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Echoes of Eden

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Themes and Motifs

Good morning. Some of you might just now be thinking to yourself, wow, Alan is only on his second week, and the wheels have already fallen off. Well, to start off our morning, I wanted to give you an oh so brief music history lesson on themes and motifs. You might remember that a couple weeks ago, I talked about the Beethoven’s Ninth symphony, and how over an hour of music builds to the presentation of Beethoven’s new theme, his Ode to Joy. What was perhaps unusual was that Beethoven was trying to attach a specific idea to a specific theme. This theme represents joy (Play Ode to Joy).
Now if you study Beethoven, you know that he was very much the bridge between the classical period in his early years and the romantic period in his later years. One of the composers who followed Beethoven was a man named Hector Berlioz, and music majors study his work, Symphony Fantastique because of the way he develops this idea of motifs representing ideas.
Throughout the piece, Berlioz calls back to what he called his Idee Fixe which recurs throughout the entire symphony. But, what stuck with me was how he used a theme called the Dies Irae to call out the idea of judgment. (play Dies Irae) This theme is still recognizable in many works today. Just a couple weeks ago, I heard one of the marching bands play it in one of the championship games. I tell you, all of the music majors were super fired up for that third down!
This use of motifs was developed much more fully by Wagner, where he used what he called leitmotifs to identify characters and ideas. But perhaps the composer that best demonstrates this use of recurring themes is John Williams, and in particular, the music for the Star Wars movies.
There is an auditory commentary running under the movies in the form of these themes. If you hear this motif, (play Force theme) you know that the scene has to do with the Force. This motif (play Princess Leia theme) calls to mind Princess Leia. The obvious one perhaps is the Imperial March, (play Imperial March) which is the theme of the Empire. You hear this one on third downs a bit more often.
(Walk) Anyway, this idea of motifs is used all over the place. The Lord of the Rings movies do it a lot. There’s a theme for hobbits, a theme for the Fellowship, a theme for the ring, a theme for Barad Dur, which interestingly enough uses that Dies Irae that we talked about earlier.
But the point here is that there is a sonic vocabulary in this music. No one has to tell the viewer, “Hey this Imperial March refers to the Empire.”

Echoes of Eden

Last week, we talked about Eden and how this early paradise was the place where Adam and Eve walked with God. This week, I want to talk about the next dwelling place of God’s presence in the Old Testament, the tabernacle and the temple. However, like we said last week, the story of Eden is foundational for understanding the story that follows it. As we read about the tabernacle and later the temple, the themes and motifs of the garden should echo in our ears. Let’s visit the Tabernacle first:

