Some time ago, I wrote a posting about The Two Tabernacles
, and how they’re a metaphor for the people of God today. Please allow a brief quote, because I need to use that metaphor as a launch point.
We live in a day where there are large and prestigious and prosperous gathering places on the hilltops, in the public places. They’re in the media and in the eyes of the nation, and the people go there by the thousands to perform the rituals and offer the sacrifices and be trained by the religious authorities of the nation. They have the professional musicians, the professional speakers, the professional media technicians. The ceremonies are moving and the messages are relevant and uplifting. Thousands come to a faith in Christ through these tabernacles.
They lack only one thing. The presence of God is not in them.
These churches carefully following plans laid down by godly men and women, whether that’s the vision of the founders, the vision of the pastor or the directions of the board of directors. They’re doing their best to be what they think a church ought to be. They’re following the law as they know it.
But David’s tabernacle is not about following the Law. In fact, it was completely outside the Law. The Law required the Ark of the Covenant to stay in the Tabernacle of Moses. David was working outside of the law, outside of the rules that God had established for worship, outside of the Tabernacle.
But it is David’s Tabernacle, not Moses’, that God likes best and that He promises to restore.
Heaven is committed to this kind of worship, and this is the pattern of worship that makes God happy: people coming directly to God, coming freely and joyfully, without the pomp and circumstance of the Tabernacle of Meeting, without the religious trappings of the grand ceremony and tradition.
My point was not that the big churches are evil, rather they are in fact following the Command of God, though sometimes it’s hard to worship God with abandon in those places: worshipping in small gatherings makes it easier to be passionate and reckless in our worship. But where we worship is not the issue: how we worship is the issue: we must do whatever it takes, go wherever we need to, in order to worship God passionately, as He deserves to be worshipped! Our worship – yours and mine – is the issue, not whether it’s in a big building or a back bedroom, and this is the call on the church today: worship vigorously.
The Third Place of Worship
David worshiped at Shiloh, and he worshiped with the ark of God in the back bedroom. But there’s a third place where David worshiped, and God has for a few years begun calling His people to worship here as well.
I need to start with some background.
In Psalm 5
declares, “But as for me, I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy; In fear of You I will worship toward Your holy temple.” In Psalm 18
, he says, “In my distress I called upon the LORD, And cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, And my cry came before Him, even to His ears.”
And Psalm 27
has one of my favorite quotes of David
: “One thing
I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple.”
So David didn’t just worship in the Tabernacle of Meeting at Shiloh and the pup tent in his back bedroom (which history calls the Tabernacle of David), but he also worshiped in the temple. And if Psalm 27
is any indication, he worshiped passionately there, too.
This is something that has confused Bible scholars for years. David
worshiped at the temple, but the temple wasn’t built until after his death, after his son Solomon
became king. The temple did not exist in David
’s day, but he worshipped there anyway. David
knew of the promise
of the temple.
The best I can tell – apart from science fiction-type guesses – is that somehow David experienced the fulfillment of a promise that had not yet fulfilled on earth. Somehow David managed to visit the place of the promise, even though – in the natural – the promise hadn’t been fulfilled yet.
David visited the promised temple of his God by faith; either he moved himself into the place where that future promise will have been fulfilled (how do you handle verb tenses for something like this?) or brought the promise into his present reality, again by faith.
I’m not suggesting that David
was physically transported through time, or that some years later, some worshiper in the temple would bump into the time traveler from the past (though that sounds like an interesting movie plot). Worship is a spiritual
activity: this whole process happened in the spirit. David
visited the promised temple of God in his spirit.
Now as for me, I have no aspiration to worship in a building that was built from stone and gold, that was torn down two or three millennia ago. However, I certainly do get to worship by faith like David did, but the place where I worship by faith is not the same as the place that he did. By faith, David worshiped in the temple that God had promised to David: no, he wouldn’t build it, but his son would build the it. That was God’s promise to David. In David’s day, the temple existed only as a promise, but David worshiped there by faith.
There are promises for us today. Ours aren’t about a temple of stone and cedar and brass and gold. Our promises are about … well, we have some promises in common and some promises that are different.
Together, we share promises about the presence of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth (“Thy kingdom come”: think about what that means for a while…). We share promises for an outpouring of His spirit on our generation unlike any the world has yet seen: a billion souls in a generation.
We also have individual promises. One of His promises to my family is a house that’s large enough to have home groups in. He’s made other promises to me about my place in His work: He’s told me things about who I will be and what I will be doing. The significant point is that whether I have seen the fulfillment of them or not, I can worship Him – I can approach Him – from the middle of my fulfilled promise. I can worship Him from the large-enough-for-a-home-group living room of my new house, even though I own no such house today.
Sometimes, it seems like God is forgetful. Sometimes, He makes a promise to us, and then He forgets that it’s just a promise: it hasn’t happened yet. He does things like call Abraham
a “father of many nations” when he’s still childless. He speaks about
things which do not exist as though they did exist.
Since God is not forgetful (even if it seems
like it), then it must be something else: the promise must actually exist once He’s spoken about it; it just doesn’t exist here
, where I am. But God, being omnipresent, isn’t limited to just “here, where I am.” And in another place where He is, the promise exists. In that place, His promises already exist, done, finished, completed. In that place, Abe was already the father of many nations, even though he had no children on Earth yet. In that place, the temple already existed, even though it would not be built here until after David
’s death. In that place, a billion people worship Jesus
who do not yet know Him here.
If my thinking goes no further than what I can see and experience in my flesh, I’ll never inhabit those promises until they’ve been fulfilled in the physical realm. If I limit myself to what I see and feel, those billion souls don’t exist, and my promises are but empty words. But if I look with His eyes, then I can see the fulfillment now. If I experience them with my faith, then I can walk among those believers and begin to understand their hurts and know their needs, so that when I encounter the men and women of that promised outpouring, we’ll already have things ready for them.
You see, by faith, I worship in a different temple. I worship in the temple in Heaven. I worship in the presence of God. Ephesians says I’m already seated in heaven, I’m already seated in Christ
, I’m already in that place, in His presence. And that’s real, that’s true, even though it looks to me like I’m sitting on a wooden chair typing on a laptop computer. I only experience the hard chair and the computer if I’m only experiencing physically. If I look with my spirit, with my faith, I can see the angels crowded around crying
, “Worthy is the Lamb!”
This is really hard to communicate; we don’t have a language to describe our very real experience of a not-yet-fulfilled promise. But my lack of language does not indicate a lack of reality, a lack of priority to that experience.
It is given to us to worship from the place of our promises, by the God who calls things that are not as though they already were. There are many and significant implications, but first, we must stand in that place of our promises. I propose we start there with worship. Then we can think about other things.