From the East

James Hilsden, the lead singer of the Israeli band Miqedem, explained the meaning of their name at a recent concert at Kol Dodi Messianic Congregation, in Nashville TN. He explained that “Miqedem” means “from the East” – but it also means from ancient times. The Hebrew word for the East refers to the rising sun.

He then reminded us of the story of the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve were sent out from there, they were sent to the East of it. In Genesis 3:24, we learn “After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life”

The cherubim were large angelic-looking creatures with huge wings.

Now notice this –

behind the veil

This is a replica of the veil that separates the Holy of Holies – the innermost section of the Tabernacle (In Hebrew it is מִשְׁכַּן “mishkan”, meaning “dwelling place”).  God’s instructions for how to build the Tabernacle are in Exodus 25.  Instructions about the curtains begin at Exodus 26:1.

“Make the tabernacle with ten curtains of finely twisted linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, with cherubim woven into them by a skilled worker.”

This is for the inner part of the tabernacle, which is then covered with a tent made of the more durable fabric of goat hair.  The curtain for the Holy of Holies is described in Exodus 26:31-33

31 “Make a curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen, with cherubim woven into it by a skilled worker. 32 Hang it with gold hooks on four posts of acacia wood overlaid with gold and standing on four silver bases. 33 Hang the curtain from the clasps and place the ark of the covenant law behind the curtain. The curtain will separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place.”

Notice that the curtains are to be embroidered with cherubim!

Note that the entrance to the Tabernacle is from the East.

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The Holy Temple – the building in Jerusalem designed to be a permanent version of the traveling Tabernacle – was also oriented with its opening to the East.

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When you enter it, you are essentially returning to the Garden of Eden.  The cherubim, who were guarding the entrance to the Garden, part to allow you to enter.  You are once again allowed to be face-to-face with God.

This is, of course, if you are of the Priestly line.

This was true until Jesus died on the cross.  Before then, only people who were blood-kin to Aaron (Moses’ brother) were allowed into that inner sanctum, when they were serving as the High Priest.  But when Jesus died, the curtain was supernaturally torn in half, from top to bottom.

Matthew 27:51-53

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

His death opened up direct access to God to all who follow him.  His death brought life to all the faithful.

Much thanks to James of Miqedem for providing the important pieces of this teaching. I had not noticed the connections before between Eden and the Tabernacle facing East.

(All Bible translations are NIV, all images are copyright their respective owners.)

Annunciation

In a gloomy little corner at St. Meinrad’s, there is a painting of the Annunciation.  It is very hard to see – there is little natural light and I couldn’t find a light switch for artificial light.  It is the the only painting in that corner.  It is more of a passage way to get to another room.  It is an afterthought.

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Yet notice that they have a holy candle mounted on the wall next to it.  A white candle, especially in a red sconce, indicates that the presence of Jesus is there.  Yet someone has let the candle go out.  These candles are normally placed next to the tabernacle or aumbry that has consecrated hosts (Communion wafers).  I’ve never seen one next to a painting – but this painting indicates the moment that Jesus became a physical part of the world by entering into Mary’s womb.

 

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Because the only light was right in front of it, I had to stand at an angle to take the picture otherwise my shadow would have gotten in the way.

 

Notice the dove, a sign of the Holy Spirit.  There are lilies too – symbols of the purity of Mary.

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This is the archangel Gabriel, come to ask Mary if she is willing to be the bearer of Christ.

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Everything is immaculate in this painting – so why is there a breach in this wall?  Does it refer to when Jesus died on the cross and the division between the Holy of Holies was rendered in two?  That signified that God and humans are reconciled – there is no longer a division between us.  We no longer need an intermediary of a priest to speak with God – we can do it directly.

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God was in this place.

Genesis 28:10-22 (HCSB)
10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. 11 He reached a certain place and spent the night there because the sun had set. He took one of the stones from the place, put it there at his head, and lay down in that place. 12 And he dreamed: A stairway was set on the ground with its top reaching heaven, and God’s angels were going up and down on it. 13 Yahweh was standing there beside him, saying, “I am Yahweh, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your offspring the land that you are now sleeping on. 14 Your offspring will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out toward the west, the east, the north, and the south. All the peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15 Look, I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go. I will bring you back to this land, for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! This is none other than the house of God. This is the gate of heaven.” 18 Early in the morning Jacob took the stone that was near his head and set it up as a marker. He poured oil on top of it 19 and named the place Bethel, though previously the city was named Luz. 20 Then Jacob made a vow: “If God will be with me and watch over me on this journey, if He provides me with food to eat and clothing to wear, 21 and if I return safely to my father’s house, then the LORD will be my God. 22 This stone that I have set up as a marker will be God’s house, and I will give to You a tenth of all that You give me.”

According to Rabbi Lawrence Kushner in his book “God Was in This Place & I, i Did Not Know: Finding Self, Spirituality and Ultimate Meaning”, the quote from Jacob in verse 16 is more accurately translated as “God was in this place and I, I did not know.” Note that the word “I” is used twice. “God was in this place and I” is said, then “I did not know.”

Also note that the angels were going up and down – not down and up. This is in verse 12. They are already here on earth, going up to heaven. They aren’t just up there, coming down to us. They are here, with us. God came down to be with Jacob and stood next to him.

God is here, with us. God sends messengers to be with us, intermediaries. They are already here, we just can’t see it.

Perhaps what Jacob was saying was that God was here with me, all along. I was unaware of it.

So Jacob (not yet named Israel) set up a rock – an altar. Because he was altered. His perception was changed. He wanted to remember – this place is special. God was here. Here was where I woke up.

Yet it became A place, rather than an idea that God is with you. Jewish tradition says that same place was where Abraham was called to sacrifice Isaac, many years before. It also says that it became the site to the Holy of Holies in the Holy Temple, many years later. It became a fixed place – not an idea. God’s presence was there, and only there, not everywhere. This is a very limiting and dangerous idea.

Let us see what Jesus said thousands of years later – This is when he calls Philip to be his disciple. Note at the end what he says to Nathanael, Philip’s friend.

John 1:43-51 (HCSB)
43 The next day He decided to leave for Galilee. Jesus found Philip and told him, “Follow Me!” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the hometown of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the One Moses wrote about in the Law (and so did the prophets): Jesus the son of Joseph, from Nazareth!” 46 “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathanael asked him. “Come and see,” Philip answered. 47 Then Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him and said about him, “Here is a true Israelite; no deceit is in him.” 48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you,” Jesus answered. 49 “Rabbi,” Nathanael replied, “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus responded to him, “Do you believe only because I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” 51 Then He said, “I assure you: You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Note that Jesus says in verse 51 that the angels will be “ascending and descending” – going up and down, exactly the same as Jacob. Jesus knew the scriptures well, and he too noted that God’s messengers weren’t just coming down to us. They are already here with us.

God’s presence is already here, with us, right now. Don’t set up an altar. Here isn’t the place. Everywhere is the place.