Mid-Watch Report: January 2003
The True Worship of God:
Worship as Witness

by Rev. Sterling M. Durgy

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of  The American Night Watch
Vol. 4   No. 1      January 2003

The True Worship of God:
Worship as Witness

The history recorded in Exodus forms the basis, not only for the message and history of the Old Testament, but for the message and history of the New Testament as well. In his commentary on the book of Exodus, John Durham made an important observation about worship. His insight is more meaningful if we take some time to reflect upon the context of the verses Durham remarks upon.

Encounter with God at Mount Sinai

Exodus can be divided at chapter 19. The earlier chapters tell of the early life of Moses, and how God used Moses to lead the Israelites out from captivity in Egypt. They tell of the plagues that God brought upon Egypt, culminating in the Passover; of Israel’s exodus from Egypt; their dramatic crossing of the sea with its judgment upon Pharaoh’s army; and God’s care of the people in the wilderness. The people were not simply led out of Egypt, however, they are brought to the foot of Mount Sinai to worship the Lord and to enter into a covenant relationship with Him.

A “covenant” is a solemn agreement. It is similar to a “contract” in the world today; however, in the ancient world, a covenant was also a sacred agreement. This was all the more true when the covenant was with Deity.

It is common for us to view Exodus as the story of the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt. It is also commonly viewed as the first step of the Israelites towards inheriting the Promised Land. But it is also important to view the Exodus as the story of how God came to dwell amidst His people. This is the part of the story that most people today seem to miss.

Although God had led the Israelites as a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night from the time they left Egypt, it was at Mount Sinai that the people were brought to a dramatic, awesome revelation of the presence of God. Durham calls the coming down of God (Yahweh or Jehovah) upon Mount Sinai the “Advent” of God (Exodus 19:18). Here Israel would also enter into a covenant relationship with God.

Even though the symbolism isn’t used until the time of the writing prophets, we are justified, in light of the later use of this imagery, in viewing the covenant entered into at Mount Sinai in terms of a marriage covenant.1 God calls Himself the “husband” of Israel in Isaiah 54:5-8. The tendency of Israel to worship other gods was called “adultery” in the Old Testament. The entire book of Hosea is based upon this imagery in order to emphasize Israel’s unfaithfulness and God’s faithful pursuit of Israel’s loyalty and love. Through Jeremiah, God applies the imagery of the marriage covenant to the covenant God made with Israel at Mount Sinai, referring to this as, “the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them” (Jeremiah 31:32).2

This marriage imagery is important enough to be carried over into the New Covenant of the New Testament. Paul uses this imagery in Ephesians 5:22-32 to describe the relationship between Christ and His Church. The Revelation to John is filled with Old Testament imagery. Spiritual “adultery” is referred to in Revelation 2:22, 17:2, and 18:9. The imagery of a marriage relationship between Christ and His church is seen in Revelation 19:5-9, 21:2, 9, and 22:17.

The great importance of this marriage imagery with regard to Exodus 19 is that it underscores the very personal nature of what happened at Mount Sinai. It is completely appropriate to view this marriage covenant in terms of the first four of the Ten Commandments as given in Exodus 20:1-11; the chapter immediately following the one describing the Advent of God upon Mount Sinai. And this is exactly how it is viewed when Israel’s pursuit of other gods is termed “adultery.”

In addition to underscoring the personal nature of what happened at Mount Sinai, marriage imagery helps us to see that God intended this new relationship with Israel to be a permanent relationship. Accordingly, following the ratification of the Mosaic Covenant at Mount Sinai in Exodus 24:3-8, God commanded Moses to build a Tabernacle - a portable worship tent - for God to dwell in.3

No portion of this sacred history should be seen as irrelevant to Christians in our time. It is helpful to remember - by re-reading Exodus 24:3-8 if necessary - that the covenant relationship at Mount Sinai was entered into only by blood sacrifice. Half of he blood collected from sacrifices was thrown against an altar constructed for this ceremony, and after the people agreed to be loyal to God (Yahweh) and to abide by the conditions of the covenant, Moses threw the second half of the blood upon the gathered assembly. This looked ahead, symbolically, to the “blood of the eternal covenant” shed by Jesus at Calvary to institute the New Covenant (Hebrews 13:20, 21).

