Sermon for Sunday, December 5th, 2021 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[Isa 7:10-17 ESV] 10 Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz: 11 “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.” 13 And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. 15 He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. 17 The LORD will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father’s house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah–the king of Assyria!”
New Testament reading:
[Heb 9:1-10 ESV] 1 Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. 2 For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. 3 Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, 4 having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. 5 Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. 6 These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, 7 but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. 8 By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing 9 (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, 10 but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.
[Mat 12:1-8 ESV] 1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” 3 He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”
[Exo 25:1-40 ESV] 1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me. 3 And this is the contribution that you shall receive from them: gold, silver, and bronze, 4 blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, goats’ hair, 5 tanned rams’ skins, goatskins, acacia wood, 6 oil for the lamps, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, 7 onyx stones, and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece. 8 And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. 9 Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it. 10 “They shall make an ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. 11 You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside shall you overlay it, and you shall make on it a molding of gold around it. 12 You shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them on its four feet, two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it. 13 You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 14 And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark by them. 15 The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. 16 And you shall put into the ark the testimony that I shall give you. 17 “You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. 18 And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. 20 The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. 21 And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. 22 There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel. 23 “You shall make a table of acacia wood. Two cubits shall be its length, a cubit its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. 24 You shall overlay it with pure gold and make a molding of gold around it. 25 And you shall make a rim around it a handbreadth wide, and a molding of gold around the rim. 26 And you shall make for it four rings of gold, and fasten the rings to the four corners at its four legs. 27 Close to the frame the rings shall lie, as holders for the poles to carry the table. 28 You shall make the poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold, and the table shall be carried with these. 29 And you shall make its plates and dishes for incense, and its flagons and bowls with which to pour drink offerings; you shall make them of pure gold. 30 And you shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before me regularly. 31 “You shall make a lampstand of pure gold. The lampstand shall be made of hammered work: its base, its stem, its cups, its calyxes, and its flowers shall be of one piece with it. 32 And there shall be six branches going out of its sides, three branches of the lampstand out of one side of it and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side of it; 33 three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on one branch, and three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on the other branch–so for the six branches going out of the lampstand. 34 And on the lampstand itself there shall be four cups made like almond blossoms, with their calyxes and flowers, 35 and a calyx of one piece with it under each pair of the six branches going out from the lampstand. 36 Their calyxes and their branches shall be of one piece with it, the whole of it a single piece of hammered work of pure gold. 37 You shall make seven lamps for it. And the lamps shall be set up so as to give light on the space in front of it. 38 Its tongs and their trays shall be of pure gold. 39 It shall be made, with all these utensils, out of a talent of pure gold. 40 And see that you make them after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain.
When a new house has been built it remains incomplete until it is furnished. A house is not a home until there are chairs, tables, couches, light fixtures; all those bits and features which delight the interior decorated and overwhelm the homeowner. Furnishing a house can be an expensive endeavor.
In the furnishing the house of God— even the temporary one known as the tabernacle— to His specifications it required that the people of Israel spare no expense.
The furnishings of this tabernacle are ornate and of the most valuable materials. The Ark of the Covenant, the Table of Showbread, and the Golden Lampstand are all made with pure gold.
I. Voluntary Gifts (v. 1-7)
Because such expense was to be made, it required the contributions of many.
These were not forced contributions, but voluntary ones. Freewill offerings.
“From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me.”
This was voluntary and a one-time offering.
Later on in Israelite history the tithe would be regular and expected. When the people did not tithe God spoke of it as “robbery.”
As for today,
Our confession of faith says that the “judicial laws expired with the nation of Israel, not obliging any other now.”
That includes the 10% tithe.
We are not obliged to give 10% of any other percentage. Our giving today is of the voluntary sort.
In 2 Corinthians 9 we read:
“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Those of you who have have taken my new members have heard about this point. While the 10% tithe of the Old Testament may be a good metric for us to emulate, it is not an obligation upon us.
It is better to say that we are to give cheerfully and generously.
The Israelites certainly gave generously to make the tabernacle and its furnishings.
They spared no expense because — well, considered the purpose — this was a place in which they were to worship the most high God. This is no ordinary place and these are no ordinary furnishings.
Following our text, let’s look in detail at these furnishings, or that great Frenchie word – accoutrement. All that which is to go in the tabernacle.
Here we have the plans for the furnishings. In the next chapter are the plans for the tabernacle itself. And later in Exodus we’ll see the plans come to fruition as the tabernacle and all its furnishings is built.
II. The Furnishings of the Tabernacle
First it is important to see that everything is going to be built according to God’s specifications. The way he is to be worshipped is always laid out explicitly. These instruments, and these alone, are to be built and used in the tabernacle. The Ark of the Covenant, The Table for Bread, and the Golden Lampstand.
God says: “Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.”
From such statements as this we have our doctrine of the Regulative Principle of Worship. We are to worship God as he has designed, not inventing our own ways. When in the book of Leviticus, the sons of Aaron named Nabad and Abihu get their own idea of how to worship God and offer unto him “unauthorized fire” then God has the fire consume them and they died.
Fortunately for the Israelites in our account they proceed according to God’s plans, not their own. They proceed the building these furnishings using the freewill offerings of the people.
A. The Ark of the Covenant (v. 10-22)
First is the Ark of the Covenant. Or as our text says “the Ark of the testimony,” for God said “you shall put into the ark the testimony that I shall give you.”
This “testimony” is the tablets of stone on which the ten commandments were written. Into the ark would also go the “golden urn holding the manna,” and “Aaron’s staff that had budded.” But it is not called the Ark of the manna or the Ark of Aaron’s staff. It is the Ark of the Covenant. It is God’s word that is paramount. And it seems that the primary purpose of the ark is to carry the tablet of stones. The Ark – though made of valuable gold — is not as valuable as the tablets of stone; or rather the word of God which is on those tablets. The Ark is not the central focus; it is merely what carries God’s word.
