Reclaiming the Darkness
Recently, while reading through Exodus 25-27, I found myself in the middle of all the intricate instructions for the building of the tabernacle and its furnishings. Although tempted to rush through all the verbiage about threads and pegs and clasps and such, I began to really think about the details and what it would be like to be in that place. And as I continued to construct this space in my mind and think through each item mentioned, the Holy Spirit whispered…
…It was dark.
Heavy curtains made of goats’ hair formed the outer layer of the tent with ornamental curtains clasped together and draped over the support beams forming the inner walls. They were purposely constructed so that they would overlap the back and sides of the tabernacle – so, no light creeping in. Then, if you aren’t feeling claustrophobic yet, the entire tent was covered, first with red dyed ram skins (leather), and on top of that, a layer of porpoise skins (waterproofing). It might not have been air-tight, but it certainly would have felt very close. The ark of the testimony with the mercy seat on top was to be placed all the way back in the tent of meeting in the area referred to as the holy of holies and it was to be separated from the holy place by an embroidered veil, which meant that the only light source available was on the other side of this heavy veil.
God chose to dwell in a dark, still place. He set things up so that we would have to venture into a deep, sacred place to find Him.
You Bible scholars out there are undoubtedly noting that God would not be meeting us in the tabernacle’s holy of holies because only the highest priest was allowed to enter His domain – and not when He was actually present there. But we have other scripture that lets us know about God’s affinity for inky seclusion. David tells us, “He made darkness His secret place, His canopy around Him— the dark rain clouds of the sky;” (Psalm 18:11) and Solomon declared, “the Lord said that He would dwell in the thick darkness.” (1 Kings 8:12) So, we have David, the only person to ever be designated by God as being a man after His own heart, and Solomon, who God said would be the wisest man to ever live – both making sure that we understand the situation with God’s comfort in the dark.
You may question the validity of that sentiment today, because when Jesus died, the veil of the temple was torn in half, thus destroying our separation from the Father and creating a way for us to get back to having an intimate and personal relationship with Him. And that is one hundred percent accurate, but one of the greatest truths about our God is that He never changes – His character is immutable. That being so, if He dwelled in the dark then, He dwells in it now.
What is it about the dark? And why would God want to meet us there?
Well, if you have the time and the inclination, you could spend many, many hours perusing the vast body of literature generated by studies of sensory deprivation and sensory reduction. Fascinating stuff. But for the purpose of this discussion, let’s just hit a few of the highlights. When a person is placed in an environment – whether floating in water or lying on a bed – where all stimuli are removed, some very interesting things start to happen. One thing is remarkably simple: Rest. You become relaxed and anxiety and stress leave your mind and your body. Certainly not hard to believe that God would want us to be in a calm anticipatory posture before Him.
Another thing that happens is more complex: The brain, in response to the lack of external stimulation, begins to create its own stimulation. When visual, auditory, olfactory, tactile, and taste input to the brain is seriously limited, the mind becomes hyper-alert to internal experiences. This produces a ripe landscape for prayer, meditation, dreams, visions… and dare I say… hearing God’s voice! Absolutely not hard to believe that God would want us to be in this receptive posture before Him!
The last thing I want to bring into your awareness is that recent research has found that sensory reduction decreases the functional connectivity within and between the brain regions responsible for mind wandering. This is also referred to as the self-referential process. Translation for all us Christian chickens: We stop thinking about ourselves – our feelings, pains, plans, disappointments, demands, expectations, etc. All the disruptive, unproductive, inane mental chatter gloriously shuts down! Amen! Can we even question if God wants us to be in this holy, utterly and singularly devoted posture?
I apologize for riding my sciency horse again but sometimes we just have to stop and appreciate the incredible intelligence and intentionality of our God!
Enter a bit of confusion: If this is true – then why is the realm and influence of Satan considered to be and referred to as “darkness?” This terminology is present even in scripture when citing the work of evil. The answer is that Satan, the great impostor, has always recognized this powerful arena of God and he has waged a campaign to infiltrate and destroy it. He has entered in and tried to trick us into believing that he owns the place, and you’ll find nothing there but fear. He has labored furiously to blur the distinction between the holy, dark meeting place of God and the darkness of his evil cohorts. He works to sow seeds of doubt and hesitation so that we will cower and shy away from our divine appointments with our heavenly Father. But his threats are all smoke and mirrors and misdirection – he is an impotent and powerless liar… a toothless roaring lion.
People, this is but one front of the spiritual warfare that rages around us every second of every day – but it’s a crucially important one. We must be able to stand in the dark and reach for our God. We cannot allow any enemy intruders to steal away the sanctity of our rest and communication with our Lord. We must reclaim the darkness and find the glory of the One who waits there.
Way back in the day when I was doing research for the US Army, one of the hottest initiatives being pursued was called Owning the Night. The basic idea was that if you could see the enemy in the dark and distinguish them from their surroundings, you would know exactly where they were and what they were doing – and that gave you the advantage you needed to complete your mission and ultimately win the battle. It boosted confidence and stoked the fiery furnace of bravery. For the soldiers, that meant sophisticated night vision devices. For you, that means honing your discernment between godly, neutral, and evil entities to a supernatural level through constant communication with God and reliance on empowerment from the Holy Spirit. It means keeping your spiritual eyes and ears open to the orders of your Commander in Chief.
Get into your dark place to meet with the Almighty – but be sure to enter with your warrior armor securely affixed. Be aware that the dark holds both the darkness of a fallen world and the light of eternity – they are both in there. Your earnest prayers and the steady strength of your faith will set a path for you that leads directly into the presence of God where you will receive the guidance of a Good Father, the battle commissioning from King Jesus, and all the resources you will need from the Holy Spirit.
Don’t just resign yourself to the fight, friends – run to the front lines with a battle cry of victory as your song. And never, never be afraid of the dark because your God is in there with you.
Ephesians 6:11-12: "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."