TABERNACLE

Matt.17:5 – But while Peter was still speaking, a radiant cloud composed of light spread over them, enveloping them all.

This event pretty much sealed everything for Peter, James, and John. As a matter of fact Peter wrote about this many years later in his second epistle, “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.”

Peter saw this as a fulfillment of Old Testament types and shadows. Christ is the new tabernacle of God. The Lord tabernacled among us in the person of Jesus Christ. God has come to live among mankind. Here is how Bishop Ellicott described this verse.

“To the disciples this would, we cannot doubt, recall the “cloudy pillar” which had descended on the first tabernacle, the “cloud that filled the house of the Lord on the dedication of the Temple. It was, in later Jewish language, the Shechinah, or abiding presence of Jehovah—the very form of the word connects it with both the Hebrew (mishkan) and the Greek (skené) words for tabernacle—which was the symbol that He was with His people. The Targums, or Paraphrases, of the Law and Prophets which were then current, had used the word as a synonym for the divine name. Where the Hebrew text had had “I will dwell in thee,” the Targum of Jonathan had “I will make my Shechinah to dwell”. Its appearance at this moment, followed by the voice out or the cloud, was a witness that no tabernacle made with hands was now needed, that the humanity of Christ was the true tabernacle of God, and that it was in this sense true that “the tabernacle of God was with men”, and that He would dwell with them.”

For Moses the cloud came to the tabernacle and for Solomon it came to the temple. Beginning with Christ this cloud has come to live with us and in us. We don’t have to wait for anyone or anything else, the kingdom of God is here.

DIFFERENT KIND OF KING

Jn.6:14,15 – All the people were astounded as they saw with their own eyes the incredible miracle Jesus had performed! They began to say among themselves, “He really is the One—the true prophet we’ve been expecting!” So Jesus, knowing that they were about to take him and make him their king by force, quickly left and went up the mountainside alone.

This passage gets right at the heart of why Jesus came and what the kingdom of God actually is. Jesus did come to establish a kingdom but not a kingdom of buildings, wealth, and power or influence. He is and was a king but not the kind of king the crowds were looking for. It seems that the miracle of the fish and the loaves brought the conflict to the surface. The crowd wanted an earthly kingdom. They wanted to get rid of the Romans and have a king that would lead them into a time of prosperity in this life. That is not why Jesus came. He came to die not to conquer armies by force. He came to conquer our hearts through the power of His love. He came to wash away our sins by His sacrificial death. Here is how Erasmus describes this verse.

“Now those who had eaten their fill knew that five loaves, barley loaves at that, and two fish had been found, and they saw how many basketsful were left over. So they began to sound the praises of Jesus, saying, “This is truly the long-expected prophet who was to come into the world.” It is typical of the common people that they are more aware of benefits to belly than to brain. They had seen greater miracles, but they had never rendered him such splendid praise; it was full stomachs that wrung out this language. And now, inexperienced and foolish as they still were, looking for a Messiah to claim an earthly kingdom for them, they schemed together to snatch up Jesus and make him their king, promising themselves goods in abundance, plenty of grain, wealth, freedom and the other comforts of the world if they were lucky enough to have such a king.”

The shocking truth that this message reinforces is this, it is still the same today. The gospel is often viewed as a means to get your best life now, on this earth. Many perceive that the message of the gospel is good news for this life alone. Christ came to redeem us from our sins. The Lord addressed this the following day. He taught about His body and His blood. He came to give us Himself so that we can live. For the next year until the time of the Lord’s death things changed. He had come to be a king, He was about to display exactly what that would look like by His death and resurrection.

THE LORD IS MY REDEEMER

Isa:44:6 – The words of Yahweh, Israel’s true King and Kinsman-Redeemer, Yahweh, Commander of Angel Armies, says: “I am the Beginning and I am the Ending, and I am the only God there is”.

Things can get quite cloudy or confusing if you get your eyes on this present world and get caught up in this present system that is trying to swallow up every semblance of the Kingdom of God. Obviously the spirit of antichrist has been unleashed in this generation attempting to distract and discourage the children of light. In the midst of the noise there is one thing that helps get me back on track; remember that the Creator Himself has become a man and is my Redeemer. The concept of Kinsman Redeemer in the Hebrew world was a glimpse into the person of Jesus of Nazareth. To say it bluntly, God became a man to redeem us from the misery of this life. Here is a thought about the Kinsman Redeemer from the Passion Notes.

