Scripture: Exodus 25-31; 33:7-11; 34:11-40; 38; Deuteronomy 30:11-20
Key Scripture: Exodus 25:1-9; 33:7-11; 40:34-38; Deuteronomy 30:11-20
Key Idea: The tabernacle represented God's ongoing presence among the people in the wilderness, just as Jesus and the Holy Spirit represent God's eternal presence among us now.
PW Marketing Associate Carissa Herold reflects on Lesson 9.
Ever have a song or hymn stuck in your brain, on a seemingly endless loop? On this day I find I have my own personal internal soundtrack with just one hymn streaming through my grey matter, over and over and over again. This hymn is “Abide with Me,” and a quick check assures me that it is, indeed, featured in our newest hymnal (Glory to God, page 836).
Isn’t it interesting that “Abide with Me” is coursing through my brain on the very day I had set aside a bit of time to write my ninth and final blog for An Abiding Hope? I honestly didn’t plan it! My mother-in-law would tell me this is a “God wink.” I don’t know for sure, of course, but I suspect she may be onto something because she is a very wise woman.
I confess I don’t recollect even 90 percent of the lyrics for “Abide with Me.” In my brain I hear “Abide with me fast falls the eventide…hum hum hum…hum…hum…hum…O Lord, abide with me.” But opening to page 836, I have just rediscovered the words of this hymn and I would like to share them with you:
Abide with me: fast falls the eventide. The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide! When other helpers fail and comforts flee, help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day; earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away; change and decay in all around I see. O thou who changest not, abide with me.
I need thy presence every passing hour; what but thy grace can foil the tempter’s power? Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be? Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless; ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness. Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory? I triumph still, if thou abide with me.
Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes; shine through the gloom and point me to the skies. Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee; in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
Isn’t this study (and hymn*) all about living in the grace of God’s abiding hope? The ancient people lived difficult lives, even the fortunate few who were brought out of slavery. Was life easier? Perhaps. But like the author of this hymn, at the end of the day, whether we are comforting a restless toddler, preparing for another shift at work, curling up in our favorite chair, or dealing with the other happy and unhappy details of a life, God’s abiding presence is what is true, and brings the only enduring comfort, hope and joy.
As humans, ancient and modern, we are ever fearful, even the most faithful among us. We build and plan and worry and fret. How much of the world’s ills can find their origin in misdirected fear? But with fear comes choice. We can try to conquer our fear through controlling and building up earthly treasures. We can pursue and stash wealth, build greater armies and taller fences, even try to control our destiny with healthful pursuits like bountiful exercise and other wonderful achievements. But do these earthly things really bring deep peace and contentment?
Building and doing and making our way are all part of God’s plan. But what and why we do what we do matters to God. For example, let’s talk about the tabernacle. God instructed the people to build the tabernacle and even gave them specific instructions about how to go about it and what to use as building materials. Truly, did God of All require a tabernacle? We learn in the study that God directed the building of the tabernacle—not to inhabit but as a lesson and reminder—using the very expensive gifts of rare wood and fine fabric, gems and so forth, that had been heaped upon the fleeing people by their former captors. “No doubt,” writes Janice, “a number of the people had counted on these expensive items as a means to ‘jump start’ a life of ease once they had freedom. The call to give to the tabernacle’s construction was a call to demonstrate their faith in God’s future providence by giving up the material securities they had on hand. God presented the people with a choice of great spiritual and theological significance.” (page 81)
Choice. There’s that bothersome word again. We choose. We can live our lives in a myriad of ways and deal with our fears and questions in as many. One option is to choose to live as God’s people and welcome God’s abiding presence. Janice writes, “God had promised to be with them and to name and claim them as God’s people. The tabernacle was a sign of God’s commitment to that promise. Now the people needed to remember their promise to be with God, to walk always in God’s way. Thus, Moses ended his speeches with a call to choose God—and thereby choose life (see Deut. 30:11-20).” (page 83) (emphasis is mine)
Choose God, choose life.
I really love how Janice concludes this lesson and study. She writes, “[L]et us take heart in the good news of Exodus and Deuteronomy. These marvelous books promise that, while we may give up on God from time to time, God never gives up on us. We are never abandoned, never unloved, never forgotten.
“’Is the Lord among us or not?’ asked the Hebrews in the wilderness. ‘Yes,’ we proclaim joyfully, ‘God was and is and will be with us—forever! Hallelujah and Amen!’”
Thank you for abiding with me during this blog series. Throughout the series, I have learned a lot about a lot of things. Delving into the study in this way, allowing the words from the study and scripture, hymns and musings formulate my ponderings, has set me forth on a very enlightening journey. I am now an enthusiast of journaling and blogging as a way to fully live into a study. But of course, Janice Catron’s expertise and her seemingly effortless way through scripture provided a most solid foundation. Thank you, Janice.
And my thanks to the many Presbyterian women who have reached out to me during this series. Your kind words and support mean so much to me, whether I’m blogging or no. I am grateful for you and the many other Presbyterian women who, despite the pulls and tugs from so many directions, continue to choose God, choose life. Thank you for choosing to live out your PW faith in joy, generosity, and love.
*Just a side note, the lyricist of “Abide with Me,” Henry Francis Lyte, was quite ill with tuberculosis when he inked the words of his most beloved hymn, “Abide with Me”; he passed away soon after. I can only imagine his yearning for God’s abiding presence as he struggled with this terrible infection. His gift to us are his heartfelt words that speak to his deep desire for God’s abiding presence “through cloud and sunshine.”