************ Sermon on Exodus 25:15 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on January 7, 2001

Exodus 25:10-22
vs 15
"Keep the Poles in the Rings of the Ark"

Topic: Pilgrims
Date: 1/2001.101
Title: to the Ganges River

According to Hindu beliefs, a bath in the Ganges can wash away the sins of one's present and past lives. If the bath is taken during the Kumbha mela, the largest religious gathering on earth and held once every twelve years, it can bring release from the painful cycle of death and reincarnation. From January 5-30, 2001 it is expected that 45 million pilgrims will be attracted to this month-long holy festival.
In 1977 one farmer had vowed to carry water from the Ganges to a temple some 600 miles away if he were blessed with a son. The son was born and the farmer set out. After each step he put down the water pots and prostrated himself. His pilgrimage took five months.

Topic: Pilgrims
Date: 1/2001.101
Title: Hajj

March 5-6, 2001 is the official date of the Hajj. The Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca which every adult Muslim should perform at least once in his life. Around two million people are expected to make the pilgrimage this year. The Great Pilgrimage must be performed in the twelfth month of the Islamic year. Ten miles from Mecca pilgrims change into a two-piece robe; women are completely veiled. All pilgrims must walk around the Ka`ba shrine seven times, if possible kiss or touch the Black Stone in its wall, and then run seven times between two little hills, Saf and Marwa. Then all go to the plains of `Araf t and Mina and cast stones at cairns there.

Pilgrims to the Ganges. Pilgrims to Mecca. Pilgrims to Jerusalem too. Psalms 120-134, known as the Psalms of Ascent, were used by Jewish pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. In fact, there was a requirement that Israel should "appear before the Lord God" three times a year at the feast of Passover and unleavened bread, at the feast of Weeks, and at the feast of Tents (Ex 23:17; 34:23; Lev 23).

We know that one day father Abraham was called to pilgrimage by God:
(Gen 12:1) The LORD ... said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you."

This evening I want to talk about pilgrimage. In our text, as you shall discover, we hear a constant reminder to Israel that she is to consider herself as always being on pilgrimage.

I The Ark of the Covenant - Sign of Pilgrimage
A In Exodus 25 we hear God giving Moses instructions on how to make a sanctuary. He says,
(Ex 25:9) Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.

As our Scripture reading shows, part of God's instructions concerned the Ark of the Covenant.

Made of acacia ( k sh ) wood, the Ark was rectangular, 3' long and 2' wide and high. Gold plated inside and out, with a gold molding, it was supported by 4 feet, each with a golden ring, into which carrying poles of gold plated acacia ( k sh ) wood were inserted. The cover of the Ark was of pure gold. At its two ends and facing each other were gold cherubim with outstretched wings.

Inside the Ark were placed the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments and Moses' full book of the law as a reminder of God's gracious covenant requirements (Ex 25:16; Deut 10:5; Deut 31:26). Upon Moses' orders, Aaron later put a golden jar of manna in the Ark as a memorial to God's gracious provision (Ex 16:33,34). And later still, Aaron's rod which sprouted buds and almonds at the time of the revolt of Korah and his associates, was also put into the Ark as a sign that rebellion against God is punished (Num 17:10).

B In the last verse of our Scripture reading, God makes a promise to Moses:
(Ex 25:22) ... above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the Testimony, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites.
The glory-cloud in which God revealed Himself to Israel as He led them out of Egypt, would now appear between the wings of the cherubim (cf Lev 1:1; Num 7:89). Therefore, the Ark became a symbol of God's presence with His people, and it also became the chariot, the vehicle, God used to make revelations of His will.

C In our text, we hear the Lord giving what seems like a strange command concerning the Ark of the Covenant:
(Ex 25:15) The poles are to remain in the rings of this ark; they are not to be removed.
What does this mean? Why does God give this instruction?

