There are many things that we can learn and understand in our walk with God when we observe God’s walk with the nation of ancient Israel. There’s much about the nation of Israel that sets a pattern for us to learn from.
By covenant, they became a called-out people who were destined to live according to the will of God as expressed by His law. The feature of the special relationship was the fact that God would dwell among them.
“And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it” (Exodus 25:8-9).
God’s dwelling with them was external in an “earthy sanctuary” patterned on the heavenly. Ancient Israel did not have internal access to God’s Spirit. The way had not yet been made available by Christ’s sacrifice. Through Christ, a significant change took place.
“How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:14-15).
Through Jesus Christ there is a newer covenant made with the Church today: “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,’” (Hebrews 10:14-16).
The new covenant signifies a change of God’s dwelling, dwelling amongst them to dwelling in them. From an external relationship to an internal relationship. Through Christ’s death the way was opened for having complete access to God.
God’s called out people become connected to God by His indwelling presence. Their bodies have become the temple of the Holy Spirit. But what are the essential characteristics of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit? I’m talking about the nature of this connection and what it really, deeply means for us as God’s people.
Paul speaks of the new covenant in terms of a ministry. In 2 Corinthians he’s talking about the Spirit not the letter: “Who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, How will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious?” (2 Corinthians 3:6-8).
Paul is referring to the law given to Moses. Moses went up in the mountain and received the law from God, its codified form, its summation. It’s referring to that as the ministry of death because the transgression of the law (sin) earns the death penalty. Jesus Christ had not come, had not died, had not taken away the penalty for death, so it was a ministry of death. There could not be any other end for the transgression of God’s law at that time.
Now the Spirit is internalized, and the ministry is conducted by that spiritual influence. It is more glorious than what was given to Moses: “For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious. . . .“But we all with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:11,18).
From glory to glory. What was written on stones was glorious, the law of God. Nothing wrong with that. Now, we take it from that point and to the glory that represents God Himself. “Transformed into the same image” which is exactly God’s purpose for creating mankind. It’s being lived and worked out through the Church.
Through Christ’s sacrifice we are under the “ministry of the Spirit.” The new covenant refers to the internal presence of the Holy Spirit. The glory of the first becomes even more glorious in the second; from the glory of God’s law being the letter, to the glory of the Spirit. The word ‘glory’ comes from the meaning ‘to think’. In other words, to think and become like Christ. We, as followers of Christ, are being transformed into the image of God and His Son Jesus Christ. The ministry of the Spirit is to transform the human mind into the spiritual mind of God.
One transformation involved God telling Israel to: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. (Deuteronomy 6:4 -6). Israel’s mind overall was far from this conceptual requirement.
If they had embraced God’s law wholeheartedly from the human level, life in Israel could have been magnificent as God intended it to be, as a witness to all the nations round about. As God is one, man was created in His image to become one with Him. The ministry of the Spirit is toward that end, to become at one with Him.
Near the end of His life, Jesus comes to a particular point in prayer where He says to His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane: “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;” (This is the ecclesia He’s referring to, the entire Church.) That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:20-23).
There you have the nature of the Holy Spirit in a nutshell. The world is to know the oneness of God through the work of the Holy Spirit producing the oneness of man with God. At this point one might say: “Okay, I read it, I get you.” However, the kind of thought patterns that are produced in this world’s environment are anything but unity and oneness with God. It’s one thing to read this, it’s another thing to say this is being put into practice.
The oneness of God was in the engraved stones on Mount Sinai. The works of the law were good. The Holy Spirit made them into the “glory of righteousness” that they may be one, pointing the way forward once the Holy Spirit had been given.
Man was created with a mind, a brain with a spiritual component (Job 32.8). But man is incomplete just as Israel was incomplete. God was with them, in a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire. The law was with them, as a physical letter, guiding their actions. They could have had a relationship with God and enjoyed all the benefits of obedience, the blessings. They could have had a great life, but they did not have the mind of God. He dwelt among them. He did not dwell in them.
Here is an interesting statement regarding the gospel: “For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them (Referring back to Israel); but (it says) the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it” (Hebrews 4:2).
This references us back to the spies being sent into the land of Israel. They were getting ready to go into the land. They sent spies into the land. The land represented the Kingdom of God so in that sense there’s the aspect of the gospel, but they lacked faith to go forward and to do what God had told them to do. They responded by sight. There were only two of the twelve spies that came back with any positive statement.
They all came back and said: “Absolutely, it’s a land of milk and honey. It’s a great land! But there are giants, and we are just grasshoppers in their sight. They came back and said: “Yes, it’s as God said it was, but no! We’re not going to go!” The ten prevailed over Caleb and Joshua. They did not obey God and that’s what’s being referenced above in Hebrews 4:2.
‘Not being mixed with faith’ means they were not united by faith with those who heeded it. The problem was the unity. They were not united by faith. Two had the faith and ten didn’t and so it caused the whole program to halt at that point.
Unity is at the heart of God’s purpose. God is one. Jeremiah understood this concept of unity at the heart of God’s purpose in our mind: “At the same time,” says the Lord, “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people” (Jeremiah 31:1).
It is a future unity. This is looking at Israel at a time in the future when God pulls all scattered tribes of the descendants of Jacob’s 12 sons back together. This future unity will also be built on a pattern. Physical Israel, in the future, will look back to a pattern that God is developing now for the unity that they will once again experience. That unity is being promoted by the Spirit of God within the people of God today.
Following from that expression we come to: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah — Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the (entire) house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Jeremiah 31:31-33).
At this point it is an expression of a future hope. Israel without God’s Spirit became scattered. It got to the point where God inspired Hosea to say: “You are not My people”. He said that all the families of Israel shall be “My people.” The problem was the people, not the covenant.
We have already seen that the book of Hebrews is applying to the Church, those having God’s Holy Spirit. The old model being physical, failed to achieve that unity. The new model is being set in place by Christ’s sacrifice. It is a mind connected to its Creator.
It’s interesting that we are reading this in the Old Testament: “They shall be My people, and I will be their God; Then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me” (Jeremiah 32:38-40).
This is written relevant to God’s purpose for Israel in the future after He brings the remnant back together, but it totally applies to the ecclesia, to those called today to come into a relationship with God.
The law in its letter is good, but it remains exterior, it remains outside of the self. The law can enforce compliance but there is something the law can’t do of itself. It cannot create the true unity that Christ referred to in His prayer.
As an exterior force it can’t transform man into the spiritual image of God. Something is needed to make that connection. Paul says, “For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man” (Romans 7:22). It’s now interior. It is not external. Transformation takes place in the inner man. This is the ministry of the Spirit developing in the image of the One who created him.
“The Spirit [It]self bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16). We have a spirit that gives us a mind (Job 32:8). God’s Holy Spirit joins with that spirit to create something deeply spiritual within an individual. It is the nature of this connection that is important. We abide in Him and He in us. (Remember John 17: “I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one …”
The essential characteristic of God’s Spirit is to produce a dwelling place for God. The pattern was set by Israel as a dwelling place for God. An external dwelling.
Now it is God in us. God dwells within us. It’s not something abstract from God. You can say Christ in us but it’s one and the same thing. That’s what we need to realize is going on in our lives changing from glory to glory, taking the glory of the stones, good law, and making it into what that law represents – God Himself! “In whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, In whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:21-22).
The pattern for Israel and the pattern for all the rest of mankind is being set in place today. This dwelling is internal. He is not dwelling behind a veil. He’s not dwelling in a room. He’s dwelling in the hearts and the minds of individuals. It is the unity of the Father, the Son and us as an individual producing a unified Church.