The Keeping Presence of God
Bishop Paul Lanier | November 3, 2020
You may be familiar with the passage in the book of Exodus where God commanded Moses and the children of Israel to make His holy dwelling place, the Tabernacle. This holy place would house the Ark of the Covenant, the breathing Word of God. It would speak to the hearts and the lives of the people of Israel, giving them and providing for them as they wandered in the desert a constitution of who they are as children of God.
In the church where my wife and I are pastors, we have a display of the Ark of the Covenant. It’s a teaching tool so we can learn from this extraordinary biblical story. It teaches our congregation how we as a people of faith have made it this far — through the almighty power of God’s ability to sustain us, defend us, and provide for us.
God’s Plan for Our Lives
This story is close to my heart and helps me understand and grow in my appreciation of the Jewishness of my Christian faith. Lately, I’ve been reminded, as a Christian who supports The Fellowship, of how I am connected to the Jewish people.
Let’s be honest with ourselves. As Christians, we don’t spend nearly enough time studying the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures. And we really should.
You see, our Christian faith is much broader and older than we realize. God has always had a plan for us and our lives, even before he created us. Our faith started even before Jesus. It started before David’s triumphant battle against Goliath. It started before Moses’ time on Mount Sinai.
In the book of Genesis, during the dawning moments of creation, we learn our God made the stars, moons, and suns, and positioned them strategically. He knows them by name, and they aren’t just there to beautify the heavens at night. They are signs and wonders. God placed them, the glorious stars, moons, suns, to speak to you and me. God has always wanted to sustain and provide for us from the very beginning.
There are moments in the Old Testament where God delivers his people in a profound way. When the Israelites’ lives were in peril, and God would lovingly and benevolently come down to earth and rescue His people from any tyranny or genocide they faced. The Jewish people celebrate these moments even today, like during Passover, which remembers God’s delivering them from Pharaoh by opening the Red Sea. Or during Purim, when He delivered them through Queen Esther.
He Delivers and Sustains
However, there are also moments not about God’s deliverance, but about His dwelling. You see, He loves His people so much that He not only delivers them but sustains them so miraculously. His dwelling was celebrated earlier this month by the Jewish people during the holiday called Sukkot – the Feast of Tabernacles, or the Festival of Booths.
This Jewish festival celebrates how our God loved His people for 40 years before they entered the Promised Land, while they were in the desert. In the wilderness, He provided for them. As long as they could find a rock, they had water. They’d wake up in the morning and step in this sticky stuff and say, “what is this?” It was manna, bread from the heaven. Their clothes never wore out and neither did their shoes.
So, He says to his people, when you cross the Jordan, and you get in the Promised Land that I have given to you, don’t forget what I did for you here. And the Jewish people today build a sukkah – which is like a booth, or a hut – during the Feast of Tabernacles to remember God’s dwelling in the desert and all that He has provided for his people.
That’s what the Feast of Tabernacles is about: celebrating not only God’s delivering power, but his keeping power.
Provision and Protection
You and I have been through a lot these last months. Many of us have heard of people dying of COVID-19, and for some of us, we cannot even stand by our family member who’s struggling in the hospital with this horrible plague.
So, I just thought it would be good for us if we pause and thank God not just for deliverance, but for His sustaining, providing, and protecting power. That’s your God! Let us take comfort in Him, for He never abandons us.
Today, let’s reach to the God of Israel who sustained the children of Israel, and who sustains us now and forever.
–Bishop Paul Lanier is Chairman of the Board for The Fellowship