· Yearning after God
May I be permitted to ask a provocative question?: “Why are you here?” We are gathering together unto Him. Coming to meet God! Is that why you are here? Is God here? Are we meeting with Him? Is He near? Let me ask you: [C] how close am I to God? We come to here, sit in the pew, sing the songs, do you want to meet with God? [C] Do you want to get near God? That should be the heart of all of us – a deep yearning for God! [C] The psalmist expresses it: [Psalm 63:1-5 O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory. Because Your loving-kindness is better than life, my lips will praise You. So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.] One of my favourite psalms says: [Psalm 73:28 But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord יְהוָה my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works.] Another precious psalm, this one was given to me at my baptism: [Psalm 27:4 One thing I have asked from יְהוָה, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of יְהוָה all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of יְהוָה and to meditate in His temple. To be where He is - what could be better?! Psalm 65:4 How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to You to dwell in Your courts. We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Your holy temple.] Our deepest desire and motivation should be to draw near to God, to dwell where He dwells. [Hebrews 10:22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. James 4:8-10 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. We often don’t finish the verse but it tells you how to draw near: Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.]. Do you yearn to be closer to God?
· Israelite seeking God in the camp (turn to Exodus 27)
Our desire should be to get close to God, near to where He dwells. In the days that Israel came out of Egypt it was easy – it was obvious where יְהוָה was – there was this cloud that led them during the day which was a pillar of fire at night. When they were camped there it was in the middle of the camp [C[ - the shekinah glory of יְהוָה! Here was this vast tent city – around 2 million people – bigger than Auckland all camped out in tents – black tents made out of goat skins. So here you are on the outskirts of the camp – suburb of Auckland heading for the CBD – the centre of the camp where the fire is - יְהוָה there in His glory. It’s obvious where to head but it’s a bit of a mission wending your way through all these tents, livestock – but you’re intent on getting to God. After some time you know that you’re getting near, no longer among the tents of your tribe, these tents belong to the tribe of Levi who are camped all around the centre of the camp where the pillar of fire is – they are set apart to יְהוָה they are holy, camped there to separate that holy area from the rest of you. It all seems designed to keep you away from God. But in your determination you press on, on through the Levites tents and there you are finally in the centre of the camp where the Shekinah glory of יְהוָה dwells but you run into this! A huge white barrier! It’s 2 ¼ metres tall! You can’t see over it, even on tippy-toe the tallest man can’t see in. You are earnest in your seeking but you can’t get there! You start walking around it – it’s nearly 50 metres long! In a place where everyone is in tents, that is a big tent! You get to the end there is just more whit barrier – nearly 25 metres long. Then you go down the other side, still an unbroken barrier of white [C]. Here are יְהוָה’s instructions for making this wall: [Exodus 27:9-15 You shall make the court of the tabernacle. On the south side there shall be hangings for the court of fine twisted linen one hundred cubits long for one side; and its pillars shall be twenty, with their twenty sockets of bronze; the hooks of the pillars and their bands shall be of silver. Likewise for the north side in length there shall be hangings one hundred cubits long, and its twenty pillars with their twenty sockets of bronze; the hooks of the pillars and their bands shall be of silver. For the width of the court on the west side shall be hangings of fifty cubits with their ten pillars and their ten sockets. The width of the court on the east side shall be fifty cubits. The length of the court shall be one hundred cubits, and the width fifty throughout, and the height five cubits of fine twisted linen, and their sockets of bronze. “All the utensils of the tabernacle used in all its service, and all its pegs, and all the pegs of the court, shall be of bronze.]
The unyielding barrier of righteousness
So here is the man intent on coming near to God and all he finds is a barrier of white linen. It’s frustrating. Why does God prevent people coming to Him? Sometimes we think we are doing God a favour in coming to Him, the truth is we are not fit to approach Him. The answer is that He is holy, He is righteous, if we came to Him we would be consumed by the brilliance of His presence and His utter purity. He gave these instructions for His dwelling, yet it kept people out – what is He saying with this fine linen? I am probably the least poetic person there is, symbolism flies past me. To me a symbol is part of a drum kit. I was helped in my understanding of the Tabernacle by this list of what materials in the Tabernacle represent [C]. You do not need to take them all in now, we will come back to it, but, lets just focus on three [C] used in making this enclosure: 1/ Linen [C] – represents righteousness. Let’s look at [Revelation 15:6 out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests; Revelation 19:8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints, Revelation 19:14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.] – from these verses we see that the Bible itself equates fine linen with purity and righteousness. The posts holding up the linen were set in bronze sockets they stopped them falling over, were the foundation – we will look at this later but 2/ bronze pictures Divine judgement [C]. And the curtains were hung from silver hooks. 3/ silver is associated in Scripture with redemption [C] – again we will look at this in later session. So you run into this white barrier – you try to come to God but what prevents you is an unyielding barrier of absolute righteousness. We are sinners we cannot approach an absolutely righteous God. [Habakkuk 1:13 Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You can not look on wickedness with favour.] We are all sinners! We may think we are OK, but everyone of us is defiled in comparison with the absolute righteousness and purity of God. Our sin separates us from God in His glory. [Isaiah 59:1-2 Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear. God cannot stand evil. Psalm 5:4-6 You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; no evil dwells with You. The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity. You destroy those who speak falsehood; יְהוָה abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit יְהוָה can tolerate no evil where He dwells, here referring to the heavenly Jerusalem [Revelation 21:22-27 I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honour of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Ezekiel 44:9 ‘Thus says the Lord God, “No foreigner uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, of all the foreigners who are among the sons of Israel, shall enter My sanctuary. Psalm 101:6-8 My eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me; he who walks in a blameless way is the one who will minister to me. He who practices deceit shall not dwell within my house; he who speaks falsehood shall not maintain his position before me. Every morning I will destroy all the wicked of the land, so as to cut off from the city of the Lord all those who do iniquity.] יְהוָה tolerates no evil where He dwells, it is extirpated. So who can come near to God?! The Psalmist cries out: [Psalm 24:3-4 Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood And has not sworn deceitfully. Psalm 15:1-5 O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart. He does not slander with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbour, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a reprobate is despised, but who honours those who fear the Lord; he swears to his own hurt and does not change; he does not put out his money at interest, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.] We don’t make the grade! The standard required is way too high! יְהוָה’s absolute righteousness is high, unassailable: [Psalm 36:6 Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; Your judgments are like a great deep. Psalm 71:19 For Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the heavens, You who have done great things; O God, who is like You?]. This righteousness is based, founded upon, God’s judgement (bronze bases) – absolute and unyielding justice. When faced with this righteous standard the judgement is guilty! It hangs upon redemption – only those purchased by God’s blood have righteous standing.
