Text: Exodus 25:1-9 | Guest Speaker: Brent Bouton

We do not have the sermon audio file for upload this week and apologize for the inconvenience. We are looking into the matter and thank you for your understanding and patience. Below is the sermon manuscript that the guest speaker, Brent Bouton, gladly shared.

This past Wednesday I spoke to a young man who was part of a Christian Fellowship of a local University.

He said to me, “I don’t think I have the Holy Spirit. How do I know if I have the Holy Spirit?”

What he was effectively saying was, “I don’t feel close to God. What’s the evidence that God dwells within me?”

I think his question was so relevant. He was putting words to the experience that so many Christians feel.

Don’t raise your hands, but how many of you feel close to God, satisfied, or are growing in satisfaction about your time of meditating on God’s Word and prayer?

We believe in our heads passages like Psalm 1:
“Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the Lord…He is like a tree planted by streams of water.”

But we so often don’t have this experience.

What’s strange about this struggle is that many of us don’t go and talk to God about this struggle.

We just keep grinding away feeling guilty about our time of Bible reflection and prayer.

The text for this morning will address this issue.

We’ll be looking at the first 9 verses of Exodus 25 this morning, which deal with God’s commissioning of Moses to collect contributions of specific items to build the tabernacle.

This is the kind of passage that is easy to skim over.

How do we read a section of Scripture that contains a list of precious metals, fabrics, oils and wood and walk away encouraged to be an ambassador of Jesus?

I settled on this text after teaching on Exodus in Sunday school a few weeks ago.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the challenge so many of us have with enjoying the Bible.

I think that the struggle to enjoy and find pleasure in reading Scripture comes down to 2 things. It’s easy to be bored with the Bible when we:
don’t understand it, then it doesn’t feel relevant
and the other problem – which is the bigger of the two – is that we don’t long to know about God because we don’t love him enough.

Alex Motyer said,
“Psalmists knew far less about God than we do, yet they loved him a great deal more.”

Believers today know that God’s Son died for our sins.

We have the New Testament. We should benefit from God’s word so much more than God’s people in the Old Testament.

Yet, we are often too content to know things ABOUT God, but not know God himself.

Motyer was a great pastor and Old Testament scholar who lived to be 91 years old and so he’d watched the church over many decades and a criticism he had of the current church was that we’ve lost the “voice” of the Old Testament.

What he meant by this was that we don’t understand so much of what is actually going on in the Old Testament and so we can’t hear from God.

One of the most helpful aspects of understanding of the Bible is the discovery that it is one unified book with one epic hero, Jesus Christ.

Everything in the Old Testament points forward to the promised offspring of Eve, Abraham and David who will redeem God’s people.

And everything in the New Testament looks at the life, death and resurrection of Jesus as the fulfillment of this promise.

We haven’t been preaching through Exodus and we’ll be jumping in at chapter 25 so in order to get the most from this text I’m going to give you a brief overview of human history up to this point and this will help us see how Israel arrived at where they’re at.

This is going to be a longer introduction than usual, but it will pay off once we get to our text.

So, in the beginning God created a people for himself, Adam and Eve.

And there was trust and closeness in their relationships with God, but this broke when they sinned.

They were forced out of the garden of Eden where two angels with flaming swords barred the entrance to the tree of life and the place where God dwelled.

God put distance between himself and humanity.

But in Genesis 3, right after Adam and Eve sinned, God also promised to fix what they had broken.

He promised that Eve’s offspring would crush the head of the serpent the one who had tempted Adam and Eve to sin

Then we read through dark periods of human history where things got so bad at one point that God flooded the earth and started over with Noah’s family.

But at the end of Genesis hope is reignited through a promise that God makes to Abraham.

What was this promise?

God promised to bless his offspring.

God was pursuing his people. He longed to bless them

We see God’s grace unfold as Abraham has Isaac, who has Jacob who has 12 sons one of which is Joseph who is sold into slavery by his brothers and shipped off to Egypt.

