Friday, June 14, 2013

The Tabernacle in the Wilderness


Dick Proenneke moved to the wilderness of Alaska and there he spent the next thirty years living alone in the wilderness. He only visited the lower forty-eight states every several years but soon returned back to the wilderness. He filmed his life and they made two “Alone in the Wilderness” films that Dick filmed of himself and which documented his life in Alaska. He had great carpentry skills which served him well in building his living quarters.

This man lived a most Spartan like existence. He had no electricity and no company and during the winter the temperature would dip to 30 below zero. He seemed to do fine and did not get lonely like most of us would. But he had built a wonderful little cabin that kept him warm and safe from wild animals.

In the Old testament the Lord instructed His people to build a tabernacle in the wilderness as they journeyed from Egypt to the promised land. It was a place where worship was done and when they pitched their personal tents the Tabernacle was in the center of the camp. And when they moved they could see a pillar of smoke during the day over the Tabernacle and a pillar of fire at night. The Tabernacle was more than a place for ceremony. It was their very life.

The word “tabernacle” can mean a place. It can also be a verb which means “to dwell with”. The Old Testament Tabernacle was not only a place, but it was where God dwelt among His people. It was a very special and sacred place and presence.

In the Old Testament God tabernacled with His people. In the New Testament God tabernacles in His people. Yes, we are the tabernacle of God where God Himself in the Person of the Holy Spirit dwells. It is a miracle of redemption as well as a great mystery. And we who are the followers of Jesus dwell in the wilderness we call “the world”. When we say the world we do not just mean the physical earth. No, we mean a place that loves and operates with fallen systems and on where the demonic spirits of antichrist are actively seeking to steal, kill, and destroy the souls of men. When a sinner believes on the Lord Jesus and is born again he immediately becomes a citizen of God’s kingdom and this present world becomes his enemy. Yes, that saint is now the planting of the Lord and is sent to live and share the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ which is the same gospel that brought him to faith as well.

But what used to be a place of excitement and enjoyment suddenly becomes a vast wilderness. What just a short time ago drew his utter attention and provided him with self elevation and a vast array of things that helped him feel a real sense of belonging now seems very alien to his spirit. This feeling only grows over time and with each deeper step in his discipleship the world feels more and more like a wilderness. The things which used to attract him now repulse him. It is a tangible phenomenon and those of us who have and continue to experience it can testify to its power and reality.

But while we begin to feel increasingly alienated from this world and all that is in it we simultaneously begin to feel a tangible sense of God’s presence within us. God has come to dwell within us at the very moment we believed on Christ, but now we begin to sense His presence and fellowship within that presence. Through learning of His Word and prayer and obedience we are ushered by the Spirit into that sacred place where only committed believers can know. We realize what it means to be the tabernacle of God, and we also know what it means for God to tabernacle within us. We experience the New Testament version of the Tabernacle in the wilderness.

Let me encourage all my brothers and sisters in Jesus. Hold fast to Christ and all His truth. Do not be moved by what you see happening in the wilderness. And as you see professing followers of Jesus loving and playing in this wilderness, just keep looking to Jesus. You have a tabernacle not made with hands and God is with you and in you. Did you hear what I just said? God, the Creator of the Universe and the Redeemer of our souls, is with us and in us. What a glorious mystery! Halleluiah to His matchless name! The Lamb has triumphed and in that victory we have shared. All you need is Christ and He dwells within you. This wilderness is not our home and it was where we played in our spiritual death but now we have been given life everlasting and our eyes have been opened and what used to excite us is now our enemy.

Please do not assign this to some ethereal fantasy. This is the eternal reality for the believer. This is the faith bought with His blood. We are not just followers of Jesus but we are His incandescent tabernacles who walk as lighted pilgrims inside this dark and foreboding wilderness. How can we convey to an unbeliever the glory that dwells and manifests itself within us? He is ever with us, but sometimes He takes hold of our entire beings and we are undone and overcome with a glory and a presence this world can never know. And as we look out at this wilderness we know we look through a portal from within a divine tabernacle.

Hyperbole? There are no words that can fully express what He means to us and what has happened to our lives. Oh the unspeakable glory of knowing and walking with Jesus. The people of the wilderness wonder how we find joy and even if we have lost our minds. Yes! We have lost our minds and we now have His mind! Can you not remember when you did not know Him? I can remember vividly the days when I loved the wilderness. It was my life and I wallowed in any and all sins. It was killing me although I was already dead.

