Smoke and Mirrors

tabernacle-painting-by-joyce-reynolds1The Tabernacle of Moses must have been life altering.  Can you imagine seeing the glory of God hovering over the Holy of Holies?  Let’s remember the three main sections of the tabernacle:

The outer court – This is where the altar for sacrifices stood (lots of smoke).

The inner court – This is where the candles and altar of incense stood (more smoke); and it is also where the laver for ceremonial washing was.  This bowl was lined with mirrors.

The Holy of Holies – This is where the ark of the covenant was.  It carried the 10 commandments, a jar of manna and Aaron’s blossoming rod.  But the most important element was the manifest presence of God.

There were seasons in Israel’s history where worship continued ever though the ark of God’s presence was missing.

Smoke and Mirrors:  Deceptive or insubstantial practices; illusion.

During David’s reign, the Tabernacle of Moses continued to operate without the Ark of God’s presence.  It had been returned by the Philistines because of the chaos God created.  But the temple priests let it reside in an individual’s home instead of returning it to the place of worship.  They chose ritual without God’s presence. . . Smoke and Mirrors.

David returned the Ark to Jerusalem and established his own tabernacle.  It didn’t have a place for sacrifices, it didn’t have candles or incense.  But it had the Ark of God’s presence.    In fact, if you took God’s presence out of David’s tabernacle, it just would make sense.  It couldn’t continue.

As you move through Israel’s history, you see brief periods where a leader was used by God to remind His people of what David established.  Men like Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah.  The prophet Amos declared that God would ultimately reestablish David’s fallen tent (Amos 9).  And James, the leader of the Apostles referenced God’s heart for David’s tabernacle in Acts 15.  David’s tabernacle represents these three values that are deeply rooted in God’s heart:

1.  Access to the presence of God

2.  Exuberant worship

3.  Sacrifice, not of animals, but of praise and joy

When Jesus walked on this earth, men continued to worship in the Tabernacle of Moses.  They offered sacrifices, burnt candles and incense and washed in the bowl made with mirrors.  And they did it without the Ark of God’s presence.  Israel lost the Ark during the time of Jeremiah and we do not hear of it again until. . .well until Indiana Jones!

There is something within humanity that will choose a religion that is safe, controllable, predictable.  We seem to choose ritual with presence.  We are OK with Smoke and Mirrors.

Jesus died on the cross as the once and for all sacrifice for the sins of the world.  And when He did, the Tabernacle veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the masses was torn from top to bottom  The letter to the Hebrews tells us that God was making it possible for all of us to enter into His presence.  But this is reality:  worship in that Tabernacle continued for another 40 years!  It continued until 70AD when Jerusalem was demolished.


What is it within us that causes us to choose religion that is safe, controllable and predictable?  Why don’t we surrender to worship that wouldn’t make sense without God’s life altering presence?

What is in the center of your life right now?  The manifest glory of God or Smoke and Mirrors?


About Rich Stevenson

Rich is the Executive Director of The Malachi Network (, a ministry focused on making the name of the LORD great among the nations. This network serves young leaders in missions and church planting. Prior to his present ministry, Rich pastored in Southern New Jersey, planted a church in Wilmore, KY, established a network of churches, served as an adjunct professor at Asbury College and was a senior leader at The International House of Prayer in Kansas City, MO as well as The International House of Prayer in Atlanta, GA. Rich is the author of two books: Secrets of the Spiritual Life—10 Lessons from the One Thing Passages (Baker Books, 2003) A Voice from Home—The Words You Long to Hear from Your Father (WaterBrook Press, 2005) He graduated from Asbury College in 1984 with a BA degree in Philosophy of Religion and Asbury Theological Seminary in 1987 with a Master of Divinity degree. In 2010, Rich received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Union Biblical Seminary in Yangon, Myanmar. Rich has been married to Tania since 1982 and they have been blessed by amazing children: Zachary and his wife Meghan, Jacob and his wife Lena, Jessica and Corrie Emma.
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