Then about 400 hundred years go by and Scripture tells us that the Pharaoh forgot about Joseph and the Israelites were now slaves.

So this brings us to the book of Exodus.

Can anybody tell me what occurs in Exodus?

God’s miraculous rescue of the people of Israel from Egypt who he brings to Mount Sinai (chaps. 1–19)
God is freeing his people from BAD servitude to Good servitude

The second part describes his covenant with them, made as Israel while they encamped at Mount Sinai (chaps. 20–40).
Here God teaches them how to serve him

We see that God didn’t give Israel 10 commandments and then say if you are obedient then I will save you.

He saved them…by grace…and then he teaches them how to serve him.

What adds to the beauty of God’s grace is that God’s loving affection and desire for closeness is driving all these events.

Which will be seen in our passage…

Exodus is an account of God’s PURSUING LOVE for his people.

Sin separated humanity from God but Exodus let’s us know that he didn’t stop wanting to dwell with his people.

God doesn’t respond like a scorned lover.

He’s ready to forgive.

He longs to be close to his people.

But there’s a problem.

Sin made humanity unholy

And a holy God can’t come too close to an unholy people.

Let me show you this from Exodus 33:
God says “Say to the people of Israel, “You area a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go among you, I would consume you.”

This is the same chapter where Moses asked to see God’s glory and God said nobody can see him and live.

So God hides him in the cleft of rock and covers him with his hand and lets him see his back.

The 3 things I want us to see in the text today are:
God is holy
We deserve to be separated from God, we deserve hell
Yet God loves us anyway even though loving us comes at great personal cost to him.

Pray with me…

Exodus 25:1-9
1 The Lord said to Moses,
2 Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me.
3 And this is the contribution that you shall receive from them: gold, silver, and bronze,
4 blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, goats’ hair,
5 tanned rams skins, goatskins, acacia wood,
6 oil for lamps, spices for anointing oil and for the fragrant incense,
7 onyx stones, and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breast piece.
8 And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.
9 Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.”

Right in the first verse we get a hint of the separation problem I’ve been talking about.

25:1 reads, “The Lord said to Moses,”

Moses was God’s representative to his people.

But people hadn’t always required a representative.

When God created Adam he spoke directly to him.
In Gen. 2:16 God says, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but not the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

God had spoken directly to people before the Fall, but this stopped.

Now God is speaking again, except this time he uses a mediator, Moses.

God is only giving people partial access to his presence.

His people can only be somewhat close to him.

Here are some examples:
Exodus 3:5 “ ‘Do not come any closer,’ God said to Moses. ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground’ ”

Exodus 19:12 “Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not go up the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death’ ”

And the tabernacle itself would consist of multiple courts with a number of barriers and curtains that distanced people from God.

So Exodus presents not so much the returning PRESENCE of God but the LIMITED PRESENCE of God.

So why is God limiting Israel’s access to his presence?

Because he loves them.

If they got too close they’d be consumed.

One year my parents took us on a holiday to New York. We drove up to see Niagara Falls and the good people of Niagara had placed metal railing for us to stand behind as we looked at this giant waterfall.

Do you know how much water falls from Niagara every second?

3 tons!

For the Israelites, getting close to God would be like a mosquito flying through Niagara falls.

So God graciously puts up barriers.

But inside the tabernacle God was making something beautiful.

The items listed in Verses 3-7 were used to create a heaven-like environment

These items were symbols of HOPE pointing to the fact that God continued to want to dwell with his people

The people are told to collect items like gold and onyx…items that were listed in Gen. 2 as being present in Eden.

Do you remember how I said there were 2 cherubim guarding the entrance to Eden where God’s presence was?

There were also 2 cherubim next to the Mercy Seat which represented the place where God dwelled in the Holy of Holies

Hebrews 8:5 tells us that the tabernacle “served as a copy and shadow of the heavenly things”

It was alike a glimpse of Eden, a portable heaven that the Israelites could fold up and take with them on their journey to the promised land.

