God in a Box: Closing Thoughts on Exodus
Introduction: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. ” (James 4:8, NKJV)
We began our study through Exodus on June 29, 2008. That is almost two years ago. I preached a total of 34 messages from the book counting this evening. One message was dedicated to each of the Ten Commandments. Most messages covered a section within a chapter; some covered a verse, and some several chapters. Two messages were dedicated to the Tabernacle and its furniture. One was a PowerPoint presentation. And some of you sat faithfully through most, if not all of them. I’m hopeful that the Lord was able to use His Word to encourage you. I must admit, I feel sad to leave the book.
Of course, one of the grand themes of the book is the presence of God in the tabernacle. This was God’s idea and not Israel’s idea. While we went through the detail of the tabernacle, we may have thought that it really did not apply to us. Of course, we know that all of God’s Word applies to us, even though we approach with disinterest and fail to see the application.
God desired to dwell with His people. The tabernacle served as a reminder that He would always be with them. Exodus 40 is a record of the actual setting up of the Tabernacle. We read:
“… Moses finished the work [of erecting the tabernacle]. Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys. ” (Exodus 40:33–38, NKJV)
The Scriptural Testimony of the Tabernacle
This event occurred in the second year following Israel’s exodus from Egypt. They will carry the tabernacle with them throughout the wanderings in the wilderness.
Joshua will cross the Jordan into the Promised Land. The priests will carry the ark of the Testimony into the midst of the Jordan so that Israel may cross over on dry land. When Joshua commands the priests to come up from the Jordan, the Jordan’s waters will continue as before, even overflow its banks (Joshua 4.18). Memorial stones placed in the midst of the Jordan during the crossing. What is meant by these stones? We each successive generation in Israel would remind the next that they represent the presence of God in the Ark, and the crossing of the Jordan.
So that Joshua would know that God was present with him we read…
“And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?” So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?” Then the Commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so. ” (Joshua 5:13–15, NKJV)
The ark and tabernacle eventually settle in Joshua’s staging capital in the Promised Land – a place named Gilgal. Later, the ark was moved to Shiloh in Ephraim. Shiloh is a central location which allowed the 12 tribes access and ease of assembly. It seems the tabernacle remains in Shiloh through the period of the Judges. That brings us to 1 Samuel 4…
· Israel is defeated by the Philistines in battle (4.2). Baffled they decide to bring the ark from Shiloh to the conflict, thinking at this point in their history that God would save them.
· The evil, reprobate son-priests of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were actually with the ark (4.4).
· Israel rejoiced at the sight of the ark in their presence. The Bible states that they rejoiced and shouted so loudly that the earth shook. The Philistines were so demoralized that they pronounce woe upon themselves, but they marshaled their courage and said, “Conduct yourselves like men, and fight!” (4.9).
· The Philistines defeated Israel and the bankrupt sons of Eli died during the battle. The ark also was captured by the Philistines. When Eli heard of this, he fell off his seat and broke his neck (see 4.18).
· Eli’s son Phinehas had a wife who was pregnant. When she heard that the ark of God was captured and that her husband and father-in-law were dead, she went into labor and died as she gave birth to a child she named Ichabod – the glory had departed. She did this because the ark of God had been captured and because her father-in-law and husband had died. See 4.21-22.
“So that [the LORD] forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, The tent He had placed among men, And delivered His strength into captivity, And His glory into the enemy’s hand. He also gave His people over to the sword, And was furious with His inheritance. ” (Psalm 78:60–62, NKJV)
The ark next appears in Nob in 1 Samuel 21. Saul slaughtered the priests for the help regarding David. This caused the ark to move to Gibeon. It stayed here throughout the reign of King David. Solomon, David’s son constructed the temple in Jerusalem. Thus, the tabernacle was no longer necessary. The tabernacle was placed in the temple and remained there.
“Then they brought up the ark of the Lord, the tabernacle of meeting, and all the holy furnishings that were in the tabernacle. The priests and the Levites brought them up. ” (1 Kings 8:4, NKJV)
After this, the tabernacle is not mentioned again.
A Shadow of the Substance of Things to Come
The spiritual lessons from the tabernacle far outlive its history within Israel. As we leave the book of Exodus, note three great lessons from the tabernacle that carry over to the NT:
1. The tabernacle is a shadow of the substance of Christ and His finished work on the cross.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt [tabernacle] among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. ” (John 1:14, NKJV)
Both the tabernacle and Christ signaled that God was present with man. The only approach to God in the OT was through the structure of the tabernacle. The only approach to God in the NT is through the sufficiency of Jesus Christ. He is the only way.
The tabernacle was designed by God; salvation is designed by God through His Son before the world was formed.
2. The tabernacle is a shadow of the church and the NT saint’s own body. Both of which are inhabited by the Holy Spirit.
“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. ” (Ephesians 2:19–22, NKJV)
“If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. ” (1 Corinthians 3:17, NKJV)
“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. ” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, NKJV)
The fact that the Holy Spirit is ever with us is great source of encouragement.
3. The tabernacle followed the pattern of heaven itself.
“Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; ” (Hebrews 9:23–24, NKJV)
The tabernacle represented God’s presence for a time. Today, every believer in Christ is assured that for all eternity we will live in and enjoy the very presence of God.
Hymn: Abide with Me (75)