“Favor and mercy always triumph over judgment. God will excel in grace toward his people and give them back even more than what sins spoiled and Satan stole. There is coming a day when Lord Yahweh will wield his massive, mighty sword and take up our cause, slaying the serpent of confusion and working a mighty work of vindication from enemies and redemption from sins in the lives of his people. He is our Kinsman-Redeemer, the Mighty One who unveils to us his cherishing love like a relative coming to the aid of his next-of-kin in trouble to redeem and rescue them. He loves us so much that he took upon this role of family protector, becoming the sacrifice to rescue us from danger and return us to God.”

That’s the way it is with the Lord, it often appears that the Lord’s people are losing and the kingdom of this world is taking complete control. Nothing could be further from the truth. The devil is the master of fake news and nothing he says will ultimately come about. The Lord Himself has redeemed us from our sins and ultimately the misery that sin hangs around our neck. Rather than abandoned we are remembered. Rather than defeated we are more than conquerors. Rather than losing ground the kingdom of God is advancing in our society.

BEGINNING GOD’S NEW DAY – PALM SUNDAY

MATT.21:7-9 – They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:

“Hosanna to the Son of David!

‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’

Hosanna in the highest!”

MATT.21:4,5 – All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:

“Tell the daughter of Zion,

‘Behold, your King is coming to you,

Lowly, and sitting on a donkey,

A colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ”

Palm Sunday, what was this day all about? Jerusalem was crowded more than anyone could ever remember. Every year the crowds swelled in preparation for Passover and Pentecost but it had never been like this before. The stories of the miracle ministry of Jesus of Nazareth had spread throughout the Mediterranean world. To top it all off, rumors of Lazarus being raised from the dead had just added fuel to the fire. Something major was about to happen, it had to. Its just that most everyone had it wrong. This crowd was singing and shouting, expecting to crown a new Davidic king, they had no idea who Jesus really was.

Actually, Jesus was ushering in a new kingdom with His procession. He was headed for the cross. He had come for this purpose, to give Himself for a sin offering for man. This would lead to the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. The day that all mankind could experience the blessing of The Spirit was about to begin. The rest is history.

The followers of Jesus that day were walking prophecies of this new kingdom. There were people who used to be blind who could now see. There were paralytics, dancing with all their might. There were former deaf mutes singing the loudest. These were ‘guarantees’ of what was about to happen.

Today we are celebrating another Palm Sunday. This time, rather than dancing in the streets we are sitting in our homes. Many of us are His prophetic ‘guarantees’ of His coming kingdom. As the world is on lockdown we know in our hearts that this Palm Sunday is eerily similar to that first one in Jerusalem so long ago. What do I mean? Just like that week in Jerusalem our world is about to change. Many are hoping for the old normal to come about, it never will. We have entered into a new season in our world. The kingdom of God is breaking in on us.

IS THIS A KING ?

Jn.18:37 – Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?”

Kings are supposed to be born in palaces, not in a stable with farm animals. Kings are also supposed to be raised in compounds, not in a common laborer’s home in Nazareth of all places. You also have dignified state funerals for kings, not a crucifixion with all of your friends disappearing into the shadows.

The life of Christ was very different from what we think of kings but never the less, He was and is the greatest of all kings. To understand this you have to understand what His kingdom is all about. He said it Himself, “My kingdom is not of this world”. His kingdom, the kingdom of God, is a hidden kingdom that is here among us today. This kingdom is not about palaces and accumulating wealth, this kingdom is all about the heart. That’s why the birth of Christ was so insignificant to most, troubling to others, and the greatest of all events to those who are in touch with His hidden kingdom. Here is what Luther said about this Mary, Joseph, and Christ’s amazing birth.

“The Evangelist shows how, when they arrived at Bethlehem, they were the most insignificant and despised, so that they had to make way for others until they were obligated to take refuge in a stable, to share with the cattle, lodging, table, bed-chamber and bed, while many a wicked man sat at the head in the hotels and was honored as lord. No one noticed or was conscious of what God was doing in that stable. He lets the large houses and costly apartments remain empty, lets their inhabitants eat, drink and be merry; but this comfort and treasure are hidden from them. O what a dark night this was for Bethlehem, that was not conscious of that glorious light! See how God shows that he utterly disregards what the world is, has or desired; and furthermore, that the world shows how little it knows or notices what God is, has and does.”

