1. Sensing God

1. Sensing God

1. Sensing God.

When our Creator designed the human body, He gave us our powerful senses in order to experience life to the fullest. It seems logical that our senses can only add to our experience of God on a tangible level. Our knowledge of God is not limited to the intellectual level. We can experience God more fully when we engage our senses to that end. Biblical history is full of references to men and women sensing God, using their senses to experience God more completely.

When Yahweh designed the Tabernacle for Moses and the Israelites, it’s clear He wanted worship to be a multisensory experience (Exodus 25-31). The Tabernacle was a feast for the senses, a flood of beauty, texture, color, smells, sounds, touch. and tangible experience. The priests used every physical sense in order to follow the LORD’s plans for how God was to have an earthly dwelling place with His chosen people.

SMELLING: the fragrant perfume of the anointing oil, which was a unique blend of spices placed on almost everything in the Tabernacle, including the priests; the delicious fragrance of the incense, another special blend of ingredients, that was in constant use in the Tent of Meeting; the daily aroma of freshly baked bread in the Tent; mixing in with these exquisite aromas was the harsh smell of huge amounts of fresh blood spilled from the animal sacrifices. The Tabernacle was a uniquely aromatic experience.

HEARING: the bleats and sounds of the animals awaiting and being sacrificed; the word of the Lord being heard in the Holy of Holies; the voices of the priests doing their daily duties; the songs and chirps of the birds flying over, around and through the outdoor environs of the Tabernacle; the splashing of the priests as they wash their hands and feet many times a day; the sounds of the fire in the altar of sacrifice.

SEEING: the beauty of the visuals everywhere; the fine embroidery and weaving of blue, scarlet, and purple curtains and hangings; the gold, silver and bronze throughout the Tabernacle; the glorious interior of the Tent, lit only by the golden lampstand’s flames, reflecting all the gold of the furniture shining in the darkness; the smoky cloud of God’s Presence above the Tabernacle and in the Holy of Holies; the sparkling stones and beautiful colors in the priest’s garments; the open skies with its sunshine and shades of blue.

TASTING: the delicious freshly baked bread eaten by the priests, twelve loaves every day representing the twelve tribes of Israel; the grilled meat of the animals being sacrificed, not all of the meat being eaten, only some of the meat.

TOUCHING: the priests’ laying on of hands to sacrifice the animals; the building of the sacrificial fires; the regular handling of the anointing oil, the incense, the bread, the washing, the parting of the veil to enter the Tent of Meeting and the Holy of Holies.

The directions to the construction of the Tabernacle had to be strictly followed. The instructions for worship and sacrifice were followed to the finest detail. Only the most gifted craftsmen were used, only the best materials, only the most obedient priests. Excellence in every detail was expected, because, mysteriously, the Tabernacle was God’s sketch of the heavenly sanctuary. The Tabernacle was only a copy of the true place of worship in the New Jerusalem. It was an earthly symbol of heavenly realities (Hebrews 9:23-24). This is a mystery, and Moses fully obeyed without knowing the big picture. Yahweh wanted it to be a model of heavenly worship, though an incomplete one. God desired the Tabernacle to be a feast for the senses, a full-body experience, in order to experience God more fully, and also to suggest the full-body experience of heavenly worship. Worship in the Kingdom will not be limited to the intellectual, it will be somehow involving all the senses in our new bodies. Experiencing God in heaven will involve everything about us, and our imaginations cannot even begin to capture the many ways we will experience God with our new senses. Using all our tangible senses here on earth only reflects to a minor degree how we will be using every inch of our new selves in heavenly adoration.

Some churches enjoy this sensory aspect of worship more than others, of course. Certainly the sacramental churches are using their physical senses more than the non-sacramental. The “smells and bells” of the high churches are merely providing worship with the senses in mind. Sensing God through the sacraments, believers experience physical realities as vehicles for spiritual understanding and growth. Physical objects are infused with spiritual realities through the intangible Holy Spirit. Such physical things as water, bread, wine, oil, incense, icons and even marital unions are enlivened with spiritual meaning through the physical senses. Just as the priests in the Tabernacle were fully involved with their senses in their worship, maybe it’s worth thinking about the priesthood of all believers. Are we priests intended to worship, to experience God, through our senses like those Tabernacle priests? Is that at least a part of what our priesthood means for today?

Scripture also loves to use our physical senses as symbols because if there’s one thing about us we can truly understand, it’s our senses. We may not truly understand our thoughts and actions, but we can understand our tangible senses. So the Bible uses our senses as reference points for how we can experience God more deeply. Our senses represent ways of participating in the Faith, of growing and knowing. Scripture encourages believers to use our senses both literally and spiritually in experiencing God. We can, with God’s help, sense God figuratively, using our physical senses as ideas that trigger a deeper understanding of the Faith:

  • SMELLING the aroma of Christ;
  • TASTING the feast of Yahweh;
  • HEARING the voice of the Lord;
  • TOUCHING with the hands of Jesus;
  • SEEING His Body Work.

Our physical senses can point us to our spiritual senses. Our tangible senses clearly refer to spiritual realities. Is that one of the reasons God gave us physical senses, to use them as symbols in order to understand spiritual truths?