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Jun 5 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 3, 2018 – Exodus Chapters 25-27 & 30

Containers and Their Contents

The LORD said to Moses, “Tell the people of Israel to bring me their sacred offerings. Accept the contributions from all whose hearts are moved to offer them. Here is a list of sacred offerings you may accept from them:
gold, silver, and bronze;
blue, purple, and scarlet thread;
fine linen and goat hair for cloth;
tanned ram skins and fine goatskin leather;
acacia wood;
olive oil for the lamps;
spices for the anointing oil and the fragrant incense;”
onyx stones, and other gemstones to be set in the ephod and the priest’s chestpiece.
Have the people of Israel build me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them. You must build this Tabernacle and its furnishings exactly according tot he pattern I will show you. 
Exodus 25:1-9

Intro: The first time I saw blueprints for a building, I was fascinated

It was a simple aerial drawing of the building’s “footprint”
– doors and windows were easily recognizable
• years later, when I needed a set of blueprints for a church building
◦ I was introduced to structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing drawings
◦ to me, they were a blur of lines and meaningless symbols
• that’s when I lost my blueprint fascination
– the chapters we’re zipping through today describe the structural details of God’s sacred tent
• I confess, for many years, this has been a place in scripture where I practice speed-reading
◦ part of my difficulty is that for a long time I read only the King James Version
◦ whenever I came to measurements defined by “cubits,” my brain shut down
• furthermore, we read these instructions without the benefit of drawings or diagrams

Some teachers try to make God’s sacred tent meaningful by loading it with symbols
– there is some symbolism here, but that’s not what makes it important
• and these chapters are important! – I hope to make that clear
– the subject of God’s tent will take us to the end of Exodus
• chapters 25-31 provide instructions for putting the tent together
◦ chapters 34:10-40 describe its construction
• between these two halves, the people nearly sabotaged whole plan

25:1-9 Yahweh puts Moses on a new project

God introduces it by telling Moses to request donations from the people
– “offering” refers to a specific sacrifice and how it was presented
• it was “lifted” or “raised up” in the hands of the priest
• so, giving was considered an act of worship, and the gift was considered sacred
– one condition to their giving was that their hearts had to be moved to do so
• this had to be something they wanted to do
◦ it has to do with the nature of the sacred tent
◦ they had to value their participation, and it had to be personal
• what they provided were raw materials

I do not like the word “tabernacle” and try to avoid it
– there are several different names for the sacred tent
• “sanctuary” is built on the Hebrew word for holy and refers to a holy place
◦ like our English word sanctuary which comes from the Latin word for holy, sanctus
• “tabernacle” refers to a place of residence
◦ a verb form of this word is used in (v. 8), where God’s purpose is revealed

so I can live [reside] among them
or, in essence, Build me a holy sanctuary so I can tabernacle among them

• God wanted his own tent, set up among theirs
◦ a holy place that could be moved around with their places of residence

Everette Fox referred to the tabernacle with an odd word picture, “portable anchor.” We anchor a ship so that it will not keep traveling through the sea. But he explains that God’s holy tent “establishes stability wherever it goes.”

– the people did not ask for this; for God to live among them
• at this point, I doubt that it crossed their minds
◦ the last we heard, they were comfortable keeping their distance
• this was God’s idea — he wanted to join them in their journey

This introduction to the sacred tent ends with an emphatic statement
– Moses must be sure to make it exactly according to the pattern God gave him
• we come to several more reminders of this in these chapters

25:10-40 The building design begins with furnishings

We might fail to see the logic of a building project that begins with furniture
(however, it makes perfect sense to my wife, Barbara)
– but this is the big idea: the type of structure depends on what’s inside
• the contents define the shape of the container
◦ we might want to remind ourselves the meaning of church in the New Testament
◦ it refers to the community of people who come together and not the place where they meet
• so God begins with the holiest object that was to be placed in the holiest room
– the “Ark” itself was a box, a container
• the contents were covenant conditions engraved on a sacred document
◦ this was the heartbeat of their relationship with God
• the lid was sacred in its own right as the epicenter of atonement (Lev. 16:13-14)
◦ cherubim (cherub is singular, cherubim is plural), guardians of divine presence
◦ their wings were spread above ark, with their heads facing downward at it

The whole container and lid were covered in gold
– once complete, it was so completely associated with God,
• that it wasn’t safe for anyone to approach, and death to touch
• we are beginning to grasp the dangerous energy of holiness
– Yahweh would then meet with Moses in the space over the ark
• and no longer at the top of Mount Sinai

I will meet with you there and talk to you from above . . . (“you” is singular, just Moses — God would meet with Israel elsewhere)

