Do you ever pause and think about how differently you see things than do others? I am always amazed at how differently Sandy and I see things – and we are soul mates who have been together almost 1/2 a century. We have two kids (who we both see differently), and two granddaughters (who we both see differently). The truth be told, we pretty much see everything
Differently . . . that is in part due to the old “Opposites attract” thing, and in part due to the male/female thing. Truth: Sandy and I do well to pause and consider this truth about ourselves, so that we may adjust accordingly. If we do that, we begin to move closer to making the ultimate goal of two-becoming-one more possible.
This thing of seeing things differently and leaving the issue unresolved can result in walls of separation being put up, and them continually being reinforced and, thus, made stronger. Some examples are: Republicans and Democrats, Baptist and Church of Christ, classroom teachers and administrators, cops and robbers, landlords and tenants, and honestly the list is endless.
Do you ever pause and think about how differently you see things than God sees things? I do that quite often. I am, as a rule, both amazed and embarrassed. Yet, again this becomes an opportunity for me to make corrections and adjustments, and thus, moving closer to the ultimate goal of “oneness with the Master.”
Joseph’s brothers sold him as a slave and he was carried away in a slave-train to Egypt. Over time, Joseph made the necessary adjustment and saw the thing as God saw it. Joseph could have allowed this sad event to define, dictate, and control his life, but he did not! Many people have allowed rejection to cripple them, but not Joseph. Years later he would lovingly say to his brothers, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”
A sad tragedy of man’s history, and the human story in general, has been man’s lack of interest and the effort made to view life itself, events, and experiences, the past, present, and future as God views them. The Prophet Isaiah warned of this vast difference in Isaiah 55:8, when he explained the difference that exists between God and man and how each views things when he said, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, said the Lord.”
I can think of no greater illustration of this truth, or sadder example, than in the two Covenants which God created for and with humans. Let me explain.
In the Old Testament, with a mighty display of His authority and power, God set the Jewish people free from 400 years of bondage in Egypt. He had Moses lead them to Mt. Sinai. It was there that God revealed His nature, character, integrity, steadfastness, holiness, and dependability to those recently-freed slaves. He explained their history and His promises to their forefathers. He told them of the plans He had for them; He told them of a place He had for them; and He offered a Covenant relationship with them . . . what a wonderful and amazing thing for them. Under this Covenant, God would become their all in all . . . He would become everything to them and for them. He, in all of His majesty, power, strength, and glory brought everything to the table. Sadly, the people had absolutely nothing to bring to the table, other than themselves, but amazingly – for God, and for God only, that was enough, because that was all God wanted was them . . . but He wanted them totally and completely. He wanted their hearts, souls, minds, wills . . . their love . . . their adoration . . . their praise . . . their worship . . . their reverence . . . their respect . . . and their obedience. Amazingly, God wanted a relationship with them—both individually and collectively.
Tragically, they failed to view the Covenant – the relationship – as God viewed it. God viewed it as an expression of His grace, mercy, love, provision, and watch-care. The people viewed it as cumbersome, a heavy yoke, restricting, rigid, and controlling. They enjoyed the provision and protection of God’s offer, but they wanted it on their terms, not on God’s terms. With that heart and mindset, they verbally accepted God’s offer of the Covenant relationship, but in their hearts and minds, they rejected it out of hand. There is an important element of any agreement . . . that being the truth that the Agreement is only as good as the parties’ willingness and intent to live with the terms of the agreement; in this instance, the Covenant.
To illustrate, authenticate, educate, and celebrate the Covenant relationship, God held the people at the mountain for an extended period and did some wonderful things to warm their hearts, to provide them the opportunity to develop a new self-image and identity for themselves – transformed from slaves having no real future, hope, or opportunity – to now being the Children of God, full of potential, promise, hope, and a brilliant future with unlimited opportunity. God had them perform certain tasks and build certain things . . . tasks and things that would serve as pictures, symbols of great things for them under the Covenant relationship. One such thing was the Ark of the Covenant. As a constant sign of the covenant, God instructed the Israelites to make a box according to his own design, a chest in which to place the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments He would carve into the stone. This box, or chest, was called “The
Ark” and was made of acacia wood overlaid with gold. The ark was to be housed in the inner sanctum of the tabernacle in the desert and eventually in the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem Temple when it was built. This box, or chest, was known as the Ark of the Covenant.
