We sing: “One thing I ask, and I would seek: to see your beauty; to find you in the place your glory dwells. Better is one day in your house than thousands elsewhere…” We sing that song because David sang that song in Psalm 27. It’s all a little weird for we’re singing about “The Bug Zapper of God;” and David had already seen his friend, Uzzah, get zapped.
In Exodus 25, and as we saw last week, God instructs Moses to build the Ark of the Testimony and place it in the Tabernacle; it’s how Moses knows which way to go. About a year later, Moses and Israel find themselves at the edge of the Promised Land. Moses chooses twelve spies and sends them to spy out this land. In Numbers 13:20, he says, “Be of good courage.” “Courage is almost a contradiction in terms,” wrote GK Chesterton. “It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. ‘He that will lose his life the same shall save it.’”
At the end of 40 days, the twelve spies return. All agree that the land is good, but ten are terrified to enter because of the people that dwell there, and two—Joshua and Caleb—are encouraged to enter for they believe that God delights in them and that giants are not giant next to the Lord.
The people of Israel decide to stone Joshua and Caleb with stones. This makes some sense to me: The people knew that God was all-powerful and wise, but they didn’t know that he was good, and not just the “go to the dentist” kind of good, but the chocolate cake kind of good; he’s beautiful. “This is the knowledge of which we are most ignorant; for many men and women believe that God is almighty and has power to do everything, and that he is all wisdom and knows how to do everything, but that he is all love and is willing to do everything – there they stop. And this ignorance is what hinders those who most love God,” wrote Julian of Norwich.
Perhaps you feel that God has some land for you to occupy?
The Last time I preached on these verses was June 1st, 1997. I recently looked at my old notes and thought, “I never want to preach on those verses again.” But like a bug drawn to a bug zapper, I suppose I can’t help myself.
Twenty-six years ago, I preached on Numbers 13 and 14 and introduced our new building program: “Where the World Drives By.” I shared that real estate is not the Promised Land, but our lack of courage is the giant we face, and I shared that I thought the Lord wanted us to occupy some land. Our church had grown about ten-fold in four years. We had found land by the freeway (where the world drives by). Within six years, we had moved into our new building. But in four more years, I was tried and defrocked for publicly stating that I hoped that all things would be filled with the Glory of God… and we all lost the land.
For fifteen years I’ve wondered if I was wrong on June 1st, 1997. A big part of me did think, “How cool: ‘Where the world drives by’—a monument to Peter’s success.” But for fifteen years now, I’ve been thinking, “How ironic: ‘Where the world drives by’—Peter gets crucified.”
Well, the Glory of the Lord protects Joshua and Caleb from public stoning. The Lord then threatens to destroy Israel. Moses says to the Lord, “The nations… will say that it is because the Lord is not able to bring this people into the land that he swore to them, that he has destroyed them (same ‘them’) in the wilderness… please pardon the iniquity of this people.” The Lord says, “I have pardoned.” And then he swears saying, “As I live and as all the earth shall be filled (or ‘is filled’) with my glory, none of the men who have seen my glory shall see (or ‘do see’) the land that I swore to give to their fathers.”
If he sends these people to Sheol in the depths of the earth, it’s the same earth that he just swore would be filled with his glory, or is filled with his glory. And in Deuteronomy One, Moses reveals that he is one of these people, and yet he appears 1500 years later on the mountain in the Promised Land with Jesus… discussing “the exodus that Jesus is about to accomplish in Jerusalem.”
It’s as if Jesus is leaving this age and entering the age to come when all things are filled with the Glory of God—the thing that appeared on top of the Ark in the Tabernacle: Love and Life. When Jesus dies, the veil rips, and “saints” come out of tombs and enter the city. It’s like God said to Ezekiel, the bones in the valley of dry bones are the “whole house of Israel.”
Well, 3500 years ago, Israel did not get in except for Joshua, Caleb, and the children who “have no knowledge of good and evil (Deut. 1:39).”
Joshua and Caleb, have courage; they have a “strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.” Little children haven’t yet taken fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden and so have no ego to sacrifice, that is, no Messiah Complex to lose.
To enter the land, you have to surrender your Messiah complex to the Messiah; you have to surrender your “self-made man,” in order to become God’s man—the Messiah’s complex. And that takes courage. Caleb (of the house of Judah) follows Joshua (of the house of Joseph). Caleb is Hebrew for “dog.” And Joshua is Hebrew for Jesus (Jesus and his dog get in).
But where does Joshua get his courage? He abides in the Tabernacle, “The Bug Zapper of God.” Exodus 33:11 “When Moses turned again into the camp, Joshua would not depart from the tent.” What do you suppose Joshua saw, came to know, or experienced in the tent?
Because the Most Holy place is the presence of the age to come when the whole earth is filled with the Glory of God, I think he saw all things filled with Love, and he knew that Love is God, and Love is a constant decision to lose your life and find it—the life is in the blood. He saw the heart of God.
“This is the plan for the fulness of time to unite all things in him.” If you think of all things as the temple of God, and of the Most Holy place as the heart of God (“from the bosom of the Father”), the atonement becomes stunningly beautiful, sacrifice is no longer pain but endless delight, and you will have courage—you will “take heart.”
A heart constantly loses its life for the sake of the whole body; it constantly bleeds life. If a member of that body refuses to bleed but instead holds onto “the life,” it’s dead—it’s a vessel of wrath. But if a member loses its life, for the body, it finds its life; it’s a vessel of mercy—a blood vessel.
From outside of a body, sacrifice looks like death. But from inside of a body sacrifice is life. To enter the Holy of Holies is sacrifice. Jesus didn’t sacrifice so that you would never sacrifice. He sacrificed that together you would sacrifice and never stop. Love is a communion of sacrifice—one continual sacrifice—in one body. And Courage is the Life of Christ rising from within you like a fountain.
From outside the tent, we experience sacrifice as pain. From inside the tent, we know it as something else entirely. Today is my fortieth wedding anniversary. That was the day that I freely chose to fly into a bug zapper. But no one felt sorry for me. It wasn’t obedience to a dead law; I had caught a glimpse of the Life of Love inside one tent. And if you say, “Well that’s your story and not my story,” then you haven’t understood my message, Bride of Christ.
“One thing I ask, and I would seek: to see your beauty; to find you in the place your glory dwells.”
Of course, Joshua had courage, he had spent forty years entering and abiding in the Lord’s tent.
Entering the Tent and entering the Promised Land are the same thing and not just real estate.
So, should I have preached on these verses 26 years ago as part of a building campaign? From outside the tent, probably not. From inside the tent, where even the things I have intended for evil, God has always intended for good… absolutely Yes! By 30 AD, the conquest of Canaan appeared to have been an epic failure, except that it had set the stage for the revelation of God’s unlimited success: The Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, “where the world drives by.”
He’s in you; have courage.