Idolatry, The Sabbath, and God's Holy Tent

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Num 23:12 GW  Balaam answered, "I must say what the LORD tells me to say."

I feel a bit like Balaam today in that as I was doing my devotions this week, I came across Leviticus 26. I canít explain it, I can only say that God gave me a burning desire to share this chapter with you. I donít know how long this is going to take, but we will get back to Romans as soon as weíre finished.  

Sometimes, well meaning Christians have a tendency to bad-mouth this book because, well you know...itís Leviticus. Itís got all that ceremonial stuff in it. It contains what we consider to be bizarre civil laws that thankfully are no longer in effect.

But I think as we look at this particular chapter you will find much relevance for today. You will also find one of the clearest examples of Law and Gospel in all of Scripture.  

Whether it applies to you personally or the church in general today is not my concern. My concern is to be obedient to God and let the Holy Spirit do what He wills with this Word.

The chapter is broken down into three parts: Part 1 is Godís promises for those who keep His laws. Part 2 is Godís curses for those who break His laws, and part 3 is an affirmation of Godís promise to forgive when we respond to His call to repentance.

Lev 26:1 GW  The LORD continued, "Never make worthless idols or set up a carved statue or a sacred stone for yourselves. Never cut figures in stone to worship them in your country, because I am the LORD your God.  

Much of what we read in this chapter could be called typology. We talked about typology last week and how the NT fulfillment or antitype is always superior to the OT type. Unfortunately, sometimes the NT type of sin is also superior to the OT type.  

For instance, I am really not too worried about any of you carving a statue or chiseling a stone for the purpose of bowing down to worship it. This type of idolatry would be easy to deal with. But I am worried about the idols that we have created in our culture today. They are far more subtle and far more powerful.

TV, sports, food, materialism, self, sex, power, and more all vie for our attention and pull us away from God. What is idol worship? Idol worship can be defined as anything that we turn to or rely on or give more honor to than God.

Idolatry is at the heart of every addiction, and every compulsion. If you donít think we have a problem with addictive and compulsive behavior in this country, you need to get your head out of the sand.  

The addict or compulsive person runs to his harmful behavior or idol for comfort and peace in times of stress and pain. This in spite of the fact that God wants us to turn to Him for our comfort. He sent the Holy Spirit to every believer, why do you think He calls Him the Comforter?

Why did He do that? He did that so we could run to Him for our comfort and not turn to something that has the life and IQ of a block of wood or a slab of granite. The psalmist said,

Psa 115:8 GW  Those who make idols end up like them. So does everyone who trusts them.

If we could just step back and take a look at our lives of idolatry, we would see the truth of that statement. We become what we worship. But unfortunately, it usually takes some sort of catastrophic event, some extremely low point in our life, (that has been caused by our addiction or compulsive behavior) to cause us to see the error of our ways.  

And on the way to that low point we do great damage to ourselves and others. Do you know why all us recovering addicts and idolaters have slanted foreheads? Because after hitting our low spot, we finally get it. We finally realize that our only help and comfort has to come from God. So God says, ďNever make worthless idols.Ē

(2)  Observe my days of worship and respect my holy tent. I am the LORD.  

Friends, is this so difficult today? Is it that difficult to set aside a day for worship? As we mentioned last week most all the days of worship of the OT were ďtypes of Christ.Ē They no longer need to be celebrated according to the Apostle Paul. The only one that remains in place is the one we find firmly in the ten commandments. Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.

This issue of the Sabbath Day has been a thorn in my side from day one. I have never been able to figure out what we need to do with that command! We canít just throw it out, itís one of the Ten Commandments! True, the NT practice was to observe a day of worship on Sunday....the Lordís Day, but the true Sabbath Day is Saturday.

Even in the NT, whenever the Sabbath Day was mentioned, it was Saturday! How do we square this up with the NT worship practices. Arenít we disobeying the Lordís command when we worship on Sunday?

Arenít we disobeying the Lordís command when we work on Sunday?  Letís spend a little time examining this today.

