God's Glory ...
In A Tent
by Scott Brown
Feast of Tabernacles
Listen to this message (using separate browser window; mp3, iPod format as you read here!
As I think back on my life as a Jew, I am increasingly amazed by my profound ignorance of not only what it means to be a Jew, but even the simplest truths regarding Jewish holidays and Holy days.
I’m not even talking about the obscure observances, like Tisha b’av or Shemini Atzeret... I’m talkin’ the BIGGIES like Passover (Pesach) or Yom Kippur! For example, I figured Pesach was just a nice memorial of our ancestors in Egypt and a good excuse to get the family together for several hours of gorging... and I figured Yom Kippur was the PUNISHMENT for all the gorging we did at Pesach!
If you had told me that the focal point of BOTH of those holy days was Redemption.... Salvation.... FORGIVENESS OF SIN... Release from the TERROR OF GOD’S JUDGMENT...
Or if you would have tried to explain to me that Passover and Yom Kippur were all about God punishing Sinless, Innocent Beings in the place of SINFUL, GUILTY BEINGS like you and me and all our ancestors, I would have looked at you like you were one willow short of a lulav (not that I would have known what THAT meant, either!) [your may be wondering... well, see our note describing a lulav at the end of this page!]
I didn’t KNOW God created an annual cycle of 7 holy days. I didn’t KNOW that package of 7 holy days was a panorama of God’s plan to redeem the world. (see timeline Table 3)
I had NO IDEA that my destiny and yours is determined by how we respond to that magnificent plan to save us. I didn’t have a clue that all those millions of animal sacrifices at the temple for all those hundreds of years were a big fat neon sign telling ME—thousands of years later—that I need an innocent sacrifice if my sins would be forgiven.
And if you would have asked me about Sukkot, I may have told you it’s the Jewish version of Thanksgiving, or that it’s the closest thing to camping Jews do, since that 40 year campout-thing we did in the wilderness!!!
But I would NEVER have known to tell you... that the OVERWHELMING theme of Sukkot—the Feast of Tabernacles—is the Glory of God.
Even the word, "glory" — I mean; what does THAT mean? Talk about ignorant; I used to think that was a "churchy" word. (You know the image... the preacher prancing around the stage with his black Bible, yelling: "G-LOry; glory halleLOOOOyah!" — JEWS (I figured) didn’t concern themselves with such goyish things as "glory."
What a class-A fool.
When one of the major themes of the Torah is the glory of God...
When the Hebrew scriptures use the term well over 200 times...
When the focal point of the Israelite nation was the glory of God... WHEN THE PLAN OF GOD HIMSELF IS TO FILL THE WHOLE WORLD WITH HIS GLORY... beginning first with Israel (whom He referred to as "Israel My Glory" ... see the writings of prophet Isaiah). To suggest that "glory" is not a Jewish concept is as nonsensical as to suggest that the sun is not bright or the ocean is not wet.
But the fact that God’s glory is central to classic-Judaic thought is not what’s important: What’s important is that God seems to be obsessed with showing His glory, and the Feast of Tabernacles (''Sukkot'') is all about just that.
When you think, Sukkot, you are supposed to think about the Glory of God. When you see a sukkah (i.e., a tent-like dwelling outside), you are supposed to think about the glory of God dwelling in a sukkah (a tabernacle) in the wilderness, in the midst of his people Israel.
When you see the lulav being ritually waved toward the north, south, east, west, then toward heaven and then toward the earth, you are supposed to imagine God’s glory bursting out of heaven and filling the earth in every possible direction, as it is His stated goal in the Torah that the whole earth be filled with His Glory.
So, we’ve established that the Feast of Tabernacles is primarily concerned with the Glory of God. Here’s what I hope to do with the rest of our time:
1) I’d like to show some examples in the Hebrew scriptures of the Glory of God residing or dwelling in tabernacles or tents (today being the 1st day of the Feast of Tabernacles, this is appropriate).
2) I’d like to attempt to describe the glory of God using the observations of the prophets.
3) I’d like to get practical. I’m going to suggest that you measure your relationship with God based on the barometer of God’s glory.
The Hebrew word used to describe God’s glory is 'KA VOD'… (''Baruch shem kA Vod.'' Blessed is his glorious name—the word literally means Heavy.) Heavy and weighty in a figurative sense... as in a weighty person in society deserves respect and honor ... honor, value and respect. This word kA Vod implies that which is weighty and copious. God’s glory is also manifested. We can see it and experience it! Often in the Tanach (Hebrew Bible), we see the phrase: ''the Glory of the Lord appeared.''
