Jesus at the Center

Read: Numbers 1-2, Mark 3:1-21

As much at it irks me to spell centre the American way (in a title, no less), I fear that today I must since it is a title. It’s the title of a great song that begins like this:

Jesus at the center of it all
Jesus at the center of it all
From beginning to the end
It will always be it’s always been You Jesus Jesus

As we start our journey in to the book of Numbers, we read about how God organised His people. First he started the draft. Every able-bodied man aged twenty and over was conscripted into military duty. Then He laid out the map for the camp. Suddenly Israel was no longer a group of former slaves, but they were an army.

In those days, a military camp would have looked similar to a pond after a stone had been dropped in it. The very centre, where the stone fell, would have been the person of highest rank—usually a king. In every subsequent ring would be those of lesser and lesser priority. Should an enemy come to attack the camp, they would have to plow through the entire army before finally getting to the king.

In Israel, things were a little different. There was a tent at the centre of camp. And it did house a king, but not in the expected sense. Central in the Israelite camp was the Tent of Meeting. The Tabernacle. The Holy of Holies. God’s dwelling place. He placed Himself at the very centre of all Israel and then, very deliberately, set His people around Him.

Numbers 2-1-2.jpg

If this is how God insisted Israel organise themselves, it begs the question, where have we placed God in our own lives? Is He at the very centre? Does everything else revolve around Him? Or is He more on the outskirts, more susceptible to being forgotten about or left out of everything altogether?

The song we started with goes on:

And nothing else matters
Nothing in this world will do
Jesus You’re the center
Ev’rything revolves around You Jesus You

We know that God doesn’t change. He wanted to be the centre of everything with Israel and He wants to be at the centre of everything with us. But do we give Him room to be just that? Is He the stone that caused the ripple or is He just something the ripple washes over?

Jesus at the Center © 2011 Integrity Worship Music, Adam Ranney | Israel Houghton | Micah Massey

Grunt before glory

Read: Exodus 39-40, Matthew 24:1-22

Who doesn’t want to see God’s glory? You’d have to be crazy not to. For many in the church, it is (or maybe should be) our primary pursuit.

Exodus 40-34

We all want the cloud to descend so we can bask in the presence of God. But, for as many of us who pursue the glory, nearly as many never see the fullness of it. Why?

Moses did everything just as the Lord commanded him.

Exodus 40:16 (NIV)

This verse is followed by seven more that state, as the Lord commanded him. Seven. the number of completion and perfection.

And so Moses finished the work.

Exodus 40:33b (NIV)

He did everything the Lord commanded him. Then he finished the work. And only then did the glory of the Lord fill the tabernacle.

Well, I’m just waiting on the Lord. It is to our detriment that we use the word wait. To wait on the Lord has absolutely nothing to do with sitting in silence and everything to do with getting off our blessed assurance and working toward the high calling that God has set before us.

WAIT: To attend to; to perform. To be ready to serve; to obey.

Moses waited on the Lord by doing exactly as he had been commanded. Not only did God give a long list of very specific instructions, but He also sent His Spirit to empower the craftsman to do their work.

We all want the glory, but very few want to do the grunt work required to prepare ourselves and the place for the Lord’s presence. Christianity is not the easy way out, but the narrow road in. We are called to live a life set apart and that life requires work. Lots of work. Hard work.

We have a whole book of commands that we carry around to make us feel good about ourselves, but carrying the book is the most work many are willing to do. If we would only put into practice all the instruction we’ve been given, perhaps we’d see a lot more of that glory we’ve been looking for. A little grunt may go a long way toward the glory.

Heart not head

Read: Exodus 25-26, Matthew 21:1-22

Once Israel had been set free from the Egyptians, it was time for them to seek God in earnest. All other gods and worship had to be cast aside. God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, was to be worshiped. Set apart because He had set Israel apart. A place, a tabernacle, needed to be assembled as a place for the presence of God to rest.

