søndag 24. juni 2018

Exodus 35-40 Is there any way to be right with God? Any way to get a FRESH START?

Link to MP3
Read 35:4-21, 36:1, then
ch36,37,38 record in exact detail the making of the Tabernacle, 38:21-23

Or in more Biblical language: How can sinners approach a holy God? How can we get forgiveness? How can we receive mercy?

These were the questions faced by the Israelites.

First there was the question of whether God even existed. I mean, they’d all heard the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – but here they were, enslaved, beaten each day, working for the Egyptians. Didn’t really seem like God was there. Moses, an Israelite adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter, was not a slave, but was so enraged by the suffering of his people that he decided to rescue his people…by murdering an Egyptian slave driver. This was discovered, and Moses had to flee to the wilderness. A failure.

Then much to Moses’ surprise God calls to him out of a burning bush, and tells him that he, Moses, is going to be God’s mouth and God’s Redeemer and will save and lead Israel. Whaaat? He was, needless to say, rather surprised. So were the Israelites. Suddenly Moses appears, terrifying plagues start to happen, and they are rescued. I bet even the most faithful Israelites were shocked when God suddenly moved in judgement on the Egyptians! When something you’ve been praying for suddenly happens. Like when my best friend suddenly decided to come with me to the church youth group. Like what. And then accepted Christ. Like whaat? After years!

So the Israelites were surprised to be rescued! Imagine that. Years of slavery. Your dad was a slave, you were a slave. Your son would be a slave. And then suddenly you are free. Terrifying plagues- but you are blessed. And then you arrive at the mountain of God. It’s thundering and lightening and very very scary. And God says “I will be your God and you will be my people” Wow!

And then Moses disappears for 40 days….and they decide to take matters into their own hands. They didn’t listen to revelation – to God’s word. No. They made God in their own image. Kinder. Smaller. More manageable. A God we can manipulate. A God who is not so holy and terrifying. A God you can bargain with. A God who will make us rich because “The laoord saauys thaaat we’re kids of Kiiiing, and Kiiings live in a palace, so I. I mean you should live in a palace too.”
Jesus will get me a BMW. I’ll take Jesus. It’s the modern version of the ancient “let’s make God a cuddly calf instead of this terrifying unapproachable God.

AS we saw last week, that went badly. A plague breaks out, the tablets – the covenant / contract between God and his people is broken – literally, Moses smashes them. 3000 Israelites die because of their rebellion, and now they are under God’s judgement and God refuses to go with them. Suddenly they are alone again. A lost bunch of slaves wandering around in the wilderness. Weak. Vulnerable. No home. No purpose.

Then Moses steps in and saves them. He pleads to God on their behalf, standing between God and them, appealing to God’s mercy, even offering his own life as sacrifice (which God did not accept). And joy of joys – God listens to Moses, and the Covenant is renewed in chapter 34.

Now what?

Because Moses is old. He’s pushing 80. He won’t be around to save them to be their representative, their mediator, much longer. How can they live with a holy God without being destroyed?

Because they, like us, were sinners. They got things wrong. They tried to do things their own way. God says “don’t make images of me” so they make an image. Ooops.

How often do we do same thing. We read in the Bible what we should do… and we do the opposite. Tell the truth. Na, easier just to lie. I might get into trouble if I tell the truth. Be sexually pure. Na, it’ll be ok for us to have sex even though we’re not married. We prayed about it! Love my spouse? Na, I’ll fight to get my own way. Show grace? Forgive? Na, Because it’s not like I’ve been forgiven…

So sinners have a problem. How do we get right with the holy God? Today’s passage tells us.

1. To be made right with God you need to make a beautiful holy tent!

2. The only way to be right with God is in the way that God says.

3. The only way to be right with God is to have a Moses

1. To be made right with God you need to make a beautiful holy tent!

There is a way for the Israelites to be made right with God again. A tent. A TENT WHERE GOD LIVES.

Turn to chapter 40 and the end of v33: So at last Moses finished the work. 34 Then the cloud covered the Tabernacle, and the glory of the LORD filled the Tabernacle. 35 Moses could no longer enter the Tabernacle because the cloud had settled down over it, and the glory of the LORD filled the Tabernacle. 36 Now whenever the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out on their journey, following it. 37 But if the cloud did not rise, they remained where they were until it lifted. 38 The cloud of the LORD hovered over the Tabernacle during the day, and at night fire glowed inside the cloud so the whole family of Israel could see it. This continued throughout all their journeys.

This was no ordinary tent. It was made from finest materials with great skill. Like the Operahuset in Oslo. Or the Sydney Opera House. Something glorious, something eye catching, something that says “wow”. It was built with great skill by experts and with great devotion who worked hard to make it magnificent. This was built to glorify God. Like St Peters Basilikum in Rome. Or St. Pauls Chatehdral in London. Or the Notre Dame in Paris.

