Possibly the most crucial aspect of rightly discerning and faithfully engaging in any work of God is to properly and deeply understand its “orientation.” If this one aspect is missed or misunderstood, it can become the primary reason why a Sovereign move of God quickly wanes and becomes crystallized into a lukewarm, man-controlled, apostate movement.
The word “orientation” is a very suggestive word when its origins and meaning are understood and seen in light of the things of God. The root word “orient” means “east” and its linguistic origins are described as such: “‘from Latin orientem (nominative oriens) ‘the rising sun, the east, part of the sky where the sun rises,’ originally ‘rising’ (adj.), present participle of oriri ‘to rise'” (Online Etymology Dictionary* – emphasis added.)
The noun, “orientation”, therefore, has the meaning: “arrangement (of a building, etc.) to face east or any other specified direction,” (Online Etymology Dictionary*).
The primary meaning of the word, then, has to do with the direction of the rising Sun and of the positioning of something in relation to it, namely, facing East.
When it comes to the Biblical concept of “orientation”, we see, for starters, that one of the primary Hebrew words translated “east”, “mizrach”, is also translated “sunrise” and comes from a root word, “zarach” which means, ” to rise, come forth, break forth, break out, arise, rise up, shine” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance*) showing the inseparable connection in the Hebrew understanding between the word “east” and the rising Sun.
The other primary Hebrew word translated “east”, “qedem” has both a directional aspect, being translated: “east”, “in front of”, and “before”, and also a time element, being additionally translated: “aforetime”, “ancient”, “from of old”, and “beginning”*, indicating source or origin.
[Note: there is a similar connection between the English words “orient” (east) and “origin” (beginning) with both coming from the Latin root, “oriri”, meaning to, “arise, rise, get up; appear above the horizon, become visible; be born, be descended, receive life;”.*]
To the ancient Hebrew mind, “East” was the primary ordinance/direction and the other directions were derived from it. Their maps, for instance, would have the East at the top of the map, West on the bottom and North/South to the left and right respectively. (Interestingly, their word for “north” also translates, “left”, and “south” also translates “right”.) They further viewed the direction “east” as representing beginnings, origins, the past, antiquity, and even eternity.*
In the Scriptures, especially the Old Testament, we find that the direction East, the direction of the rising Sun, figures prominently as to the physical orientation of many of the most significant things God created, instituted, and/or ordained for His purpose. Consider the following that had an eastward orientation:
- The Garden of Eden – Gen. 2:8
- The way to the tree of life – Gen. 3:24
- Abram’s altar in relation to Bethel – Gen. 12:8 – (first mention of “Bethel” =“The house of God” and in keeping with later tabernacle/temple arrangement and pattern.)
- The Tabernacle of Moses – Including the entrance to the outer court, the entrance to the Holy Place, the Veil, and the Ark of the Covenant within the Holy of Holies. – Ex. 25-27, 38,40 (See Ex. 27:13-16 & 38:13-15 for description of entrance on east end.)
- The encampment outside of the Tabernacle of the preeminent tribe of Judah – Num. 2:3 (from which Jesus of Nazareth descended – Matt.1:2), as well as the assigned encampment for Moses, Aaron and his sons (the priestly family.) – Num. 3:38, and two other tribes.
- The Jordan River in relation to Canaan, through which the Israelites crossed to enter the land of their inheritance. (Josh. 3-4, See 4:19 for eastern orientation of where they camped after crossing.)
- The Temple of Solomon – Bible Scholars and archaeologists confirm that the Temple of Solomon was oriented eastward, toward the rising Sun.* *
- Ezekiel’s Temple – Faced east (Ezek.8:16, 41:14, 47:1); the glory departed to the east (Ezek. 10:19, 11:23); the glory returns from the east through the east gate (Ezek.43:1-4); the steps to the altar faced east (Ezek.43:17); the east gate was shut and was to “remain shut because the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered through it.” (Ezek.44:1-3); special regulations related to “the Prince” were given for entrance into the inner sanctuary through the east gate (Ezek.44:1-3, 46:1-8,12) water flowed out of the temple on the east side and flowed eastward to the Jordan river (Ezek. 47:1-8).
