02 February 2008

To Eat and Drink in the Presence of God

It is for this that God the Lord has brought you out of Egypt. It is for this that He has written His Law and revealed it to you: That you may have life and fellowship with Him. That you may eat and drink in His presence. Indeed, this is your life (now and forever), to be and abide with God in harmony with His good and gracious will.

Therefore, do all that He has commanded you. Fear, love and trust in Him above all things. Hear and heed His Word. Call upon His holy Name. Follow the cloud of His Glory by day, and His pillar of fire by night, to dwell with Him in His Tabernacle.

Eat and drink the food that He provides, even in the wilderness: the living Bread from heaven, the living water from the Rock. These are your meat and drink indeed.

And love one another. For love is of God; and you are His own people, the sheep of His pasture. Love is the fulfillment of the whole Law; for love does no harm to the neighbor, but helps him and supports him in all things, at all times.

Do not long for the feasting and fashions of Egypt, from which the Lord has set you free. Do not return to your sins, like a dog to its vomit; nor indulge the lusts of your flesh, like a pig in its wallow. But stay the course and trust the Lord your God.

Do not grow restless in the desert, nor suppose that the Lord has forgotten or failed to keep His promises. Tremble in fear of the Lord, for He is the Holy One, before whom all creation bows in reverence. But do not quail in terror and deathly despair, as though His desire were to destroy you. It is not. His desire is to give you life, because He loves you.

Repent of your false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. And do not attempt to fathom the heart and Spirit of God apart from His Son, the Christ, beloved and well-pleasing, the new and greater Joshua, who serves you in love. Not even Moses enters the glorious presence of the Lord God Almighty apart from this Joshua, Christ Jesus, the Word-made-Flesh who tabernacles among His own with grace, mercy and peace.

The Law of God is good and wise; it instructs you in the way that leads to life in fellowship and harmony with Him. Yet, apart from Christ Jesus, it is a consuming fire, which accuses and condemns you and threatens to destroy you utterly and forever. It exposes the darkness in your heart and mind, the self-idolatry and lack of love in your thoughts, words and deeds. It uncovers the nakedness of your sin and the stench of death that already clings to your carcass.

Apart from Christ, you are a corpse merely biding your time on the way to your grave (and far worse), separated from the living God and devoid of His life-giving Holy Spirit.

Who, then, shall save you from your body of death, from the darkness and damnation of your sin?

It is Jesus only, the beloved Son of the living God. He is the Holy One of Israel. He is the Christ, your Savior. He is the Glory of God — in Person — in the flesh. He is the sacrifice of Atonement, His Blood the New Covenant of peace and reconciliation with God. You are anointed with the Holy Spirit unto life, and you have fellowship with God the Father, only in Him.

Listen to Him. Hear what He says to you, and believe it.

Consider the touch of His hand (His Body given for you), and be raised up from the death of doubt and fear to life and hope and joy.

He has brought you through the waters out of Egypt. He has baptized you in the cloud and in the sea of His own Exodus, His Cross and Resurrection. He shall bring you, also, through the Jordan into Canaan, the Land that He has promised, flowing with milk and honey and every good thing.

Not Moses the Lawgiver, but this Joshua does it, who is the fulfillment of the Law. By His Gospel of the Cross, by His forgiveness of your sins, He brings you in with Himself.

He shall bring you up to the Mountain of God: not Sinai, but the true Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, His holy hill. Not consumed with fire and brimstone, lightning and thunder and billowing smoke, but bathed in the beauty of His holiness and cloaked with the radiance of His righteousness, innocence and blessedness.

The time is not yet; but do not fret. Do not be afraid. Do not hide yourself away. Do not withdraw from the world and curl up within yourself. Do not lie there frozen, nor sit there dumbfounded.

See, here is Jesus. Stand up, and follow Him. He is your Pillar of Cloud by day and Fire by night.

He leads you forward by the way of the Cross. That is hard to understand, more difficult to bear, but it will not defeat you. It is the wood of the Cross by which He parts the sea and opens the Rock and pours down Manna from heaven. By the wood of the Cross that He defeats your enemies: sin, death, the devil and hell, the world with all its wickedness, the treachery of your own old Adam.

Cease your grumbling and complaining. The Lord has heard the cries and lamentations of your heart, and He has already acted mightily to save you by His outstretched arms. Better yet, close your mouth altogether, and open your ears. You have nothing worth saying until He has spoken and you have listened. Then, open your mouth and be fed. Eat from His hand, drink from His Cup. After He has filled you with Himself, confess what He has said, what He has done, what He has given.

Yes, you’re in the wilderness; and Jesus is with you all the way. You’ll not starve; He is feeding you. Your shoes will not wear out, your feet will not blister or swell, so long as you follow Him. Though an army encamp against you, do not fear. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is with you; the Lord God of Sabaoth is for you.

Lift up your eyes roundabout and see; you are surrounded by the Glory of the Lord: the great cloud of His witnesses, His saints: Moses and Elijah, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Samuel and David, Peter, James and John, Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna, Stephen and Paul, Timothy and Titus — a multitude of disciples from every nation, tribe and tongue (which no man could count, but God has each one numbered).

All of them have been transfigured by the Cross of Christ to share His Resurrection and His Life. You, also, are being transfigured by His Cross. Not yet outwardly — for your mortal flesh is wasting away — but inwardly you are renewed, day by day, in hope and expectation of the glory that shall be revealed in you (body and soul) in the Resurrection.

Here is the surety given to you: the Word of Christ in your ears, in your heart, and in your mouth (for He is not far away but near to you); the Body of Christ, His precious Blood, given and poured out for you, for the forgiveness of all your sins. He stretches out His hand, not to harm you, but to save.

To eat and drink in His presence — to feast upon Him, who is the Lord your God in the flesh — this, already, is a foretaste of the neverending Feast to come. It is the endless Sabbath Rest that remains for the people of God. It is the fellowship with God that is your life and your salvation.

Arise, and do not fear, but live.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

3 comments:

Debbie Theiss said...

Thanks for the Word. Wish we would have been there to hear them in person!;-)

TruthQuestioner said...

Thanks Pastor!
How does one comment on something like that? There are really no words but, "Amen, let it be so" with which to respond.

Quick question. Nadab and Abihu. Are they technically saints? I mean, didn't God strike them dead in the wilderness for making an "offering of unauthorized fire contrary to the word of the Lord"? (Lev. 10:1 and Num. 3:4,26:61)
Just wondering...

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Good point, Truth Questioner. I'd not be inclined to say that they were damned for their strange fire, however. We're told only that they died. Aaron and Moses and Miriam also, on occasion, suffered the consequences of their sin, without being cut off from the grace and life of God forever. Perhaps, though, I should not have included Nadab and Abihu among the list of saints; it was mainly for the sake of drawing the connection between Exodus 24, the Mount of Transfiguration, and the heavenly Mount Zion to which we are called in Christ Jesus.