January 31, 2016 | text: Leviticus 26:11-12, Revelation 21:1-4
God wants to speak to us. Last week we looked at ways he does that; through the Bible, prayer, circumstances and the church. God also wants to hear from us. His desire is to be with us.
We all know to some degree what that’s like; if you have children or grandchildren that live in another state, or maybe it’s your parents that have moved. You may have plans to see them next Christmas but in the meantime you make do with a letter, a telephone call or an online chat. We get busy and sometimes those calls get few and far in between. I live in the same house as my wife and daughter but some days we don’t see each other. I come home from work after being gone 10 or 12 hours and if it’s Girl Scout night Johannah comes home and goes straight to bed. Or if I have class and go straight there at the end of a long day, Johannah is already in the bed asleep when I get home. Those things are important but we have to manage how many “important” things we fill our lives with or we end missing a thing or two that should have been of most importance.
The tabernacle was in the middle of camp. In Leviticus 26 God said he would make his dwelling among the people and he literally did. The tent of meeting was pitched in the center of the Hebrews’ camp with three tribes to the north of it, three tribes to the south and so forth. The tabernacle was a physical, tangible thing that represented God’s presence among the tribes of Israel. God gave them the Law and they promised to do every single thing he said. He promised to fight their battles for them, make them a nation, defeat their enemies in every direction and give them long and prosperous lives in the land. But they forgot to keep their end of the bargain. They all got busy doing other things; important things perhaps but they forgot the most important thing. They forgot God. They ignored his commandments and statutes. They intermarried with those nations God meant to drive out and began to worship their gods, learning their customs and ways and bowing at their altars. Some of us fight for the rights of the unborn child today, but they offered their children as sacrifices in the fires of Molech. Members of our society debate the existence of God and ask where he is. They had a tent in the middle of their camp, and later a temple in Jerusalem, and they knew he was there! They followed a pillar of fire and a pillar of cloud from Egypt to the Jordan River. They saw fire and felt earthquakes, crossed the Red Sea and later the Jordan, watched the walls of Jericho fall flat… and then got busy doing other things and forgot about God.
He came in person. Sometimes an email will do but at other times we still send letters with signatures on them. Even with telephones and internet there is no substitute for a visit in person. God came to us in person, specifically in the person of Jesus the Christ. He sent letters in the Old Testament. A king name Jehoiakim would cut a few lines from Jeremiah’s scroll as it was read to him and toss them in the fire. In 2 Kings 22 Hilkiah the high priest found the book of the Law in the temple. He was the high priest over Israel and just happened to find the Book of the Law of the Lord. The temple had fallen into disrepair and when King Josiah had it restored they discovered the Law they literally knew nothing about. God sent letters and representatives (consider Jeremiah the weeping prophet) and finally his own Son. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…” (Hebrews 1:1-2) One of my favorite parables is about the wicked tenants. Jesus knew what happened to God’s messengers of old and knew exactly what would also happen to him. Jesus also wept over Jerusalem. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37)
His tabernacle today is much closer. Just two weeks ago we talked about another helper, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) He told the Israelites that he would make his dwelling among them. The Holy Spirit of the true and the living God dwells within us. But we get busy. We get stressed out. We get distracted. There is so much advertisement, and entertainment, and sensual temptation; yet we are surrounded by bad news, and tragedy, and so many people that think they have no hope that we can sometimes forget we do have hope. We have hope enough to share with a lost and dying world. Sometimes it can be like looking a train wreck; it’s horrible but we can’t seem to look away. There’s falling stock markets, terrorism, climate change (maybe), young people that commit suicide and sometimes it’s enough to make Christians forget this world is not our home and Christ offers hope to the hopeless. With God all things are possible. But there’s also opportunities this world affords, and sometimes we get swept up with career goals and investment opportunities and forget about laying up treasure “where moth and rust do not corrupt and thieves do not break in and steal.” (see Matthew 6:19-21) It may be things that are important or things that are destructive. We fool ourselves if we don’t realize there are Christians with gambling problems, or addictions to alcohol or pornography. If you walked through a smoked filled room you will smell like smoke later, and we live in a world that is both amazingly wonderful and filled with the stench of evil and depravity at the same time.
We need to start each day in prayer and look into scripture for some reminders of who God is and what he has done. We need to ask him to fix our eyes on the right things. We possess a great treasure in jars of clay but do we use all the resources available to us? His tabernacle was right there in the camp, but they forgot about God.
Bear Bryant’s line was supposed to be “Don’t forget to call your mama.” He was adlibbing when had said “I sure wish I could call mine.” As much as Mama loves you, God loves you more than that. He wants to speak to us, hear from us and be with us. It is always in our best interest in every possible way to give God what he wants.