February 11, 2015

God’s meticulous care

When I make a quilt, I know the importance of accuracy. Many quilts are made of small pieces. Each seam must be an accurate ¼ inch. If the seam is more than 2-3 thread widths out, then the pieces and blocks will not fit together.

Today I read God’s instructions for the tabernacle. So far, there are fifty-eight verses with details like this . . .

“Moreover, you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen and blue and purple and scarlet yarns; you shall make them with cherubim skillfully worked into them. The length of each curtain shall be twenty-eight cubits, and the breadth of each curtain four cubits; all the curtains shall be the same size.” (Exodus 26:1–2)

“And you shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. It shall be made with cherubim skillfully worked into it. And you shall hang it on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, with hooks of gold, on four bases of silver. And you shall hang the veil from the clasps, and bring the ark of the testimony in there within the veil. And the veil shall separate for you the Holy Place from the Most Holy.” (Exodus 26:31–33)

Exodus isn’t the only place where God gives incredible detail for the place where His people will gather to worship Him. Other books have many chapters giving measurements, materials, design and other specific instructions. His standards are given precisely and expected to be carried out to the letter.

The next reading has this also, “King Solomon made himself a carriage from the wood of Lebanon. He made its posts of silver, its back of gold, its seat of purple; its interior was inlaid with love by the daughters of Jerusalem.” (Song of Solomon 3:9–10)

These passages reminded me that the NT says that Christians are now the dwelling place of the Lord. My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Given His care and attention to the structure of the tabernacle in the wilderness, to the temple built later, and even to the carriage Solomon rode in, I’ve concluded that I ought to consider every part of His instructions for me as very important. He wants me to heed every word, just as He did.

I’d love to connect those OT passages with some of the instructions for life in the NT, but this third reading is not about how Christians should live. Instead, it is a healing incident in the ministry of Jesus. However, as I look at it again, I notice the detail included in the narrative.

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids — blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’ ” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. (John 5:1–15)

Was it necessary to include that it was a feast day, or that this pool was by the Sheep Gate, or to add the name of it in Aramaic? Was it important to give the number of the colonnades, or even that there were colonnades and they had roofs? Was it important to say how long this man had been an invalid, or the details of the healing? Couldn’t the author just say that Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath, and the man told the Jews what happened?

This reveals something about God; details are important to Him. Maybe this is why the Bible says to pray without ceasing, that is, be in a prayerful attitude all the time. It is because God is interested in every part of my life, from my sitting down to rising up, and even the number of hairs on my head. When I struggle with a thesis statement, I know I can ask Him which wording sounds the best. When we cannot decide who to invite for lunch, we know we can ask Him because He cares about that too. If I am puzzled, tired, hurting, or happy, excited, and in awe of Him, He notices — and He cares!

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