Temporary Dwellings

Jim Brandt
Feast of Tabernacles – Seaside, Oregon
Day 2:  October 2, 2012

Leviticus 23:
33:  Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 
34:  "Speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the LORD...
39:  'Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the LORD for seven days; on the first day there shall be a Sabbath-rest, and on the Eighth day a Sabbath-rest. 
40:  And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. 
41:  You shall keep it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year.  It shall be a statute forever in your generations.  You shall celebrate it in the seventh month. 
42:  You shall dwell in booths for seven days.  All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 
43:  that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.'" 

The original Hebrew word for "tabernacle" and "booths" in these two scriptural references is Strong’s 5521 "cukkah"  (pronounced sook-kaw) which can mean a hut, lair, booth, cottage, covert, pavilion, tabernacle or tent.

In Exodus 26, we have God's instructions for building the Tabernacle:

Exodus 26:1:
Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine woven linen and blue, purple, and scarlet thread; with artistic designs of cherubim you shall weave them. 

This is just the beginning of very specific and exact instructions in the building of what would become God's dwelling.  We, the Body of Christ, are mentioned in a similar context: 

I Corinthians 6:
19:  Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 
20:  For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's. 

Here is a New Testament reference, in essence, to a tabernacle of sorts.  The Greek word ‘temple’ here is "naos" and is used forty-six times in the New Testament, and it means literally a Temple.

Ephesians 2:21:
In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 

Psalms 84:
1:  How lovely is Your tabernacle, O LORD of hosts! 
2:  My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. 
3:  Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young --even your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God. 
4:  Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they will still be praising You.

This reference is a slightly different Hebrew word: "mishkan" (Strong’s 4908).  Figuratively it could mean the grave; but its main meaning is that of a temple, or a tabernacle with wooden walls.  It can also mean a dwelling place, a habitation or a tent. 

I would like to read the first two verses of Psalm 84 in the New Living Translation:

Psalms 84:
1:  How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty. 
2:  I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the LORD.  With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God. 

In the New Testament, there are continued references to the concept of a Tabernacle:

Acts 7:
44:  Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as He appointed, instructing Moses to make it according to the pattern that he had seen,
45:  which our fathers, having received it in turn, also brought with Joshua into the land possessed by the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers until the days of David, 
46:  who found favor before God and asked to find a dwelling for the God of Jacob. 
47:  But Solomon built Him a house. 
48:  However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says: 
49:  "'Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool.  What house will you build for me?' says the LORD, 'Or what is the place of my rest?  
50:  Has my hand not made all these things?'"

This was from Stephen's address to the Sanhedrin, just before his martyrdom.

Hebrews 9:11:
But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.

The Greek word that was used in these scriptures is  "skene" (Strong’s 4633) which means a tent, a cloth hut (literally or figuratively), a habitation or a tabernacle.

Having presented all of this by way of an introduction to this message, we personally have much in common with this topic.  Have we ever thought of ourselves as temporary dwellings?  God does indeed dwell in those whom He calls and begets with His Spirit.  
Perhaps we may not always reflect on the fact that God has created us as temporary beings; yet with a very permanent purpose in mind. 

In this sermon, I would like to present several thoughts and ideas about aspects of our current temporary state of being, and how important it is to be living this temporary, physical life focused on the permanent, eternal purpose which God is preparing for us. 

We have been given a temporary, finite life for now, which has a beginning and an end.  As Mr. Armstrong used to say, we live a chemical existence supported by food, water and air.  Our current state of being is dependant on those physical factors.  This is very well described in Psalms 103:

Psalms 103:
15:  As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. 
16:  For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. 

This scripture is, of course, only referring to the physical limitations of our current state of being.  Yet, from the very beginning, God planned His creation with the intent that we would make the transition from temporary to permanent beings, and to actually become members of God's eternal Family.  

Now I would like to present three scriptural examples of great men of faith, who came to fully realize that the next life is far more important that this current life:

Hebrews 11:
8:  By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance.  And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 
9:  By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 
10:  for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God...
24:  By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, 
25:  choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 
26:  esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.

