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Jul 31 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 29, 2018 – Exodus Chapters 35-40


Then Moses said to the whole community of Israel, “This is what the LORD has commanded: Take a sacred offering for the LORD. Let those with generous hearts present the following gifts to the LORD: gold, silver and bronze [etc.].”
So the whole community of Israel left Moses and returned to their tents. All whose hearts were stirred and whose spirits were moved came and brought their sacred offerings to the LORD. They brought the materials needed for the Tabernacle, for the performance of its rituals, and for the sacred garments. Exodus 35:4-5, 20-21

Intro: I’m going to take us back to where this whole section began

The LORD said to Moses, “Tell the people of Israel to bring me their sacred offerrings. Accept the contributions from all whose hearts are moved to offer them. . . . 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 to the pattern I will show you (Ex. 25:1, 8-9)

You may remember a Sci-Fi movie that was released in 1997 — “Contact”
– scientists monitoring interstellar “space noise” discerned a pattern
• an intelligence out there somewhere was communicating a message
◦ it contained instructions for building a device that would facilitate an encounter
• Jodie Foster was the lucky person chosen to enter the device and meet an alien
– this is similar to the biblical story unfolding here
• the transcendent, and therefore hidden, God has transmitted a message
◦ Moses was the fortunate one to receive instructions for a sacred tent
◦ what was it they were making? a Tent of Meeting, a place to connect with God
• notice God’s emphasis on building the tent exactly per his specifications
◦ repeatedly in chapters 39 and 40, almost to the point of redundancy, we read:

just as the LORD had commanded Moses or just as the LORD commanded him

◦ the details mattered

After Moses’ announcement, the response was immediate and enthusiastic

A key word is “all,” also translated “every,” “whole” (community), and “entire”

All whose hearts were stirred and whose spirits were moved (35:21)
Both men and women came, all whose hearts were willing (35:22)
All those who owned the following items willingly brought them . . . . And all who had silver and bronze objects brought them . . . . All the women who were skilled in sewing and spinning prepared blue, purple and scarlet thread . . . . (35:23-25)
. . . every man and woman who was eager to help in the work the LORD had given them through Moses–brought their gifts and gave them freely to the LORD (35:29)
So Moses summoned [the artisans] who were specially gifted by the LORD and were eager to get to work (36:2)

• the climax of this eager and energetic momentum comes in a surprising twist:

[The artisans] went to Moses and reported, “The people have given more than enough materials to complete the job the LORD has commanded us to do.” So Moses gave the command, and this message was sent throughout the camp: “Men and women, don’t prepare any more gifts for the sanctuary. We have enough!” (36:4-6. I cannot imagine any preacher or church in America ever saying this to anyone!)

God revealed the design, but the people materialized it
– they constructed the physical space located in their world
• each person giving what he or she had, doing what she or he could do
◦ for instance:

Bezalel made the bronze washbasin and its bronze stand from bronze mirrors donated by the women who served at the entrance of the Tabernacle (38:8)

◦ (as a footnote: how could they serve at the entrance of the Tabernacle before it was built?)
• another footnote that I promised I would point out
◦ how would they get gold thread in the wilderness?
◦ the answer is:

Bezalel made the ephod of finely woven linen and embroidered it with gold and with blue, purple and scarlet thread. He made gold thread by hammering out thing sheets of gold and cutting it into fine strands. With great skill and care, he worked it into the fine linen with the blue, purple, and scarlet thread (39:3)

– the people of Israel believed in the value of this project
• and it would never have happened without them

When finished, Moses inspected all of the unassembled parts

Something unexpected happens when we hear echoes of creation


– God had meant the whole planet to be sacred space
• Adam and Eve’s rejection of God’s word canceled that and unleashed a curse
• but God never gave up his intention
◦ he focused it, instead, on one nation, his own new people
◦ his tent is a re-creation in which he established sacred space among them
– finally, all the parts were put together,
• and then Moses went in and turned on the lights

Take the anointing oil and anoint the [Tent] and all its furnishings to consecrate them and make them holy (Ex. 40:9)

• we can discern a rhythm to Moses’ movements–a two-step process

◦ he placed the tablets in the ark, put the lid on top – then put it in the holiest place
◦ he put table in holy place – then arranged bread on it
◦ he set up the lamp stand – then lit the lamps
◦ he put the incense altar in front of the curtain – then burned incense
◦ he put the sacrificial alter in its place – then offered a burn offering
• everything is now in place and performing its function
◦ but the tent is not yet all that it’s supposed to be
◦ so far, it’s just the shell

What is this new structure?