God’s glory is the Manifestation of His Divine attributes. God’s glory is that in which holiness comes to expression.
Ok, we know how God’s glory is defined as weighty with honor and a manifestation of His holiness… but What is it Like? How is it manifest?
The prophets tell us:
Moses said it was like a consuming fire.
King David said the glory of God is declared by the heavens… in other words the heavens that are full of light is a picture of God’s glory.
Isaiah said its like the rising of the sun… imagine looking out on the eastern horizon and the sun bursts over the horizon and blinds us with its intense radiant light.
Ezekiel just calls it brightness and brilliance... he couldn’t even find any other similes.
God’s glory is manifest in light, weighty, copious, honorable, awesome light, a consuming light, and greater than any earthly glory. Here is an illustration for your consideration:
At the funeral of Louis the 14th, the great cathedral was packed with mourners paying final tribute to the king whom they considered GLORIOUS! The sanctuary was pitch black, except for one lone candle over the huge casket that held the mortal remains of the Monarch. It was a dramatic display of the Glory they ascribed to the king.
At the appointed time, the court preacher stood to address the crowd. As he rose, he reached from the pulpit and snuffed out the candle which had been put there to symbolize the greatness of the king. Then—from the total darkness—came four words from the preacher: ''God only is glorious!''
... God only is glorious, and no other light holds a candle to that GLORY—the Radiance of God. When the sun rises, all the lights go out! We sing ''...all things that surround become shadows in the light of you.'' God only is glorious, and the Feast of Tabernacles in temple times was Israel's great object lesson of the Glory of God.
In the Temple in Jerusalem, they had four gigantic torches… these things were 50 cubits high… that’s 75 feet high… situated in the Court of Women. At the top of each pedestal were huge golden bowls that were filled with oil. We are told in the Mishnah that four young Levites on ladders (wouldn’t you hate to be one of those guys!) climbing a ladder up to a 75 foot tower carrying a 10 gallon pitcher of oil and they would fill those huge golden bowls which loomed over all of the city. The oil was lit and the light was so bright that the Mishnah says that there was no court yard in Jerusalem that was not lit up!
Can you imagine the scene… God’s glory lighting the world, which is His intention in the Torah. Ezekiel in a vision says the earth shown with His glory. Isaiah, in a vision, saw through the eyes of a seraphim, those fiery creatures, Isaiah said the whole earth is filled with His glory. The Feast of Tabernacles teaches us that it’s God’s passion to dwell among us. But God’s glory is so copious and brilliant that it would vaporize us… if not contained in a tabernacle.
We’ve already heard mention of it today, when Peter, that Jewish fisherman, turned apostle… that stumbly bumbling guy who became one of the pillars of the first Messianic congregation… Peter understood this when he saw the glory of God resting on three… Moses, Elisah, and Yeshua (Jesus) [Mark chapter 9]… Peter says: ''Rabbi lets make three tabernacles!'' He understood that when you see the glory of God that the glory needs to be contained in a tabernacle. He understood there is only one way the glory of God could dwell among unholy men and women and that was to be enshrouded in flesh… an unblemished flesh and with innocent blood.
Tweet this page address!
We heard King Solomon (in 1 Kings chapter 8) ask a prophetic question… he said '’Will God indeed dwell on the earth?’’ The answer was Yes! And maybe in that moment Solomon caught a glimpse of a greater glory… he got a glimpse of a glory that would actually tabernacle among men… a tabernacle that would contain the glory of God essentially… the tabernacle called Yeshua—the Messiah.
When you and I look at the Messiah, we are looking at the Glory of God dwelling in the most glorious tent that ever graced this wilderness called earth.
When God’s glory resided in that meager, flesh covered tent in the Sinai, GOD COULDN’T DO WHAT HE LONGED TO DO; to be more than just a neighbor; to reach into Israel’s lives; to touch and to heal and to speak words of Grace and Mercy and Justice and Love.
But when the Word took on that flesh; when God poured Himself into a human tent; a Jewish tent, and TABERNACLED AMONG US; and when we BEHELD HIS GLORY, THE GLORY of the only begotten of AVINU (our father), God; full of grace and truth, God became more than our neighbor...
He became our LOVER; He became IMMANUEL; "God with us."
God poured Himself into that Jewish tent and tabernacled among us.
God took the form of a servant and assumed the likeness of men so that men could assume the likeness of God.
