The Church Defined at the Sinai Experience
Section #2: In Retrospect from Abraham to the Exodus Generation
Section #3: The Church Defined, Recalled, & Revived
In Retrospect from Abraham to the Exodus Generation
In retrospect, it is no wonder that Abraham separated from Terah, Isaac separated from Ishmael, Jacob separated from Esau, and the Exodus Generation separated from Egypt. The Church was learning from and avoiding the sin and apostasy of their pastime, from Genesis to Abraham. The individuals from whom The Church existed in separation from in each generation - from Abraham to the Exodus Generation - were once-born men or twice-born backsliders. The question was posed at the beginning of the Chapter, were ALL the individuals who were considered to be a part of The Church regenerated or saved? My reader, think of it! If ALL of the individuals in The Church were NOT saved, then why were the once-born men or twice-born backsliders expelled from their midst, what harm would they do? The essence of what a Church was from its beginning does reveal that ALL individuals were saved. The necessity of expelling unsaved individuals was warranted because for one sinner to be mixed within the community of people allowed a corrupting influence to spread throughout the holy people who were, all of them, saved individuals, otherwise they would not have worried themselves at the happenchance of one unclean individual.
Individual Salvation & “The Called-Out Ones” Community Perfected in Holiness
God did, as previously noted, spiritually save the Israelites, and by that I mean individually. God did savingly “call” Israel that He might indwell each personal Israelite individual, but there was more! God also savingly “called” Israel that He might have corporate and nationwide spiritual union with them. This means that the personal indwelling of God within each regenerated person was not the fullest expression of mankind’s reconciliation to God. It was one thing for God to say, “I will dwell in them” (2 Cor. 6:16), and it was another thing to say, “I will walk among you” (Lev. 26:11-12) or “there I am in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20, Num. 5:2-3, Deut. 23:14). Personal union with God is distinct from corporate union. There is a difference between God dwelling “in us” rather than Him dwelling “among us”, for God to “indwell you” rather than Him “walking among you”. For example, God had already indwelt David as an individual (meaning that God was always with him personally and individually), but at many points in time David lamented to God, saying, “Thou…didst not go out with [Israelite] armies” (Ps. 60:10)! God was with David individually but absent from Israel corporately and collectively. God was inside of David, to wit, he was experiencing salvation individually, but He was withdrawn from Israel, to wit, the collected people did not experience salvation corporately. We too, like David, must make this very important delineation in its New Testament sense! Only then can we understand salvation in full volume.
After the Passover, the Exodus out of Egyptian slavery, and the Red Sea Baptism, each individual Israelite who was of age was indwelt by the regenerating Spirit of God, thus at Mount Sinai God descended upon and in the midst of Israel by His special and immediate presence, and this resulted in a collective and corporate union with God --- a portrait of what The Church is supposed to be at all times! We must understand this momentous and shocking “Sinai Meeting” that Israel had with God, and more specifically, the significance of the descent of God’s immediate presence into the midst of Israel, then we will be enabled to understand this corporate and collective purpose of God that He, namely, seeks not merely a person but “a people”, not a single man in near relationship to Himself but an entire nation, to be their Ruler, King, and Law-Maker – which means, in other words, for Him to be “their God”. I say again, God was not calling “a person” but “a people”, thus He desires to collectively and simultaneously, with spiritual unity, be in all, through all, and among all, and that we, in Him, would be one with each other. This expanded vision is salvation in full volume! This is what God Almighty descended from heaven-to-earth for to establish, as He said: “And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people” (Lev. 26:11-12).
