Tag Archives: Divine Presence

Where Do We Encounter God?

They shall make for Me a Sanctuary and I shall dwell among them.

Exodus 25:8

The Midrash notes that God did not say, “I shall dwell within it” (the Sanctuary), but “I shall dwell among them” (the Israelites), i.e. the Divine Presence will be within each person.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day,” Tammuz 26
Aish.com

That sounds incredibly like this:

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

Acts 2:1-4 (NASB)

Well, maybe not exactly. Actually, the “Pentecost event” sounds more like this:

The Lord descended in a cloud and spoke to him, and He increased some of the spirit that was on him and bestowed it on the seventy elders. And when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, but they did not continue.

Numbers 11:25 (Chabad Torah Commentary)

So we have two examples from the Bible, Numbers 11:25 and Acts 2:1-4, where we witness the Holy Spirit of God being imparted to groups of devout Jews and whereupon they prophesy. Then we have a Midrash on a portion of the Torah that says it was God’s intent to dwell among Israel by dwelling within each individual Israelite, rather than in (or in addition to) the Sanctuary itself.

When the Midrash states God did not say, “I shall dwell within it” (the Sanctuary), but “I shall dwell among them”, it seems more like clever word play than an obvious interpretation leading to the aforementioned conclusion.

Still, it’s a compelling thought, since it summons images of God desiring, even as He commands the Mishkan to be built, to dwell within the devout of His people.

But dwelling among His people can also be compared to this:

They heard the sound of the Lord God moving about in the garden at the breezy time of day; and the man and his wife hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. The Lord God called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”

Genesis 3:8-9 (JPS Tanakh)

Here too we see God “dwelling” among His people in Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden) but we don’t see the Divine Presence dwelling within Adam and Havah (Eve). Can we say that the Divine Presence dwelt among Israel with the Tabernacle (and later the Temple) as the focus of His presence in the same manner as He dwelt (or at least visited) the Garden?

After all, the Midrash presented by Rabbi Twerski isn’t the only one referencing Exodus 25:8:

And they shall make Me a sanctuary: And they shall make in My name a house of sanctity.

Rashi’s commentary on Exodus 25:8

Rabbi Prof. David Golinkin
Rabbi Prof. David Golinkin

Rabbi Professor David Golinkin, President of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, wrote a commentary on Exodus 25:8 in 2003 called Why Do We Need Synagogues in which he offered numerous Midrashim on this particular verse.

Of all of the Midrashim proffered, he believes this one best defines the reason for the commandment to build the Mishkan:

This whole matter of the Menorah, the Table, the Altar, the boards, the Tent, the curtains, and the utensils – what is it for? Said Israel before the Holy One Blessed be He: Lord of the Universe, the kings of the nations have a tent and a table and a menorah and incense and these are the trappings of kingship, for every king needs this. You are our king, our redeemer, our savior – shouldn’t you have the trappings of kingship until all people know that you are the king? God said to them: My children, flesh and blood need all that, but I do not, because I don’t eat or drink and I don’t need light… [Finally God relented:] If so, do what you want, but do it as I instruct you: As it is written: “And let them make me a sanctuary… make the menorah… make the table… make the altar…” (Midrash Aggadah to Parashat Terumah, p. 170).

The Jewish people built the mishkan and later the mikdash and later the synagogue because they – like all human beings – had a need for a physical place in which to worship God.

We are physical beings designed to live in the material world. God is Spirit and exists outside of Creation and indeed, there is no place where God does not and cannot exist. We are limited and He is limitless. So if He desires to dwell among us, where do we meet? We cannot go to His realm for how does a finite human visit infinity? He must somehow “reduce” Himself and come to us where we live. It was for us that all of Creation was made.

And who knows what aspect of the Almighty was “moving about in the garden” on that breezy day?

But R. Golinkin also quoted his father Rabbi Noah Golinkin from the senior R. Golinkin’s booklet Say Something New Each Day (1973, p. 18):

God, where are You?
Where do I find You?
You do not live here.
You have no address.
The Universe is filled with Your glory.
You live in every mountain
and in every valley
and on the busy turnpike outside.
You live in the beautiful riot of many colors
of the Indian summer;
and You live in my soul.

“You live in my soul.” But there’s more:

And yet
I have built for You a special building,
Beautiful, dignified, majestic,
Intimate, warm and friendly.
For whom did I build it?
For You and me.
For our conversations together.
For Your glory, O God,
And for my humble need.
I should be talking to You –
When I see You in the beautiful sunrise,
When I see You in the innocent smile of a child
When I see You in the kind deed of a man.

Inner lightIt seems there doesn’t have to be an inconsistency between God dwelling among us and God dwelling within our souls. He speaks to us from within ourselves but also meets with us in Holy places of worship.

I should say that, particularly in Judaism, personal worship and study is conducted in the home and the synagogue is reserved for communal worship and study. Jews pray individually but to join a minyan, must go to the synagogue.

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone…

Genesis 2:18 (NASB)

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brothers to dwell together in unity!

Psalm 133:1 (NASB)

In the Garden, in the Mishkan, in the Temple, in the Synagogue, and dare I say it, in the Church, people were not meant to encounter God as individuals, because we can do that anywhere, including within our souls. God commanded the Mishkan to be built so that the community, the nation of Israel could gather and dwell with God.

The indwelling of the Spirit is inexorably coupled with the New Covenant:

Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.

Ezekiel 36:26-27 (NASB)

“Thus you will know that I am in the midst of Israel,
And that I am the Lord your God,
And there is no other;
And My people will never be put to shame.
It will come about after this
That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and daughters will prophesy,
Your old men will dream dreams,
Your young men will see visions.
Even on the male and female servants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days.”

Joel 2:27-29 (NASB)

In Gan Eden, human beings had an unparalleled intimacy with God which they took for granted because they had never known separation from God. It was only after the first act of disobedience that they truly understood was it was to be separated from God, the anguish, and agony of having known God and then becoming alienated from Him. How like our Master when he took upon himself the sins of humanity, thus for the first time also becoming separate from the Father:

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” that is, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?”

