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Book Review: God in Our Midst
January 24, 2017
In "God in Our Midst," Daniel Hyde aims to illustrate how the tabernacle is one of the most critical linkages between Old Testament Israelites and New Testament Christians. The author laments that the Old Testament as a whole has been preached sparingly in our churches today despite the fact that God's Word is made up of both Old and New Testaments. As such, preachers and their congregations suffer tremendously by leaving the rich treasures of the Old Testament untouched. Thus, the book's purpose is to show readers how God's commands to Moses on the construction of the tabernacle has significant implications to New Testament Christians who have been called to build up and become the dwelling place of God through Christ. Moreover, the tabernacle narratives are not simply historical recordings of religious architecture but the unfolding of God's redemptive plan for the entire creation including those who put their faith in Him throughout the generations. Hyde focuses on the tabernacle as the foreshadowing of Christ who is the ultimate fulfillment of God's plan to dwell with His people forever. In each chapter, Hyde explains the construction and theological significance of a particular aspect of the tabernacle may it be the bronze alter, the golden lampstand, and the Ark of the Covenant. Furthermore, the author devotes a fair portion of the book to highlight how God's design for the tabernacle is also relevant to our lives today.
For example, Hyde suggests that similar to the priests who had to be cleansed daily at the bronze washbasin before ministering in the presence of God, we also need to be cleansed by the blood of Christ as we progress in our sanctification. As a whole, Hyde engages in a balanced treatment of the symbolic significance of the Exodus passages by basing his arguments on the book of Hebrews while also interacting with historic catechisms and treatises. However, there are some instances where the author's inferences are somewhat strained such as suggesting that the rim around the table of the Presence as being illustrative of how God keeps His saints from falling away. However, there is much to appreciate in how the author constantly goes back to Scripture as the basis by which we see Christ as the consummation of what the tabernacle signifies.
I gladly recommend this book as many of us would likely agree that our understanding of the Old Testament is fairly weak. If we intend to worship God in spirit and truth, we must have a good grasp of the entire counsel of God. I greatly appreciate Hyde's passion for God's Word and Christ-centered focus when interpreting Scripture. To emphasize this concern, the book includes an appendix with suggestions on how preachers can teach the Pentateuch effectively. Moreover, the author urges both unbelieving and believing readers alike to come to Christ as the only One who can allow us to dwell with and enjoy God forever. Instead of relegating the Old Testament to ancient history, let us dig deep into God's written Word as a whole with renewed reverence and obedience.
In compliance with Federal Trade Commission regulations, I was provided a review copy of this book from Reformation Trust.
I've hit a book hot streak. I loved God in Our Midst. Hyde provides an exposition of Exodus 25-40 looking specifically at passages relevant to the tabernacle. He skillfully demonstrates how preachers should explain tough Old Testament passages in light of Christ.
My wife and I just finished reading Exodus together a few weeks ago and I tried my best to direct our thoughts to Christ but I will gladly admit that my efforts felt inadequate and feeble. I will also gladly admit that Hyde served me so well in opening my eyes to a method which was faithful to the text and violently Christ-focused. This passage sums up the tone of God in Our Midst, "The tabernacle was God's drawing to His people then; now we have this image in flesh and blood--Jesus Christ" (p. 55).
Each chapter takes an item or topic from the tabernacle unpacking the main ideas from each passage. For instance, when discussing the ark of the covenant, Hyde says,
In ancient practice, a copy of such a treat [the ten commandments] was placed in the sacred place of the lesser kingdom that offered itself in obedience to the greater kingdom. In Israel, the astounding truth was that both copies were kept at the Lord's feet in the ark, testifying that the Lord would be the covenant-keeper in His relationship with Israel. He entered a covenant with them on the basis of His grace (Deut. 7:6-8). He would keep them in that covenant on the basis of His grace (Jer. 31:3). (p. 59)
He goes on to describe the lid of the ark of the covenant in detail as the place of propitiation. He later describes the fire on the altar which never was supposed to go out. He reminds us that the fire was started by God when the tabernacle was consecrated and "was a picture of God Himself as a Ã¢â¬Ëconsuming fire' (Heb. 12:28) (p. 104). These passages are a just a taste of the encouraging and gospel-saturated exposition in God in Our Midst.
I would encourage everyone to go pick up a copy. The Old Testament has collected quite a bit of dust on a lot of our Bibles. Let's be honest--it's hard to understand and often complicated. There's even a wider cultural divide than from Jesus's time. A lot of preaching I've heard from the Old Testament has been confusing at best and poorly exegeted at worst. However, Hyde's example will serve both those seeking to gain a better understanding of the Old Testament and pastors seeking to preach the Old Testament. Finally, if you're not savvy to Reformation Trust you're missing out. They're quietly publishing some of the best books.
A free copy of this book was provided by Reformation Trust.
