places and wilderness as changed to being like Eden and then “her desert being like the garden of the LORD”. Then there is the mentioning of the trees of Eden in Ezekiel 31 as the ‘choice and best of Lebanon’, but Ezekiel 31:9 speaks specifically of the trees of Eden which were in the “garden of God”. Later, we see in Genesis 4:16 that Cain is banished to the east of “Eden”, rather than east of the garden. Prior to this, in Genesis 2:8, we have already seen that God has planted a garden “in” Eden.

From what is mentioned, it seems that Eden is a place, when compared with other geographical locations, symbolically ‘better’ than the other places mentioned throughout the OT scripture. Why would God plant the garden IN Eden? Why was Cain banished to the EAST of Eden, after Adam and Eve were banished to the EAST of the Garden? Yet, the “garden of God” or the “garden of the LORD” is a recurring alternative to the garden in/of Eden, as already mentioned in Isaiah and Ezekiel, as well as Genesis 13:10; and alluded to several times in Song of Solomon chapters 4-6, 8 (though not specifically the garden “of God”, we understand the allegorical imagery of Solomon narrating as Christ, as the Shulammite woman is the church).

Why use the particular phrase “garden of God”? I think it is more important to consider that there is no other garden strictly termed the ‘garden of God’ (though of course everything on earth is strictly His, this garden retains his exclusive possession). This expression is found again in the MOUNTAIN “of God” – Exodus 3:1; 3:12; 4:27; 15:17; 18:5; 19:3; 24:13 – then in the Psalms, especially 68:15-18 which speaks of Christ’s ascension and the gift of the Spirit given to all men, both Jew and Gentile at the Pentecost:

15O mountain of God, mountain of Bashan;
O many-peaked[b] mountain, mountain of Bashan!
16Why do you look with hatred, O many-peaked mountain,
at the mount that God(AC) desired for his abode,
yes, where the LORD will dwell forever?
17(AD) The chariots of God are twice ten thousand,
thousands upon thousands;
the Lord is among them; Sinai is now in the sanctuary.
18(AE) You ascended on high,
(AF) leading a host of captives in your train
and(AG) receiving gifts among men,
even among(AH) the rebellious,(AI) that the LORD God may dwell there.”

This phrase “mountain of God”, like the “garden of God” doesn’t only speak specifically of the garden in Eden, the Mt. Sinai or the mounts of Bashan – though of course, God has specifically used these locations to speak strong theological truth, the passage here speaks of both literal and historical references to geographical places; yet the passages also tell us not to miss the even more important spiritual truth that God is preaching by using those places and their names. To be specific to the context, Eden, meaning pleasure in the Hebrew עדן, is both a place of Sabbath for man (as I mentioned in my post on work theology for Genesis 2) rather than a place of work; and it is (as already established) a place where God can communicate freely with men.

And why could Adam and the woman speak so freely to God prior to the curse in Chapter 3? Was the mediator only at work in Chapter 3 when he was walking in the garden, or prior to that? Some light may be shed from Barth in his chapter on “Heaven and Earth” in his ‘Dogmatics in Outline’:

“Man is the creature of the boundary between heaven and earth; he is on earth and under heaven. He is the being that conceives his environment, who can see, hear, understand and dominate it: ‘Thou hast put all things under his (Jesus’) feet’. He is the essence of a free being in this earthly world. And the same creature stands beneath heaven… Man knows about his earthly fellow creature, because he is so unknowing in face of the heavenly world. At this inner boundary of creation stands man, as though even as a creature he had to represent this above and below, and thus, as a creature, to signify his place in a relationship which penetrates into the heights and the depths in quite a different way from that of heaven and earth…

…But we would not have said the last decisive word about creation, if we did not add that the covenant between God and man is the meaning and the glory, the ground and the goal of heaven and earth and so of the whole creation. With this we seem, but only seem, to reach out beyond the realm of knowledge and of the first article of the Confession. For by covenant we mean Jesus Christ. But it is not the case that the covenant between God and man is so to speak a second fact, something additional, but the covenant is as old as creation itself. When the existence of creation begins, God’s dealing with man also begins. For all that exists points towards man, in so far as it makes God’s purpose visible, moving towards His revealed and effective action in the covenant with Jesus Christ. The covenant is not only quite as old as creation; it is older than it. Before the world was, before heaven and earth were, the resolve or decree of God exists in view of this event in which God willed to hold communion with man, as it became inconceivably true and real in Jesus Christ. And when we ask about the meaning of existence and creation, about their ground and goal, we have to think of this covenant between God and man.”

So we mustn’t think the work of the mediator only occurred post-fall/post-curse – the work of the mediator, through whom God would commune with men, has been a covenant established before creation, before heaven and earth.