The essence of this command is to honor God and His creative work. It is a memorial to Him. God created the world in six days and on the seventh day He rested. So we are commanded to honor Him by remembering His resting one day every week.

In the OT that day was designated as Saturday, in the NT, God gave individuals the freedom to choose their Sabbath day of rest.

Col 2:16 GW  Therefore, let no one judge you because of what you eat or drink or about the observance of annual holy days, New Moon Festivals, or weekly worship days.

Does this invalidate the third commandment? No!  The command to remember and rest remains in place, only the day may be changed. We could rephrase this command by saying, ďRemember the resting day and set one apart for God. One day a week, plan to rest from your labors and on that day, enjoy all that God has given you!

The only interruption to your plans should be if there is some sort of a need to express mercy  involving   yourself, your family, or your neighbor.  (By the way, be careful what you deem merciful, lest you justify unnecessary work)  Jesus clearly demonstrated this exception as He healed people on the Sabbath. And reminded the legalists of His day:

Luk 14:5 GW  Jesus asked them, "If your son or your ox falls into a well on a day of worship, wouldn't you pull him out immediately?"

So how do we honor God and His creative work on this day? Simply enjoy Him, enjoy your salvation, enjoy His creation, enjoy your family, (biological and church.) Does it have to be Sunday? Of course not! It can be any day of the week. What did Jesus say about the Sabbath?
Mar 2:27 GW  Then he added, "The day of worship (rest) was made for people, not people for the day of worship.

We live in a frenzied world and itís getting harder and harder to catch a break. But remember, God designed  you for this break, this break is for you and you do damage to the temple of God (your body) when you ignore it!

And you do damage to the other temple of God (the local congregation) when you ignore it. This demand to observe rest from your labors, is a commandment from God. McDonaldís says you deserve a break today, God says your once a week break is mandatory.

I can hear all the protesting yea buts going through your busy little minds even as I speak. Yea but I gotta do this, yea but I gotta do that, ....excuse the pun, but give it a rest. If you want to throw out the third commandment, go ahead, but then you might as well throw out all the others?

Remember the Lordís mandatory day of rest.  Keep it holy. Set it apart on your day planner and plan for it. Make it a day to worship Him with your family (biological and church) Enjoy Him, enjoy your salvation, enjoy His creation, enjoy each other. This is what the Sabbath is to be because it is a type of heaven.

Next, God says, ďrespect My holy tent.Ē In the OT the holy tent was the tabernacle. It was where God dwelt with His people and it was to be respected. It was to be held in awe with fear and trembling. It was not to be polluted with sin in any way.

Let me ask you, where is Godís holy tent today?

1Co 6:19-20 GW  Don't you know that your body is a temple that belongs to the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit, whom you received from God, lives in you. You don't belong to yourselves.  (20)  You were bought for a price. So bring glory to God in the way you use your body.

Oh Oh! The way I eat and exercise, I wonder if I really believe this! How about you? What are you doing to your body with your habits and  compulsions? God lives in you! You are the holy of holies! Your body is His home and this home is superior to the OT type in every way!

This home brought top dollar in the market. it was paid for by the bloody sacrifice of Jesus Christ. How many of you would spend top dollar on a house today and then ignore itís upkeep. Sadly, many of us put more time and effort into cleaning up and maintaining our houses than we do with respecting and maintaining ourselves.

How many of you would spend top dollar on a house and then throw rocks through the windows, or punch holes in the walls. Yet, every time we engage in destructive habits thatís what we are doing to the mansion that was bought with the blood of Jesus.

Brothers and sisters, let us draw a line in the sand today and stop any purposeful destruction of our bodies, rather let us bring glory to God in the way we use our body. Itís not ours! It belongs to Him!

But, God does not just dwell in your body. He dwells in the bodies of other believers as well. So how are you treating them? Are you treating them with respect and reverence? Listen to what the Bible says about the way we are to treat other believers.

Phi 2:3 GW  Don't act out of selfish ambition or be conceited. Instead, humbly think of others as being better than yourselves.

