We are at the point in the book of Exodus where the rest of the book is all about the worship of God. Exodus 25-40 is all about the worship of the Lord. Moses is on Mount Sinai. The covenant has been ratified between the people of Israel and the Lord through the blood of the covenant. Moses has gone up the mountain to receive the tablets of stone with the law and the commandment, which God had written for the people’s instruction (24:12).
God Comes Down (24:15-18)
The picture given to us is absolutely staggering. Moses goes up the mountain and the glory of the Lord comes down and settles there. From the perspective of the people on the ground, this cloud that is the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. Moses is allowed to enter the cloud, the glory of the Lord, and he stays on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights. The glory of the Lord has come down to the mountain. The glory of the Lord has come down to the people and Moses is qualified to go up into the cloud on the mountain.
The Freewill Offering (25:1-7)
Next, the Lord tells Moses to take up an offering for him. Verses 3-7 describe the contributions that are acceptable to God. Gold, silver, bronze, blue, purple, crimson yarns, fine linens, and many other things are being collected. I want you to notice the basis of the offering in verse 2. “From all whose hearts prompt them to give you shall receive the offering for me.” Does God command every individual to give whether they want to or not? No. Does God command how much an individual was to give? No. The offering came from every person whose heart moved them to give.
This is a picture of what God has always desired. God always desires a person to give from their heart, not because it is a responsibility or because the person is compelled. God’s hope is that the people will have a heart to give because of what God has done for them. God has extended the blessings of the covenant to the people and now the people are asked to give from their hearts. There is to be within us an overwhelming generosity toward others because of what God has done to save us.
6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:6–8 ESV)
It is a statement that we easily pass over: God loves a cheerful giver. The kind of person God loves is the person who desires to give. The person happily gives. He does not give reluctantly or out of necessary but out of the heart. But why is God asking for this collection? Why does God want these contributions from Israel at this time while they are at Sinai? Look at verse 8.
And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. (Exodus 25:8 ESV)
That I May Dwell In Their Midst (25:8)
This is truly unbelievable! In Exodus 19:4 we learned that God rescued the people of Israel to bring them to himself. God wants a relationship with his people. Now look at how he is going to accomplish having this relationship with the people. God wants a sanctuary made so that he can dwell in the midst of the people. God wants to live with us. God wants to come down and be with them. God does not want to be far away from us. God brings us near, comes to us, and makes a way to live with us. Since the people are not going to stay at Mount Sinai where God’s presence and glory are at, God desires a structure that can go with them on the way to the promised land.
Now I want us to think about this for a minute. God could just say that he is with them. It is not that God needs a building to be housed in. It is not as if God can only be in one place at one time. So what is the grand purpose of this sanctuary? God wants us to see that he is with us. I want Israel to know that I am in their midst. All of the commands that we read about in the rest of the book of Exodus, that we have tendency to skip over or skim because it contains so many details about how to build the tabernacle, are given so that the people can see that God is with them. God so desires to have proximity to us and have a relationship with us that he comes down in his glory and gives directions for a tabernacle so that God’s presence will be with the people and they will see the love of God before their eyes. God is with the people.
In our study of Exodus we have seen that this is God’s picture book for how he was going to save the world. Everything we read about in Exodus is predicting the future for when Christ comes. What we are seeing in Exodus is that God desires to be with his people. So why do we not see a temple or tabernacle for God today since he wants to dwell with his people? If you grew up in the pews at all you might remember that the nation of Israel is going to be disobedient to God. Solomon constructs a temple for the Lord but Solomon sins greatly against the Lord. The subsequent kings also sin against the Lord. The sinning is so constant against the Lord and the rebellion becomes so great that in the book of Ezekiel we see the glory of the Lord leaving the temple. God is not with the people any longer. The temple is destroyed, the city of Jerusalem is destroyed, and the people are taking into exile in Babylon. After 70 years God brings the people back to the land and they construct a temple again. But there is something notable that is missing when the temple is completed. The glory of the Lord does not fill this temple. The people build a temple to the Lord but this situation is not going to work because the people are sinful. The people are going to rebel against God again and God cannot be with darkness and sinfulness. But God wants to be with his people even though we are sinful. So what is God going to do to overcome our sinfulness since we will not obey God so that we can be with him? This question is one of the great tensions that the people are awaiting to see. God promised to be with his people. So what is he going to do? How will God restore his covenant and restore his kingdom so that we can be with him? Listen to what the Gospel of John says about the arrival of Jesus.