Philippians 3:
7:  But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 
8:  Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 
9:  and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 
10:  that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,
11:  if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 

Paul further expounded on this subject:

Romans 8:
12:  Therefore, brethren, we are debtors -- not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 
13:  For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 
14:  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 
15:  For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." 
16:  The Spirit (itself) bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 
17:  and if children, then heirs -- heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. 
18:  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

How can we set our life's priorities on the only thing that really matters – on that Godly spiritual purpose which will supersede this temporary life? 

What are some good things that we should have in mind?  I will present several points now which I feel are key in focusing our lives on the future existence – the real life – not this current life which is so temporary and which will soon be gone. 

Part of what we are doing here today is obeying God's command to keep this Feast of Tabernacles and to rejoice before Him.  This is not at all difficult to comply with; I think that we are all enjoying it very much.  But this is all simply part of God’s Law – all of His Laws, all of His Commandments, all of His statutes and all of His judgments.  Keeping God's Holy Days and Feasts are just one part of this; but in Matthew 22, Christ refers to the sum total of all of His law:

Matthew 22:
37:  Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 
38:  This is the first and great commandment. 
39:  And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' 
40:  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." 

If food and water sustains our physical existence, what is it that sustains our spiritual existence? 

Matthew 4:
3:  Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." 
4:  But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'" 

Christ here was quoting Deuteronomy 8:3.  Keeping all of God's Commandments is a matter of doing whatever God would do in any given situation. 

One day as I was driving, I was following an "old beater" vehicle with faded paint; very much worn out.  This was obviously a "basic transportation" car and its sole purpose was to get from Point A to Point B.  There was a bumper sticker on the back of the car, that said: “Don’t let the car fool you; my real treasure is in heaven.”  I got quite a laugh out of this.  That bumper sticker belonged on a Lexus, Mercedes, BMW, Cadillac, or some other luxury vehicle.  But then I thought again, "Does God see the Lexus, Mercedes, BMW and Cadillac as the material equivalent of the old beat-up car, destined for the junkyard?"  Perhaps this might serve as a reality check for the true value of earthly treasures in God’s eyes.  This car was once brand new and yet it was destined soon to be junk. 

Colossians 3:2:
Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 

It serves God’s purpose for now that we be in this world; yet not of this world since this world is made up of both good and evil; and we need to discern the difference.  We sometimes share the world’s values – even though not always for the same reasons that the world thinks something is good.  Prosperity of and by itself is not a bad thing.  God often blesses us with prosperity.  Yet there is a difference that He wants us to keep in mind:

Matthew 6:
19:  Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 
20:  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 
21:  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 

How do we set our hearts on something that we can’t see? 

Hebrews 11:1:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

How then can we have the vision to know that we have treasure in heaven?  Consider these samples of evidence:

The futility and endless troubles of this world

If you were to live long enough, you would start to see the same things over and over again.  Mankind left to himself does not know how to produce peace.  It only knows how to put knowledge to wrong use and produce trouble.  Louis Armstrong recorded a song "What a Wonderful World."  From a worldly point of view, you could take all of the good things in the world, group them all together and it would look wonderful.  However, all of that effort wouldn't do away with the bad.  Mankind makes no significant progress. 

The quality of life we experience with God's way of life

In a materialistic way, the world around us seems have it all; yet something is missing.  The missing element is God’s law of love –  the difference between really living life and just existing.  This makes all of the difference with everything in our life, especially marriage, family relationships, brethren, friends, neighbours or anybody that we have interaction with. 

Tests and Trials

If this life was really what it is all about, we would simply carry on merrily on our way, with no problems whatsoever.  The testing of Christ just after His baptism is very strong evidence of how important God's purpose was.  Satan concentrated all of his efforts, hoping to derail that plan of God. 

Also, pre-Feast trials are evidence of how important it is to God's plan that we observe His Holy Days.  All of this can be summed up in the idea that the greater the treasure, the more difficult the trouble will be in obtaining it.  One does not come by anything of great value easily. 

Matthew 7:
13:  Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 
14:  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. 

There is one other particular proof of treasure in heaven that we can see with our own eyes:

The great expanse of the cosmos

When I was first coming into the Church, I was pretty excited to get a Worldwide Church of God booklet called “Our Awesome Universe.”  This was produced and published back in the 1960’s and 70’s when what was available to take pictures of distant space back then was still good; but not what we have today.  Nowadays we have incredible images of the universe thanks to the Hubble telescope and other technologies.

