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(113) Inscrption 18_God's Glorious Dwelling

Notes & Transcripts

Inscription: Writing God’s Words on Our Hearts & Minds

Part 18: God’s Glorious Dwelling

Exodus 25-31, 35-40; Numbers 3-9

April 25, 2010



·         101,

Scripture reading: Exodus 40:33-35 (Geanea)


This week’s reading covered the tabernacle, which was basically a mobile temple that housed the Ark. It is also described in great detail in Exodus (and we couldn’t discuss it then), so are looking at both.

·         We’ll look at what the tabernacle meant and still means.

As I started preparing this sermon, I was a little worried (after talking about sex last week), but I was amazed by the lessons for us.


Once again, we wade into unfamiliar territory and it’s easy for us to miss the point. Like Moses asked many years ago, I pray that you show us your glory.

Most boring chapter

Q   Have you been keeping up on the reading?

This week we read what is arguably the most boring, repetitive chapter in the Bible. How’s that for a sales pitch? I feel guilty saying it, but it’s true.

·         I actually remember it because of how dull it is, like driving to CA and dreading the Sacramento to Grape Vine stretch.

Here’s a sample:

Numbers 7:12-17  The one who brought his offering on the first day was Nahshon son of Amminadab of the tribe of Judah.  13 His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering;  14 one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense;  15 one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering;  16 one male goat for a sin offering;  17 and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old, to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Nahshon son of Amminadab.

This isn’t so bad, but there are 12 tribes, and they all bring the same thing. It starts to read like “12 Days of Christmas,” but without the variety.

·         Reading about the tabernacle gets repetitive – chapter after chapter dedicated its building, transportation and set up.

Seventeen chapters on the tabernacle and the creation of the universe only gets two. Why? What’s the point?

We live in an age that is inundated with written material. Our mail box is full advertisements and our inbox is filled with junk mail.

·         It’s not surprising we miss the significance of the repetition and sheer volume of words about the tabernacle.

Q   How were books made at this time?

They were handwritten; this detail represents a significant investment of time. Proper Torahs are still hand written.

Q   What did Moses write all this on?

This was well before the invention of paper; it was written on vellum, specially prepared animal skins – not cheap.

·         Every page represented a significant financial investment – these details weren’t space fillers, but vital info.

It’s like the joke about the teacher who asked a girl what her favorite flower was...having to write it all by hand kind of filters out the extra details.

Q   Think about that: What make this stuff so important?

It’s not instructions to rebuild it – the tabernacle would be replaced be the temple. It’s not historical value – too much info (I know of no similar ancient documents).

·         Think of poetry – it is built on an “economy of words,” so when there is repetition, it is for effect.

Like Leviticus, which acts out vital spiritual lessons through rituals and purity laws, the tabernacle and everything written about it communicates profound spiritual lessons, many that are even more applicable today than when this was written.

·         But now remember that Jesus said that the OT testifies about him (John 5:39) – there are parts only we can understand.

Here are four different lessons:

1. God is restoring relationship

The tabernacle was specifically designed to copy another important Biblical location. Any guess? The clues are very subtle, so it may be hard to catch.

Here is a diagram of the tabernacle (it has some clues):

·         The tabernacle faced to the east.

·         It was divided into two parts, the Holy and Holy of Holies, where the tabernacle rests.

·         They were separated by curtain (facing east), on which with cherubim were embroidered, “guarding” God’s dwelling place.

Q   Got it yet? Last hint:

In Genesis, we read about the Fall and its aftermath:

Genesis 3:23-24  23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.  24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim [they are not mentioned again until the Tabernacle] and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

·         Subtle does not mean insignificant – a ring on the 2nd finger of the left hand is very subtle, but speaks loudly.

The tabernacle represented the Garden of Eden.

Q   What happened in the garden? It was where God walked with us.

We should read the story of Adam and Eve and their Fall into sin and rebellion like a tragedy, something beautiful shattered. In reading Dante, stuck by the arrogance of Eve in defying the glory of God.

Think a movie about a perfect couple that is destroyed by an affair. (I don’t have specific examples, ever since becoming a pastor I stopped watching dramas.)

