From Tent to Temple - Chapter 2

From Tent to Temple
- George H. Warnock


"And they brought in the ark of the LORD, and set it in his place, in the midst of the Tabernacle that David had pitched for it" (2 Sam. 6:17).

"In that day will I raise up the Tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old" (Amos 9:11).

Here we have the account of the erection of the Tabernacle of David; and then the prophecy concerning its restoration in the latter days, after God's judgments upon the apostate nation had brought her to desolation. But before we consider this, we must briefly trace the events in Israel leading up to this apostasy and the gradual deterioration of true worship in the Tabernacle which Moses had built.

The Glory Of Israel Fades Away

When the children of Israel had finally come into possession of Canaan, and subdued the land before them, they set up the Tabernacle of the congregation at Shiloh. Here it remained until the time of the prophet Samuel, a period of approximately 300 years. This was the period of the judges. Not for long did Israel enjoy the liberty, and the freedom, and the fruitfulness of the Land of Promise. God had warned them repeatedly that if they did not utterly destroy the heathen nations of the land and annihilate their idolatrous altars, they would be as pricks in their eyes and thorns in their sides, and their gods would become a snare to them. This actually happened. For although the land was subdued before them; God deliberately left pockets of resistance here and there to "prove" Israel, whether or not they would hearken unto His voice and obey Him fully. (See Judg. 3:1). They tried coexistence where God commanded utter destruction of their enemies. Consequently their enemies, subdued but not destroyed, became their masters. There is no neutral ground in this spiritual warfare against the world, the flesh, and the Devil. We may argue that we cannot be completely victorious as long as we are living in this flesh, and consider that the subjugation of the old nature and the old life is all that God requires. But this kind of coexistence gradually gives way to defeat; and the subdued becomes the subduer. In allowing this struggle to continue within our nature God is not seeking to deny us our heritage, but rather to bring forth a more earnest longing for that abundant life in the Spirit that He longs to bring us into.

We do not know how long the cloud of glory rested on the Tabernacle. But we have good reason to believe that it gradually faded away, like the glory that faded away from the countenance of Moses. The nation that God had called forth to be unto Himself "a peculiar people" soon lost their "peculiarity," and became very much like the nations which they had displaced. The people and the priesthood alike had become defiled. Eli was concerned; but he did not know what to do about it. At least in his concern for God's house he did not seem to be prepared to take any drastic action that might have improved the situation. God had to reprove him for his negligence: "Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and honourest thy sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people?" (1 Sam. 2:29). This fear of division, of disruption in the status quo, of losing favor with the "sons" in the ministry, is something very real in the Church today; and unless the situation is remedied, there will be eventual disaster. But there is a "Samuel" people being prepared of the Lord in this hour. And they know that when an old religious order is in the process of decay and dissolution God always has a new order in the making... one that will arise out of the dust and ashes of the old, but fresh and new from the hand of God.

A New Priesthood Arises

When the priesthood of Eli had come to ashes, God brought forth a new priest by the name of Samuel, one who had ministered in the very presence of Eli and in subjection to him, In the bitterness of her soul God's chosen Hannah had "asked for" Samuel, and God granted her request. His very name Samuel means "asked for." "And the word of the LORD was precious in those days; there was no open vision" (1 Sam. 3:1). In other words, a clear Word, a real vision from the LORD, was a rare thing. But it was the prelude to a new day when Samuel would arise as the oracle of God to His people. There is a Hannah in the earth today. She cries out in the distress of her spirit for a son... a "manchild" ...a people who will come forth in the full image and likeness of Christ out of a dying religious order, and who will be God's oracle to a confused Church, and a world in need. They do not panic in the hour of panic. They are a people with eternity in their hearts, and they are prepared to wait for the Lord to do what He has purposed. Nor do they stagger at the tremendous task that lies before them, as they see God's plan beginning to unfold. They know it is not their task, but the Lord's. Not their battle but the Lord's. And they simply desire to move according to God's time and according to His ways.

