About 18 months ago, after a great deal of prayer about what God wanted to ‘do’ with Cornerstone, someone we know well, gave me two scriptures together. Then later that day they gave me another one. Now, I have to confess, that I had no idea what they meant at the time. And nor did the person who gave them. These scriptures were entered into my journals and, save for the occasional wondering about what they really mean, I have thought little of them.
Of late, I have been forced to retrace my steps and the said journals have proved invaluable when it comes to looking back and seeing where we might have gone wrong. During this process I have looked at, prayed about, and re-evaluated several ‘words’ (as the good folks of the modern church like to say) of scripture. The revelations that I have received from the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) as a result of revisiting what people had given us have been quite remarkable. For instance, I had been labouring for over two years under the weight of two small snippets of scripture someone had given me at a prayer meeting one night. Needlessly. God has since shown me that they were little more than a distraction and weren’t given by Him to me. And what a distraction they had proved to be! Two years of thinking one thing, when God had truly wanted me to be considering the complete opposite! What a waste of time. It reminds me of Ya’akov (Jacob) and Lavan (Laban) and all those sheep (Genesis 29-31). The well-meaning sort who had given me these scriptures was used by a spirit other than the Holy One to distract me. I am inclined to think that this happens a great deal more than I would care to believe. So, a quick word of advice: TEST EVERYTHING.
After this particular eye-opening moment, I began to go through my journals to check (and test prayerfully) other so called ‘words’ given to me. In April of 2014, over the course of a week, I was given eight different scriptures. The sources were (and still are) trustworthy and the texts themselves, whilst not making bundles of sense at the time, did at least have some resonance within me. That is to say, that whilst I didn’t fully grasp what God was saying at the time, it all made sense. Sort of. My understanding of the true meaning has evolved over the passing of time, and continues to do so. And that is how God works when He uses other people to give us a message from Him. Often, for me, it is a bit like a treasure hunt. He gets someone to give me a scripture; I have no real idea what it means; and over the course of time He takes me on a journey during which I discover all sorts of wonderful facets of His nature that usually culminates in a eureka moment when the original scripture suddenly comes completely alive. Don’t expect it to be like that for you. He teaches each of us on an individual basis. He knows how I work, and He works in a way that I understand…eventually.
Now, there is a particular treasure hunt that I have been on for over 25 years. It started in 1988. And it was only this morning that I truly began to understand. Over the course of this treasure hunt, He has given me, at seemingly random times, small pieces that are now starting to make a complete picture. Like a jigsaw…except that with a jigsaw you have a picture to work to. With me and God, I never have the picture of what it will look like at the beginning. Only towards the end do things start to make sense.
Before I go any further; a warning. What follows, for some, will be an explanation of the current state of the church. For others it will not be taken so well. This is not a critique of modern church, but merely an observation. We don’t attend any of the ‘organised’ churches (if that makes it sound a little like Organised Crime, I make no apology). We have fellowship with likeminded people. That doesn’t mean we oppose the organised churches, but I do feel as if I have a message for those within them who might have the ears to hear. This revelation, I am sure, will not be new to some people. There are plenty others out there searching for answers too. But, having done a bit of research into this subject over the past couple of days, what I can tell you is that what is out there has got the typical organised church response all over it. It is time for a novel approach.
One Saturday in April 2014 someone phoned me and said that they had two scriptures for me. We had previously asked this particular person to prayer about what God had called us to do with Cornerstone. At the time we were in the early throws of purchasing the building and had no real idea what God wanted us to do with it after buying it. I have to confess to being pleased that God had spoken, albeit through someone else. The scriptures were as follows:
“On that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in days of old.” [Amos 9:11 NKJV]
“Go and tell My servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Would you build a house for Me to dwell in? For I have not dwelt in a house since the time that I brought the children of Israel up from Egypt, but have moved about in a tent and in a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about with all the children of Israel, have I ever spoken a word to anyone from the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd My people Israel, saying ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’ ” ” [2 Samuel 7:5-7 NKJV]
We had a lengthy discussion on the phone about the possible meaning of these texts in context to Cornerstone, and also in context of when they were written. We made no real conclusions and decided that more prayer was needed. Later that day, the same person called me back and said there was another scripture to go with it by way of explanation:
“Unless the LORD builds the house, they labour in vain who build it.” [Psalm 127:1a NKJV]
I can tell you that I totally disregarded the first two texts and focused on the third, for that one made sense to me. I took it to read that with regard to the Cornerstone we were to commit everything to God. And that is right, whatever we do should be first committed to God. However, I now see something different.
