Formations lesson for July 13: The Mobility of God
June 27 2003 by Tommy Bratton , Numbers 10:11-28

Formations lesson for July 13: The Mobility of God | Friday, June 27, 2003

Friday, June 27, 2003

Formations lesson for July 13: The Mobility of God

By Tommy Bratton Numbers 10:11-28

At a recent deacon's retreat, the leader asked our group of deacons a provocative question: "If Jesus lived in Gastonia, would he choose to come to your church?" We struggled with the answer to that question. I would hope that our reverence for the sacred, our warmth of fellowship, and our desire to understand the call of God would draw Jesus into our presence. However, I think a further question is just as important: "If Jesus came to our church, would we follow him out into our community?" We often invite Jesus into our worship, but do we follow Him into the world to serve the hurting, the outcasts and the lost?

Setting out on the Journey

The Hebrew title for the book of Numbers is "In the Wilderness." The book of Numbers begins in the wilderness of Sinai after the Israelites have made their way out of the bondage of Egypt. Our text for today comes after several chapters of preparation for their unknown journey into the wilderness of Paran.

The Israelites had remained at Mount Sinai for nearly one year when the cloud lifted, a signal to the people to move. The cloud had served as the presence of God that guided the Israelites along their journey. It had led them and at times, protected them.

The people set out on the journey as commanded by God through Moses. Imagine both the excitement and the trepidation of going forth into an unknown land. It was also a lot of work. It would have been much easier to settle and maintain the way things were, but the people moved out with God's leading headed to the place God promised.

Priority of the Holy

The tabernacle was, for the Israelites, the evidence of the presence of God. The tabernacle was set up to hold the Ark of the Covenant, the altar and other holy items. It was also made to be mobile. As the Israelites set out on their journey, the tabernacle was disassembled and carried to the next site. When the tabernacle arrived at its destination, it was set up prior to the arrival of the "holy things" (Numbers 3:31; 19:21).

For the ancient Israelites, the tabernacle represented the place where God temporarily dwelt upon earth. It was also the place where people came together to meet God, often referred to as "The Tent of Meeting." And it was a place where people came as individuals to hear a message from God. The tabernacle was the place where people struck the balance between God's immenence and God's transcendence. God's presence dwelt there, yet the tabernacle held sacred items that were kept separate from the people, therefore making it a place of awe and reverence.

When I read of the planning and care that went into the set up of the tabernacle and the transport of the holy items, I have to ask myself if we today have an adequate understanding of the holy, of that which is greater than ourselves. Do we plan our journeys around a place of worship? Do we prepare for the arrival of things that are holy? Or do we expect God to follow us?

Community Responsibility

"Then the Israelites set out by stages from the wilderness of Sinai" (Numbers 10:12). The march into the wilderness of Paran required organization and cooperation. The previous chapters, which record only 19 days, have told of the detailed preparations for this journey to Paran. Now the time had come for each company to set out and carry forth their particular responsibility. God had made a promise, the people had prepared and now the time had come to follow through.

If the church is going to be on mission to our world, it takes everyone going forth at the appropriate time and sharing of their unique giftedness. A phrase I once heard as a youth was, "If you don't feel close to God, guess who moved?" The answer was, of course, that we moved away from God by doing our own thing. Now, I think maybe it was God who moved ahead while we settled in comfortably where we were. If we don't feel close to God, it may be because God does not sit still but works wherever there is need. Following God requires us to move forward wherever He leads and to use the gifts God freely gives to each of us.

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6/27/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tommy Bratton , Numbers 10:11-28 | with 0 comments
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