As things continued to get worse and worse in Israel, God's plan and purpose was drawing closer and closer to fulfillment. This is the way God always works; but only those who understand God's ways are able to recognize it. Israel was under constant attack by the Philistines. God had delivered them many times, but the hour had come for God to execute swift and certain punishment because of their iniquity and the iniquity of the priesthood. A man of God had warned Eli that this would happen; but along with the warning he also promised: "I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house" (1 Sam. 2:35). The immediate promise was that Samuel would arise--a true and faithful priest. But there was to be a far greater fulfillment when, in the fullness of time, Christ Himself would come forth, a true and faithful Priest, as well as a righteous King.

As the Israelites suffered defeat in battle against the Philistines, they took counsel and decided to bring forth the ark of the covenant from the Tabernacle in Shiloh to save them from their enemies. Was it not the ark of God that struck fear into their enemies as Israel fought the Lord's battles in times past? It was one last, desperate attempt to save themselves from disaster. No greater calamity could have befallen them. They were not only defeated, but the ark of God was captured by the Philistines, and taken into the house of their fish-god Dagon. Besides this, Hophni and Phinehas, who carried the ark into battle, were slain by the Philistines. The heirs to the priesthood were cut off in one sudden stroke. When Eli heard the fateful news he fell backwards and broke his neck and died; while the wife of Phinehas, shocked at the death of her husband and the capture of the ark, gave immediate birth to Ichabod, whose name was destined to become a byword in Christendom throughout all her generations... for his name means, "The Glory has departed" or, "Where is the Glory?"

But God plagued the Philistines because of the ark in their midst, and they finally had to send it back to the camp of Israel. It was finally brought to the house of Abinadab in Kirjath-jearim, where it remained perhaps a hundred years, throughout Samuel's judgeship, Saul's reign, and well into the reign of David. (The 20 years mentioned in 1 Samuel 7:2 does not seem to refer to the ark, but to the period of time that elapsed before Israel began to seek the Lord and to lament before Him because of their waywardness.)

Give Us A King!

God was in the process of judging the old order in preparation for the new. He had dealt with the priesthood. God always deals with the priesthood before He deals with the kingdom. What about the kingdom?

Israel, as we have mentioned, had become like the heathen nations which they were to subdue. There seemed to be just one thing lacking; and so they came to Samuel and cried, "Give us a king, that we may be like the nations." This greatly displeased Samuel, and it greatly displeased the Lord. Had not God planned a king for them? True, His original promise to them was that they were to be a "kingdom of priests." But they wanted a king so they could be "like the nations," whereas the kingdom God had in mind would make them very much unlike the nations.

It seems that God will usually permit man to go his own way--to try and fail, and to learn the hard way--that out of man's failure God Himself may be glorified. And so the Lord went along with their cries, picked for them a king that He knew would be very much to their liking, but he was not a man after His own heart. Then why did He not give them the kind of king that He knew they needed? Because they had become an ordinary people like the nations about them--self-seeking, self-centered, and wayward from God. And God had no alternative but to give them a king that would be very much compatible with their own hearts. For whether we have a democracy or not, God is still Sovereign over all, and He continues to set in office the man He has chosen. Not because such a one is a man after His heart, but because such a one is compatible with the heart of the nation; and who therefore will not, or cannot, make and enforce laws that would curtail the crime and the corruption that abounds in a sinful, rebellious nation. (We need to be reminded, however, that a people walking with God can, through prayers and intercessions, change the hearts and minds of rulers to do His will). For "the king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will" [Prov. 21:1].

With the anointing of Saul as king new hope was born in the hearts of the people; and of course for a season all seemed to go reasonably well. But the facts are there in the scripture for us to read: Saul walked down the pathway of disobedience. He "spared Agag and the best of the sheep" when God required utter destruction. He "forced himself" and yielded to the wishes of the people, when God had commanded otherwise. (And this explains very clearly why a democratic society and a democratic form of government cannot establish righteousness in the land, when the inhabitants of the land are in sin and rebellion against God. In the final analysis the leader must yield to the wishes of the people or he will be thrown out of office. This is what democracy is all about.)