This single characteristic – God’s indwelling & immediate presence in their midst – set Israel apart from every other “people” on the earth. As we continue, it is important that we see how difficult it is to obtain this most blessed experience of salvation in full volume. In this consideration, my reader, take careful notice of three points: (1st) God is HOLY and DREADFUL (It was through an awful and deadly descent that God came amongst His people, and they, scarcely surviving it, learned the unfathomable otherworldliness of God – how that He is sinless and sin-hating – and where His immediate presence is there was, by necessity, immediate judgments), (2nd) and God, as a Ruler, King, and “their GOD”, decreed a Law whereby He might establish, govern, maintain, and continue the holy separateness of His people throughout every generation (and this, in turn, secures Israel’s salvific acceptance when otherwise, shockingly, their sinfulness would merit for themselves a damning, irrevocable, castaway-rejection). My reader, look upon “The Sinai Experience” and consider that, where God is, this place is a separated place, a holy place, and ALL those that were with Him must therefore be, with continuance, “called out” from unholiness into separation! Once this is understood first and foremost, then the doctrines of The Church come alive!
The Sinai Experience: The Descent of God’s Immediate Presence
I must say, firstly, that God dwelt in the midst of Israel before “The Sinai Experience” (“When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language; Judah was His Sanctuary, and Israel His Dominion.”-Ps.114:1-2), but it was not vocalized in such a clear and doctrinal way so that every generation thenceforth might comprehend the magnitude of such an event. God was in their midst from Egypt unto Mount Sinai because God fetched them from Egypt and brought them unto Sinai. The Lord said, “I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that Land unto a good Land and large…” (Ex. 3:8). God came down to accomplish their salvation and make them The Church, the Family of God via the powers of regeneration, a reconciliation between God and man.
The Call of Salvation: “brought you unto Myself” – Ex. 19:4-6
The Call of salvation to Israel was for a single Divine objective, “I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians” (Ex. 6:7). To be taken by God as “a people”, for Him to be “their God”, this was a very fearful and difficult thing. It was not easy for a sinful people to survive with so Holy of a God that hath come nigh! When the Israelites came to the desert of Sinai and “camped before the Mount” (Ex. 19:2), God said, “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto Myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my Covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a Kingdom of priests, and an holy Nation” (Ex. 19:4-6).
Consider it, my reader. When God made the first man, Adam, He walked among and dwelt with him in the Garden of Eden. There was a sinless friendship, communion One with another in unfathomable familiarity and heavenly tenderness, so much so that Adam was able to recognize the sound of the Lord walking in the garden (Gen. 3:8). God was – Adam’s God! – but what should we expect if God becomes “Israel’s God”? By what apparent characteristics would Israel change when they become “the people” whom God – Adam’s God! – has chosen for Himself? Would He, yet again, walk among mankind? God saved Israel to be “Israel’s God”, and this was for the purpose, God said, “that I MAY DWELL AMONG THEM: I am the LORD their God” (Ex. 29:46)… thus there remains therefore a dreadful and fearful dilemma. Adam dwelt in friendship with God’s presence while in sinless innocence, but how can Israel, a fallen brood of depravity, at once, suddenly, begin a friendship with God Almighty? My reader, the day of Israel’s ceremonial commitment to God approached, the day in which they would become “a people” collectively given to God – “God’s people” – Oh! Consider that ancient scene at Sinai again! How this fallen nation of Adamic woe did arise from the depths of slavery to find: they were called to an assembly in which God did attend! Suddenly, and shockingly, Israel found themselves in the hands of a Living God, terrified!
While Mount Sinai’s fires did whelm in upward-rage, every Israelite face watched on terror-stricken and amazed!
While heavenly trumpets sounded and ere-long were blasting, millions of saints were seen before God collapsing!
Oh remember the scene, my reader! Scarcely did Israel live through it! They cried, “Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great Fire any more, that I die not” (Deut. 18:16)! And the Lord said, “They have well spoken that which they have spoken” (Deut. 18:17). “And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake” (Heb. 12:21)! Dear reader, this was the nativity of Israelite salvation as it would soon exist in full volume… do you think God was trying to make a point?
“How Dreadful is this Place!” – Gen. 28:17
God is here. God is holy.
