(Part I: How God will Meet His People)
Exodus 25-27, Key Verse: 25:8
“Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.”
In last Sunday’s message, Chapter 24, we saw how God established a covenant relationship with the people of Israel. It was like a wedding ceremony, making a pledge between God and the people of Israel, and they said, “Everything the Lord has said we will do.” After the young people made burnt offerings and fellowship offerings and Moses sprinkled the blood of the covenant, which is a sin offering, they could see God and have fellowship with him. This is the shadow of the blood covenant Jesus established through shedding his blood on the cross for the sin of the world. As Jesus commanded, I pray that we may commemorate the communion of Jesus’ covenant, remembering his sacrifice for our sins on the cross and recommitting ourselves to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation for the world salvation.
From Chapter 25 to 31, God is giving specific instructions to build a tabernacle for him to dwell among his people. While Moses was on Mount Sinai, God gave him these instructions. It seems too peculiar for the people to follow, but all these instructions are of God, by God and for God. In fact, the tabernacle should be made by the people and for the people in order to have God’s presence among them. Today’s passage is Chapters 25-27, which teaches how to build a tabernacle. Through this passage, we may learn how to meet God.
I. The Tabernacle (25-26).
Look at 25:1-9. In order to make the tabernacle, they needed materials. God wanted Moses to ask the people to make offerings as their hearts were moved. It is called a free will offering; beginning from gold, silver and bronze to all kinds of materials in order to make a sanctuary, where God will dwell among them. It became the model of the temple Solomon built. It is also the model for a church in the New testament time where Christ should dwell. I pray that God may move each one of our hearts to make an offering for our new Bible house.
Then, why did God ask the people to build a sanctuary for God? It is because God wants to dwell among his people, just as God wants to dwell in the hearts of all his believers. It is to have relationship with them just as a father wants to have fellowship with his children. Just like a father wants to bless his children to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, to continue to provide for and to protect his own children, God wants to do so for his people. God’s presence is the ultimate blessing. As God said to Abraham, He is the great reward. When we have God, we have everything. When God is for us, who can be against us?
But they must make the furnishings of the tabernacle according to the exact pattern God told Moses. Verse 9 says, “Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.” This teaches us that we cannot come to God in human pattern but the way of God’s pattern. It requires our acceptance and obedience in order to have God’s presence. People of the world have had their own way to come to God; some people by killing others in the name of Allah and some by sacrificing their own children to the moon. We cannot come to God in our own way, but only the way of God that is Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” There is no other way God gave us to come to him except Jesus. Amen!
God gave a specific blueprint for each one of the tabernacle furnishings. Let’s think about the pattern a little deeper because each part of the pattern God is giving here has its own meaning. In nature, there is always a pattern for anything and for everything. Do you know that all living things grow according to the golden ratio? Science is fundamentally studying the patterns God made in the nature. We learn of the pattern and apply it in our lives. When we follow the pattern of God carefully, we find freedom. For example, when we followed the law of aerodynamics, we could be free from the law of gravity and fly like a bird. Spiritual freedom also comes by obeying the law of God. Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
The tabernacle is divided into two: the Most Holy place and the Holy place. In the Most Holy place, there is one thing is kept; the ark of God, the first and most important one is given in verses 10-22. The ark is an acacia wooden box overlaid with pure gold, measuring with two and a half cubits long a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. Since 1 cubit is about 18 inches, it is about 3.75 feet long by 2.5 feet wide and high. Aaron’s staff, the bowl of manna, the tablets of the covenant law were put inside of the ark. But God only mentions the last one, the tablets of the covenant inside of the ark, saying in verse 21, “Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the tablets of the covenant law that I will give you.” This reveals what God counts the most between God and man. It is the Ten Commandments.