A New King In Preparation

Again, let us observe how wonderfully our God works to fulfill His purposes. Just as God had raised up the prophet Samuel in the house of Eli to take Eli's place when His judgments were poured out on the priesthood, so now God would raise up David in the house of Saul to take Saul's place when God's judgments fell on the kingdom. And then the priesthood having been judged and purged, and the kingdom judged and purged, David comes on the scene as a new "king-priest" to establish a priestly kingdom in the land. This is what God had in mind from the beginning, and He announced His intention to Moses. It was human failure that prevented it from happening then. But in the hour of human failure God continues to move in the earth to the eventual fulfillment of all that was originally in His heart and mind.

Of course we are not trying to say that the "royal priesthood" was established in any sense of fullness in the life of David. But in type--and in a limited degree--David was prophet, priest, and king in Israel. And in the fullness of time his greater Son would sit and rule upon David's throne, a King-Priest forever "after the order of Melchizedek."

We all know the story concerning the anointing of David as king of Israel, how one by one the sons of Jesse passed by the aging prophet, only to be rejected. Finally they had to send to the fields to bring in the one that Jesse had not even considered eligible for the office. And when the lad David came in, God said to Samuel, "Arise, anoint him: for this is he" (1 Sam. 16:12). A new king for Israel! Anointed by the prophet Samuel! And anointed by the Spirit of the LORD "from that day forward"! Yes, but not in a position to rule and reign as yet. A man like Saul can be chosen, anointed, acclaimed as king, and immediately begin to do exploits for the nation. Not so with David. Yes, he had a very notable victory over the Philistines, and served under Saul for a while with great success. But he must go through many deep waters and dark valleys and suffer much persecution, frustration, and perplexity, before he could be entrusted to rule and reign over Israel.

Two anointed kings in Israel--Saul and David! The contest is on, and it grows more and more bitter as the days go by. But let us understand the nature of the contest. It was very much one-sided. Saul out of envy and jealousy was out to trap David and slay him. But David's only concern was to wait for God, do God's will, and save Saul's life. Let us learn from the spirit of David... for it would become his "key" to the throne. He would not seek to uphold or vindicate his own office. He would simply believe what God had promised, and let God bring it to pass in His own way. He would show mercy to Saul, as Saul scoured the land to find him and try to kill him. He would remember God's past mercies, and His faithfulness, thereby drawing strength for new battles. He would praise and glorify God in all circumstances. He would wait on the Lord, and let God work everything out in His own way, in His own time. God help us all to learn how to use this wonderful "key." We only keep what we give away. We only find what we lose. We only save the life that we are prepared to lay down.

David In His Rejection

In the book of Psalms we have many that pertained to David in this period of his distress and rejection. Anointed as king of Israel, but hunted and hounded by an angry Saul, he finally fled to the cave of Adullam where he hoped to find a place of refuge. There it was that he poured out his heart to the Lord, and cried for mercy:

"I poured out my complaint before him;
I shewed before him my trouble.
When my spirit was overwhelmed within me,
Then thou knewest my path.
In the way wherein I walked
Have they privily laid a snare for me.
I looked on my right hand, and beheld,
But there was no man that would know me:
Refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul"
(Psa. 142:24).

Many other psalms were written by him as he went through trial and sorrow, and deep heart-searchings; and these songs were incorporated into the scripture and became a part of Temple worship in all generations to come--not only in Israel, but now in the Church. True ministry is always rejected before it is recognized. It must be this way, because without rejection there can be no channel for grace to flow forth, no room for the spirit of the dove and the spirit of the lamb... which God always requires for the outflow of grace from His own heart. True ministry is conceived in the womb of suffering, born in travail and sorrow, and cradled in a cross.

But David would not always be alone in his distress. It may seem that way at times, for indeed there is the lonely walk for those who would seek to walk with God. But as we go on with the Lord we are going to discover fellowship with others who likewise have known rejection and suffering as they walked with God and learned His ways. So now there is fellowship because of the Cross.

These men who identified themselves with David all had their D.D.D.--

"And every one that was in Distress,
And every one that was in Debt,
And every one that was Discontented,
Gathered themselves unto him;
And he became a captain over them:
And there were with him about four hundred men"
(1 Sam. 22:2).