- The Eastern Gate (“Golden Gate”, “Beautiful Gate”, “Mercy Gate”) of the city of Jerusalem, which led directly to the temple. This is the gate through which Jesus entered the Sunday before His crucifixion (Matt. 21:1-11, i.e. His “triumphal entry”). According to Jewish and Christian tradition, this is the gate through which the Messiah shall enter when He comes/returns.
- The Garden of Gethsemane in relation to the temple mount and the city of Jerusalem [significant as to the Second Adam being in a “garden” making the choice that would undue the choice of the First Adam who was also in a “garden in the east.” (Gen. 2:8)]
- The Mount of Olives in relation to the Temple and City of Jerusalem from which Jesus ascended (Lk. 24:50-51, Acts 1:12) and upon which His feet shall touch when He returns. (Zech. 14:4)
- On Passover, halfway between the vernal and autumnal equinox, the sun rises due East of the temple mount over the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane.*
- The Magi came from the east at the birth of Christ. Matt. 2:1-12
- Christian tradition has it that while was on the cross, Jesus Christ was facing West and, therefore, those who were beholding Him, were facing East.*
- The believed direction from which the Son of Man will come when He returns. Matt.24:27
From these (in sum or in part), the following examples of Jewish and Christian practices were derived:
- Synagogues were built with an eastward orientation
- Certain sects of the Jews face eastward when praying.
- Christians cathedrals were built with an eastward orientation.
- Early Christians customarily worshiped and prayed facing eastward.
- Early and Orthodox Christians baptized with initiants facing east.
- In traditional Christian burial, grave stones customarily face east and the body is buried with the feet to the east so as to be oriented for the return of Christ.
[For an expression of early Christian beliefs and practices in this regard by John of Damascus (645-749 AD), please see here.]
In summary, then, God Himself attached great significance to the direction of the rising Sun, East, and has incorporated that significance into many of the most weighty aspects of His works, ways, and worship. Orthodox Jews and Christians have, likewise, given special reverence and attention to this orientation in the ordering of diverse elements of their worship of God.
First the Natural, Then the Spiritual
“The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual”
(1 Cor. 15:46)
You may be wondering why focusing on this matter in such detail is relevant, especially to this series on “when God does a new thing”. Well, if we look closely at the above list of things God has created, instituted, and/or ordained for His purpose that have an eastward orientation, we see that all of them point, in some way, to the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. The reason for this is clear when we see from Scripture that the natural Sun is merely a physical type and shadow of the spiritual Son.
“But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings;” (Malachi 4:2 NKJV)
[For a more thorough exploration of this typology, please see the post,
A Copernican-Style Revelation and Revolution.]
The orientation of the most significant aspects of the works, ways, and worship of God toward the rising Sun in the physical realm, therefore, is merely a natural, God-ordained signpost pointing to the spiritual realm where all of the works, ways, and worship of God are ordained of the Father to be oriented to the risen Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The natural, physical “shadow” fades and even disappears in the brilliance of the supernatural, spiritual Light of its fulfillment. Facing the rising Sun in all things religious is no longer the main point; facing the Risen Son in all things spiritual is!
The Orientation of God’s “New Thing”
It is this reality of the spiritual orientation of all things in God’s eternal purpose to the risen Son of God that critically comes to bear on the “new thing” God desires to do in the midst of His people today. No matter what that “new thing” is or will be, it is forever and inviolably ordained of the Father to point to, be centered in, and further reveal Jesus Christ, His Beloved Son. [To test the validity of this statement, I encourage you to go back through the Scriptures and find all the instances in which God did a “new thing” among His people and see if the “testimony of Jesus” is not somehow clearly evident and/or cryptically (prophetically) embedded within it.] From the Father’s perspective, all of His works and ways are Christ-oriented!
This reality is not a matter of mere intellectual intrigue or ascent. It is deeply practical and consequential in its spiritual applications and ramifications. Only when this spiritual orientation is obtained and maintained will any and all works of God be able to go forward with His approval, endorsement, and favor without diverting from their ordained purpose, full development, and intended consequences.