Matthew 27:46 (NASB)

exileHumanity has been separated from God for virtually all of human history. And yet not only has God desired to once again dwell with us, but as the Midrash testifies, we have yearned to dwell with Him. But once broken, shattered, torn asunder, intimacy with God is not so easily recovered. We see a series of steps, from the Mishkan, to the Temple, to the Master (John 1:14) and the Master’s Good News that the New Covenant was (is) near, to the giving of the Spirit to the Jews (Acts 2) and the Gentiles (Acts 10).

But the best is yet to come.

While most Christians don’t give much serious thought to Midrash, it’s a reminder that the desire for intimacy with God is much older than the Church and that the people who authored the Bible also witnessed the Divine Presence descending upon a structure that man built at the command of God.

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the sons of Israel would set out; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day when it was taken up. For throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel.

Exodus 40:34-38 (NASB)

The Divine Presence of God descended upon the Tabernacle but God also dwelt within the souls of each individual Jew. Messiah will someday come to rebuild the Temple, but Paul also called our bodies Temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). We don’t have to conclude that an infinite God can only reside within one domicile within our world, for nothing is impossible with God.

But if not for human frailty and folly, where would God be to be among us?

The purpose of the tabernacle and the subsequent Temples was “they shall make me a sanctuary that I may dwell amongst them” (Exodus 25:8).

The great kabbalist Rabbi Isaiah Halevi Horowitz (1560-1630), author of the monumental work the Sheloh, writes that since the verse employs the plural “them” rather than the singular, the Torah must be referring not to the sanctuary but to the people themselves.

According to this mystical interpretation, God’s commandment was never for a home of gold, silver and marble. Rather, God’s desire is that we create a space in our hearts and souls for him to abide in. Our very beings should function as portable temples that elevate our lives to be sanctified wherever we are.

-Rabbi Shlomo Zarchi
“Torah: Why do we pursue justice? The answer lies inside all of us” – March 7, 2013
JWeekly.com

R. Twersky concludes his commentary on a similar note:

If my relationship to God is limited to going to the Sanctuary and praying for my needs, then I am merely using Him, and God becomes an external object. But when I make His will mine, then His will resides within me and He becomes part of me. This is undoubtedly what the Zohar means by, “Israel, the Torah, and God are one unit,” because the Torah, which is the Divine will, is inseparable from God, and when one incorporates the Torah with one’s own code of conduct and values, one unites with God.

PrayingWe meet God in multiple venues in the present world, within our churches and synagogues, but also within ourselves. But even as God resides within our souls and as His Spirit infuses our flesh, the union is still incomplete. The word is not yet written upon circumcised hearts. The Messiah has not yet brought that to us.

So we yearn. Our souls groan for what they don’t know but have once known in antediluvian ages past. May the Spirit of God quicken within us and may Messiah come soon and in our days.

Amen.

Advertisements

If You Could Personally Witness Just One Event in the Bible…

Have you ever read a passage of the Bible and thought, Oh, I wish I were there! I have. I have longed to be the third dude on the road to Emmaus, listening to Yeshua expound on the Messiah’s role.

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Lk. 23:7)

Being present on Shavuot (Pentecost) when the Holy Spirit birthed a revival in Jerusalem would have been amazing. Many would, no doubt, choose to witness the parting of the Red Sea or the crucifixion of Yeshua. As for me, I would choose something in the future. I have always been intrigued by the prophets in the eleventh chapter of Revelation. These two witness appear sometime during the Great Tribulation and proceed to prophesy for three and a half years.

-Ron Cantor
“The Cantor Comment: Fire-Breathing Prophets!”
maozblog.com

Actually, I share in Cantor’s first wish. I’ve always been slightly annoyed that Luke didn’t include what Jesus actually said when he “explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” I want to know. Certain parts of my life would go a whole lot easier if we just had a detailed “map” of how Jesus saw the various portions of the Torah and the Prophets which referred to him.

Alas, such is not to be.

I was considering leaving a comment on the blog with Cantor’s article, but his story really didn’t seem to be asking the question I wanted to answer. I wanted to answer the question, If you could personally witness just one event that occurred in the Bible, which one would it be?

Here’s mine:

From it Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet. When they entered the tent of meeting, and when they approached the altar, they washed, just as the Lord had commanded Moses. He erected the court all around the tabernacle and the altar, and hung up the veil for the gateway of the court. Thus Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the sons of Israel would set out; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day when it was taken up. For throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel.

Exodus 40:31-38 (NASB)

I haven’t literally dreamed of being there, but if it were possible, it would be my fervent wish. Imagine the scene. Moses has just finished erecting the Tabernacle. Millions of people are surrounding the structure, waiting in hushed anticipation, expecting a miracle, expecting God.

Torah at SinaiThen, something appears from the sky and begins its descent toward the Tabernacle. It probably looks like a big cloud, but it would be familiar to any one who had been in the company of the Israelites and who had been present at Sinai for the giving of the Torah.

The Torah text doesn’t describe it this way, but I imagine this event happens at night. The cloud is slightly illuminated from within, but when it enters the tent, the darkened structure bursts into magnificent, blazing light. Millions of people cry out as one, praising God and glorifying His Name.

This probably isn’t the typical scene most Christians would want to attend. Most believers would likely choose an event from the New Testament, being present at the Olivet Discourse, witnessing the resurrection or the ascension, perhaps accompanying Paul on one of his journeys, but for me, nothing describes the desire of God to dwell among His people quite like the end of the book of Exodus.

Now I turn it over to you. If you could be present during any event that happened in the Bible, what would it be and why?

God Within Us

pillaroffireThey shall make for Me a Sanctuary and I shall dwell among them.

Exodus 25:8

The Midrash notes that God did not say, “I shall dwell within it” (the Sanctuary), but “I shall dwell among them” (the Israelites), i.e. the Divine Presence will be within each person.