These men were genuinely sincere in their loyalty to David, and they had caught the vision of the kingdom. But they needed to learn discipline; and they would learn it in company with David. They had to learn God's ways. They had to learn that an open door was not necessarily a call for action. For when Saul was sleeping soundly because of a heavy drowsiness that God had put him under, they naturally assumed it was for the purpose that David might take the kingdom now. They urged immediate action, and quickly volunteered to rid David of Saul if he would let them. They did not know that with David's key they could open doors that no man could close, and close doors that no man could open. What about this, people of God? Why do we get alarmed when a nation announces that no more missionaries are to be allowed into their country? Can God not work in that country, with doors closed to missionaries from abroad? Jesus still has the "Key of David"! And it is still available to a people who will take His yoke upon them, and learn of Him.

The Ark Brought Back

What we have said thus far, of course, is to bring us to the place where we can appreciate what God had in mind concerning His House. What about the ark of God? The place of His Glory? The place of His Rest? Truly the Lord longs to return to His people; but there must be that very needful preparation wrought within their hearts and lives, or He cannot rest in their midst. God said on one occasion, "I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early" (Hos. 5:15). He longs to return to us far more than we long to return to Him. But He does not come unwanted, undesired, unsought, unappreciated. For He would return to us that He might dwell with His own in full communion and fellowship for the delight of His own heart.

How then shall we bring back the ark of God into our midst? The same question has been raised time and time again in the history of God's people. Revival! Restoration! Renewal! Can we have it today? How? Where? When? All kinds of movements and schemes have been devised. Or men will search out the records of Church history, and try to duplicate a method that seemed to work back then, only to discover that nothing will work except as we move with God, and seek to know His way and His intention for His people in this present hour. We are not able to initiate anything. Once we discover God's intention then we must seek Him earnestly that He might show us His way.

The Wrong Way

The natural thing to do then, of course, was to make a new cart and bring back the ark. Invariably when God begins to stir the hearts of His people we find men or women binding themselves together in some kind of a structure to make a "new cart" to carry the glory of God. A lot of excitement follows, and God's people rejoice in the knowledge that God is once again visiting His people. But suddenly something goes wrong, and there is perplexity. "Just what happened anyway?... Where did it go wrong?" The fact is that God never ordained the "cart" to begin with. Certainly God will bless His people as they open their hearts to Him, but they very often fail to realize that He blesses them in spite of the "cart," in spite of the new structure, in spite of the new movement, and not because of it. The "new cart" is man's device to keep the move of the Spirit steady--free from error, free from false doctrines--and to keep the ark of His presence and glory from going on the rocks. "Uzzah and Ahio" who were the sons of Abinadab "drave the new cart" (2 Sam. 6:3). They were quite knowledgeable about the ark. After all it had lain in their father's house for many, many years. "Uzzah" means "Strength," and "Ahio" means "His brother." They could give the proper watch-care and guidance that the ark required. They did not profess to be bringing back the ark, the oxen were doing that. They were just strong, able, qualified men of God who knew exactly what to do if things went wrong. And so when the oxen stumbled near Nachon's threshing floor the ark was shaken and the strong man put forth his hand to steady it, and God smote him dead. Invariably this happens when men invent new carts, new fellowships, new movements--or whatever-to keep the move of the Spirit from falling on the rocks. Some strong man is right there on hand to keep things steady when the way gets rough, and this leads to disaster. God is very jealous for His own glory. And no man can touch it, no matter how great he is, without bringing disaster into the midst of God's people. We may all point our fingers at some great man, some great ministry, and give our version as to how he went wrong. But it is not always his fault. It is often the fault of the people who idolize him. It is often the fault of the religious system that men feel they must try to uphold. And it happens over and over again because we are ignorant as to how exceedingly jealous God is for His own glory.

