************ Sermon on Exodus 40:34-38 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 14, 2014
"We Have Seen His Glory"
I The Construction of the Tabernacle
A "Have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them" (Ex 25:8). This command to make the tabernacle was given to Moses and Israel. In the last couple of months we have watched as God gave detailed instructions for every aspect of the tabernacle and its furnishings and its priests and its offerings. Remember, worship is so important to God that He leaves no detail to the imagination and ingenuity of man.
B The tabernacle was not built overnight. It was at least a nine month process. It took as long to build the tabernacle as it takes to build an average home in Visalia. Think about this. The tabernacle was a tent. There was no moving of dirt, no soil compression, no foundation or slab or footings, no pouring of cement, no building inspections, no waiting for electricians or plumbers or dry-wallers or painters or roofers. There was no financing issues. Yet, it took nine whole months.
C The entire tabernacle-building process started with a voluntary thank offering. Everyone who was willing and whose heart moved him came and brought an offering to the Lord for the work on the Tent of Meeting, for all its service, and for the sacred garments. Men and women alike brought gold, silver, bronze, fine linen, goat hair, ram skins, acacia wood, gems, spices, and olive oil (Ex 35:20ff).
D The next step was the appointment of workmen. We know the Lord appointed Bezalel and Oholiab as project managers to build the tabernacle and all its furnishings. Filled with the Spirit of God these men were gifted with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts – to make artistic designs, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship (Ex 31:1-11). Furthermore, any women who were willing and had the skill spun blue, purple, or scarlet yarn or fine linen (Ex 35:25-26).
As part of New Testament worship we also want to make voluntary offerings of wealth, time, and talents. Why? Because God still uses the wealth, time, and talents of His people to build His church and His kingdom. God
E Do you know what happened next? After the tabernacle and its furnishings were built, there was a building inspection. The inspector was Mr. Moses. Everything was brought to Moses for inspection:
-the tent and all its furnishings, its clasps, frames, crossbars, posts and bases;
-the covering of ram skins dyed red, the covering of hides of sea cows and the shielding curtain;
-the ark of the Testimony with its poles and the atonement cover;
-the table with all its articles and the bread of the Presence;
-the pure gold lampstand with its row of lamps and all its accessories, and the oil for the light; the gold altar, the anointing oil, the fragrant incense, and the curtain for the entrance to the tent;
-the bronze altar with its bronze grating, its poles and all its utensils;
-the basin with its stand; the curtains of the courtyard with its posts and bases, and the curtain for the entrance to the courtyard;
-the ropes and tent pegs for the courtyard; all the furnishings for the tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting;
-and the woven garments worn for ministering in the sanctuary, both the sacred garments for Aaron the priest and the garments for his sons when serving as priests
(cf Ex 39:33-41)
Moses inspected it all and saw it all had been built just as the Lord had commanded (Ex 39:42).
F Review with me where we are at: God gave Moses the blueprint for building the tabernacle, materials have been donated, the appointed workmen have done their work, Moses has done his inspection. It was time to do the same thing we did after our buildings were completed – it was time for the tabernacle to be dedicated to the glory of God.
What a dedication. Each one of the leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel came forward. The first one to come forward was of the tribe of Judah.
(Num 7:13-17) His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering; (14) one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; (15) one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; (16) one male goat for a sin offering; (17) and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old, to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering.What he did was duplicated by the leaders of the other eleven tribes. So when all was said and done, what was given was:
-twelve silver plates,
-twelve silver sprinkling bowls
-twelve gold dishes
-twelve young bulls
-twelve male lambs
-twelve male goats for the sin offering
-the fellowship offering came to twenty-four oxen, sixty rams, sixty male goats and sixty male lambs a year old
(cf Num 7:84-88)
Everything was finally ready. The tabernacle was completed. The sin of the people was atoned for because fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown (Lev 9:24).
II The Shekinah Glory Cloud
A Listen to what happens next. This brings us to our Bible reading for tonight.
(Ex 40:34-35) Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. (35) Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
The Jewish people have a word for this. The word is "Shekinah." Usually, it is part of a phrase: the Shekinah Glory, or the Shekinah Glory Cloud.
Shekinah means resting-place, to settle, to inhabit, to dwell. The Hebrew word for "tabernacle" uses the same root. The word is not found in Scripture, but it was used by later Jews to describe God’s presence in the tabernacle and temple.
B Imagine you are one of the Israelites during the construction of the tabernacle. You have given gold, silver, bronze. Your wife has spun some of the fine linen. Your kids have scoured the desert for acacia wood. Maybe you are one of the craftsmen commissioned to make one of the pieces of furniture and you watch with pride as your piece is inspected by Moses. You are excited as the tabernacle is put up for the first time. You are there when the tabernacle is dedicated and fire comes down from the Lord to consume the offering.