The Tabernacle

Would you join me in Exodus 25, as we read about the instructions that God gives to Moses for the tabernacle.
Exodus 25:1–9 (CSB)
The Lord spoke to Moses: “Tell the Israelites to take an offering for me. You are to take my offering from everyone who is willing to give.
This is the offering you are to receive from them: gold, silver, and bronze; blue, purple, and scarlet yarn; fine linen and goat hair; ram skins dyed red and fine leather; acacia wood; oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx along with other gemstones for mounting on the ephod and breastpiece.
They are to make a sanctuary for me so that I may dwell among them. You must make it according to all that I show you—the pattern of the tabernacle as well as the pattern of all its furnishings.
Let’s pause here, because I don’t want this to get away from us. Last week at the end of the sermon, I raced really quickly through the patriarchs of Israel, and how God promised them that He would be with them, but here we have something new. God says that the purpose of this new sanctuary is “so that [God] may dwell among them.” This is the first time that God uses this phrase of dwelling with the people of Israel.
Remember last week, that in Genesis 3:8, the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden. The Hebrew word translated there as walking is the same work used in Leviticus 26 when God is talking about this Tabernacle:
Leviticus 26:11–12 CSB
I will place my residence among you, and I will not reject you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.
This is the most important echo of Eden of all. Indeed, as we consider John 1:14 next week, this dwelling is not only foundational to God’s relationship with His people, Israel, but God taking up His dwelling in the Incarnation is foundational to the restoration of His relationship with the whole world.
We talked last week that we could not return to Eden, instead God would come to us. And so, in the creation of the Tabernacle, God is instructing the Israelites to build him a sort of mini-Eden that He, like Eden, will dwell with them in.
Did you catch one of the other echoes towards the beginning of this passage?
Exodus 25:3–7 CSB
This is the offering you are to receive from them: gold, silver, and bronze; blue, purple, and scarlet yarn; fine linen and goat hair; ram skins dyed red and fine leather; acacia wood; oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx along with other gemstones for mounting on the ephod and breastpiece.
Remember this from the description of the garden?
Genesis 2:11–12 CSB
The name of the first is Pishon, which flows through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. Gold from that land is pure; bdellium and onyx are also there.
Note the presence of gold and onyx. It also mentions bdellium, which is a special kind of gum from a tree. The only other place that this substance is mentioned is in Numbers 11:7 describing manna.
Numbers 11:7 CSB
The manna resembled coriander seed, and its appearance was like that of bdellium.
Guess what else was kept in the tabernacle?
Exodus 16:33 CSB
Moses told Aaron, “Take a container and put two quarts of manna in it. Then place it before the Lord to be preserved throughout your generations.”
Next in Exodus, God gives instruction to Moses for the creation of the Ark of the Covenant, which is to hold the tablets of God’s word given to Moses.
Exodus 25:16–22 (CSB)
Put the tablets of the testimony that I will give you into the ark. Make a mercy seat of pure gold, forty-five inches long and twenty-seven inches wide. Make two cherubim of gold; make them of hammered work at the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub at one end and one cherub at the other end.
At its two ends, make the cherubim of one piece with the mercy seat. The cherubim are to have wings spread out above, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and are to face one another. The faces of the cherubim should be toward the mercy seat.
Set the mercy seat on top of the ark and put the tablets of the testimony that I will give you into the ark. I will meet with you there above the mercy seat, between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the testimony; I will speak with you from there about all that I command you regarding the Israelites.
Are you hearing more themes from the Garden? When was the last time that cherubim were mentioned in the Old Testament? There is one time that the cherubim were mentioned previously.
Genesis 3:24 CSB
He drove the man out and stationed the cherubim and the flaming, whirling sword east of the garden of Eden to guard the way to the tree of life.
Matter of fact, if you were to do a study of cherubim in the Old Testament, you would find this mention of the cherubim guarding the garden of Eden, and the cherubim guarding the holy of holies in the Tabernacle and later the Temple. Now, Ezekiel talks about the cherubim in detail later, always accompanying the presence of God.
Moreover, Eden is the place where God gave His one commandment to Adam and Eve. Here, we see that the commandments God is giving Moses are placed in the ark guarded by the cherubim.
Let’s continue on in Exodus 25. God gives instruction for the construction of a Table, on which will be set drink offerings and the Bread of the Presence. Then God gives instruction for the creation of a lampstand.
Exodus 25:31–36 (CSB)
“You are to make a lampstand out of pure, hammered gold. It is to be made of one piece: its base and shaft, its ornamental cups, and its buds and petals. Six branches are to extend from its sides, three branches of the lampstand from one side and three branches of the lampstand from the other side.
There are to be three cups shaped like almond blossoms, each with a bud and petals, on one branch, and three cups shaped like almond blossoms, each with a bud and petals, on the next branch. It is to be this way for the six branches that extend from the lampstand.
There are to be four cups shaped like almond blossoms on the lampstand shaft along with its buds and petals. For the six branches that extend from the lampstand, a bud must be under the first pair of branches from it, a bud under the second pair of branches from it, and a bud under the third pair of branches from it.
Their buds and branches are to be of one piece. All of it is to be a single hammered piece of pure gold.