God hasten the day when God's people will come to the solemn realization that the Spirit of God is in the earth today as the Representative and Vicar of Christ in the Church, and that He must have His due Lordship in the midst of His people. True He raises up leaders from among the people; but we must know that their leadership is only valid by virtue of the Anointing they carry, nothing more and nothing less. "Uzzah" means "Strength." It is invariably the strength of human leadership, not their weakness, that extinguishes the spiritual flame that had been kindled by the presence of the Lord. God's power is made perfect in man's weakness--not in his strength. God does not require the strong, dynamic, charismatic personality. He requires one who like Jacob of old has been robbed of his natural strength by the touch of the hand of God, and who then arises from his confrontation with the Lord a different man, bearing a different name--"Israel." Israel means "Power with God." And from that day on he bears about in his body the indelible mark of his confrontation with the Lord of Glory. From that day forward Israel walks with God with faltering step because of "the sinew that shrank," a constant reminder to him of that day--or rather that night--when Almighty God crippled him by the touch of His mighty hand.

David was afraid of the LORD because of this sudden, drastic action on God's part, and he left the ark in the house of Obededom the Gittite. There it remained for three months. But a strange thing happened. The LORD blessed the house of Obededom, and all that he had, because of the presence of the ark of the covenant. David had to seek the LORD to discover just what went wrong... and why. Many of God's people have been discouraged and dismayed when they have witnessed some strange calamity take place in the Church, where once they had witnessed God's blessing. (But seldom do they call a halt to it all, and seek God for answers; they just make another new cart and carry on as if nothing happened.) Usually we are going to discover that it is a case of human leadership who, because of their great office and gifts, feel they have a mandate to supervise and control and exercise lordship over the people of God because of that office.

God's Way

After seeking God David soon found out the reason for the calamity. He discovered that the ark was to be carried upon the shoulders of the Levites, and in no other way. David acknowledged, "The LORD our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not after the due order" (1 Chron. 15:13). When are we going to learn that God does not originate new carts, new movements, new fellowships, new organizations, every time He would do a certain work in the earth? It is really man's attempt to keep things under control... to keep the revival from falling apart... to keep the doctrines pure... to keep the people from getting scattered... but in the long run it hinders what God is doing, and brings it to a halt.

The Credentials Of True Ministry

The ark of God on the shoulders of anointed men? A sturdy cart on wheels, and a well-organized program, would seem to be much safer. Oxen are much stronger than men. And Uzzah the strong man can keep things in order. Now the "shoulder" is the place of strength. And the shoulders of the priests would speak of men who are strong because of their priestly character--the priestly anointing they carry and their priestly garments of righteousness. This is God's way... God's only way. "Lord, bring us to the place where we learn to walk with You, and abide in Your Anointing." For we need no other credentials for ministry in the House of God, apart from the Anointing... the Anointing that comes down upon us from the garments of our High Priest in the heavens, Who has been "anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows." There is no question about it, the ark of the covenant was heavy. The mercy seat on the top of it was made of solid gold, one of the heaviest of all metals. But God's priests cannot delegate their burdens to others. The real problem is simply this: God's people, and the ministry in particular, are inclined to take burdens upon themselves that God did not authorize. God's intention is that each member of the Body of Christ should find their place of ministry in the Body, rather than delegating their task to some strong man. We are "members in particular," and each member must find his or her place in the yoke of Christ. As we abide with the Lord Jesus in His yoke, the burden will be one we can carry on our shoulders; for Jesus said, "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

A Resting Place For The Ark

Now we must notice something very important. The Tabernacle in the Wilderness that Moses built was certainly God's order for a season. It was still functioning, it was not in ruins. At this particular time it was "in the high place that was at Gibeon" (1 Chron. 16:39). Burnt offerings were still being offered upon the brazen altar, and the priests of the LORD were still attending to its various functions. God was not finished with it yet... nor would He be for many years to come. Zadok the priest and his brethren, men chosen of God, were still ministering there before the ark. But the ark of the covenant was not restored to the holy of holies of the old Tabernacle. If we are going to be spared the frustration of trying to restore something that has served its purpose and belongs to a dying order, we must recognize that God has new things in mind. And that He moves onward and forward and upward, enlightening the path of the just with the Light of a new day--a light "that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." He would bring us back to the old pathway, true, but that pathway leads on and on to new things in God. He wants to bring us back to "first love," when we have drifted from the right course, true. But He is not in the least interested in renewing some old religious structure that He may have seen fit to use in days gone by. God has an entirely new order for His people.

