A Drink from Brooks: Altogether Beautiful


ring-1425671.jpg“If God be truly precious to thee, then all of God is precious thee; his name is precious to thee, his honour is precious to thee, his ordinances are precious to thee, his Sabbaths are precious to thee, his promises are precious to thee, his precepts are precious to thee, his threatenings are precious to thee, his rebukes are precious to thee, his people are precious to thee, and all his concernments are precious to thee. Look, as every sparkling stone that is set round about a rich diamond is precious in the eyes of the jeweller, so is every sparkling excellency in God precious in his eyes that sets an high value upon God.” —Thomas Brooks, An Ark for All God’s Noahs

Heavy on the Percussion (Psalm 29)

“The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD, over many waters.
The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.

The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.

The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness;
the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth
and strips the forests bare,
and in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!’ ” —Psalm 29:3–9

My only ambition here is to provide a flyover of this Psalm to prepare you to trek through it yourself. The psalm begins in the heavens (vv. 1–2) and ends on earth (vv. 10–11). In between, seemingly joining the two, is a storm. The storm begins over the waters (v. 3), moves over the mountain forest of Lebanon (vv. 5–6), and ends in the wilderness of Kadesh (v. 7). In this psalm we mover from heaven to earth by means of a storm that traverses sea, forest, and wilderness.

This psalm is full of majesty, glory and splendor. Spurgeon advised,

“Just as the eighth Psalm is to be read by moonlight, when the stars are bright, as the nineteenth needs the rays of the rising sun to bring out its beauty, so this can be best rehearsed beneath the black wing of tempest, by the glare of the lightning, or amid that dubious dusk which heralds the war of elements. The verses march to the tune of thunderbolts.”

This psalm thunders, not as one of those far off peals that rumbles in the distance, but like the deafening clap that reverberates in your chest such that you cannot but involuntarily jolt. Read it, and ascribe to Yahweh the glory and strength due His name. Worship Him in the splendor of His holiness.

Further Up and Further In (Exodus 40)

Exodus is like climbing a mountain, whereupon coming up through the mist and cloud, expecting to arrive at the summit, you discover yet another mountain remains to be climbed. How sad that many climb only through the first mist and soon give up for exhaustion or for boredom. By God’s grace one presses on through the first summit of God’s ten wonders of judgment. From there you behold intimidating Sinai, but sure of your mediator Jesus Christ, you press upward and behold greater glories. Still, God called his children to go further up with Moses, to the heavenly heights to behold the tabernacle as a revelation of heavenly truths.

On the other side, after a laborious but worthwhile climb, you come to the consummation of the construction of this tent, anticipating the greatest sight of glory yet.

The filling of the tabernacle is the climactic glory of Exodus; the supreme manifestation of God’s glory in this epic book. Israel has seen the Nile turned to blood, the Egyptian’s livestock die of plague, hail decimate her crops, darkness cover their land, and their firstborn die. She’s seen the Red Sea split and walked through it. She ate manna in the wilderness and water from the rock. She has seen Sinai covered in smoke and fire, trembling beneath the glory of God—but this surpasses all she’s seen. Here is how you know that this is the supreme manifestation of God’s glory—Moses, who spoke with God at the burning bush, Moses, through whom God’s ten wonders came, Moses, who split the river and struck the rock, Moses, who ascended Sinai and beheld God’s glory and spoke with God as a man speaks to his friend—this Moses couldn’t enter the tent for the glory of God (Exodus 40:35). One commentator says that the tabernacle thus becomes “a miniature portable Sinai [MacKay].” It may be miniature as to physical size but it is bigger in glory.

Exodus ends on this climax without consummation or resolution. It ends on a to be continued. There are heights yet to climb. Exodus is clearly part of a multi-volume work with Leviticus picking up where Exodus leaves off. Yes, even with all five volumes of the Pentateuch, Moses didn’t get to finish. The same cloud of glory that dwells in Israel’s midst will guide and protect them bringing them to the promised land, and thus into fuller enjoyment of Yahweh’s covenant with them. Moses didn’t write that chapter, because he didn’t experience it, but this isn’t to say he missed the height of heights.

God, by His Spirit is still leading his people home, and He will not forsake any of us, bringing us all to the height of heights, Mount Zion, the new Jerusalem, where all is temple, illuminated by the glory of God.