The real significance of the Ark was what happened on the lid, which was known as the “Mercy Seat.” That term was derived from a Hebrew word meaning, “to cover, placate, appease, cleanse, cancel, or make atonement for.” It was here that the High Priest, and only once each year (Leviticus 16), would enter the Holy of Holies and atone for the sins of the people. The priest sprinkled the blood of the sacrificed animal upon the Mercy Seat to appease the wrath and anger of God for past sins committed. This, and this alone, was the one and only God-approved place on the planet where such atonement could take place under that Old Covenant.
Sadly, the people failed to see and appreciate the purpose, the meaning, and the benefit of the Ark of the Covenant and instead came to view the Ark with something of the attitude of “We have God in the box and we can take Him wherever we go.” Sadly, they only wanted God along in case they encountered a problem . . . such as a powerful adversary coming upon them . . . a shortage of food or water . . . troubling weather . . . and sickness. This is much like a teenage who wants to have a party, wants his dad to pay for the party, and provide the place for the party, . . . but doesn’t want his dad to come to the party!
How was it that they failed to appreciate the constant presence of the cloud by day and the pilar of fire by night—both visual assurances of God’s abiding presence with them? What did they miss in their short sightedness? What of their permanent blessing did they sacrifice on the altar of the immediate under the guise of immediate gratification and comfort (having things their own way)?
Of course, the Mercy Seat on the Ark was a symbolic foreshadowing of the ultimate sacrifice for all sin—the shed blood of Christ on the Cross for the remission of sin. Paul wrote about Christ being our covering for sin in Romans 3: 24-25. It was in these verses that Paul introduced a tremendous legal term to declare what God did for humanity. He explained that it was here—on the Cross—that “God set Christ forward as a Propitiation by his blood” . . . to make redemption possible, by making atonement for all sin!
The Cross of Christ, thus, under the new and better Covenant, becomes the only place on the planet where God-approved atonement for sin can take place. Jesus’ body was removed from the
Cross, hastily prepared for burial, and placed in a borrowed tomb. Three days later, God raised Jesus from the dead, after which he was seen by many people. He spent 40 days with his disciples, and then visibly, and with an audience present, assented into Heaven where He took His seat at the right hand of God.
His followers were instructed to tell the world what had occurred. This message soon became known as the Gospel: “The Good News.” Since the first time the message was delivered, people have been making decisions about the message and about Jesus. Perhaps it is in the delivery of this wonderful message of love, grace, and mercy where the difference in how God and man each view a thing is greatest demonstrated. God looks on in love and inspires and enables a weak, sinful man who has experienced the atonement and life-transforming power of the
Gospel to publicly testify before sinners who have not yet received atonement and forgiveness and to invite them to receive Christ and experience the new birth. God views this presentation of the Gospel as a sweet and precious extension of His grace and mercy, as a testimony of His love and power to change a human from lost and without hope to becoming a completely new creation. Sadly, many humans fail to view the message in that manner. Oftentimes it is viewed as offensive or even foolish.
In spite of the greatness of the Gospel message and the New Covenant, some men have foolishly, managed to adopt the same attitude which some had under the Old Covenant . . . that being . . . “having God in a box.” Sadly, rather than serving and submitting to God, many have developed a theology that declares that God must do certain things, in certain ways, at certain intervals . . . men who declare what God is going to do . . . and when He will do it. If you don’t believe it, then turn on your TV and start surfing!
Others simply go to Church on Sunday morning and, once there, release God from the box and then when they leave Church, they put God right back in the box until the next time they want or need Him . . . in this culture that process is known as “compartmentalizing.”
In conclusion, the great irony in it all is that:
• sin offends God . . . but man, without Christ, is sadly comfortable with sin;
• man is caught in a terrible snare – God wants to set him free; yet, once freed, man is inclined to try to put God in a box; and
• God desires to set man free . . . man wants to manipulate God.