What’s the Point? (Exodus 37)

The symphony of Exodus has four movements: Egypt, Exodus, Sinai, and Tabernacle. Of the last sixteen chapters of this book thirteen deal with the tabernacle. The remaining three are are so intertwined with the tent that they cannot be understood apart from it. The tabernacle is the climactic focus and conclusion to this epic book.

The major theme of the tabernacle is God dwelling with His people in covenant love by mediation and sacrifice. This theme is carried over from chapters 25–34 into chapters 35–40, but in chapters 35–40, an additional minor motif is added, that of the Spirit-wrought and Spirit-gifted obedience of Israel.

Some homiletics professors (homiletics is the study of the art of preaching) will tell you that your sermon must have only one laser-focused point. Good homiletics instructors will tell you that the point of your sermon must be the point of the text. Indeed, this is excellent advice for clear and effective communication, but I have a fear in this. What if God intended a text to have multiple points? Or a main point with various side points. In other words, I fear trying to wrap up God’s words in too pretty of a bow with our little words. Let the text be lord, for the Lord is Lord of the text, not us. If a text appears to have multiple points, declare them. Certainly, the minister should be able to state these clearly and succinctly, and show how they relate. No doubt there will be unifying factors, but again, these unifying factors may be multiple and varied.

And so here, in Exodus 37 one could pick up on either the major or the minor themes and faithfully preach the text. Or, they could preach them both and show the harmony between them. It is such preaching, preaching “in harmony” rather than “in unison,” that I believe is most glorious.

So how do these two themes harmonize? Here are just two thoughts. First, by emphasizing that this tabernacle was built according to God’s commands by the power of the Spirit it reminds us that the tabernacle isn’t something man is doing for God, rather, it is something God is doing for man. All of this—the plan, the materials, the construction, the function, the sacrifices, the feasts, the priesthood, the ceremonies—all of this is a gift from God. The second thing is that none of this was sufficient. The tabernacle wasn’t enough. The Spirit-wrought and Spirit-gifted obedience of Israel wasn’t enough. All of this is a shadow of the One, who by His perfect Spirit-powered ministry and obedience would make all things new in the ultimate hope of a new creation where all is temple. How do these two motifs harmonize? In the single symphony of the Scriptures titled Jesus Christ. So perhaps the professors were right, every sermon should have a single point. Not only so, but every sermon should have the same ultimate point—Jesus Christ.

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