There are two types of possible relationships. A person may relate to an object, which is a one-way relationship, since the object cannot reciprocate, or a person may react to God and to people, which should be a two-way relationship. Another difference between relating to objects and to beings is that things should be used, whereas God and people should be loved. Unfortunately, the reverse may occur, wherein people fall in love with things but they use God and people. People who behave this way perceive God and people as if they were objects. Inasmuch as the love of oneself is an inevitable fact, love of God and people can occur only when they are permitted to become part of oneself, because then one loves them as one does one’s own eyes and ears.

If my relationship to God is limited to going to the Sanctuary and praying for my needs, then I am merely using Him, and God becomes an external object. But when I make His will mine, then His will resides within me and He becomes part of me. This is undoubtedly what the Zohar means by, “Israel, the Torah, and God are one unit,” because the Torah, which is the Divine will, is inseparable from God, and when one incorporates the Torah with one’s own code of conduct and values, one unites with God.

Today I shall…

…try to make my relationship with God more than an object relationship, by incorporating the Torah to be my will.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Tammuz 26”
Aish.com

The midrash suggests something about Judaism that most Christians don’t see…the idea that there is something of God’s essence or spirit inside each Jewish person and within Israel, the Jewish nation. We tend to think of the Holy Spirit as being given only at Acts 2 to the apostles and subsequently to each Jewish and non-Jewish person who comes to faith in Christ. In Jewish midrash, this event, or something like it, would have occurred at the end of the book of Exodus.

OK, midrash isn’t scripture, so I can’t say that indeed, a portion of the Divine Presence really did inhabit each and every Israelite who lived during the time of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and beyond. But at least in post-Biblical times, if not before, Judaism had the concept of a personal “indwelling” of God as well as God’s general presence among corporate Israel.

No, I’m not forgetting this:

So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord. Also, he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people, and stationed them around the tent. Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him; and He took of the Spirit who was upon him and placed Him upon the seventy elders. And when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied.

Numbers 11:24-25 (NASB)

Not literally every Israelite had this Spirit, only Moses and the seventy elders. But this event is remarkably similar to the event of the giving of the Spirit in Acts 2 and the Spirit in both scriptures is given for the same reason: empowerment. The seventy elders required the Spirit of Hashem in order to judge with fairness and wisdom that matched God’s standards, and the apostles needed wisdom and empowerment to exceed their own human limits and to boldly go forth as emissaries of Moshiach to Jerusalem, Samaria, and beyond.

But Christianity tends to sell the average Israelite in the Tanakh (Old Testament) short. Some Christians hold themselves up as superior spiritually and personally to the Israelites because of the belief that the Holy Spirit automatically inhabited them when they confessed Christ during an altar call or other similar circumstance.

AbrahamI’m having a tough time believing that I have a closer relationship with God than men like Abraham (who we have no record of a Spirit coming upon) or Moses, both of whom spoke with God personally. What was the experience of an Israelite farmer or shepherd who brought a sacrifice to the Mishkah, who brought a Todah (thanksgiving) offering, who approached a God who actually, physically inhabited the Tabernacle as the Divine Presence? What was it like to actually see the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night?

Can we say that the hearts and souls of the Children of Israel were empty of God as He dwelt among them in an incredibly tangible form?

In Torah-study the person is devoted to the subject that he wishes to understand and comes to understand. In davening the devotion is directed to what surpasses understanding.

In learning Torah the Jew feels like a pupil with his master; in davening – like a child with his father.

-“Today’s Day”
Thursday, Tammuz 26, 5703
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe; Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

Sometimes Christians believe they are more “spiritual” than religious Jews, but one of the reasons I tend to read and quote from sources such as Chabad.org and Aish.com is that they show me a spirituality in Judaism that I don’t always find in Christianity. This isn’t to say that there isn’t great spirituality in the church, far from it. It’s just that I don’t believe we have to make an “either/or” selection. I think that God dwelt among and within His people Israel in the desert of Sinai. I think He did so in a very physical and human way during the days when Jesus walked the earth.

And I believe that God is among His people Israel, the Jewish people even today. This does not undo the fact that God is also among and within the Gentiles who are called by His Name in the church as well.

No man can claim to have reached the ultimate truth as long as there is another who has not.

No one is redeemed until we are all redeemed.

Ultimate truth is an unlimited light—and if it is unlimited, how could it shine in one person’s realm and not in another’s?

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“All or No One”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe, Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

messiah-prayerI’m not saying that coming to faith in the Messiah doesn’t mean anything, quite the opposite. I’m also not saying there are two paths to salvation, one for the Gentile and one for the Jew (although very soon, I plan on expanding the definition of the “good news” of Messiah considerably in one of my blog posts). I am saying that God didn’t leave His people Israel to save the Gentiles, since we Gentiles only have access to God through the Abrahamic covenant, which comes to us only through Israel; the Jewish people.

I’m also saying this:

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:9 (NASB)

This fits with what I just quoted from Rabbi Freeman (though I doubt the Rabbi would have applied it as such). In Christianity, we evangelize to take the good news of Messiah to all people. Judaism doesn’t evangelize but believes that all will be drawn to God through the Messiah, both Jews and Gentiles. From both points of view, God must be present and active in the lives of everybody everywhere, not just “special people.”

A friend of mine sent me a link to a commentary on last week’s Torah reading and pointed me to the last paragraph in the article:

The Midrash of Rav Yitzchak concludes that even today Elijah and Moshiach are still recording accounts of all our deeds to be included in future holy books. These works are sealed and affirmed by God Himself. From this we learn that our actions are not something between us and God alone, but must be done in such a way as to bring the respect and admiration of the surrounding society so as to promote the observance of Torah.

Again, this is midrash and not scripture, but it suggests something that “either/or” literalists may never consider. That the names of the “elect” in the book of the Lamb were written and sealed from before creation, and that names and acts are continually written inside the sealed book. If time were linear for God, words like “before,” “during,” and “after would mean something, but God exists quite outside of linear time. So when something was written before creation, since it is written outside of the linear stream of time and outside the bounds of a created universe, does our concept of “before” that exists within the universe even apply?

