Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Staying In the Tent
7 Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the "tent of meeting." Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp.
8 And whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent.
9 As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the LORD spoke with Moses.
10 Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to his tent.
11 The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.
We always focus on Moses - the glory in his face, his relationship with God, his commanding attitude and power.
There's a little verse tucked away in this section that absolutely blew me away.
Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.
While all the people focused on Moses as he came forth from God's presence with words of wisdom and perhaps judgement, Joshua lingered in the Tabernacle. Amazing.
The Word does not tell us why he stayed, or what he did there, but this little verse speaks volumes.
For the most part, Joshua played second fiddle to Moses. In fact, Aaron probably even took second fiddle and left Josh playing on the third string. It's tough being someone's assistant. In fact, when John McCain was asked if he would consider serving as Vice President of the United States, he replied that the single duty of the Vice President was to daily inquire about the health of the president - something he didn't think was very challenging.
From a young age, Joshua knew the importance of spending time in God's presence. Something about that experience changed him, not outwardly - we don't hear stories of Joshua's face glowing like Moses' - but inwardly. Josh didn't care about the pomp and circumstance of ceremony, but he put a priority on the saying in the presence of God. And not just spending time, but staying in God's presence.
What did Joshua get as a result? The chance to see the Promised Land and lead God's people into it, then lead them to victory over God's enemies.
Joshua lingered in the tent.
36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage,
37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.
38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Anna - most of us have probably never heard of Anna. Her entire story is found in just three verses of Luke. I used to feel sorry for her - married only 7 years before her husband died - and here she is, probably more than 60 years later, an old woman who doesn't know when church is over.
The Word says she never left the temple, but worshiped night and day. Imagine what that would have been like. Day after day you would see people come to offer sacrifices, night after night she would see perhaps, the soft glow of the lamp stand.
Though she was alone, Anna knew where her real covering and companionship came from - God's presence. Her devotion to worship was unheard of, radical, over the top. But God rewarded her for it.
What did Anna get? The opportunity to see the Messiah and God's promise of redemption in the flesh.
Anna lived in the Temple.
23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him.
24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, "Ask him which one he means."
25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, "Lord, who is it?"
The context is the naming of Judas as Jesus' betrayer. But the scene reveals much, not about Jesus, but about John. In his gospel, John never names himself, but says he is "the disciple whom Jesus loved."
John had an opportunity few had - to live and walk with Jesus Christ, God in the flesh. John didn't spend his time with Jesus arguing over who would be greatest, or some point of theology - no John, as we see here, just wanted to be near Jesus. He reclined next to Him - then leaned back and lay on Jesus breast.
From there he would have felt Jesus chest rise and fall as he took breaths, would have felt his strong arms and felt His breath as He spoke. It was a place John loved - as he was loved by Jesus. John stuck near his Savior when no one else did. He was there when Jesus was tried, and crucified. No, he wasn't up front, but he was close enough for Jesus to talk to. Being in God's presence meant more than anything. Jesus responded by giving John charge of his mother Mary.
What did John get? The opportunity to see the future, the fulfillment of God's promises and the New Jerusalem, along with the heavenly worship.
9 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.
10 And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."
John lay on the Savior's breast.
4. You & I
So what do these three have in common? They made it a priority to be in God's presence, and not just a little, but to draw as close as they could, and stay as long as they could.
- The question is: do you even go into the tent? Do you enter into God's presence in worship and prayer? And once there, do you stay, or bolt at first opportunity? Lingering in God's presence can be a frightening thing, because you must confront who God is and who you are on a deep level.
When Isaiah came into God's presence he said "Woe is me". But if you want to get close to God, if you want your relationship with Him to be more than just a casual acquaintance, then you must be willing to draw near, and stay near. Once inside do you "remain" in the temple, live a life of worship? Or is God only there for you on Sundays? And if you live in the temple like Anna, do you act so bold as to lay against God's breast? Hebrews tells us to "come boldly before the throne of grace to find grace to help in time of need." Come boldly to Him, then get up close and personal.
What happens then? There is something in this for us today - to enhance our worship and our experience of knowing God. Staying in the tent creates character traits and beings rewards that we can experience too.
6 Character Traits of the Lingerers
" Intimacy - a close tender relationship
" Tenacity - tightly holding on to God's presence and promises
" Stillness - spending time in God's tent means to stop moving, groping, fighting
" Patience - that stillness breeds patience, a quiet waiting on God to move
" Seeking - There is something there in the tent for each of us, if we'll wait
" Hope - All of this births a hope in us, of redemption from our troubles, of the Promised Land, of hearing God breath.
How can we "stay in the tent?"
" Don't hurry worship - come prepared for it and don't tune out during it
" Wait till the show's over - sometimes the most intimate times in the tent come when you're alone there.
" Come often - create a habit pattern of lingering in God's presence, or living in His presence.
" Look for times of intimacy with God - You'll be amazed at the times you can come close to God - in the car, cleaning the house, walking, doing chores.
" Meditate - It means much more than saying "ohmmm". It means to ruminate, shout, consider - chew on God, think about Him.
" Let Him move in you - Become a moldable vessel (like Karen said last week)
" Listen for His voice - He speaks in a "still small voice" sometimes you can only hear it after you've let all the other noises in your life go away in the stillness of the tent.
" Look for His promise and direction - If you stay long enough you'll get direction for your life, your life will become what God wants it to be as you become more like Him.
Linger, live, lay - three keys to having a passion for His presence.