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127 - More than a box, more than a table

More Than Ink / Pastor Jim Catlin & Dorothy Catlin
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December 31, 2022 1:00 pm

127 - More than a box, more than a table

More Than Ink / Pastor Jim Catlin & Dorothy Catlin

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December 31, 2022 1:00 pm

Episode 127 - More than a box, more than a table (31 Dec 2022) by A Production of Main Street Church of Brigham City

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Charles Stanley

You pick up your Bible and wonder, is there more here than meets the eye?

Is there anything here for me? I mean, it's just words printed on paper, right? Well, it may look like just print on a page, but it's more than ink. Join us for the next half hour as we explore God's Word together, as we learn how to explore it on our own, as we ask God to meet us there in its pages.

Welcome to More Than Ink. Hey, today we are broadcasting on New Year's Eve of 2022. Happy New Year. Happy New Year. Well, today we're also back into Exodus and we're making stuff. We're making the Ark of the Covenant and we're making the Table of the Presence. Does it have any relevance to our new year? Oh, it sure does.

It actually does. And you'll find out how today on More Than Ink. Well, good morning and welcome. I'm Dorothy. And I'm Jim.

And this is More Than Ink. And we're sitting here at our dining room table on this morning of New Year's Eve, which is when this show is airing in the local Salt Lake market. And we're talking today about the beginning of the building of the stuff that goes in the Tabernacle in Exodus 37. And it seems appropriate to do that on New Year's Eve, because this is the time of year that we're thinking about putting things in order for the coming year. Making plans. So kind of as we go through this little bit of a passage today, we're going to kind of wrap up with thinking about how this might apply to our coming year. And you know, very often at this time of year, people are making resolutions or plans or projecting ahead what's coming.

And it's always good to do that. But it's funny, looking at this passage, I realize that we actually can do that, even with this simple description of building the ark and making the table. And it occurred to me that that's one aspect of why we have titled this program More Than Ink. That almost no matter where we are reading in the Scriptures, there will be something pertinent. The Spirit has a way of highlighting something pertinent for where we are at at any given moment in our life. And I don't think that's stretching the Scriptures out of shape. But that's something that the Spirit does. He can lift these ancient words off the page and say, you know, today, that might look like this.

Yeah, yeah. And that's one of the process points in just doing Bible interpretation. The last step is you kind of sit back and you say, what does that mean to me? How does that apply to me?

And that's not really an artificial process. I mean, we'll get to the passage in a second. But it's not because I come from a family of storytellers. And usually when you tell a story, it tells you, it gives you a piece of truth that's usually pretty pithy that you couldn't get without the story. And, you know, in the normal course of affairs, we call it the moral of the story. That's what you take home based on the story. Well, that's exactly what we do with what God has put here for us.

We take this stuff home and we put it in our heart and we think, what does that mean to us? So you don't have a clue what we're talking about because we haven't read the passage yet. But we'll read it today and see what it gives us as we look forward into the new year. Do you want me to start?

Yeah, go ahead. So we're in chapter 37. From Exodus.

Oh, thank you. Exodus. And last time we looked at Exodus, we were already building stuff. We built the structure and the cloth that goes over the tabernacle itself. Now we're looking at some of the stuff that goes inside it. The most important things inside it. Exactly. Yeah. So we're going to make the ark today.

So here we go. 37 verse one. So Betzalel made an ark of acacia wood. It was two cubits and a half was its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. By the way, if you forget what a cubit is, it's 18 inches.

It's about the length from your fingertips to your elbow. So that's what we're talking about. Verse two. And he overlaid it with pure gold inside and outside and made a molding of gold around it. And he cast for it four rings of gold for its four feet, two rings on its one side, two rings on its other side. And he made poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with gold and put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark. And he made a mercy seat of pure gold.

Two cubits and a half was its length, a cubit and a half its breadth. And he made two cherubim of gold. And he made them of hammered work on the two ends of this mercy seat. One cherubim on the one end, one cherubim on the other end. And of one piece with the mercy seat, he made the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, with their faces, one to another, toward the mercy seat were the faces of the cherubim. The ark is made. Oh, you know, I just I have this beautiful picture in my mind, right? We get this repetition the mercy seat, the mercy seat, the mercy seat, the gold, the gold, the cherubim, the cherubim, the cherubim. And we know this is the actual building of the thing.

