Ron Thomas
Sermon by Pastor Ron Thomas

"The Tabernacle: Celebrating
The God Who Comes Near"

Rodgers Baptist Church
801 West Buckingham Rd. - Garland, TX 75040

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Preached 4/2/2008

"The Tabernacle: Celebrating The God Who Comes Near"
Lesson One: Make Me A Sanctuary

Key Verse: Exodus 25:8. "And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them."

Text: Exodus 25:1-9. "And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering. 3 And this is the offering which ye shall take of them; gold, and silver, and brass, 4 And blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats' hair, 5 And rams' skins dyed red, and badgers' skins, and shittim wood, 6 Oil for the light, spices for anointing oil, and for sweet incense, 7 Onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod, and in the breastplate. 8 And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. 9 According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it."

Introduction: In Exodus 24, we find Moses fearfully responding to God's command to come up to meet with Him. Leaving everyone behind, Moses ascended into the cloud on top of Mount Sinai, to sit in silence before the Lord for six days. Verses 15-16 say, "And Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount. 16 And the glory of the LORD abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day He called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud." The silence was broken with some incredible news. God was coming down to dwell in their midst! The God of Israel, the One who delivered and redeemed His people from bondage in Egypt, the Mighty One who destroyed the armies of Pharaoh, and revealed His glory on Mount Sinai and righteousness in the law, was coming down to dwell among His people! Can you imagine the joy that must have swept over the heart and mind of Moses as he heard that news? God was coming down from Mount Sinai, to live with them! There goes the neighborhood!

Where would God dwell? Would He share a tent with Moses? I can imagine Moses returning home to tell his wife to clean the tent, for a special house guest! God proceeded to commission Moses to build a dwelling place for Him, so that He could dwell in the midst of His people, His holy nation. This is essentially the story of the Bible. Religion speaks of man reaching up to God. The Bible speaks of God reaching down, coming down, to fallen man. God created mankind for fellowship because "God is love," and love must give itself away, it must bestow itself on someone or something. We know that sin entered the garden of Eden and destroyed that sweet fellowship with God, nevertheless, God came near to redeem and restore Adam and Eve. Ever since then, God has been pursuing man, coming near, seeking reconciliation. God desires fellowship with mankind, and He will not be satisfied until that fellowship is full and complete.

Our church focus presently is God's Place. The word "place" speaks of room or space. We make room and space in our lives for things that are important to us. If we love chocolate, we will make room, we take time, for a chocolate break. Are we giving God space in our lives and hearts? Which is more important, television time or prayer time? What do we make room for everyday? What about God's Word? Job said in Job 23:12, "Neither have I gone back from the commandment of His lips; I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food." Life has a way of crowding God out of our lives. God merits a place in our lives and hearts as believers in Jesus Christ.

The word "place" speaks of priority. God not only deserves a place in our lives, He deserves first place. We must "seek first" the kingdom of God and His righteousness. When we consider God first, give Him the priority in our lives, He has promised to provide for all our needs.

The word "place" can also speak of a physical location. We refer to our house as "my place." We say, "Come over to my place." God has a house, a place, that is set apart where we can go to meet with Him and to worship Him. Today, we recognize that place as the church. While the church is not specifically a building, a church building is a special, set apart place where God meets with His people.

In our text, God is commissioning Moses to construct a building, a physical place, where He can dwell. The Tabernacle was the first house of worship in the Bible. For almost five hundred years, from Moses to the reign of King David, the Tabernacle served as God's dwelling place among the people of Israel. Five hundred years is considerably longer than the United States has been in existence!