On the top of the ark, there is the atonement cover with two cherubim at the end of it made of pure gold. According to Genesis 3 and Psalms 80 and 99, the cherubim are God’s angels, guarding the paradise or standing by God’s throne. What is the reason God made the ark in this way? Look at verse 22, “There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the covenant law, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites.” God’s words has two sides, his righteousness and mercy, justice and love. God is righteous, keeping his laws; therefore, he cannot condone sin or leave sinners unpunished. The punishment of one’s sin is shedding his own blood unto death. Since all have sinned, they should be punished unto death. But God in his great mercy gave another way through the atonement of one’s sins, shedding the blood of the lamb of God, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Romans 3:24-25 says, “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.”
Since God is the same yesterday today and forever, this teaches where God will meet his people even today. He will meet them where the atonement of sin and the Ten Commandments in the core of one’s heart and life. Those whose sins are atoned by the blood of Jesus will love Jesus and obey his command. Jesus said, “If you keep my commands, you will abide in my love.” (John 15:10a) In order to live according to Jesus’ word, often we have to deny our sinful nature or go against the trend of this world. When we abide in Jesus’ words, Jesus promised that we will bear much fruit. In what Jesus’ word are you abiding, which challenges you to deny yourself in order to obey? May the blood of Jesus and his word overflow in your heart and life, so that you can meet God and listen to his voice!
In the Holy place, there are three items; the table of bread, the lampstand, and the altar of incense. Firstly, the table of bread. Look at verses 23-30. The table is made of acacia wood and platted with pure gold, measuring 3 feet long, 1.5 feet wide and 2.25 feet high. 12 pieces of bread were set on it each day, representing each tribe of Israel. God asked them to make a table in order to put the bread in his presence at all times. It teaches us that God has provided the bread for them and is their true satisfaction. I would say that people of this generation are the most unsatisfied. People constantly ask for more; more information, though more information is overflowing beyond what they can handle; more fun, though more fun than they can have is right at their fingertips; more money, though they know that their health and life is insecure with more money. Are they happy and satisfied with more? No, they constantly live in worries and anxieties. M. Mary testified that drugs for mental health are sold in affluent neighborhoods much more than in poor neighborhoods. Jesus is inviting them all, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never go thirsty.” Only Jesus satisfies our soul. Without Jesus, we always feel hungry, unsatisfied, even after eating to our fill. Only Jesus can fill our hearts. When we truly trust in Jesus and his promise, we become free from worries and anxieties and able to live like the Samaritan woman who left her water jar and shared the gospel to the people who used to despise her before.
Secondly, the lampstand. Look at verses 31-40. The lampstand is made of pure gold with three branches in each side of its base and seven almond flowerlike cups. It is lighted by pure olive oil and shines the light day and night in the Holy place. God’s light is shining on his people day and night. He will never sleep and is always attentive to his people. “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5) Without God, the people of Israel lived in the darkness as slaves. They did not know what to do with their lives but groaning in miserable life in Egypt. God shined his light to give them new hope and direction of life to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
The darkness represents the world or the evil. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” People are living in darkness under the power of death. Light has power, and gives energy, hope and life. The light of Jesus drives out darkness from our heart and lives. When we follow Jesus, we will never walk in darkness of sin and death. Rather, we receive the power and new hope and life. In the light of Jesus, we can serve God without fear in holiness and righteousness. We have the light of Jesus shining in and through us. The darkness cannot overcome Jesus and his people. May God bless each one of you to be full of the light of Jesus.
Thirdly, the alter of incense. This altar is described in chapter 30:1-8; 4.5 feet high, 7.5 feet long and wide acacia wooden box overlaid with pure gold. It is placed in front of the beautiful curtain of the Most Holy place. Burning incense represents prayer. It is here that Aaron was to come before God every morning and every evening to burn incense as he prays for the people. Intercessory prayer is a priestly duty. The sanctuary was a place of prayer in front of God’s presence. While on earth, Jesus prayed before God regularly, how much more should we? As God called us to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, it is our sacred duty to pray for the whole world. The world is suffering so much due to wars and natural disasters, such as wildfires, hurricanes, tornados and the COVID19 pandemic. Though America seems doing economically well for now, she is suffering in maximum degree due to ethnical and political segregation in addition to these disasters. It seems God is warning for her to repent and go back to her original calling to be a shepherd nation. The Bible says, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.” (2 Ch 7:13-15) Now, let us humbly come to you Lord. May God forgive our sins and help us to turn from our wicked way so that you can heal the land and restore her to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation for the whole world. Amen!