Is there more Scriptural support for this that explains this covenant between man, who stands in between heaven and earth, who finds his image of God in Christ (where everything is placed under Christ’s feet), the Christ who is the true mediator between fallen men and the Father? The covenant between heaven and earth, the covenant between the invisible and the visible, the covenant between God and man? I think this ties in smoothly with the garden of Eden being also the garden of God, and we find this truth established in the book of Exodus where Mt. Sinai is synonymously the mountain of God.

So while I try not to tread too much on the grounds of exegetically understanding the Scripture concerning the tabernacle, here is a brief foretaste: we already know that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all lived in tents in hope of the heavenly home (Hebrews 11:8-16). The animal’s blood in the OT couldn’t actually atone for sin (and this Moses knew). Scripture consistently provides this ‘spiritual’ tangent to all the physical things. I’ve expressed that thoroughly in my handling of Barth’s interpretation of heaven and earth, as well as the obvious spiritual patterns behind the blood sacrifices, the spiritual pattern of leprosy (generically representing the overwhelming coverage of ‘sin’ in our life), the spiritual pattern of Jesus’ miraculous healings in the synoptic gospel to cure not merely physical, but spiritual blindness/sickness.

When we are sensitive to these spiritual patterns and implications, we are then ready to see the spiritual truths afforded by Adam (as Christ), by Woman (as church), by the relation of Heaven and Earth (as the covenant between God and Man), and the covenant between God and Man fulfilled in Christ alone. Why I want to focus in particular on the mountain of God, the only other time when a physical location is referred to as ‘of God’, is because it is the second time (after Adam) a man is shown the spiritual realities of heaven – through the pattern of the tabernacle.

The Tabernacle Instructions on the Mountain of God

This pattern is described TWICE (Exodus 25-31 and Exodus 35-40), which implies how utterly important it is. The instruction “Make this according to the pattern shown you on the mountain (of God)” is repeated continuously in these chapters. As this is a brief overview, I will jump straight to the relevant bits for this post.

In chapter 26:1-30, we notice that the tabernacle furniture has in the prior chapter become the focus of God’s intention (BEFORE the layout of the tabernacle was even considered!!! This theological depth we will consider when we return to Exodus 20+ in however many weeks/months time).

What is most important to note now is that the tabernacle is described in the first section, in Exodus 26, as a single undivided room. If this is a pattern that reveals heavenly realities, as according to the pattern shown on the mountain of God – then what can it show? Paul Blackham simply states that the tabernacle structure representing heaven and earth in his Exodus Book-by-book study. Later, we see that a curtain is hung to divide this single room into two rooms, but Exodus 26 starts with this undivided room. The intention here is quite clear and explains why the garden of Eden is ALSO called the garden of God — because we know that this veil, which separates our communion with God, was not there in the first place! The garden of Eden was a place of true harmony between heaven and earth!

Therefore, just as Moses was on the mountain of God (Mt. Sinai), receiving these instructions as he peered into 3rd heaven where God resides, the Father in return was telling Moses of the garden OF GOD. Thus, God is saying that creation was originally heaven and earth in harmony… according to Blackham, “one room, one ‘space’ without division”. What is this pattern/plan shown on the mountain? This seems to be another Selah moment for the Christians at the bottom of the mountain.

Then we have an ‘inner room’ sealed off by a dividing curtain, and put simply, this inner room is the cube which is symbolised by the heavenly city in Revelation 21:15-16. This is the Most Holy Place, representing heaven, divided from the Holy Place (the second, outer room). Now this curtain (NOTE this) had cherubim worked into it by a skilled craftsman. We know what the veil represents — it is a protection FOR man, so man does not dare to reach God and die.

Cherubim on a veiled protection for man so man does not dare enter a territory that is where God resides? Where have we heard that before? Genesis 3:24-

“24He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the(A) cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.”

Wow. And who is the only person who can go through to the Holy of Holies? The High Priest, Christ, through whom (quoting Barth) the covenant of God’s grace to men was fulfilled. The covenant which was older than creation!!! And after the curtain was installed, then the altar of burnt offering was given and the book of Leviticus begins to explain the truth of the offerings. I don’t think it is coincidence that God decided to speak to Moses in this particular PLAN and PATTERN, especially in terms of priority of directing his way of building the tabernacle. Each step was thought out precisely. Each step had the spiritual pattern so common throughout Scripture.