Mediated is Superior to Immediate (Exodus 32:12–23)

Moses’ prayer to behold God’s glory is oft bandied about in a individualistic way. Indeed, Moses’ longing is the longing of every true saint, and Paul makes this application alluding to Moses’ experience in 2 Corinthians 3:15–18.

Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Yet, note that Paul refers to this as something “we all” behold. This is the corporate experience of the church.

When you read Exodus 32–34 who do you identify with? “Show me Your glory,” we pray, but do you ever think of this as being prayed by another for your benefit? This chapter is the apex of Moses’ mediation, which runs like a mountain range through Exodus. Moses’ mediation is no small theme in this book. The theme of mediation isn’t comprised of a few foothills with a couple of snowcapped heights. Exodus contains the Old Testament Himalayas of mediation, and here stands Everest. Moses as mediator clearly is a foreshadowing of Jesus, yet, when Moses makes his boldest request, we want to insert ourselves. We’re not Moses. We’re golden-calf worshipping Israel. We need a mediator. To behold the face of God we need a Mediator who has beheld the face of God.

When Moses cries out to see God’s glory, that request cannot be separated from His pleading for His people. Moses’ beholding God’s glory speaks to the favor He has found with God, and if the Mediator has found favor, the people can take hope of God’s presence with them (Exodus 32:16).

The glory of God that the saints will forever behold is the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). This is no mere reflected glory as with Moses for Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory (Hebrews 1:3). Our great confidence of seeing God’s glory is our Mediator’s prayer, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world (John 17:24).”

The Apologist: Dethroning Jesus in the Name of Jesus

It is curious that we can do things in Christ’s name while pushing Him off the stage. I have seen this most plainly when a church has become caught up in a building project and has moved heaven and earth to complete it. One does need a roof over his head, but this is only a small portion of the church’s ministry. The building is only an instrument.

Fighting for evangelism and the salvation of souls should not become primary either; yet how often this happens! Other people, quite rightly, see the church of our generation threatened by apostasy, but then have made the purity of the visible church the center of their lives. In all of these Jesus may remain as a topic of conversation, but His real centrality has been forgotten. In the name of Christ, Christ is dethroned. When this happens, even what is right becomes wrong.

—Francis Schaeffer, No Little People

The Pinnacle (Exodus 24:1–2, 9–18)

On one side of Sinai stands Egypt, on the other, the tabernacle. Sinai itself is volcanically exciting, but we’re prone to think less exciting what awaits us east of Sinai  than what was west. We’ll read the ten plagues twice before we make it through the instructions for the tabernacle once. The sunrise of the new day is more glorious than the sunset of days past. Sinai is the fullest revelation God has given His people of His glory up to this point, and the aim of the tabernacle is to make Sinai portable. The tabernacle was patterned after heavenly things (Hebrews 9:23–24) and I want to show you that Sinai was a revelation of those heavenly things.

First, Moses receives instructions to go partway up the mountain with some select men, and then to proceed further up alone. This results in a thrice-partitioned mountain corresponding to the thrice-partitioned encampment of Israel around the tabernacle. Around the foot of the mountain are the people, further up are the elders, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and then at the top, Moses. Israel will camp around the tabernacle, the Levites and priest will be immediately around and in the tabernacle, and then only the high priest may enter the most holy place.

Second, Moses is ascending this mountain to receive the tablets, containing the ten commandments; which are representative of the covenant (Deuteronomy 4:12–13). He is up on the mountain forty days and nights. Even if Moses is chiseling and engraving the tablets himself, which he is not, this seems like a long time. What’s the holdup? While Moses is up there, he also receives the pattern for the tabernacle. After naturally receiving instructions concerning building materials, what is the first thing Moses is instructed about? The ark of the covenant, which is to house the tablets of the testimony (Exodus 25:16, 21). Moses receives not only the tablets, but first, he is given the pattern for where they are to be housed. These tablets that come from the mountain heights are to go to the camp core. The Tablets are to go as far in as they were high up.

When Moses ascends with the elders they see God. It seems they look up, and the sky becomes a kind of translucent sapphire pavement, and they see, as it were, God’s feet resting on his footstool (Exodus 24:10; cf. Isaiah 66:1). Soon thereafter a cloud descends on Sinai and Moses, as it were, ascends up closer to God’s throne to receive the pattern of that which is patterned after heavenly things.