· Jesus the door – the only way in
So this Israelite has walked around this enclosure: along the north side, the west side, then the south side – unbroken whiteness until at last he comes to the eastern end. And there, praise God, he at last finds a way in! There is a gate [C]: [Exodus 27:16-19 The hangings for the one side of the gate shall be fifteen cubits with their three pillars and their three sockets. And for the other side shall be hangings of fifteen cubits with their three pillars and their three sockets. For the gate of the court there shall be a screen of twenty cubits, of blue and purple and scarlet material and fine twisted linen, the work of a weaver, with their four pillars and their four sockets. All the pillars around the court shall be furnished with silver bands with their hooks of silver and their sockets of bronze. The length of the court shall be one hundred cubits, and the width fifty throughout, and the height five cubits of fine twisted linen, and their sockets of bronze. All the utensils of the tabernacle used in all its service, and all its pegs, and all the pegs of the court, shall be of bronze.] This gate is made of blue and purple and scarlet material and fine twisted linen. Lets look back at that list of symbols [C]. We have already seen that fine twisted linen speaks of righteousness, [C] 1/ blue – like the sky is heaven, God. [C] 2/ Scarlet – like blood speaks of the suffering of Christ, the earth was red (Edom) man (Adam) came from the earth – it is earthly man, and [C] 3/ Purple is a mixture of blue and scarlet – God and man in one – who is that? Jesus – God who became man – purple is the royal colour and Jesus is King. [C] So in the gate we have righteousness, God, man, and king – who is this? Jesus! He is the Door: [John 10:1-9 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. “All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.] He is the only way in: [John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. Acts 4:12 “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”] We try to approach God and we cannot because of the absolute righteousness of God – but, praise God, there is a way in. Jesus Christ the Righteous! Jesus is the way! Hallelujah! One way, Jesus!
So, there is (or should be) a yearning in our hearts to be near to God [C]. So we need to seek God earnestly [C] like that persistent Israelite I described. But when we seek God, seek to come to Him, we soon find ourselves confronted with an impenetrable barrier [C] of His absolute and perfect, unyielding and unobtainable righteousness. But, Praise God, there is a door, a gate, Jesus is the way in! [C]. God became man and dwelt among us [C], living a perfectly righteous life on our behalf which He offered up in sacrifice to God. In the person of Jesus, God has made His dwelling among man! Hallelujah! You can seek God and find Him if your search with all your heart!
· The tabernacle pictures God’s dwelling among man – Jesus
God willing we will look further at the tabernacle – but what does the tabernacle picture? The Sunday School answer to everything is “Jesus”. The word tabernacle means a tent, the Hebrew is (“מִשְׁכָּן ”) from verb “ שׁכן” means to dwell – it is God dwelling among His people. That is God’s intention which He will ultimately bring about (cf. Revelation 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them). But it is clear from the book of Hebrews that the tabernacle was a shadow of a reality that was in heaven [Hebrews 8:1-2 we have a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent (tabernacle) that the Lord set up, not man; Hebrews 8:5 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.”] There was a pattern, a blueprint, a heavenly reality of which the tabernacle was a copy, a shadow of the true reality in heaven. [Hebrews 9:1-2 Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. For a tent was prepared, Hebrews 9:11-12 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.] – the tabernacle is a picture of heaven, where God dwells. But when God dwelt among us He did so in the form of Jesus – so the Sunday School answer is right too – the tabernacle pictures Jesus [John 5:39 “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;] The key to interpreting Scripture is to see Jesus in it. [John 1:14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt (tabernacled) among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.] In Jesus, God dwells among us by His Holy Spirit. He is the way through which we come to the Father. The most amazing thing is that despite the absolute righteousness of God we can come to Him, He has made His dwelling among us! Hallelujah! Our seeking is not in vain because Jesus made the way open to God! Praise His Name!
To God be the glory great things He hath done
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin
And opened the life gate that all may go in
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord
Let the earth hear His voice
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord
Let the people rejoice
Oh come to the Father through Jesus the Son
And give Him the glory great things He hath done.