Who knows?

Inner lightI was talking earlier to some people at work about genius and “thinking outside the box.” Smart and clever people can be creative and even occasionally brilliant within their own “box” or how they conceptualize the world around them. Only a true genius or arguably a mystic can see themselves, how they think, and what they think about, from outside their own box, observing themselves, observing what they are considering, and realizing that there is an entirely different set of situations and circumstances outside of the box we continually are trying to put God in.

God’s Divine Presence was “contained” in the Tabernacle because God chose to allow it, but God also said that “Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool” (Isaiah 66:1, Acts 7:49).

There are great mysteries about the nature of salvation, who is saved, and the role of Messiah in the salvation of Israel and the nations. While it is important for us to examine the meaning of all this, it is arrogant for us to assume that we can come to an understanding equal to God’s.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

-Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 5

How is God with the Jewish people today? When God approaches us, are we able to respond to Him? Can we change our mind about God? How does God indwell human beings? I’m not convinced we should be absolutely sure how to answer any of those questions. All I know is that we should all sincerely seek God, and we should all sincerely seek peace, mercy, and justice by performing them day by day.

As it is said, when we study, we are a student and God is our Teacher. When we pray, we are a child and God is our Father. As it has also been said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master” (Matthew 10:24). Whether we see ourselves as students, as disciples, as children, or as slaves, we can only humbly turn to God, walk before Him, and wait His good pleasure to reveal what He will.

And only He will judge.

Addendum: See Rabbi Carl Kinbar’s comments below for some corrections to what I’ve written and quoted from in this blog post.

Terumah: Waiting for God On Earth

When dedicating the Beis HaMikdash, King Shlomo exclaimed in wonderment: “Will G-d indeed dwell on this earth? The heavens and the celestial heights cannot contain You, how much less this house!” For the Beis HaMikdash was not merely a centralized location for man’s worship of G-d, it was a place where G-d’s Presence was and is manifest. Although “the entire earth is full of His glory,” G-d’s Presence is not tangibly felt. He permeates all existence, but in a hidden way. The Beis HaMikdash, by contrast, was “the place where He chose to cause His name to dwell.” There was no concealment; His Presence was openly manifest.

Why was man’s activity necessary? Because G-d’s intent is that the revelation of His Presence be internalized within the world, becoming part of the fabric of its existence. Were the revelation to come only from above, it would merely nullify worldliness. To cite a parallel: when G-d revealed Himself on Mount Sinai, the world ground to a standstill. “No bird chirped… nor did an ox bellow, nor the sea roar.” Although G-dliness was revealed within the world, material existence did not play a contributory role.

When, by contrast, the dwelling for G-d is built by man himself part of the material world the nature of the materials used is elevated. This enables G-d’s Presence to be revealed within these entities while they continue to exist within their own context.

-Rabbi Eli Touger
“A Dwelling Among Mortals”
from the In the Garden of the Torah series
Adapted from
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. III, p. 902;
Vol. XVI, p. 286ff; Vol. XXI, p. 146ff
Chabad.org

The building of a Mishkan foreshadows the transformation of the entire world into a dwelling place for G-d. This is accomplished through Torah, Divine service, and deeds of kindness – the “three pillars” upon which the world stands. (Avos 1:2.)
-Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XVI, pp. 292-297.

In this week’s Torah portion, we see the Children of Israel being commanded to bring contributions that will be used as materials for building the Mishkan (Tabernacle) in the desert. Moses is provided with what me might think of as a “diagram” of the Heavenly Court and told to direct the Children of Israel to build, for all intents and purposes, a “scale model” so that God might dwell among His people. This is a strange enough request when you try to picture the “environment” where God dwells in the Heavens, and then imagine what it would be like to build a physical representation of that metaphysical “place.”

But it gets even stranger.

Thus, it is understood that although the construction of the Mishkan and the bringing of donations had to have happened in accordance with only one of these three schedules, all three opinions are true as they relate to the spiritual Mishkan within the heart of every Jew.
-Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. VI, pp. 153-156.

The use of the term ‘them’ rather than ‘it’ has been interpreted as a message that the purpose of the Mishkan sanctuary was to facilitate the dwelling of the Divine Presence within the heart of every Jew. The role of the Mishkan in the wilderness and during the first four centuries of a Jewish presence in Eretz Yisrael was perpetuated by the first and second Beit Hamikdash Temples which spanned a period of nine centuries. All of this is today but a memory to which a visit to the Kotel (Western Wall) gives a special dimension. This does not mean, however, that a Jew cannot build a mini-sanctuary in his heart even today. The Divine Presence is waiting to dwell within the hearts of all Jews if only they will let it enter!

-Rabbi Mendel Weinbach
‘The “Holy Sites”‘
For the week ending 8 February 2003 / 6 Adar I 5763
Ohr Somayach

If it seems unusual or even incomprehensible to be able to build a “scale model” of the Heavenly Court and then expect God to take up residence, how much more incredible is it to expect God to take up residence within the “spiritual Mishkan within the heart of every Jew?”

Oh, have you heard of this before?

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. –Acts 2:1-4 (ESV)

Perhaps this isn’t so strange, since the Jewish disciples of the Master had a precedent for the Pentecost event act at Sinai, but what came next was completely unexpected.

While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days. –Acts 10:44-48 (ESV)

God desires to dwell among His people, which we can understand, because God once did dwell among His people in Eden before the fall. God once again, though in a somewhat different sense, arranged to dwell among His people Israel, and that dwelling was to be a light to the nations. As part of the process of God being among man, each Jew was to consider that the Divine Presence was also dwelling within each of them. This was repeated at the Pentecost event and while all of that is magnificent, the truly amazing thing in the eyes of God’s chosen ones, was (and perhaps still is for some Jewish people) that the Creator extended His splendid and compassionate grace, even to the Gentiles.