But after the Spirit opened my heart and I was born again I entered a divine process in which that same Spirit began to strip me not only of certain sins, but also of desires and attitudes and the impulses and thoughts of my heart. Little by little my new man came forth as I crucified the old man and instead of living my own life I now allowed Jesus to live His through me.

Gal.2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

And if we give the deserved meditation on that verse we should realize this very fact: What could allure a dead man? What does the world have to offer a corpse? And if it is indeed Jesus living through us, and if we know that He is THE Creator of all there is, then what could ever tempt Him, especially coming from this vile wilderness? Oh the answer is obvious and full of unspeakable glory. Nothing! He who reigns from the emerald throne in all His majesty cannot be moved by anything man can do. And if you feel some lust for something here on earth it is you and not Him. But if you retreat into the shadow of His everlasting wings than you are eternally content with serving and worshiping your Redeemer.

And in all this as you live in the midst of a wilderness you can bask in the warmth of His redeeming presence. If you could fly above the atmosphere and look back you would see the earth as a whole. And covering this planet is a vast and consuming wilderness. It is spiritually dead and spiritually dark. But if you could see with the eyes of the Spirit you would see millions of lights glowing among the darkness. Tabernacles of God’s presence spotted around the world. There are tabernacles in Darfur, and in Nigeria, and in Russia, and in Brazil, and in Haiti and in France and in South Korea and in Iran and in China and in places only the Spirit knows.

And we also who seem to have and know so much must humble ourselves and join our hearts with our brothers and sisters around the world and realize that not only are we family, and not only are we kindred tabernacles, but collectively we are the body of Jesus Christ. Selah.


Bill Cotton said...

Thank you for the words of encouragement as well as the power of conviction from the Holy Spirit. If we would ever slow down and just meditate on His Word our feeble minds could not even fathom the wonderful works, beauty, Love, Grace, long-suffering, and on and on. Because I cannot come up with enough words to describe His patience for me. The quenching and grieving that we all do to the Spirit of the Living God is unimaginable. I pray that the Lord continues to feed you with the words of wisdom, comfort and many times, stinging conviction from the Holy Spirit, for us all who come to the well.

God bless to all my brothers and sisters who are on this blog.

Julie Wilton said...

Hallelujah to the Lamb of God! What an encouraging word this morning. Thank you, Brother Rick. What joy is flooding my soul.....

michael said...

It's a joy to be reassured by others the understanding to press in, to continue on, to not lose hope or give up is the same for all. Later on Paul in Galatians writes this which underscores that the change is generally slow being transformed by the Spirit into the new, putting to death daily old sinful life desires which can rain havoc on the training one into His Righteousness:

Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! (Galatians 4:16-19 ESV)

The battles we sometimes face and the forces that come against us indeed seem to be bad but with a little or a lot of encouragement at times we look back and see this has always been the Truth:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalms 46:1 ESV)

That truth? That God has been in the center of it all all the time and while we would want the troubles that beset our flesh to go away, God doesn't. He wants us to come to terms with the truth that He is with us IN the trouble not God get me OUT of the trouble!

To the Colossians Paul writes about the HOPE that will carry us through:

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit. (Colossians 1:3-8 ESV) ...

... And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. (Colossians 1:21-23 ESV)

Anonymous said...


All this talk about churches and who knew, the Spirit within us can be the tabernacles (church) that isn't made with human hands. I've read these scriptures, but forget so easily, and it's so nice to be reminded, and it's so encouraging.

The story of Dick Proenneke moving to the wilderness reminds me of my deceased father. He was an outdoors man, who could live in a cabin for the winter, rely for his food on fishing, hunting. His sister, my aunt, in her 60's and 70's (widow) would camp at her cottage along the St.Lawrence River, where neighboring camps were empty for the summer and she'd stay there alone until the late fall, and sometimes would be stuck there for days when snow storms blocked the roads. Some people are like that and it's in their DNA. Now, others, are created with different traits, where they must rely on people all the time. The wild-man DNA must be in my family, yet that's not a spiritual trait, it's a carnal one.

I know we live in the end times, and that we're going to have to suddenly become accustomed to allowing God to work in us and through us, and commune with us in our own tabernacle. And today's church people don't know how to fellowship anymore. This society doesn't allow true fellowship anymore. It's become cliquish, people sitting in the same pews, talking to the same friends, acquaintances, ignoring new people sitting in the back in the corner. How can that be true fellowship? It's not the first church's types of fellowship. They came already having all in common. I expect some people were wearing the hand-me-downs of the people across the aisle and they shared everything they had with each other. I can't imagine this happening in today's churches. It just does not happen. The pastors demand the tithe and use it upon their administrations and church mortgages and such, and the poor are still poor week after week. If a church does create a program to donate unneeded stuff for charity, it's done for established charities, not churchpeople. It's hard for a poor person to walk into church wearing the clothes he knows belongs to those 5 or 6 rich couples that always hang around together and who laugh and share 'vacationcruise' stories.