The New Living Translation totally misses something
– we saw that women gathered at the entrance of the Tabernacle, before it was constructed
• that is misleading – the Hebrew uses a different word for that tent
◦ this was that makeshift shrine we read about in Exodus 33:7-11, the “Tent of Meeting”
• at least three verses in chapter 40 mention together the “Tent of Meeting” and “The Dwelling”
◦ “dwelling place” refers to a residence

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the [dwelling place]. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it and the glory of the LORD filled the [dwelling place] (Ex. 40:34-35, NASB)

– the two spaces have become one space
• God’s presence now dwells in the sacred tent and that is where Israel meets with him
◦ he does not just visit – he is always there, with them
• this is what completes the sacred tent – the crowning touch
◦ it is filled with the glory of Yahweh

Conclusion: I have my reasons for not wanting to refer to Reflexion as a “church”

In general conversation, it is not a positive word

  1. People think “building” when they hear church – “The church on the corner”
  2. People think of an institution – either as a rigid structure or big business
  3. For many people, the historical church represents superstition and oppression
  4. People equate church with what they’ve heard on the radio or seen on TV
  5. People imagine a closed off community – accept its doctrine or be rejected
  6. People are not interested in what looks to them like “ugly religion” – self-righteous, judgmental, hypocritical

But, of course, that is not at all the way the Church is described in the New Testament
– there we find a community formed around Jesus and in which he is embodied
• a spiritual community (enjoying koinonia: having in common, sharing, participating, communicating, etc.)
• the church is that, and more

The church is God’s new dwelling

So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit (Ep. 2:19-22)

What we bring with us makes the church God’s house
– what we have and who we are is “enough”
• visit most churches and it looks like everything is already handled
(“Well, I guess there’s nothing for me to do here”)
◦ but there are always gaps
◦ and there are always people who have been overlooked
• God uses you to fill gaps

A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. . . . It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which give each person should have.
Well, my brothers and sisters, let’s summarize. When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said. But everything that is done must strengthen all of you (1 Cor. 12:7, 11; 14:26)

– some people in Israel were unable to give, because the builder already had more than enough
• but there is always more besides building costs
(and I doubt that God ever meant for those to be the Church’s priority)

Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another (Ro. 13:8)

The church we build is not made of brick and mortar

You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor. And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. (1 Pet. 2:4-5)

I am incomplete with out the church and the church is incomplete without me

By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great high Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. . . . Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, a s some people do, but encourage one another . . . (Heb. 10:19-25)

Fr. Romuald once told me, “We come to the New Testament as individuals looking for self-answers, then we try to move from self to community. The New Testament, however, begins with community in which our individual and unique beauty is revealed.”

There’s much more I would like to say, but it will have to wait
– just notice the last sentence of Exodus:

This continued throughout all their journeys (Ex. 40:38)

• that last word, “journeys” reminds us of this long process
◦ Israel did not know the places their journeys would take them
◦ what they would encounter or who they would meet
• they only knew their destination and that meanwhile God would be with them

The tent was not the end of their story
It was simply the the space among them devoted to God
Finishing and dedicating it was the moment God joined them

Now we, together, are that dynamic sacred space
God’s glory is here in human lives,
each one of us fulfills the specifications for his presence
as it is revealed in this spiritual community
Here each of us come to discover “our individual and unique beauty”
and the individual and unique beauty of everyone else
Through our interactions here–both human and divine–
we are strengthened by God for our lives in the world

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