Moses with one wave of his staff was able to see the seas part and the seabed dry up. He was able to see the waters stand tall as if held back by a thick wall of glass. When the enemy army was crossing after them, with another wave of the rod of God, he saw the waters fall upon them and drown every soldier.

But when it came to leading this complaining horde of people across a desert land, Moses was at his wits end.

Moses and the Tent of Meeting

In Exodus 33, we find that Moses would take a tent and pitch it outside the camp, far away from the people, and there Moses sought the Lord. He called it the ʾōhel môʿēd (tent of meeting). This was the forerunner of the tabernacle. Here Moses would speak face to face with God (Ex 33:11)

When Moses would enter the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and God would speak to Moses.

When Moses went out to the tent, all the people would get up, go to their tent door, and watch. And when the cloud would descend, the people would worship, each at their tent door.

Later on, when they constructed the Tabernacle according to God’s commands, it was brought within the camp, and the people worshipped there. I can’t help but wonder if Moses longed to return to that tent outside the camp…

Letter to Concerned Jewish Christians

It is a reference to the Tabernacle that the writer of Hebrews is using to address the concerns of the Jewish Christians in Hebrews 13. Here the writer makes the foundational statement which should guide these Christians, and I believe it is the foundational statement for our church.

Foundational Statement of Hebrews

We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore, let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews 13:10-16

The Problem Facing these Jewish Christians

There were pressures from the world-pressures as to how they should worship, how they should not worship. It was so much easier to follow a hybrid Christ-one who was Jewish and Christian. One who was worldly and Godly.

On the other hand, the world was becoming more antagonistic toward Christians, especially those that really followed Him. So the struggles they were facing are the same ones we face in our lives.

Two Problems

1.  Driven by formalism-How they worshiped was more important than Who they worshiped.

2.  Paralyzed by Fear – Faced expulsion or persecution-wanted to have the glory of God and stay in the safety of the camp. Their desire for comfort overwhelmed the command to risk it all.

Remember:

We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat.

If we insist on serving from a place of comfort, or a place of ‘tradition’, or a place of safety…we can not eat from the altar of Jesus Christ. We will lose out on the sweet abiding fellowship that is in Him alone.

Choice Number 1

  • Will we Die in our Religion or Die in our Devotion?

The writer addressed the plight of the Hebrews by calling their attention to those who wandered in the wilderness:

Num 13:31-14:4; Num 14:20-23, 32-34

Here the Jewish wanderers had the chance to believe in God’s Word, to embrace His power that they had witnessed first hand. However, they refused to see Him Who is able, and focused on their own weakness and inability. Instead of advancing into Canaan and trusting God to overcome the giants, they wept in bitterness and retreated from the mission God had given them.

They had two options:

  1. Retreat from the Mission

  2. Risk everything for the Mission

To risk everything requires the faith to see Him who is invisible. To risk everything requires a total disregard for personal comfort, personal safety, but an overwhelming CONFIDENCE in the power of God to allow you to finish the mission!

We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat.

Choice Number 2

  • Will We Embrace our Comfort or Will we Embrace His Cross?

If you want to eat from this altar. If you want to experience God face to face. If you want to know the presence and power of God, you must go outside the camp. You must be willing to be disgraced just like Jesus. You must be willing to bear His disgrace.

Let us Go to Jesus …Outside the Camp

Dead and Dirty things

And the bull for the sin offering and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the Holy Place, shall be carried outside the camp. Their skin and their flesh and their dung shall be burned up with fire. And he who burns them shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp. Leviticus 16:27-28

Diseased and Despised

“The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp. Leviticus 13:45-46

Blasphemers

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Bring out of the camp the one who cursed, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him. And speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death. Leviticus 24:13-16

Dangerous

Murderers, blasphemers, adulterers were all kept and stoned outside the camp.

Do You Really Want to Follow Jesus?

Then you must go to Him OUTSIDE the camp!

  • Mission without suffering is like Christianity without a cross
  • Suffering is not a consequence of our mission: it is the central strategy for achieving our mission.

Moses met face to face with God outside the camp!

If you desire to fellowship face to face with Jesus Christ, you must meet with Him outside the camp, and bear His reproach.

Choice Number 3

  • Will We Live for Pleasure in this World or for Paradise in the World to Come?

