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Jesus, the Ultimate Eternal Tabernacle

Advent Wednesdays  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  31:23
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This has been an interesting week for Tanya and me. You see, she got sick with a bug that left her exhausted and weak; something similar to what I experienced a couple months ago. Nothing serious. But in light of the environment we live in today where everyone automatically thinks COVID, she’s laying low. Not that she had a choice, mind you; but I should say that I stayed home with her just to make sure she didn’t fall down, without a “Life Alert” button.
On one hand it was nice because she got to sleep, and sleep she did. It was also nice because I had several hours of mostly uninterrupted time to focus on the Word and what God is putting before us these days in Advent. The part that neither of us liked, however, was the isolation away from the people of God.
During the season of Advent, we pray and sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Emmanuel means “God with us.” And that is what we desire: for God to be with us, for God to come and dwell with us in the person of Jesus Christ. Because of the curse of sin, we are cut off from Him— isolated.
We are in exiled here in this world, longing to be with the One who is our true home. We pray — Maranatha — so that we can be delivered from this isolation and the emptiness of life apart from Him and His gifts. Because, you see, our entire goal and hope as Christians is to be restored to perfect communion and fellowship with God.
And that is what makes Advent so great....
The Lord Sets Up His Tent

To Be Among Us

Advent reminds us that our God is one who does come to be with us. But you’d be mistaken is you think that Christ first appear at Christmas. Perhaps that is why many Christians think that the Son of God wasn’t doing much before He came on the scene in the New Testament.
The whole idea of Jesus in the Old Testament seems a bit foreign. But the fact is, Christ Jesus has been intimately involved with His people from the very beginning of time. The Bible tells us that all things were created through Christ, who is the Word.
Moreover, Christ appeared to His chosen people as the Angel of the LORD many times in the Old Testament before He became a human being.
And at the bidding of His heavenly Father, Jesus — the Son of God — descended to this earth at various times to be with His people Israel, to speak His Word to them, to guide them, and to deliver them from their enemies.
All of this was a precursor to the time when Christ would descend to this earth in the ultimate way, taking on our very body and soul and becoming the eternal Savior of mankind.
Last week, we heard of how Christ Jesus came down to earth and appeared to Moses in the burning bush to announce the release of the Israelites from their slavery to the Egyptians.
In today’s Old Testament Reading, we encounter the Israelites after they were freed, as they traveled in the wilderness. We learn of how God was present with His people in the form of a cloud that filled and covered the tabernacle.
The tabernacle was like a mobile temple, a large tent — covered in animal skin — for the worship the Lord had prescribed.
Within it was the Most Holy Place, where the ark of God — a box — was located.
This ark contained the two stone tablets of the testimony – the Ten Commandments — which God had given to Moses,
and it was on the lid, the Mercy Seat — God’s throne — is where the Lord was present to meet with His people through the blood of the sacrifices.
Even as God was present in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt,
so too was He present among His people as a cloud in this tabernacle, and at night fire that filled the cloud.
When the cloud rose above the tabernacle, the Israelites would pack up and follow. When it remained on the tabernacle, they would stay where they were.
This presence of the LORD in the wilderness was none other than Jesus, the Son of God, as we will see more clearly in just a moment.
We heard in the reading from John’s Gospel that no one has ever seen God, but that Christ, the only begotten Son of God has revealed Him. This cloud, then, was the revelation of God in His Son.
The cloud was the real presence of Christ, the Creator entering into creation for the sake of His people, to lead them to the riches of the Promised Land.
This cloud was a living prophecy of how heaven and earth would come together in a permanent and enduring way in the conception of Jesus and in His birth at Bethlehem. This means that
The Lord Sets Up His Tent

