Exodus 25-30

25 Feb 2024

Exodus 25-30

Passage Exodus 25-30, Heb 8:5-6, John 10:9, 2 Cor 5:21 - 21, 1 Cor 6:11, Rev 21:23, Matt 26:26, Romans 3:25a

Speaker Ben Tanner

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Passage: Exodus 25-30

We're going to be spending a bit of time looking at a part of the Bible that may be familiar to some of us, maybe less familiar to others, but it's important that, either which way, we spend some time approaching the Lord in prayer as we look at this big section of scripture. So should we pray together, "Father, as we approach Easter again, it can feel very much like we've been here and we've done this, like we know. We kind of know what Easter's about. We kind of know what the cross is about. Father, forgive us, show us more what your Son has done for us. I pray that this morning, by your spirit, you would usher us onto holy ground that we might see and savor your Son Jesus Christ. For I ask it in Jesus' name, amen."

Well, my friends, we are in the book of Exodus and we're looking through a bit of Exodus. That kind of follows on from the Ten Commandments. But following on from that we kind of need to know where we are in the wider book. So God has got a people who were enslaved, got saved those enslaved people out of slavery in a place called Egypt, and he's done so through a bunch of different plagues. He turned the water of the Nile into blood. He brought judgment on each of the different gods of the Egyptians, showing that they are no gods at all. And then he led his people through the Red Sea and he led them through there so that they might meet with him on a mountain. And we saw the start of that at the end of our last series and then last week, as God has what really looks a bit like a marriage service. He talks about what is it going to look like for us to be a people and God together? What will it look like for that holy God to dwell with his people?

And I was chatting to one of my daughters this week and said if you were God and you had needed to tell a people who've been used to life in Egypt and the Egyptian gods who you are and how to relate to you, how would you do it? And she said, oh, that's easy, I'd open the Bible with them. I said, well, that's a great idea. What if the Bible wasn't written? She said, oh, I know I'd read one of the gospels. I was like they've not been written yet either. How does God do it, if you like. How is it that God is going to show them not just how he takes Israel out of Egypt, but how he takes Egypt and Egyptian thinking out of Israel?

And he does say with a building project, a building project that we can see here on the screen in front of us and we're going to look at that building project through the next few minutes. We're looking at five chapters, but don't worry, we'll dip in and out as we go. But this building project is incredible because what he says is we just heard Andy reading is that Moses is to take the realities, the heavenly realities that he meets on the mountain as he meets God face to face and looks there. He's going to take that and he's going to create a model of it here on Earth. And as we come to this building, we come to what one person has described as this they said there is no portion of scripture richer in meaning, more perfect in its teaching of the plan of redemption than this divinely designed building. God himself was the architect. Every detail points to some aspect of the character and work of the person, of his son, jesus Christ, and in its complete form it is probably the most comprehensive, detailed revelation of Jesus, the Son of God, and the plan of salvation in the entire Old Testament.

Wow, we've got a big task today, haven't we?

So we're going to look through this and as we look through it, what we're going to see and this is the reason actually for doing this in Lent, in the run up to Easter is we're going to see aspects of what Jesus did on Easter Friday, and we're going to see them sort of separated out so that we might experience them.

So imagine for a second that there you are, you're an Israelite, maybe an Israelite priest, and you want to come to the place where God dwells. And so, first of all, you look, and right at the center of your camp, right at the heart of your people, there was this complex. It's about the size of three tennis courts, and as you walked around it, you would see this white fence. And the white fence goes literally right the way around the complex and no way in. And yet, strangely bright and white. This is a fine building, but there's no way in, except for one here at the front. This bit of the front is called the gate. So we're going to let the tabernacle show us the way to a holy God by listening to what God has to say about this gate.

For the gates of the court, there shall be a screen, 20 cubits long, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen embroidered with needlework. It shall have four pillars and with them four bases.

So most of it is this white outline. But here we've got a gate and we're told specifically what it's to be made of blue, scarlet and purple yarn. Why is that strange? Well, for a start, they're expensive materials, but more than that, you see, that is the colour scheme of this bit. The bit here where God himself dwells, that bit is blue and scarlet and purple. So why would God make the only way into his building through something that looks like it's come out of the place where God dwells? Why do we think?

I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out and find pasture from John 10, verse 9.