·         The entire story of the Bible is trying to get that back.

The tabernacle represents a significant step forward in restoring the relationship.

·         It would be like that movie where the couple sees each other in a store and they start talking again.

Now God chooses to dwell with humans again:

Exodus 25:1-2, 8-9  The LORD said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from each man whose heart prompts him to give....Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.

The very term tabernacle means “dwelling place” in Hebrew. This is unprecedented, that Yahweh would dwell with a people.

·         It’s still a far cry from restoring the Garden of Eden and broken relationship.

First, he only dwelled with Israel, and he wanted to restore relationship with the world.

Second, they are still separated by that curtain, guarded by cherubim. Only the High Priest could enter, only once a year.

But this is not the last we hear about the curtain:  

Mark 15:37-39   37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.  38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

Imagine what that was like for the priest on duty. He was never allowed to see into the Holy of Holies, now it was open to see.

This is high drama– the gates of Eden have been thrown open, we have been forgive for our unfaithfulness and welcomed back home.

·         “Jesus died for my sins” is an almost blasphemous understatement.

2. God sets the terms

The second lesson is one that springs specifically from the repetition. In Exodus 25-31, God gives detailed instruction on how to build everything. Then Exodus 35-39 explains in detail that they did it. Here is just one example:

Exodus 25:31-33   31 ¶ “Make a lampstand of pure gold and hammer it out, base and shaft; its flowerlike cups, buds and blossoms shall be of one piece with it.  32 Six branches are to extend from the sides of the lampstand-- three on one side and three on the other. 

Exodus 37:17-19   17 ¶ They made the lampstand of pure gold and hammered it out, base and shaft; its flowerlike cups, buds and blossoms were of one piece with it.  18 Six branches extended from the sides of the lampstand-- three on one side and three on the other.

Can you say déjà vu? These days it would be a simple copy/paste, then change the verb tense. But they are hand writing every letter. Wouldn’t it be easier to say “they did it”?

Q   Have you figured out the point?

God has the right to dictate how he is worshipped. He said...

NIV Exodus 25:9 Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.

...and they did. They obeyed every little detail, because he set the terms and calls the shots. It wasn’t enough for Moses to say “they did it,” he had to show it, point by point.

He is God, we are not. It is his show and he the call the shots. In words of The Purpose Driven Life, “It’s not about you.”

Imagine an astronaut being given a ticker tape parade, and has his dog in the car beside him. We are the dog. We should be grateful and honored to participate in God’s honor, but we would be very silly to think the parade is about us.

In Christ there is now much greater freedom in the forms and styles we use to worship. We don’t have to build our churches a certain way and pastors don’t have to dress like the priests.

Yet the substance is still the same: “Love the Yahweh your God with all your heart, soul, and mind” (Deut. 6:4-5), not any god you choose, not any path you choose.

Our culture has this mistaken notion that God should be happy that we worship him at all, in any manner we wish, as if we’re doing him a favor – we really think too highly of ourselves. This is the Lord of all creation we are talking about.

·         Sorry to burst your bubble, but on a cosmic scale, we’re less significant than one single-celled bacteria in the ocean.

If he says Jesus is the only way, we need to accept it and stop complaining.

3. God is honored by excellence

Throughout the building of the tabernacle, skilled, ability, craftsmanship, are all key words. 

Exodus 35:30 - 36:1   30 ¶ Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the LORD has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah,  31 and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts--  32 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze,  33 to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic craftsmanship.  34 And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others.  35 He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as craftsmen, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers-- all of them master craftsmen and designers. NIV Exodus 36:1 So Bezalel, Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the LORD has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary are to do the work just as the LORD has commanded.

Growing up in the church, I have seen this mistaken idea that shoddy work is more acceptable inside the church than outside. It is justified by this truth: “God looks to the heart.”

Q   Should that soothe us or terrify us?

He knows if we are really trying, or giving our second best. God is honored when we serve with “all our heart, mind, and soul.”

Selected for service

But more than that, he also know what he gifted you to do. Notice that God filled them with the skills they needed.