This tent is the Ancient version of that. Something incredibly beautiful. Detailed. Intricate.

But our cathedrals are open. This tent was built in layers. No-one could see the inner chamber. Because that was where the holy God “lived”. Go in there and you would die. The layers in the tent were to protect the people from God!
And it had an altar. Not a symbolic altar like some churches have – but a real altar, an altar on which animals were killed, blood was shed, continually. A constant reminder of our sinfulness and God’s holiness. God said to Adam “If you eat of the fruit I commanded not to eat, you will surely die”. And he wasn’t kidding. The wages of sin is death. So there was a reminder. Imagine the sounds, the smells, the amount of blood! The priests would be covered in blood!

When we think objectively about ourselves. When we turn off the inner lawyer who is always making excuses for our behaviour “I was tired, I deserved that, they deserved that, I was hungry, well 2 years ago they were mean, so…”
When we stop doing that we’re forced to acknowledge that we’re perhaps not as “good” as we think. In fact, I think that’s the worst thing about becoming a Christian – the Holy Spirit lifting the blinkers off so you start to see yourself as you truly are! Ouch.
But that means we have great compassion on others. Because, well, I do that. Or if I don’t do THAT, then I certainly do my own version of it. That’s why we in this church can say “come as you are” and mean it. Because you may be a messed-up sinner and so are we! And we want to introduce you to the one who can fix you! We are not here to pretend to be better people than everyone out there. We are here to point people to God.

So, how do we do that? Well, so far in Exodus we’ve discovered that in order for us to be right with a holy God you need: A holy tabernacle skilfully and beautifully made, with the bread of life on the table, the eternal light of the world on the lampstand, the altar with continual sacrifices, and priests washed clean, having made the right sacrifices, wearing their holy garments, ephod, turban, shoulder pieces, and even holy underpants. And if any of that is lacking, or done wrongly… it’s over.

That’s the way God says to be made right with him. The Israelites tried a different way – and 3000 died. And through the years the Israelites tried taking shortcuts, tried ignoring God’s word, changing his word, leaving bits out – none of it worked.

2. The only way to be right with God is in the way that God says.

Imagine that you were an Israelite living 3000 years ago. You couldn’t read and write – that was only specialists who could. So you wouldn’t be reading these chapters. You would gather each day at the synagogue and you would hear this being read. What kind of impact would it have on you as you listened first to chapters 25-31 about how you should build the Tabernacle. The excitement of God lives with US. Out of all the peoples on earth he chose us!
Then the horrifying sin of the Golden Calf. We’ve messed up. God will abandon us. And then, oh relief, Moses steps in and saves the day. Again. And then the actual building of the Tabernacle in chapters 35-40. God is still with his people! We are still his. He is still with us. The God of the universe who has chosen us to be his own, his very own. Not because we are special, or strong, or better, or more holy (that much is clear!), but because He is the Lord, the Lord, the gracious and compassionate God.

Last week it took us about 18 minutes to read three chapters. What impact would it make to listen to 6 chapters (about 36 minutes) of detailed instructions about building the tabernacle and then another equally detailed 5 chapters (another 30 minutes) on HOW they built the Tabernacle. Why is it here? Why so much detail? Is God just an accountant who likes boring details?

Well, no. Listening to over an hour of “this is exactly how you are to make it” followed by a thoroughly humbled people after the Golden Calf nonsense making it exactly as God said would make the point pretty clear. An hour of “here the curtain rods must go”, followed by “and, lo, they didst put the curtain rods here”.

They made the Tabernacle exactly as God said! And the people who made it where the people God said should make it. The ones who were specially gifted for it.

One hour of tabernacle. This is important! And these chapters about building it are almost word for word what God says in the earlier chapters.
What’s the point? we need to do exactly what God says in order to be made right with him. There is no other way to be made right with God except the way he has said, and only the way he has said, through his word, delivered by his redeemder, his prophet.

The Tabernacle was the way to be made right with God. But it would only work if it was built exactly as God had said. Any other way would lead to disaster.
The only way to be right with God is in the way that God says. And he says we need a Moses.

3. The only way to be right with God is to have a Moses

Look at 38:32,42,43 and the whole of chapter 40.

Ex 39:32 And so at last the Tabernacle was finished. The Israelites had done everything just as the LORD had commanded Moses.
He is the voice of the Lord.

Ex 39:4243 So the people of Israel followed all of the LORDs instructions to Moses. 43 Then Moses inspected all their work. When he found it had been done just as the LORD had commanded him, he blessed them.
He is God’s representative. He blessed them because they had obeyed the Lord

Then in chapter 40 he actually builds the Tabernacle from what they had made.

