The plan for our redemption – the restoration of our union with our God – was established in eternity past when the Triune God decided together to redeem us; the Father would send the Son into the human world, the Son would die for His people, and the Holy Spirit would apply the Son’s atoning work to those who would truly submit to our God. This would restore them to union with their God, a union made complete by the Spirit of God living within them. This is the essence of the new covenant, and under this new covenant our God:
- removes the separation of sin between Himself and His people, just as it was in the Garden.
- restores companionship and the actual presence of our God with us, just as it was in the Garden.
- rejoins us to our God in a position of co-responsibility in His Kingdom, just as it was in the Garden.
- restores our hearts from their hardened, sinful state, returning them to hearts softened to the presence and purposes of our God.
There is an account in the middle of the Old Testament where we get a sneak peek at the restored relationship we now have. In 2 Samuel 6:15-17 we read, “So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet. As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart. They brought in the ark of the Lord, and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and offerings of well-being before the Lord.”
The Ark of the Covenant was the place of the manifest presence of God among the people. It was brought to Jerusalem and placed in the tent David had pitched for it as a new home. The tent of David was not the Tabernacle of Moses. That tabernacle, where the priests ministered, the sacrifices were made, and the rituals were performed, was about 5 miles away in Gibeon. The tabernacle of David, with no Holy of Holies or veil of separation, gave the people unrestricted access to the presence of their God continuously for 40 years.
Our God has always wanted His presence in the midst of the people on a daily basis. That was not going to happen in Gibeon, with the rituals and the separation created by the priesthood and the veil. So, the Ark goes to Jerusalem. Our God is now present at the crossroads of His people, accessible to them in a way that He has not been since the first covenant relationship in the Garden, before the fall of the race.
Read Frank Viola on this: “The tabernacle of David is a remarkable portrait of God’s ageless purpose. It speaks of His eternal quest to have a dwelling place on earth where His people experience liberty, freedom, joy, and an encounter with Himself that continues without fail.”
The Tabernacle of David is “test drive” of our restoration and a glimpse of the union with Him that was to come. Interestingly, most of David’s psalms which talk about the shadow of the Almighty, being under the wings of our God, of being together in the courts of the Lord, and the presence of our God on Mount Zion were written with the simple tent on the threshing floor in Jerusalem in mind.
Meanwhile, over in Gibeon, the temple rituals, the work of the priests, and the sacrifices continued day after day- without the presence of God among them. Think about that. Religiosity could take place without His presence in a way that could never restore intimacy with our God. Here is the danger in relying on religious practices as our means to apprehend our God. They can be done even if He is not present.
The situation in Gibeon has a clear message for us. The Ark of the Covenant, and with it the manifest presence of God, had been gone from the Tabernacle of Moses for some time. Apparently, the priests didn’t get that memo. Every day they went about the business of sacrificing animals, doing religious duties, and standing between the people and a God who had left the building. Like the priests in Gibeon, we are fully capable of religiosity in a way that is functionally godless. We can “do religion” the same way for years without realizing that our God may no longer be present in our religiosity. Sadly, for hundreds of years the organized church has been doing the same thing over and over again, religious activities and rituals, duty and performance measures, viewing hours for God. Few people ever really draw near to our God through these religious activities.
This is what Bono, lead singer of the Irish band, U2, meant when he stated: “Religion is what you have left when God has left the building.”