But is this the whole story and, now that Christianity boasts of the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit,” is this work finally complete?

On the ninth day of the month of Av (“Tish’ah B’Av”) we fast and mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Both the First Temple (833-423 bce) and the Second Temple (349 bce-69 ce) were destroyed on this date. The Shabbat preceding the fast day is called the “Shabbat of Vision,” for on this Shabbat we read a chapter from the Prophets (Isaiah 1:1-27) that begins, “The vision of Isaiah…”

On the “Shabbat of Vision,” says Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, each and every one of us is granted a vision of the third and final Temple — a vision that, to paraphrase the Talmud, “though we do not see ourselves, our souls see.” This vision evokes a profound response in us, even if we are not consciously aware of the cause of our sudden inspiration.

Adapted by Yanki Tauber
“Shabbat of Vision”
Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Chabad.org

I previously mentioned that Christianity abandoned a major portion of it’s history and heritage by tossing the Jewish foundation of our faith aside, so I can understand that the church would view any Jewish “vision” of the Third Temple with skepticism if not utter disbelief. Perhaps they are right, but could there be any way to reconcile all of the imagery we have of the bodies of believers being as Temples for the Spirit of God and the coming of a Third, physical Temple where God will once again dwell among His people Israel?

Maybe.

Especially in western thought, we tend to see conditions as “either or”. Either the Spirit dwells in the Temple, or it dwells within the heart of the believer. For some reason, it can’t be both, although I’m not sure why. After all, in Judaism, the Divine Presence dwelt within the Mishkan, but it also dwelt within each Jewish heart in some mysterious, spiritual, and mystic way. God, in a metaphysical manner, dwelt within the Heavenly court, but He also made it possible for a physical replica of His “abode” to be created among His people Israel so He could also dwell among men, even though no structure could possibly contain Him.

God’s desire to be among us is fraught with problems when we actually make ourselves wonder how it is possible, and yet we see reliably, that God has indeed done so, in Eden, in the Mishkah, and in Solomon’s Temple. Jews are said to be able to have a vision, on a mystic level, of the Third Temple on the Shabbat just before the Ninth of Av. What are the Jewish people supposed to see and understand? Perhaps this.

The First Temple was built on Divine command and assistance. The Second Temple was constructed at the orders of a human being. The level of revelation associated with it, and the accompanying miracles, were far less intense. Yet, precisely because it came to be built through human efforts and on human initiative, it had a greater impact on this world. It was larger than the first Temple, taking up more of this world in terms of space, and it lasted longer, occupying this world for a greater length of time.

The Third Temple, like the Shabbat on which we are shown its image, combines the strengths of both the first and second Temples. It combines the Divine revelation, an inspiration from Above, along with human effort, an inspiration from below, to create a permanent home for G-dliness. Thus is the lesson and inspiration of this Shabbat. We are given a Divinely revealed vision which we must combine with human efforts to permanently alter the world we live in, and, even more challenging, ourselves.

-Chana Kroll
“Make It Real”
Shabbat Chazon
chabad.org

Repeatedly, we’ve seen how God must contribute to the construction of His dwelling on Earth, but so must man. While God does not need human beings to offer their efforts in the service of Divine tasks, we see in the Bible how people are continually involved in “building” with God and repairing the world. While God does not “need” our help, something about the nature of God dwelling among us requires that we be actively engaged. In this, we must take “ownership” of our desire to return the holy sparks within us to Him, not by our going up to God, but in allowing God to come down to us. Somehow, God dwelling within us and God dwelling among us in a Temple are all interconnected. We must change the world for Him but we must also change ourselves. Paradoxically, we can do neither without God’s help, but then, those tasks cannot occur without us, either. I can’t explain how it all works. I only know that God is showing all of us, not just the Jewish people, a picture of His future with His people; His human beings.

Chassidic master Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev uses the following metaphor to explain the necessity of the Three Temples and why we must wait such a long time for Him to be truly among us again.

A father once prepared a beautiful suit of clothes for his son. But the child neglected his father’s gift and soon the suit was in tatters. The father gave the child a second suit of clothes; this one, too, was ruined by the child’s carelessness. So the father made a third suit. This time, however, he withholds it from his son. Every once in a while, on special and opportune times, he shows the suit to the child, explaining that when the child learns to appreciate and properly care for the gift, it will be given to him. This induces the child to improve his behavior, until it gradually becomes second nature to him — at which time he will be worthy of his father’s gift.

God has shown us His gift in the Messiah, but He also withholds the Messiah’s coming until we are ready. But God is gracious enough to show us what will happen once we reach this state of being worthy. Through the vision of a prophet, we can see the return of the Messiah, our later return to Eden, and finally, the placing of the Throne of God among us at a future time when the requirement for Ezekiel’s Temple is no longer necessary.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. –Revelation 22:1-5 (ESV)

But before all that happens, we must come to terms with our struggle between life in this world, in the spirit and in the body, as Rabbi Tzvi Freeman relates:

The human mind despises the body that houses it, but the soul has only love.

The mind would soar to the heavens, but for a body that chains it to the earth. The mind would be consumed in divine oneness, but for the body’s delusion of otherness, as though it had made itself.

But the soul sees only G-d.

In that very delusion of otherness,
in that madness of the human ego,
even there, the soul sees only G‑d.
For she says, “This, too, is truth.
This is a distorted reflection of the Essence of all things,
of that which truly has neither beginning nor cause.”

And so she embraces the bonds of the body,
works with the body, transforms the body.
Until the body, too, sees only G-d.

—Basi LeGani 5712

Good Shabbos.

The Long Flight Home

There are two places to find the divine presence in all Her glory.

One: In the most holy of chambers, beyond the place of light and heavenly incense. There She is found by the most perfect of beings at the most sublime apexes of time.

The other: Beyond catacombs and convoluted mazes deep within the earth’s bowels. There She is found by those whose faces are charred with the ashes of failure, their hands bloody from scraping through dirt and stone, their garments torn from falling again and again and their hearts ripped by bitter tears.