John Hilbur wrote that Jesus’ words in Mark 14:24, “This is my blood of the covenant,” allude to the words of Moses in Exodus 24:8, “Behold the blood of the covenant;”

Hence, the inauguration of the covenant at Sinai served as a pattern for the inauguration of the new covenant recorded in the gospels and 1 Corinthians 11:25. Divine presence is indicated by the bread. Covenant and sacrifice are indicated by the cup. The importance of covenant inauguration through blood sacrifice, which Jesus signified by the elements of the Lord’s table, is further connected with Exodus 24 in Hebrews 9:18-20. The writer of Hebrews integrates the entire cultic system, including the tabernacle ritual and purification by the red heifer (Numbers 19), in terms of covenant inauguration by quoting from the blood ceremony of Exodus 24:8. This covenant symbolism is recast in terms of Christ’s work of inaugurating the new and better covenant.4

We must not rush past this when we consider coming into God’s presence, because their can be no entry into God’s presence without the redemptive sacrifice provided by Jesus Christ. John Oswalt wrote of the organization of the book of Exodus,

This literary structure shows that the ultimate need of the people was not for deliverance from physical oppression or from theological darkness, but from alienation from God.5

The ratification of the Mosaic covenant with God at Mount Sinai led to a fellowship meal of the leaders of Israel with God on the mountain. This was followed by the instructions to Moses to build the Tabernacle. Most of the second half of the book of Exodus has to do with the building of this Tabernacle. God gave detailed instructions. Exodus records that these instructions were carefully followed. The craftsmen who built the Tabernacle and its furniture were endowed with the Holy Spirit to enable them to accomplish their work in a manner fully pleasing to the Lord. Exodus concludes with God descending upon the Tabernacle in great glory.

God's Presence Among His People

The glorious presence of the Lord in the Tabernacle later came to be referred to as the shekinah glory of the Lord.6 This terminology is widely known in the evangelical community today. However, it seems that when most people today think of the shekinah glory of the Lord, they think of His radiant splendor; a glory reminiscent of the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire that led the Israelites in their wilderness journeys, and that descended upon the Tabernacle whenever they camped (Exodus 40:34-38). The Hebrew vocabulary stresses something different, however.

In Exodus 25:9, Yahweh calls the Tabernacle a mishkan - the place of Yahweh’s sheken, dwelling (Deuteronomy 12:5). Both words are derived from the root shakan, “dwell, tabernacle.”7 Shekinah derives from the same root and application. Walter Kaiser, Jr. wrote, “The single most important fact in the experience of this new nation Israel was that God had come to ‘tabernacle’ (shakan), or ‘dwell,’ in her midst. Nowhere was this stated more clearly than in Exodus 29:43-46 . . . . The theology of the tabernacle was to be formed in the purpose statement of Exodus 25:8, ‘Make a tabernacle that I might dwell (shakan) among them.’”8 Andrew Hill wrote similarly, “The purpose of the Mosaic Temple was to enable God to live among his people and meet with them regularly (Exodus 25:8, 29:43).”9 John Oswalt saw the same divine purpose, “Deliverance from bondage and from spiritual darkness are not ends, but means to the end of fellowship with God.”10

The Lord promised that His presence would sanctify the Tabernacle; making it a miqdash, a “holy place,” “sanctuary.”11 Further, His presence would carry an important message to the Israelites,

So I will dwell in the midst of the sons of Israel, and I will be their God, and they will know that I am Yahweh their God who brought them forth from the land of Egypt on account of my dwelling in their midst. I am Yahweh their God. Exodus 29:45, 4612
John I. Durham, commenting on these passages, wrote,
Thus, as the chapters leading up to Yahweh’s Advent on Mount Sinai demonstrate Yahweh’s Presence by what Yahweh does, the chapters that follow the Advent are here interpreted as chapters that demonstrate that Yahweh is present by what Israel does, first of all in the way they are to live, and second, in the places, the symbols, and the acts of their worship.13