John 10, verse 9. Jesus claims I am the gate If you want to come into the presence of God, jesus says I am the one way. No Israelites would have tried to climb over this fence. They simply wouldn't have done it. It would have been sacrilege.

There is one way in, and that one way looks like it's been taken out of the very presence of God to point forward to one who said I am the way, the truth, the life. As Christians we know this. It might be that you're here today and you're not sure what you believe, but the Bible is really clear. But if you want to encounter God, if you want to get to know God, true, authentic experience of God, the one way is through the gate, through Jesus Christ. That's where we meet with God.

Not through being good people, not through trying really hard, not through lots of experiences, no, through a man, the man Christ Jesus. But as they come in and they come through the gates, the very first thing they come to is this it looks a bit like a barbecue and that's exactly what it was built up on earth mounds. As you'll have seen if you were here last week, it's an altar and this would have been an assault on the senses. On the one hand, you would have had the beautiful aroma of a wood fire that is constantly burning, the smell of barbecued meat, whether that's lamb or beef, or freshly cooking bread. On the other hand, you would have had a terrible smell of blood, of VCs, of sweat. Let's hear from God about the altar.

Build an altar of acacia wood. Three cubits high. It is to be square, five cubits long and five cubits wide. Make a horn at each end of the four corners so that the horns and the altar are of one piece, and overlay the altar with bronze.

Thank you so much. This altar would have been the largest piece of furniture in the whole of the Tabernacle complex. It is massive and it is, as I say, a barbecue. It's made out of acacia wood. Acacia wood was known as the incorruptible wood. It would never rot. And then it has bronze laid over it so that it would withstand the heat. But this altar is the place of sacrifice.

Imagine that you are an Israelite priest and you want to come to God. You've come through the only way in, through the gates, and you're immediately confronted by somebody who is probably covered in blood and entrails, cooking or burning completely an animal before you. This would have been a terrifying sight. But it's showing something. It's showing, as the person comes in, that God treats sin really seriously. It would be really hard actually to be an Israelite priest coming in and think that sin isn't a problem. Oh, it's just a little lie here. Oh, it's just me being a little bit selfish here. It's just me doing things my way rather than his way.

And God shows look, the result of that sin is that if we approach God on our own, that we have no right to come to him. If you like that, that priest would look at the blood and think that should be my blood, because of the ways in which I know that I'm not perfect and I've let people down and I don't need to convince you of that, because you know that as well Because of those things, I have no right to approach a holy God. If I approach God, a holy God, with all my sin, then that should be my blood that is splattered on the ground. I should be the one who is burnt to a crisp there on that altar. Imagine the relief, imagine the relief of the priest as he looks and there he sees oh Yahweh, thank you, you provided an animal, an animal there that has died, that has burnt in my place, an animal whose blood is spilt so that my blood doesn't need to be. Thank you that you have provided a sacrifice for me.

God met him who had no sin to be sinned for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5, 21.

This altar is at the heart of everything that happens in the tabernacle. Fires are lit from it, things are baked on it, lamps are lit by it, incentives burnt from it. At the heart of everything is this sacrifice, and as Christians we know the greater altar that is pushed forward to. It's the sacrifice that Jesus died for us, isn't it? Some people sometimes say, why is it that I keep calling that communion table and not an altar? And the reason is that the altar, for us as Christians, is something that has far more splinters than that does as far as linen, than that does at the altar that we have is a place where Jesus was nailed to a cross, where his blood was poured out, where he was consumed by the wrath of God.

Just as I should be approaching a holy God, there I see my altar, there I see my sacrifice. Let the tabernacle bring you to God by letting the altar show you your sin, the seriousness of it, but also your substitutes, the Jesus who died for you in your place so that you don't have to. And just with the tabernacle, everything connects to the work of the altar. But if we were coming through as a priest, here's our priest. He's come through, he's seen the altar and he then comes round and the next thing he comes to is this basin. This is a basin that would have been full of water, it would have been a place where they might wash, and we're told, actually later on in Exodus, that this basin is made from the mirrors that they took from Egypt. In other words, as if God says if you want to see who you are, look at this basin. Look at this basin, don't look at yourself, look at this basin. Let's hear from God about the basin.

Then the Lord said to Moses make a bronze basin with its bronze stand for washing, place it between the tent of meeting and the altar and put water in it. Aaron and his sons are to wash their hands and feet with water from it. Whenever they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water so that they will not die. Also, when they approach the altar to minister by presenting a food offering to the Lord, they shall wash their hands and feet so that they will not die. This is to be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants, for the generations to come.