Next, a table – the impression we’re given is furniture found in the living space of a home
– where the family spent time and shared meals together
• on it were kitchen utensils, “pitchers and jars” (for oil and wine used in rituals, sacrifices and libations)
• bread, but with a special name: Bread of the Presence
◦ the table was spread before the face of God

Across the room from the table, a lampstand (Israel’s national symbol)
– its description borrows imagery of a plant or tree (branches, stem, buds, petals)
• in general, the tree is significant spiritual symbol
• but the primary significance of the lampstand was light
◦ perhaps there is a link between this and the burning bush
◦ there Moses encountered presence, holiness, and light (revelation)
– this first section ends with the reminder,

Be sure you make everything according to the pattern I have shown you here on the mountain

Now the plans for the tent itself (Chapter 26)

There were two coverings for God’s tent:
– a decorative interior and a double-layer protective exterior
• cherubim were woven into interior curtains, like a tapestry
– hopefully we are beginning to grasp the beauty of holiness 

Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness (Ps. 29:2, KJV)

• we are introduced to that concept in the design of God’s tent
• God will have more to say about worship artistry later

Next comes the wooden framework to hold whole thing up
– and then another reminder, according to pattern (26:30)
– a curtain would divide the interior into two rooms
• the holy place was twice the length of the other room
◦ only the priests could enter the holy place to service the table and lamps
• the smaller room (a cube) was the most holy place
◦ this is where the ark was placed
◦ only the high priest could enter this room, and only one day of the year

The final curtain described was the tent flap at the entrance of the sanctuary
– five wooden pillars would supply structural support

Moving outside the tent, more furniture (Chapter 27)

A wooden frame for an altar
– it included projections upward on each corner, “horns”
• this animal imagery was a frequent symbol for power and majesty
◦ but no one can say for sure what they mean here
• what we do know, is the orientation of altar is upward
◦ it is first a raised platform – then, smoke rises to sky
◦ the altar was the primary location for mediation between God and his people

Next, a perimeter fence surrounded God’s tent and altar
– the whole area was defined as sacred by the curtained wall
– now we have the whole footprint in view
• so God goes back into the interior of the sanctuary
◦ olive oil was needed to keep the lamps burning through the night
◦ from here, the text segues into the priests – God’s tent requires ministers
• we’ll skip chapters 28 and 29 for now

We’re taken back to tent for a few added details (Chapter 30)

A small altar for incense
– this stood in the holy place, but next to the curtain by the most holy place
– every morning and evening incense was burned on this altar

Arrangements for ongoing financial support
– for supplies and maintenance of the sacred tent and outer courtyard
– also in the courtyard a basin of water for priests to wash hands and feet
• they would walking around in holy space (feet), handling holy objects (hands)
• the basin was placed between the altar and the entrance to the sacred tent

Ingredients for the sacred oil and ingredients for the sacred incense
– “sacred,” because these are made for God exclusively
– we are beginning to grasp the fragrance of worship

Conclusion: What is it about tent that deserves so much attention?

How big is the concept that is presented here?
– we have to jump to the end of the Bible to find out

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them (Rev. 21:1-3)

• this is how big the concept is
• it is the revelation of God’s ultimate purpose in creating humankind

Thomas Dozeman observed the meaning of the last half of Exodus, “The central theme of the final episode is the presence of God on earth, dwelling within a sanctuary in the midst of the Israelite people.”

– the sacred tent was a bridge – not only intersecting heaven and earth
• what it bridged was presence

Arthur Vogel wrote, “Personal presence, I believe, involves a conscious dimension too immediate and full to be represented in intellectual terms at all. And that is the dimension of our experience in which religion begins.”

• we can locate the presence of another person in a body,
◦ but his or her presence extends beyond the body
◦ stare in a mirror, you see yourself, but you know you’re more than that image in the mirror
– we have felt the power of presence
• when we’ve taken a new job, found ourselves in strange place or in the hospital
◦ we feel disoriented and insecure until a family member or friend walks through the door
◦ that person’s presence is excellent therapy for calming our souls
• but their presence can also extend beyond their bodies
◦ through a phone call, card, or just warm thoughts of them

There are, of course, experiences of a more powerful presence
– if you ever some night walk through a dark, empty church you will feel it
– the psalmist was drawn to God’s presence in the temple

The one thing I ask of the LORD—the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
delighting in the LORD’s perfections and meditating in his sanctuary 
(Ps. 27:4)

• someone has said that the etymology of contemplate is to be with the temple
◦ contemplative prayer is slightly different
◦ for in contemplative prayer, the presence in the sanctuary is with us

I will be a sanctuary to you during your time in exile (Eze. 16:11)
And reading the Greek text literally, John says of Jesus, The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us (Jn. 1:14)

– and like the presence of others, the presence of Jesus extends beyond his body
• in fact, it extends everywhere – fills each moment
• and we awaken ourselves to his presence in the silence of our listening prayers

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