We know from Numbers 4 that the Ark was to be moved by none but the Levites and they were to carry it on their shoulders, not in a carriage; and even the Levites were forbidden to touch the Ark or any of the other sacred things (Num 4:15). Remember the death of Uzzah? King David was bringing the Ark to Jerusalem on a new cart pulled by oxen. When the oxen stumbled, Uzzah took hold of the Ark to steady it. Scripture says,
(2 Sam 6:7) The Lord's anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God.

Now we know the purpose of the poles: they are to be used by the Levites to carry the ark from place to place. Don't forget, Israel is in the wilderness. She is on pilgrimage from Egypt to the Promised land. God wants the poles to stay in the Ark so it can be moved when Israel moves.

Some 400 years after this King Solomon built the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. The priests placed the Ark in the Holy of Holies. Guess what I discovered this past week? I discovered that the poles remained in the ark even then (1 Kings 8:7-8; 2 Chron 5:8-9). We are told the poles were so long they got in the way of the other furniture. Yet, they had to remain in the ark. Why? Israel was no longer on the move. She was established in the Promised Land. The Holy of Holies was the Ark's final resting place. It would never need to be carried by the priests again. Yet the poles had to remain. Why?

The poles remained because that was the command of God in our text:
(Ex 25:15) The poles are to remain in the rings of this ark; they are not to be removed.
For all time, for ever and ever, regardless of where Israel found herself, regardless of how well established she was, the poles were to remain in the ark. And the reason is simple: for all time, even in the Promised Land, Israel was to know herself as being on pilgrimage.

D In the New Testament we don't have an Ark. Yet, what is true for Israel is also true for us. We are to know ourselves as always being on pilgrimage. In his first letter, Peter writes "To God's elect, strangers in the world ..." (1 Pt 1:1). And a bit further on in the same letter he calls them "aliens and strangers in the world ..." (1 Pt 2:11). In other words, we are to consider ourselves as pilgrims, as pilgrims traveling through this world. Wherever we are, no matter where God has placed us, no matter how well established we are, we are to consider ourselves as being on pilgrimage.

II Meaning of Pilgrimage
(Ex 25:15) The poles are to remain in the rings of this ark; they are not to be removed.
What does this mean for Israel, for us that we are to know ourselves as being on pilgrimage?
Topic: Godliness
Subtopic: Exhortations Concerning
Index: 3081

Columnist Herb Caen wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle: "Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle; when the sun comes up, you'd better be running."

-- Bill Effler, San Mateo, CA.
In the Christian life, it's not enough to wake up. We are called to run, to become more like Christ, to press ahead in godliness. As pilgrims, we are constantly on the move, striving and straining to get somewhere. You see, the Christian life can never be at a stand-still. Churches and individuals must grow and increase in faith, in the grace and knowledge of Christ. There needs to be progress. We must be on pilgrimage.

It is really easy as churches and as individuals to think that we have arrived, that we have achieved all that God has meant for us to achieve, that what we are now is as good as it can get. It is really easy as churches and as individuals to fossilize instead of evangelize, to concentrate on programs instead of people, to live by sight instead of moving forward in faith. It is really easy as churches and individuals to become satisfied with the present. When we are tempted to be this way, we need to hear the Word of the Lord:
(Ex 25:15) The poles are to remain in the rings of this ark; they are not to be removed.
We need to remind ourselves constantly that on this earth we have never arrived, that we don't have it made, that we are on pilgrimage, that we are to be on the move changing, improving, striving for holiness and the perfections of Christ.

(Ex 25:15) The poles are to remain in the rings of this ark; they are not to be removed.
This means, like Abraham, that we are to keep our eyes focused on the future. Even though he made it to the Promised Land, Abraham never thought for a moment that this was it, the fulfillment of God's work and plans. Instead, says Hebrews,
(Heb 11:10) ... he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
Abraham was a pilgrim. He was looking forward to a heavenly land (Heb 11:16), the New Jerusalem (Rev 21).