Why was Israel so afraid? What point was God trying to make? My reader, why was Jacob so afraid? “How dreadful is this place”, Jacob exclaimed! …but why? Jacob found Himself in the presence of God in the House of God! How did Jacob know he was in the House of God? Jacob saw holy angels ascending and descending in that place! The place was “dreadful” because, Jacob said, “the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not” (Gen. 28:16), angels ascending and descending in attendance to God Almighty! If by these marks Jacob realized he was in the House of God, The Church, what can be said of “the Sinai Experience” of the Exodus Generation?
A Law for a Loved People who Sat at God’s Feet to Receive His Words… “The LORD came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; He shined forth from Mount Paran, and He came with ten thousands of saints: from His right hand went a fiery Law for them. Yea, He loved the people; all His saints are in Thy hand: and they sat down at Thy feet; every one shall receive of Thy words.” – Deuteronomy 33:2
The Old Testament Church: A Congregation Brought to Sinai in and by the Presence of GOD, there to Stand Before Thousands of Angels in Chariots of Fire, there to Receive Gifts as God’s Captivity and God’s Dwelling Place, The Church… “O God, when thou wentest forth before Thy people, when thou didst march through the wilderness; Selah: The earth shook, the heavens also dropped at the presence of God: even Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel…Thy congregation hath dwelt therein: thou, O God, hast prepared of thy goodness for the poor. The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it…The hill of God is as the hill of Bashan; an high hill as the hill of Bashan. Why leap ye, ye high hills? this is the hill which God desireth to dwell in; yea, the LORD will dwell in it for ever. The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place. Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them. Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.” – Psalm 68:7-19
The New Testament Church: An Assembly or Church of God which is One Body and One Spirit, a Spirit which is In & Through them ALL via God’s Captivity which is Gathered with an Innumerable Company of Angels… “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of ALL, who is above ALL, and through ALL, and in you ALL. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” – Ephesians 4:4-12, “And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) But ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the City of the living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and Church of the firstborn…” – Hebrews 12:21-23
“Dwell Among Them”: A congregated people wherein God is in all, through all, and among them all.
Have you ever wondered why God said of the Old Testament saints that He was not only among them but in them? He said very specifically, “I will dwell in them and walk in them” (2 Cor. 6:16). This is quoted from the Law in 2 Corinthians 6:16 as an Old Testament reality, a reality which God spoke of in manifold ways and phrases all throughout the scriptures, one of them being, “Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them” (Ps. 68:18, Eph. 4:8). What does it mean for God to dwell among the Israelites by means of Divine captivity and endowed gifting? Paul is very clear in portraying the same reality as it existed in the New Testament Church, affirming, “One God and Father of ALL, who is above ALL, and through ALL, and in you ALL” (Eph. 4:6), “that he might fill all things” (Eph. 4:10). These affirmations directly parallel the aforementioned thesis of the Old Testament Church, “I will dwell IN THEM, and walk IN THEM; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (2 Cor. 6:16). Evidently, this is what was happening at Sinai as depicted in Psalm 68!
What is The Church, but the place and people among whom and in whom God walks (2 Cor. 6:16)? God promised the express purpose of His love, “I will walk among you” (Lev. 26:11-12), just as He walked with Enoch, Noah, and Abraham (Gen. 5:22, 24, 6:9, 17:1-2). Do you remember how the scripture stated, “Enoch with God” (Gen. 5:22)? Do you remember how the scripture stated, “Noah walked with God” (Gen. 6:9)? Do you remember how God said to Abraham, “Walk before Me” (Gen. 17:1-2)? The Church at Sinai was exactly like The Church at Abraham’s camp, but God provided a fuller volume of explanation to describe what happened in the Exodus Generation. The Tabernacle or Temple (“the place of the soles of My feet”-Ezek.43:7) was a material housing which God ordained for Himself to abide in while He walked among His people in this fashion, just as He said to Abraham, “walk before Me” (Gen. 17:1-2). Because God walked in and among Abraham, my reader, God appeared! Do you remember the event when God appeared unto Abraham!?
