Rev Dr Edgar Mayer;
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How can one of the most exciting books in the Bible end in such a boring fashion? If you ever make the decision to read the entire Bible, you will be hard pressed to make it through the second book, that is: Exodus, because this book finishes with chapter upon chapter upon chapter of detailed building constructions for something that was not even a house or palace but a worship tent. See whether you like the flavour of these lengthy Bible records chapter 25: Have them make a chest of acacia wood two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. Overlay it with pure gold both inside and out, and make a gold moulding around it. Cast four golden rings for it and fasten them to its four feet, with two rings on one side and two rings on the other. Then make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. Insert the poles into the rings on the sides of the chest to carry it Chapter 26: Make the tabernacle with ten curtains of finely twisted linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, with cherubim worked into them by a skilled craftsman. All the curtains are to be the same size twenty-eight cubits long and four cubits wide Chapter 27: For the entrance of the courtyard, provide a curtain twenty cubits long, of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen the work of an embroiderer with four posts and four bases. All the posts around the courtyard are to have silver bands and hooks, and bronze bases Do you already have enough of this? Chapters 28 to 30 continue in the same vein and then all of the chapters from chapter 35 to the final chapter 40 share the same excitement of minute boring details chapter 35: gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and hides of sea cows; acacia wood; olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece Chapter 36: They made curtains of goat hair for the tent over the tabernacle eleven all together Chapter 37: They made the lampstand of pure gold and hammered it out, base and shaft; its flowerlike cups, buds and blossoms were of one piece with it Chapter 38: They made all its utensils of bronze its pots, shovels, sprinkling bowls, meat forks and firepans. They made a grating for the altar, a bronze network, to be under its ledge, halfway up the altar Chapter 39: They made the ephod of gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely twisted linen. They hammered out thin sheets of gold and cut strands to be worked into the blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen Chapter 40: Bring in the table and set out what belongs on it. Then bring in the lampstand and set up its lamps. Place the gold altar of incense in front of the ark of the Testimony and put the curtain at the entrance to the tabernacle
Have I lost your attention by now? What
is going here? There must be something deliberate in these details there must be something exciting after all because the book of Exodus knows how to hold
a readers attention with fast-paced action. A dynasty changes power
slave people multiply in oppression midwives refuse an order to kill newborn
baby boys all of that happened in the
very first chapter of Exodus and then the action went from there. God
appeared in a burning bush ten plagues destroyed
I read Exodus 19:3:
Lord called to Moses from the mountain and said:
You yourselves have seen
what I did to
It began so well. At the start God had
promised his people what no other nation on earth had his abiding presence. Exodus I read:
have brought the people out of
Yes all right! Only then when the excitement level should be most intense there are these boring building descriptions of the worship tent and the worship rituals and the worship utensils.
May I suggest to you that there is a most important lesson in this for us. God is exciting when he moves in a church with signs and wonders fast-paced action of demonic deliverance and changing the fate of a city but when it comes to the climax of our faith: his dwelling among us the privilege of drawing near to his abiding presence among us in worship then we often lose interest because the build-up seems so slow and boring. Humbling ourselves sacrificing time and pleasures prayer meetings that go to midnight singing waiting on God repenting even more dying to sin learning his ways all of this is too slow too hard too boring and therefore many skip reading the end of the book like I have done for years. Many skip experiencing Gods ultimate promise his presence in worship but God said: I will dwell among them.
How are you going with this? Do you like certain aspects of church-life but maybe even this church is a little too boring for your taste. It is too spiritual too much on prayer too much on our relationship with God and therefore not practical enough. But this is quite a serious misunderstanding. Nothing is more practical than the worship of our God and nothing matters more for every practical aspect of your life than drawing near to God in worship. The Bible explains with extreme clarity Deuteronomy 11:13-17: if you faithfully obey the commands to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul then I [your God] will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied. Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. Then the Lords anger will burn against you, and he will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you (cf. Deuteronomy 28).