There are five names in the Bible that describe the Tabernacle. It is called a "sanctuary" in Exodus 25:5. The word "sanctuary" speaks of a hallowed or holy place. This is a special place, a set apart place! It is God's place. It is called a "tabernacle" in Exodus 25:9. The word "tabernacle" means dwelling or habitation, emphasizing the fact that God is dwelling with us! It is called a "tent" in Exodus 26:36. The word "tent" speaks of something that is temporary. We put up a tent for a night or weekend on the lake, and then we take it down. Obviously the Tabernacle was made to be portable, but it was also to be replaced in time by something more substantial or significant. In Exodus 29:42 it is called the "tabernacle of the congregation," because it is where God met with His people. The Tabernacle made God's presence more visible and accessible to the children of Israel. In Exodus 38:21 it is called the "tabernacle of testimony," which speaks of the law. Inside the ark of the covenant in the holy of holies, there was kept the original stones containing the law given by God to Moses.

The Tabernacle was a prefabricated structure that could be assembled and disassembled to be moved at will. God gave Moses every last detail for the pattern, construction, and service of the Tabernacle. Nothing was left for speculation. There are fifty chapters in the Bible (13 in Exodus, 18 in Leviticus, 13 in Numbers, 2 in Deuteronomy, and 4 in Hebrews) having to do with the pattern, construction, and service of the Tabernacle. In contrast, only two chapters are given to describe the creation of the universe!

As we begin this series of lessons on the Tabernacle, it would be good for us to describe it's basic structure or composition without going into too much detail. As you approached this dwelling place for God, what would you see?

The Tabernacle began with the outer court, which was created by a curtain barrier or wall that was 150 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 7 ½ feet tall. The wall consisted of finely twisted, blue, purple and scarlet linen. There was only one gate or entrance into the courtyard. It was thirty feet wide, and was located directly in the center of the wall on the east side.

When you entered the gate, you were confronted with the first piece of furnishings, which was the brazen altar. This was a place of sacrifice. Animals were offered on this altar, their blood shed for the sins of the people.

Leaving the brazen altar, you faced the brazen laver which stood between the brazen altar and the Tabernacle proper. This water basin, was provided for the priest, who were required to wash before entering the Tabernacle. There were mirrors in the laver which reflected the image of those priests as they scrubbed, reminded them of their daily need for cleansing as they entered God's presence.

Leaving the brazen laver, the priest walked just a short distance to the entrance of the Tabernacle proper, which was a building 15 feet wide, 45 feet long, and 15 feet high. It was divided into two sections. The first section was known as the holy place, and was 15 feet wide, 30 feet long, and 15 feet high. The second section was called the holy of holies, which was 15 feet square. A heavy veil or curtain hung between the holy place and the holy of holies.

The Tabernacle proper was constructed of gold plated boards held together by golden rods. This structure had four coverings to adorn the ceiling of the place, as well as protect it's contents from the sun, wind, and the rain. Beginning from the inside out, was an inner lining made of fine linen, and embroidered with figures of cherubim. The second covering was made of goat's hair. The third covering was made of ram skin dyed red. The fourth and outer covering was made of an animal skin that is translated as "badger's skin" in the King James translation. Actually, there is some speculation as to just what kind of skin was used, since the badger is rarely if ever seen in Sinai. More recent commentators translate the Hebrew word used here as dolphin or porpoise. The bottle-nosed dolphin is found in the eastern Mediterranean, whose skin would have been eminently suitable, both for its toughness and for its waterproofing properties.

As the priest pulled back the curtain and entered the holy place, they saw three pieces of sacred furniture.

On the right side stood the table of shewbread. The table for the bread was made of special wood and was plated with pure gold. It was 3 feet long, 18 inches wide, and stood 2 foot 3 inches tall. On the table rested twelve loaves of bread made of the finest flour, representing the twelve tribes of Israel. They were flat and thin, and were placed in two rows of six each on the table. The loaves were renewed every Sabbath.

On the left side stood a seven branched golden candlestick or lampstand. The light provided by the candlestick was indispensable. There were no windows in the Tabernacle proper, no other source of light. Minus the light provided by the golden candlestick, the priest could not see to minister. The priests were to depend solely upon God's leading and illumination as they fulfilled the work of their office.