“And the LORD appeared unto him [Abraham] in the plains of Mamre…and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in Thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from Thy servant…” - Gen. 18:1-3; see the parallel in Ex. 33:12-17
God Almighty appeared, communed with, and dwelt among the tent of Abraham in the presence of two angels, my reader! Yes! And this is because Abraham’s camp was the House of God, The Church! This experience of Abraham was a physical manifestation of what was spiritually happening at all times, a foreshadow of The Church as it would be depicted in the days of Jacob (who saw holy angels ascending and descending in the House of God – Genesis 28, who wrestled with God in the midst of holy angels during an engagement of intercession – Genesis 32:1-2, 24-30), as it would be depicted in the days of the Exodus Generation (who assembled at the foot of Sinai before God among thousands of holy angels – Psalm 68:17), as it would be depicted in the days of David (who saw a holy angel with a sword drawn during an engagement of intercession wherein the founding of the House of God was established at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite – 2 Samuel 24:15-18, 2 Chron. 3:1, Gen. 22:14), as it would be depicted in the days Elijah (who was taken up by holy angels in chariots of fire because the angels of the Lord encamped around The Church – 2 Kings 2:12, Ps. 34:7), as it would be depicted in the days of Elisha (around whom there encamped an army of holy angels – 2 Kings 6:17), as it would be depicted in the days of Isaiah (who saw the Lord sitting upon a Throne with holy seraphims flying around Him – Isaiah 6:1-3), as it would be depicted in the days of Ezekiel (who also saw the Lord sitting upon a Throne with holy seraphims flying around Him – Ezekiel 1), as it would be depicted in the days of Jesus Christ (upon whom it was beheld by the 1st century Church the very heavens opened with “the angels of God ascending and descending” – John 1:51), as it would be depicted in the days of the 1st century Church by the apostle John (who saw the resurrected and ascended Lord Jesus with seven stars in His right hand as He was walking in the midst of The Churches, and the seven stars were the seven angels of the seven Churches – Rev. 1:12-13, 16, 20, 2:1), as it would be affirmed by scripture (that holy angels are God-sent ministers to The Church, the heirs of salvation – Hebrews 1:14). Do you see the staggering commonality, my reader? Now do you know why Jacob concluded that he was in the House of God?
At the first Church which existed in the very first generation, Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel walked with God and dwelt underneath the light which shone from His Face, that is until Cain became a castaway (see Gen. 4:13-14). Abraham did what God commanded when the Lord said, “walk before Me” (Gen. 17:1-2), and in so doing, by necessity, Ishmael became a castaway. This is the God who, Jacob said, “was with me in the way which I went” (i.e. the God Jacob walked with; see Gen. 35:3), the God that appeared unto him at Bethel (“I am the God of Bethel”-Gen.31:13, 35:1) after that Esau became a castaway. Thenceforth The Church existed, but until the Exodus Generation The Church was not depicted in the full volume of salvation with all its implications explained; The Church was a living entity before it was a doctrinal entity.
“walked with God” – Gen. 5:22, 24, 6:9
“walk before Me” – Gen. 17:1-2
“walk among you” - Lev. 26:12
“the place of the soles of My feet”-Ezek.43:7
“In the midst whereof I dwell” – Numbers 5:3
“walketh in the midst” – Deuteronomy 23:14
“In the midst” – Matthew 18:20
“walketh in the midst” - Rev. 2:1
“Dwell among them” – Psalm 68:18
“One God and Father of ALL, who is above ALL, and through ALL, and in you ALL” – Ephesians 4:6
“I will dwell IN THEM, and walk IN THEM; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” - 2 Cor. 6:16
“And I will establish My Covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting Covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.” – Genesis 17:7
“And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, that brought them forth out of the Land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them: I am the LORD their God.” - Ex. 29:45-46
“For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the Land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” – Lev. 11:45
“and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” – 2 Cor. 6:16
A Law to Regulate the People, Place, & Environment among which GOD Dwells
Jacob was “afraid” and full of dread at Bethel, which means “the House of God”, a fear which led him into obedience to God thenceforth. In the Exodus Generation, The Church, saintly men were taught what Jacob feared (otherwise known as, “the fear of his father Isaac”-Gen. 31:53), a fear we must seek after and choose (Prov. 1:29, 2:1-5) in remembrance of what God made the Exodus Generation to feel – an event which, Moses said, “God is come…that His fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not” (Ex. 20:20). What was this fear for, my reader? At the beginning of The Church, this fear taught them that God is holy.