If we were to encounter the Israelites in the wilderness and to walk into their camp in the wilderness as God intended it to be, we would encounter individuals and have a chance to speak with them. We would notice that their lives were different from the lives of those who lived around them. Then, as we approached the very center of their encampment, we would see the Tabernacle and the activity that took place there on a daily basis, at the altar, and in the outer room of the Tabernacle, the Holy Place. Once each year we could observe the Day of Atonement, and the solemn assembly of the people before their God, as the High Priest went into the inner room of the Tabernacle, the Holy of Holies, to make atonement for the sins of the entire nation. At other times we would observe their festivals and their meaning. These two things, the lives of the people, and their worship, would tell us that their God was in their midst.

When the people spoke of their God they would tell us that this was the God who brought them out of slavery in Egypt and delivered them. They would also tell us how they were on their way to a land of prosperity where they could dwell in security in fellowship with their God.

We would not see the plagues of Egypt - they had passed. We would not see the actual Passover, though we might observe the Passover feast in remembrance of that event. We would not see a demonstration of God’s sovereignty and holiness as they had at Sinai, but we would have the curtains, altar, and prohibitions against approaching the holy places of the Tabernacle to remind us that God is holy. Therefore, we would know that God was in their midst. If they did not live and they did not worship as God instructed, the result would be that others would not know of their God.

A Blessed People with a Holy Mission

When the Israelites were encamped with the Tabernacle at the center of their camp, there was a sense in which the people themselves were a sacred Tabernacle, because they, in a manner similar to the curtain that cordoned off the sacred grounds, surrounded the Tabernacle - and God dwelt in their midst, just as He dwelt in the midst of the sacred grounds.

God’s presence brought great blessing to Israel. The Law of Moses makes very clear that God’s presence among His people would bring health, successful agriculture, and victory over enemies. But the blessings of God’s presence were not just for the benefit of God’s people alone. In turn, the Israelites were given the sacred mission of bringing other people into a personal relationship with the one, true God. God told the Israelites when they first arrived at Mount Sinai.

You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on Eagle’s wings, and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the people, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Exodus 19:4-6
Note how these words begin with a reminder that God brought the people to Himself - not first to freedom, to a place, or even to a religion - but to Himself. A “kingdom of priests” refers to the role of the people standing between God and the nations - helping the nations to understand and know the one, true, living God - Yahweh. When one understands this point, one very important perspective on both the Old and the New Testaments is revealed.

Through the prophet Isaiah, God reminded the Israelites that they were a people that He had formed; choosing Abraham and leading him to the Promised Land, bringing Israel out from slavery in Egypt, and forming them into a nation at Mount Sinai (Isaiah 41:8, 9, 43:10, 12, 15, 44:1, 2, 6-8, 21). God said that the existence of Israelites as a people was, in itself, testimony to His existence as the one, true God; for they had experienced His salvation and the fulfillment of the prophetic promises He had made (Isaiah 43:8-12). Their very existence was evidence that God had kept His promise to Abraham (Genesis 15:1-21, cf. Isaiah 29:22-24, 51:1-3, 63:7-16, 2 Chronicles 20:7).

Yet, even though by their very existence they were witnesses to the one, true God, the Lord had much more in mind. Only in faithful obedience to the Lord’s commandments would Israel’s witness be made effective in the way God designed. Otherwise, when people entered their encampment, they would see no difference in the way the people lived, and when they came to the center of the camp, the lessons of the Tabernacle would be corrupted, or even lost altogether.