Back in Exodus 25 had described the instructions. And this is an exact duplicate. Does it match?

It matches exactly. But this version starts with Beitzalel made the ark. And if you remember from a couple of weeks ago, we talked about the meaning of Beitzalel's name in the shadow of God. In the shadow of God. Under the shadow of God.

Or under his influence, yeah. And here we have this description of the cherubim overshadowing the mercy seat. I just can't help but wondering what was in his mind, as he was gifted by the Spirit of God, filled with the Spirit of God with skill, intelligence, knowledge, craftsmanship, the ability to teach artistic design, all in accordance with God's commands. These are things we read earlier about that describe this guy, Beitzalel. So I can't help thinking about him, the man, because we have this description of him producing this beautiful, most holy thing.

Yeah, and it is central. It is central to God's interaction with Israel over this, the mercy seat that's over the ark. By the way, too, Beitzalel and his buddy were picked up by God because of their giftedness, craftsman-like, but the Spirit was full in them as well. But this is the first time where we actually see Beitzalel himself, first hand, making the thing.

And look at this very fine, detailed work. It makes sense that this would be his, because it says that he and his friend were both gifted with teaching, so they could teach other people how to do this. So in a sense, they were going to be foremen of a very large project, but when it came to the ark, not going to give that away.

This is a one artist piece. Beitzalel, exactly. Right.

Yeah. And it's interesting, too, we talked about this last time we looked at the ark, but the ark is a container. Now, it's a holy container, but it primarily holds the Ten Commandments.

That is God's promise to the nation of Israel and to mankind. It's that statement of the covenant, basically. And so the ark really has no significance except for what it contains. And the ark, when you look at it, I mean, this word for ark right here, this ahon word, just means something gathered. So it's a place where you gather this stuff together. Now, later, more than just the Ten Commandments were put in there, but what gives it really significance is the fact that inside is God's written covenant on stone with Israel.

That's the big deal. And on the top, the covering of that container is identified as this thing called the mercy seat. The mercy seat. Right. And we're told in Numbers that Moses would hear the voice of God from above the mercy seat between the cherubim.

That's number 789. You might want to look at that. It's an interesting description of how Moses... I've got it written here. Oh, do you? Yeah. Okay, you want to read it?

We did not collude on this. No. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, Numbers 789. And when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim, and it spoke to him.

Whoa. Okay, so the cherubim are really important. They are. And they occur over and over and over again.

They were woven into the curtains. They were very present. Who are the cherubim? Yeah. Because they only appear a few places in the scripture by name.

Yeah, not a lot. The first place they show up, actually, is at the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden, when God places a cherubim with a flaming sword that turned every which way to guard the way to the tree of life. Right. Right. So something about the cherubim is associated with guarding the holiness of God, the presence of God. Just simply power to protect those things, too. So this is an awesome show of power from the angelic hosts, in a sense, these cherubim. And they are attendants of the holiness of God.

Right. So when you see golden kind of caricatures of them bent over with their wings outspread over the ark, in a sense they're saying, we are protecting what this is and what's inside of it. This is a holy place. This is unassailable.

This is unassailable. That's how holy it is. And we also made the point last time, too, that this mercy seat, although the ark was a box that held the Ten Commandments and other things later on, on top of it was this golden slab, the same size as the box with the cherubim on it. And that was called a mercy seat.

And you see a seat like a chair? Somebody sat there, well, sort of like a throne. It's a throne.

Yeah. So it really is meant to invoke this throne idea. So who is the king on the throne?

Well, God himself. God's the king of the nation of Israel. He's the king of us. So it's an interesting picture because there you have superimposed in one spot the seated power and sovereignty of God. And what's he seated on and protecting? He's seated on his promises to his people.

That's I think a fascinating thing. It's not just stark power that makes him king. What makes him king is his promises. And his power to accomplish.

And his power to accomplish. Because this would be a good point to mention the other things that were in the ark later on was a jar containing the manna. A little bit of manna. The bread of life.

You shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Which was the manifestation of his promise to feed them. That's right. And then the other thing that was in there was Aaron's rod that budded. That budded.