For an unholy people to engage the Holy, they must be prepared.
Before God did ever meet with Israel they had to be sanctified. “And the LORD said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes, and be ready against the third day: for the third day the LORD will come down in the sight of the people upon Mount Sinai.” Oh the gravity that “Moses brought forth the people out of the camp TO MEET WITH GOD; and they stood at the nether part of the Mount” (Amos 4:12). My reader, we should wonder at the circumstances of this meeting wherein Moses, Aaron, the priests, and the people (in Exodus 19:20-24) did prepare themselves after being warned of the inherit danger of this engagement!
Three days was the appointed time of sanctification and cleansing for the people to be made “ready” (Ex. 19:11, 15). Thrice did God warn with The Death Penalty when peradventure, the unholy broke through the boundaries to gaze upon the Holy! Those who came too near came to die, God said. The Lord, who was “A Consuming Fire” would “break forth upon them” for such a violation. As the Almighty lit Sinai a-blaze with the fire of His presence “and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole Mount quaked greatly” (Ex. 19:18), men would burn if they came too close. “The whole Mount quaked greatly” at the Lord’s terrifying descent, and, afar off, men quaked at a distance as they were scarcely able to look-on. The Holy Mountain and holy men melted for fear… for what? Man met-with-God as an assembly, as a collected people perfected in holiness, as The Church! Forthwith, the whole earth was commanded to stagger and tremble at the news, my reader! The voice of Divine unction declares the amazement of this unthinkable meeting of man-with-God, saying, “Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob” (Psalm 114:7)!
“And the LORD said unto Moses, go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish. And let the priests also, which come near to the LORD, sanctify themselves, lest the LORD break forth upon them. And Moses said unto the LORD, the people cannot come up to the Mount Sinai: for thou chargedst us, saying, set bounds about the Mount, and sanctify it. And the LORD said unto him, Away, get thee down, and thou shalt come up, thou, and Aaron with thee: but let not the priests and the people break through to come up unto the LORD, lest he break forth upon them” (Ex. 19:20-24).
The Lord came down in “A Consuming Fire” (Heb. 12:29), but why? He is, in essence, Holy-Destructive. Not to Sinai only, but “the earth also and the works therein shall be burned up” (2 Pet. 3:10)! God descended in Uncontainable Destructive Fury because He is unable to abide silent, friendly, and casual beside the immediate presence of sin or sinners. All that is living gasps to behold “the Living God”; whether visible or invisible, material or immaterial, animate or inanimate. All that is living falls dead before His Life! He is the One before whom “the devils believe and tremble” (James 2:19), and should not saints do the same? They should. They must! The saints, like the devils, are taught to prepare to meet with God as the one “with Whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13)! The devils will MEET with God later, a time that will be the hour of their torments, but saints are called to MEET with God now in congregational form via The Church! Therefore as the devils cry, “What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God”, should not the saints also cry, “Jesus, Thou Son of God, we have to do with Thee because Thou hast made us holy for Thyself!”
