Sunday, 16 July 2017

The Tabernacle of David

ACTS 15:16,17
16 After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:
17 That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.

I think the simple point James was drawing out of Amos 9:11,12 here, was that God had foretold of His intention to include Gentiles as His people.

It wasn't so much the mention of the "tabernacle of David" in verse 11 that makes that point - it was the mention of the Gentiles in verse 12 that made that point.

The mention of the tabernacle of David in verse 11 mainly indicated that the blessing would come to the Jews first, and then afterwards to the Gentiles, as stated in verse 12.

And that's exactly how the Gospel was preached: to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

I think the "tabernacle of David" in verse 11 mainly meant people, David's descendants, his royal dynasty, the Jews, and the whole house of Israel, reunited with Judah and resettled in their land (the full restoration of David required the restoration of Israel, not only of Judah - because David originally reigned over all Israel), and there the son of David, the Messiah came and completed their restoration - I don't think it referred specifically only to the physical tent which David put up when he brought the ark to Jerusalem; nor even to any specific characteristics of the worship-style which surrounded that.

Otherwise, if Amos was talking about that tent of worship, then James couldn't have said that the prophets (plural) made the same statement - because other prophets didn't mention the "tabernacle of David" - only Amos used the term. But other prophets did make the point that Judah and Israel would be restored and that their Messiah would come, in the house of David, and reign over them.

So, it wasn't any reference to that tent of worship which made James' point about the inclusion of Gentiles: it was the mention of Gentiles by Old Testament prophets, including Amos (in verse 12) which made James' point.

That old tent of worship couldn't have made that point too clearly anyway (the point that the Old Testament foretold of the inclusion of Gentiles). There were curtains involved in that tent, even if they weren't as solid as in the tabernacle which Moses built; burnt offerings and peace offerings were still offered, on that occasion; David even identified with the requirements under the Levitical system, by donning his own ephod; he himself loathed the uncircumcision - and there were no Gentiles involved. That tent, and the worship that surrounded it, didn't represent a putting aside of Israel's old covenant, the law. It was a joyful reinstatement of it. David didn't think that he was boldly putting aside Moses' requirement: he thought he was doing his best to follow it. He even commanded the priests to do all that Moses required. It says that, in the Bible. Certainly there are clearer sources in the Old Testament of evidence for the inclusion of Gentiles than to refer to that physical tent and its worship-style!

No, it was mainly the direct mention of Gentiles in verse 12, that James was quoting as an example of the simple point he was making: all of the prophets foretold of the inclusion of Gentiles.

The tent which David put up for the ark never 'fell', by the way - it was replaced by David's own desire, by the construction of the Temple - a temple with curtains! But David's royal dynasty did 'fall' - in the sense that it splintered when Israel separated from it and went to their own tents; and when David's remaining kingdom of Judah went into captivity. God did restore all of that - but He never commissioned them to set up another tent in the style of that tent which David once put up for the ark. They rebuilt a temple - which didn't have any of the supposedly relaxed ways of worship which surrounded the tent which David had earlier put up for the ark supposedly had.

So, James didn't reference the "tabernacle of David" as supposed evidence for a style of worship in which the Law was being relaxed - rather, he quoted direct mention of Gentiles in prophecy, in order to make the point that the inclusion of Gentiles as the people of God (as the Gentiles that they were, not as proselytes to Judaism) was foretold by the prophets, such as Amos.

So, the rebuilding of the "tabernacle of David" which Amos foresaw, meant something that God was going to do for ethnic Jews - it didn't just mean some restoration of some non-Mosaic style of worship. David wasn't putting aside Mosaic-style worship by putting up that tent - it was David's best attempt at restoring Mosaic-style worship!

But this restoration which God was going to do for David's house, isn't something that's been postponed until the future, as Dispensationalists insist - it was something which had to happen before the Gentiles could be included, according to both Amos and James. It's been fulfilled already.

It isn't necessary to spiritualise the identity of the "tabernacle of David" in order to say that it's been fulfilled already. There was the fulfilment of it - in the land of Israel, involving ethnic Israelites - beginning at the return from captivity - Messiah came there, physically, in the house of David - He made a new covenant with the house of Israel - and the result of all that was that Gentiles were now calling on His Name too, and were called by His Name. Gentiles - not proselytes to Judaism - but plain Gentiles.

Seeing it was legitimate that Gentiles were turning to God, it was decided not to trouble them by insisting that they also become proselytes to Judaism.

Now this is not to say there aren't things we can learn from the tent of worship which David set up for the ark, and from the worship-style that surrounded it. Of course there is. It's just that that's not what Amos was talking about, nor why James quoted Amos.

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