Group’s Director Mark Heger kicked off our Advent series this week in a radical way - through the picture of the tabernacle. Exodus 40:16-33. To listen to the sermon, click HERE.
Hello everyone, how are you doing this morning? My name is Mark Heger and I am the Groups Director here at Normandy, and for the next couple of weeks I have the pleasure of walking us through the Advent season as we approach Christmas. So get ready, get set, cause the holidays are about to go down here at Normandy Community Church! We are going to deck the halls, ring silver bells, dash through the snow and run over Grandma with a reindeer. You guys smell what I’m stepping in? Any Christmas fans out there? Great.
Well this advent season, we are going to do something a little different than you might be used to. For the last several months, we have been walking through the Book of Ephesians, and last week Jerry did a fantasic job of summarizing what we’ve talked about thus far in Chapters 1 and 2. And for the last two weeks while wrapping up Chapter 2, Jerry talked about the temple and how Christ came to establish a new beginning with a new temple both within His own body, and in the body of the church. And so I thought, being an Old Testament fan myself, this year we would stay with the temple and study Advent through the lens of Old Testament tabernacle. A little unorthodox, I know…and I know that some of you are thinking, “What does the tabernacle have to do with Christmas and Jesus?” And it’s a valid question, but I believe that as we study this together, you will begin to see how the tabernacle and the coming of Jesus intertwine in a beautiful picture of redemption. Because in the end what we are going to see is that just as God had Moses build the tabernacle as a way to save the people from their own sin for the purpose of being in relationship with them, God also sent his Son into the world to save the world through Him for the purpose of redeeming His relationship with His greatest creation. We will watch the redemptive history play out all the way from Genesis and Exodus to the life of Jesus and even into Revelation! It’s going to be awesome. But before we jump in, lets take a second to pray and ask God to speak to us, and prepare our hearts and minds for today.
So for those that may not know, the word Advent simply means “the coming”…the anticipation of Christ coming to earth. Advent is the season of excitement for God drawing near to His people. But if you think about it, in order to draw near…in order to come close…that means that there must have been distance in between God and His people. And there was. Most of you are familiar with the story of Genesis and the garden of Eden. God creates everything, everything is perfect, God creates Adam and Eve, everything is even more perfect! But that only lasts for two Chapters before we blow-it…Adam and Eve eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and as a punishment God casts them both out of the garden. You don’t have to turn there, but you can see in Genesis Chapter 3:23-24:
“So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.”
So Adam and Eve got banished from the Garden, and they no longer got to walk in direct relationship with God. They not only lost the Garden, they lost the intimacy of the presence of God when they got pushed into desert to live their own lives. But even though they are outside the direct presence of God, in the desert we see God is continuing to move toward and chase after his people. And in the book of Exodus we see God begin to give specific instructions to Moses so that He can set up residence among them. He tells them “I am coming back near to you…I want to restore my presence with my people.” And he does this through the tabernacle.
So today we are going to spend our time doing 3 things:
overview of tabernacle
look at one component of the tabernacle
how does that relate to christmas
So to begin diving in, let’s turn to the last Chapter in Exodus…Chapter 40. And while you’re turning there, I’m sure many of you are familiar with stories from the book of Exodus…because Exodus is a VERY exciiting book…it’s got big miracles, crazy stories of plagues, people getting set free from slavery, and all sorts of wild stuff that happens in the desert. But chances are, most of you probably started giving up on Exodus around Chaper 21 when God starts talking abot Laws and Rules, and measurements in cubits. Right? That stuff just doesn’t hold our attention as well as battles, and miracles, and burning bushes. But when you realize that of the 40 Chapters in Exodus, 15 of them are all about the tabernacle, you begin to understand the importance of tabernacle and the extreme significance that it played in God’s story. So after all these instructions that God gives to Moses about how to build the tabernacle, what to put in it, and who will be able to enter it, we see Moses begin to set stuff up in Chapter 40. Follow along with me starting in verse 16, and I want to you notice the repetition that happens.
“Moses did everything just as the Lord commanded him. So the tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month in the second year. When Moses set up the tabernacle, he put the bases in place, erected the frames, inserted the crossbars and set up the posts. Then he spread the tent over the tabernacle and put the covering over the tent, as the Lord commanded him.