Right, let’s deal with the texts in the order that they came to me to start with. I want to set them in the right context. Far too much scripture today is taken out of context and entire doctrines (laws) are built upon a single line of text that has been bent out of shape. Time for that to stop.
The prophet ‘Amos (Amos) is widely regarded to have lived during the reigns of ‘Uziyah (Uzziah), king of Judah, and Yarov’am (Jeroboam II), king of Isra’el, which dates the prophecies to around 760-750 BC. The book starts with a series of judgements or pronouncements from God over several countries and cities in the Levant region. Then he turns to Isra’el with a series of oracles and warnings to reform before the detail of his visions of Isra’el’s judgement. The key message is that God doesn’t want their endless ritual, but wants their hearts. Then, at the end, is a prophecy concerning the future restoration of Isra’el. The verse that I was given is part of the promised future restoration of Isra’el. I say future because it is clearly yet to be fulfilled – I will explain why shortly.
Typically, throughout the Tanakh (Old Testament) God warns Isra’el about their waywardness; threatens them with the consequences; tells them what He is going to subject them to, as well as telling them just how He will restore them afterwards. The warnings of ‘Amos are just a small part of that endless cycle. God, then as now, uses situations to show us just how much we need Him. Often, we fail to heed His warnings and He allows us to come to places of suffering before we cry out to Him and He restores us. It happens to me pretty much on a daily basis.
With this particular text, God spoke through ‘Amos about the future. Our future. How do we know? Because the restoration of Isra’el hasn’t yet happened. Here is the text, plus the following verse, taken from the Complete Jewish Bible by David H Stern:
” “When that day comes, I will raise up the fallen sukkah (tent) of David. I will close up its gaps, raise up its ruins and rebuild it as it use to be, so that Isra’el can possess what is left of Edom and of all that nations bearing my name,” says ADONAI, who is doing this.” [‘Amos 9:11-12 CJB]
In other words, God will do this thing of restoring David’s tent in order to give back the land that He promised Isra’el, the land of Edom, as well as all of the nations that bear His name – that is us, the church. Now, hold that thought. I will tie all this together shortly but first we must deal with the second text.
After the death of Saul and David had been crowned king of all Isra’el, he conquered Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) and then brought the Ark of the Covenant to the city into a tent that he had erected for it. David had wanted to build a temple for the Lord – he didn’t like that he had a nice palace and that God was living in a tent. Natan (Nathan), the prophet, had initially said to David to do whatever was on his heart, but then came to him and said that he shouldn’t build a temple (read all of 2nd Samuel 7). The text above is part of what God said to David through Natan. Please note that God was clearly perfectly content with His living arrangements. What David failed to understand is that the Ark being in a temporary and moveable building was simply pointing forward to Y’shua (Jesus) and His living amongst the people. Matthew Henry, in his great commentary, makes the point of God’s rebuke of David perfectly:
“Worship only is acceptable if it is instituted; why should David therefore design what God never ordained? Let him wait for a warrant, then let him do it. Better a tent of God’s appointing than a temple of his own inventing.”
There is an important lesson for today’s church, and for me. Unless God tells us to do something, we shouldn’t assume that He wants it doing. Psalm 127 is testament to that.
So that brings a little of the context to the first two scriptures. But, now, let’s look at little more closely at what they mean for today’s context.
I had intended to simply entitle this post ‘The Tabernacle of David’. I wanted to explain what it meant. And, of course, as I have prayed over the past couple of days about what it means, God has shown me more than I realised was there. A lot more. This isn’t only about David’s tent and everything that it was pointing to. There was another tent too. The original tabernacle.
During their wanderings in the wilderness, God had commanded Isra’el, through His servant Moshe (Moses) to construct a tent complex or tabernacle. It was through this tabernacle that the sacrificial parts of Torah (the law) were worked out. Moshe’s tent was constructed in such a way that there was a outer area and then an inner tent, called the Holy Place. Inside the Holy Place was another tent, called the Most Holy Place, where the Ark of the Covenant stood. Only the high priest, once a year, could enter the Most Holy Place or the Holies of Holies, through the veil. If you take the time to read the first five books of the Tanakh, you will see just how much of Torah was centred upon what the priesthood did in or around the tent.
So, if we can say that the tabernacle that Moshe built was the epitome of the legalistic sacrificial system, what do we say about the tent that David set up?