Just as the goal of reaching all nations was inherent in Israel’s mission, the promise of effectual service was not restricted to the physical descendants of Abraham. Israel had never rejected those who were not sons of Abraham by birth from becoming children of Abraham by faith (Leviticus 19:33, 34, 25:44, 45; Deuteronomy 20:10, 11, 23:15, 16; cf. Romans 2:28, 29). In Isaiah 56:1-7, God indicates that all who serve Him and obey His commandments will be blessed for, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples” (cf. Matthew 21:13, Mark 11:17, Luke 19:46). Through Isaiah, God extended the invitation, “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:22). This invitation still stands.

John Oswalt wrote of Isaiah’s message,

As chapter 6 makes plain, the grace of God in delivering from uncleanness is not for the servant’s enjoyment but in order for the word to get out that there is only one God, only one righteous Savior, and that the whole world needs to know him. In short, the grace of God is free, but those who receive it are called to live out all its implications . . . God had not chosen Israel and given them all that he did in order to shut out the world, but to bring in the world. All of Israel’s separation from the world was in order to keep Israel from being absorbed into the world and thus losing the ability to call the world out of itself into the blessings of God. But should Israel ever come to believe that its separation was so that Israel could keep her God and his blessings to herself, then all was lost. It was precisely this attitude that infuriated Jesus (Matthew 21:13) and that Isaiah is countering . . . .”14
Although this theme is easily seen in Isaiah, it is interwoven into the entire Old Testament. The book of Jonah, for example, tells of God’s concern for the people of Ninevah, the capitol of the Assyrian empire that was so much of a threat in Isaiah’s time. Jonah, the Hebrew prophet, was sent by God to warn the people as an act of compassion.

In the final book of the Old Testament to be written, Malachi, God expressed His concern that the lives and worship of His people were deficient. “’For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the naions,’ says the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 1:11). In Malachi 3:13-4:2, God promised a future of great blessing to those who are truly His servants.

Of all the children of Abraham, the only descendant who served God perfectly in life and worship was Jesus of Nazareth (Galatians 4:4, 5; John 8:31-47; 1 Peter 1:18, 19; Hebrews 2:15-18, 4:15; cf. Romans 1:1:1-4, 2 Corinthians 5:21). Yet, though no other person was completely without fault, all needing a Savior, there were always those who remained faithful servants according to the Law of Moses. Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth (Luke 1:5, 6); their son John the Baptist (Matthew 11:11, Luke 7:28); Mary (Luke 1:30) and her husband Joseph (Matthew 1:19-25); Simeon and Anna the prophetess (Luke 2:25-38); all are examples of those who remained faithful servants. Later, the Twelve whom Jesus chose to be His disciples and the Apostles who would carry His Gospel to the world, were all descendents of Abraham. Though the light in Israel had not burned as brightly as if the nation had been largely faithful, God still worked out His plan through the Jews. For as God told Hosea, “For I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst” (Hosea 11:9; cf. Isaiah 12:1-6; Jeremiah 51:5).

The Witness of Christian Worship

Durham’s insight concerning worship at the Tabernacle remains valid for Christians as well. The Tabernacle was often referred to as a “tent.”15 In the Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint version), and in the New Testament, the Greek word skene is used to refer to the Tabernacle.16 A skene is a “tent” or “temporary dwelling.”17 Because human beings are mortal, Paul refers to our bodies as skene - temporary dwellings - in 2 Corinthians 5:1, 4. Doubtless one of the reasons that this vocabulary came to Paul’s mind is that he was a maker of tents- a skenopoios, a trade he had in common with Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:1-3).

In John 1:14, John used the verb form of skene to indicate that, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . .” This highlights the temporary nature of Jesus’ earthly body in the same manner that the apostle Paul does in 2 Corinthians 5. But that is not all. The use of the verb form of skene is a deliberate reference to the Tabernacle of the Old Testament. Jesus has come to be Emmanuel - to be among His people (John 1:12, 13). This imagery is seen in Revelation 13:6, where those who have died in the Lord are seen to dwell in His presence.

More importantly, Revelation 21:3 states, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.’” This verse shows the conclusion of all history. God dwells in the midst of His people. This time, there is no separating curtain and there are no veils separating the people from the presence of God. Unbroken fellowship of God with His people has been restored through Jesus Christ.