He took the tablets of the covenant law and placed them in the ark, attached the poles to the ark and put the atonement cover over it. Then he brought the ark into the tabernacle and hung the shielding curtain and shielded the ark of the covenant law, as the Lord commanded him.
Moses placed the table in the tent of meeting on the north side of the tabernacle outside the curtain and set out the bread on it before the Lord, as the Lord commanded him.
He placed the lampstand in the tent of meeting opposite the table on the south side of the tabernacle and set up the lamps before the Lord, as the Lord commanded him.
Moses placed the gold altar in the tent of meeting in front of the curtain and burned fragrant incense on it, as the Lord commanded him.
Then he put up the curtain at the entrance to the tabernacle. He set the altar of burnt offering near the entrance to the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, and offered on it burnt offerings and grain offerings, as the Lord commanded him.
He placed the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar and put water in it for washing, and Moses and Aaron and his sons used it to wash their hands and feet. They washed whenever they entered the tent of meeting or approached the altar, as the Lord commanded Moses. Then Moses set up the courtyard around the tabernacle and altar and put up the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard. And so Moses finished the work.”
Surely y’all caught that, right? The phrase “as the Lord Commanded him” 7-8 times the phrase is repeated. Moses is doing exactly what the Lord commanded, and as it turns out, God commanded that things be done in a very specific way. You might notice that Moses is constructing the tabernacle from the inside out…from the most holy to the least holy. And to help illustrate this point I have included a picture of the tabernacle to help us understand what is going on.
Gold box (ark of cov) - tablets of law are inside
Curtains with cherebim
Alter, lampstand, bread
Table of offering
Curtain at the entrance
This is symbolic of a reversal of the garden of Eden. And let me tell you what I mean by that. Remember the Garden, where everything was holy? Adam and Eve had unfiltered access to God…to His holy presence. But they were kicked out of God’s presence when they sinned. But here’s the amazing thing about the tabernacle…that now, in the middle of the desert, God is begining to foreshadow the Advent season by coming near to His people. His presence is coming back to them…even though they were a disobedient and sinful and obstinate, God is choosing to come near to them and dwell among them. They lived in tents in the middle of the desert, so God says “I am going to dwell among you…I am going to have you build me a tent…and I am going to come near to my people once again. So don’t worry about your brokenness or your shame or your imperfections, because desite all that, I am coming near to you…I am going to bring my presence to you.” You guys follow me? But the presence is different now. Now there are barriers and regulations…they still have the presence, but its not like it was before. Now there are all these curtains and basins and sacrifices and blood in order to be in God’s presence. So here is what is happening…
Here in the tabernacle, God is giving His people a forshadowing of the greater measure of His presence that is going to come to them hundreds of years later at the incarnation of Jesus. Because if you study life of Jesus you will see that Jesus directly speaks to or becomes each element included in the tabernacle:
Jesus is the narrow gate…no one comes to the Father, into His presence, except through me.
Jesus is the perfect sacrifice
Jesus is the living water that cleanses and purifies us
Jesus is the Bread of Life
Jesus is the Light of world
Jesus is the High Priest and Holy of Holies
You see when you look at the elements of the tabernacle you notice that Jesus embodies each and every element here. And if you really want your mind to get blown, then you’ll reference the books of Matthew and Mark because they mention at the death of Jesus the final curtain of the temple that guards the Holy of Holies, on which is a picture…an image of a Cheribim…the same Angel that was used to guard the Garden of Eden and separated man from the intimate presence of God…that curtain was split in two, from top to bottom…which means the Cheribim, the soldier that guards God’s presence from humnaity, has been removed and because of the death of Jesus there is now once again an unfiltered access to the presence of God! That’s amazing right!!!
Understanding the tabernacle is a crucial element to understand the advent season because it was in the tabernacle that God once again began to draw near to His people. So each Sunday for the next three weeks we are going to focus in and concentrate on one element of the tabernacle. And today we are going to look at the Lampstand. So let’s turn back a few chapters to Exodus 25 when God is describing how to make the lampstand.