Picture the priest, he's been there at the altar. He has seen a sacrifice that has been made. He knows that animal has died in his place. Now he comes to this basin. Why does he come here? He knows that that has been dealt with and yet he still carries a load of guilt. He is acutely aware of what he has done. Perhaps it is weighing on him.

How can I approach a holy God? I'm covered in blood. The first time he would come into the holy place, he would wash himself completely. After that he would just wash his hands and his feet. Why, for a start, what he's doing is he's actually reliving the Exodus every time Blood and water, just like the plagues, blood and then being brought through the waters. But it's more than that. This water is there so that he can see that he has been washed clean. He's been washed clean. Imagine the joy of seeing that filth coming off his hands and his feet. That's important to us because, as Christians, so often we can know that Christ has died on the cross and yet we still carry around that sense of unworthiness.

How can I possibly come to God? How could God possibly want somebody like me, with all my messed upness, and maybe we still even identify ourselves? I am unworthy. I am a liar. I am somebody who is so quick to let other people down. I've read the Ten Commandments (the very base things that I should do) and yet I know that I'm an adulterer of heart. I'm somebody who is a murderer of heart. I'm somebody who doesn't respect my parents. I'm somebody who doesn't love the Lord, my God, with all my heart, my soul, my mind, my strength. I am a failure. How can I possibly come to God?

And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6, 11.

We come to God by the blood and by the water. Yes, reliving the exodus, but we know of other blood and water. Don't we 'Let the water and the blood from thy wounded side which flowed be of sin, double cure, saved from hell and made secure.' You are washed, you are clean. Those things are no longer things the Lord holds against you. And yet we're continually washing our hands and feet again. It's not because we're not already washed. The whole body is clean.

You remember that thing where Jesus washes the feet of his disciples? There wasn't a plan on saying this, but Maudy Thursday and Peter's like hey, if I can't be your mate unless you're washing me, wash my whole body. And Jesus says if you're washed, your whole body is clean. You need only wash your hands and your feet. You are clean. And yet there is an ongoing recognition of sin, an ongoing reminder that we are forgiven. Why do we come each week to say confession and hear again that we're saved? It's like the washing of the hands and the feet. Oh, but there's more. There's so much more.

Yes, we're washed by perfection, but having been washed, they would move on into the tabernacle proper. That's this section here. And as if God just wants to remind us of how it is that we come into this place. This is so cool. On the outside it just looks like sea cow hide. But if we were to take a drone, they didn't have drones back then. But if we were to take a drone and we were to go down into this place, the place where God is, look what happens. We go past the sea cow hide and we find a layer of red. Why, we've already seen it, haven't we? The sacrifice, the altar? We want to go on further and we find a layer of white. Why? Sorry, I'm shaky cam. Why? Because you've been washed clean, you're pure, you're holy. As you dive down deeper, we find a layer with embroidered angels on it. Why? Because it's showing. Look, as we get closer and closer to who God is, we begin to enter into the heavenly places. This is a picture of the heavenly places, the places where God himself dwells. Let's hear about this place from God.

Make a curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen, with cherubim woven into it by a skilled worker. Hang it with gold hooks on four posts of acacia wood overlaid with gold and standing on four silver bases. Hang the curtain from the clasps and place the Ark of the Covenant Law behind the curtain. The curtain will separate the holy place from the most holy place. Put the atonement cover on the Ark of the Covenant Law in the most holy place. Place the table outside the curtain on the north side of the tabernacle and put the lamp stand opposite it on the south side. For the entrance to the tent, make a curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen the work of an embroiderer. Make gold hooks for this curtain and five posts of acacia wood overlaid with gold and cast five bronze bases for them.

So here we are. We're in this section, the section that is the, that's subdivided into the most holy place at this end and we'll come back to look at that in a minute and the holy place which is at this end. The holy place takes up two thirds. Then you've got a perfectly cuboid most holy place. We've just been talking about it and immediately we see that the building materials change. It's that blue, purple, scarlet yarn stuff. Again, we see that this is the expensive stuff, this is the glorious stuff. Why? Because we're in the heavenly place. We see that what was bronze out here, these bronze bits, are now gold in here. Why? Because we're in the dwelling place of God, and yet there's so much more. Because there's three items of furniture in here.