The symbolism of the Tabernacle does not simply relate to the time after Jesus’ bodily return, however (Hebrews 9:27, 28). In his first letter, Peter describes the Church with some of the same language used in Exodus 19 (1 Peter 2:9, 10). Just as the Israelites, encamped around the Tabernacle, became a kind of living Tabernacle themselves, so, too, Peter indicates that the Church is a kind of spiritual “building;” a building in which Christians are the building blocks (1 Peter 2:4-8). Paul presents a similar message in Ephesians 2:19-22, speaking of the Spirit of God dwelling among the people of God.

Just as with the Mosaic covenant, it is the lives of Christians that first signals their difference from the world (Matthew 5:13-16; 2 Corinthians 5:13-7:1; Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 2:11-16). Paul told the Corinthians that they were “a letter of Christ . . . written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:3; cf. Philippians 2:14-16).18 He commended the Thessalonian Christians for their testimony to Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:1-10). On the other hand, he reprimanded the Christians in Corinth with the words, “Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame” (1 Corinthians 15:34). As Durham said, the presence of God is demonstrated to the world first in the way that we live (1 John 2:3-6).

Secondly, as with the Tabernacle, we testify through our worship. Jesus taught, “where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 18:20). The gathering of Christians together - in the Name of the Lord - recognizes His presence - just as when the Israelites gathered at the Tabernacle, and God blesses them because of this. But there is more here than we might first suspect.

Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:20 follow by only two verses Jesus’ quote of Deuteronomy 19:15, “by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact (word) may be confirmed” (Matthew 18:16). Jesus says something similar in John 8:17, “in your law it has been written that the testimony of two men is true.” Jesus goes on in the following verse, John 8:18, to indicate that there are two witnesses to His identity as the Christ; and, therefore, His testimony should be received. These suggest that when “two or three” are gathered together in Jesus’ Name, not only are they assured of God’s presence, they are in a position to testify reliably to the world concerning their God and their Christ.

Other New Testament passages confirm that one of the purposes of Christian worship is witness. However, we need to be somewhat careful here. It is one thing to say that Christian worship is a witness to the world, and that we should, therefore, do the best that we can to make a good witness. It is quite another to change our worship to please the world.

The Tabernacle emphasized that worship is to be given in a manner that is acceptable to God. Those who came before Yahweh at the Tabernacle were to do so in the prescribed manner. Those who did not brought judgment upon themselves (Leviticus 10:1-11; Numbers 16:1-40; 1 Corinthians 10:1-12; Romans 15:4). The lesson here for Christians is that worship is given to God, not to the world. However, as we put this in context with the teaching that worship is a form of witness, we understand that it is as we worship in a manner fully acceptable to God that we make our best witness to God and His Christ.

This testimony is not just to those outside the church, however. The author of Hebrews exhorted his readers, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, nor forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25). This means that we have a sacred duty to perform for our Christian brethren. Our presence in coming together with other Christians for worship is a means of encouraging other Christians in their walk with the Lord and their service to Him.

In New Testament times, the Christians in Corinth corrupted their worship through selfishness, carelessness, and sin. One of the points Paul tried to communicate to this church is that this adversely affected their Christian testimony.

One of their most egregious sins was the corruption of the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. According to 1 Corinthians 11:17-22, when the Corinthians came together to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, their meetings were characterized by petty but divisive arguments, gluttony, and drunkenness; and their selfishness was so extreme that the wealthy people ate their food in front of the poor and left the poor hungry. A more unhappy desecration of the most Holy act of Christian worship, by people who claim to love the Lord, can hardly be imagined.

Paul corrected the Corinthians by reminding them of Jesus’ words when the Lord’s Supper was first instituted. It was not to be a meal like other meals, but a solemn ceremony of remembrance and participation in God’s saving grace through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:17-19). Among the reasons to keep this act of worship humble and reverent was that, “as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (John 6:26-58; 1 Corinthians 11:26). So, participation in the Lord’s Supper not only has spiritual importance for each person who takes part in this holy act of worship, it has significance as a form of Christian witness as well.