Jesus, The Tabernacle of God (John 1:14)
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 ESV)
God became flesh and lived among his people. In fact, the Greek word “dwelt” is the word for “tabernacle.” If we can change the noun into a verb and make up a word, we would read this as God becoming flesh and tabernacling among us. The tabernacle that God is asking for the people of Israel to build in Exodus 25 was a picture of what God was going to do. God wanted to the people to see that God is with them. But the tabernacle was a temporary structure. It was made of fabrics and animal skins. It was not built to last permanently indicating that something greater was coming to replace this structure. Amazingly, what God does is not send another building but he comes himself in the person of Jesus. The glory of the Lord that resided above the ark of the covenant in the Most Holy Place, to which the high priest alone had access once a year, is now walking the streets of Jerusalem and Galilee for all to see. He is truly the portable tabernacle as he walks on the earth. In fact, Isaiah prophesied that this would be the meaning of the arrival of the Christ. Listen to Matthew’s quotation of Isaiah 7.
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). (Matthew 1:23 ESV)
The point of the arrival of Jesus is that God is with us. God has come to live with his people. God has become flesh so that he could live among his people and let them see his glory. In John 15 we see this picture taught even more.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. (John 15:5–6 ESV)
Once again God says that I am living with you and you are living with me. We are joined together in relationship. God comes down and becomes flesh so that he can be with us and we can be with him. Now everyone wants to end the story here because now we have our feel good story. But this is not where the story ends. In Exodus 25 God tells the people to build a tabernacle. While God is giving the instruction for building this sanctuary so that God can be with his people, do you know what the people are doing? Exodus 32 records that while Moses is on the mountain getting these directions so that God can be with them, the people are rebelling against God. They are worshiping an idol, fulfilling their lusts and desires, breaking the covenant God made with them. When God comes in the flesh and lives among the people so that people saw him, do you know what the people were doing? They were conspiring against him so that they could arrest Jesus and crucify him. God comes down to his people and we stubbornly rejected him. We killed him. God with us is not a feel good story but it is a story of our doom. There are a few disciples but everyone wants Jesus dead because he goes around telling people to stop living for themselves and to obey the Lord who loves them, created them, and wants to be with them. Yet God knew this and used the death and resurrection of Jesus as the means for saving the world.
We Are The Temple (1 Corinthians 6:16-7:1)
But the message of God has not changed. The coming of the Lord means that we need to turn away from our sinful desires and obey him. Listen to the apostle Paul as he applies the picture of the sanctuary of God to us.
16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” 1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 6:16–7:1 ESV)
God wants to dwell with you. God wants a relationship with you. We do not need a physical tabernacle because Jesus is the tabernacle and we meet God through Jesus who came to earth for us. Jesus shows us how much God wants to be with us. But this is not a feel good story. There is a call to change your life to be in relationship with God. God says that he will be your God and you can be his people. But you need to come out from the world and be separate. Do not be worldly but cleanse yourself of the defilements that we engage in. Turn away from sinful living. You are called to come as you are but you cannot stay as you are. You come to Lord in your sins to be forgiven. But you cannot return to living your life the way you did before. You belong to the Lord and God is abiding with you. God pictures how glorious this idea is of God being with us will truly be when we are able to enter eternity with him.
Now we can enjoy all that God has promised by having a relationship with him. Exodus 25 shows that God wants to dwell his people. Everything God has done is to show the world that he wants to have a relationship with us. Jesus came and died so that we could be in a relationship with him for eternity. So what will be your response? Will you be like most throughout history, choosing to reject the offer of the Lord to be with him, choosing instead to dwell in your sins? You can choose this but there is eternal punishment for rejecting the Lord’s call. In fact, tonight’s lesson we will explore further what this gospel message means for us. Or you can choose to accept God’s offer to be with him, choosing to turn from your sins and love your God who wants to be with you.