Sep 292017

The ark of the covenantThe Ark of the Covenant has been made famous in recent times by the huge box office film ‘raiders of the lost ark’ where Indiana Jones follows various archaeological clues to locate the missing ark, before the Nazi’s get their evil hands on it.

The Ark of the Covenant was the central part of the tabernacle, but actually, at the time, no Israelite got to see it, except one, the High priest. He was allowed only once a year into the innermost part of the tabernacle, the Holy of holies, where God dwelt. He would enter with reverence and great fear and sprinkle blood to atone for the people’s sins. When the tabernacle was taken down and moved around with the Israelites it was carefully wrapped in the veil and then with a covering made from badger’s skins.

The ark is the first item mentioned in the instructions God gives for the tabernacle in Exodus 25 onwards. Here is the relevant passage;

They shall make an ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside shall you overlay it, and you shall make on it a molding of gold around it. You shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them on its four feet, two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it. You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark by them. The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. And you shall put into the ark the testimony that I shall give you. (Exodus 25:10-16)

The ark was constructed out of natural Acacia wood which speaks of Jesus’s humanity. It was overlaid with gold which signified his deity. It couldn’t be described as a wooden box because of the gold and it wasn’t a golden casket because it was made of wood. It required both to perfectly represent Jesus who is the ‘God-man’ inhabiting both natures fully and at the same time. This wonderful doctrine is called the hypostatic union.

The fact that Jesus is God has been hotly debated throughout history, but the bible is quite clear about His divinity.

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Colossians 2:9)

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. (John 14:1)

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:9)

The bible, on many occasions, also confirms his humanity; He grew tired, He slept, He ate and drank and He laughed and cried.

The ark was not an empty box, but contained 3 items which further symbolise aspects of Jesus;

1. The two tablets of the law which Moses brought down from the mountain (the first two he broke during the golden calf incident) these unbroken tablets signified Jesus keeping the law fully and indeed fulfilling it.

2. A pot containing some Manna. As we saw a few weeks ago, God in His grace and mercy provided sustenance for His people for 40 years while they were in the wilderness. This signifies God providing Jesus by His grace to satisfy and sustain us. He is of course ‘The bread of life’ (John 6:35).

3. Aaron’s rod that budded (Numbers 17) This was the occasion when a dead object came to life, an amazing picture of the resurrection of Jesus.

The ark was to remain portable (Exodus 25:15). The poles were to remain in the rings. Jesus leads us as pilgrims through this world. We do not belong here. We should never settle but be continually on the move. Jesus is with us wherever we go, moving us further and deeper into God’s purposes.

Just to finish, by referencing the film I mentioned at the beginning. We no longer need to search for a physical ark as some sort of trophy of God’s presence with us or something that holds special power in itself. I wouldn’t be surprised if the physical ark was destroyed centuries ago as it is no longer necessary. It was a symbol and a shadow of the reality that we now possess and that is that God dwells within us through His spirit. The ark that houses His presence is our Physical bodies. What an amazing thought!

 September 29, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm Shadows of Jesus No Responses »
Sep 222017

One of the central themes of the bible is about God wanting to ‘dwell’ with His people. We were made for relationship with Him. That is our design and our purpose and we will never be truly fulfilled until we discover this.

We see how God seeks relationship with those He has created throughout the pages of the bible, from Genesis to Revelation. In the early days at the beginning of the bible this relationship was developed with individuals such as; Adam, Abraham and Enoch, but this was only a temporary measure until He could develop a relationship with many people. The Jewish nation was never the end game but only a progression until He could gather a people from every tribe and nation.

At the point we have reached in Exodus, God makes it clear that He wants to be with His people;

And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. (Exodus 25:8)

He then goes on to give details about how He wants this tabernacle to be measured and what it will contain. We see in every aspect of this design how Jesus is ‘shadowed’ and we will look at these in greater detail over the coming weeks.

The tabernacle became a nomad like God’s people and was set up and packed away wherever they went. This demonstrated God’s closeness to His people, He was there in the centre. He dwelt in a tent just as they dwelt in tents. This was all a shadow of what was to come when Jesus took on flesh and came to dwell with those He had created.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14)

The word ‘dwelt’ there could just as easily be interpreted ‘tabernacled’. Jesus came to tabernacle among us.

Another name for the tabernacle was ‘The tent of testimony’ (Numbers 9:15). It testified of all that was to come.

The tabernacle was set out, under God’s instruction, to allow a sinful people to approach him. It had priests and sacrifices and interestingly only one door. This is significant when you consider that Jesus stated “I am the door” in John 10:7. There is no other way to approach God except through Him.

This is the fantastic news that God has made a way, through Jesus, to dwell with His people. Through this amazing transformation that Jesus paid for on the cross, our bodies have now become temples of the Holy Spirit and we can have God living with us and inside us every moment of the day

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16)

Paul writing to the Ephesians, gives just some of the many blessings of Jesus dwelling with us

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19)

Just wow!! That is worth meditating on. why not take a few moments to let that fully sink in.

This all points to the culmination of history when we will dwell with God forever

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. (Revelation 21:3)

 September 22, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm Shadows of Jesus No Responses »
Sep 152017

Shadows of Jesus the rockFor I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:1-4)

As I said last week, many incidents in the Old Testament are clearly stated in the New Testament as being shadows of Jesus. This week is no exception as the Apostle Paul states clearly in his letter to the Corinthians that Jesus represents the rock that was struck at Horeb. The Israelites as usual had been grumbling and moaning once again about the lack of water. So much so that Moses was afraid for his life as they were obviously threatening him;

So Moses cried to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” And the Lord said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:4-7)

The striking of the rock foreshadowed Jesus being struck on the cross which would then allow the water of the Holy Spirit to flow forth

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief (Isaiah 53:10)

The people then were physically thirsty just as now people are spiritually thirsty. They were undeserving of this mazing miracle just as we are undeserving to receive this amazing free gift. In fact we all do our fair share of moaning and complaining. Just as in the wilderness God’s grace was shown to a rebellious people by Moses striking the rock, so God shows his grace for all people by striking His precious son.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (I Peter 2:24)

The water that flowed out of the rock would soon dry up and would not quench people’s thirst continually. The water that Jesus supplies is available for all eternity. Speaking to the woman at the well..

