During their time in the wilderness, the tabernacle pitched in the middle of the camp reminded the Israelites that God was with them. He had promised to meet Moses from his 'throne' between the golden cherubim above the ark of the covenant (Exodus 25.22). The Israelites could therefore say “God is with us”. Indeed, he had promised: “I will be your God and you will be my people.” His presence protected them, provided for them, guided them through the wilderness, and set out the good regulations by which they were to live. But this wasn’t all cause for celebration. To have the maker of heaven and earth living with you is not a safe prospect.
When world leaders arrive in Sydney for the APEC Conference this September, we’re going to know about it: road closures, parking restrictions, security checks, traffic escorts, a public holiday and a highly visible police presence. Current estimates place the security budget at $169 million. Many of the world’s leaders will be in our midst and every measure will be taken to ensure their security.
But when the living God dwells in the midst of his people, the precautions and barriers are not to keep him safe from the people, but to keep the people safe from him. God might have been with them, but he wasn’t in any straightforward sense simply on their side, at their beck and call. They could not keep God in a box. God didn’t live in the box, he sat on top of it, a king on his throne between the cherubim.*
*1 Samuel 4.4; 2 Samuel 6.2; 2 Kings 19.15; 1 Chron 13.6; Psalm 81.1; 99.1; Isaiah 37.16.
There’s a great passage in C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, where the children are speaking with Mr and Mrs Beaver about the prospect of meeting the great lion Aslan, who in the novels represents the presence of God.
“Is he - quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”Dangerous goodness. That’s what it’s like to have God dwelling in your midst. Dangerous goodness. No one is safe from his purifying, life-giving power.
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake," said Mrs Beaver; "if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then he isn't safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr Beaver; “don't you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”
Apologies for using this Lewis quote again. I find it very useful.
Series: I; II; III; IV; V; VI.