We’ve traveled with the Israelites over the past few months during this sermon series.
We’ve seen their hesitancy to leave the homes they knew for 430 years, even if it meant continued slavery in Egypt. We’ve watched Moses develop as a leader, first too shy to speak forth, so that Aaron had to accompany him. We’ve seen the miracles – a baby boy rescued from the bullrushes, plagues and a staff turning into a snake as the people prepared to leave, and the parting of the waters of the Red Sea, just to name a few.
What a journey that must have been! Six hundred thousand men on foot, not to mention women and children. That could be more than one million living souls. When I lived in Columbus, Ohio, the metropolitan population was estimated at more than a million. Imagine all them deciding to walk to Chicago, Dallas, or some other far-away place.
I can only imagine the amount of dust those six thousand pairs of feet (plus) kicked up as they made their way across the desert. They carried their own clothing and supplies – no Conestoga wagons like the pioneers in the American west. They stopped to pitch their tents at night (or did they sleep under the stars?).
It sounds like one dirty, uncomfortable, and long journey. (Not like driving across country with your kids moaning, “Are we there yet?)
But in an amazing way, God was with them – in the ark of the covenant, in the words of the prophet, and in the pillar of cloud or fire. All are visible signs of a loving, leading God, even if the Israelites didn’t always appreciate it.
Fast forward nearly 1,400 years. A simple carpenter, Joseph, learns his fiancé is pregnant – and the child is not his. He proposes to divorce her quietly. But God has other plans. In a dream, God tells Joseph rather to take Mary as his wife. Furthermore, he is to name the baby Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.
This fulfilled a prophecy first given in Isaiah 7:4 – the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel – God with us. (That is the first of only three times that word appears in the Bible.)
What a miracle of the incarnation – Jesus is God in us! Just as God’s glory filled the tabernacle in the desert, now he resides in each of us personally. He “tabernacled” among us as one of us, then paid the price for our sins on the cross.
Charles Spurgeon says it so eloquently, “But ‘God with us’ is the source of exquisite delight. ‘God with us’—all that ‘God’ means, the Deity, the infinite Jehovah with us,—this, this is worthy of the burst of midnight song, when angels startled the shepherds with their carols, singing ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’”
When have you experienced the presence of Jesus?
How is the presence of God an “exquisite delight” to you?
We can truly receive the give of “God with us” when he comes to live inside us. Have you experienced Jesus living in you? (Talk with one of our pastors if you want to know more.)
There is an old advertising slogan that tells us to: Accept No Substitute. Many companies, selling everything from chocolate to tea, to expensive automobiles, have used this slogan. What is it about this slogan that encourages us to buy products? Is it the desire to have the genuine article and not a cheap knock-off? Is it the prestige or brand recognition that will garner us a better reputation? What areas of your life will you absolutely not choose a substitute for what you consider to be the genuine article? In our house, there is no substitute for Diet Coke or homemade chocolate chip cookies. Israel had seen God demonstrate His love for them repeatedly, yet they chose to worship a golden calf over Yahweh. Why did they choose to settle for a substitute?
God desired for His chosen people to choose to be in a relationship with Yahweh. Israel didn’t need to experiment with new religions because God had revealed Himself and His Word through Moses, his prophet. Once you have the real thing, why go in search of substitutes. Moses promised the people that God would raise up other prophets as the nation needed them. “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites and will put my words in his mouth.” (Deuteronomy 18:18) God desired for His people to know Him and worship Him. He desired relationship. Why did Israel ignore God’s prophets and choose substitutes for their worship?
Prophets were the genuine messengers from God-Accept No Substitute-they were not cheap imitations; they were his representatives. Prophets wrote down the messages for future generations: Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and the 12 men we call “the minor prophets”. These prophets not only rebuked Israel for sin, they encouraged them in holy living and pointed to a coming Messiah. Yahweh remained exactly true to His character. He never wavered in His love and justice toward His people. Yet, the substitutes glittered and gave the Israelites a false sense of security and they desired the imitations over the authentic God.
God sent the ultimate genuine representative of Himself and Jesus was not recognized as the Messiah. Moses not only pointed to a whole line of prophets, he was also announcing the coming of the prophet, Jesus. “For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people…all the prophets who have spoken have foretold of these days…When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.” (Acts 3:22-26) We hold God’s very words in our hands-Accept No Substitute. God has made a substitutionary sacrifice to restore our relationship with Him-Accept No Substitute. Yet, I reach for things on the shelves of my life that I hope will fill the God-shaped void in my life, busyness, the cravings of my heart holler to become substitutes for genuine obedience and relationship with the Abba Father. Why do substitutes try to gain control of your heart? Accept No Substitutes. Once you have the real thing, why go in search of substitutes?
