Pastoral Pondering 20 May 2018 by Pastor Tony
Imagine you are among the Israelites in the wilderness at the base of Mount Sinai. Given the temperature and greenery that currently surrounds us in the St. Croix River valley, our imagination will need to do some serious work. Nevertheless, imagine with me the heat, exhaustion and barrenness of where you’ve found yourself.
Your life has been uprooted. You’ve been forced to flee the only land you’ve ever known. The climate and culture of Egypt are not that of a foreign nation. It was your culture and your climate! After Pharaoh’s army had been completely destroyed by the hand of God in the Red Sea, you know that you can never return to the land of your youth.
The joy of being freed from the grotesque bondage of Pharaoh is quickly being replaced by a bitterness of heart. The people around you cry out “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full…!” (Exodus 16:3)
Oh, how short is the memory of those in anguish.
But you cannot return to your previous life. You must press on. God has brought you out of the land of Egypt and has brought you into the place where you are to be completely dependent upon Him. Contrary to the farming agriculture that you experienced in Egypt, you are now learning to depend upon God for your daily provision. Until the day you enter the promised land, you are nothing more than a nomadic people. A people perpetually camping.
This brings us to the passage I’d like for us to consider – Exodus chapters 26-27. These two chapters outline God’s instructions for building the Tabernacle. You may be reading this wondering what the tabernacle is. All of Israel, as a nomadic people, were living in tents, however, God did not yet have a tent (not that He needed a tent). The function of God’s tent would be the opposite of the function of the tent you would have lived in. For you, the tent protected you from the heat of the sun. For God, the tent protected those around Him from His glory! Thus, for the people’s sake, not for His sake, He needed a tent.
So, in Chapters 26-27 God, in His grace, was outlining the instructions for building the tent wherein He would dwell. While there are many parts of these chapters that are worthy of consideration, I am particularly fascinated with one repeated detail. The tent is to be constructed, in large part, with bronze pieces! Bronze is a repeated word in these chapters. It occurs over and over again. Item after item was to be made of bronze (not to mention the repeated use of silver and heavy woods).
In case you are wondering, and if you are unfamiliar with the concept of bronze and/or of camping, anything made of bronze would not be on your list of materials to bring camping. Unlike carbon fiber/ultra “high-tech” tent poles, bronze is extremely heavy. Moreover, in this time of history, it would have been extraordinarily expensive (but something that could be made from elements available in the desert).
Yet, God desired that much of His tent be made of bronze. Just to take one example among many, running the length of His tabernacle (150 feet) there were to be 20 hefty posts on each side. These hefty posts were to be set into bases made of bronze (see Exodus 27:11). Each of these bases would likely be hundreds of pounds.
How would that work for our camping experiences? Imagine telling your friends, “Guys, I’d like to go to the Boundary Waters. My tent is a bit heavy, however. I’ve never weighed it, but I would guess that just the bases of the tent poles are several thousand pounds.”
While Israel complained about many things in the wilderness, they never complained about the weight or grandeur of God’s dwelling place. Instead, it was an honor worth undertaking no matter the cost.
For Israel, the worship of God was more important than their ease of life in the wilderness.
For the 21st century Western Christian, we cannot wrap our minds around that concept. We worship only when it is convenient. We want to praise Jesus only when it is easy. Less than that, it’s gotten so bad that service unto Jesus is even halted when it deprives us of our pleasures!
How foreign is this behavior from the cross of Jesus Christ! If the one we claim to follow has submitted Himself to the cross, how much more ought we to be willing to take up our cross and follow Him?
Following Jesus should not be equated with an ease of life. Yet, following Jesus is absolutely glorious. There is no better place to be. He is unequivocally wonderful.
Our main problem is not that the metaphorical bronze bases we carry are too heavy, our main problem is that we have failed to see how glorious Jesus really is. We have failed to consider what an honor it is to be called His disciple. The fickle Christian would do well to set our hope again on the infinitely glorious Jesus Christ.
When we do so, we find that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.
– Pastor Tony Minell