Anyone who hikes in the desert knows how hard it can be to navigate such terrain and how important it is to prepare. I learned this once when I and several friends decided to explore some of Joshua Tree National Park's more than one-thousand square miles. Wandering into the wastes, none of us thought to pack more than our teenage bravado and perhaps a Capri Sun. We snaked for hours past gangling specimens of that namesake Joshua tree and over immense mounds of granite. By noon we were lost. Without maps, compasses, water, and food we became increasingly disoriented, fatigued, and nervous. Fortunately, we came across someone who knew the way back. Since then I've known how essential the right tools and supplies are for wilderness treks.
Reading the Old Testament can be much the same, especially for people unfamiliar with the landscape. What does it all mean? How do I grow from it? Why does it seem so dry? Thankfully, Rev. Daniel R. Hyde comes to our aid with a new book to guide and nourish believers in our study of Israel's desert wanderings, and in particular, help Christians understand the purpose of the Tabernacle for today. God in Our Midst (Reformation Trust, 2012) is an easy door into Biblical Studies that not only digs into its main theme, but presents readers with sound tools for interpreting the entire Old Testament in light of the New Testament.
The book is based on Hyde's sermons through Leviticus, but it has been fortified with historical quotes, archeological insight, and devotional application. Pastors will find substantial help from a complete subject/scripture index, but the studies will not fly over the heads of less advanced learners, either. God in Our Midst shares illustrations from the acclaimed ESV Study Bible and, at 275 pages, it's just long enough to feel thorough without overwhelming you. Best of all, you'll discover the apparent wilderness of Leviticus blooming with life to enflame your devotion to Christ.
The book consists of 17 chapters and includes a helpful introduction by David P. Murray. He notes six characteristics of a good Old Testament commentary:
1. It handles the scripture with reverence and diligence as the Word of God.
2. It's method of interpretation starts at the original context, instead of rushing straight to find 21st-century relevance.
3. It should portray a central unified message unfolding throughout the Bible, of gracious redemption through faith in the Messiah. God didn't "start over" in different ages, but was revealing his grace more and more.
4. It should follow the Apostolic example of using the New Testament to interpret the Old.
5. It must connect the faith of Old Testament believers with New Testament Church to show we share the same hope and are saved through the same Savior.
6. It must have application for the modern Church, teaching us about godly worship, communion, obedience, and service.
Murray concludes, "He gives us, at last, a modern book on the Old Testament that treats the believing Israelites as brothers and sisters in Christ rather than as slightly confused, animistic, legalistic idolaters." After giving God in Our Midst the thumbs-up, he sends us off to the Introduction.
Here Rev. Hyde lays ground-rules for interpreting events and idioms of the Old Testament in a way that avoids running off into bizarre and strained typologiesÃ¢â¬âyou know the kind that insist on deep and certain symbolism behind every name and number. Instead, he shows how the Apostles read the Prophets and gives us safe boundaries to do the same:
"What does it mean to read the Word and the tabernacle story simply? It means that we must read it theologically. In reading, then, we ask not about the hidden meaning of minor details such as the rings, the poles, and the boards of the tabernacle, or the color of the stones in the high priest's ephod, but questions such as, "What does this passage teach me about God, about my sins, about Christ's redemptive work, and about how I am to live for the glory of God?"
For me, this section alone would have been worth the cost of the book. In case anyone doesn't see the value in studying these texts, Hyde says,
"The details of the Word of God matter. For example, Jesus based an entire argument for the resurrection on the present tense of a verb (Luke 20:37-38), and Paul based an entire argument for Jesus being the seed of Abraham on a singular noun (Gal. 3:16). It is clear, then, that we need to read and meditate on this portion of the Word of God purposefully and prayerfully. When we read the Word in a studious, contemplative, and prayerful way, we come to see not only the individual pearls of doctrine and application contained therein, but also how all of those pearls hang together like those on a necklace. The Word of God is as beautiful in its presentation as in its proclamation."
Throughout the book, Hyde develops a theme that redemption culminates in adoration. This motif is woven into the designs and rituals of the Tabernacle,
"There is a wonderful theological and practical reason why more than half of Exodus is set at Sinai [...] The Israelites were saved from Egypt that they might serve the Lord. Likewise, our purpose for being called out of the darkness of the world is that we might be called into the brilliant presence of God. We exist, as the memorable words of the Westminster Shorter Catechism teach us, "to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever" (Q&A 1)."
