The Tabernacle: God's Presence With His People
Exodus 40:34-38 God’s Gift of Himself. God saved Israel, but this was not his greatest gift. He gave Israel the Ten Commandments, but this was not his greatest gift. He gave Israel the gift of order in time with the sabbath, and the gift of order in space with the tabernacle, but these were not his greatest gifts. He put his Presence in the tabernacle; this was his greatest gift—the gift of himself.
Exodus 36:8-40:33 “Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell in their midst,” the Lord commanded Moses. But how can you make a suitable container for one whom the highest heavens cannot contain? Will God really dwell in a house made by human hands? What sort of a container is the Tabernacle?
Exodus 35:1 – 36:7 Jesus was invited to dinner in the home of a Pharisee who neglected to show him true hospitality. But a woman poured out her alabaster flask of ointment and anointed Jesus. Jesus said of her, “Her many sins have been forgiven — as her great love has shown” (Luke 7:47). After God had forgiven Israel for worshiping the golden calf, it was those whose hearts moved them that were to contribute materials for the tabernacle. The key to giving oneself and one’s resources is gratitude and love.
Exodus 34:29-35 Moses spent forty days and nights in God’s presence on the top of Mt. Sinai. When he came down his face shone. God’s presence was a transforming presence. God knows us and loves us as we are, but he also wants to transform us so that we become who we are meant to be. But how are we transformed? How do people change?
Exodus 34:10-28 Passionate Presence. God loves his people with a passionate love. The Biblical word for this passion is “jealousy.” To us this seems a negative trait, describing inappropriate longings. But jealousy is appropriate within a covenant relationship. The two parties have pledged their troth to each other; they are bound to loyalty. One of the Lord’s names is Jealous (Exodus 34:14). He has won our affections and bound our soul fast. He wants us to be able to say of him: my love he owns, I have no longings for another, I’m satisfied in him alone.
Exod 33:18-34:9 At the Burning Bush, Moses asked God, “What is your name?” He gave the enigmatic reply, “I am who I am,” which he then clarified as “He is.” In Hebrew this name is Yahweh, usually rendered in English as “The Lord.” At Mt. Sinai, Moses asks God, “Please show me your glory.” Instead, God proclaims to him his name, Yahweh, the Lord, giving a description that became confessional for Israel.
Exod 33:1-17 When you imagine God’s face, what do you see? A friendly face or an angry face? David prayed, “Hide your face from my sins… Cast me not away from your presence (face)” (Ps 51:9, 11). Many of us fear it’s the other way around: God hides his face from us but keeps our sins ever before his face. Maybe that’s because we’ve superimposed someone else’s face onto God’s face. For Moses, the Lord’s face (or presence) was all-important. The Lord used to talk with him face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. Moses wanted that presence to go with the people of Israel, despite their great sin.
Exod 32:15-35 Satisfied in Him Alone. Jealousy is usually a negative trait, describing inappropriate longings. But there’s one situation in which jealousy is appropriate: a marriage. Once a couple marry, their affections belong within the marriage. Transferring them outside the marriage should arouse jealousy. Israel transferred its affections to a golden calf, breaking the second commandment. God forbids making and bowing down to an image in the likeness of anything because he is a Jealous God. His name, even, is Jealous. God has won our affections and bound our soul fast. He wants us to be able to say of him: my love he owns, I have no longings for another, I’m satisfied in him alone.
Exod 32:1-14 Maybe some of you have made New Year’s resolutions. You’ve embarked on the year with renewed resolve to be different, to be better, to try harder, to achieve some goal. But how long do such resolutions last? The Israelites were full of resolve when they entered into covenant with the Lord: “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” We return to Exodus to see how the Israelites are doing in their resolve. On top of Mt. Sinai Moses has been in the Lord’s Presence, receiving instructions for the people: “Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.” We turn to the foot of the mountain where we find the people experiencing Absence not Presence. Their resolve to live a life of faith collapses and they demand something they can see. We all, like them, are prone to wander, and so we pray, “Bind my wandering heart to Thee.”
Exod 31:1-18 The tabernacle gave Israel a sacred geography. The Sabbath gave it a sacred calendar. The two tablets of the law gave it a sacred ethic. In these three ways the Lord gave his people order after the harsh disorder of slavery in Egypt. Freedom was not freedom from order, but order itself: order in space, order in time, and order in life. How should we understand sacred space, sacred time and sacred ethics today? Do we have a sacred order that gives us freedom?
Exod 29:1-46 017 is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, dated to the moment when Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Luther recovered many Biblical truths that had been lost by the church in the previous thousand years. Among these was the idea of the priesthood of all believers. The medieval church divided Christians into a spiritual class of priests and monks consecrated to God, and the secular laity. In ancient Israel Aaron and his sons were ordained and consecrated to the Lord to serve him as priests in his sanctuary. But this exclusive priesthood did not carry over into the New Testament church. Instead, all God’s people are priests. We are “being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).
Exod 28:1-39 Continuing our series on the Tabernacle, we consider the high priest. He was the only one able to pass through both screens and the veil to enter into the Holy of Holies. He entered only once each year, on the Day of Atonement. Dressed in an elaborate set of holy garments, he carried on his heart and on his shoulders the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, so that, represented by him, they too were remembered before the Lord. But each year he had to come back out of Holy of Holies. Jesus, though, as our great high priest, has entered permanently into God’s presence, a minister in the holy places. In him, we are remembered permanently before the Lord. Our names are written on his hands.