A New Tent On Mount Zion

Because this was a new day, David pitched a new Tent on Mount Zion for the ark of God. Then the ark was brought forth out of the house of Obededom with shouting and great rejoicing. God was returning to His people, and this time the people were prepared! They had discovered God's way! David "danced before the LORD with all his might" (not in an attempt to bring back the ark but because it was back; and we have no record that David ever did this again). It wasn't the dance or the shout that brought back the ark... and in vain are we going to restore the glory of God to His Temple with any of these methods. What David rejoiced in was the presence and glory of God... and in the days to come there would be one thing only that He desired, and that was to sit before the LORD in the Tent of David, and inquire in His Temple.

David danced before the LORD, clothed upon with the garments of a priest: a linen robe girded with a linen ephod. Then the ark was brought into the Tent of David and set in the place that David had prepared for it, there on Mount Zion. Never again did the ark of God enter the courts of the old Tabernacle that Moses had built. God had found for Himself a new Resting Place. He ever leadeth His people on from glory unto glory.

But why Mount Zion? Why not the hill of Gibeon where the Tabernacle had been pitched, and which had been built by the great lawgiver according to the pattern that he had seen on the Mount of God? This was no mere whim of David's. David was a prophet, and God had given him the direction to do this. He had presumed before, and made a cart for the ark. And certainly it would have been utter presumption to put the ark in a new Tent, rather than in the old one on Gibeon if God had not given him clear direction for this. But this was to be God's new order.

"For the LORD hath chosen Zion;
He hath desired it for his habitation.
This is my rest for ever:
Here will I dwell; for I have desired it.
I will abundantly bless her provision:
I will satisfy her poor with bread.
I will also clothe her priests with salvation:
And her saints shall shout aloud for joy"
(Psa. 132:13-16).

From this time forward, even to the consummation of God's purposes in the book of Revelation, Zion is established as the place of God's throne, as well as the place of His temple. The kingdom of David has become eternal in nature. David may die, but his greater Son and His many brethren will rule and reign forever on His throne. The natural Zion comes to desolation, and the natural Jerusalem goes into "bondage with her children," as Paul tells us (Gal. 4:25); but the real Zion of God and the heavenly Jerusalem will forever be known as the "City of the Great King."


Diagram Of The Tabernacle Of David


Why Mount Zion?

Because for the first time in God's dealings with His people He has succeeded in bringing into union with Himself and into His Temple, a man who is both king and priest in Israel. Not in any sense of fullness, that is true, but in seed-form we have in David a man who is both king and priest; and in David's Tent a structure that is both Throne and Temple. This is what God is after, and therefore Zion takes on eternal significance. He must have a people in whom He can dwell in the fullness of priestly fellowship and communion, and through whom He can reveal Himself to the nations in kingly authority and power. And so the original kingdom of David becomes the seed-plot for the unfolding of the Messianic Royal Priesthood. And in the days to come we will discover that Zion will take on still further enlargement as God moves on and on with His people.

But before we get into that we must consider the original meaning of Zion in greater detail, for it is only then that we shall understand the ultimate meaning that God had in mind. We do not do away with the real meaning of scripture when we seek to understand its spiritual and heavenly counterpart. The exact opposite is the truth: for God's plan from the beginning was to bring us out of the earthly and into the heavenly... out of the carnal and into the spiritual... out of old creation life and into New Creation life. God's order is first "that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual" (1 Cor. 15:46). And His plan is to lead us from the one into the other. In so doing the earthly is neither neglected, or ignored, or destroyed. It is rather swallowed up by the heavenly, made immortal by the new life, and made eternal because of its deliverance from decay, death, and corruption.

