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Dwell

The Gospel According to Exodus  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  38:22
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While on the mountain we call “Sinai”, the Lord spoke with Moses—instructing Him for forty days and forty nights. It was on the mountain of God that God gave to Moses instructions for the tabernacle (the tent of meeting) the place where God’s people would worship and offer sacrifices to Him.
The instructions for the tabernacle itself, instructions for the contents of the tabernacle, instructions for the happenings inside the tabernacle make up chapters 25-31 of Exodus. Exodus 35-40 detail the carrying-out of those instructions.
So the instructions for and execution of the tabernacle make up the majority of the last half of the book. At first blush, the second half of Exodus is no where near as exciting or memorable as the first. But let’s just look and see what we see...
If you have your Bible (and I hope you do) go ahead and open to Exodus 25. And look with me as we take a really quick glance at these chapters:
Exodus 25-31, 35-40
13 full chapters of instructions and execution of the Lord commands.
That’s a lot of ink spilled and parchment used-up for what seems to be interior design and architecture and wardrobe.
But it’s more than that—it’s so much more than that.
This is a hint of Eden.

This is God Dwelling with His People

Do you have any idea how huge, how consequential, how miraculous, how gracious, how incredible, how merciful, how mind-blowing this is?
God dwelling with His people…whew!
This is His intention. He’s not giving them instruction after instruction after instruction, detail after detail after detail for funsies. He’s doing it for a purpose. He’s instructing them and giving them these specific details because He, the Lord, Yahweh, the Creator of the Universe, the Almighty, the Eternal One is going to come and dwell among them.
This is, for the Israelite, the most incredible thing since sliced manna. God is going to dwell with them in this place because He desires to.
Exodus 25:8 NIV
8 “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.
Exodus 25:22 NIV
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.
Exodus 29:42–43 NIV
42 “For the generations to come this burnt offering is to be made regularly at the entrance to the tent of meeting, before the Lord. There I will meet you and speak to you; 43 there also I will meet with the Israelites, and the place will be consecrated by my glory.
Exodus 29:45–46 NIV
45 Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. 46 They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.
Exodus 30:6 NIV
6 Put the altar in front of the curtain that shields the ark of the covenant law—before the atonement cover that is over the tablets of the covenant law—where I will meet with you.
Exodus 30:36 NIV
36 Grind some of it to powder and place it in front of the ark of the covenant law in the tent of meeting, where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you.
Exodus 40:34–38 NIV
34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 36 In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; 37 but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted. 38 So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels.