You can see the parallel in today’s world. Houses are lit up with decorations of Santa, reindeer, and Grinches but too many times the birth of Christ is ignored. He is still unwelcome in many people’s hearts today just as He was in Bethlehem long ago. The question we have to ask ourselves is this, “Have I made room for Christ in my life this year?”

MESSAGE OF JESUS

Everything about Jesus is different and unexpected. When He first appeared in Galilee He preached a message far different from what the people were accustomed to. Mark said this is what Jesus preached, Mk.1:15 – “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

The Passion Translation shows more clearly what the point of His message was; Mk.1:15 – “His message was this: “At last the fulfillment of the age has come! It is time for the realm of God’s kingdom to be experienced in its fullness! Turn your lives back to God and put your trust in the hope-filled gospel!”

Not only was Jesus preaching about the kingdom of God, He taught us to pray with the kingdom as the thrust. Matt.6:9,10 – “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.”

Our very prayers are actually calls for His kingdom to be revealed.

Jesus also taught that the kingdom was our greatest treasure. Matt.13:44,45 – “Heaven’s kingdom realm can be illustrated like this:

“A person discovered that there was hidden treasure in a field. Upon finding it, he hid it again. Because of uncovering such treasure, he was overjoyed and sold all that he possessed to buy the entire field just so he could have the treasure.”

“Heaven’s kingdom realm is also like a jewel merchant in search of rare pearls. When he discovered one very precious and exquisite pearl, he immediately gave up all he had in exchange for it.”

When Jesus was facing His final moments, He was standing before Pilate and He gave us another glimpse into this kingdom that was His message while here on earth. This is how He answered Pilate. Jn.18:33,36 – “Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”

His response to Pilate tells us all we need to know, He is a different kind of King ushering in a different kind of kingdom. This is what it boils down to, “So above all, constantly chase after the realm of God’s kingdom and the righteousness that proceeds from him. Then all these less important things will be given to you abundantly”. Matt.6:33,34 -TPT

MORE VALUABLE THAN BIRDS

Matt.6:26 – TPT – Look at all the birds—do you think they worry about their existence? They don’t plant or reap or store up food, yet your heavenly Father provides them each with food. Aren’t you much more valuable to your Father than they?

What is the point of this teaching, talking about birds and flowers ? What exactly is Jesus getting at? The point is that sons and daughters are not like the lost people of this world. The natural man has his whole focus in life on this world or the present kingdom. That way of living lends itself to worry and, at the end of the day, wasting your life. The Lord finishes this passage with these famous words “seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be provided”. He cares for us more than birds and flowers, knowing that frees us to live our lives for what really matters, the kingdom of God. Here is William Barclay’s on this passage.

“There is no worry in their lives (the birds), no attempt to pile up goods for an unforeseen and unforeseeable future; and yet their lives go on. More than one Jewish Rabbi was fascinated by the way in which the animals live. “In my life,” said Rabbi Simeon, “I have never seen a stag as a dryer of figs, or a lion as a porter, or a fox as a merchant, yet they are all nourished without worry. If they, who are created to serve me, are nourished without worry, how much more ought I, who am created to serve my Maker, to be nourished without worry….” The point that Jesus is making is not that the birds do not work; it has been said that no one works harder than the average sparrow to make a living; the point that he is making is that they do not worry. There is not to be found in them man’s straining to see a future which he cannot see, and man’s seeking to find security in things stored up and accumulated against the future.”

So what does living for the kingdom look like? Paul said it wasn’t food or drink but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Trust liberates us to press into God. We seek Him in the Bible and in worship, we reach out in love to those around us, and we live in fellowship with our spiritual and natural family. Touching Him and Him touching us frees us from worry and allows us to live for what really matters.

STRANGE PROVISION

Lk. 8:1-3 – Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.

One of the beautiful things about the ministry of Jesus is the diversity of His followers. Just as we see in today’s verse, even today, everyone from the billionaire to the homeless, from the sophisticated to the streetwalker can be found in the crowd following Jesus. Two of the followers of Jesus mentioned in this passage demand our attention. Mary Magdalene, the woman with the shady past whom had seven demons cast out of her is mentioned in the same breath as the apostles. Then there is Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward. Think about that, King Herod’s treasurer’s wife, the man who controlled the money in Israel, his wife was a follower of Jesus. Not only that, Luke said she ministered to the Lord out of her substance. That is quite amazing. There were at least twelve families being supported by the ministry of Jesus, He even had a treasurer Himself. The Lord will always provide for His work, sometimes it is in the most surprising ways. Here is what Barclay says about today’s verse.

