Your heart in the presence of God (part 4 of 5)

Tablets of Testimony

As a recap from part 3, we are looking at what Mosaic covenant symbols might mean in light of a new covenant.  Particularly, I wrote that the ark of the covenant is a metaphor for your heart.  The intended destiny for your heart is to be in the presence of God, 24×7.  Inside the ark were a pot of manna, a rod, and two tablets (Hebrews 9:4).  In this section we’ll look at the symbol of the tablets of testimony and how they map to love.

We just survived another Valentine’s Day that is supposed to be about love, but often isn’t.  I lost my wedding ring a few weeks ago.  After realizing its loss, I humbly asked people everywhere if they had seen it, to no avail.  After looking for the ring in every place I could think of, I had chalked up the loss as having been careless with it in my pocket.  As I was helping with tasks around the house on Valentine’s Day, my wife found my wedding ring on the floor of the bedroom.  As I reflected on it, it would appear that covenant (what a wedding ring represents), was God’s gift of love to me.  In new covenant scriptures, the writer John can be described as a mystic and represented by the sign of the eagle, would go on to pen that “God IS love” (1 John 4:8).  The tablets, like love were a sign of covenant, albeit with some marked differences.

As I have written about in other blogs, the law of commandments are often misconstrued by well-meaning people who take scripture in isolation and do not consider what I would call the full counsel of His word.  For example, while on hand Paul writes that the law is no longer the yardstick for righteousness (Rom 10:4), we have to consider that Jesus said that not one jot or tittle of the law would be done away with until everything has been fulfilled.  Jesus took the law and amplified it to be about issues of the heart.  Take Matthew 5:21-22 as one of many examples:

21 “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment.
22 But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron!’ will be subject to hellfire.”

While I have heard many teachings about the Ten Commandments, the teachings that I had heard never sat right with me until I heard a teaching indirectly from the late Pope John Paul II.  John Paul taught about the outward appearance of the law as the ethics of the law (loving God with your mind), and the inner truth as the ethos of the law (loving God with your heart).  The law reveals the condition of both your mind and heart, and is a holy tutor to lead you to the place of needing a savior to change your mind and to change your heart.  Once your mind and heart have been sanctified, there is no longer a need for that particular law.  Love is fulfillment of the law.

With that background, let’s look at a few scriptures which reveal the supernatural creation of the tablets and what their function might be in a new covenant context.

Exodus 31:18, 32:15-16
18 When He finished speaking with Moses on Mount Sinai, He gave him the two tablets of the testimony, stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God.

15 Then Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides – inscribed front and back.
16 The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was God’s writing, engraved on the tablets.

To clear up what was written on the tablets, it was Ten Commandments as described in Exodus 20.  Deuteronomy 4:13 makes that clear.

13 He declared His covenant to you. He commanded you to follow the Ten Commandments, which He wrote on two stone tablets.

What is important is that you don’t miss that the finger of God wrote the tablets.  If you think that Moses carefully chiseled out what God told him to write, you have missed the sign.

I have a confession to make.  I got wrapped up in trying to know the form of that tablets.  There is all kinds of speculation about what the tablets were like, such as whether they were granite, lapis-lazuli, or sapphire, what form of language was used, and what was written on them.  I had a dream revolving being distracted by a blue bottle on top of an airplane that I was flying on.  It was a correction dream letting me know that I was spending my time outside the kingdom by the appearance of something (idolatry).  Doh!  Remember I have been teaching about symbols being about their function (Hebraic) more than about their form (Greek).  In seeking what the Holy Spirit would want me to know about the tablets, here are my impressions.

1) Focus on my word
2) The purpose of my word is that love is demonstrated.

I believe the closest metaphoric purpose that we have in a new-covenant context is one of fire.  His word is to burn in us like fire as love is fueled with passion.

Jeremiah 23:29
29 “Is not My word like fire” – this is the LORD’s declaration – “and like a hammer that pulverizes rock?”

Luke 24:32
32 So they said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts ablaze within us while He was talking with us on the road and explaining the Scriptures to us?”

I have listed my take on the words that may have been written on the tablets, taking the Jewish perspective on the commandments.  There is debate on whether the original pictographs were used or the more modern version of the Hebrew language.  The English is for your benefit.

Loving God

  1. I AM Adonai your God.

א אנכי יהוה אלהיך

א אנכי יהוה אלהיך

  1. You shall have no other gods before me.

ב לא יהיהלך אלהים אחרים עלפני

ב לא יהיה לך אלהים אחרים עלפני

  1. You shall not take the name of Adonai your God in vain.

ג לא תשא אתשםיהוה אלהיך לשוא

ג לא תשא אתשםיהוה אלהיך לשוא

  1. Remember to keep the Sabbath day holy.

ד זכור אתיום השבת לקדשו

ד זכור אתיום השבת לקדשו

  1. Honor your father and mother.

ה כבד אתאביך ואתאמך

ה כבד אתאביך ואתאמך


Loving your neighbor as yourself

6.  You shall not murder.

ו לא תרצח

ו לא תרצח

7. You shall not commit adultery.

ז לא תנאף

ז לא תנאף

8. You shall not steal.

ת לא תגנב

ת לא תגנב

9.  You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

מ לאתענה ברעך עד שקר

מ לאתענה ברער עד שקר

10.  You shall not covet.

י לא תחמד בית רעך

י לא תחמד בית רעך


Again, the purpose of His word is that love is revealed to God’s glory and credit.  We are able to love because He first loved us (1 John 4).