The Truth of the Real Jesus

  • Jesus calls the church to live according to a radically different definition of success than the rest of the world.
  • Jesus calls me to live according to a radically different definition of success than the rest of the world

If we do not advance toward Jesus in our Christian walk, we:

  • Give way to formalism
  • Give way to paralyzing fear
  • Give way to a retreating spirit

We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat.

Do we desire to stay inside the comfort of our camp? Do not count on feasting on Christ.

Believer’s can be forgiven but cursed to wander in the wilderness apart from the power and presence of God.

God does not need our church to gain glory for Himself. He will glorify His Name regardless of whether we go to the altar outside the camp.

Following Christ does not mean coming to the cross and then neatly carrying Jesus back into our safe and comfortable American lives. It means risking everything and going outside the camp to bear His reproach on His altar of total sacrifice. (A thank you to David Platt for the core points of this message)

Notation about my Faith Journey

In 2004-2005 I became burdened about the nation of Myanmar. I even went there in January 2006, and now serve as Treasurer on the Executive Board of the Friends of Burma, Inc. This all came about as I began to understand the true meaning of discipleship.

While going through a sermon series on Mark, I was struck anew with Mark 8.

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. Mark 8:34-35

The greatest example of these verses was the life of Adoniram Judson. I was fascinated with the truth that what he risked with his life and family was the reason for the Christians in that forsaken country today!

His life led me to became so interested and concerned about Burma (Myanmar).

Adoniram Judson is why I am going outside the camp. Adoniram Judson went outside the camp and bore the reproach of Jesus Christ.

Adoniram Judson

Once when a Buddhist teacher said that he could not believe that Christ suffered the death of the cross because no king allows his son such indignity, “Judson responded, ‘Therefore you are not a disciple of Christ. A true disciple inquires not whether a fact is agreeable to his own reason, but whether it is in the book. His pride has yielded to the divine testimony. Teacher, your pride is still unbroken. Break down your pride, and yield to the word of God.’ (Anderson, To the Golden Shore, 240.)

Judson’s conversion to Christ was due in large measure to the same deist friend who led him away from Christ. After graduation, Judson left home to become a wanderlust. One night in a country inn, his room was adjacent to the room of a dying man. The moaning and groaning of that man through the long night permitted Judson no sleep. His thoughts troubled him. All night questions assailed his soul: “Was the dying man prepared to die?” “Where would he spend eternity?” “Was he a Christian, calm and strong in the hope of life in Heaven?” “Or, was he a sinner shuddering in the dark brink of the lower region?” Judson constantly chided himself for even entertaining such thoughts contrary to his philosophy of life beyond the grave, and thought how his brilliant college friend would rebuke him if he learned of these childish worries.

But the next morning, when Judson inquired of the proprietor as to the identity of the dead man, he was shocked by the most staggering statement he had ever heard: “He was a brilliant young person from Providence College. Ernest was his name.”

Ernest was the unbeliever who had destroyed Judson’s faith. “Now he was dead — and was lost! Was lost! Was lost! Lost! Lost!” Those words raced through his brain, rang in his ears, roared in his soul — “Was lost! Lost! Lost! There and then Judson realized he was lost, too! He ended his traveling, returned home, entered Andover Theological Seminary and soon “sought God for the pardon of his soul,” was saved and dedicated his life to the Master’s service!

In Burma

But opposition came, also. Finally, Judson was imprisoned as a British spy — an imprisonment of twenty-one months. Judson was condemned to die, but in answer to prayers to God and the incessant pleadings of his wife to officials (one of the most emotional-packed, soul-stirring stories in evangelism), Judson’s life was spared and finally British intervention freed him from imprisonment.

Following the missionaries in their holy adventure, we behold scenes too horrible for words. On one occasion Judson, pitifully weak and emaciated, was driven in chains across the burning tropical sands, until, his back lacerated beneath the lash and his feet covered with blisters, he fell to the ground and prayed that the mercy of God might grant him a speedy death. For almost two years he was incarcerated in a prison too vile to house animals. He was bound with three pairs of chains and his feet were fastened in stocks which at times were elevated, so that only his shoulders touched the ground. The room, into which he and many other prisoners were crowded, was without a window and felt like a fiery furnace under the merciless glare of the tropical sun. The stench of the place was terrible, vermin crawled everywhere and the jailer, Mr. Spotted Face, was a brute in human form. And, as Judson saw other prisoners dragged out to execution, he lived in terrifying suspense and was able to say with Paul, “I die daily.”