Right? So this dead stick of a shepherd's rod, God in demonstrating his choice and his ability to give life out of death caused that rod to break forth in leaves and life. And that eventually also was placed in the ark.

Yeah. All tangible representations of God's promise and God's promise fulfilled to them. His power to do what he says he would do. And in the Ten Commandments, his covenant, his promise is fulfilled.

So here's a king who is king of his people and is founded on his promises to them. I think it's just a great picture. I wonder what was running through Beit Seleil's mind as he's crafting this beautiful most holy thing.

It just is fascinating to me. But I just want to read back to Exodus 25 in the original description of the ark that God gave to Moses. Exodus 25, what I want to zero in on is verses 21 and 22 when God says, And you shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony which I shall give to you, and there I will meet with you from above the mercy seat. From between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel.

There I will meet with you. That phrase just leaps off the page for me. Between the cherubim, the guardians of God's holiness, and over the presence, resting on the presence of his word and his promise. And again, it evokes this very strong image in ancient texts of a king in his throne room and coming into his presence, which was a scary thing to do, right? I mean, we remember from the story of Esther that you could not just walk into the presence of the king.

You would be killed for that. He was not a Jewish king, but he was a very powerful king. But that was the standard for kings, and entering in the presence of a king. And it's not that the king actually lived in that throne room, but that's the place where you met him. And so God's using that same imagery here that they really understand. Here's your king.

It's God himself, and you come into his presence with fear and trembling because of your sin. So it's a great picture. And I love the fact that his promise, his word, is integral to his power in the throne. I think that's just great. And to his meeting with us to speak about those promises.

Yeah. You know, I looked forward to see where the ark shows up again, because when we finish the ark right here, we're not going to revisit it. Where does it go?

Do they drape it or hide it somehow? Well, and if you're wondering that same thing as well, what happens in the life of the nation of Israel, you can go look if you want to. We talk about being explorers. It's very prominent 40 years later, a whole generation later, when Joshua comes into the Promised Land. And right on the cusp of coming into the Promised Land, stepping into the Promised Land is when you cross the Jordan River. And go to chapter three of Joshua, and you'll see how God said basically to the priests, you guys pick up the ark, and you start marching across the Jordan River.

And the Jordan River will dry up. And he also tells the people, beware, don't follow too closely to the ark. You let it lead. So it's clearly just the ark, and you got to lag back by almost half a mile. The presence of God is going before them. So the presence and the promises of God for this Promised Land are leading the way as they come in.

So check that out. It's a great story. It's in Joshua three. And then one you probably know really well is Jericho, which happens three chapters later in Joshua six. And again, again, the ark is carried prominently as a statement of the integrity of God's promises to us. And as they circle Jericho with that prominent in the front, not what the Raiders of the Lost Ark says.

It's a magical kind of weapon. It's not that. It's a statement of God saying, I've given this land to this people, and you're going down because my promise is like this.

So check that out. That's Joshua six. That's where you'll see it again. But interestingly enough, in the New Testament, it only shows up twice. In Hebrews, as he's talking about what we're looking at here in Exodus, he explains what we're looking at Exodus in Hebrews.

It shows up there once in passing, and he says, I don't have time to talk about that right now. But then it shows up in Revelation. And in Revelation, I'll just let you look at it. It's in Revelation 11. It's in the very end of Revelation 11, at the end of the seventh trumpet, the ark is there again. And those are the only two places in the New Testament. And part of the reason for that is the fact that, remember, in the new covenant, the law is not written on tablets of stone, which is what was inside the ark. It's now written on our hearts. So now the container, that is, like the ark, the container for God's promises in this covenant is no longer in this golden box.

It's in us. So the ark just doesn't play that big a role. But you'll be interested if you look at Revelation 11, how it shows up.

And don't get your theology from Raiders of the Lost Ark. No, that's really bad. That's really bad. Well, should we move on to the table? Oh, we need to. Yeah, it's pretty cool.

We need to. I'll pick it up in verse 10. So he, Beit Seleil, also made the table of acacia wood. Two cubits was its length, a cubit its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. And he overlaid it with pure gold and made a molding of gold around it. And he made a rim around it, a hand breadth wide, and made a molding of gold around the rim. He cast for it four rings of gold and fastened the rings to the four corners at its four legs. Close to the frame were the rings as holders for the poles to carry the table. He made the poles of acacia wood to carry the table and overlaid them with gold. And he made the vessels of pure gold that were to be on the table, its plates and dishes for incense, its bowls and flagons with which to pour drink offerings.