The tabernacle also provided reminders of God’s FAITHFULNESS

For example, the arc of the covenant would house the ten commandments, the staff of Aaron that budded and a pot of manna

So the tabernacle gave Israel
1) limited access to God due to the people’s history of sin, and
2) reminders of God’s faithfulness

The tabernacle also served as an ongoing symbol of Israel’s UNFAITHFULNESS

It served as a reminder not only of who God was, but of who God’s people were.

It was a place where animals were regularly slaughtered and sacrificed because the people were sinners.

We can read about animal sacrifices now and miss just how terrible killing an animal is

Has anyone in here ever killed an animal?

A few years ago we were watching Brooke’s parent’s dog and it was in the backyard. Possum in her mouth… (Here Brent recounted how he had to finish off the dying possum in order to end its suffering).

It felt this strong sense of what I was about to do as being unnatural. This wasn’t the way things were supposed to be.

The point was that people are sinners.

So the tabernacle was a point of tension.

It was a place where an unholy people could come closer to the holy God.

But not too close

There is more symbolism that we could unpack here, but I’m going to jump to just two things about the last two verses.

I’ll read the verses again:

8 And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.

9 Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.”

I’m going to talk about verse 9 first.

The people were commanded to build this tabernacle EXACTLY as God commanded.

The point here is, God is NOT to be worshipped any way we like.

Brothers and sisters this is why we must long to read the Bible.

Why we must long to KNOW God.

The Bible is where God lets us know him.

The one who lovingly and graciously pursues us.

Here is how the psalmists thought and felt about God:
He is our refuge and strength, our very present help in trouble (Ps 46)
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for God, for the living God (Ps 42)

This is what Alec Motyer meant by the psalmists loving God more.

They didn’t just know some facts about God…
They knew God

Psalm 119 gives a prayer of one of psalmists:
It reads, “Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. I am a sojourner on earth; hide not your commandments from me.”
And a few verses later:
“Incline my heart to your testimonies…turn my eyes from looking at worthless things.”

This psalmist weren’t content to walk away from Scripture struggling to find relevance.

They fought to know God.

And Verse 8 gives us one of many reasons that we should worship God and this verse will take us to Jesus.

I think it’s the most powerful verse in Exodus.
And it’s a verse intended to stir our affection for God.

God says, “Let them make a sanctuary that I may dwell in their midst.”

God wanted to dwell among his people

But there was a problem.

He could not be completely close to them.

Some of the fabric described in verse 4 was used to make a curtain that hung in front of the Holy of Holies.

God wanted to forgive his people, but animal sacrifices weren’t sufficient.

The curtain remained because sin remained

God could have allowed his people to suffer the punishment for sin, which would mean we would be eternally separated from God.

This is what we deserve.

But instead he sent Jesus Christ.

His Son.

The Promised One.

The TRUE Mediator

The great high priest who offered himself as the sacrifice

Jesus lived a life of perfect, loving obedience to God

He took the punishment for the sin of everyone who would place their faith in him

His perfect life qualified him to be the perfect sacrifice.

And as Jesus died on the cross he yielded up his Spirit and at that point Matt. 27 tells us

”the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.”

For those who place their faith in Jesus the writer of Hebrews tells us that we have restored relationship with God.

Hebrews 10:19-20 reads

“we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh…”

The temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom because Jesus’ flesh was torn apart for us.

Just as Israel could not free themselves from bondage to Egypt and needed a mediator sent by God to save them

God has done for us by the death of his Son what we could not do for ourselves

He has freed us from the bondage of sin so that we could dwell with him in Heaven…THE promised land

We need to know God’s word!

People foolishly talk about the idea of the God of the OT being wrathful and the God of the NT being loving.

It’s rubbish.

God has always been loving and he punished sin even more horrifically in the NT because he punished someone who was completely innocent.

His wrath fell on someone who perfectly loved and obeyed him.

…his very own Son.

This is our God!

God help us to know you and love you!

If you’ve not yet placed your faith in Jesus please know that he wants you to be one of his people.

Pray with me…