Surely, he would have fallen and perished under the weight of his cross, except for the tender, persistent, beautiful ministrations of Ann. As often as possible, she bribed the jailer and then, under cover of darkness, crept to the door of Judson’s den, bringing food and whispering words of hope and consolation. Finally, for three long weeks she did not appear; but, upon her return, she bore in her arms a newborn baby to explain her absence. An epidemic of smallpox was raging unchecked through the city and little Maria was smitten with the dread disease. Due to the double strain of concern for her imprisoned husband and the suffering baby, Ann found herself unable to nurse the little one. Tormented by its pitiful cries, Ann took her baby up and down the streets of the city, pleading for mercy and for milk: “You women who have babies, have mercy on my baby and nurse her!”

Near the prison gate was a caged lion, whose fearful bellowings had told all that he was being starved against the day when he would be turned loose upon some of the prisoners. But the lion died of hunger before the plan was executed. Thereupon, plucky Mrs. Judson cleaned out the cage and secured permission for her husband to stay there for a few weeks, since he was critically ill with a fever.

One of the most pathetic pages in the history of Christian missions is that which describes the scene when Judson was finally released and returned to the mission house seeking Ann, who again had failed to visit him for some weeks. As he ambled down the street as fast as his maimed ankles would permit, the tormenting question kept repeating itself, “Is Ann still alive?” Upon reaching the house, the first object to attract his attention was a fat, half-naked Burman woman squatting in the ashes beside a pan of coals and holding on her knees an emaciated baby, so begrimed with dirt that it did not occur to him that it could be his own. Across the foot of the bed, as though she had fallen there, lay a human object that, at the first glance, was no more recognizable than his child. The face was of a ghastly paleness and the body shrunken to the last degree of emaciation. The glossy black curls had all been shorn from the finely-shaped head. There lay the faithful and devoted wife who had followed him so unwearily from prison to prison, ever alleviating his distresses and consoling him in his trials. Presently Ann felt warm tears falling upon her face and, rousing from her stupor, saw Judson by her side.

And there were other sorrows. Before he had been in Burma fourteen years he buried Ann and all of his children. But “the love that never fails” sustained him. “If I had not felt certain,” he says, “that every additional trial was ordered by infinite love and mercy, I could not have survived my accumulated sufferings.” Judson joined with Paul in declaring: “The love of Christ constraineth me … Therefore I will glory in reproaches, in persecution and in distresses for Christ’s sake.”[2]

The work progressed and gospel power began to open blind eyes, break idolatry-shackled hearts and transform the newly-begotten converts into triumphant Christians. On April 12, 1850, at the age of 62, Judson died. Except for a few months (when he returned to America after thirty-four years from his first sailing), Judson had spent thirty-eight years in Burma. Although he had waited six years for his first convert, sometime after his death a government survey recorded 210,000 Christians, one out of every fifty-eight Burmans! It was a partial fulfillment and a monument to the spirit and ministry of the man, who at Ava, the capital city, gazed at the temple of Buddha and challenged, “A voice mightier than mine, a still small voice, will ere long sweep away every vestige of thy dominion. The churches of Jesus Christ will soon supplant these idolatrous monuments and the chanting devotees of Buddha will die away before the Christian’s hymns of praise.”[1]

Will You Go Outside the Camp?

My question is, if Christ delays his return another two hundred years – a mere fraction of a day in his reckoning – which of you will have suffered and died so that the triumphs of grace will be told about one or two of those 3,500 peoples who are in the same condition today that the Karen and Chin and Kachins and Burmese were in 1813? Who will labor so long and so hard and so perseveringly that in two hundred years there will be two million Christians in many of the 10/40-window peoples who can scarcely recall their Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist roots?

May God use his powerful word and the life of Adoniram Judson to stir many of you to give your lives to this great cause!

We must keep advancing to Him, to His altar which is outside the camp!

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Comments
  1. […] We have an Altar…therefore, let us go to Him outside the Camp […]

  2. Lyn Leahz says:

    Reblogged this on Lyn Leahz and commented:
    Wonderful, informative post I came across while doing a picture search on google!

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