A co-worker of mine is an amateur astronomer.  He has an elaborate array of equipment which he sets up in his back yard.  He has a telescope with a computer-controlled pivoting mount.  The software on his laptop will point the telescope to a specific point in the sky to locate a nebula or whatever he is looking for.  It will move with the earth’s rotation and he gets some incredible photos. 
When I look up at what I can see of the universe, I see a dazzling assortment of cosmic raw materials just waiting for us to do something spectacular things with, once God turns it over to us.  But before He hands it all over to us, He wants to make sure that we fully discern the difference between the temporary things, which will soon fade away and the value of His things which will endure for eternity. 

As I have recently relocated back to the Seattle/Tacoma area, I drive by an air-base, where there are lots of military aircraft coming and going all of the time.  I have always liked aviation; but I remember when I was in the Air Force, that at the very end of the runway is a building called the "Alert Barn."  We also called it the "Ready Barn," because pilots, crew and aircraft were in a constant state of readiness.  These were fighter and interceptor aircraft; and at any time they needed to respond to unidentified aircraft.  The skies were constantly being watched – all of the way up to the Canada-Alaska border.  They were able to scramble aircraft at any moment.  Of course, there is no way of predicting whether or not there would be an incident to respond to in any given period of time.  You could say, “Nothing is going to going to happen today” and you could be right.  Maybe tomorrow or next week, there could potentially be a need to respond in a moment.  Days, weeks and months go by; but nonetheless, pilots, crew and aircraft need to be in a constant state of readiness.  This is very similar to us... another very important part of our focusing our present on the future spiritual goal is to be ready.  God’s instruction to us is very specific on this:

Matthew 25:13:
Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming. 

Luke 12:40:
Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

There appears to be two main components of being ready.  One of them is proving and the other is testing.  Every year, as we prepare for the Days of Unleavened Bread and the Passover, we examine ourselves:

II Corinthians 13:5:
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith.  Test yourselves.  Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you are disqualified. 

We all do this as a prerequisite to properly keeping the Passover.  Yet, proving and testing is ongoing.  

The phrsae "Test yourselves" is translated from the Greek  word "dokimazo" (Strongs 1381), which means to test (literally or figuratively) and by implication, to approve.  It can also mean to allow, discern, examine, prove, or try.  It is the same word used in these verses:

I Thessalonians 5:21:
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 

Ephesians 5:10:
Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. 

As we continue to live our daily lives in this godly path, we will be proving and testing ourselves, in all that we learn.  At the same time, God will also bring His own tests and trials upon us – trials which He will choose to show us the direction that He wants us to go; trials which we might not have had come to our minds; trials which He, using His great wisdom and by having His will done in teaching us things which we could not have learned on our own.  All of this will be part of making ourselves ready, and in all of this we will be fulfilling a scripture:

Revelation 19:
6:  And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, "Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! 
7:  Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife (the bride) has made herself ready."
8:  And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. 

The best that we can do to keep ourselves in a state of readiness is another way of expressing to God that we really do want His Kingdom more than anything else; and that nothing else matters.

This temporary life is a precursor to the real life which God has planned for us.  This earthy realm is a proving ground – testing our resolve to truly keep God's way, no matter what.  When one really grasps the potential of what God is offering us, it would be a tragic mistake to miss out on this very narrow window of opportunity, – this one-time, once-in-an-eternity offer.

The things all around us, which take up time and space for now, will one of these days be gone forever; and all of the bad things in this present evil world will also be gone away forever.  They will be replaced with the millennial rule of the Government of God on this earth; and eventually, the new Heaven and the new Earth:

Revelation 21:
1:  Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.  Also there was no more sea. 
2:  Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 
3:  And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people.  God Himself will be with them and be their God. 
4:  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.  There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."
5:  Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." 

So this temporary physical life is not just about life now.  It is really all about the next life – the real life which God is preparing us for!  With all the tests and trials that we go through in this life, our focus should be staying on the  path to eternal life, though  narrow and difficult.  Also, it is good to remember that God has personally hand-picked each and every one of us:

I Corinthians 12:18:
But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 

Another way of saying this is that it was God’s personal pleasure to tap each of us individually on the shoulder, and say to us, "I want you!"

One more word of encouragement is in Luke 12:32: 

Luke 12:32:
Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.