The worship of our God loving and serving him with all that we have that kind of spiritual work determines all of the practical aspects of our lives whether we have food on the table, whether we prosper in our work, whether a marriage survives and everything else. if you love the Lord your God and . serve him with all your heart, then I [your God] will send rain and you will be satisfied
Are we prepared to take another look at these boring building instructions at the end of Exodus. They are actually not boring at all when you begin to realize the nature of the worship tent and the preciousness of every little detail. It is like giving an engineer all of the precious components of a Ferrari motor. An expert enthusiast is going to linger on every piece of superb equipment the gearbox, the fourstroke V8 engine, pneumatic valve springs, 25 m/s mean piston speed, 14 bar mean effective pressure none of these details is boring to an engineer because they make the car fast. In the same way none of the worship tent details are boring to a worshipper because they make us draw near to God into the very heart of his presence. In fact, every elaborate building detail is not of human origin but made in heaven.
And this is where it gets very exciting. The Lord said to Moses I read from Exodus 25:9: Make this tabernacle [that is the worship tent or dwelling place] and all its furnishing exactly like the pattern I will show you. God insisted on this request Exodus 25:40: See that you make them [the entire tent and all of the worship utensils] according to the pattern shown you on the mountain. Exodus 26:30: Set up the tabernacle according to the plan shown you on the mountain. Exodus 27:8: Make the altar hollow, out of boards. It is to be made just as you were shown on the mountain. Cf. Exodus 31:11; Numbers 8:4; Acts .
God himself provided the precise blueprint for worship at the tabernacle because and this is where it gets even more exciting this blueprint was according to the existing eternal realities of heaven itself which are not superseded even today. This means: The principles of the tabernacle the deep truths of this ancient worship tent the patterns which God showed to Moses are still in force today and therefore apply to us here and now this morning. The Bible explains Hebrews 8:5: They [human priests] serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain. Another person actually had a vision of the tabernacle in heaven Revelations 15:5: After this I looked and in heaven the temple, that is, the tabernacle of the Testimony was opened. [Cf. Revelations 11:19: Then Gods temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant.]
In practical terms this means for us that if we want to learn about worship, we cannot do anything better than study the tabernacle how worship worked in this worship tent. Even at the time of Moses long before Jesus came into this world as our Saviour the tabernacle already foreshadowed his coming and foreshadowed how the worship of our God would come to completion through him. The principles even at this early stage are all there for us to learn today.
Therefore, I encourage you to hang in there. Learn to appreciate the boring details. God is worth the effort. Now, lets have a look at the worship tent construction.
[Show powerpoint slides and give a running commentary. Maybe point out its unattractiveness from the outside and make a connection with Jesus who tabernacled among the people on earth and was also considered unattractive.]
We will investigate some of the
tabernacle details over the next few Sundays but for now we concentrate on the
main concept behind the worship tent
the top feature which today among so
many Christians is not understood: Access to God is progressive. You start at
Only a few weeks ago I was at a prayer meeting with other pastors when the claim was made at the beginning of the meeting with the taste of coffee still in our mouths and sleepy eyes (at least I was still tired) that we Christians by grace through Jesus are already present in the Holy of Holies. This was wrong certainly for me. I was not yet in the Holy of Holies. I was not yet in the presence of God as it is in the Holy of Holies. Yes Christians have unrestricted access to God and the Bible, therefore, encourages us Hebrews 4:16: Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence and Hebrews 10:19: Therefore . having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus But even according to these references there is an approach to God and there is an entering before we get there.
At the prayer meeting with the other
pastors I had to fight my disappointment because when you make the claim that
we are in the Holy of Holies and enjoying God to the fullest when we have not
even made a proper start in worship, then we suffer a number of tragic results: 1) We
are not even attempting to go further. If we think that we are already in the
Holy of Holies, then we are not going to persevere for anything more. 2)
We settle for less than we can have and
may never know even as pastors that
the fullness of God feels so different in the Holy of Holies. 3) We remain less than effective in our
worship because we pray and present all of our requests to God before we have
actually drawn near to him in repentance and the other actions which happen in
However, even if you understand that the presence of God intensifies in worship, there remains another danger. We focus on the instrument of access rather than God himself and then we try to take possession and control the instrument of access, that is in this case the tabernacle. This is very easily done and a most common mistake of religious people.
The tabernacle was fashioned after the
pattern of the tabernacle in heaven
therefore, in a sense there was heaven itself in the tabernacle it was holy
and then God promised access to himself
through this worship tent and so it happened as the last verses of Exodus
confirm Exodus 40:33-38:
so Moses finished the work. Then the
cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and the glory of the Lord filled the
tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had
settled upon it, and the glory of the Lord filled the
tabernacle. In all the travels of the
Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set
out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out until the day it
lifted. 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 house of
Thus in the observation of certain people (a common mistake) it was the tabernacle that seemed to guarantee the presence of God and therefore in time people were in danger of putting more trust in the tabernacle than God which for them at first had the advantage that you can control the tabernacle far better than God.