And WE BEHELD HIS GLORY, YES... but just like the Glory of God was veiled in that wilderness tabernacle, so was His glory veiled in the person of Yeshua the Messiah. God’s "kavod;" His ominous, weighty, brilliant Glory was veiled in that tent called Yeshua.
(Listen to the words of His own prayer from John 17: "O Father, glorify me with the glory which I had with you before the world was....Father, I desire that they also whom You gave me may be with Me where I am, that they may BEHOLD MY GLORY which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world..)
If someone were to ask you: What was the consuming desire of Yeshua? What one thing burned so hotly in His breast that He begged the Ancient of Days for it? What would you say?
- Some would say that His consuming desire was to reconcile sinful us with our Holy God.
- Some would say that His consuming desire was to come to earth to become that perfect, final, once-and-for-all sacrifice for sin, to finally and fully atone for the sins of those who would accept that perfect atonement.
We don’t have to guess the answer to this question: Yeshua’s consuming desire was this: That you and I become one with Him; - not merely so we can be forgiven of sin - not merely so we can be healed of our diseases - not merely so we can be removed from the sufferings of this world...
The consuming desire of the Messiah of Israel is that you and I become one with Him; that we might "move into that tent; that sukkah" called Yeshua.... so that WE MIGHT BEHOLD HIS GLORY John 17:20-24:
''I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.''
The Messiah’s passion was that we might behold His glory....and that leads us to one of the most practical lessons we will ever learn about walking with God day by day...
First, let me remind you that one of the fiercest conflicts in the universe is not between God and Satan... (that one was totally resolved in the sacrifice and resurrection of the Messiah. The seed of the woman has crushed the head of the serpent, and now Satan awaits final judgment... in the meantime, he is a useful pawn in the hands of God. No... one of the fiercest conflicts in the universe is the one between God and YOU. Satan was not created in the image of God... but you were, and that gave you the horrifying potential to become one who would compete with God’s glory... and He will not share His glory.
If you were ever a child, and you have guts enough to remember how you were as a child, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It was as though you had a do-or-die MISSION to glorify yourself. You were FLAWLESSLY COMMITTED TO SELFISHNESS.
You were constantly tuned into that wretched station, W... I... I - FM ("what’s in it for me?"). You loved yourself, you pitied yourself, you admired yourself, you meditated over yourself, you defended yourself, you decorated yourself, you served yourself, you dreamed about yourself, you worried about yourself,... hey; you WORSHIPED yourself! And then you grew up, and everything changed, right? Not really... All that changed is that you became a bit less obvious... and THEN, only because it better served your purposes.
(Oh I know; you volunteer at the local charity and you give time and money to this organization and you helped that neighbor and you do lots of wonderful things.)
But if we were to take any one of those wonderful things you do that you think serves to prove what a wonderful person you are... if we were to take any one of those things and start dissecting it under the light; the blinding light of God’s glory, we would find unmistakable traces of YOUR glory hidden under the surface of that wonderful you! There is a raging battle between God’s commitment to glorify HIMself and your commitment to glorify YOUR self. Each one of us, in his or her flesh, is committed to exchanging the glory of god with the glory of man. So when Yeshua arrives on earth; God with us; God tabernacling among us; the express image of God veiled in human flesh, He comes, REVEALING THE GLORY OF GOD and INVITING US TO INTERACT WITH THAT GLORY.
(Listen again to his words: " And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one; I in them and You in Me....")
Yeshua comes, REVEALING THE GLORY OF GOD and INVITING US TO INTERACT WITH THAT GLORY. Our walk with God is measured by the degree to which we are interacting with His Glory! Let me get a little more practical:
When we look at the Messiah, we are looking at the perfect human tabernacle. We are looking at the perfect representation of a man dedicated to his supreme purpose: To showcase the glory of God and NOT his own glory.
Now, He invites us to become showcases, but before we can become a showcase for the glory of God, something has to happen first!
[In college, my major afforded me the opportunity to work in the museum on campus, and my job was to set up showcases in the museum. But before I could set up a new showcase, invariably, something had to happen first: I had to empty out the old exhibit!]
Our walk with God begins with an emptying out of that old exhibit that we fought so desperately to preserve: US! Our human flesh LOVES to exhibit itself; it CHERISHES the opportunity to fill your temple... but God will not share His glory.
Your walk with God begins with a willful, volitional SURRENDER of your darkened glory in exchange for the Glory of God.