In Chapter 26, the tabernacle or the Tent of Meeting is described. The tabernacle was covered by 4 layers, linen, goat hair, lamb skin dyed red and other durable skins such as sea cow skins. All the posts were made of acacia wood overlaid with pure gold and golden base for each post. It was rough and unattractive on the outside but beautiful inside. In many ways it is symbolic of Jesus, who became flesh and dwelt or tabernacled among us. His outer appearance was like a root out of dry ground as Isaiah 53:2 says; but his inner beauty is beyond description. The king of the universe did not come like the mighty prince but as a baby in a manger. This is what our ministry is trying to follow, a manger ministry. Our ministry looks small in a not attractive building, but each member is trained to be a shepherd for a nation. If it is God’s will, may God raise Rob McHugh as a shepherd for Afghanistan people, ready to give his life as a ransom for many.
The tabernacle had two rooms divided by a beautiful curtain. One room was the “Most Holy Place” perfect cube of 15 feet in all sides. The ark was placed there. The other room was the “Holy Place”, measured 45 feel long, 15 feet wide and 15 feet high. The table of bread, the alter of incense and the lampstand were there.
II. The Courtyard (27).
Chapter 27 is about the courtyard and the bronze alter of burnt offering. The bronze altar was for the burnt offering placed in the outer courtyard. It was made of acacia wood overlaid with bronze, measuring 4.5 feet high, 7.5 feet long and wide with horns in four corners, and hollow in the middle. There were utensils, shovels, firepans and sprinkling bowls for the blood of the animals. The burnt offering was for repentance and dedication.
Leviticus 17:11 says, “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” God gave the blood sacrificial system for the people of Israel to make atonement for their sins on the alter. The animal’s blood is shed on behalf of the person’s sins. Without shedding the blood, there is no forgiveness of God. But the animal sacrifice was an imperfect atonement because an animal could not clear the guilty conscience of man. Yet it was the shadow of Jesus’ perfect atonement. When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he declared, saying, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away for the sin of the world!” Thank God for Jesus who came to be the Lamb of God who shed his precious blood in order to become the atonement for the sin of the world, including you and me.
When we carefully observe these three chapters, we learned how to meet God even today. Starting from the courtyard, a high priest has to repent of his sins and make a burnt offering to God. As he entered into the Holy Place every day morning and evening, he poured the oil for the lampstand to shine the light and changed the bread to give thanks for God’s provision and pray for the nation as he offered incense. Finally, he met God in the Most Holy Place where God’s covenant law in the ark is covered by the atonement cover. Then he could spend time with God and receive his instructions.
When Jesus shed his precious blood and died for our sins, the curtain of the temple of the Most Holy Place was torn into two, thus the door was opened for everyone to enter into it and meet God. Yet, we cannot skip the processes. We cannot enter into the Holy Place without repentance and forgiveness of God through the blood of Jesus Christ. As we are called to be a kingdom of priests, we are privileged to shine the light of Jesus to the people in the darkness, to give thanks for his provision and to pray for others, especially for our rulers and nations. Then, we may be able to hear what God has to say, his good and perfect will.
Through today’s passage, we learned how to meet God. The tabernacle and the courtyard and their furnishings represent Jesus, which teaches us the pattern of God’s way. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. Let’s meet God in the same way God prescribed through the blood of Jesus. Living as holy priests, let us enter into the Holy Place with reverence, shining the light of Jesus, giving thanks for his provision and offering intercessory prayer for others and this nation. Most of all, let us keep God’s word and his mercy in our hearts and life, so that we can know his good and perfect will. Amen!