Conclusion

To conclude on this post – the relationship of God and Adam had been established by the covenant fulfilled by Christ BEFORE Adam and creation even existed. This is the great plan that God had pre-creation, the plan that man be in communion with God through the fulfillment and mediation of Christ, whether pre or post fall. This is implied through the language garden “of God”, and we find that where Moses received instructions on the mountain “of God” where he met the Father (as if the mountain itself peaked into 3rd heaven!), so also the language used to describe the garden of Eden as garden “of God” should not be under-estimated. By taking that further, we’ve looked at the physical and spiritual truths of the basic layout of the tabernacle, and that it preaches the truth of God’s intention for the room to always have been undivided – for the room to be whole — and this plan is ultimately fulfilled in Christ’s second coming when the veil between heaven and earth is destroyed. So, for point (3) of the popular conceptions, the garden of God is not merely a souped-up garden – it is a garden that initially UNITED heaven and earth, but man was banished from this unity and guarded by the cherubim and their veil of flaming swords. Is it therefore for point (2) a garden on a flat plane? I can’t find enough Scriptural support to say that it was, but it seems certain that it is more a garden in a mysterious location, and I believe it is because it is the literal place where heaven joined with earth not merely allegorically but in actuality (compared with Moses’ experience on Mount Sinai). It is probably impossible for us to enter Mount Sinai and find God residing there, or the mount of Bashan, or even if we find the literal Eden, the uniting of heaven and earth will not be there. Perhaps those will indeed be the physical locations where Eden/Bashan/Sinai stood – but we are then missing the spiritual significance entirely. The true Eden, which even the garden of Eden was only a shadow of, is the city of Zion, where all Christians gather, where there is no division between heaven and earth; and that we can finally enjoy uncompromised and unwavering fellowship with our God in new creation.

Genesis 1-3: the Garden of God

Genesis 1:6-8; 20-23: Day 2 & 5 – Father, father, why have you forsaken me?

We now turn to Day 2 and 5.

Now a big mistake most Christians make is use sweeping statements such as classifying the entire days of creation as “good” (a mistake I’ve made many times) when God does not state a “day” itself being good except for the Sabbath day seven. It is the ‘events’, the formations and fillings themselves which God describes as either good, or God says nothing at all.

In day one, God declares only one thing good – “light”. We have already examined the significance of light over darkness for the overview on 1:3-5;14-19.

What of day two? Are there any things which God declares as specifically good? What is the distinction between God declaring specific things as good as opposed to his entire creation as good? Is God trying to convey some special focus on something when he specifically says that thing is good? Genesis 1:6-8:

“And God said, “Let there be an expanse (a canopy in the ESV footnote) in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven (or Sky, ESV footnote). And there was evening and there was morning, the second day (day two)”.

If an illustration may help:

3rd Heavens (God) – (this may be slightly deceiving, because the 3rd heavens may be closer than we think (Acts 1:6-11). God’s construct of the universe is definitely a far cry from anything that modern science can even perceive.)

—————

WATER (cosmic; above the earthly Sky)

—————

EXPANSE (heavenly/Sky canopy)

—————

WATER (on earth) – note, the water hasn’t been gathered together into one place yet (Gen 1:9) – not until day 3.

And day 5, Genesis 1:20-23:

“And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds (or flying things, ESV footnote) fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

Day 2

And so also, we now move to Day 2 whereupon God is silent, except to form the separation of waters, to be filled with the water creatures on Day 5. Why this silence? In the previous entry I’ve looked at the pattern of Day 4 to 6 filling in the formation of Day 1 to 3; that the things in Day 4 – 6 merely witness to the things on Day 1 – 3. This helped us establish the witnessing of the lights, the sun/moon/stars/fire/lightning and the different functions they have in displaying the Christian gospel. Day 1 is a day of God incarnate as Christ entering the world of darkness as the light of the world, and we already established how the entrance of light into the world, yet separated from darkness, is in itself a declaration of Christ’s incarnation and hidden glory – but more still needs to be said by the following days to complete the gospel picture.

If Day 1 is true Light of lights incarnate, what does Day 2 preach? And for the matter what does Day 3 preach? What specifically does Day 1 to 3 preach that Day 4 to 6 witness to? If we can accept that Day 1 is Christ’s incarnation as Messiah, and that Day 2 is separation of waters, waters above the heavens and waters on earth, and that nothing is declared good, then God is silent for a very good reason. This will then help us understand the teaching of Day 3 which Day 6 witnesses to.

Expanse of Waters

Couple of verses for us to look at concerning separation of waters.