Unfortunately, this was not the only way that the Corinthian church was giving a poor witness to the presence of God in their midst. The Corinthian Christians were not characterized by love. Without love, Paul admonished the Corinthians, no speech, however eloquent or knowledgeable; no amount of faith, even if it could move mountains; no amount of generosity, even to the poor; and no act of dedication to the Lord, even if it involved a terrible death; would be of any value as Christian testimony (1 Corinthians 13:1, 2).

There was also the issue of language. In the midst of their worship gatherings, some Corinthians would, evidently, speak in a language that only they or a few people understood. People who did not understand the language could not profit from what was said (1 Corinthians 14:4-25). It makes little difference, in this respect, whether “tongues” in this passage refers to a known language or to a special language given as a spiritual gift. The central issue was that worship had to be in the language of the people to be understandable; and unless it was understandable, it would not only fail to build up believers in their faith, it would lead unbelievers to the wrong conclusions. Some unbelievers, listening to what was gibberish to them, might even believe that the Corinthians were insane (1 Corinthians 14:23). The word that Paul uses for “mad” here is a word that could be used to refer to madness caused by pagan gods; so, it is possible that one of Paul’s concerns was that the worship of the Corinthian Christians not be confused with pagan worship.19 If so, the purpose may be similar to that of not eating meat that the Christians knew had been dedicated to idols - to not give the impression of participating in pagan worship (1 Corinthians 10:14-33). Many pagans may also have looked down on such “madness.” In any case, Paul’s purpose is to try to eliminate misunderstanding of what was happening. The pagans still might disapprove, but at least they would have a clearer understanding of what they are witnessing.

Finally, Paul insists on orderliness and self-control in the worship service (1 Corinthians 14:29-33). Paul’s goals are clarity of communication (v. 31), accountability (v. 32), and understanding (v. 33).

The greater lesson in all of this is that worship is a form of witness. Christians changed the day of worship from the Sabbath (Saturday) to the Lord’s Day (Sunday) to testify to the resurrection of Christ. As Christians come together in worship each week on the Lord’s Day, and at other times, they are there to honor God, fellowship with God and the saints, and to grow in faith; but they are also there to testify to their faith through their worship.

Too many people today, who count themselves as Christians, are falling short in their commitment to the Lord because they forget this important aspect of worship. In the plan of God, Christians, by their lives and worship, are to lift up the Lord Jesus Christ before the world, and to offer God’s saving grace through Him. Because of this, there is never a legitimate excuse for Christians who have the health and the means not to attend worship regularly.

Unity and Christian Worship

The issue of Christian unity has come to the forefront in our own time, and relates to this whole matter of Christian witness.

In John 17, we have a record of Jesus’ prayer for His disciples just before He is arrested and crucified. In that prayer, which has come to be called His “High Priestly Prayer,” Jesus prays, “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent me” (John 17:20, 21). How should we respond to these words?

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is helpful on this subject. Paul discusses Christian unity in the most sober of terms - in relation to the cross. At the time Paul was writing, he was deeply concerned with the unity of the Jewish and Gentile churches. But his words have importance for the church at all times.

Paul indicates that Jesus, through the cross, has broken down all of the barriers that separate Christians in any way (Ephesians 2:11-16). Through His cross, we all have access to one heavenly Father, becoming citizens of God’s household - fellow citizens with all other Christians - “built into a dwelling of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:17-22). The lesson of these passages is very clear: we do not have to produce Christian unity - all who truly devote themselves to Jesus Christ - experiencing His saving grace and His life (Ephesians 1:3-2:10), are already one in Christ. No divisions of geography, organization, language, or custom can remove this fact.

Consistent with what we learn from the Tabernacle, and with seeing the Church as a “building” in which the Lord dwells, Paul writes that there is, “one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). Though we cannot produce Christian unity, we are told to be diligent to “preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). How are we to do this?