Subsequent chapters are devoted to various elements of the Tabernacle, such as the brazen altar, the ark of the covenant, and the golden lamp stand. In each case, Hyde gives strong reasons to see the redemptive work of Christ pictured in them. At no time did I get that sticky, uncomfortable feeling that he was stretching the text too far. For instance,
"It is fascinating that the Lord put the most unattractive curtains on the outside and the most attractive on the inside. John J. Davis writes, "From a purely aesthetic point of view the tabernacle could not be considered a thing of beauty, at least not from the outside." This is typical of God, who often cloaks His glory in simplicity, His power in weakness, and His wisdom in foolishness to confound the unbeliever but to comfort the believer (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18-31). Ultimately, He cloaked His majesty in flesh as His Son, Jesus Christ, took on ordinary humanity: "He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him" (Isa. 53:2b). In a sense, then, to come to the tabernacle was to come to the holy God Himself, hidden under the veils of the ordinary and earthly."
The remaining chapters include a much-needed warning on why we ought to worship God as He commandsÃ¢â¬ârather than how we think the market will respondÃ¢â¬âand a useful appendix for pastors considering preaching through the Pentatuech.
In all, I found this to be a rewarding book and I wish it had come into my hands shortly after I was convertedÃ¢â¬âa lot of confusion could have been avoided. Hyde sets the standard for mixing theological precision with Biblical reverence and spiritual devotion. You can't come away from this without feeling moved to worship our Savior. I leave you with these closing words,
"As you read and meditate on the tabernacle narrative with me, I pray that you may come to see that it is not something obscure that happened thousands of years ago. Instead, I pray you will read this narrative as your family story. This is how Peter challenged his readers throughout Asia Minor, which was hundreds of miles from Jerusalem, in the middle of the first century, several decades after our Lord's ministry. He said that the Holy Spirit had revealed to the prophets "that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look" (1 Peter 1:12). [...] Ultimately, we need to mediate on this, our family story, because we have the same God as our forefathers. The same God who said to them, "I may dwell in their midst" (Ex. 25:8), says to us today, "In [Christ] you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit" (Eph. 2:22). Just as He did for our forefathers, God has come to dwell among us that we might have a relationship with Him based on His amazing grace."
Daniel Hyde provides us with a wonderful series of meditations on the Jewish tabernacle. He examines how the tabernacle demonstrated the presence of God among His people in the Old Covenant and how its symbolism is now fulfilled in our relationship to God through Christ in the New Covenant. The book is a collection of 17 edited sermons that are drawn from exposition of the tabernacle narrative in Exodus and related passages. The 17 sections are as follows:
1. Contributions to Build the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:1-7; 35:4-29)
2. The Tabernacle in the Wilderness (Exodus 25:8-9)
3. The Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:10-22; 37:1-9)
4. The Table with Bread (Exodus 25:23-30; 37:10-16)
5. The Lampstand of Gold (Exodus 25:31-40; 27:20-21; 37:17-24)
6. The Construction of the Tabernacle (Exodus 26; 35:30-36:38; 38:21-31)
7. The Altar of Bronze (Exodus 27:1-8; 38:1-7)
8. The Lord's Courtyard (Exodus 27:9-19; 38:9-20)
9. The Priesthood of the Lord (Exodus 28:1-2)
10. The Benefits of the Priesthood (Exodus 28:3-43; 39:1-43)
11. The Liturgy for Ordination (Exodus 29:1-37; 30:22-33)
12. Why Worship God as He Commands? (Exodus 29:38-46)
13. The Altar for Incense (Exodus 30:1-10, 34-38; 37:25-29)
14. The Price of Redemption (Exodus 30:11-16)
15. The Basin for Washing (Exodus 30:17-21; 38:8)
16. The Gifts Given by God (Exodus 31:1-11; 35:30-36:7)
17. A New Beginning (Exodus 40)
All too often "seeing Jesus in the Old Testament" type of works end up being adventures in allegorical interpretation that leave the average Christian wondering if the author is using some kind of secret decoder ring to interpret the Old Testament. On the other extreme many others fail to develop the themes beyond what is specifically referenced in the New Testament. Hyde avoids these extremes and does a good job of beginning with an observation of the Old Testament text in its context and then applying it within a broader biblical framework that is informed by the New Testament. His treatment of the text is detailed enough that advanced students will appreciate his insights and yet it is accessible enough that even newer Christians can benefit from it. The indexes and illustrations make the book easy to follow and easy to navigate.
Although the book is a collection of 17 distinct meditations it retains an overall unity that demonstrates a consistent historical redemptive approach to the Bible. The distinct sections are sequential so the book retains a unified flow built upon the Exodus narrative itself. Secondly, the forward, introduction, and conclusion draw the broader work together into a single statement about how Old Testament texts can be handled from a wholly Christian, though not unnecessarily spiritualized, approach. For those who wish to delve further into the philosophy of interpretation that the author is applying and advocating in the book there is a well written appendix article on preaching from the Pentateuch.
Although written from a Reformed Confessional perspective I think Hyde's observations and applications will be helpful to anyone interested in typological elements of the Jewish tabernacle and its relation to the Gospel. The book may also be of particular interest to those who are looking to preach or teach from these texts and are looking for an example on how they might apply them in a Christian context.