Yes, tabernacles of wilderness are all we can hope for now. God's will was for His 'church' to be like the Acts church, but men transformed it into a manufacturing plant, which produces robotic christians doing the same thing over and over again and never seeing any improved results; and where the clergy are the great mediators between men and God. And even in that horrid atmosphere, Jesus still comes to the hearts of those still in those churches, despite it all, He still has so much mercy and he hears the cry of those who need him, even when they're in the midst of Babylon.

We can't lose when we serve Christ Jesus. He is there ready and waiting for all people, those in the chains of man-made religious institutions, and those outside the court. He is awesome and wonderful and the best Father anyone could hope for.

Anonymous said...

I'm back. Just shared the story about my dad and aunt having the loner genes.

I forgot to mention that it's hard for those who are used to depending on community for such a long time, to suddenly have to adjust to being alone in a wildnerness, and for those christians, it also be a big adjustment to try to go into a place of spiritual wilderness.

So here we are, most, if not all, trying to make those adjustments and some find it easier, and some less. I pray that I can press in with the Lord more than I ever have, now that I have to rely solely on myself. I'm like the apostles who couldn't pray for an hour and would fall asleep. I need a physical boost in these times, as I've always had that weird 'fatigue syndrome' and insomnia intermixed so I sometimes feel like a zombie and this isn't a good mix for being any kind of prayer warrior.

I pray we all find the strength and supernatural ability (from the Lord) to press in like we've never done before!!


Lorena said...

Truly, the wilderness is dark and gloomy. Thanks and praise to the Lord of heaven and earth who has brought us into the Light, Jesus Christ, and that we have brothers and sisters in many other lands!
Thank you Rick, for the much needed encouragement. I'm very thankful to be able to have fellowship with one another here.

Anonymous said...

We no longer tabernacle in the wilderness, for God has shepherded His saints into the Promised Land. He has shepherded those who trust and obey Him wholeheartedly into the land of His promises!

Thanks to all glorious Lord Jesus the Spirit of truth now tabernacles with true believes and they are being conformed to the image of Christ Jesus.

We no longer wander in the wilderness but walk gratefully and humbly with the author and finisher of our faith.

Reine Gnade

Anonymous said...

It is difficult for those who've had much community (or at least a feeling of community) to come out into a "lonely" place with the Lord. For others like me, I've gotten so used to being alone that I find it very difficult to go back to a lot of human contact. I feel guilty about it sometimes, that I've gotten too independent and proud or intolerant or whatever.

We started out our life in the Lord in intense fellowship and community. It got destroyed; we got used to doing without; now it could be hard to readjust to making lots of room for and accountability to others. Oh how wonderful to have a Good Shepherd in spite of it all.

Cherie c. said...

But we love you Victoria, no strings atrached.

Love you too Bill.

Hi Julie!

your sister in Christ Jesus,

Cherie c.

Anonymous said...

Friends, a consecrated life isn't a "lonely" life in the LORD, for God is joyful and blesses those who love Him with joy.

God commands us to rejoice in the LORD. We are to rejoice hour by hour in our justice and joy-bringing LORD.

Friends, God doesn't call us out of fellowship but into fellowship. Where God's saints are is where true believers ought to desire to be.

Truly companionship doesn't lead us into loneliness but an abundant joy-filled life. It is a life full of challenges and difficulties to surmount, yet one that brings us joy and totally fulfills us.

If someone has gotten so used to being alone they ought to start resisting that way of thinking and behaving because living like that isn't God's perfect will for anyone.

Precious readers, are you finding it very difficult to go back to a lot of human contact? Do you feel guilty about it sometimes, that you've gotten too independent and proud or intolerant or whatever?

Precious readers, do you know how wonderful the Good Shepherd, lord Jesus Christ is?

Do you know that if you are currently not in fellowship He can restore you to a right understanding? What should you do?

You should refocus on Jesus and His words and the teachings in the Bible and desire to deepen your prayer life and to live more purely before Your pure LORD.

Yes, it will be hard to readjust but let's remember to whom we are accountable- it is to Almighty God. Put your trust in Him as the great restorer.

Truly He is able to restore your trust in human companionship and fellowship!

Be encouraged for the LORD will bless your sincere efforts to honour Him!

Reine Gnade

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Reine. And Thank you, Father!