Keep awake!

“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!” [Rev. 16:15]

One of the main purposes of church is to keep us awake.

The African theologian Augustine talked of how difficult it is to escape spiritual sleep:

Thus with the baggage of this world was I held down… as in sleep; and my thoughts of You [Lord] were like the efforts of one who would awake but who is yet overcome with drowsiness and is again drenched in sleep. While in all men’s sober judgment waking is better than sleep, yet very often a man, feeling a heavy lethargy in all his limbs, defers to shake off sleep, and though half displeased to sleep on, yet… with pleasure yields to it… Though I was convicted of the truth I answered only with those dull and drowsy words, “Later, later,” and, “Leave me just a little longer.” [Augustine, Confessions, Book 8]

Spiritual sleep is a state of being anesthetized to spiritual reality – the huge realities that Jesus is risen and ruling and returning any day; that there is going to be a resurrection of the dead and everyone will stand before the awesome throne of Christ; that there are two great destinies, the New Creation enjoying the love of God and the lake of fire enduring the wrath of God; that the only way we are going to be safe on that Judgment Day is by hiding ourselves in the crucified Christ who took the wrath deserved by sinners; that to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Nothing in the world is going to be reminding us of these realities. We are not seeing adverts and newspaper articles about the supremacy of Christ and the return of Christ and the joy of living in and for him. In fact everything in the world is drip feeding us with the lie that the ruler of this age is money, politics, information, sex, ego; that the world is going on forever; that you are going to live forever; that Christ and his church are marginal and irrelevant. The only way I’m going to be reminded of the great reality of Jesus and his coming is if other Christians remind me.

An old preacher, Richard Sibbes, said this is why we need the church:

It is one of the best fruits of the communion of saints… to keep one another awake. It is an unpleasing work on both sides. But we shall one day cry out against all them that have pleased themselves and us, in rocking us asleep, and thank those that have pulled us… out of the fire, though against our wills. [Richard Sibbes, Love of Christ, Sermon 4]

Isn’t that great! It’s an ‘unpleasant work on both sides.’ If you’ve had to wake up a teenager recently you may have experienced that. As Augustine said, the drowsy man just wants you to leave him alone. But this ministry of rousing one another is vitally necessary. If we don’t continually prod one another awake we will quickly succumb to spiritual slumber – walking comatose through life, drifting along as if the gospel is not true.

As it says in Hebrews we need to ‘encourage one another more and more as we see The Day approaching.’

Like the Thessalonians we need to encourage each other to not giving up waiting for ‘Jesus who saves us from the coming wrath.’

We need to say to each other, “Wake up of sleeper and Christ will shine on you!”

And we need to stir one another up to work and pray with great urgency for those who have never woken, who are not yet ready for Christ’s return, that they too would be awake and ready and waiting for Him.

Rebuilding David’s tent

And these are the days of Ezekiel
The dry bones becoming as flesh
And these are the days of Your servant, David
Rebuilding the temple of praise

davids-tent

There was a strange anomaly in the worship offered in the times of King David which provides a helpful pointer to the worship God desires in the church today.

A tale of two tents

In 2 Sam. 6 and 1 Chron. 15-16 we read that the the ark of the covenant was brought into Jerusalem. This was the time when David famously danced before the Lord to the scorn of Michal. And the ark was placed in “the tent that David had pitched for it.”

However, there was another important tent at Gibeon – about 10km north of Jerusalem. This was called the Tabernacle or The Tent of Meeting. While the ark was housed in the Tent of David in Jerusalem, “David left Zadok the priest and his fellow priests before the tabernacle of the Lord at the high place of Gibeon to present burnt offerings regularly, morning and evening, in accordance with everything written in the Law of the Lord which he had given Israel” (1 Chron. 16:39-40).

Then in the eighth year of Solomon’s reign the contents of these two tents were brought together into the newly finished Temple (2 Chron. 5; 1 Kings 8). But for about 40 years there was the anomaly of two tents simultaneously offering worship to the Lord, with some similarities (e.g. there was praise and music and singing at both) but also with some important differences. The two tents are very explicitly contrasted in places like 1 Chron. 21:28-22:1 and 2 Chron. 1.

So what?

Maybe that would be only of interest to historians and Bible geeks if it wasn’t for a couple of stunning prophecies.

In love a throne will be established;
in faithfulness a man will sit on it –
in the tent of David –
in judging seeking justice
and hastening righteousness. (Isaiah 16:5 literal translation)

In that day I will restore tent of David that is fallen
and repair its broken walls
and restore its ruins –
and will rebuild it as it used to be,
so that they may possess the remnant of Edom
and all the nations that bear my name,
declares the Lord who will do these things. (Amos 9:11-12)

There is a day coming when the strange, anomalous ‘tent of David’ will be restored. And when you get to Acts 15, the early church realises that this day has come. The New Testament church is the restored tent of David.