Let’s take a look.
Now before we look at David’s tent, I need to tell you something. As always, these posts are as much about a personal application to me and what we are doing at Cornerstone, as they are for believers everywhere. It would be hypocrisy on my part if I didn’t tell you also of the painful conviction that came upon me from the Ruach HaKodesh whilst I was writing this. God works like this with me. He will show me something that has more than one application. I am not saying that He works like that with everyone, because He deals with each of us as individuals. There is no formula or one-size-fits-all approach with our loving Father. In this case, when I ‘saw’ what I am about to describe it was all about how God wants His church to be. But when I started doing the research and meditating on what I was reading, I was so instantly convicted by my own shortcomings over Cornerstone that I took a sharp intake of breath.
When we first made an offer on the building which we call Cornerstone, we had a vague idea of what God wanted us to do there. We, or rather I, talk a good fight too. I would happily tell people that we were waiting on God for directions; His directions; at every step – one step at a time. But the reality is, I must confess, that we didn’t. We did exactly what we thought God wanted. My arrogance was such that I thought I knew what God wanted and started to do it under my own strength and understanding. Now, as I type these words, I understand that God had constantly been warning me not to do that but I was blinded. My journals are testament to His constant warnings. Like Balaam, whom God told to go, only if certain conditions were met, but he went anyway (Numbers 22), I heard ‘go’ and I went, failing to wait for God. As a result of this, we have laboured under our own strength and resources, without any real blessing from God (How can He bless disobedience?), for a year now. Yesterday, once my sharp intake of breath had filled my lungs, we stopped and repented before God. What had we done wrong? Simple really, we had done that which God had wanted to do for us. I shall come back to this point a little later. How did I realise this through looking at David’s tent? Well, it wasn’t the tent itself that God used to convict me. It was David’s first attempt to place the Ark of the Covenant inside the tent.
In the 1st Book of Chronicles and chapter 13, we see the account of David fetching the Ark from Kiryat-Ye’arim (Kirjath Jearim) in order to bring it the newly captured Yerushalayim (Jerusalem). It didn’t go well. David had took it upon himself to build a brand new cart for the Ark to ride upon. He thought he was doing the right thing. He was in a way, but God had already, long before, prescribed exactly how the Ark should be transported. David’s well meaning enthusiasm was never going to supersede obedience to what God had already decreed. Likewise with us and the Cornerstone. So, for the time being, the Cornerstone is closed whilst we seek God. The work we are to do at Cornerstone is God’s work, and He wants to do it. He has never needed either of us to achieve it. Our well-intended enthusiasm I now see as impertinence and arrogance. So we, like David, will have to wait.
If you are called by God to do anything and you feel tempted to proceed, understand this: God will let you proceed because He wants you to learn to trust Him and do it in His timing. It is a hard lesson, believe me. Here’s a few of scriptures that you should take very literally when it comes to the work that God has called you to do:
“Trust in ADONAI with all of your heart; do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him; then He will level your paths.” [Mishlei (Proverbs) 3:5-6 CJB]
“Then he answered me, “This is the word of ADONAI to Z’rubavel: ‘Not by force, and not by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the ADONAI-Tzva’ot.” ” [Z’kharyah (Zechariah) 4:6 CJB]
“Unless ADONAI builds the house, its builders work in vain.” [Tehillim (Psalms) 127:1a CJB]
And boy, can I tell you that working in vain is exactly what we have been doing for a year! My confession is now confessed. Learn from our mistakes. Trust Him with everything you have. Don’t trust your own understanding of any situation but instead seek Him first and He will show you The Way. Above all, wait, let Him do the work.
Where was we? Oh yes! Taking a look at the differences between David and Moshe’s tents.
David’s tent was totally unlike that of Moshe. I am quite sure that it was made of the same stuff as the Tabernacle at Gibeon, but this isn’t about what it was made of; this is about what went on there. Whereas at Moshe’s tent Torah was lived out in the sacrificial system, at David’s tent we only see the initial sacrifices required to sanctify the tent so that it was fit for the Ark. In David’s tent there was no Most Holy Place, instead everyone was free to enter the presence of God. And the most important difference is that all that David prescribed to happen there was worship. Nothing else. The people of God were invited to come and worship God before the Ark, in His very presence.