You see, my reader, the saints were taught to agree with this “terrifying thing” – to be a people who is especially and immediately in the presence of the Living God! Therefore they also learned by experience that what happened to Sinai at the first will happen to them in this life and the next, if they wander from holy living while in the presence of a Holy God. What do I mean? My reader, consider the language of Divine woe which was foretold by the prophet Micah. Micah said, “For, behold, the LORD cometh forth out of His place, and will come down, and tread upon the high places of the earth. And the mountains shall be molten under him, and the valleys shall be cleft, as wax before the fire, and as the waters that are poured down a steep place. For the transgression of Jacob is all this, and for the sins of the house of Israel” (Mic. 1:3-5). Does this prophetic utterance sound familiar to “the Sinai Experience”? It is! Only this latter time is for the destruction of His people who were then found in transgression and sin. You see, to be anywhere near God and there be some trespass or sin, He does and will, and thrice warns at the beginning, He will “break forth upon them” (Ex. 19:24). “Them”, God said, refers to The Church. Those people were Church members in holy engagement to meet with God! Great privileges exist with great consequences, yes, and this first-meeting of Israel and God was symbolic of future regulations. The Church existed to meet with God… but to do so and live required Divinely authored regulations.
“And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the Mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the Mount shall be surely put to death: There shall not an hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the Mount” (Ex. 19:12-13).
Such commandments symbolize the purpose of the Mosaic Law which would be hereafter expounded to Moses in full volume. You see, there were lesser and more holy places, as also, there were lesser and more holy things which the Israelites learned to be careful of, things which the Law would later on specify. The amazing thing is that God instituted a Law whereby He might come down and abide with Israel thenceforth and forever, and this first-meeting was just the beginning! The beginning of The Church: the company of “called out ones” who dwelt in the midst of God Almighty!
“What nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them?” – Deut. 4:7
The holiness of God was so dreadfully dangerous at the inception of the Covenant that, shockingly, God desired for His people to stand “afar off” from the LORD to behold “the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the Mountain smoking”, that the Lord would be so sanctified in their eyes to the end, that, Moses said, “His fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not” (Ex. 19:20). If Israel did but “learn to fear” God (Deut. 4:10), they would have survived. A man who walked among God’s Holy presence must learn to live in friendship with the LORD (via personal holiness). As a point of significance let it be known to you, my reader… Israel’s fear of God waned. God lamented over their eventual fearlessness which led to their damnation because they forgot the gripping awfulness of this very first experience, when “the LORD spake” to them “in the Mount out of the midst of the fire of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice” (Deut. 5:22). Because fearlessness cooled the fervency of their attentiveness to God, they sinned. Sin brought forth destruction which God did beforehand lament when He said, “O that there were such an heart in them, THAT THEY WOULD FEAR ME, and keep all My commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever” (Deut. 5:29)! “The Sinai experience” was institutional of saving fear among the “called-out community”, The Church. The Israelites were called to know with awful certainty: “God is here”, “God is among us”, and “God is to be feared”.
Despite Israel’s eventual departure from God, the Covenant was made… scarcely though. After the Covenant’s great initiation day when all of Israel was assembled before Sinai as it was caught-up in flames, Moses went up into the Mount with God for forty days neither eating nor drinking. This departure of Moses into the Mount of God is very specifically noted in scripture because from Exodus 24:15-18 to Exodus 32:15, Moses abode with God upon the Mountain. What was Moses doing? Moses was receiving all the instructions and preparations that needed to be made for God to fulfill the purpose of Israel’s salvation, God said, “that I may dwell among them” (Ex. 29:46; see Exodus Chapters 24 to 32). How was God going to dwell among them? God was giving to Moses the dimensions and instructions concerning the Tabernacle, a material abode of God’s immediate presence. What a staggering proposition! For God to dwell among Israel they had to become holy and live holy. This is why Israel was made to encircle before Sinai with an attention to holiness in dreadful carefulness, all eyes turning toward the Mountain of God. Shockingly, after this, God instructed Moses to build a Tabernacle for this God to dwell in, the God of Sinai! A Tabernacle, yes, and multitudes of precautionary regulations whereby Israel might survive the enterprise. God came down to perpetually “dwell among the children of Israel” in peculiar nearness and immediate presence, and this is His stated claim which He asserted as His own purpose for redeeming them. For God to dwell among Israel it was understood that, He “will be their God” (Ex. 29:45). Man-with-God, in friendship, fellowship, and communion. Furthermore, God chose “the door of the Tabernacle of the congregation” as the place where, He said to Moses,