This wasn’t to be any old tent. God had given Moses a lot of very specific instructions that needed to be met exactly. Materials were required. Israel didn’t have a building fund. They didn’t have time to set up a donation campaign. No fundraising events were held.

Exodus 25:2

A freewill offering was taken up and work began to fulfill the specifications for the tabernacle. Nowhere in the text do we find a scenario where the supplies were not enough and a second offering had to be received. The people gave according to the prompting of their hearts.

What does it mean to be prompted by ones heart? Does it mean that we give when we feel like it? Are we generous only when we have the means to do so? Or is it simply a gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit?

I believe it is the latter. Webster’s 1828 dictionary says that the heart is the seat of affections and passions. Israel had just been freed from centuries of slavery. It’s probably safe to say that they were passionate about their freedom and the One who had brought it about. Their generous offerings were a part of their worship.

Giving is worship. Worship should be inspired not by how we feel or what we have, but by whom we worship.

The only way [we can] worship in spirit and in truth [is] to know the One whom [we are] seeking to worship.

Kevin J. Navarro, The Complete Worship Leader

The more we know God, the more we will be in tune with His Spirit and the more we will be prompted to give generously. Giving is the only area in which God actually asks us to test him.

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”

Malachi 3:10 (NIV)

In any sort of worship—from song to giving—we must be dependent on our hearts, the seat of our affections, for direction. We must listen closely to that part of us which is joined with God. Our heads will always lead us away from generous worship, but our hearts will always lead us toward it.

Your assignment

In Israel, God set apart an entire tribe to tend to and take care of the tabernacle. The Levites were tasked with gatekeeping, treasuries, guarding, furnishing, blending spices, baking bread, and making music among other things. Each man over the age of twenty had a responsibility to the temple.

But I’m just a normal person.

No, you’re not.

He has made us his Kingdom and his priests who serve before God his Father.

Revelation 1:6 (NLT)

We are His temple and we are also the priests that serve the temple. Accepting the gift of salvation also means the acceptance of your assignment as keeper of the temple. There is a place for every single person to serve in the Kingdom of God. Like in Israel where no Levite was exempt from service, neither are we exempt.

Read through 1 Chronicles 9:22-34. Everyone got their assignment. Do you have yours?

Your assignment may not be a visible role in the church. It may not even be in the church at all. Since we all (the global Church) are the temple of God, to serve the Church as a whole is to serve the temple.

Did you know that there is a sixth element to ministry? We only ever hear about five.

He is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.

Ephesians 4:11 (NLT)

Yes, we know all that. But read on.

Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.

Ephesians 4:12 (NLT)

The responsibility of building the church is not on your pastor or teachers. It’s on you. Yes, you! Our pastors and teachers are there to equip us to do the work of the ministry—our assignments, whatever they may be.

If you are sitting there without a clue as to what you’re assignment may be, get your Bible. Read it. Pray. Ask God to show you what you can do in your role in the ministry. Pray that He would reveal to you your position in the temple, the body of Christ.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Chronicles 8-10, John 8:37-59

From His Promise Through His Mercy

Whenever Moses went into the Tabernacle to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the Ark’s cover—the place of atonement—that rests on the Ark of the Covenant. The Lord spoke to him from there.

Numbers 7:89 (NLT)

This verse moved me when I read it. It comes at the end of a long and rather tedious chapter and you might miss it if you’re not careful.

Here, we see that Moses spoke directly with God. He heard the voice of the Lord. It’s not the fact that Moses heard God that got to me. We can all hear God if we listen closely. What touched me was where the voice was coming from.

God’s voice didn’t come booming all around Moses, filling the Most Holy Place. It didn’t come in a secret whisper. It came from the Ark of the Covenant. God’s voice came from the place that held His promise. And not only did it come from the Ark, but it came through the cherubim on the cover. The Place of Atonement. The Mercy Seat.

God speaks to us from His promise through His mercy.

Daily Bible reading: Numbers 7, Mark 4: 21-41