“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.” (Philippians 4:4-5 NIV)
During my elementary and middle school years, I attended a co-ed Catholic school. Each week we attended Church – both during the week and on Sundays. Some of the teachers I had in elementary school were nuns. Church, for me as a child, didn’t feel like a comforting place to be. I remember several Bible verses being ingrained in us, like “honor your father and mother,” “do onto others as you would like them to do unto you,” “never tell lies.” While I understood God wants us to live a good life, I didn’t always understand God’s mercy and love for us.
I have vivid memories of one nun in particular. She was a stern, down-to-business, fiery red-headed Irish woman that did not tolerate any shenanigans in her classroom. In fact, I cannot recall a time I ever saw her smile. There was a time when she whacked one of the boys in front of the class with a ruler for misbehavior. A personal memory I have is one day getting up enough courage to raise my hand in class to answer a question (I was pretty shy and not one who typically volunteered to answer questions), only to have her ridicule me for not giving the right answer. It’s safe to say that I developed an unhealthy fear of God from a very young age.
In Exodus Chapters 36-40, we see the building of God’s Tabernacle come to life with the people He equips to carry out the work of constructing it. God gifts His people with the skills and talents they need in order to carry out the job at hand. And the people respond marvelously to His call. They were willing to give much more than they were required to, in order to serve God and His plans for His Sacred and Most Holy Place (see Exodus 36:1-7).
God was also very detailed in His plans for the design of His Tabernacle and the furnishings that would reside inside of it. Each piece had special significance to the covenant God made with His people. And as we read in Chapters 37 through 39 of Exodus, we see that God does not miss any details.
In recognition of the people’s hard work and efforts, God reveals His Holy Presence in the form of a cloud. God resides over His Tabernacle and His people in order to dwell among them. In Chapter 40:36-38, it describes how when God moves, the people move with Him. During the day, the cloud hovers over the Tabernacle and “at night fire glowed inside the cloud so the whole family of Israel could see it.”
I love that God rewards the people with his presence and never leaves them alone. God’s Tabernacle is a place that He creates for the people to Worship Him and to be with Him. And he loves His people so much that he never leaves them. God didn’t miss any detail in the building of His Tabernacle and He certainly doesn’t miss any details now. As Matthew 10:30 states, “And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.” God created us, like His Tabernacle, and He knows each and every hair on our head. He knows us, loves us and wants to be with us.
I didn’t know how much God loved me back in grade school. I was taught to fear Him, not learn how to connect to Him. And the only way I have learned to since is through His Word. It is so important that we all know the depths of God’s love for us. And it is overwhelming to know that the depths of His love include giving us His one and only Son to die for our sins and redeem us. We no longer have to offer sacrificial things to experience God’s glory, we need only to call upon Jesus and the Holy Spirit and His glory is ours. That is the good news. That is the reason to rejoice in God!
Today, I go to Worship at my Church with a longing to hear God’s good Word for me. It is a personal and intimate time that I freely share with my Heavenly Father, whom I am so grateful for. In His Church, I come joyful and prepared to worship. I let myself hear the message for that week and I let it soak inside of me. When I am there, I feel His light shining and I know He is with me and loves me. And I am so thankful to God for His promises to me through His Word.
Heavenly Father, thank you for showing me through your Word how you long to dwell among us. Help me to come prepared, sacrificial and joyful not just in your Church, but also outside of Church, so that others see Your Glory through me. Thank you for all the times you have given to me so freely and have given me your one and only Son to wash away my sins. I praise and rejoice in you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.