At one time Gods people went out to fight against the Philistines but they were defeated and about four thousand of them died on the battlefield. Then they thought that if the ark of the covenant the holiest piece of furniture in the tabernacle was with them in battle, victory would be assured. But they suffered another defeat thirty thousand foot soldiers died and the ark was captured by the Philistines. God cannot be controlled by controlling the ark. You can take the ark with you into battle but this does not guarantee the favour of God in your life (1 Kings 4). [However, Gods presence was still with the ark and it wrought havoc among the Philistines until it was returned. Cf. 1 Kings 5-6.]
In the same vein we may put our faith in other ways of accessing God. For instance, we may seek to control the presence of God by controlling the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion. We may think that as long as we partake of the holy meal (after all this is the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the bread and wine), we should enjoy the fullness of God. Alternatively, we may put our trust in the church and the leadership functions which God has given to the church. [Quite a few Lutheran pastors became Catholics in the recent past because they love the certain spiritual authority of the pope.] Or we seek to control the presence of God with flawless theology and the perfect worship structure. If we keep saying the right words the right prayers (a bit of repentance here, a bit of praise there) sound sermons the reading out of the right amount of Scripture passages (one from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament, one from a New Testament letter and also a Psalm) the pronouncement of the right blessing then we should have the glory of God in the Holy of Holies.
But this is not looking to God. This is
looking at the tabernacle and other means of access to God. This is not worship
but control. When the tabernacle became a temple building in
Right! With these words of caution we
can now again marvel at the tabernacle and what it teaches us about worship.
Access to God is progressive. You start at the
There is more. One pastor described his
own experience of drawing closer to God in worship. This is how it feels for
him to progress from the
If you havent prayed in a while, this
phase in the
When you come to the
According to this pastor most Christian think that this is it but there is more. If they stayed just a little longer maybe another half hour in prayer then Jesus would bring them into the Holy of Holies where it is indescribable. One minute in there changes your life forever and maybe the estimate is right only very few people have ever entered into this place. There words are inadequate. God sits on his throne and we are on our knees. This is no longer the time where we say: I need this. I need that. But God speaks and says: I need this. Go and tell them this. Go and do that. This is also the place of silence where we are still and know that he is God. He satisfies our souls. Deep communicates unto deep (Psalm 42:7).
The pastor had one experience where he was in the Holy of Holies for the very first time. He was surprised and amazed and he just mouthed the word: Hallelujah. But when he did so, the presence of God withdrew at once which puzzled him and frightened him. Didnt God want praise. Immediately the Spirit said to him: In here even your words are unacceptable. This was not the place for the mind to function for words or feelings to be expressed. Here heart talks to heart spirit to spirit. The soul finds rest and is satisfied.
Do you want to go there? You can. I close with the best news in the world. In the past God began by choosing one nation as his people and from this one nation the people of Israel only one person the high priest was ever allowed in the Holy of Holies and that only once every year (on the day of atonement). There were animal sacrifices every day in the tabernacle and there was lots of blood flowing but these animal sacrifices in that time could not completely deal with the sin that kept us separated from God. Only when Jesus Christ Gods only begotten Son came from heaven to earth and offered himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world on a cross, the power of sin was completely broken and overcome. What the animal sacrifices foreshadowed came to fulfillment in Jesus Christ with the consequence that now not only one person from one particular nation can enter into the Holy of Holies but everyone (who believes in Jesus Christ and receives forgiveness in his name) is welcome in that place every day.
This is what happened when Jesus died. I read from Mark 15:37-38: With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. Do we understand? As soon as Jesus died, God ripped up the barrier curtain to the Holy of Holies in the temple. The veil that was to keep everyone unclean out was no longer needed because in Jesus we all have the forgiveness of sins and are completely clean without any blemish on account of his blood that was shed for us.
You are allowed to get close to God. He loves you. From this morning take away this one thought just one key principle which the tabernacle teaches us about worship. Access to God is progressive. Dont give up when at first your prayer time feels tough and seems to be hard work. There is more to come. You are on the right track and the Holy of Holies is open to you. Amen.