************ Sermon on Exodus 25:1-9 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on December 28, 2014

Exodus 25:1-8

In our study of the tabernacle we have been pointed to three principles over and over again.

First, we need to remember worship is so important to God that He leaves nothing to the imagination and ingenuity of man. It is so important that God spelled out all the details of where and how He was to be worshiped. Therefore, in more than one place we are told God revealed to Moses the pattern, the blueprint, for the tabernacle and all its furnishings (Ex 25:9,40; cf Ex 26).

Second, we need to remember that the tabernacle and its furnishings are but shadows and copies of God's heavenly throne room (Heb 8:5). What are seen and used on earth are not the real thing; they simply points us heavenward to God's sanctuary.

Third, Hebrews 8 & 9 tells us that just about every detail of the tabernacle and its priesthood is fulfilled in Christ.

Having looked at the tabernacle, its furnishings, its offerings, and its construction, it is time to summarize what we have learned about worship.

I The Beauty of Worship
A Notice how our Bible reading starts: The Lord said to Moses, "Tell the Israelites ..." (Ex 25:1). God is speaking. He is speaking to Moses. He is telling Moses the materials to be used in the tabernacle and the clothing of the priests: gold, silver, 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.

God ordered the best of materials to be used in His place of worship. He wants His place of worship to be a place of majesty and grandeur.

B In the very next chapter God commands Israel to "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" (Ex 26:1). Did you catch this? God ordered cherubim worked into the curtains of the tabernacle. God ordered the figures of angels to be worked into the curtains of the tabernacle. So wherever the Israelites looked they saw angel after angel after angel. Wherever the Israelites looked they saw image after image of angels.

In response to the errors of the Roman Catholic Church, the Protestant Reformation removed all artwork from the sanctuary. Even today there are churches that don't allow stained glass windows. But God doesn't say no images. Rather, God says "No images of Me. No idols. Nothing you fall down before and worship." But He doesn't say no images. Other images are permitted and, in the case of the tabernacle, even commanded.

Remember, the tabernacle is a shadow and copy of God's heavenly throne room (Heb 8:5). So what do we see when we are given a glimpse of God's heavenly throne room? John tells us:
(Rev 5:11) Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.
So, like the heavenly throne room, the earthly throne room of God – the Holy of Holies – was encircled with thousands of angels woven into the tabernacle curtains.

In heaven's throne room, the thousands and tens of thousands of angels add to the majesty of what John sees. And on earth, angels likewise speaks of the grandeur and glory and brilliance of God's throne room.

C When it came time to actually make the tabernacle, God commanded the appointment of two men – Bezalel and Oholiab – to be in charge of the construction project. God put His Spirit on these craftsmen of Israel so that in the building of the tabernacle they could make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship (Ex 31:3-6).
A couple of weeks I was visiting with John Van Hofwegen at his wood-working shop. I noticed a few new machines since the last time I was there so I asked him to explain to me what they did and how they worked. With his main cutting machine John puts in the dimensions of the wood he is using and the dimensions of the finished product. Before the saw starts its work a computer figures out the best way to cut the wood so there is little or no waste.
There were no computers and electronic saws in Israel. It was all done by hand. And, notice, God was not satisfied with just a square box or a flat piece of wood. Bezalel and Oholiab were told to make "artistic designs." They were to engage in all kinds of "craftsmanship."

D Put this all together: the best of materials, cherubim, artistic designs and craftsmanship. Telling us what? Telling us God wants beauty in worship. Telling us God commands beauty in worship. Telling us God appreciates beauty.

I need to observe that as image bearers of God, mankind also appreciates beauty. Whether it is the beauty of jewels and precious stones, good music, paintings, or good architecture God has given us a desire for beauty.

I need to also observe that God is the final standard of beauty. So, we do not glorify what God forbids. Nor do we call beautiful what God considers to be ugly and sinful. In the church office is a plaque with one of my favorite verses. The plaque quotes from Philippians 4:8 and lays down God's standard for beauty:
(Phil 4:8) Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.
It is this kind of beauty that God wants in our worship.

E Today, many Protestant churches show little concern for beauty. Instead, their focus is on worship as entertainment. The persistent idea today is that worship ought to razzle, dazzle, and distract us.

In response to this, others churches focus purely on what is true in worship. Their emphasis is on right doctrine.

God, however, wants the good, the true, and the beautiful in worship. I repeat: God wants beauty in worship; He commanded beautiful things in the construction of the tabernacle. We don't build tabernacles today, but it does not follow from this that the Lord cares little for beauty in our worship. Don't forget, God Himself never changes:
(Mal 3:6) "I the LORD do not change."