What about the earthly Zion, the earthly Jerusalem, the earthly Israel? God's plan for them is not a lesser glory than for us as Gentiles. He wants to bring them also into the better things--the heavenly Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the holy nation. There is "one hope, one faith, one baptism"--not two. At the Cross the "wall of partition was broken down" forever, never to be rebuilt, so that natural Israel along with natural Gentiles--redeemed by His grace--might together enjoy the new and abundant life that there is in Christ. Will there ever come about true peace in natural Israel? Yes, but only when they come into this new way, and put on this "one new man" in Christ Jesus. The apostle tells us that this is how God brought peace in the age-long conflict between Jew and Gentile, and that it was through the blood of Christ that God would "make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace." (See Eph. 2:13-19.)

The Original Meaning Of Zion

Zion was a small mountain ridge in the southern part of Jerusalem with valleys below on the east and west, and therefore a natural fortress in itself, and in a strong defensible position. And so when David and his men came against the city in the early part of his reign, he was confronted with the scoffing of the Jebusites who had taken control of this area. Now Jerusalem is believed to have been the "Salem" over which Melchizedek ruled as king-priest many hundreds of years earlier, in the days of Abraham. The word "Salem" means "peace," but the land is now occupied by the Jebusites. Jebus means "trodden down"--the City of Peace is now "trodden down." The city that was once ruled over by a king-priest under God is now in the hands of one of the abominable nations of Canaan which Israel failed to drive out. They had been subdued, but as we mentioned before, the "subdued" became the "subduer." And now David comes against the Jebusites with his band of men, much to the contempt of the Jebusites. They considered themselves to be very secure in their lofty heights, and they scoffed at David. "Even the blind and the lame will drive you away" they scoffed (2 Sam. 5:6). But David and his men ascended the difficult, rocky watercourse that came from Zion, and came upon the Jebusites with a surprise attack and captured the hill for himself. Here he set up his own fortress, and called it the City of David. From here on his kingdom became continually greater. "And David perceived that the LORD had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for his people Israel's sake" (2 Sam. 5:12).

A Royal Priesthood On Mount Zion

Now when the Ark was brought back to Jerusalem, David pitched a Tent for it here on Mount Zion and prepared a place for the ark in the middle of the Tent (2 Sam. 6:17). This is just about all we know about the structure of the Tabernacle of David... no dimensions... no explanation as to how it was made... the kind of fabric that was used... no mention of candlestick, altar of incense, brazen laver, brazen altar, cedar boards or staves. God purposely ignored all this, for He was in the process of establishing a "Home" in Man, and these things were quite insignificant. True, when the Temple of Solomon was built, there was the utmost extravagance in gold, and silver, and precious stones, and carvings, and tapestry, and the like. But Zion in its original meaning has taken on eternal significance as the place of a Royal Priesthood, where man comes into God's presence in priestly communion, and then has the ability to go forth unto the nations with royal power and authority.

David was not really a priest, not by birth and lineage. He was of the tribe of Judah, not from the tribe of Levi. Yet as a forerunner of his greater Son who would reign as a King-Priest on David's throne, we find even David exercising many priestly prerogatives, making him to be a fitting type of the Messiah Who is Prophet, Priest, and King. Let us consider some of these priestly prerogatives.

He Partook Of Priestly Bread And Weapons

When David was fleeing from Saul he came to Ahimelech the priest, and asked for bread and a sword. The priest was somewhat fearful, but reluctantly gave him "holy bread" and the sword of Goliath, that somehow had been confiscated from David many years before. The food was strictly "priestly bread," yet David and his men ate of it; and this act was cited by the Lord as something commendable, even though it was admittedly "unlawful." (See Matt. 12:34.) The sword of Goliath at that time was "wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod"--and this was a priestly garment. (See 1 Sam. 21:6-9.) The sword with which he had slain Goliath had been preserved for him in the house of God. It wasn't really lost, but perhaps it often seemed that way to David. If we are walking with God, let us not fear when we notice former aspects of power and authority slipping away from our grasp. Be quick to let them go. Perhaps the Lord sees that we are not really prepared to use them as we ought, and they will mean much more to us when the time comes for God to restore them.

