Sunday, July 12, 2009


I love building with my hands. Making something COME ALIVE out of a few pieces of wood, some paint, glue and string, can keep me singularly occupied for hours on end. My only impatience is waiting on the glue to dry, but when I step back to view my progress periodically, there’s a delight that’s hard to express in words. Such is my latest project in constructing a model of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, where God came to dwell among His people Israel, after He had freed them from Egyptian bondage.

How did I settle on this particular project you may ask. Since retiring from my almost 30 years in missionary work, I have moved back to the area where I spent most of the first 18 years of my life. There, at the country church that birthed my Christian pilgrimage and mentored me later as my first pastorate some 45 years ago, I have returned to pastor again. In February of this year, I determined that a sermon series in the book of Exodus was the best direction to take in my preaching. This book has been the ideal renewal base for helping the church, and ME, rediscover what it means to be the people of God in a growing land of bondage that they have created.

Step by step, as I have preached through the experiences of Moses and the Hebrew nation as they followed God’s lead, the applications of scripture have beautifully been affirmed by my church’s pre-planned and sometimes unknown events from week to week. For ezample, the birth of a child to members of the congregation came the very week of sharing about Moses’ birth. And when the couple decided to dedicate the child after 40 days had passed, the message dealt with the dedication of the firstborn following the plagues. A pre-planned Lord’s Supper came the same week as the Passover passages. And so on it has gone.

As I began to project my sermons and study ahead to the next episodes in Israel’s pilgrimage, I realized that very soon I would be dealing with the building of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness. It would come on the Sunday when I would be absent for a retreat reunion experience with my family and missionaries with whom we served in Asia. As I weighed the matter of one to supply for me in my absence, I thought of my cousin, Bro. Ray, and remembered his experiences of year’s past as a guide, in priestly costume, through the life size model of the Tabernacle at Eureka Springs, Arkansas’s famous Passion Play. Contacting him, we arranged for him to do so, and in costume to share the message with my people. The idea of a Tabernacle model surfaced as a way to aid in his presentation. And, in light of the fact that I would be teaching a course in the Old Testament at our local College in the fall, it would be an added teaching tool for me, and him, in other venues, as well.

There you have it and I cannot tell you how much very personal and practical help my “hands on” construction has been. I have not yet “plummed” the depths of spiritual meaning that occurs to me with every bit of wood and paint applied, and the attention to detail which surely must have been the first builders’ experience in touching the holy things they put in place according to God’s blueprint.

The pictures I’ve shown still do not have the final curtains and covering instructed by God for His original dwelling place among His people. I expect that in their preparation and installation this week, I will come to some added personal understanding, and I pray, more renewed awareness of my own “indwelling” of His Presence.

This brings me to some final words of encouragement for you, my readers, in this installment of Barnabas Brief.

As we weigh what God was doing with His people in that wilderness so long ago, I pray that we realize He was setting in motion the essence of what His relationship then, and later with the coming of His Son, was truly to be. The Tabernacle itself was a visible tool to bring them into a deeper spiritual awareness and relationship to the God Who was ever with them. All through those 40 years in the wilderness wanderings, He revealed His Presence, dwelling among them.

In a real “touch and feel” kind of experience, the Tabernacle was to be the “temple” of His indwelling in their lives, and every bit of furniture that was placed within it, and even the building itself, was to have special indwelling significance to them. And its proclaimed “holy” nature was not speaking of the materials from which it was constructed. It was little more than mineral and plant product of the earth. Its “holy” nature came from their contact with HOLY JEHOVAH.

Speaking of the construction of such holy contact with God, Peter wrote, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” (I Peter 2:5) Further, he wrote, “ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (I Peter 2:9)

Question. You may not be constructing a model of the Tabernacle, but are you actively involved in a renewed construction with Christ, the temple, the spiritual house of His indwelling with you? If you are, then in truth, He is, IN HOLY PRESENCE, in the TABERNACLE which you are! Praise the Lord!

Why not look up EXODUS, chapters 25-28, and read for yourself.

Be encouraged, fellow TABERNACLE!


Mich said...

Too cool, Dad! I know your church is going to love it.

Reminds me of when I was little and you use to make models, paint and of course help me with school projects.

Jo said...

Great visual aid, Bro-Jim-Dad! I'm sure that the folks at Gaither church will appreciate it, and be blessed.

Love you