12-04-20 COVID19 AND THE SECRET
PLACE OF THE MOST HIGH - PART ONE
Published 12th April 2020
By John Aldworth
Psalm 32:7: Thou art my hiding place; Thou shalt preserve me from trouble; Thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.
Psalm 91:1: He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord He is my refuge and my fortress; in Him will I trust. Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler and from the noisome pestilence.
Psalm 27: 4-5: One thing have I desired of the Lord, that I will seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life; to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in his pavilion; in the secret of his tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me upon a rock.
Psalm 63:1-2: Thou art my God … my flesh longeth for Thee in a dry and thirsty land where no water is, to see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen Thee in the sanctuary.
Two important definitions:
PAVILION: A tent or covered place where one may hide or be sheltered.
SANCTUARY: ‘Israel’s early sanctuaries were set up in places where God appeared to his people or where He caused his name to dwell’ – New Bible Dictionary (Inter Varsity Fellowship).
New Zealand’s COVID19 lockdown has brought about something that not even the Great Plague of London (1665-1666) could achieve. All church services have been stopped for the foreseeable future. Even Christian home or Bible study groups involving others outside the family are banned. And, whereas in the Great Plague services were held outdoors, in New Zealand these have also been ruled out. The Government insists that to prevent the spread of the virus everyone must stay strictly at home ‘in their own bubble’. There must be no visitors.
Unprecedented it may be. Draconian it certainly is. Actually, though, the lockdown that has shut all churches may be a blessing in disguise. Why? Because it is driving each of us to seek God on our own, not through a second-hand, albeit corporate, experience of worship. And that’s a good thing.
You see, it is often not until there is real trouble, trouble that we can’t handle or resolve ourselves, that we are willing to really turn to God in our hearts, to seek Him as our only refuge. To find our true help in times of trouble. To see his ‘power and glory’ in the ‘secret place’ where man meets God in the ‘sanctuary’ of his own heart.
It is this ‘hiding place’, so beloved of the Psalmist David, that is described by the Apostle in Hebrews 8:1-2 as the ‘true tabernacle’ and the ‘sanctuary which the Lord pitched, and not man’. Furthermore, it is Jesus Himself, ‘set on the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens’, who is hailed as the ‘minister of the sanctuary’.
Now, according to the Hebrew Bible the tabernacle (Hebrew: מִשְׁכַּן, mishkān, meaning "residence" or "dwelling place") is also known as the Tent of the Congregation (אֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵד֩ 'ōhel mō'êḏ, and the Tent of Meeting. It was the portable earthly dwelling place of Yahweh (God) but, sadly, few among the Children of Israel sought to meet God there. Indeed, when the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle even Moses was afraid to enter. And the rest could only look toward the tabernacle and worship afar off, ‘each man in the door of his tent’ (Exodus 33:8, 10, Numbers 11:10).
Closer to God than that they could not get. But David, more than 400 years later, could walk right into the presence of God in the sanctuary and see his ‘power and glory’ (Psalm 63:1-2), even though, technically, as a king and not a priest, under Moses’ law he had no legal right to do so.
Fact is, he worshipped God freely and fully in the ‘tabernacle of David’ (see Amos 9:11, Acts 15:16), which contained only the Ark of the Covenant. The outer court, the altar of sacrifice, the laver of water for washing and even the table of showbread (communion) and the altar of incense were absent from this tent, thus signifying free access to God without fulfilling any legal, ritual requirements, such as blood sacrifice and water baptism.
In doing so David anticipated the present ‘dispensation of the grace of God’ (Ephesians 3:2) in which God shows his ‘great love’ toward all people (Ephesians 2:4-5) by quickening us together with Christ. As Ephesians 1:6 puts it, He has ‘made us accepted in the Beloved’ who is, of course, Christ, his Son.
As we will see, the Tabernacle of David is of huge prophetic importance. In David’s time it foreshadowed the day when salvation through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ would be made available to all men, not just Israelites. Furthermore, it anticipated the day when ‘our great God and Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ’ (Titus 2:13) will by his presence rule in mercy and truth sitting on a throne in the Tabernacle of David. More on that in the second study in this series.
Importantly, in King David’s time the Tabernacle of David, with its entry into the very presence of God, was open to all people, not just Israelites – and that without need to fulfil any formal religious requirements. Proof of this is found in 1 Chronicles 16:23, 28, 30, 31 and 32 which variously and repeatedly call on ‘all the earth’ and (all) ‘ye kindreds of the people’ to sing unto the Lord and declare his glory. In particular, 1 Chronicles 16:29 calls on all people of the earth to:
Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name, bring an offering, and come before Him: worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
Access in David’s tabernacle then was by way of reverence, trust, obedience and worship just as it is now in the current ‘dispensation of the grace of God’ (Ephesians 3:2) as Ephesians 2:18 makes clear:
For through Him (Christ) we both (that is Jew and Gentile) have access by one Spirit to the Father.
The scriptural fact is, that even before David erected a tabernacle or tent for it, the Ark of the Covenant spent three months in the house of the Philistine Gentile Obed-Edom, who evidently was a worshipper of the one true God and was blessed by Him. So, God in David’s time was receiving Gentiles into his very presence. This was clearly evidenced by the three-month stay of the Ark of the Covenant in the house of the Philistine Obed-Edom the Gittite (or man of Gath which was also home to the brother of Goliath the giant). We are told that while the ark, the very presence of God, was there, ‘… the Lord blessed Obed-Edom and all his household’ (2 Samuel 6:11).