Yeah. All on the table. All on the table. So it's interesting to note here, from this point on in the Bible, instead of calling us the table of showbread or table bed, it's just called the table.

So don't get confused by that. It's the table. Well, and back in Exodus 25, it talks about the table of the bread of the presence. Well, that was on this table too. Yeah. But apparently there was all this other stuff also on the table, the tools and the implements needed in order to perform the service in that holy place. Right.

Yeah. So this is just a table. I mean, it's three feet long. We're sitting at a table right now, but this table is three feet long and about 18 inches wide. And it's waist high for sitting in a chair. So it looks like a dining table, in a sense. And on this dining table, there is food. So why would God include that in one of the more intimate entry places into his presence? And the imagery is obvious. God is looking very hospitable to us, inviting us to his table.

That's what he's doing. And remember, we said earlier on, earlier in Exodus, that this holy place, we've entered into God's tent. Into God's tent. Right.

Right. And there we have not only his presence in the Holy of Holies, but we have the table with the bread of his presence, we have the fragrance of the incense, and we have the light from the candlestand. And the light from the candlestand. So you have the sense of having entered into God's tent. God's tent. This is where God is. He's here.

We can meet him here. But it's such a warm, this table with the bread on it is such a warm welcome. Well, everything's cold.

Yeah. But I mean, and there's fresh bread on it. There's 12 loaves of fresh bread on it. I mean, it's like, it's just so welcoming.

It's such an odd thing for me to think about having a God like the God we have. And I understand the lampstand, I understand the prayers and the incense, I mean, all these what seem like formal, wonderful symbols. And then you have this almost folksy presentation of a table that's at the right dimensions for us to sit at.

And there's food there. You're saying, I'm glad you're here. I'm glad you're here.

Come on in. Come and sit at my table. And the whole idea actually, this idiom of being at a table is very ancient and we still hold it today. You know, when you say I've set a table for you, well then you know you're welcome to pull up a chair and to partake of what he's made for you.

And that's exactly what he's saying here. I'm inviting everyone to come into my tent, into my table, and I've prepared something for you at my table. So this is just a profoundly welcome symbol, a very common welcome symbol in the middle of this. And it's not just common, it's covered with gold. This is a table that's set for you by the King himself. And it's beautiful. We've talked about this before, how everything inside this holy place was covered with gold.

Yeah, lots of gold. And the only light in there was from the lampstand, so it would have been glimmering and glowing. Now as we record this, we're still kind of basking in the Christmas season, right?

A lot of us still have our lights up, or we've enjoyed sitting in a dim room with the light of the Christmas tree or candlelight or whatever you do for your observance. That just is a teeny little taste of the intimacy and the beauty of this carefully lit, fragrant, welcoming holy place. Yeah, this is a God who says, I have prepared for you a meal, come and take and eat in my presence. It reminds me of the story of Mephibosheth, remember Mephibosheth?

Well I do, but our listeners probably don't, they're like, who the heck is that? You can go read up, during the life of David when he's king, it's in 2 Samuel 9, and it's only a handful of verses, not very much, but Mephibosheth was fearing for his life. When David found out he was alive, David was going to kill him, because that's what kings did to previous reigns. But in the end, the plot spoiler for you there in 2 Samuel 9, the plot spoiler is the fact that David invites Mephibosheth to sit at his table. And I wrote down the verse he says, because at the end of the passage it says, then Ziba said to the king, according to all that my lord the king commands his servant, so will your servant do. And so, Mephibosheth ate at David's table like one of the king's sons. So it's a tremendous honor for him, who thought he was an outcast and would be killed once his presence was revealed, and instead of being killed, he's actually invited into the presence of the king himself to sit at his table like a son. And that's what God is symbolizing here with this table of showbread.