As pilgrims, we also must look forward to a heavenly land, the New Jerusalem. But this is not easy, is it?! It is hard for us to adopt the pilgrim attitude when we have life so good. When we are young and healthy, in love with a special guy or girl, busy making marriage plans, then it is hard to fill our minds with thoughts of the future. When our children are healthy, our marriage happy, our dairy growing, then it is hard to adopt the pilgrim attitude. When we have money in the bank, a new car in the garage, children and grandchildren with a good start in life, it is hard to fill our minds with visions of the future. When school is going well and we are looking forward to graduation, it is hard to have the pilgrim attitude.

A pilgrim attitude is easy to have if we are desperate, sick, dying, poor, overwhelmed with troubles. The Negro slaves had little in this life and on this earth that was attractive; so many of their songs and thoughts concerned the future. I was talking with someone once who had a broken marriage, a daughter with a rare brain disease, and medical bills that are bigger than one person can ever hope to pay. You know what she said to me? She said, "I can hardly wait for Christ to return."

(Ex 25:15) The poles are to remain in the rings of this ark; they are not to be removed.
God's Word reminds us this evening that our thoughts, our dreams, our hopes, are not to be centered on the present, but on the future. We are pilgrims and we must have the pilgrim attitude.
Topic: Heavenly Home
Index: 1356
Date: 11/1989.24

Fiske planetarium, on the campus of the University of Colorado, needed money, so its director dreamed up a gimmick. He printed brochures that offered 1,000-acre lots on the planet Mars for only $20. The flyer reads: "this land still features pink skies, unlimited rock gardens, and not one but two moons. So peaceful, quiet, and romantic -- even the natives are friendly." The literature promised, "At one-sixth the gravity of Earth, your golf game will improve immensely -- drives will be six times longer. Mars will provide a world of adventure for the entire family." The gag was surprisingly successful. People across the country have sent in their $20 for a deed, for space flight insurance, and for a simulated sample of red Martian soil.
If this story catches your imagination, then think about the ultimate real estate heaven. God has promised it for His pilgrims here on earth. It is a place far better, far more perfect, than any eye has seen, any ear has heard, any mind has imagined (1 Cor 2:9).

(Ex 25:15) The poles are to remain in the rings of this ark; they are not to be removed.
This means we are not of this world. As pilgrims, we are aliens and strangers in the world (1 Pt 1:1; 2:11). We don't belong here. Our home is somewhere else. We are simply passing through. As Paul puts it, "Our citizenship is in heaven" (Phil 3:20).

If that's the case, why do we spend so much time and energy on earthly things? Young children and their parents get caught up in the latest toy craze that sweeps the land; whether it is in-line skates, skate-boards, scooters, or whatever, it is something they absolutely have to have. Teenagers and their parents get caught up in sports; listen to them and watch them and you almost think it is the most or the only important thing in life. Those who are older get caught up in their business, their career, their dairy, their farm, their bank account. All of us get caught up in one form or another of amassing treasure on earth. Remember the words of the Preacher:
(Eccl 5:15) Naked a man comes from his mother's womb, and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand.
As pilgrims, our goal in life ought not to be treasure on earth but treasure in heaven. Jesus says,
(Mt 6:19-20) "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. (20) But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal."
Jesus tells us that if our treasure is on earth, then our reward is on earth. But if we truly live as pilgrims simply passing through, if our treasure is in heaven, then our reward is also in heaven.

(Ex 25:15) The poles are to remain in the rings of this ark; they are not to be removed.
I want to challenge you, congregation, to live as pilgrims. I want to challenge you, like Israel, like Abraham, to realize that your citizenship lies in heaven.

It's not easy to live and work and walk on this earth as pilgrims. But Israel was comforted upon its pilgrim journey with the presence of God. Wherever she went, whatever new undertaking she engaged in, the Ark of the Covenant symbolizing the presence of God led the way. The Ark was there when she crossed the River Jordan. The Ark was there when the walls of Jericho fell. The Ark was there as she wandered the wilderness for 40 years.

We have the same comfort. Wherever God would have us go, whatever He would have us do, we know that He is with us, guiding us and leading us.

So I challenge you again: live as pilgrims. Don't forget the Word of the Lord:
(Ex 25:15) The poles are to remain in the rings of this ark; they are not to be removed.

You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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