If any other facet or feature of God’s work ever becomes preeminent and/or central in the hearts and minds of God’s people, or is looked to and trusted in as either the primary source, means, or end of God’s working, spiritual disorientation sets in. The resultant consequences of such disorientation will eventually lead to increasing levels of spiritual distortion, deception, diminishment, and, ultimately, division within the Body of Christ, without exception.
Such disorienting factors connected to the work of God that often seduce away from and supplant Christ’s unrivaled preeminence in all things may include the following:
1. a distinctive emphasis
2. a preeminent truth
3. a prominent personality
4. a centralized location
5. an employed method
6. a desired manifestation
7. a distinguishing identity
8. a resultant effect
ALL of these are secondary matters and must forever be kept in their proper place and perspective as such. If any one, or combination of these, ever begin to outshine the Risen Son as to His centrality, significance, and all-sufficiency in all things and become the distinguishing feature and/or focus of any work of God, they stand in the place of idolatry, and spiritual distortion and disintegration will shortly ensue. Tragically, because man tends to look on the outward things and is also uncomfortable yielding control, not taking credit, and not crystallizing mindsets and methods, such distraction, defilement, and diminishment is all but inevitable.
In order to stay spiritually oriented then, according to the heart, mind, and will of the Father, any work of God must perpetually hold and guard as central, supreme, and all-sufficient the Lord Jesus Christ Himself as:
1. The Distinctive Emphasis
2. The Preeminent Truth
3. The Prominent Personality
4. The Centralized Location
5. The Employed Method
6. The Desired Manifestation
7. The Distinguishing Identity
8. The Resultant Effect
He is the Alpha and Omega of all of God’s ways. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life of all of God’s works. ALL facets, features, and factors find their ORIGINS IN HIM and are eternally and immutably ORIENTED TO HIM.
Let it be forever settled in the hearts and minds of God’s people, then, that whatever “new thing” God does in the earth, it is and will be, at its foundation and core, a fresh revelation and manifestation of CHRIST HIMSELF! If it ever becomes anything essentially other than HIM, it has become spiritually disoriented and is surely missing the mark of God’s sovereign desire and intention!
Only when God’s people ORIENT themselves to the RISEN SON in all things will they be able to properly apprehend, align with, and engage in whatever “new thing” God is doing in the earth in a way that is pleasing, faithful, and fruitful to HIM!
~ ~ ~
THE RISEN SON,
~ ~ ~
“When God Does a New Thing” series posts: Pt.1: “Preparation”, Pt.2: “Expectation”, Pt. 3: “Misapprehension”, Pt. 4: “Misapprehension (continued)”
A Copernican-Style Revelation and Revolution (“Christ the Center”; series revisited – Part 1)
LikeLiked by 1 person
Such an excellent and timely article!! When I think of the number of Committee meetings I sat through discussing some aspect of these disorienting factors in my 50 years in the Institutional Church system I’m embarrassed. Often it was how the our “Church” could be more relevant to the particular area we served. Was our programming cutting-edge, did our music fit the current Christian mainstream, were our Services appropriate as to time and efficiency and especially was our pastor up to date in terms of style and dress with a certain charisma and appeal? In short, how do “ we” become distinctive and set ourselves apart from other brothers and sisters so they would be drawn to our expression. I believe God is doing a new thing and perhaps the COVID pandemic, by closing the Institutionalized System for a period of time, will cause us all to reflect on whether He is really Preeminent wherever and whenever we gather. Thanks again and blessings to you.
LikeLiked by 2 people
Great comment, Hawkeye! Thanks for sharing how it grounded out in your experience, which I’m sure many can relate to! We can only hope and pray that the present disruption will be sufficient to significantly break the cycle of “same old, same old” and help us return to our “first love”, Jesus Christ, the Beloved of the Father! Amen!
All blessings, brother!
LikeLiked by 1 person
What a great study and spiritual application to the “eastern” metaphor! I did not know that about the meaning of “oreint,” either. Very interesting.
Sounds like then, that “Go east, young man, go east!” is/should be the motto of the Kingdom expansion! 🙂
Thanks for yet another Christ-centered post here.
Blessings to you.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks, Pamela. I’m glad it was a blessing to you! I also learned quite a few new things as I dug deeper into this study. Another rich mine shaft of the unsearchable riches of Christ!