“One is very often asked as present whether we could not have a Christianity stripped, or, as people who ask it say, ‘freed’ from its miraculous elements, a Christianity with the miraculous elements suppressed. Now, it seems to me that precisely the one religion in the world, or at least the only one I know, with which you could not do that is Christianity. In a religion like Buddhism, if you took away the miracles attributed to Gautama Buddha in some very late sources, there would be no loss; in fact, the religion would get on very much better without them because in that case the miracles largely contradict the teaching. Or even in the case of a religion like Mohammedanism, nothing essential would be altered if you took away the miracles. You could have a great prophet preaching his dogmas without bringing in any miracles; they are only in the nature of a digression, or illuminated capitals. But you cannot possibly do that with Christianity, because the Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, which is uncreated, eternal, came into Nature, into human nature, descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing Nature up with Him. It is precisely one great miracle. If you take that away there is nothing specifically Christian left. There may be many admirable human things which Christianity shares with all other systems in the world, but there would be nothing specifically Christian.” —C.S. Lewis, The Grand Miracle
“Christ is the greatest good, the choicest good, the chief good, the most suitable good, the most necessary good. He is a pure good, a real good, a total good, an eternal good, and a soul-satisfying good (Rev. 3:17, 18). Sinners, are you poor? Christ has gold to enrich you. Are you naked? Christ has royal robes, he has white clothing to clothe you. Are you blind? Christ has eye-salve to enlighten you. Are you hungry? Christ will be manna to feed you. Are you thirsty? He will be a well of living water to refresh you. Are you wounded? He has a balm under his wings to heal you. Are you sick? He is a physician to cure you. Are you prisoners? He has laid down a ransom for you. Ah, sinners! tell me, tell me, is there anything in Christ to keep you off from believing? No! Is there not everything in Christ that may encourage you to believe in him? Yes! Oh, then, believe in him, and then, ‘Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool’ (Is. 1:18). No, then, your iniquities shall be forgotten as well as forgiven, they shall be remembered no more. God will cast them behind his back, he will throw them into the bottom of the sea! (Is. 43:25; 38:17; Micah 7:19).” —Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices
Bible Promise Books are silly and trite. People go to them looking for some promise that God will get them through a tough week when God is saying in His Word that He will get His saints through death, and on the other side, resurrection, no curse, and blessedness evermore where God is our God and we are His people.
Bible Promise Books fail to understand that every promise is a diamond set within the ring of covenant. Too many are trying to wrest promises not betrothed to them. If you want the ring of all God’s promises, you must be wed to Christ.
Don’t survey the Bible as a thief bent on self-profit. Stare long and hard at the craftsmanship of God’s promises set within the covenants that are fulfilled in Christ and truly know the richness that is yours in union with Him.
We cannot think of Christ properly apart from the church. All the offices he exercises as head over all things, he exercises on behalf of the church. If we think of the church apart from Christ, or transfer to the church prerogatives that belong only to Christ, then we are guilty of idolatry. But if we think of Christ apart from the church, then we are guilty of a dismemberment that severs what God has joined together. We are divorcing Christ from his only bride. The central doctrine of the Christian faith should remind us of the evil of such divorce, for this doctrine is that ‘Christ loved the church and gave himself up for it’ (Eph. 5:25). —John Murray, The Church—It’s Identity, Functions, and Resources
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.
When you’re going on vacation the final bits of packing might seem haphazard and chaotic, but two things could be happening.
1. Things really are a mess. You’ve run through the house last minute gathering up tidbits you either forgot to pack or now think you might need and just throw them in.
2. There has been a strategic ordering and packing up of things and you’ve simply come to remaining smaller items that could only be packed last and for which there was no room in any other bag.
God didn’t pack the tabernacle instructions like you might pack for vacation. Everything has been highly organized. Chapter 25 concerned the furniture of the tabernacle, chapter 26 the tent itself, chapter 27 the courtyard, chapter 28 the priest’s garments, and chapter 29 the priest’s consecration. Now it’s time to pack some remaining items. Remember that the chapter divisions are inserted by man. These chapter divisions have been very good in seeing some natural divisions, but we must remember that they’re divisions within a section all concerning the tabernacle. The smaller items that make up chapter 30 don’t cohere together the way the items in chapter 28 do, but they do cohere with chapter 29 the way that chapter 25 does.
How do these all things go together? The way everything in chapters 25–31 go together. All these chapters are about the tabernacle. All these chapters are packed into the same place, or rather, are about the same place.
Even if a neighbor looked in on a crazily packed family car and asked what all that randomness was about, they could reply, “Vacation.” It’s not unrelated randomness. It is all about vacation.
This chapter is neither unrelated or random. All concerns the tabernacle.
When Israel would sojourn through the wilderness, all of these things wold be packed together and carried by the Levites. All of these things relate to the tent. The tabernacle is diverse, but not because it speaks of a great many different things, but of the great depth and diversity of a single thing, Christ and His redemption—that thing which binds not only the tabernacle together, but everything together. All concerns the tabernacle, and the tabernacle concerns all. Jesus’ redemption is so big that it not only unites all the tabernacle, it also is uniting all creation as a tabernacle.
God doesn’t give busy work. The consecration of the priests was a big to do, but what was all the doing for? Why were the priests and the altars consecrated so? Two answers are given, and the first one flows and swells into the second like a river bursting forth into a grand delta.
The priests and the altar are consecrated for the daily offerings (Exodus 29:38–42). In the morning, a lambs offered with wine and flour; in the evening, the same. A full meal is to be cooked up to Yahweh on the altar twice daily.
But why all of this? Why the priests, the altar, the tabernacle, the daily offerings? The answer God gives is Himself. These daily offerings are to be made at the tent of meeting where Yahweh meets with Israel (Exodus 29:42–43). How does the Holy God meet in covenant love with a sinful people? By the priest, the altar, and the tabernacle.
None of this smacks of man trying to pull himself up to heaven. Nor is this God giving man secret carful instructions to climbing a heavenly stairway. All this action is a display of God’s action. The tabernacle and all the priest’s action is a reflection of heavenly realities. Ultimately it is God who consecrates the tent and the priests (Exodus 29:43). The tabernacle is no display of man’s wisdom, but God’s. It speaks nothing of man’s work, but God’s redemption. The tabernacle is not about man ascending, but God descending.
God’s meeting His people here is not to be thought of as the event of a lifetime, but a lifetime event. God meets with His people here because He dwells here (Exodus 29:45). He dwells in their midst as their God for they are His people. He dwells with them in covenant love.
Still this isn’t the end of the blessedness that the tent testifies to. God is not content just to be their God; He wants them to know that He is their God (Exodus 29:46). Specifically, He wants them to know that Yahweh (all caps LORD), the one who has revealed Himself as sovereign, self-existent, eternal, infinite, immutable and incomprehensible, is their redeemer, the one who has delivered them.
The way that God wants Israel to know all of this is by a tent and priesthood that testify of Christ. Don’t shun knowledge of the tabernacle. Don’t think a study of the priest’s consecration moot. All of this is so that you might know Jesus, whose name means “Yahweh Saves.”