I am on vacation until August 5th. While away, I have posted some notes on a series I did on the overview of the Old Testament….
We have Genesis ending with Joseph and Israel in Egypt. Exodus continues the story.
Exodus is a more difficult book to both read and understand. Chps 1-20 are easy enough as they continue the story of this family, nation of God. But chps 21-24, 25-31 and 35-40 are filled with the detailed instructions about the Tabernacle and it’s furnishings and then it’s construction.
All this can appear irrelevant and somewhat repetitive unless you keep them in the context of the big picture of the Pentateuch.
Exodus gives us three defining moments of Israel’s existence as a people in relationship to God: (1) and most obviously, the miraculous deliverance by God of his people from Slavery, (2) the return of the presence of God as distinguishing his people from all other people on the earth and (3) the gift of the law as the means of establishing his covenant with them. Let’s look at each of these.
1. The exodus itself. Notice that Moses and the event we call the exodus from Egypt are inseparable. The story of the exodus is Moses story and vice versa. Israel’s desperately hopeless situation is overcome by God’s intervention on their behalf. At this point Yahweh was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – now he becomes the God of Israel. He is no tribal, local diety – he shows himself to the LORD – defeating each of the Egyptian gods through the plagues and ultimately over Pharoah himself. Exodus 4:22-23 is key: You must say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Israel is my son, my firstborn,7 and I said to you, ‘Let my son go that he may serve me,’ but since you have refused to let him go, I will surely kill your son, your firstborn! God here formally adopts Israel as his firs born son!
2. The return of the divine presence. The divine presence of God was lost as the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. God has appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but he did not ‘dwell’ with them as he had dwelt with Adam and Eve in the Garden. The restoration of God’s divine presence is a central feature of Exodus. It begins with the call of Moses and is seen most clearly in the building of the tabernacle – a tabernacle which was constructed under God’s specific guidance. Now God would once again dwell with his people. The final act of Exodus is the covering of the tabernacle with God’s glory – his shekinah glory: Listen to the last 4 verses of Exodus: Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. But when the cloud was lifted up from the tabernacle, the Israelites would set out on all their journeys; but if the cloud was not lifted up, then they would not journey further until the day it was lifted up. For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, but fire would be on it at night, in plain view of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys. Why does Exodus end like this? This new nation – Israel – God’s adopted first born is now ready for their journey towards the promised land!
3. The giving of the law, with the ten commandments as it’s centerpiece in chp 20 is the third defining moment. The laws focus on two things – Israel’s relationship with God and Israel’s relationship with each other. This sets the stage for the further elaboration of the law in the rest of the Pentateuch.
With these three defining moments we begin to see God fulfilling his promises to Abraham.
Regarding the tabernacle, we must have a basic understanding of what is going on.
The details of the tabernacle are considered SO important that they are spelled out twice. This is always a pattern in scripture – if something is said twice, take very close notice of it!
The tabernacle was divided into two sections – the holy place and the most holy place (holy of holies).
The holy place symbolized the earth – the physical universe. The most holy place symbolizes heaven. A curtain hung between the two sections as a dividing barrier, and this is one of the most eloquent expressions of the severity of sin in the whole Bible. The curtain physically separated the Most Holy place representing heaven from the rest of the tabernacle, representing the earth.
Woven into the curtain were cheribum , the very angels whom God placed outside of the Garden of Eden with flashing swords to keep sinners out (Gen 3:23). There can be no entry into the holy of holies without meeting the fiery swords of the cheribum – fire representing the boundary between heaven and earth. The curtain declared that the cost of entry into the Most Holy place was death.
Also notice that the holy of holies is a perfect cube. Look at Rev 21:16 And the city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal.
These are the only two cubes in the whole Bible.
The furniture is also very significant – briefly we have the ark – the throne which represents God’s throne and it resides in the Holy of Holies – heaven. On top of the ark sat the atonement cover (Ex 25:17) – the mercy seat. In Ex 25:22 God says that it is there – on the mercy seat between the two cheribum that he will meet humanity. This all represents the impossible possibility: the acceptance of sinners into the throne room of God. The mercy seat absorbs the judgment of God – c/f Romans 3:25.
The table of presence – Ex 25:30 – displayed the ‘bread of the presence’ all the time. 12 loaves of bread were constantly kept on this table. Jesus talks of himself as the bread of life – the bread from heaven – this represents the second person of the trinity – Ex 33:14-15 – the one who is present in the earth.
The lampstand was inside the holy place – it was the only light and so it represented the light that shines in the darkness. The lampstand also represents the Holy Spirit. Zech 4;1-6: The angel who was speaking with me then returned and roused me as one awakened out of sleep. 2 He asked me, “What do you see?”
I replied, “I see a solid gold lampstand there with a bowl on its top. It has seven lamps on it and seven channels for each ofa the lamps on its top. 3 There are also two olive trees beside it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.”
Zech. 4:4 Then I asked the angel who was speaking with me, “What are these, my lord?”
Zech. 4:5 “Don’t you know what they are?” replied the angel who was speaking with me.
I said, “No, my lord.”
Zech. 4:6 So he answered me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by strength or by might, but by My Spirit,’a says the LORD of •Hosts.
So far, with these three pieces of furniture we have, symbolically, the life and work of the Trinitarian God. The tabernacle is founded on God desire for sinful humanity to be in fellowship with all three divine persons.
The golden altar of incense stood just before the cheribum / curtain to the holy of holies. Morning and evening the priest would burn incense on it. Rev 5:8 tells us what the incense represents – the prayers of the people of God – Ps 141:2 has David saying that his prayers might be as incense to the Lord. The freshly burning incense represented God’s people coming before the Lord.
The overall theme of Exodus is redemption – how God delivered the Israelites and made them his special people. And as we will see later, through the law God is showing his people that all of life relates to God. Nothing is outside his jurisdiction!
God then provides his people with the understanding of how to be in a relationship with Him and with each other – the law. He told then the why and the how of worship. And in the midst of this, through the tabernacle, he dwells with people on the earth.
Like the Israelites who left Egypt, all of us, all Christians are redeemed and consecrated to God, through Christ. The sacrifices which the Israelites are told to offer were, as we saw in this mornings sermon, not meant to be just outward acts of obedience, but a reflection of the inward love they had for God because they knew God was devoted and committed to them. We no longer offer animals as sacrifices – every animal sacrificed by the people of Israel was an illustration of what would happen to Jesus. But there is a sacrifice we as Christians must offer – Romans 12:1-2 – Offer your BODIES as a living sacrifice to the Lord. For us the curtain is removed – we have access to the heavenly throne room of God – Heb. 4:16 Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time.