There, in that subterranean darkness, they are blinded by the light of the hidden things of G-d, until that Presence will shine for all of us, forever.

So it is for the human spirit, and so it was in Solomon’s temple. There are two places for the Holy Ark: One in the chamber of the Holy of Holies; and one deep beneath that chamber, for us to find now.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“The Lost Ark”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

We should expect holiness in the most holy of places, in the midst of the Heavenly Temple of God. But how can we expect to find holiness in the darkest and most dismal abyss under the earth or in the darkest heart of man? Of course, if holiness is present there, then the darkness can no longer be dark.

Or can it?

In Judaism and particularly through the philosophy of the Chabad, each of us contains a spark of the divine; of heaven come down to earth, which gives us our own unique identity and purpose. This spark is forever seeking its heavenly source, which is probably why, often against our human will, we find ourselves inexorably searching for God, so that our spark may return to Him.

I’ve recently been exploring the humanity of Jesus and have encountered some occasional resistance to my considering the “flesh” along with the spirit, but if God is One and we are, in some sense, part of God, even as Jesus was and is, then can we always separate the physical and the ethereal? Rabbi Freeman comments:

Yes, G-d is one. But, to share an analogy from the Maharal of Prague, from a simple point an infinite number of lines may be drawn through infinite dimensions.

So, too, with that divine spark within: On the one hand it is the same simple point within each one of us. Yet how that point expresses itself within you—another facet of the diamond, another ray of the light—that is unique. Both aspects, the point and its expression, are equally divine.

There’s no way to resolve this in some sort of mechanical sense or by use of a formula or diagram. This relationship within our human existence that connects to God exists, otherwise I would hardly be so obsessed with discussing it, yet I have no ability to explain the connection. The light is there in my inner darkness and it’s doing something, but I don’t know what it is, because I can’t clearly see it.

As I review my recent “meditations,” I find I’ve been writing about this a lot in one way or another. I have written of our human limits in exploring knowledge of God and how, though we are holy, can desecrate not only God, but ourselves.

Recently, I discovered that my original purpose and goal in creating this specific blog was completely in vain, and now I turn to God not knowing what to expect, and wondering if I should expect anything at all. I’ve even gone so far as to ask, in a completely Christian venue, if it’s possible for someone like me to find a church in which I, with all of my theological idiosyncrasies, could ever be at home (so far, it hasn’t worked out very well).

For many years, I called myself “Messianic,” but found that many Jews in the Messianic Jewish movement, to which I had once thought myself attached, objected to a non-Jew identifying himself as such. The Jews in Messianic Judaism saw me as a Christian, and my Jewish wife and children see me as Christian, in spite of my atypical beliefs. When I created this blog, I was determined to honor how they see me and to distance myself from anything that might cause them discomfort, and I agreed to call myself a Christian. I also felt that, if I wanted to reach a wider audience, which is part of the goal of this blog, I should attempt to reconnect with the larger body of Gentiles who call upon the name of Jesus.

So I’m a Christian.

But I wonder now if any of that matters. No, I’m not going back to calling myself “Messianic” or any variation on that theme. If indeed, it is a designation that is uniquely Jewish, I am content to leave it in that place and for those people who were called to the Creator and chosen at Sinai. But in leaving that behind, (if it was ever truly mine in the first place) I find, like fictional author George Webber (in Thomas Wolfe’s novel), you can’t go home again. I have no choice but to proceed forward into the dark unknown and seek a future to which I am blind.

And yet, if I dare the conceit of believing that the divine spark exists in me too, then the light must be there illuminating my darkness, though I can see nary a glimmer. If the spark exists, then does it conclude within me as Rabbi Freeman describes?

These two facets of the divine spark are expressed in every mitzvah: On the one hand, the act of the mitzvah is the same for each person–corresponding to the simple, essence-point of the soul. But the mental focus and passion you invest into the mitzvah, that is uniquely yours, expressing the unique mission of your soul.

Spiritual or “fleshly” (the latter being considered with disdain by many disciples of Christ) seem to be interchangeable in Jewish thought, like matter and energy in the realm of physics. In Judaism, you connect to the holy by performing “worldly” charity. I suppose it’s not as noble as prayer, laying tefillin (though this is a physical act), or singing the ancient Hebrew prayers, but it is something that is as accessible to me as to any of you reading this, or to any person who really can see only their holy light and nothing of their darkness.

Part of this blog, and my previous writing attempt, was to reinvent myself to be more consistent with how my understanding in God was being reinvented. Now I find that there is no rest for the “legless bird” and I must still continue to soar and search and continue to reinvent and reconfigure who I am and who I am in Him.

But to reverse causality, I’m going to ask the question that Rabbi Freeman already (supposedly) answered:

If the core of my being is a “spark of G-d,” then where is the me in me?

Is there a “me” in my or, as Rabbi Freeman also has said, there is only a “me” in the doing of mitzvot?

What is divine wisdom?
Divine wisdom is the inner delight of the Infinite, condensed and crystallized until fit for human consumption.

What is a mitzvah?
A mitzvah is divine wisdom condensed and crystallized until it can be performed as a physical action.

That is why in the study of Torah there is infinite delight.
That is why in the act of a mitzvah there is unlimited joy.

—Maamar Arbaah Rashei Shanim Heim, 5731

Somewhere in each of us, there is a spark of holiness. Somewhere in the holiness, is a lost human being, struggling in the glare and the abyss, trying to find his way, his face, and his name.

Somewhere in the sky, there is a bird, like the dove of Noah, soaring over an endless sea searching for a place to land and rest. Does the bird search in vain, as do I?