Ex 40:1621 Moses proceeded to do everything just as the LORD had commanded him. 17 So the Tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month of the second year. 18 Moses erected the Tabernacle by setting down its bases, inserting the frames, attaching the crossbars, and setting up the posts. 19 Then he spread the coverings over the Tabernacle framework and put on the protective layers, just as the LORD had commanded him. 20 He took the stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant and placed them inside the Ark. Then he attached the carrying poles to the Ark, and he set the Arks coverthe place of atonementon top of it. 21 Then he brought the Ark of the Covenant into the Tabernacle and hung the inner curtain to shield it from view, just as the LORD had commanded him.
And on it goes v22 he places the table with v23 the bread, just as the LORD had commanded him. 24 He set the lampstand in the Tabernacle across from the table on the south side of the Holy Place. 25 Then he lit the lamps in the LORDs presence, just as the LORD had commanded him. 26 He also placed the gold incense altar in the Tabernacle, in the Holy Place in front of the inner curtain. 27 On it he burned the fragrant incense, just as the LORD had commanded him. V29 just as the LORD had commanded him.
30 Next Moses placed the washbasin
- and the priests wash end of v31, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.

Moses is the key. He is the voice of God. The people obey his words and build God’s tabernacle exactly as God had commanded. Everything has been done exactly as it should. And God’s chosen mediator, Moses, now has put everything together: the tent, the ark, the bread, the lampstand, the altar, basin, everything built according to plan. V33 So at last Moses finished the work.
So what happens? 34 Then the cloud covered the Tabernacle, and the glory of the LORD filled the Tabernacle.

God comes down. He comes to live with his people. No longer far and distant on the mountain. But now with his people. It worked! We have God with us! Moses did it!

But Moses is just a player, an actor, a foreshadowing. He’s playing someone else’s role. Someone coming, greater than him, who would really be able to unite God and Man, and in whom God would truly live amongst us. Because look at v35 Moses could no longer enter the Tabernacle because the cloud had settled down over it, and the glory of the LORD filled the Tabernacle. Even he is not holy enough to be in a glory cloud. Not even Moses. Is there anyone who could be holy enough to be in a glory cloud and not die…?

36 Now whenever the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out on their journey, following it. 37 But if the cloud did not rise, they remained where they were until it lifted. 38 The cloud of the LORD hovered over the Tabernacle during the day, and at night fire glowed inside the cloud so the whole family of Israel could see it. This continued throughout all their journeys.

God with his people.

But what about us. Should we now find a Moses, then find a Bezalel and Oholiab, and build a magnificent tent, and get a load of animals so that we can offer the right sacrifices, so that we too can be right with God? Because Moses himself did say that there will be a prophet like him who will come in the future.

The Muslims claim Muhammed is the prophet like Moses. Is he though? Did he speak to God face to face? No he spoke only to the angel Gabriel. Did Muhammed meet God on the mountain in the glory cloud? Did Muhammed plead for his people and get God to show mercy? No.

But you know what? Jesus spoke face to face with the Lord, not through an angel. He called God Father, something no Muslim could ever do. Jesus met God on the mountain in the glory cloud. The disciples with him were terrified when they saw Jesus in his glory, and heard the Father say “This is my son. Listen to Him”. Muhammed claimed to have heard the word through an angel. Jesus is the word. And Jesus pleaded for his people “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”

There is none like him. No-one comes close. No-one. Not even Moses, probably the greatest in the Old Testament.

Jesus is the better Moses, the one Moses was foreshadowing. He was the actor playing the Jesus role. He was a sinner, a murderer, whom God called out of the wilderness to be his Redeemer. So that 1500 years later when Jesus appears on stage we know ah! Here is the real deal. This is the one Moses was pointing to. Moses freed the people from slavery in Egypt – Jesus frees us from slavery to sin. Moses brought them through the wilderness to the promised land of Israel. Jesus takes us through the wilderness of this life and the promised land of the New Creation. Moses tried to offer his life on behalf of his people – but God did not accept his sacrifice. Could not. Jesus cries out on the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” as he sacrifices himself for his people.
Jesus is our Tabernacle – where we can meet God. He is our sacrifice, his blood shed on the cross. He is our high priest, perfectly representing us to God, so that we can be with God. Forgiven. Set free. A fresh start. A new life.

Tell me, do you know this Jesus? If you don’t – get to know him! Speak to him, cry out to him for mercy.

Jesus, I have ignored you until now. Forgive me. I don’t deserve it. You are holy. I am a sinner. But you died on the cross for me. Please accept me as your child. I want to put you first, to live for you. Be my Saviour, my Lord and my God. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, please talk to me afterward.

And if you know him, don’t you just love him? Our tabernacle, sacrifice, priest, our Moses. All find their fulfilment in Jesus. Isn’t he amazing. Isn’t he wonderful. Be filled with his wonder and follow him as Lord. Whatever you’re struggling with take it to him. Wherever you are disobeying, confess it now. Let’s deal with it now. Kill it. Kill the sin that is dragging you down. Come forward for prayer. We can pray together.

Let’s get right with God. Lord, fill us with wonder and adoration so that that temptations and trials of this life fade away in the brightness of your love and your magnificence.


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