And then the most important thing of all happens: the Shekinah Glory Cloud fills the tabernacle. This is so important that nothing else counts anymore. Suddenly the gold and silver seem as nothing. Suddenly the blue, purple, and scarlet cloth lose their luster. Suddenly the furnishings don't look so impressive. Suddenly the gifts of dedication pale in comparison. Nothing counts other than the glory cloud. Because the presence of God is the real glory of the tabernacle.
Almost everyone who visits with us makes a remark about the beauty and magnificence of our church's buildings and grounds. Brides to be have come in off the street and ask to use our building for their wedding; they especially love the center aisle and the pipe organ. Delegates to Synod were jealous of all the meeting rooms we have, the beautiful sanctuary, and the large fellowship hall. The Shekinah Glory cloud reminds us none of this means a thing if God is not here. Do you hear what I am saying? The most important thing about our building and grounds is the presence of God!
This reminds me of the story from 50-60 years ago of the church in Washington D.C. attended by the president. One day the telephone rang and an eager voice at the other end asked, "Tell me, do you expect the President to be there Sunday?" "That I cannot promise," the pastor said patiently. "But we do expect God, and that should be incentive enough for a large attendance."
Similarly, the most important thing about the tabernacle was the presence of God in the Shekinah Glory Cloud. It isn't just a tent anymore. It is much more than a tent.
C So, what is this glory cloud?
If we were one of the Israelites with Moses, this is not the first time we have seen the cloud. We first saw it when we left Egypt. By day the Lord went ahead of us in a pillar of cloud to guide us on our way and by night in a pillar for fire to give us light (Ex 13:22). When the Egyptians chased after us it is the cloud that stood between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long (Ex 14:20). We saw the cloud again every time Moses pitched a tent outside the camp; the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the LORD spoke with Moses (Ex 33:9).
The Shekinah Glory Cloud, as I said, represents the presence of God with His people.
D What does it look like? There was a time when Moses asked to see the glory of God. Before showing Himself in all His glory to Moses, God put Moses in a cleft in the rock and showed Moses only His back and not His face because no sinner may see God in all His glory and live (Ex 33:18ff). Yet, even with this limited exposure to the glory of God, Moses' face was radiant – so radiant that Aaron and all the Israelites were afraid to come near him; so radiant that Moses put a veil over his face (Ex 34:29ff).
Telling us what? Telling us God's glory is awesome, brilliant, magnificent, and scary. It is a consuming fire.
III The Glory of God in Christ
A Remember the most important thing we can say about the tabernacle? The most important thing we can say is that it was filled with the glory of God.
At the beginning of his Gospel, John tells us "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us" (Jn 1:14). A better translation: "The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us." In this Christmas season we celebrate that Jesus is God's tabernacle. I repeat, Jesus is God's tabernacle.
Now, what is the most important thing we can say about Jesus as God's tabernacle? The most important thing we can say is what John says: "We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth" (Jn 1:14). Those who looked at the Old Testament tabernacle saw the glory of God. Likewise, those who look at the New Testament tabernacle also see the glory of God.
B We see this glory already on Christmas Day. An angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified (Lk 2:9).
We see this glory at the transfiguration of Christ. A bright cloud enveloped Jesus, Peter, James, and John – it was the Shekinah Glory Cloud – and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased" (Mt 17:5).
We see this glory in the miracles of Christ: a dead Lazarus brought back to life, a blind man given sight, winds and waves commanded to be still.
We see this glory on Easter Sunday when Christ vanquished death and hell and Satan.
We see this glory in John's vision of the Son of Man in heaven. Remember how John puts this?
(Rev 1:12-17) I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, (13) and among the lampstands was someone "like a son of man," dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. (14) His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. (15) His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. (16) In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. (17) When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.Do you see His glory? Do you see how awesome He is?
Let me end by reminding you, again, that Jesus is God's tabernacle. Jesus is filled with God's glory.
So what, you might say? Our response should be the same as that of Israel. The book of Hebrews says it best:
(Heb 12:28-29) ... worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, (29) for our "God is a consuming fire."Our God is a consuming fire. He is the Shekinah Glory Cloud. So worship with reverence and awe. Come before Him with fear and trembling.
Meaning what? Meaning we need to listen to Him in the same way as Moses listened to God. Meaning we need to obey Him. Meaning we need to bow down before Him. Because our God is a consuming fire. Because our God is the Shekinah Glory Cloud.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page