The repeated emphasis on the glory of God in our study of Exodus challenges us to gain a clear understanding of what God’s glory is and how it relates to followers of Jesus today. The term glory, whether in the OT or NT conveys the ideas of splendor, honor, dignity, praise, worship. Together they may give us some small picture of the magnificence and uniqueness of God.
What comes to your mind when you think of the glory of God?
In the Old Testament, the term is used to indicate the presence of the self-existing, self-sustaining, creator God. The Israelites, his chosen people, experienced the vision of God as promised by Aaron. “In the morning you will see the glory of the Lord . . . And as Aaron spoke to the whole community of Israel, they looked out toward the wilderness. There they could see the awesome glory of the Lord in the cloud.” (Exodus 16:7, 10) We can only imagine what that was like, but it certainly was a rather frightening, but affirming and memorable event.
Yahweh was making it known that it was always his purpose to dwell with his people. It was his plan when he brought the first man and woman to live in the Garden of Eden. He commissioned them to superintend his creation, and he walked and talked with them, no doubt a practice he desired to continue forever. Sin brought that initial fellowship to an end, but that didn’t thwart the ultimate plan.
In your imagination, what might it have been like for us today if our first parents hadn’t sinned?
The details for the tabernacle and its furnishings were followed to a “T,” and Exodus 40 records the setting up of this first structure for God to inhabit. And when the work was finished, “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (v. 34). So magnificent and holy was the symbolic presence of God that even Moses could not enter the new house of God (v. 35). But Leviticus 9:23 adds that when Moses and Aaron returned after they were able to enter the tabernacle, “… the glory of the Lord appeared to the whole community.” This riveting picture is to be repeated when the Temple (of which the tabernacle was a model) is built and dedicated (see 1 Kings 8:10-11 and 2 Chronicles 7:1-2).
What do you suppose it was like for God’s chosen people to witness the dedication of the Tabernacle and later the Temple?
What should all of this mean to the people of the church today? The Apostle Peter sums it up for us: “In his kindness, God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus (1 Peter 5:10). And the Apostle Paul adds these words: “He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter on those to whom he shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory (Romans 9:23) and “The wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began (1 Corinthians 2:7).
It might be best summed up in this wonderful statement: “God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:17). Because now, we are that precious dwelling place of God. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples [dwelling places] of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? (1 Corinthians 6:19)
How should the knowledge that God is dwelling in me affect my daily life and witness?
jbd & gmd
It’s life, it’s living, it’s surviving
Birds have nests, bears have dens, horses have barns
Fetuses have wombs, girls have doll houses, boys have tree houses
Campers in tents, college students in dorms, travelers in motels
Caring, protecting, resting—
Hut, apartment, mansion
Bread baking, soup bubbling, drink fizzing
Gathering, nourishing, flourishing
Love making, kindness doing, peace keeping
Family, friends, guests—welcome at the table
Pillar of cloud by day, pillar of fire by night, ark of the covenant
Father of light, Protector of souls, Provider of needs
Tabernacle, holiest of holies, divine manifestation
Glory beyond description, holiness beyond explanation, presence beyond expectation
Nations, tribes, peoples—welcome at the table
Life Application Questions
Common sense, spiritual sense and yes, it is the tradition of our people. Different tasks assigned and accepted, according to differing abilities. The strategy makes good sense. Holiness accentuates our work.
The gifting of God, caused by God, granted by God, placed by God, Potter to the clay, Artisan to the raw materials, this too is the Master’s hand creating wonders. During the events set out in Exodus 36 God is busy with the people. Drafted Tabernacle plans are provided. We stand in wonder as again the Creator creates (Genesis 1:1).
Opening words from Tabernacle construction days: “So Bezalel, Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary are to do the work just as the Lord has commanded” (Exodus 36:1 emphasis added). The sanctuary, the Tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting is not being constructed based on the design of humanity. The design work is directly delivered from Heaven’s court.
Led by Moses, God’s people were to follow God’s construction instructions. This was true for both the participants as well as for donors who brought gifts of construction materials (Exodus 36:3-7).
As you observe that God is the Giver of the skills needed to construct the Tent of Meeting, be sure to check out the entire historical account. Grasping the details can be a challenging but rewarding project.
Finally, if you think matching task to talent is a concept taught throughout Scripture, you are correct. Disciples have a strong and vibrant spiritual heritage documented in both testaments. Check out the theme of matching talents to tasks, in an apostle’s words to the churches (Romans 12:3-8).
Life Application Questions
Does God always call disciples to particular tasks?
Are there tasks, which some might call secular projects, for which you feel God has given you specific talents?