To Lead us from Death to Life

The apostle John teaches us this in those very important words “The Word [that is, Jesus the Son of God] became flesh and dwelled among us.”
Dwelt — in the Greek text — is actually “tabernacle” or “tent.” So we could translate John’s statement this way: “The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.” Jesus “set up His tent” in our midst.
The same Lord who dwelled in a tent made of animal skins has now taken on our human nature—flesh and blood, body and soul.
The glory of the Lord now dwells in human skin in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. The tabernacle that Jesus descended to fill was our human body and soul. And He did so not just for a little while but for all eternity.
Just a couple verses before John’s declaration — “the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us,” he recorded: “The real light that shines on everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not recognize him. He came to what was his own, yet his own people did not accept him. But to all who did receive him, to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:9-12).
How very sad! They were okay when He dwelled in animal skin in the mobile tabernacle, but now His very own people did not accept Him when He came and Tabernacled in human skin.
In reality, they had in their mind some preconceived idea of what the Messiah would be when He came.
They were looking for a warrior King who would defeat their enemies — the Romans, the Assyrians, etc. They were looking for an earthly kingdom, not the one God is preparing.
They recognized His glory when he dwelled in animal skin, yet they rejected Him when he came in human skin.
Even today, some today do the same thing. They see God as one who expresses Himself in many ways to different people, despite the FACT that He has chosen to become human flesh, whose name is Jesus Christ.
For example, If God, for you, is an African-American Woman — then that is who God is, according to William Young, author of the bestseller — The Shack.
For others, God has been reduced to nothing more than a good friend.
Stills other insist that God expresses Himself to different groups in different ways. To Muslims, his name is Alla. To a Mormon, he is the elder brother of Lucifer — in fact, he was a good man who became a god.
In the wilderness, the cloud would sometimes rise out of the tabernacle, then journey forward with the people of God following wherever He went. When the cloud stopped, the people stopped and set up camp.
But in Christ, the divine and human natures are eternally joined, so that God the Son is and always will be true man, our brother.
People of old who followed wherever the glory of the Lord traveled, unfortunately, there are many “Christians” who will not follow today.
The glory of the God and overshadowed Mary, as the angel Gabriel declared:
Luke 1:35 (EHV)
35“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”
Unfortunately, so many just don’t get it, which might explain why they refuse to let God be the Lord of their life, and follow Him wherever He leads.
But God and man came together forever in Christ, so that all humanity might be raised up to the glory of God. And Jesus is Himself the glory of God!
And the glory of Gos is

Made Visible in the Waters of Baptism

As God’s presence in the tabernacle was made visible as a cloud, made up of water, so His presence in our lives is made visible in the waters of Baptism.
That’s why Christmas is such a joyous time for us. It celebrates this very reality. Though we had separated ourselves from God and cut ourselves off from His life through our sin, in His incarnation, Christ crossed that canyon we had created.
He bridged the gap between heaven and earth and brought us back to God.
Through the human nature of Christ, we have been reconciled to our heavenly Father.
God and man have literally been reunited in Jesus, and now we have access to heaven by His holy name.
The human and the divine are one in Christ, and so through faith in Him, we have been made one with God. We have been restored to His holy fellowship. This is the glory of Christmas.
We see this fellowship foreshadowed in the cloud that descended on the tabernacle in the wilderness.
Clouds are often connected with Christ in the New Testament as well.
For instance, when Jesus revealed His glory to the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration, a cloud came and enveloped them.
When Jesus ascended into heaven, it was a cloud that hid Him from the disciples’ sight.
And what are clouds made of, but water?
It is through water that Christ is present for us in Baptism to make our bodies His temple, the tabernacle of His Spirit.
It is also written that Jesus will come in the clouds with great power and glory to bring the redemption of His people to its fulfillment.
Revelation 21 describes the fulfillment of our Advent hope to come on the Last Day: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
No more isolation or exile. We will experience the fulfillment of the Lord’s name, Immanuel. God with us.
Therefore, as we prepare in this Advent season both for Christmas and for the second coming of Christ, let us be like the children of Israel traveling with the cloud of the tabernacle. Let us faithfully and patiently follow our Lord Jesus across the wilderness of this fallen world, through the grave, and into the resurrection and the promised land of the world to come.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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