You know, it gets better than that, because it even goes past that. I was thinking of Isaiah 25, where Isaiah, hundreds of years after David, picks up this idea of the Lord setting a table for us, and he says in Isaiah 25 verse 6, and the Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain, a banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow and refined aged wine, and on this mountain he will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, even the veil which is stretched over all nations, he will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces, and he will remove reproach of his people from the earth. But the Lord has spoken. That might just be my favorite passage in the Old Testament. It's so beautiful, this idea of the Lord God himself preparing a banquet, setting a table, a beautiful, lavishly set table, and inviting us to a banquet. And inviting us to a banquet with him at the head, with him providing for us. Yeah, and that's always been God's invitation to mankind, is to be that very thing.

And here it is inside the tabernacle, and later it will be inside the temple as well. So we've built this furniture, it's Aleil has built this furniture, but as we kind of think about where we are at in the year on December 31st, we're looking ahead into the new year. And we're coming out of a holiday season where we've probably done a lot of feasting, we've sat at a lot of tables and eaten a lot of good stuff, but looking ahead to what kind of a table has God set for us in the coming year, right?

Psalm 23 says, you've prepared a table for me in the presence of my enemies, and my cup runs over. Yeah, so when we look forward into the year, our habit in our culture is to say what kind of plans are we going to make? Right, what are we going to accomplish? Usually self-improvement is a large part of it.

And I would say you really need to turn your eyes away from what you're going to do for yourself in the coming year. And that's why these two images of the ark and the table are really sort of nice that way. The table is an invitation to come and eat at God's table and what he provides for you. And are you going to look to him for what sustains you? Jesus says, I'm the bread of life. Do you really consider him that, the essential daily source of nutrition? So the table is just a constant reminder of the fact that God is setting a table for you. Are you ignoring it?

Are you partaking of it? And the other thing I like about the ark is that the ark is what's carrying the profound and powerful promises of God on your behalf. His promises for your benefit on your behalf. And I can't think of a better thing to carry forward in the new year than an ark in a sense symbolically that we say, you know, God's promises to me are as powerful if not more in this next year as they have been in the past. And so as I look forward into this year, I will actually follow his promises like they followed his ark into the promised land. So the ark always speaks of the future, always speaks of God's sovereignty over his people and his promises for their benefit and his covenant to them. If you'll be my people, I'll be your God.

I can't think of a better context to move into the new year. And his presence to communicate. We have a living God who speaks and he is constantly inviting us, right? Come to me. Come to me.

Come here, I will meet with you between the cherubim and the holy of holies. So keep in mind that in this next year, you know, the forward issue is not what you're going to do for yourself. The forward issue is where are you going to look? Are you going to look toward God for all that you need for your bread and for your promises about the future? I think that's one thing about the new year that's really, really unsettling for us is it is uncertain. But with God's promises, there is no uncertainty in what's coming. He sees ahead, he knows what's going to be happening. He's laid plans for you already. There really is no uncertainty in God's agenda and this arc always says that to me. God says this is what I promised you and it's just going to happen.

It's going to happen. So are you going to place your trust in what God has promised you or are you going to place your trust in what you think you're going to accomplish this year? So maybe if you have a moment or two in the quiet tonight or tomorrow or sometime as the year turns to just sit before the Lord and ask, Father, how can I meet with you because you've said you will meet with me in this holy place and how you've made a table ready. Lord, how can I come to your table and eat what's good and listen to your word because it's by your word that I live. Right, right. I'm going to be at your table. You've honored me with pulling out a chair and saying this has been reserved for you and seating me at your table.

And are you willing to actually live that way this year or are you going to run around with your hair on fire and hope you can get something accomplished? It's a wholly different thing. Living, Paul says, I don't live by sight, I live by faith and faith is putting your trust in God and his promises for your future. That's what it's all about. Well, we're out of time. Next time we're going to finish some of these things that go in and around the tabernacle and they have, as we visited them for the last time, they also have similar importance not only symbolically but in terms of encouraging our hearts for the future. So I'm Jim.

And I'm Dorothy. And we're glad you're with us and you hope we come back next week on More Than Ink. There are many more episodes of this broadcast to be found at our website, And while you're there, take a moment to drop us a note. Remember the Bible is God's love letter to you. Pick it up and read it for yourself and you will discover that the words printed there are indeed more than ink. This has been a production of Main Street Church of Rhythm City.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-31 15:48:28 / 2022-12-31 16:00:58 / 13

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