God is honored by excellence and he did not make this a free for all talent-night, tabernacle that love built. He demanded (and equipped) the most skillful folks for this task.

·         I really appreciate the passion that Micah has for excellence in worship – I know that this is a life principle for him.

This doesn’t mean “be afraid to open your mouth during worship.” Psalms says to make a joyful noise and I willingly comply.

Rather, look at how he has gifted you – what is the skill he has given you, and how are you to use it to his glory. The deacons are responsible to help you find your areas of passion and gifts and joyfully serve God (service is not an option):

·         Do you love kids? We need joyful teachers!

·         Are you an extravert? Do you enjoy people? We need official and unofficial hosts.

·         Enjoy music or computers? The worship team needs help.

·         Do you love organizing and working behind the scenes? There is a lot to be done!

·         Do you love working with your hands? We need landscaping help, cleaning, maintenance.  

Find out how God made you, and serve him and bring him glory here in your church!

4. God is glorified by his tabernacle

Q   How do you build a suitable dwelling place for God?

Have you ever been to the National Archives in DC? They attempt to create a building to reflect the importance of the Constitution.

In the same way, the tabernacle had to be glorious, in order to honor and reflect God’s glory. The description tells of fine materials, craftsmanship, and it was lavished with exotic and costly materials.

Exodus 38:24-25  The total amount of the gold from the wave offering used for all the work on the sanctuary was 29 talents and 730 shekels, according to the sanctuary shekel. The silver obtained from those of the community who were counted in the census was 100 talents and 1,775 shekels, according to the sanctuary shekel...

In case you have forgot the shekel to pound conversion rate: Silver: 3.75 tons, value: c. $2 million. Gold: 1 ton, value: c. $36.5 million.

·         That is the world most expensive tent!

The reason for the extensive descriptions of the tabernacle was to create a mental image of this glorious, awe-inspiring structure, which they would only see from the outside.

·         The description is so clear that it can be reconstructed now.

But that was still a means to an end – the tabernacle’s glory was to draw attention to God’s glory, to be a mirror to his greater glory and make us desire that.

·         If this is his house, how much more glorious must he be?

You see the same concept in how ornate the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is. The problem is that they call it ornate, we call it gaudy. Likewise, the great cathedrals sought to glorify God.

Protestants tend to prefer the simplicity of “Gordon’s Calvary” (even though it’s historically inaccurate).

·         Yahweh’s tabernacle had to be the most glorious because he is the most glorious, the only true and wise God.

After the tabernacle, Solomon created a magnificent temple. That was destroyed but rebuilt. King Herod renovated it and the final product was the largest temple of the ancient world, a fitting tribute to Yahweh.

But God ordained for that to be destroyed, because he wanted to replace it with something even better:

1 Corinthians 3:16  Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?

Think about that for a moment, because we are far too casual about this fact. All these descriptions, the ton of gold, all of this is now about you.

That’s like the President calling you and saying he was tearing down the National Archives because he think it would be far more fitting to keep the Constitution at your house.

·         You might want to have the carpets cleaned.

You are now God’s dwelling place and his representative. His glory now dwells in you. His goal is that the world will look at you and say, “Wow, I can only imagine what God must be like!”

·         “You will be the only Bible that some people ever read.”

1 Peter 2:12   Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

How can I impress upon you the gravity of our role? We seek holiness not just avoid the pain of sin, and thank God for what he has done, but also to the a glorious dwelling place for him.

·         We are meant to be more awe-inspiring than the Sistine Chapel.

Think through your day, are you being a fitting tabernacle:

1. With your family (esp. children)

2. At work

3. With friends

Are you are reflection of our great and loving God? This what we mean by “glorify God,” showing the world what he is really like. We cannot actually add to his glory, only make it clearer.

Our mission statement is that we are a Christian community striving to glorify God and engage our culture. That could be said “engage our culture by glorifying God.”

·         The time is coming soon for TG to reach out to our culture, but first each of you must be getting your house in order.

Q & A 


Objectives of sermon:

·         Explain the meaning of the tabernacle for Christians.

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