(Heb 13:8) Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
God never changes so we should always seek to reflect His desire for beauty in our worship.

In 2015 we are celebrating our 25th anniversary as a congregation. One of the things the Lord has blessed us with is this beautiful building. We have brides asking to use our building for weddings because they want to be married in the beauty and majesty of this setting. Those who planned and built this building were reflecting God's desire for beauty in worship.

II The Sound of Worship
A Over the past few decades, the so-called "worship wars" have been fought within churches and entire denominations. Most of the focus of these wars has been over the kind of music that is appropriate for worship: contemporary versus traditional, hymns versus psalms. So, what does the Bible have to say about the best music for Christian worship?

Continuing today's theme of beauty in worship, let us begin by saying the music of the church ought to be beautiful. It ought to stir the soul. It should send our thoughts and minds and hearts heavenward, to the very throne of God.

This is a good singing congregation – we not only sound nice together but you can tell it is heart-felt. My soul is stirred when I hear the congregation sing Sunday after Sunday. My soul is stirred at special occasions like our candle light service when the walls and ceiling seem to get in the way of our singing. My soul is stirred when I listen to a good piece of music before the service or during the offering. My soul is stirred when I listen to the choir sing a moving number. That is what God wants – beauty in music.

B We have an example of such beautiful music right after Israel safely crossed the Red Sea on dry ground while Pharaoh's horses, chariots, and horseman drowned in the sea. The Bible tells us Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD:
(Ex 15:1-2) "I will sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea. (2) The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him."
We have sung this song more than once ourselves. The focus of the song is God. The focus of the song is God and His salvation. The song praises God. This song was sung from the heart. This song was sung with exuberance. This song was sung joyfully. This song is an example of beautiful music.

What happened when Moses and Israel finished singing the Song of the Sea? Then Miriam sang the refrain to them (the first mentioned soloist in the Bible). And she had a tambourine in her hand. And she led the women in dancing. It was heartfelt. It was exuberant. It was about God and His salvation. It was beautiful.

This song is so beautiful that it is sung not only on earth but also in heaven. Did you know that? Listen to what we read in Revelation 15:
(Rev 15:2-4) And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God (3) and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: "Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. (4) Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed."
Did you hear that? The victorious saints in heaven sing "the song of Moses." But now it has been renamed "the song of the Lamb" because it is especially Jesus and His salvation that we praise in our music.

C One can hardly talk about music in worship without turning to Psalm 150. I invite the congregation to turn there and let's read this Psalm responsively:
(Ps 150) Praise the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. (2) Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. (3) Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, (4) praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, (5) praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. (6) Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.

It isn't a long psalm but it sure is a powerful one. First, there is a call to praise the Lord. Second, there is the cause for praise – His acts of power and greatness. And third, of special interest to us this evening, there is the method of praise: trumpet, harp, lyre, tambourine, dancing, strings, flute, cymbals.

We see in Psalm 150 that it is appropriate to praise the Lord with every instrument that has ever been invented. Even those instruments not mentioned specifically by the psalmist are only types of those that are mentioned. God does not forbid any particular instrument in His worship. But whatever instrument it is, the music is to be beautiful, directed towards God and His glory.

D Of course, it isn't only the music that concerns God. The words, the lyrics, must also be beautiful. They must be true to Scripture. I have noticed over the years that songs help to form our theology, for it is the words that we sing that we most easily remember years into the future. We learn doctrine as we sing. So beautiful songs must have words that reflect biblical theology.

We appreciate beauty in all the world around us: whether it is the majesty of a sunset or the gleaming of snow-covered mountains. We all are taken with the beauty of a bride on her wedding day or the beauty of a brand new baby. Most ladies enjoy the beauty of diamonds and other precious jewels. Parents pay for piano lessons, band instruments, and ballet lessons because they know there is beauty in music, paintings, and other fine arts. All this beauty comes from God Who has made everything beautiful in its time (Eccl 3:11).

In our worship we appreciate the good and the true. Let me end by encouraging you to also appreciate beauty in worship.

Say positive things about how nicely this sanctuary and building is decorated for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Compliment the custodian and building committee for maintaining this campus.

Go out of your way to thank the musicians who contribute to our worship. Appreciate the beauty of good music and the variety of instruments: choir, guitars, organ, piano, trumpets, keyboard, flutes, soloists.

But above all appreciate the divine beauty of the triune God: the Father Who made us, the Son Who saves us, and the Spirit Who sanctifies us. He, after all, is the standard for beauty.
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