SPOILER ALERT: Here is how Exodus closes:

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.

As God dwelt on Sinai (Exodus 24:15–16), so he dwells in the midst of His people in this tent over the ark containing the tablets of the covenant (Exodus 25:8). This is a picture of heavenly things—things that you see and enjoy more clearly in Christ. Do not envy them. The more glorious manifestation of God dwelling with His people in covenant love came not in cloud, but in flesh. God the Son has tabernacled among us in the flesh (John 1:14). If we have seen Jesus we have seen the Father (John 14:8–9). Jesus came down to bring us up to the heights. Jesus went outside the camp to bring us to the most holy place. In Jesus, we are brought further up and further in.

This is the pinnacle of God’s salvation; not what we were saved from, but Who we are saved to. The greatest thrill of God’s redemption isn’t Exodus, but the tabernacle.

So that You’d Have a Story to Tell (Exodus 10:1–20)

Many try to float about as if they’re contextless, story-less, detached from the narrative of their parents, ignorant of their ancestors, their national history, their ethnic identity, and the big story we all find ourselves in. No one ever told them their story. Few probably every read them a story. They had history teachers who hadn’t read a history book in so long that it would take a vigorous historian to unearth when. To such teachers, history wasn’t a passion, it was a job. The story of Washington wasn’t told well, so lesser stories crowded in to fill the gap, stories with sponges named Bob.

Thus a generation grows up with the gumption to declare, “We determine meaning. We write our own story. We determine our destiny.” So they float out there, rootless, pretending to be god, creating their own world. “The page is blank, and we write the tale.” We certainly write, but who gave you the paper? Who taught you to write? Who manufactured the pen? Who discovered ink? Are you writing your story with the Roman alphabet? The canvas you paint on is given to you, with thousands of years of grand patina. You’ve inherited far more than you’ll ever bequeath. The palate of colors you work with, they’re predetermined, and costly.

Not a one of us understands the breadth of beauty and pain necessary for us to have this grand canvas, these rare paints, these costly tools. Why are you painting in Oklahoma? Why are you painting in 2015? Why are you painting with automobiles, the internet, and air-conditioning? That pen that you hold in your hand may be cheap, but how many hours, how many years of effort over the pen and ink led to the tool you have in your hand? The man who holds a 99¢ Pilot G2 is a wealthy steward. To whom much is given much is required. Our best efforts at being grounded must sound as trite to an omniscient God as “In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” We know a small slice of the backstory, but how profoundly do we sense its significance. Nonetheless, there’s all the difference between a person who knows that an ancient flood, Pyramids, Solomon’s wisdom, Vesuvius, Constantine, WWI, and the attraction of a man and a woman led to their existence, than one who just thinks they’re a random accident of the cosmos, a product of “Boom!” We deny the Author to write our own story, recasting ourselves as demiurges.

We may try to float, but we’re grounded. We move, but only because we have roots. We didn’t just spring up out of nothing. Even Adam was rooted, made from earth, planned in the heart of an eternal God, and made in His image.

Why the exodus? Why all the show? So that we’d have a story to tell—a family story.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.”

Moses isn’t to go to Pharaoh because he’s astonishingly still hard and a bigger hammer is needed to crack his heart. God wants to use the bigger hammer, one that’ll make Mjölnir look like a Fisher Price toy. Multiple wonders are not a have-to because of Pharaoh’s hard heart. Pharaoh’s heart is hardened by God because multiple wonders are God’s want-to. Why is Pharaoh’s heart hard? Because God wants to show. But that is only half the reasoning. This is show and tell. God wants to show so that they’ll have something to tell. “Gather round kids, listen to what God did for us.”

This is part of your story. You’re rooted in this. This is your God. This is how He redeems—big. You’re not story-less. Your ancestry is rich. Envy no epic tale, no masterful film. Yours isn’t simply a good story, it is part of the glorious story—the tale of God’s glory. This isn’t a fish story, it’s a whale of a tale, and like Jonah’s, it’s true. You don’t have to write something epic, Jesus has. You don’t have to be the hero. It’s futile. You were a villain like every other fallen son of Adam. Jesus is the hero. You’re rescued. Tell the tale. Gather the children. Tell them how God destroyed a Pharaoh as part of your salvation.