He Wore Priestly Garments

We mentioned before how David had laid aside his royal garments of power, and went forth dancing before the Lord when the ark returned, clothed upon with the humble garments of the priesthood. He wore a robe of linen and an ephod. This is what caused his wife Michal to look upon him with disdain. He was a great king. What a humiliating thing to see him dressed up like a humble priest, and dancing before the Lord!

He Had Priestly Access To God

This was most astounding of all. The ark of God which for hundreds of years could only be visited by the high priest--and that only once in the year--was now set up in a "prepared place" in the middle of the Tent of David on Mount Zion, the place of his citadel and kingdom. He was "afraid of God" when God smote Uzzah dead for his error, but now he pitches a tent for the ark in his own backyard, that he might dwell with God all the days of his life:

"One thing have I desired of the LORD,
That will I seek after;
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD,
And to inquire in his temple"
(Psa. 27:4).

We may wonder at this when we consider how drastically God dealt with others for intruding into the priesthood. In later years a certain king by the name of Uzziah (also a very good king) went into the temple to offer up incense, and God smote him with leprosy right there in the sight of the priests. But Uzziah was performing a ritual out of the pride of his heart; whereas David was acting in faith, under God's guidance and direction, and God was pleased to dwell with David in the same house.

The New Testament has much to say concerning the priesthood of the believer and our heritage as "kings and priests unto God." But here on Mount Zion we have a foretaste of New Testament priestly access into God's presence. As we cultivate priestly ministry we come into a place of communion with God. In kingly ministry we have power with men. That is why we must concentrate on priestly ministry. And that is why God always establishes a priesthood in the earth before He establishes a kingdom. Man would always reverse this order, and in so doing he brings chaos and devastation into the midst of God's heritage. Oh, that God would eradicate that inherent lust for power and authority from the hearts of His people... and especially from the hearts of those in ministry!

God's Open Door To The Nations

Songs that are given by the Spirit are always related to what God is doing in the earth at that particular time, or is about to do. And on the day that the ark of God was brought to Zion and placed in the Tent of David, Asaph and his brethren were given a prophetic psalm to commemorate this "new day." It was a song of thanksgiving and praise for God's great goodness to the house of Israel, in confirming the covenant that He had made with Abraham, and watching over them in their weakness and in their wanderings:

"He suffered no man to do them wrong: Yea, he reproved kings for their sakes, Saying, Touch not mine anointed, And do my prophets no harm."

But immediately after saying this David was caught away in prophetic inspiration (for he was a singing prophet), and he began to declare what God was going to do among the nations. Israel had always been slow to comprehend that what God was doing for them and in them, was not to be something confined to their little land, and temple, and people... but to make of them a door of utterance to the nations, that through them "all nations" might partake of the blessing of Abraham. David therefore began to prophesy of the glory of God that would emanate from Mount Zion and embrace all the nations of the earth. This occasion of triumph and glory on Mount Zion was to be no mere nationalistic dream come true to the chosen people of God. It was to be a new beginning for mankind, the springing forth of a river that would eventually embrace the whole world and bring deliverance to a groaning creation. So he went on:

"Sing unto the LORD, all the earth;
Show forth from day to day his salvation.
Declare his glory among the heathen;
His marvelous works among all nations.

Give unto the LORD, ye kindreds of the people,
Give unto the LORD glory and strength.
Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name,

Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness, Fear before him, all the earth:
The world also shall be stable, that it be not moved.
Let the heavens be glad,
And let the earth rejoice:
And let men say among the nations,
The LORD reigneth.

Then shall the trees of the wood sing out
At the presence of the LORD,
Because he cometh to judge the earth.
O give thanks unto the LORD;
For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever."
(See 1 Chron. 16:8-36; Psa. 105:1-15; 96.)

This first prophetic utterance concerning the glory of Zion has established the real meaning of Zion not only for this occasion, but for all the prophecies that would follow after. Both in David's writings, and in all the prophets, and on into the New Testament, the references to Zion go far beyond a little hill in Jerusalem to embrace in a larger sense the people of God, the place of God's throne, and the place of His priesthood.

Next: Chapter 2 (Continued) - The Tabernacle of David to be Rebuilt
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