There are two important number symbols regarding the tablets.  I believe there were five commandments regarding loving God and five commandments regarding loving others as we would want to be loved.  I believe there were five commandments on each tablet.  This is also in keeping with Jewish tradition.  In terms of symbols, five is considered to be the number of grace as revealed in the new covenant.  In context, the number of two is the number of witness or of testimony.  Without grace, it will be impossible to keep the law.  It will be the grace of God that empowers you to fulfill the call to love God and love others.  If you think you can love on your own without the grace of God, you have been self-deceived. Your heart will bear witness to the grace of God enabling you to love.  There are two parts to this heart.  You can not separate the command to love God from the command to love others.  If we have one without the other, the law has not been fulfilled.  Hebrews 8:10 describes the new covenant function of the tablets of testimony and is the fulfillment of one of the most amazing prophecies written in Jeremiah 31:33.

10 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people.

One of the beautiful things that is revealed in this scripture is belonging as part of a healthy divine family.  It was in the heart of God to belong and be loved.

2 Cor 3:2-3

2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, recognized and read by everyone.
3 It is clear that you are Christ’s letter, produced by us, not written with ink but with the Spirit of the living God – not on stone tablets but on tablets that are hearts of flesh.

The tablets of stone, while glorious, were hard and rigid.  Now we can know that the purpose was always to be about love, and that it was to be soft and pliable.

Love in action brings glory to God.  This is what we were created for.

To be continued (conclusion)…

Pure grace and truly free

I’ve been greatly impacted by a book I’ve been reading called “Destined to Reign” by Joseph Prince, which expounds upon the message of grace, pointing out places where we’ve missed the message of grace and instead have made it about our own efforts. One of the applications of the book is not mixing law and grace together, illustrated by Paul’s writings in the book of Galatians and of Jesus in His parable of the wineskins.

Joseph shares a particularly profound insight regarding the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle (Hebrews 9:3-5). In this holy place was the ark of the covenant, where the manna, stone tablets, and Aaron’s rod were placed inside the box, representing the rebellion and failures of man (rejecting God’s provision, law, and leadership respectively). Above all of this is the mercy seat where the presence and glory of God rests. The sins have been covered and atoned for. The glory of God is to be found in focusing on what Christ has done (above), not focusing on man’s efforts, performance, or failures (below).

I’m beginning to see that all of scripture needs to be interpreted through the lens of grace. For example, how do we interpret these words?

Matthew 16:24
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

Of course the Greek word for life is “psyche”, which is the life of the soul. The context of the text makes it clear that it’s about having God’s agenda instead of mans’. Without the lens of grace, we make it about man’s efforts and performance to live a selfless life. In charismatic circles, we make it somehow about “being on fire for God”. These words of Jesus were spoken directly to Peter. Was Peter able to deny himself out of his own effort? More importantly, can you save yourself? Peter thought he could. I think I thought I could, too. However, what if the application of these words takes on a larger swath?

What if taking up our cross is not about a religious discipline, but rather a recognition that we need a saviour? What if denying ourselves is about coming to the end of ourselves and recognizing it’s not about our efforts, our righteousness, or our performance? Isn’t that what being childlike is all about (being dependent)? What if the words that Jesus spoke were about a need to die (a cross) to self effort, and discover the grace of God, representing the unmerited, unearned favor and kindness of God?

We can only be saved (sozo – healed, saved, made whole, cleansed) by Grace in a place of believing. I’m beginning to realize how outrageous the gospel of grace actually is. It is not merely “mediocre” news. As the book of Isaiah asks, “who has believed our report?”

I’ve been struck by this message that Isaiah originally shared (Isaiah 6), and is explained by Jesus in Matthew 13:15, and John 12:37-40. Jesus explains that Isaiah saw Christ’s glory, and spoke about him (John 12:41).
The text from Isaiah 6 reads as follows:

“Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.’ Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Otherwise they might see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed.”

To paraphrase, I want to emphasize “Understand with their hearts, turn towards my grace and be healed.”

I believe that Isaiah recognized his own condition in the presence of the King (Isaiah 6:5). He turned towards grace (represented by the seraphim, an ambassador of grace). Grace forgave his sins, took away his uncleanness, and his iniquity. It was all unearned and unmerited, and initiated by an understanding of his own inability to save himself in the presence of grace (Isaiah 6:5-7). Remember that Jesus tells us that Isaiah saw Christ’s glory!

The context of the passage in John 12 is about those who rejected the message of grace (a light into the world). The context of the passage in Matthew 13 is about Jesus speaking in parables and that the message of the kingdom is about having a heart that can receive the unearned, unmerited message of grace.

Going back to the cross, the cross represented the death of the old covenant of law (referred to as the ministry of condemnation by Paul). Only those who understood their own inability were ready to receive the free gift of grace where they would find life. The cross represented a transition from an old covenant of law into a new covenant of grace.

Roman 8:2
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

I believe the application to take up our cross is to die to our ability to perform to the laws of man including those we place on ourselves. There is no life to be found when we focus on ourselves or our performance. Freedom is found in focusing on Christ and the fullness of what He has purchased for us with his blood, his body, and his life. I believe a resurrected life looks like something. I believe it looks like being fully alive, and completely free. I believe it looks like the kingdom of heaven, walking in joy, peace, and His righteousness given to us. Can you imagine what the world would look like, with lots of people this free? This outrageous message can only be found in a place without mixture. Believing the message of pure grace.

My challenge to you today is to let the Holy Spirit help you to interpret scripture through the lens of grace, and to point you to what it means to be truly free.