But this free access for all into God’s presence did not last. Soon after his death, David’s Tabernacle was pulled down and the ark was taken into Solomon’s temple, which was modeled on Moses’ tabernacle with all its ceremonial features and rituals brought in once again. Accordingly, free access to the Lord’s presence was abolished. Indeed, it was 787 years before Christ the Prophet Amos reported that David’s tabernacle was ‘fallen down’ (Amos 9:11). The good news is that in the same verse in Amos that God promises to raise it up again:
In that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof, and I will raise his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old.
Fact is, that, as James says in Acts 15:16, David’s tabernacle ‘lay in ruins’ for over 1,000 years. Then in AD 52, according to James, God promised to ‘raise it up again’. As Acts recounts, the Apostles Peter and Paul both played a part in turning Gentiles to the Lord. Peter did so at the house of Cornelius (Acts 10) while Paul carried and dispatched his message of God’s acceptance of Gentiles throughout the world. In the light of this, James’ words in Acts 5:16-17 quoting the prophecy of Amos 9:11 are of great import:
(As it is written) After this, I will return and will build again the Tabernacle of David, which is fallen down, and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up. That the residue of men might seek after the Lord and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord who doeth all these things.
Here is an amazing prophecy, stating thousands of years ahead of its fulfillment that the Lord would return to set up a special way the Tabernacle of David in which Gentiles, as well as Israelites, could be saved. Return from where you might ask? Answer: From heaven to which He ascended after his death, burial, and resurrection. Proof of this is that it was from heaven and clothed with its glory that the Lord appeared unto Saul (Acts 26:16). Evidently, his appearing played a crucial role in raising David’s Tabernacle again.
Fact is, he appeared in person to Paul (then Saul) and also appeared in a dream to the Apostle Peter informing him that He, God, had now made Gentiles ‘clean’ (Acts 10:15). Later, in the second part of this study series, it will be suggested that ‘looking for his appearing’ (Titus 2:13) is the very ‘hiding place’ God would have us resort to in the present trouble. What can be safer than being found living in the present purpose of God and, by faith, anticipating his next very next move?
But back to the rebuilding of David’s Tabernacle. James in Acts 15 makes clear that this reconstruction is in no way physical. No physical tent is to be erected, still less a building of stone or bricks and mortar. Scripture is adamant that God does not dwell in temples made with human hands (Acts 2:48). Indeed, it is not a matter of re-erecting an actual tent, still less a building in bricks and mortar. Rather, the rebuilding of the Tabernacle of David in 52 AD is a spiritual occurrence, not a physical one. It signifies not only that God had opened the ‘door of faith’ to Gentiles but also ‘granted them repentance unto life’ (Acts 11:18). And in doing so the Lord changed forever the way He wants to be worshipped. As Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well:
The hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain nor at Jerusalem worship the Father. But the hour cometh and now is when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth. For the Father seeketh such to worship Him.
That ‘hour’ came in AD 52 and since then the way into the very presence of God simply by worshipping Him in spirit and in truth has been open to every person on earth regardless of who or where they are. Paul and Barnabas sang praises in a prison, not in a church. And the only time Jesus and his disciples are said to have sung a hymn was in a borrowed room after the Last Supper, not in the temple (Matthew 26:30).
Why? Because true worship to God cannot be orchestrated by man; it must be a work of the Spirit that comes from within. And to enter the ‘secret place’, the ‘hiding place’, the ‘sanctuary’ it must heartfelt and heart voiced individually, not just induced by orchestrated communal worship. There is, of course, a place for corporate singing but it is no substitute for getting alone with God, in your ‘closet’, as Jesus put it, and singing to Him there. When you worship God heart to heart, one on one, then you enter ‘the secret place of the Most High’. That is the sanctuary where, as individuals alone with God, we can see both ‘the power and the glory’. It is ‘the secret place of the Most High’; it is our ‘hiding place’; it is where we should ‘dwell’. It is where we are preserved from trouble, even pestilence.
You see, the sanctuary in which David saw the Lord’s power and glory was not the tabernacle of Moses with its laws, sacrifices and outward rituals but rather it was David’s own tabernacle where he worshipped alone in the absolute presence of God. It was a spiritual manifestation of the very sanctuary of God made accessible on earth. And today the Lord is still seeking those who will come to worship Him ‘in spirit and in truth’ without fulfilling any legal or other requirements to do so, thus making Him their Saviour and Lord in the process.
Today through COVID19 God is calling back those who love Him to worship alone in their hearts and in their homes. Meeting in churches, hearing pastors and joining in corporate forms of worship are no substitute for individually entering into God’s presence in the ‘secret place of the most High’. It is not in public worship that the believer will see ‘his power and glory’ but in the private ‘sanctuary’ of one’s heart, where one can be hidden by Him ‘in the secret of his tabernacle’.
The SECOND PART in this series will explore what ‘looking for his appearing’ means and ask if the restored Tabernacle of David holds the key to experiencing a foretaste of the kingdom of heaven upon earth in our time.