Standing in front of the holy of holies, was the altar of incense. Burning coals from the brazen altar were placed on this altar, and sweet incense was added daily. The smoke from the incense curled upward toward the heavens, representing the prayers of God's people.

Passing through the veil or curtain, you entered the holy of holies. Inside stood the ark of the covenant, a gold covered, rectangular box. Inside this sacred container were placed the two tables of stone on which the law was written; a pot of manna, and Aaron's rod that budded. On top of this sacred chest, was the mercy seat, which bore the same dimensions as the ark and served as a lid. On each side of this mercy seat stood two statues or representations of cherubim, facing each other, looking down over the mercy seat with their wings stretched over it. Cherubim are an order of angels, usually depicted with four wings and four faces, that of a human, lion, bull, and eagle. Cherubim serve as guardians or protectors. It was on this mercy seat that the high priest sprinkled blood once a year on the day of atonement.

One other detail of the Tabernacle that must not be overlooked, was the cloudy pillar of the Lord. There was a cloudy pillar by day, and a pillar of fire by night, that stood over the Tabernacle. Notice Exodus 40:36-38. "And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys: 37 But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up. 38 For the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys."

In America, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington D.C. is a special address. This is the address for the White House, the residence of our President. People travel from around the world to get a glimpse of this special house. Can you imagine living in a nation owning exclusive rights to the residence of God? When you saw the nation Israel camped out in the wilderness, you would witness an ocean of tents laid out in regiment, with one unique and elaborate tent in the very middle. Above that tent, there was this cloudy pillar by day and pillar of fire by night, representing God's presence. What a sight!

The Lord gave the blueprint or pattern for the Tabernacle to Moses, and the people provided the material. Moses was instructed to receive "free will offerings" from the people. In Exodus 25:2 God told Moses, "Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering." They gave of their gold, silver, brass, jewels, fine linens, goat hair, ram skins and wood from the region. Where did the Israelites obtain such things? The answer is Egypt! If you remember, when the children of Israel were being set free from their Egyptian oppressors, they spoiled them. Exodus 12:35-36 reads, "And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: 36 And the LORD gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians." It is the same to day, we give of our worldly goods to the service of the Lord!

The Tabernacle was placed by God in the very midst of the nation. Numbers 2 gives the order of the tribes as they camped around the Tabernacle. The tribes of Issachar, Judah and Zebulun were on the east side; the tribes of Asher, Dan, and Naphtali were on the north side; the tribes of Manasseh, Ephraim and Benjamin were on the west side; and the tribes of Simeon, Reuben, and Gad were on the south side. Moses, Aaron, the Priest, and the Levites, were also placed on the four sides surrounding the Tabernacle. Some have estimated that there were between 2.5 and 3 million men, women and children camped with the Tabernacle in their midst covering twelve square miles. It is clear that God desired His place to be the focal point of the nation and their lives. Is it true in our lives? Do we begin with God as we order our lives?

Why study the Tabernacle?

First, the Tabernacle remains as a tremendous tool that illustrates and teaches the redemptive purpose of God. The book of Hebrews makes it clear that the pattern and service of the Tabernacle was given as types, symbols of greater things to come!

Second, the Tabernacle speaks of the person and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. John 1:14 reads, "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt (fixed His tabernacle) among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." The Tabernacle points to the ultimate example of God coming to dwell among us. Every detail of the Tabernacle points to some aspect of the person and work of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Third, the Tabernacle speaks of the believer who is a habitation or dwelling place of God. I Corinthians 6:19 says, "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" The Tabernacle with it's outer courtyard, holy place, and holy of holies, pictures our own body, soul, and spirit.

Fourth, the Tabernacle teaches practical truth for daily Christian living. The furnishings of the Tabernacle remind us and teach us how to walk with God from day to day.

God has come near to you, so that you can draw near to Him. What about your walk with God? Does He dwell within your heart? If so, are you giving Him His rightful place?

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