“Make a lampstand of pure gold. Hammer out its base and shaft, and make its flowerlike cups, buds and blossoms of one piece with them. Six branches are to extend from the sides of the lampstand—three on one side and three on the other. Three cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms are to be on one branch, three on the next branch, and the same for all six branches extending from the lampstand…
Now if you remember from the picture of the tabernacle, the lampstand is in the inner tent inside what was know as the Holy Place. So as you enter the tabernacle from the outter courtyard and go through the curtain, the first thing you see is this large lampstand shining light and illuminating the entire tent. Now you’d also notice that as you draw closer to the Most Holy Place that the value of each element increases. Everything in the courtyard was made of wood or bronze, but this lampstand is made of pure gold…a precious metal that was hard to find and hard to work with. Another thing you might notice is that the lampstand is made to look like a tree…its got leaves, flowers, petals, branches. Why is it shaped like that?
Well you remember that this tabernacle is an attempt at reversing the Garden of Eden. And what was in the middle of the Garden? That’s right, the Tree. And it was that tree that when humans interacted with it, darkness clouded their thoughts and minds, death entered the world, and it was the consequences of THAT tree that pushed man out of the presence of God. But now, in this awesome reversal of Eden, God has instructed Moses to construct a new tree…a tree that draws people in, that illuminates the darkness, that gives light, and warmth, and life to the priests who are initiating the sacrifices for the Israelite people for the forgiveness of their sins. Did you hear that? A tree that holds light, that leads toward the sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin. You see this lampstand, is God tipping His hat and alluding to the future tree, the wooden cross, that would hold the light of the world, nailed to it as the perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of the sins of man. … Are you guys tracking with me yet? Are you starting to see why the tabernacle is such an important part of the Advent season. This tent in the middle of the desert, that is filled with God’s presence and is illuminated by a golden tree, in which God came near to His people, is a foreshadowing of the way that God would eventually put on flesh and dwell among His people…coming into the world as a baby that would be born in a manger in the town of Bethlehem. God is showing His cards and revealing His plan hundreds of years before Jesus would step on the scene.
The Gospel of John talks about it like this:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Right there in verse 14, “made His dwelling among us.” That word, in the greek is actually the verb form of tabernacle. So it could literally read, “The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.” Jesus put on flesh and blood and skin, and became a living tabernacle that not only lived out a perfect life in accordance to God’s law, but also put to death and detroyed all the barriers that existed between us and God when He died on the cross. The light of the world…the light who shines in the darkest areas and in the darkest times in our lives…the living lamp that lights our path, the true light that gives light to every man…He was coming into world.
And the beautiful thing is that when He was in the world, not only did He refer to Himself as the light of the world, but He also told you, that YOU are the light of the world. In Matthew 5:14 Jesus says:
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Jesus came to the world for us to receive Him, but also to reflect Him. By the way that you refuse gossip, love your neighbor, conduct yourself both in person and online. You are a reflection of the light of the Lord. You do not create your own light…you only reflect the light that the Lord has given to you. And one of the truly beautiful things about Christmas, when we decorate our houses and our trees with lights…that it’s not one individual light that captures your attention or mesmerizes you. No. It’s the great multitude of lights that all shine together to create a beautiful holiday scene. And in the same way, we…the body of Christ…should shine not only as individuals, but together as a great multitude shining bright as a testimony to the work that God has done in our lives and that everyone who see us living together, alongside each other, would glorify our Father in heaven.
The prophet Isaiah, promised “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.” that a Deliver would be a light overcoming darkness, and Preacher of Good News to the poor and One walking in the power and light of the Spirit. Our world is full of evidence that something is wrong and needs to be made right. The reason we celebrate advent is because the story of the Garden doesn’t end with man’s rebeliion…it doesn’t end with man wandering the desert…it doesn’t end with God living in a fancy tent, and it doesn’t end with Jesus. No. The reason we celebrate Advent…the coming of Christ…is because not only did He come to earth, but that He will once again come to earth. Our king not only lived…He lives. Our king not only came…but He is coming. And when He does, may our lights shine in the darkness.