“There was Mary Magdalene, that is Mary from the town of Magdala, out of whom he had cast seven devils. Clearly she had a past that was a dark and terrible thing. There was Joanna. She was the wife of Chuza, Herod’s epitropos. A king had many perquisites and much private property; his epitropos was the official who looked after the king’s financial interests. In the Roman Empire, even in provinces which were governed by proconsuls appointed by the senate, the Emperor still had his epitropos to safeguard his interests. There could be no more trusted and important official. It is an amazing thing to find Mary Magdalene, with the dark past, and Joanna, the lady of the court, in the one company.”

All of us have a role to play in God’s kingdom. Sometimes it might be behind the scenes but that doesn’t have anything to do with the value of the gift. Every member is extremely valuable, each playing a critical role in advancing God’s kingdom. Obviously Mary Magdalene, a lady of the night; and Joanna, the woman from the king’s palace, valued the kingdom of God and poured out their love on Jesus.

PAUL, EPHESUS, AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Acts 19:8 ¶ And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God.

Paul had a mission in Ephesus, to plant a church that would effect all of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). He knew the key to Asia Minor was Ephesus, a major city in that day that was known for its idolatry and moral depravity (it’s funny but those things always go together). Paul gathered a small group of believers and got them baptized in the Holy Spirit. Next he began to have daily meetings. Can you imagine, for the next two years Paul met with the church daily (tradition says from 11-4) preaching on the kingdom of God. What does that mean, preaching the kingdom of God? Here is how John Piper describes it.

“Since God’s purpose for the world is to save a people for himself and renew the world for that people, his kingly rule implies a saving and a redeeming activity on their behalf. This is why the coming of the kingdom in the New Testament is called good news.

In and through Jesus, God, the king, is coming in a way — a new way — into the world to establish his saving rule. First, in the hearts of his people and in their relationships by triumphing over sin, Satan, and death. Then by the exercise of his reign, gathering a people for himself in congregations that live as citizens of a new allegiance of the kingdom — not of this world. Then Christ comes a second time and completes the reign by establishing a new heavens and a new earth.”

So the message of the kingdom deals with a spiritual kingdom ruled by King Jesus Himself. The message of this kingdom is redemption. This includes the work of the cross and the Holy Spirit. Our sins are forgiven through the power of the blood of Jesus poured out at the cross. We are made alive to this kingdom life by the regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. Remember what Paul said in Romans 14:17 “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”.

This shows us what Paul’s plan was in Ephesus, to preach Christ and harvest souls who had been bound by idolatry and sinful behavior and to provide an atmosphere for them to saturate in the presence of the Holy Spirit until their lives radiated the beauty of the kingdom of God. This is what church is intended to be, a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit that impacts the city that church is in.

CHURCH

Eph.3:21- to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

Recently I ministered in the Philippines at Cathedral of Praise and attended a conference in Seoul, Korea. I have been struck again by the diversity and supernatural nature of His Church. In the Philippines I was blessed by the passion and pageantry of the worship at Cathedral of Praise. Dancers, musicians, singers, and congregation caught up in the supernatural flow of the Holy Spirit Who is the very breath of His congregation. In Korea, I was again amazed at the militant fervency of the Korean Church when they pray in their corporate worship. They have to be stopped by the ringing of a bell. The conference was made up of His Church from Africa, USA, India, Malaysia, Australia, and too many places to mention. The diversity is striking but even more striking is the common thread that makes us all one church; the testimony of Jesus. This is our bond of unity and makes the diversity even more beautiful. Here is J.C. Ryle describing the diversity and unity of the Body of Christ.

“It is a Church of which all the members have the same marks. They are all born again of the Spirit; they all possess “repentance towards God, faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ,” and holiness of life and conversation. They all hate sin, and they all love Christ. They worship differently, and after various fashions; some worship with a form of prayer, and some with none; some worship kneeling, and some standing; but they all worship with one heart. They are all led by one Spirit; they all build upon one foundation; they all draw their religion from one single book — that is the Bible. They are all joined to one great centre — that is Jesus Christ. They all even now can say with one heart, “Hallelujah;” and they can all respond with one heart and voice, Amen and Amen.”

As I write this blog I find myself thinking about our church in New Orleans and missing the uniqueness of the expression of Christ in our local church. I love the worship in the Philippines, and the prayers of the Korean Christians. I love the joy of the African church and fellowship with Christian friends from around the world. I still have to say that there is no place like home; I am sure looking forward to church next week!