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13–14)

 September 15, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm Shadows of Jesus No Responses »
Sep 082017

Shadows of Jesus mannaMany of the shadows we see of Jesus in the Old Testament are discovered as people have studied the scriptures and have reflected how different occasions and people point towards the one who was to come. Other shadows are specifically mentioned in the New Testament as pointing towards Christ. The Manna given to the Israelites in the wilderness that we will be looking at today is mentioned by Jesus himself.

Jesus has just fed the 5,000 with a few loaves and fishes and then walked on water across the sea to Capernaum. The next day a crowd gathers and amazingly but not surprisingly the religious establishment ask him for a sign. Just before he declares himself to be ‘The bread of life’ Jesus answers their questions;

So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” (John 6:30-34)

The manna given to the Israelites was to point towards the ‘true bread’ who was to come. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the original story it is in Exodus chapter 16. As we saw last week the Israelites were given fresh water to drink from the bitter pool. After this they were led to proper streams of fresh water at a place called Elim. Straight after this they go further into the wilderness and they are complaining again about a lack of food. God causes a type of bread to just fall from the sky, a substance called ‘manna’ which literally translated meant ‘what is it?’. God faithfully fed his people with this miraculous substance for 40 years.

Let’s consider some similarities between this manna and Jesus;

  • The manna first appeared at the wilderness called ‘sin’ (Exodus 16:1). How apt that Jesus also came down to a world that was full of sin in order to save everyone who partakes of him, from spiritual starvation.
  • It arrived at night time and Jesus came as a light in the darkness (John 3:19-21)
  • Manna came down from heaven and Jesus is called “The man of heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:48)
  • It was white in colour, pointing to Christ’s purity (2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 4:15)
  • It had to be gathered individually (Exodus 16:16). We come to Christ as individuals, believing in Him as a personal and individual choice. (Romans 6:11, Galatians 2:20)
  • It met a daily need (Exodus 16:4). We come to Christ daily for our spiritual sustenance (1 Corinthians 15:31)
  • Manna was not just picked up and eaten but was prepared by beating and grinding and prepared into cakes (Numbers 11:8). Jesus was beaten, crushed and broken for us (Isaiah 53:4-5)
  • Manna was gathered in double amounts on the day before the Sabbath (Exodus 16:23-24). Christ’s body, after he was crucified, lay in the tomb and did not suffer corruption (Psalm 16:10)
  • A portion of manna was set aside as a remembrance (Exodus 16:33) and later on was placed in the ark of the covenant which was a picture of Christ being exalted at the right hand of the father and established there for all eternity (Ephesians 1:20-23).

For further reflection, click on the following link to read a blog I wrote some while ago about Jesus being the bread of life

 September 8, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm Shadows of Jesus No Responses »
Sep 012017

Shadows of Jesus the water at MarahThen Moses led Israel to journey away from the Red Sea. They went out to the Desert of Shur, walked for three days into the desert, and found no water. 23 Then they came to Marah, but they were not able to drink the waters of Marah, because they were bitter. (That is why its name was Marah.)

24 So the people murmured against Moses, saying, “What can we drink?” 25 He cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When Moses threw it into the water, the water became safe to drink. There the Lord made for them a binding ordinance, and there he tested them. (Exodus 15:22-25 NET bible)

The Israelites are on a high. They have just been delivered through the Red sea and the Egyptian army who were close behind were all drowned. At the beginning of today’s chapter they are writing and singing songs of triumph. God has delivered them and the only way is up.

As many of you will be all too aware, after many great victories and highs come some very testing lows. This happens to all of us and even Jesus himself was not immune. Just as the Israelites had just passed through water, Jesus had just passed through the waters of baptism. It was a great occasion, enjoyed by all three members of the trinity; the Holy Spirit descending like a dove and the father exclaiming with great love and compassion; “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)

Immediately after this, Jesus, just like the Israelites, is led into the wilderness (but for a lot longer than 3 days). Just like them He was tired, hungry and thirsty. Would He moan at the first opportunity? Absolutely not!

In many ways you can’t really blame the Israelites. 3 days is plenty of time to get over the euphoria of escaping captivity as they get increasingly hungry and thirsty. At last they find some water but as soon as they drink it they realise that it is bitter and undrinkable. “What is God doing, I thought He was on our side?” So begins the first of many tests for God’s people to see if they really trust Him or not. Will they trust Him through the testing times as well as when everything is going well?

This situation shadows Jesus because of God’s answer for making the water pure. I don’t think it is a coincidence at all that God commands Moses to throw a tree into the water. Jesus was crucified on a ‘tree’. Without God our lives are bitter, the curse of sin makes everything distasteful. The poison of sin and disobedience affects everything. The cross of Christ is applied to our lives and we are made pure and holy, sweet to the taste and just as we are meant to be.

The bible also has a lot to say about the symbolism of water and how it brings life. A very famous passage is in John 7 where Jesus gives an invitation for living water.

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37)

He is repeating an invitation by Isaiah “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters” (Isaiah 55:1)

And in the culmination of history, the invitation to take this living water is a central theme;

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (Revelation 22:17)

How about you, are you thirsty?

 September 1, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm Shadows of Jesus No Responses »