Baptism through Noah’s ark (1 Peter 3:18-22)

The separation of waters at the Red Sea and river Jordan (Exodus 14:21-31; Josh 3:10-17)

Peter’s view of the ark (2 Peter 3:1-7)

The Cross (Matthew 24:36-39; 27:45-66)

It is notable that Noah’s ark, the presence of the Angel of the Lord (which later dwells in the tabernacle upon the ark of the covenant – both separating the waters at the Red Sea and the River Jordan), and of course the Messiah himself, the living presence and radiance of God – were all the subject of the global punishment prophesied through God’s separation of waters on earth and waters above the heavens. Indeed, the separation of waters, as Peter viewed in 2 Peter, is a prophecy of global punishment. The global flood in Noah’s time is a foretelling of the judgment of fire which disciplines Christians but destroys non-Christians; and that this presence of God through Noah’s ark, the Angel of the Lord, the ark of the covenant – were all methods through which God’s chosen would pass through the valley of death without being inflicted the punishment of second death. And what do the “three arks” have in common, except to prophesy to Christ’s mediation from the global punishment which all people deserve? In all three circumstances, it is concerning the safety of the people passing through the waters onto dry land. If Peter describes Noah’s ark as a baptism that saves us, “not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”, then no doubt the protection from water onto dry land is a prophetic image of Christ’s death on the cross, as Christ himself was separated from his Father. “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” the Saviour cried out with a loud voice, he who is also our heavenly canopy, stretched in the heavens as he was stretched on the Cross to withhold God’s wrathful judgment from crashing onto Christians and non-Christians alike. So also, Christ split the waters of judgment, shielding us through the global flood, so that we can pass onto dry land heading in the direction of the spiritual promised land. This dry land we will (unsurprisingly!) return to on Day 3.

It is also quite important to observe that new creation has no sea (Rev 21:1) – that new creation is dry land with the river of the water of life (Psalm 1). The river poses no such threat of global punishment, but it is definitely benevolent in comparison to the malevolent force of the crashing sea, the “wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame” (Jude 13). No doubt, God has placed “the sand as the boundary for the sea, a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass; though the waves toss, they cannot prevail; though they roar, they cannot pass over it” (Jeremiah 5:22). So what is this, but a choice for Christians to see that God has placed the gospel for us to choose – whether to arrive at the dry promised land safely, or to die in the global punishment symbolised by the sea?

Day 5

And what is Day 5 but a filling of the events of Day 2? The sea dragons, the leviathans, the whale, the beasts arising from the sea littered throughout Job 41, Isaiah 27, Jonah, Revelation are no mere poetry, but true representations of the threat of God’s global punishment and what Christians should understand about God’s creation of the sea. Indeed, God never gave the express approval of everything in his creation being good – but the framework of Day 1-7 was used to proclaim the gospel of Christ’s incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension. Is darkness itself good? No. Is the separation of waters good? Definitely not. But God used these imageries to portray a gospel truth, and by that means, the framework and tools which God used to proclaim the gospel justifies his creation being made in this particular order.

What of the fish (and the flying creatures, but let’s look @ the fish now) which were commanded to reproduce, to multiply and be fruitful, a command specifically given to man as well? Indeed, God drew the connection between the two creations himself! We are indeed as Christians entitled as fishers of men, to save these fish from the sea and bring them to dry land; so also Habbakuk 1:14-17 preaches that men are like mindless fish in the sea, wicked and having no rest. And what of Christ eating fish after his ascension (Luke 24:42)? Nothing less than a proclamation of judgment against men, for sea creatures do not partake in new creation in the same way as the other beasts as prophesied in Isaiah. For sea creatures were made for entirely different purposes from creatures on dry land.

And the birds? The different kinds of birds, the dove at Christ’s baptism, the eagles and ravens as symbols of judgment, the sparrows, many of which resemble angels as winged creatures – that they are witnesses to the angels also sent from the heavens. Yet there are also angels, cherubim and seraphim of many types (Hebrews 1), some for judgment and reaping on the Day; some for healing and solace (Matthew 28:2).

Indeed, these creatures in heaven witness to the unseen creatures in heaven, the angels; and these creatures in the sea witness to the seen creatures on earth, the unsaved men. The heavenly canopy foretells of Christ’s death on the cross, as a saving act in propitiation of God’s wrath through the global punishment of the water, prophesying to the global destruction by fire; and the eventual rebuilding and renewal of his entire creation soon after the sent one returns like a thief in the night.

So we see that Day 1 prophesies to Christ’s incarnation. What surprise therefore to see that Day 2 speaks of the silent treatment of God on Christ’s death, the pain that the Father will inevitably experience just to redeem us from eternal destruction?! Then Day 3 should be a day of rejoicing, as should every third day be, in the patterns of Scripture?

Day 1

Incarnation; Light entering, and separated from darkness

Day 2

Death; the heavenly canopy stretched to protect those from the global judgment

Day 3

You fill the gap. A day of rejoice?

Genesis 1:6-8; 20-23: Day 2 & 5 – Father, father, why have you forsaken me?