The Lampstand

I’ve put here an artists rendering of what this lampstand might have looked like. Many authors have highlighted that in the center of the garden stood the tree of life, and here, in the center of the tabernacle stands this stylized tree, the lampstand.
God continues to give instruction to Moses for the construction of the tent itself, including materials and various plans. And then God gives a layout for this Tabernacle.
Exodus 26:33–35 CSB
Hang the curtain under the clasps and bring the ark of the testimony there behind the curtain, so the curtain will make a separation for you between the holy place and the most holy place. Put the mercy seat on the ark of the testimony in the most holy place. Place the table outside the curtain and the lampstand on the south side of the tabernacle, opposite the table; put the table on the north side.


Notice the emphasis on directions. This wasn’t to be laid out in a random order. Not like this building which is on a diagonal from the cardinal directions. No, there was a very specific direction included. This is a basic map layout of the tabernacle. Notice the east/west orientation, with the holy of holies being set to the west, with the entrance to the East. Remember which direction Adam and Eve were driven out of Eden? They were driven out to the East. Several authors have suggested that a very loose diagram of the garden of Eden might look like this:

Garden of Eden

Now, the accuracy of this little diagram is certainly debatable, but what is important here is the West to East layout of the Tabernacle echoing that of Eden. And it wasn’t just the building itself that echoed Eden, but the priesthood itself.

The Priesthood

Another echo of Eden is seen in the work of the Levitical priesthood. Back in Genesis we saw the task set before Adam in this garden:
Genesis 2:15 CSB
The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it.
These two Hebrew verbs translated “work it” and “watch, or keep, it” are only found together in three other passages in Scripture, each talking about the task of the priesthood. Numbers 3:7-8, Numbers 8:26, and Numbers 18:5-6.
Numbers 18:5–6 CSB
“You are to guard the sanctuary and the altar so that wrath may not fall on the Israelites again. Look, I have selected your fellow Levites from the Israelites as a gift for you, assigned by the Lord to work at the tent of meeting.
God concludes the section discussing the high priest by saying:
Exodus 29:44–46 CSB
I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar; I will also consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. And they will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.
There we’ve come back again to God dwelling with his people. God continues the instruction of the tabernacle and identifies the people that He has selected for the task of leading this work. Then, God, having inscribed His Word on two tablets, sends Moses back down to the people.
If you remember the story of Exodus, immediately following the instructions for the creation of the tabernacle is when Moses descends to find the people worshiping the golden calf they have created for themselves. If you want to explore that story more fully, I would encourage you to revisit Pastor Bill’s sermons in Exodus from a few years ago.
However, several chapters later, once the people are back on track, Moses relays the commands to build the tabernacle as the Lord has proscribed. The people gladly participate in the work, offering of their materials, and their labor, to the point where in Exodus 35:6, Moses has to tell them to stop bringing stuff as an offering because there were more than enough materials for the work.
What follows is several chapters of the construction of the tabernacle, the objects for the tabernacle, the priestly garments and so on, following the instructions the Lord had given to Moses. Finally, when the work is finished, they set up the tabernacle as the Lord had instructed. Let’s join the narrative in Exodus 40, as Moses is finishing up the work.
Exodus 40:33–38 (CSB)
Next Moses set up the surrounding courtyard for the tabernacle and the altar and hung a screen for the gate of the courtyard. So Moses finished the work.
The cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses was unable to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud rested on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
And so, the tabernacle becomes a sort of portable Eden that goes with them through their wanderings in the desert, and then as the people take possession of the land.

God Initiates Relationship

I don’t want to lose hold of this point though. This all has been initiated by God. God established this people from the line of Abraham. God rescued them from slavery in Egypt, and now God is giving instructions to Moses on how these people are to worship Him. God initiates this relationship that culminates in the presence of His glory among His people. This is the first time since the garden that God has dwelt among his children, and it is the result of God working out His plan through generations. God initiates Relationship.