This is God Dwelling with His People

In your own life, you know the value of being present or having those you love present. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” might be true, but presence is better by far.
My dad served in the United States Air Force and then in the Air National Guard for years—almost all my growing-up years (from 1974-1977 and then again from 1981-1999). As such, he’d be gone one weekend a month and then for a few weeks every year; and on top of that throw-in a few 6-week trainings and a few deployments.
We got along okay while Dad was gone; my mom is SuperMom and was fully capable. But, boy, did we miss Dad while he was away. It just wasn’t the same.
And it always seemed like something catastrophic happened in his absence. The toilet would break, the hot water heater would explode, the water line to the house would bust, the fridge would go out—something. And it’s not that Dad could have done anything about it (Dad is many things, but handy isn’t one of them). Dad couldn’t have prevented any of that stuff from happening, but his being there would have been a relief.
Dad’s presence would have made a world of difference.
You know what it is to be separated from family or loved ones.
They move across the country or are sent to the other side of the world. They travel for their job and are home over the weekend (maybe).
You know what it is to be busy, to catch one another coming and going. It feels like you hardly see one another because, well, you hardly see one another. You miss them and long for them to be present, to have them around, to be near to them.
When a family is grieving the loss of a loved one, I often have people ask me: “What do I do? What do I say?”
“There’s probably no need to say anything,” I suggest. “If you say anything, say, ‘I’m so sorry, I love you, and I praying for you’ and leave it at that.”
And, I believe the most powerful thing you can do in those moments is simply to be there. Be present. Sit with them. The Jewish people get this much right. They call it ‘sitting shiva’. They take a dish and then sit with the family. It’s about being present. Just be there.
There is something unbelievably powerful about presence.
Here in these chapters, we observe the awesome presence of God. God graciously chose to dwell with His people. He was deeply involved and invested in the lives of His people. They don’t have to wonder where He is. His presence brought reassurance and holy reverence.
God’s presence with Israel set them apart from all other nations; the Almighty God dwelt among them. The Lord Yaweh, present with them.
>Why then are there so many specific instructions? Couldn’t the Lord have simply said: “Hey, I’m gonna come crash on your couch for a while” or “Set aside a tent for me, would ya?”
So why all the specifics? And, boy, does it get specific:
specific offerings to be given
specific and exacting directions
specific length, specific width, specific height
specific overlayment
specific decor
specific materials
specific numbers
specific colors
specific, well, everything
The Lord is incredibly specific, almost unbelievably specific. For instance:
Exodus 25:3–7 NIV
3 These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze; 4 blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; 5 ram skins dyed red and another type of durable leather; acacia wood; 6 olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; 7 and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece.
Exodus 25:31–36 NIV
31 “Make a lampstand of pure gold. Hammer out its base and shaft, and make its flowerlike cups, buds and blossoms of one piece with them. 32 Six branches are to extend from the sides of the lampstand—three on one side and three on the other. 33 Three cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms are to be on one branch, three on the next branch, and the same for all six branches extending from the lampstand. 34 And on the lampstand there are to be four cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms. 35 One bud shall be under the first pair of branches extending from the lampstand, a second bud under the second pair, and a third bud under the third pair—six branches in all. 36 The buds and branches shall all be of one piece with the lampstand, hammered out of pure gold.
Exodus 26:7–14 NIV
7 “Make curtains of goat hair for the tent over the tabernacle—eleven altogether. 8 All eleven curtains are to be the same size—thirty cubits long and four cubits wide. 9 Join five of the curtains together into one set and the other six into another set. Fold the sixth curtain double at the front of the tent. 10 Make fifty loops along the edge of the end curtain in one set and also along the edge of the end curtain in the other set. 11 Then make fifty bronze clasps and put them in the loops to fasten the tent together as a unit. 12 As for the additional length of the tent curtains, the half curtain that is left over is to hang down at the rear of the tabernacle. 13 The tent curtains will be a cubit longer on both sides; what is left will hang over the sides of the tabernacle so as to cover it. 14 Make for the tent a covering of ram skins dyed red, and over that a covering of the other durable leather.
Exodus 28:15–21 NIV
15 “Fashion a breastpiece for making decisions—the work of skilled hands. Make it like the ephod: of gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely twisted linen. 16 It is to be square—a span long and a span wide—and folded double. 17 Then mount four rows of precious stones on it. The first row shall be carnelian, chrysolite and beryl; 18 the second row shall be turquoise, lapis lazuli and emerald; 19 the third row shall be jacinth, agate and amethyst; 20 the fourth row shall be topaz, onyx and jasper. Mount them in gold filigree settings. 21 There are to be twelve stones, one for each of the names of the sons of Israel, each engraved like a seal with the name of one of the twelve tribes.
The Lord is the author of the first assembly instruction manual. It all reads like that; the Lord has very specific instructions. He wants them to build it and make it exactly like the pattern He has shown Moses.
Why so specific?
The specifics emphasize that Israel is to worship the Lord according to His Word. The specifics teach Israel how to relate to the Holy Lord who is in their midst.
We—the Church—as His people today, must worship the Lord according to His Word (the Bible).
The Bible is our guide. We worship accordingly.
We worship in spirit and in truth:
John 4:23–24 NIV
23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
We devote ourselves to certain practices:
Acts 2:42 NIV
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
We conduct an orderly worship service:
1 Corinthians 14:33 NIV
33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.
We are to sing a variety of songs:
Ephesians 5:19–20 ESV
19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
We worship Him because His Word tells us to; the lengthiest book in the Bible is a songbook.
We worship the Lord according to His Word because we, like the Israelites, are acutely aware of His presence with us.
We worship Him specifically and with great thoughtfulness. We don’t approach this time flippantly or haphazardly. It’s not an unplanned or un-thought-out event. We worship according to His Word; we do Bible things in Bible ways (to the best of our understanding).
The tabernacle was where the Lord would meet with His people and the place where the priests would do their work.
Get the picture in your mind: God is with His people and the priests are making sacrifices and atonement for the people.
Ultimately, the tabernacle should cause us to ask:
How can a Holy God dwell among sinful people?
How can sinful man enter into the holy place, into His presence?
These chapters in Exodus might seem like a mess of details (and a crazy specific list of details at that), but they answer for us the most important questions.
How can a Holy God dwell among sinful people?
How can sinful man enter into the holy place, into His presence?
Ultimately, these chapters—the tabernacle, the furnishings, the priestly regulations and consecration—all point us to someone, to the true presence of God dwelling with us.
John speaks of Jesus and says:
John 1:14 NRSV
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14 NIV
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14 YLT
14 And the Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of an only begotten of a father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14 The Message
14 The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.
Even more incredible than the Almighty God choosing to dwell among His people in the tabernacle is the eternal Son of God choosing to take on flesh and blood and come to be with us where we’re at.
The tabernacle instructions help us to see that:

Jesus is our permanent priest who is with us forever.

Unlike Aaron and his sons who served as priests, doing their work day after day, Jesus has a permanent priesthood:
Hebrews 7:24–28 NIV
24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. 26 Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.
He is our permanent priest.
And He has promised that He will be with us forever.
At the beginning of Matthew, when Jesus took on flesh and pitched His tent among us, He was given the name Immanuel which means “God with us.”
And at the end of Matthew, after His resurrection, Jesus promised that He would be with us to the very end of the age.

Jesus is our permanent priest who is with us forever.

The tabernacle is a glimpse of Eden. And Jesus is the better tabernacle.
“Everything Moses did in building the tabernacle and instituting all its services was intended to testify to the person and glory of Christ which would later be revealed.” - John Owen
I, for one, have come to love all the detail and specifics here in Exodus, in these many chapters. If I had another hour we’d read through and discuss all of them.
The reason I love the details and specifics is this: it shines a light on all Jesus has done in bringing us to God and in coming to dwell with us.
These verses reveal how much better Jesus is.
He has come to dwell with us.
Don’t miss this. Don’t ignore this.
Do you want to dwell in God’s presence? Do you want to return to Eden? Do you want to live with God forever and ever?
There is only one way: Christ Jesus—the God-Man who chose to dwell with us in order to save us; the One who chose to offer Himself as the perfect, once-for-all sacrifice that transforms sinners into saints who can dwell with Him.
Do you want to dwell with God forever? I want that for you!
Put your faith in Jesus today and you can rest assured that you will dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of your life.
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