Day: November 8, 2018

Grace Abounding

Exodus 36:8-38:20 

The portion of Exodus describing construction of Tabernacle has an intimidating level of detail. Add to that… it duplicates information already given in earlier chapters. That in itself raises question – at time when written records nearly unknown, certainly not ones that could be easily transported (remember tablets of stone!), why would inspired writer repeat so much detail? Writer doesn’t say, certainly believe that God  expected his commands to be followed to the letter, is precisely what happened.

Amount of detail makes it easy to get so lost in trees as to miss beauty of the forest. Will try not to do that; instead, will endeavor to glean few gems from big picture. Might wonder about sermon title, Grace Abounding. Are in that section of Bible everyone recognizes as the Law. Aren’t grace and law mutually exclusive? Isn’t it either one or the other, not both? Not at all. Remember how God self-identified just 2 chapters ago:

“And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”

God didn’t just say it with words, he went on to demonstrate mercy and grace, patience and goodness. Yes, God had given explicit instructions verbally and visually to Moses about constructing and using a worship space. Yet God condescending to accept worship from sinful people is profound and continuing act of grace. God further demonstrates grace by instructing his people to make him a place to live… among them. Then the greatest grace of all, God provides a way for sinful rebellious people to be forgiven, their sin atoned for that they could be reconciled to God.

A. God’s grace in accepting worship

starting place – structure first, working from inside out

inner curtains – sections of tapestry linked together covering  entire inside of the tent… featuring angels pictured on background of blue/purple/scarlet

tabernacle intended to be a “copy and shadow of the heavenly things” (Heb. 8:5) – interior decor an intentional reminder of heaven, true sanctuary and dwelling of God

as if God said: want to be as close to people as possible for their good, help them experience as much of heaven as possible

outer coverings – multiple layers: goats’ hair, ram skins, badger skins – practical reasons as well as symbolic in various colors/materials

protection from weather, insulation from heat… at same time not much to distinguish on outside from surrounding tents

glory of this tent to be who dwelt in it, what took place under its protection – worship, fellowship, forgiveness, reconciliation

walls – curtains dark, walls much different – reflective surface, multiplying light from 7-branched lampstand around the outer room

walls served to stiffen / stabilize entire structure, provide way to separate interior into two distinct spaces… Holy Place and Holy of Holies or Most Holy Place

door – veil – two rooms separated but in significant way: not a wall between, not even door that could be barred to prevent entrance into inner room

was only a curtain that separated… sufficient but without destroying sense of nearness, something God wanted his people to experience yet without compromising God’s holiness

then the furnishings

ark – the focal point of Most Holy Place – yes, contained eventually tablets, pot of manna, Aaron’s rod; what gets emphasis in Bible is the cherubim and the lid

numerous references later to God who “dwells between the cherubim” – all those cherubim on curtains reminder not only of heaven, also of cherubim inside Holy of Holies forming throne where God dwelt among his people

the lid would be place of atonement for entire nation one day each year – more on that later – don’t forget, atonement/forgiveness essential for holy God to accept worship from sinful people

table – where showbread, presence bread, would be placed – even today, breaking bread together signifies intimate fellowship

not limited to priests, why there would be 12 loaves of bread – God intended to receive worship from all his people

lampstand – God doesn’t expect his people to worship him in the dark… may not be able to see him, but we can know him

just as lampstand gave light to room, so God gives light to sin-darkened minds… enabling to worship in acceptable way

incense altar – sweet fragrance filled entire tent… including inner room – an offering to God, something any priest could do

followed by the outer courtyard – furnishings, then curtains

altar of burnt offering – a center of action in outer enclosure, directly in line between curtain at entrance gate and curtain at entrance to Most Holy Place

one entering at the gate being invited by God to worship… but not without sacrifice for sin first; and then opportunity for thank offerings, freewill offerings, all regular part of worship

laver – the one answering God’s gracious invitation to worship needs forgiveness and cleansing, washing from sin and its effects

God can graciously welcome worship from his people… but there are no shortcuts – must approach God on his terms

hangings and supports

another reminder: the one who has face toward God in genuine worship has turned away from allure of the world and its idols… leaving all that outside the enclosure

B. God’s grace in giving his presence

inner room in the tent where God will “live”

God intended to dwell with his people… but not put down roots – they were to be on the move, God would travel with them

commitment to being close to his people continually… because God wanted them… and they needed him… close by all the time

place from which God will rule

no hands-off approach for our God, not sitting idly by watching people do their thing – is actively ruling / governing his creatures

outer room a place for fellowship

to not have veil between would have been harmful to people yet… God still close enough so they could hear and feel him

went to next level with Lord Jesus – “the Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us” (John 1:14) then promised his followers “lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20)

C. God’s grace in providing atonement

through the gate

once again, God not obligated to act as he has – could have kept himself inside walls with no entrance at all for sinful people

instead has graciously not fenced himself off, draws his people to him step by step along path of his design, making provision for them in their weakness

to the altar and laver

entirely of God’s invention, nothing man could or would have come up with – at this time, served as signposts pointing toward future reality known to God but not his people

yet they were more than simple pictures – sacrifice and washing were what God graciously accepted as outward signs of genuine love and sincere worship

showed also God’s commitment / intention to be worshiped by holy people… those who were truly holy inside and out

then the Holy Place

at that time only priests allowed in Holy Place to experience fellowship with one another in same tent with God but… God had something to say about that

you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” – time coming when all true worshipers would be welcome in Holy Place, eventually even in Holy of Holies… once the separating veil was torn in two

Everything about Tabernacle worship was real, God was abounding in grace toward his sinful rebellious people. While it was real, was reduced in scope and intensity until this side of the Cross. Now that Christ’s work of atonement is complete, accepted by his Father, one of his final promises is our reality:

“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” (John 14:23)

Because of Christ’s atonement we can individually and corporately experience God’s presence in us and with us. God’s grace abounds even more as we worship him together without need for further sacrifice for sin, enjoying his presence, hearing his voice as he speaks through his word by his Spirit. God’s grace is truly marvelous, infinite, matchless – O that more of friends and family might come to experience that grace.