Rambling on the Trail of the Temple of God

Shulchan Aruch rules that it is prohibited to tear down a Bais HaKnesses in order to build a new Bais HaKnesses. The reason is out of concern that they will tear down the old Bais HaKnesses and then something will happen that will prevent them from constructing the new Bais HaKnesses. Rather, they must first construct the new Bais HaKnesses and only then may they tear down the old Bais HaKnesses. Mishnah Berurah…presents a disagreement between Magen Avrohom and Taz whether it is permitted to tear down an old Bais HaKnesses if there is a Bais HaKnesses in town that is large enough for everyone to daven so that even if the new Bais HaKnesses is not built they will not be left without a Bais HaKnesses for davening. Taz permits tearing down the old Bais HaKnesses in these circumstances whereas Magen Avrohom prohibits the practice. Biur Halacha…notes that many later authorities cite Taz’s position as halacha and he adds that since tearing down a Bais HaKnesses to build another one is only Rabbinically prohibited one may follow Taz’s lenient position.

Rema rules that it is even prohibited to tear down a single wall in order to make the Bais HaKnesses larger; rather they must first build the new wall and then it is permitted to tear down the old wall. Sefer Tzedaka U’Mishpat…contends that Rema’s ruling is limited to where the construction would make it impossible to daven in the Bais HaKnesses. If, however, they would be able to continue to daven there while the construction
is going on it is permitted to tear down a wall to expand the Bais HaKnesses even before building the new wall. The rationale is that this is no different than having another Bais HaKnesses where they can daven.

Mishna Berura Yomi Digest
Halacha Highlight
“Tearing down a Bais HaKnesses”
Siman 152 Seif 1 (a)

Disclaimer: Everything you’re about to read is provocative and possibly won’t make a lot of sense. I’m engaging in more than a bit of “stream of consciousness” for this morning meditation. Try not to get too offended if I stumble across one of your theologies and describe it differently than you understand it. I’m just chronicling my spiritual journey for today, not telling you what to think or feel. End of disclaimer. Carry on.

I know what I quoted above is applied to the tearing down and building synagogues and not the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, but the “Stories to Share” for the Siman 152 indicates that the ruling for one can be applied to the other.

Shortly after they washed, the rebbe asked, “Chazal tells us that it is forbidden for one to tear down a shul until the replacement has been built. Now, how could Hashem have destroyed the beis hamikdash without building a replacement? This seems to contradict this gemara, which is the basis of the halachah in Shulchan Aruch siman 152!”

I suppose that’s why, when studying this commentary this morning, I was reminded of the following prophecy by the Master:

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. –John 2:18-22 (ESV)

In spite of the rather detailed prophesy we find in Book of Ezekiel, starting at Chapter 40, describing the Third Temple that is to be built by God and descend to Earth from Heaven, most Christians (OK, probably all Christians) don’t believe another physical Temple will ever be built. They believe that any mention of a Temple in the New Testament is strictly a spiritual reference, rather than describing an actual structure. One of the proof texts they cite for this belief is John 2 while another is this:

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. –1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (ESV)

The logic is that God caused Herod’s Temple to be destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E. never to be rebuilt as a physical structure, both because Jesus declared his body to be raised as a Temple three days after his death, and because the bodies of all Christians are to be considered “Holy Temples”. There’s no need for a Third Temple, because the Temple has been shifted from a physical to a spiritual structure. It’s a simple matter of substitution: the physical for the spiritual; the flesh vs. the spirit.

But if you have been following my blog for any amount of time, you know that it’s not all that simple to me.

On the other hand, if Jesus was to be the substitution for Herod’s Temple, then he was “built” (that is, resurrected) prior to the destruction of that Temple, as required by halacha, so that requirement would seem have been satisfied. In fact, if there is supposed to be a physical Third Temple, according to halacha, the construction should have been started before Herod’s Temple was destroyed. Of course, it’s not like the Jews had a lot of choice in the matter, but if you consider that it was God who allowed the Second Temple’s destruction, then He had all of the choice in the matter. We saw that this question had already been asked in a previous quote. Here’s the answer, according to the Gerrer Rebbe:

The rebbe then answered his own rhetorical question. “This is the meaning of the verse, ‘Hashem has planned to destroy the wall of the daughter of Tzion; He has stretched out a line.’ (Eichah 2:8) This means that from the moment that Hashem decided to destroy the beis hamikdash, He had already laid down the infrastructure of the new beis hamikdash. The beis hamikdash is only waiting for the correct time to descend—it is already built!”

Keeping that in mind, I’ve often interpreted the following as God delivering the Third Temple from Heaven to a mankind desperate to dwell again with their Creator:

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. –Revelation 21:2

I’m sure I’m going to get a lot of arguments (and maybe some hate mail) about my interpretations here, since I’m stringing together Rabbinic commentary and Christian theology with not much more than imagination and tiny strands of sewing thread, but I’m not trying to create a proof. I’m only trying to start people thinking and asking questions. Could this all be possible? Is Ezekiel’s Temple seen descending from Heaven in Revelation 21 “as a bride adorned for her husband?” Did God “build” it for humanity before Herod’s Temple was destroyed? What’s the relationship between the “temple” of Christ’s body and the Temple from Heaven? For that matter, what is the relationship between all of that and the “temples” of our Christian bodies?

I don’t know.

I realize that’s probably disappointing, but I don’t have some secret, mystical, spiritual connection or explanation to give you. All I have are the little bits and pieces of my understanding of the Bible and this “stream of consciousness” I call a blog to try and express my feelings and experiences. I have Ezekiel telling me there will be a Third Temple, I have Jewish commentary telling me God will build it and deliver it to humanity, and I have Revelation saying (possibly) that John saw the actual “delivery” in his vision. Maybe all that hangs together and maybe not, but it is certainly compelling.

But if all that is true, what about us being Temples with the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, much like the Divine Presence dwelt within the Mishkan in the desert and within Solomon’s Temple? Christianity assumes that, except for specific prophets of old, the Holy Spirit dwelt in no one until Pentecost in Acts 2. Now we believe that the Holy Spirit dwells in every Christian starting at the moment when we declare Jesus as Christ and Lord. But is that really true?

