Finding Rest in Him
Moses tells the people in Deuteronomy 12:10 and 11,
10 When you cross the Jordan and live in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies around you so that you live in security, 11 then it shall come about that the place in which the Lord your God shall choose for His name to dwell, there you shall bring all that I command you; your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution of your hand, and all your choice votive offerings which you will vow to the Lord. 12 And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates, since he has no portion or inheritance with you.
Joshua led Israel over the Jordan River in Joshua 3. They fought various Canaanite kings from Joshua 6-12, ending with the list of 31 kings that had been overcome by that time. In Joshua 13-22 the tribes of Israel inherited their portions of land according to divine lots.
In the midst of dividing up the land, Joshua set up the tabernacle at Shiloh, one of the towns in his own tribe of Ephraim (Joshua 18:1). The rest of the book of Joshua gives his final speeches to Israel before he died at the age of 110.
Israel’s Rest was Partial
Israel achieved a measure of “rest from all your enemies around,” but it was not possible for Joshua to give them the full rest that God intended. Hebrews 4:8, 9 says,
8 For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. 9 There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God.
Further, we read in Joshua 18:2 that when the tabernacle was set up in Shiloh, “there remained among the sons of Israel seven tribes who had not divided their inheritance.” In other words, only five tribes got their inheritance immediately. It required further warfare to complete the conquest of the land so that those tribes could be given their inheritance.
The tribe of Dan was given land where the Philistines had settled, but the Philistines were not subdued until the time of David. Hence, they remained homeless. So some of them went north and conquered Laish at the base of Mount Hermon, renaming the city Dan (Judges 18:29). The rest of the tribe became seafarers with the Phoenicians, later causing the prophetess Deborah to lament in Judges 5:17, “why did Dan stay in ships?”
Most of the Israelites needed a central focal point of religion in order to keep them from straying into idolatry. When the Danites conquered Laish, a city in the far north, they seemed to have the most problem with idolatry, for Shiloh was many miles to the south.
Even today, it seems that most people are in need of a church building with a steeple to keep them focused upon Christ; or they need to be members of a denomination to secure their identity as bona fide Christians.
God Seeks a Resting Place
This fact of human nature seems to be the underlying motive behind Moses’ instruction to establish a single city for the tabernacle. To offer sacrifices and bring their tithes and offerings to a central location was designed to unify the people. Deut. 12:13 says,
13 Be careful that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every cultic place you see, 14 but in the place which the Lord chooses in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you.
Shiloh was the resting place of the tabernacle in the land of Canaan. But it is apparent that this “rest” was only partial, for the Ark still remained in a movable tent, or tabernacle. A greater resting place was yet to come when Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem.
Even then, Jerusalem was only the final resting place under the Old Covenant. Even this was not permanent, for that city would later become corrupt. The prophets complain that the “City of Peace” had become “The Bloody City” (Ezekiel 22:2) on account of its violence (Ezekiel 7:23). A greater rest was yet to come.
The New Covenant Pattern
This pattern was repeated under the New Covenant, where we see first the reinstatement of “the tabernacle of David” (Acts 15:16) during the Age of Pentecost, followed by the final rest in the Temple (Eph. 2:19-22) after all the living stones have been cut and polished, so that the building may be complete.
We can see, then, that the Ark’s long search for a resting place is not yet complete. Each time the Ark has found a place to rest, the church and its priesthood has become corrupted, and the Ark has then moved to a new location. The final resting place will be in a people who are incorruptible, having completed their own journey from Passover through Pentecost and into the fullness of God presented by the feast of Tabernacles.
The denominational systems of the church are evidence of the imperfection of each resting place. When some feel that a denomina-tion has become corrupted, or that their creed is faulty, some of the people move to a new location and form a new denomination. It is not long before some of those people move again to a new location, seeking the perfect resting place—even while those left behind castigate them as infidels for leaving “the true church.” We should understand that this process will continue until a body of people are raised up who are incorruptible and the glory of God clearly rests upon them.
The bottom line is that we cannot find rest until we receive the fullness of the Spirit through the feast of Tabernacles. Likewise, the presence of God seeks a resting place in the earth and will find it only when a body of people are fit to house the full glory of His presence.
Eating Meat is Communion
Moses continues in Deuteronomy 12:15, 16,
15 However, you may slaughter and eat meat within any of your gates, whatever you desire, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you; the unclean and the clean may eat of it, as of the gazelle and the deer. 16 Only you shall not eat the blood; you are to pour it out on the ground like water.
Eating meat, such as venison, was not a sin. Anyone could eat meat, even if a man was “unclean” for whatever reason. Yet it was to be seen as a sacrifice performed “outside the camp,” for the law of sacrifice in Leviticus 17:3 speaks of two kinds of sacrifice—those done within the camp, and those done outside the camp. The “camp” in this case, would have been the location of the Ark, whether at Shiloh, Jerusalem, or the New Jerusalem.
The main sacrifices being offered to God were to be done at the place where God had established His name. But even the slaughter of an animal for meat was a sacrifice that was regulated by law. The most striking example of such a sacrifice was when Jesus was led “outside the gate” (Hebrews 13:12) to the top of the Mount of Olives to be crucified as the sacrifice for the sin of the world. Hebrews 13:13 and 14 says that believers are to follow His example:
13 Hence, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. 14 For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.
This is the “altar call” at the end of the book of Hebrews, where the author appeals to the believers to leave Jerusalem and its system of worship and to seek the New Jerusalem. Hebrews is the book of “better things,” advocating a new way of worship that is consistent with the New Covenant.
And so we see that every time we eat at home, it is to be considered a holy communion with Christ who is present at every meal. It should not be defiled by blood, Moses tells us later in verse 23, “for the blood is the nephesh,” that is, the soul. To eat blood is to be bloodthirsty, which is contrary to the character and mind of Christ, and we cannot have fellowship with Christ if we are bloodthirsty. We will explain this later at the appropriate time.