I'm going to just look at two just for the time that we've got. We'll come to the most holy place in a minute, but on the left, as you walk in, you'd see this it's. It looks a bit like a tree. In fact, it's purposefully designed to look like a tree and yet it is a lamp stand. Now, where is it that we've seen trees where God is present in the past? Let your Bible imagination run, because this gets cool, I'm going to put it there. Sacrilege, I know, but I'll put it there for the moment.

We see it at Eden, don't we? Two trees, tree of life, tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and there is God. And what does God say when he's around, that time? He says let there be light. Yeah, that's absolutely right. And here you've got a tree that's giving light in the holy place. This is awesome because it shows us that where God dwells, there is always light. But some of you guys will weigh ahead of me on this, aren't you? Because we know John 1, that God also says the light shined in the darkness and the darkness could not overcome it Is that all Jesus is known, isn't he? As the light of the world, the one who gives light, the one who is always there in light. But I guess, even better than that, because this isn't just true of then, there, but it's true of the future as well, because we will dwell in a place where God is and there will be no darkness anymore.

The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light and the lamp is its lamp. Revelation 21, 23.

The lamp is its lamp. This is the light of the world. We live in a place where there is no darkness at all. We live in a place where there is no spiritual darkness at all, because the Lamb will be present with us Now when he shines His light on our hearts. It can hurt because it exposes our darkness, it exposes our sinfulness, that then we take to the altar and then we wash clean in the blood of Christ. One day we will live in a place where there is no darkness anymore. Don't you long for the day when there is no darkness, there is no depression, there is no stuff on the screens of your TV that makes you weak. We are not celebrating Remembering two years of war in Ukraine.

Another year of war in Ukraine, where we are not wrestling with our own failures and letting people down. We will dwell in a place of light, but very quickly. Sorry, I need to press on because I could geek out on some of this stuff for ages. There is also this table here. I can't put that down there. There is a table there now. This table on the table. You see, there are those two white items there now. They are actually meant to be 12 of them, but at this scale it all kind of shrinks down what is going on there. Those two are known as the showbread.

Each week, 12 loaves would have been made and they would have been taken and they would have been placed on this table in the place where God dwells, like the 12 tribes of Israel. The idea is that in front of God, in the place where God dwells, not only is he at the heart of the community, but the community is at the heart of who he is. Now, remember, this is a copy of a spiritual reality. Moses has gone up, he has seen God on the mountain and he comes down and says let's make a copy of that, an earthly copy where God's people are going to be represented before God. 24, 7, 3, 6, 5,. There is never a time when you are not represented before God. Do you know that? You might be asleep, you might be ill, you might be struggling, you might be in the process of sinning, you might be finding life great, you might be finding life really hard, you might even be asking questions and saying God, where are you? And you are represented before God. You are represented in that holy place where he lives.

But, yes, even cooler than this, because once a week, what would happen is that the priests would come in there and they would take new bread baked on the altar. Of course, everything goes to the altar. They would take new bread and they would take the old bread and they would take some of the wine that was used for drink or for incense. Do you know what they would do? They would eat the bread and drink the wine in the presence of God. You can imagine them thinking how does this work? This is meant to represent us, and here we are kind of eating it. Is it just that God wants to have a meal with us? Yes, Is it more than that? Yes, this is awesome, Because what they didn't realise then was this was foreshadowing a day when there would be another meal and this would happen.

While they were eating, Jesus took bread and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying take and eat, this is my body. Matthew 26, 26.

Friends, when we take communion, we show that we are eating something which represents the very one who represents us before God. The one who stands there representing you 24, 7, 3, 6, 5, there in the Holy Place is somebody who we eat with, who we are united with. I should press on for time, but let me do that quickly. Let's imagine, then, that the priest is there and he is in the Holy Place. He stood up here and he looks forward, and there in front of him is a curtain. This is as far as most priests would go, except for once a year. One priest would go further than this. This curtain has got more angels on it.

You might be thinking why all the angels? What are these angels all about? The angels in the Bible, these particular ones are cherubim, and they protect the very glory of God. That's their job. So in Eden, when Adam and Eve are kicked out of Eden, what does God do? He puts a big cherubim there and he has a flaming sword, and it's a big sort of stay away, keep back, you can't come in. That's what the angels do with the glory of God. They're jealously protecting it. So this would have been like this big keep back sign that they couldn't come in through except for one high priest once a year. At one point, let's hear from God about what they would find behind it.

