Much of the world – daily priority… survival. Acquiring food for the next meal, shelter from elements and violence, making through until tomorrow. In parts of world like ours, something else takes higher priority… comfort. May be something we pursue, might be what we accept. Do what we can to spend as much time as possible being comfortable. Not just the things we buy or do in order to enhance comfort, desire for comfort influences how we think. Rather than resist things we should, persisting in doing and thinking what pleases God, instead we come to point where are comfortable with things we shouldn’t be.
When God came to dwell in midst of his people, didn’t put down roots. Didn’t build architectural showpiece with all the amenities. Instead, had his people build him a tent, something of vital importance.
Heb. 11:9-10 By faith [Abraham] dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise;for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
Everything about tabernacle declared it was temporary, portable, ready to move with little notice. Aspects of tabernacle worship that made plain were some things about God’s relationship with his people only temporary. Need for sacrifice, for separation – conditions and limits that should make us uncomfortable, leave us wanting more. Important principle to keep in mind:
The more comfortable we are with earth, the less we will long for heaven.
God dwelling in the midst of his people in a tent is far from end of the story. God has much more in mind for us… everything broken and frustrating about this world should increase our desire for promised inheritance. Meanwhile… because of who we presently are, who God is, things have to be certain way by God’s design and purpose for us to have personal relationship with him. Sacrifice is essential, separation is expected, and support is encouraged.
A. altar v.1-8 sacrifice essential
location – first
once again, things relating to tabernacle structure and worship described from POV of significance – not floor plan, other consideration
called by different names: brazen altar (ref. its cladding); altar of burnt offering (Ex. 38:1) ref. its use; like much other furniture, made of acacia wood core clad with bronze sheets
positioned so as to be unavoidable – directly between 1st and 2nd entrances – straight line between entrance to courtyard, holy place, most holy place
first thing encountered by worshiper after entering sanctuary space – the one thing that filled view of person outside looking in
size – largest
7-1/2 feet square, 4-1/2 feet high, massive piece of workmanship – large enough to hold every other piece of furniture, dominating by very size
nothing subtle about altar of burnt offering or its purpose – if in architectural / ceremonial design size counts for anything, this altar of huge importance
need – indispensable
God by his purposeful design reinforcing principle first introduced in Garden of Eden – once sin is present, of necessity restricting fellowship with God, only way for sinner to approach is through sacrifice
at same time… had poles to be used for carrying, was made of wood and bronze – durable, yes, but with limits to its endurance
not designed to be the place or the method of reconciling sinful man to holy God for always – 2 better things to come
better sacrifice and better situation – one day Lord Jesus would be priest, sacrifice, altar bringing end to that way of worship (Heb. 7:27; 9:14; 13:10)
day still future when need for sacrifice no longer present – fully redeemed, incorruptible bodies, souls confirmed in righteousness (1 Cor. 15:50-57)
B. court v.9-19 separation expected
outside the courtyard and inside place of worship visibly and physically distinguished – white curtain 7-1/2 feet tall enclosing courtyard in middle of encampment
only part visible from outside – top portion of tent, cloud or pillar signifying God’s presence… rest hidden from view
similar situation inside courtyard – all that was visible were things belonging to worship of God: altar, laver, tent, people and priests, animals for sacrifice
in middle of one end, curtain following same color pattern as entrance curtains screening holy place and holy of holies – obvious standout in white linen screen
no mistaking where entrance was, no back door / second entrance / servant’s gate – only one way in and out of worship space
whether coming in or leaving, that ever-present reminder that no one was there on their own merits, only by virtue of sacrifice
used to be chorus in Sunday School: “One door and only one, and yet its sides are two – inside and outside, on which side are you” — those looking for / trying to make other doors on fool’s errand… with eternal consequences
only way into eternal sanctuary through the one who is the door, the perfect once-for-all sacrifice, who takes us by the hand all the way into holy of holies
entering requires exiting
number of places on roads of Maine and NH where borders of municipalities are identified – many with simple sign post, town name on each side
others posted differently – two signs, short distance apart… one says “Leaving Buxton”, next says “Entering Gorham”
occasionally church will do something similar – sign posted by exit door, “Entering your mission field” – should have one on outside perhaps, “Entering God’s presence”
to enter God’s presence requires leaving some things outside – Moses and Joshua had to take sandals off, standing on holy ground
many things belong to this world, do not belong in God’s presence – some we gladly leave behind… conflict, frustration, negatives
advantage to having defined, dedicated space for worship: helps to keep before our minds this world not all there is, not our forever home, should not be getting too comfortable in it
place set apart from common use – grew up in pretty simple country church, even so, different standard of behavior required
don’t run, take hat off, keep voice down, leave that outside – this is sanctuary, you don’t do that in here
might think some of parents’ expectations were excessive – they came from a clear sense of the sacred, largely lost in present way of thinking
is the place where worship God, things present set apart for sacred use, use in worship, not to be used for other purposes
was also to be place of refuge, safety, security – if life in danger, could make it to horns of altar, supposed to be safe from harm
is to be representative of what we have to look forward to – no moth, no rust, no thieves… no sin, no sickness, no dangers
C. light v.20-21 support encouraged
sign of God’s presence
already given description of lampstand with 7 lamps in previous chapter – to stand outside holy of holies, provide light for holy place
within view of worshipers in outer courtyard, tended by Aaron and his sons – seen by all who came into courtyard, signifying God’s presence on the other side of the veil
fueled by people’s gifts
it was work of priests to service the lampstand, keep in good working order – not their job to supply olive oil to keep lamps burning
another way in which worship was participatory – people could see light shining, know was oil they had brought that fueled it
everyone’s participation necessary
in order for tabernacle worship to function properly, required everyone to be involved – worshiper brought own sacrifice, oil for lamps
yes, priest would offer up sacrifice to God… but only after one bringing sacrifice laid hand on head of animal, transferring sin to substitute who then paid penalty
if Israel was to be light to nations (Isa. 42:6), people from all tribes and walks of life had to be involved – no less true in our world
if Christ’s church is to be light helping to push back darkness in neighborhoods and communities, takes everyone doing their part
Has been lots of discussion about liberties we enjoy or should be able to enjoy in our country. At same time is much about nation and culture that should greatly disturb child of God. God has definitely been gracious to every one of us individually, to our nation. Yet for all liberty we enjoy, everyone of us know probably at least ten people who are enslaved. Slaves to sin, debt, possessions, desire, drugs/alcohol, all tools of arch slave master Satan. Only reason is different for us: Christ has set us free. Christ is the only one who can deliver those ten people each of us know from their slavery.
One more thing – regardless of your position on immigration, 2016, nearly 44 million immigrants in US, #1 destination for immigrants for 60 years. Here’s what that means – shape of missions has radically changed. On average 1 out of 7 US residents have come from what 60 years ago would likely have been considered a mission field. Now live in our neighborhoods and towns, many wanting what we have… our language. We have both opportunity and responsibility – carry light of Gospel outside sanctuary, outside home, outside comfort zone to those living in darkness and slavery.
God can and will use us as his ambassadors when we devote ourselves to his service, putting the souls of lost people ahead of personal comfort and convenience.