Admittedly, you don’t see a mass indwelling event with the Spirit entering each and every Hebrew at the foot of Mount Sinai the moment the Torah is given, but the idea isn’t unheard of in Judaism:

In 1759, about a year before the Baal Shem Tov passed away, there was an incident that illustrated his immense love for his fellow Jew. At that time there was a heretical sect led by a man named Jacob Frank. These Frankists had begun agitating amongst the Christian authorities against the Jews with specific emphasis against the Talmud. (In a previous “debate” in 1757, the Frankists had succeeded in causing the Talmud to be burnt in Lvov.) The bishop of Lemberg decreed that a debate should be held between the Jews and the Frankists. The Baal Shem Tov was a member of the three man delegation that represented the Jews. They were successful in averting this evil decree, and the Talmud was not burnt. At the same time however, the defeated Frankists were then forced to convert to Christianity. While most of the Jewish leaders were happy at the downfall of these evil men, the Baal Shem Tov was not. He said. “The Divine Presence wails and says, ‘So long as a limb is attached to the body there is still a hope that there can be a cure, but once the limb is cut off there is no cure forever.’ And every Jew is a limb of the Divine Presence.”

-from the Biography of
Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov (1698 – 1760)
Jewish Virtual Library

Philip Bimbaun in A Book of Jewish Concepts says, “Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Hasidim, is reported to have said: Every Jew is an organ of the Shekkinah [the Divine Presence]. As long as the organ is joined to the body, however tenuously, there is hope; once it is cut off, all hope is long” (609, 610).

-quoted from
Romans (Randall House Bible Commentary) (pg 47)
Randall House Publications (December 19, 1987)
by F. Leroy Forlines

The use of the term ‘them’ rather than ‘it’ has been interpreted as a message that the purpose of the Mishkan sanctuary was to facilitate the dwelling of the Divine Presence within the heart of every Jew. The role of the Mishkan in the wilderness and during the first four centuries of a Jewish presence in Eretz Yisrael was perpetuated by the first and second Beit Hamikdash Temples which spanned a period of nine centuries. All of this is today but a memory to which a visit to the Kotel (Western Wall) gives a special dimension. This does not mean, however, that a Jew cannot build a mini-sanctuary in his heart even today. The Divine Presence is waiting to dwell within the hearts of all Jews if only they will let it enter!

-Rabbi Mendel Weinbach
‘The “Holy Sites”‘
For the week ending 8 February 2003 / 6 Adar I 5763
Ohr Somayach

The obvious objection that a Christian could bring up here, is that these commentaries and interpretations were constructed well after the beginning of the Christian church and could have been “borrowed” from Christianity by the Jews. I can’t say that you’re wrong, if this is your assumption, since I have no way of knowing. I really don’t know if the concept of every Jew being a limb or organ of the Divine Presence predated the birth of Jesus. It would be exciting if it did, and that each Jew at Sinai were a human receptacle for the Divine Presence, but I don’t know.

What I do know is that it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that the images of His Spirit, the Divine Presence (which probably isn’t an equivalent concept to the Holy Spirit), the Mishkan, the physical Temples, the Temple of the body of Christ, and the temples of our own bodies as disciples of the Master, are all somehow interwoven in a mysterious and mystical message that has been in the process of being created and developed and expanded for thousands and thousands of years.

I’ve said before that I don’t think of the Bible as this static document containing unchanging, eternal truths. Of course, there are eternal truths to be found between its covers, but it is so much more. There’s a living, breathing experience to be had in the Bible and it changes for each age and each people. Some words, phrases, and books may be more relevant and meaningful now than they were before, while others may not apply in the same way, if at all, as in the time when they were written. Human beings have a tendency to read the Bible, apply a theological meaning to its various parts, and disregard (or completely “spiritualize”) the other bits and pieces that don’t seem to fit. We impose our personalities onto the Word of God and call it the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Far be it from me to deny the Holy Spirit, but it’s not a foregone conclusion that whatever occurs to us in our imagination must be from God. It could be our imagination trying to make the Bible fit the theology we’ve heard from the pulpit, just as a person tries to create a coherent story from the disjointed, hallucinogenic images they experienced in last night’s dreams.

This is very much putting the cart before the horse. We need to try and allow the Bible to tell us its story in its own words and using its own context. This is an enormously difficult task and in fact, it may well be impossible, even with the guidance of the Spirit, if for no other reason, than because of the limitations of the human mind. Add to that our own prejudices and biases, and we even further inhibit the Spirit and our own understanding. I’m just as guilty of this as the next person and I’m just as likely to turn to various commentaries and studies to try and receive an insight into the words God gave to humanity, along with “the Word who became flesh” that God gave to humanity.

By these ramblings, I’m sure you’ve concluded that I’ve been far from successful in acquiring a meaningful insight into the Bible, and you’re probably right. But it’s not the destination that I’m focused upon but rather, it’s the journey. God has scattered these tantalizing little jewels along the path. What do they mean? How can we apply them to our travels? How did those who came before us on the trail understand these shards of treasure? All these questions are like splinters in my mind and if I don’t ask them out loud, they will surely drive me mad. Like Icarus, I must risk destruction by flying too near the Sun in order to find illumination. Like Peter, who utterly failed the Master by denying him on the eve of his execution, I cannot simply tuck my tail between my legs and scurry off into oblivion when confronted with a Holy mystery. I must drag myself back into his presence, humbled and humiliated, begging his forgiveness, seeking his love, and asking to him to appeal to God to give me the strength to do the impossible.

And what seems so impossible? To live in a world with so many questions and so few answers. But God knows what He’s doing. It’s the questions that drive me. If I only had answers, my journey would be done, I would be at peace, and I would “know God” (Jeremiah 31:34, Hebrews 8:11). We are not to “know God” until the Messianic age and beyond. Until then, we are the Temple, and we are disciples of the Temple, and indeed, we also long for the days when the Temple built by God alone, will descend from Heaven to Earth. How is this all possible? The questions are the journey. Someday, God will be the answer, as surely He already is.