The Temple

The tabernacle continues as the dwelling place of God’s presence all the way through the reign of King David, but David is concerned by the tabernacle. In 2 Samuel 7, he says to the prophet Nathan, “Look, I am living in a cedar house while the ark of God sits inside tent curtains.” Nathan initially gives David the go-ahead, but then that night God responds to David directly through Nathan, saying,
2 Samuel 7:5–7 (CSB)
“Go to my servant David and say, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you to build me a house to dwell in? From the time I brought the Israelites out of Egypt until today I have not dwelt in a house; instead, I have been moving around with a tent as my dwelling.
In all my journeys with all the Israelites, have I ever spoken a word to one of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, asking: Why haven’t you built me a house of cedar?’
God makes it clear that He is content to dwell in the tent that He proscribed for the people. As I’ve studied this week, this passage, and the building of the temple later, that it’s almost as if God reacts to the temple much the same way that he reacts to the people’s demand for a King. He accepts it, and indeed will bless it, but there are dangers inherent in the temple. God does relent though, and promises David:
2 Samuel 7:11–13 CSB
ever since the day I ordered judges to be over my people Israel. I will give you rest from all your enemies. “ ‘The Lord declares to you: The Lord himself will make a house for you. When your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up after you your descendant, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
However, just as echoes fade, so does it seem that the echoes of Eden fade more with the Temple, and then more with the second Temple.
The construction of this new temple is starkly different from the construction of the tabernacle. Do you remember how the people were called out for the construction of the tabernacle, and how they gave so much that Moses had to tell them to stop?
Well, instead of God directly telling Solomon to build this temple, Solomon is communicating with King Hiram of Tyre, AKA, a Canaanite.
1 Kings 5:5 CSB
So I plan to build a temple for the name of the Lord my God, according to what the Lord promised my father David: ‘I will put your son on your throne in your place, and he will build the temple for my name.’
Solomon then contracts with this pagan king to have cedar sent down for the construction of this temple, and then instead of called out craftsmen like God directed for the tabernacle:
1 Kings 5:13–16 (CSB)
Then King Solomon drafted forced laborers from all Israel; the labor force numbered thirty thousand men. He sent ten thousand to Lebanon each month in shifts; one month they were in Lebanon, two months they were at home.
Adoniram was in charge of the forced labor. Solomon had seventy thousand porters and eighty thousand stonecutters in the mountains, not including his thirty-three hundred deputies in charge of the work. They supervised the people doing the work.

Solomon’s Temple

This forced labor builds this new temple, which seems to follow the general theme of, like the Tabernacle, but bigger is better! Herod’s temple of course would take the “bigger is better” theme and run with it.
The entire story of the construction of this temple makes it clear that Solomon is constructing this temple. It is full of phrases like, he (Solomon) made, he built, he provided, and so on.
And the only word from the Lord is in 1 Kings 6:10, a warning to Solomon.
1 Kings 6:11–13 CSB
The word of the Lord came to Solomon: “As for this temple you are building—if you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep all my commands by walking in them, I will fulfill my promise to you, which I made to your father David. I will dwell among the Israelites and not abandon my people Israel.”
There is an “if” here. God will inhabit this new temple that Solomon has constructed, but there are now conditions on His continued dwelling and presence. So, Solomon builds this massive new temple, and it’s just a little off.

Fading Echoes

Now remember, once the tabernacle was completed, it was set up and the glory of the Lord came right in. Instead, Solomon builds the temple for seven years in 1 Kings 6:38, and then a palace and royal complex for thirteen years in 1 Kings 7. It’s only after the completion of Solomon’s house that the Lord’s temple is dedicated.
Yet, in 1 Kings 8, we see that indeed the presence of the Lord comes to dwell in this new temple.
1 Kings 8:10–11 CSB
When the priests came out of the holy place, the cloud filled the Lord’s temple, and because of the cloud, the priests were not able to continue ministering, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple.
Yet, after the temple celebration, the Lord gives Solomon a dire warning. He tells Solomon:
1 Kings 9:3 CSB
The Lord said to him: I have heard your prayer and petition you have made before me. I have consecrated this temple you have built, to put my name there forever; my eyes and my heart will be there at all times.
But He reminds Solomon to stay faithful, concluding:
1 Kings 9:6–9 (CSB)
If you or your sons turn away from following me and do not keep my commands—my statutes that I have set before you—and if you go and serve other gods and bow in worship to them, I will cut off Israel from the land I gave them, and I will reject the temple I have sanctified for my name.
Israel will become an object of scorn and ridicule among all the peoples. Though this temple is now exalted, everyone who passes by will be appalled and will scoff. They will say, “Why did the Lord do this to this land and this temple?”
Then they will say, “Because they abandoned the Lord their God who brought their ancestors out of the land of Egypt. They held on to other gods and bowed in worship to them and served them. Because of this, the Lord brought all this ruin on them.”
And this is exactly what happened. After generations of disobedience that started with Solomon, Ezekiel sees the glory of the Lord leave that temple through the East gate, and then leave Jerusalem entirely, resting on the mountain to the East.
And then, the temple is destroyed.
2 Chronicles 36:18–19 CSB
He took everything to Babylon—all the articles of God’s temple, large and small, the treasures of the Lord’s temple, and the treasures of the king and his officials. Then the Chaldeans burned God’s temple. They tore down Jerusalem’s wall, burned all its palaces, and destroyed all its valuable articles.