So what can we as a church learn from the tent of David? At least seven things:

  1. We have Jesus. That was the promise of Isaiah 16:5 – that the great King, the Christ, the one of Isaiah 11, would be enthroned in the tent of David. Melchizedek had been his foreshadowing – the king of righteousness, the priest of Jerusalem. Then David had been his foreshadowing – the priest king of Jerusalem, wearing an ephod, offering sacrifices. Then the great king of righteousness, the ultimate priest king arrives and is enthroned, the embodiment of grace and truth. And where is he found? In the church. If you want to meet Jesus, you go to the gathered church. To put it another way, the church is ruled by King Jesus. He sits enthroned there.
  2. We are built by him. It is very clear in the Amos prophecy that the Lord is the one who will rebuild David’s fallen tent. So in Matthew 16, Jesus says, “I will build my church.” There is a sense in which we are co-labourers and particularly gospel ministers have a responsibility to build (preach) carefully (1 Cor. 3:9-15) but first and foremost we need to know that Jesus is the builder. He is the one who bought his church with his own blood. He is the owner of the church and its architect. It is he who will draw people to himself. He will build his church and the gates of hell will not withstand its advance.
  3. We are under the covenant of grace not the covenant of Law. The tabernacle at Gibeon was where the Mosaic regulations were in force. In contrast, the tent of David was linked very strongly to the everlasting Abrahamic covenant (1 Chron. 16:15-17 cf. Luke 1:54-55, 72-73). So in the days of David there was a tent of Law and a tent of Promise. Amos 9 and Acts 15 tells us that it will be the tent of Promise that is restored in the church age. No longer are we under the curse and guardianship of the Law but through Christ crucified we are heirs of the great promise, the blessings of sonship and justification and the Spirit by grace alone. The church is the Grace-Point. The Law is still very important but we keep the Law by the Spirit as beloved children of the King not as slaves trying to work for our freedom.
  4. We make sacrifices but not atoning sacrifices. The tent of David had sacrifices going on but they were not the same as the sacrifices going on at the tabernacle in Gibeon. The great bronze altar of sacrifice was at Gibeon not at David’s tent. The Gibeon sacrifices were the Mosaic, Levitical sacrifices prescribed to atone for the sin of the nation of Israel. The sacrifices at the tent of David were sacrifices of thanks and praise and consecration. They were part of the joyful, dancing worship that David had modeled on the day he brought the ark into his tent. So we are to be a church who lay down our lives as living sacrifices of praise and gladly sacrifice time and resources and opportunities for one another and for the cause of the gospel. But we must never think we are thereby dealing with our sin. By one, once for all atoning sacrifice we have been perfect forever (Heb. 10:14).
  5. We come to the Word. The tent of David did not have the bronze altar but it did have the ark. The ark was where the presence of the LORD was encountered. And the one thing in the ark was the Word of God (1 Kings 8:9). So at the centre of the church is the Word of God. That is where we encounter the living Lord, as his Word is opened.
  6. We come to pray. There is a beautiful place where David, ‘went in and sat before the Lord’ (2 Sam. 7:18//1 Chron. 17:16). He went into the tent, before the presence of the Lord over the ark, and poured out his heart in prayer to the Lord, asking that he fulfill his promises. In the tent of David there is the intimacy of sons coming before the Father in prayer.
  7. We are for all nations. As the ark is brought into David’s tent he calls out, “Sing to the Lord, all the earth… Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples… For all the gods of the nations are idols… Ascribe to the Lord all you families of the nations… Tremble before him all the earth… Let the earth be glad, let them say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns!'” (1 Chron. 16:23-31). Then Isaiah offers this King in David’s tent to the Moabites (Isaiah 16) and Amos talks about the David’s tent ‘possessing the nations’ that bear the name of the Lord. Then the apostles in Acts 15 find this prophecy very relevant to their debate over the inclusion of the Gentiles in the church and the terms of that inclusion. Because the tent of David was not under the Mosaic covenant (which restricted nations like the Moabites from coming to the tabernacle) it was open to all nations. At GracePoint we rejoice that we are a community drawn from many nations and ethnicities, united as one people in Christ Jesus.

 

Reference:

S. V. Rees, “The Tent of David” in Amos 9:11, in Martin Bussey, The Message of Amos, GBM, 2002, p. 54-58.