First, Paul exhorts, we must, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1). Secondly, we are to embrace sound Christian doctrine and “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). In this manner, as we grow in truth and holiness, we grow more and more unified as we all grow closer to Jesus Christ.


No one can go to the manger in Bethlehem today to see the infant Jesus, nor experience the dramatic events surrounding His birth. Jesus no longer teaches or heals or performs miracles in the world as He did during His earthly ministry. He has died on the cross, risen from the dead, presented Himself to His followers by many proofs, and ascended into heaven - these events are all in the past. Now, as John Durham has so aptly indicated, people learn about Jesus from the lives and worship of His people. That is what we are charged with as Christians, so that is how we must serve our Lord. -SMD


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1 The “writing prophets” are those whose books we have in our bibles - Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and so on. Moses was a great prophet of God, but he is associated with the Law; and in the division of Old Testament writings recognized in New Testament times, his writings were considered “Law” as opposed to being part of the “Prophets” (Matthew 5:17, 7:12, 22:40; Luke 16:16, 24:44; John 1:45; Acts 13:15, 24:14, 28:23; Romans 3:21). Many other important prophets did not leave specific writings - among them Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, and Nathan.

2 There is, of course, a subtlety in Jeremiah 31:32 that calls for an explanation. In this passage, the “marriage” is conceived of as happening on the day Israel left Egypt. This difficulty is resolved if we notice that God entered into covenant with Israel when they began to follow Him out of Egypt, but that covenant was not formally agreed to by Israel until Exodus 24:3-8. So, if we stay within the imagery of marriage, we can view “the day you left Egypt” as a “betrothal,” the day God chose to be Israel’s “husband;” with the formal marriage covenant taking place when the covenant was ratified by Israel.

3 This does not mean, of course, that Scripture teaches, or that the Hebrews believed, that God could be contained in an earthly dwelling. The teaching of God’s transcendence, His separation from and superiority to creation, is found as early as Genesis 1. Other affirmations of God’s transcendence and omnipresence may be seen in 2 Chronicles 6:18; Psalm 139, Isaiah 66:1, Jeremiah 23:23, 24; Acts 17:24, 25.

4 “Theology of Worship in Exodus 24,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, vol. 39, no. 2 (June 1996) reproduced in The Theological Journal Library, [CD-ROM], Garland, TX : Galaxie Software 1999, 188.

5 “Tabernacle,” Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996), [volume on-line], accessed from crosswalk.com November 29, 2002.

6 Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Bakerbooks, 1984), 1010, 1011.

7 Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT), vol. 2, ed. R. Laird Harris (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 925.

8 Toward and Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978), 119, 120.

9 Enter His Courts with Praise!: Old Testament Worship for the New Testament Church (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993), 163.

10 “Tabernacle,” Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology.

11 TWOT, vol. 2, 786.

12 The translation here is by John I. Durham, Exodus, The Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 3 (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1987), 392. cf. Hosea 11:9, 13:4, 5.

13 Durham, Exodus, 397.

14 John Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, vol. 2, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1986), 454, 460, 461.

15 The Hebrew word ohel, a “tent” or “dwelling,” was used frequently in the Old Testament to refer to the Tabernacle, as in Exodus 26:7, 14, 15, 33:7-11 and Numbers 9:15, 17:22, 23 (TWOT, vol. 1, 15).

16 Acts 7:44; Hebrews 8:5, 9:2, 3, 6, 8, 21, 13:10; cf. Hebrews 8:2, 9:11; Revelation 13:6, 15:5, 21:3.

17 As opposed to oikos, which generally refers to a more permanent building or dwelling; though sometimes used as “home,” in which case it may be used with skene, “tent” (2 Corinthians 5:1, cf. Acts 15:16).

18 This doesn’t mean, however, that others will necessarily recognize and respond to our witness to Jesus Christ in the manner that we might like! See 2 Corinthians 2:14-16, 5:20.

19 Note the use of the Greek word for “mad” in 1 Corinthians 14:23 - mainomai - and its usage in Herodotus, The Histories, 4.79.1-5 and Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonnus, 1530-1540.

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