Make an atonement cover of pure gold two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide, and make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. Make one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other. Make the cherubim of one piece with the cover at the two ends. The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking toward the cover, face the cover on top of the arc and put in the ark the tablets of the covenant law that I will give you. There, above the cover, between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the covenant law, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites".

So here, behind that curtain, with the angels saying, keep back, there was the place where God would meet his people. The ark of the covenant is sometimes called. Inside is the law of God and then above it, there's this flat bit here known as the atonement cover. Over the top of it there are cherubim. Why? Because they're jealously guarding the glory of God. They're stretching out their wings, they're protecting. You can't be here, because this is where God himself is dwelling. And yet they're looking down because they're in shock and awe. Because once a year the high priest would take blood, remember, from the sacrifice on the altar and he would bring it right the way through and he would duck under that curtain and some people say he probably even had somebody tied around his leg just in case he died. Because only once a year would this happen and he would splatter blood on this atonement cover. And this atonement cover covers over the law of God, and because of that blood, god would be able to meet with his people in this very place. What an amazing day that would have been. I'll put that down there for the moment.

One of the books that I very much like. This is designed for kids. It's a story, but it's a story of what it would have been like to have lived in the tabernacle, and it describes two priests and they're sort of stood just outside that place and they say this Zadok's voice spoke and Abiel sensed a sacred divine presence in their midst. These were holy moments. Oh Zadok, what a day it will be when the veil is removed and I and all will be able to see the glory of God in an unprecedented way. Yes, I know, he said. Instead of keep back, it will become to me. Instead of let us draw back, it will say let us draw near. Instead of one priest allowed, it will be all sinners invited. Instead of once a year, it will be 24, 7, 365 days a year.

Zadok's words faded as tears ran down his face. Abiel could hold back his emotions no longer and they both sank to their knees in that holy place, overwhelmed with messianic hope and anticipation, as they both at once prayed Maranatha come Lord. And we know that that day happened, don't we? We know that there was a day when that curtain that divided us off from the place where God was was ripped into. It was Good Friday, but there's more here, because on Good Friday, jesus did more than just rip that curtain so that we can come to God. Listen to what Romans says about that day.

God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood, to be received by faith. Romans 3, 25a.

That word, sacrifice of atonement, is literally the word that is used of the mercy seat or the atonement cover.

In other words when Jesus died.

He is the one who covers over the law. He is the place in which you and me can come and we can dwell. The place that one person, once a year, would be able to go into, that holy of holies, right at the very end, having gone through everything else, is a place where you and I might dwell. In fact, the new creation is described as being very similar to this place, a perfect cube like this place. And the amazing thing is that you and I, we don't just dwell in the perfect cube, we dwell in the very place that God meets his people, because we are united with Christ. Our atonement cover. The place the priests would have dreamt to have gone to once in their life is a place that, spiritually, you and I dwell Because Jesus is our true and better gate, the only one who can bring us into the presence of God. Jesus is our true and better altar and sacrifice, the only one who can take our place and deal with our sin. Jesus is our true and better basin, whose blood cleanses our conscience. Jesus is our true and better showbread, who represents you before the Father at all times and who you are in fellowship with as you take communion. Jesus is our true and better light that gives light to the world. Jesus is our true and better mercy seat, covering over your sin and mine and ushering us into the very presence of God. We are going to sing together about that amazing Jesus, about the work, the finished work, of Christ on the cross.

Charles Wesley wrote these words. We are going to sing some more modern words of it, but let me read the original, because they are great. He said this tis finished. All the debt is paid. Justice divine is satisfied. The grand and full atonement made. God for a guilty world hath died. The veil is rent in Christ alone. The living way to heaven is seen. The middle wall is broken down and all humankind may enter in the types and figures. The shadows are fulfilled. Exact, it is the legal pain. The precious promises are sealed. The spotless lamb of God was slain. Death, hell and sin are now subdued. All grace is now to sin as given. And though I plead the atoning blood, and in thy right I claim thy heaven, in your right I come and I sit with you. There on the atonement cover, a place no priest would have ever dreamed of. Sitting, is the place where, spiritually, you and I live. Let's stand and sing together.