Why should you think of others better than yourself. Because Someone who is far better than you dwells in them.....Almighty God in the form of the Holy Spirit. Remember that as you interact with others in this congregation. Remember that as you interact with your spouse or your children

Stop throwing rocks through the beautiful stained glass windows of others with your harsh treatment and harsh words.

But thatís not the only place where God dwells today. His holy tent is also found in individual congregations. Paul was not addressing individuals but the entire congregation at Corinth when he said,

1Co 3:16-17 GW  Don't you know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?  (17)  If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him because God's temple is holy. You are that holy temple!

All that we are at Living Word must be viewed from this perspective. God dwells in our fellowship with each other. We are to hold that dwelling in fear and reverence. What does that mean?

First and foremost it means that we are to practice church discipline. This was the gist of Paulís admonition to the Corinthians. If you recall, they had a member of their congregation, (the Corinthian temple of God) who was in an incestuous relationship. Paul urged them to confront the man for the purpose of restoring him and the congregation to a fitting place for Godís  dwelling.

In other words just as the individual temples (you and I)  need to confess and repent of our sin, so it is necessary for the corporate temple of the Holy Spirit.

Mat 18:15 GW  "If a believer does something wrong, go, confront him when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have won back that believer.

What else do we need to do as the Body of Christ to demonstrate reverence and fear of the Lord? We need to recognize His holy presence in our time of worship. Where two or three are gathered in My name, I am in the midst of them.

God is here, in our midst every Sunday. Whether you feel His presence or not, does not change the fact that He is here. When you or I realize this truth, it ought to change the way we approach our worship.  ďRespect My holy tent. Respect My holy presence.

Psa 122:1 GW  A song by David for going up to worship. I was glad when they said to me, "Let's go to the house of the LORD."

Why? Because David knew he was coming into the Lordís holy presence.  What are some things you can do as an individual or a family to demonstrate such gladness? What can you do to express your eagerness to meet with the Lord on our preferred day of worship?

Maybe you can commit to being part of a crew to help prepare the sanctuary for worship! Set up for worship, decorate the altar, prepare the communion elements, be a greeter or an usher. Coordinating the sound system.

Maybe you can strive to arrive at church early, anxiously anticipating this time in His presence. Quieting your soul before the Lord and preparing your heart to worship and enjoy Him.

Maybe you could purpose in your heart to participate attentively in all aspects of the service.  
Maybe you could strive to teach your children this awe and respect for the meeting at an early age.

They need to know that you are meeting with someone very special here. Someone who is holy, yet approachable, and worthy of worshiping and rejoicing over.  They need to know that this is Godís holy tent. That God is here.

Maybe you have a musical gift that you could prepare as a special offering to the Lord to bless Him and others.

Maybe you could tell others about these meetings with Him and invite them to come and taste and see that the Lord is good!

There is much more to cover in this chapter, but weíve run out of time for this week.  Letís recap what we have discovered so far.

1. Never make idols, never substitute things or activities for God. He is to be your source of comfort and your help in every need.

2. Plan for and observe a weekly day of rest. It remains a command from God. Set aside a time to worship God and enjoy all His blessings. Ink it on your Day planner!

3. Reverence Godís holy tent. Not only your individual body, but also the Body of believers and everything connected to our fellowship and worship.  

Please remember, these are not just harsh laws from God, itís true if they are ignored we bring judgement upon ourselves,  but they also bring promise of great blessing to those who do them, and weíll look at those blessings next time.

Letís pray: O Lord, forgive us when we have sought comfort from other sources rather than You, and deliver us from those things that have now enslaved us and are causing damage to your temple. Lord forgive us for forgetting Your command to remember the day of rest and set it apart for You! Forgive us for not reverencing the time that You give us for meeting with You in worship and fellowship. Give us a heart that eagerly awaits and anticipates our days of worship.  Let us say with David, I was glad when they said let us go to the house of the Lord! And Father even as we close this message, help us to eagerly await to hear from You next week as we hear of Your great blessings for those who obey You. In Jesus name we pray, Amen