“I will meet you, to speak there unto thee. And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the Tabernacle shall be sanctified by My glory. And I will sanctify the Tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar: I will sanctify also both Aaron and his sons, to minister to me in the priest’s office. And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, that brought them forth out of the Land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them: I am the LORD their God.” - Ex. 29:42-46
The entire significance of staying clean before God was because of the presence of God in their midst. God was offended by the presence of sin, thus it must be cleansed from before the immediate attention of His holy eyes. The book of Leviticus would not exist if God did not decide to dwell in the midst of the people. My reader, think of it! The anger of the Lord burns with an otherworldly offence against sin – violent fury against the violence of sin! – therefore “the fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall NEVER GO OUT” (Lev. 6:12-13)! This, my reader, is an emblem of the everlasting hatred of God against sin and sinners. For the hatred of God to be temporarily satisfied (while the eternally sufficient Lamb of God was yet to descend and become flesh for a triumphant, once-for-all atonement) these Old Testament bodies of sinners, which were actual creatures, were then identified as Lawful sin-bearers (the animals for the sins of the humans), and thus they were ever-sacrificed and ever-burned! “The fire upon the altar shall be burning in it; it shall not be put out: and the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt-offering in order upon it; and he shall burn thereon the fat of the peace-offerings. The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out” (Lev. 6:12-13). Oh my reader, consider it! All of mankind will one day appear before the Lord, the Lord God who dwelt in this ancient Tabernacle, and this God – an All-Holy GOD – will burn sin with or without removing it from men! Let us therefore take heed, my reader! If God provides a means to remove sin from sin-saturated humanity, so that, staggeringly, the guilty will suddenly appear innocent before His Divine reckoning, let us fly into the safety which God has provided for the guilty! According to God’s provision, nevertheless, there is one conclusion. Before God’s very own eyes, those creatures that bear the iniquity (whether animals or humans) – the sinners – must have their bodies slain, their blood shed, and finally, the blood-drained bodies must be burned-up and consumed in His presence, according to the Law written in Leviticus (for paralleling significance see 2 Thess. 1:9, Rev. 14:10-11, Job 18:15, Rom. 9:22, Lk. 19:27). This is to signify to mankind the unrestrained anger of God against sin: behold, all that would or could remain of the sinner must be brought forth without the camp (into cursed place), and there to be devoured by the fires of annihilation (whether in this life or the next, see Heb. 13:11, Lev. 8:17, Rev. 14:20, 20:9-15, 21:8, 27, 22:15; i.e. the Lake of Fire). My reader, God IS, therefore sin IS NOT. God is I AM, therefore sin is forced to live out the title, “I am not”. Either the sinner or the sin-bearing sacrifice must be annihilated, but God and sinners cannot both live, I mean, being together before His immediate presence. God be praised!
Holiness is demanded in The Church, and why? Because God is in “their” midst and He is offended at unholiness, therefore God COMMANDED “them” to be holy. There is a reason for this, they are The Church. God said, “For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the Land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 11:45). This is the same expressed intent revealed in Exodus 29:45-46, heretofore repeated throughout the OT. Look at the meaningful connection between God dwelling among them and their need to be holy. Concerning creatures and foods, the Lord commanded, “Ye shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creepeth, neither shall ye make yourselves unclean with them, that ye should be defiled thereby. For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the Land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 11:43-45, 1 Peter 1:15-16). This verse, serving as a small example, conveys to us the central issue around which all the Law was instituted – God’s Immediate Presence – His very presence was the reason for the Law, His presence necessitated the demand for the people to strictly observe the Law or the purpose of personal holiness and a continual cleansing Church-wide. “I am holy”, God said, as a means of survival therefore, God commanded, “be ye holy”. All other Laws, besides the former verses which addressed unclean animals, though they are not so pointed to exactly articulate that God’s presence is the central issue, they are all veins flowing from one heart.