God Is Gracious and Patient

I mentioned earlier that it seems almost like God grudgingly accepts the Temple like He did the monarchy. Not only that, but it sure seems like Solomon could have consulted the Lord a whole lot more in the construction of the Temple. Yet. God still gives grace to that process and comes to dwell with His people in the temple. And then, God is patient through generations of unfaithfulness until finally He judges His people.

The Second Temple

Seventy years later, the returning exiles reconstruct the temple, but it’s only a shadow of the temple Solomon built. The echoes of Eden grow dimmer, as echoes do. While this temple would later be renovated by Herod into a structure that would dwarf Solomon’s temple, there were a couple of key parts missing from this second temple.
First, the ark of the covenant was gone. But more importantly than that, the glory of the Lord did not come to dwell in the second temple. In Haggai, God promises that His Spirit will be with them, but that the glory is coming at a later date. This new temple did not contain the presence of God. In fact, it wasn’t until over 400 years that God’s presence would once again come into the Temple.
In fact, remember how God’s glory left the temple, and Jerusalem and settled on the mountain in the East? That mountain is the Mount of Olives. And it is from there that Jesus begins his triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem and into the Temple. God’s presence had returned. Not only that, but the Gospel points to the fact that Jesus IS the ultimate temple, but we’ll have more to say about that next week.

God Is Faithful

400 years. Not a word from God through one of his prophets. No promised Davidic king. No glory dwelling among the people in the Temple. Yet, when you read the Old Testament, you see that the refrain is that God is Faithful! And so, His answer to the people was not, “No” when it comes to these promises, but rather “Not Yet.” Not only that, but God was working to fulfil all His promises, but not the way anyone expected. His way was better. You see, God wasn’t just bringing back His presence to dwell with the people. He was coming to dwell with the people in the flesh.
So this morning as we looked at these echoes of Eden, I want to just highlight a couple of those takeaways we see from the tabernacle and temples
God Initiates Relationship
God Is Gracious and Patient
God Is Faithful
God initiates relationship with people. He did the same for me and you. He didn’t wait for us to come to Him, He came to us. Romans 5:8 tells us:
Romans 5:8 CSB
But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your savior this morning, God isn’t sitting around waiting for you to clean your life up. No, God took the first step and came to earth, lived a perfect life, died on a cross and was raised so that you might have eternal life, eternal fellowship with Him.
God Is Gracious and Patient
Some of you this morning are like Solomon, and you need fairly regular reminders that God is Holy and Just. Some of you here this morning have no difficulty feeling guilty and judged and need to be reminded that God is gracious and patient with us. If you are in Christ this morning, if you were to step back and take a look at your life, would you see God’s gracious and patient hand shaping you to be evermore like Christ? He is gracious and patient.
And finally, the grand theme of the Old Testament.
God Is Faithful
God keeps His promises, no matter how long they take. This is the season of Advent, a season of waiting, where we remember the longing wait for the coming Messiah, and we ourselves are reminded of our current longing for His coming again. That day is coming sooner than any of us likely realize. Are you ready?
Let’s pray.
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