One more point that we need to grasp is that the tale of these two tents, is a multi-purpose picture for us. For the Hebrews of David’s day, it looked forward to the coming Mashiyach (Messiah), and for us it looks forward to His return. Read the following text carefully:
“David left Zadok the priest and his fellow priests before the tabernacle of the LORD at the high place in Gibeon to present burnt offerings to the LORD on the altar of burnt offering regularly, morning and evening, in accordance with everything written in the Law of the LORD, which He had given Israel.” [1st Chronicles 16:39-40 NIV]
Why did David do this? Because he knew God didn’t want legalistic sacrifice, he wanted genuine heart-felt worship. The priests continued to offer sacrifices at Giv’on (Gibeon) until the first Temple was finally built. They offered sacrifices without the Ark being there. The presence of God had left Giv’on and was now in Yerushalayim. David knew what God wanted, and that is why he was described as a man after God’s own heart.
So, what does David’s tent mean today and why is it described as being in need of repair?
When ‘Amos prophesied about the future restoration of David’s tent, he was pointing the Hebrews to the church that Y’shua started on the banks of Lake Galil (Galilee). When he spoke those words, all that David had achieved by making worship the focus, instead of legalism and ritual, was already lost. Isra’el’s worship of God was entirely legalistic and such a burden that no one could ever hope to achieve it. Then God sent His Son, Y’shua to be The Way, the new way. We talk about the first church as being what was formed after Pentecost, but actually what Y’shua did was to start building His church upon Himself, as the cornerstone. He came to remove the burdens that the Sadducees and Pharisees had place upon people (see Matthew 11:28-30). He came to do away with ritual and religion, made by men, to please men. He came to show the Hebrews the true way for salvation. By His sacrifice, once and for everyone, He did away with the need for the sacrifice system. Like David did by leaving Zadok and his men to get on with it in another place, Y’shua made the way into the Holy of Holies open to all again. The veil was torn. But. There is always a but when it comes to man and God. Instead of building upon Y’shua’s example of what church should look like, eventually legalism was allowed to creep back into worship. Ken Brown rightly says that today’s Christianity is little more than an updated Judaism. Just read through Paul’s letters to see him pleading with churches not to revert to legalism and manmade religion.
When Ya’akov (James) stood up at what we call the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15 and quoted ‘Amos and David’s tent, little did he know at the time that the ‘tent’ or church he was referring to was about today. Now. He couldn’t, at that time, see that what they were building back then, would fall down and need to be repaired.
You see, the tent of David, which was perfected in the body of Y’shua, is fallen down and broken and torn just as it was the moment the Hebrews turned back to legalism. Today, the church, the broken tent of David, has done the same. It will be hard for anyone to hear or read this but the church of today is what Ya’akov was prophesying about. And more importantly, when you read the text below you will see that the tent belongs to the King of kings and He will repair and rebuild it, as in days of old. He doesn’t need us to do it. He only needs us to get out of the way and let Him work. Just like He needs me and Caz to get out of the way at Cornerstone and let Him do the work here.
He is coming back, soon is my guess. The task now, for those that have ears to hear, is to start moving away from the nouveau legalism that we have turned the modern charismatic movement into (just stop and consider how many thing we have made into our own little ‘laws’ that become burdens to the people trying to follow God), to a place of worship fit for the King of kings.
What Y’shua started, He will finish. The work is His. We will have to let Him do it. That means yielding to Him. It means total surrender. It means NOT running off ahead but waiting for Him. The church of today is the fallen tent of David. It is fallen down and needs repairing. Just like when Y’shua came the first time to show us how to ‘do church’, He will return to repair it. Our job is to let Him. The first generation church was entirely based upon the principle of living every day alongside Y’shua, in a real relationship with Him. The second generation church was based upon His Holy Spirit living with them as if He Himself was still there. No legalism. Just the Spirit of Truth to guide them. Sadly, at some point, after the original apostles had been martyred, the church split and returned to legalism. The Dark Ages are testament to that. Today, even the modern, evangelical church has began to make its own rules; it has tried to do wants God wants to do for them. The church is full of the same legalism that Y’shua opposed throughout His ministry. It’s time to let go. Time to let God. God wants us to move back out of Moshe’s legalistic, burdensome tent and find our way to a place of true worship.
“But the time is coming – indeed, it’s here now – when the worshippers will worship the Father spiritually and truly, for these are the kind of people the Father wants worshipping Him. God is spirit; and His worshippers must worship Him spiritually and truly.” [Yochanan (John) 4:23-24 CJB]
In Spirit and in truth. The opposite of spirit is the flesh. The opposite of truth is lies. Time for change.