(In 2017, I wrote this series for the 40 days prior to Easter to prepare our hearts and minds for the significance of Jesus’ resurrection. I’m reposting the series now for the 40 days after Easter to encourage us to follow through, living in the risen Savior and King.)
“My Mom cares more about that dumb dog than she cares about me. Whenever he starts to eat something that could hurt him, she pops his nose. If he starts messing with the cat – who’s torn him up a few times – she scolds him. When he gets too close to the road, she yells and chases after him.” My friend paused, his tone changing suddenly from angry to something between sadness and shame.
“She doesn’t care where I go.”
And I knew it was true.
My friend had been to our house many, many times when we were young, but I only remember his mother calling about him one time. Even in the summer when I sometimes asked him to stay a few days longer than we’d originally planned, he never had to get permission. And she never came looking for him.
It was sad. My friend was a great guy. He would’ve gladly taken any expressions of love from his Mom – even a warning about where to go or not go.
Anyone who’s had healthy relationships of any kind – in their family, at work, on a team, etc. – knows that part of real love is warnings. We see this throughout Scripture, maybe especially in the Old Testament. Like a firm, loving parent to their children, God often expressed His love to His people by warning them.
While my friend’s mother didn’t seem to care if her children went too far from her, in Old Testament times the Holy God cared very much if His sinful children came too close to Him. (Exodus 19:10-13, 1 Timothy 6:15-16) One of the most vivid pictures of God’s loving warnings was the Tabernacle.
God met with the high priest in the Tabernacle only once a year in its Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, but the curtain that hung in front of the Ark of the Covenant warned even the high priest against coming into that special place more often (Leviticus 16, Hebrews 9:1-7). The curtain that hung at the opening to the Tabernacle warned the rest of the priests against coming into the Holy place except when God prescribed (Exodus 40:28). The altar of sacrifice and wash basin were placed in front of the Tabernacle to warn them that they must first come by sacrifice and cleansing. (Exodus 40:29-32) The court surrounded the Tabernacle to warn them against coming in any way but the front. (Exodus 40:33) And Levite clans whom God directed to camp on three sides around the court served as one last buffer of warning to the rest of the Israelites. (Numbers 1:51-53) Even those same three Levite clans who also carried the articles of the Tabernacle had to wait for Aaron and his sons to wrap the articles before they could handle them or they would die. (Numbers 4:15)
God’s warning not to come too close in Old Testament times was a statement of love. He didn’t have to yell at them. And He took no pleasure in the death of the wicked. (Leviticus 10 and Ezekiel 33:11) But because He is a righteous and loving God, He did have to warn them – and us.
You may be thinking, “But God does want us to come close to Him!”
And that is the subject of tomorrow’s devotional: God welcomes.