The Ark was 2 ½ cubits long by 1 ½ cubits wide by 1 ½ cubits tall. That’s 45 inches by 27 inches by 27 inches. Perhaps about like the size of a short coffin.
And sparing no expense, God designed it to be covered with gold. A lot of gold. It is overlaid with gold inside and outside. It had a moulding of gold, and 4 rings of gold. Then, the mercy seat covering the entirety of the box was also pure gold with cherubim—angels—hammered out in gold. The structure itself and the poles with which it would be carried about where made from Acacia wood. This is a slow growth tree with hard and dense wood, the inside heartwood being a dark red-brown. Surely a beautiful wood to add to the stunning gold design.
So the Ark of the Covenant is the most well-known today of the furnishings of the Tabernacle. You won’t find a move on “Indiana Jones and the Table of Bread” or “Indiana Jones and the Candleholder.” It is the ark of the covenant that brings intrigue. Like the Holy Grail, everyone wants to know where it is. In the movies it was in a warehouse in Alexandria. In the real world the Ethiopian church claims to have the ark of the covenant but, of course, they won’t let you see it. Others contend that the Ark was melted down by the Babylonians after they took from Israel. Maybe one day it will be found, but it won’t change the way we worship God. The various protestant churches long ago gave up chasing after relics and idols. We seek to worship God in spirit and in truth.
B. The Table for Bread (v. 23-30)
Well the sparing of no expense continued with the table for bread. Or as some call it “the table of showbread.”
It was 2 cubits by 1 cubit by 1 ½ cubits, which is about three feet long, one and a half feet wide, and two feet three inches tall
Like the Ark of the Covenant, it had rings upon which it could be carried with poles. This attests to how heavy it would have been. Have you ever picked up a one ounce gold coin? They are heavy. Well, they only weigh an ounce. But it is a dense ounce. Surprisingly heavy. Now imagine these furnishings made of gold. One estimate has the ark of the covenant at 183 lbs. The Table of Showbread was something less than this. But carrying these for any distance would have been a chore.
Upon the table was placed the “bread of presence.” This is a symbol of God’s presence. That he is with the people of Israel.
God had been with his people throughout their history. And at this stage in the Exodus he is still present visually in the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire. Remember this pillar stays with them until they enter the Holy Land. Yet God is preparing to dwell with the people in longer ways; first with the tabernacle and eventually with a temple set in one location.
So the bread of presence reminds the Israelites that “God is with us.” Immanuel. That is the meaning of the word Immanuel. God is with us.
This promise of God to be with his people is later fulfilled in Christ, the very bread of life.
In Isaiah the messiah is promised to be known as “Immanuel.” And in Matthew’s Gospel it is said:
[Mat 1:21-23 ESV] 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
God is with us in Jesus Christ.
He is the bread of life.
He is even said to have “tabernacled amongst us.”
The Old Testament is full of things that point to Jesus Christ.
This is what Jesus himself taught:
In John’s Gospel he said:
[Jhn 5:39 ESV] 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,
And it is said in Luke’s Gospel:
[Luk 24:27 ESV] 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
So we’ve had the Ark carried the Word. Jesus is the Word of God.
And we’ve had the table for showbread. Jesus is the bread of life.
Now we have the Golden Lampstand. And Jesus is the light of the world.
C. The Golden Lampstand (v. 31-37)
The design of Golden Lampstand has significant detail. God tells Moses how it should have a base, a stem, cups, calyxes (which are like petals of a flower), and six branches. And how the whole thing is to be made out of a single piece of gold. The entire lampstand then has seven lamps on it designs to give light on the space in front of it.
The lamps on the golden lampstand provided the only light in the tabernacle and shown upon the table of showbread directly across from where it was placed.
The lampstand was made out of a talent of pure gold. A talent is 75 lbs. That much gold today would be just under $2 million dollars in value.
For a nation just beginning this would have been a very considerable sum.
No expense was spared.
III. Not Sparing his own Son
Now on this theme of sparing no expense, and on this them of Christ being shown everywhere in the Old Testament, we then come to another great truth:
From Romans 8:32
[Rom 8:32 ESV] 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
The contributions of the Israelites were grand, but God went so far as giving up his own son, Jesus Christ.
God spared no expense for our salvation. [REPEAT: God spared no expense for our salvation.]
Christ came and dwelt with his people on earth.
[Jhn 1:14 ESV] 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The Greek verb for dwelt used here is “eskaynosen” meaning “to tent” or “encamp.” It is thus often said that Jesus tabernacled among us.
And when Christ departed, ascending up to heaven, he sent “another comforter” the very Holy Spirit to dwell with us. And not in temples made with human hands, but within each and everyone one of us who believes.
[2Co 6:16 ESV] For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
God is present in our lives. Not on the periphery, but in our hearts and in our homes. The Holy Spirit dwells within you. The God who spared no expense continues to be with you. You know that he is with you, for you could not have faith but by the work of the Holy Spirit. Therefore if you believe in Jesus Christ you have the Holy Spirit within you and you are the elect of God, to be assured of eternal salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the promises of God. God spared no expense in sending his only begotten son to die for you, and has boughten you with a price, so He will now never left you out of his grip. You are his, blessed forever.
Against all your doubts, and against all your foes, know that God is with you. In your troubles, seek the Lord and he will direct your paths.
And considering the splendour of the tabernacle and its furnishings, how much more is the splendor of God and of heaven. While we may never see the tabernacle we will see heaven and the very glory of God in that place. Not because of what we have done, nor what we even can do, but because of God who loved us despite the great cost. Praise be to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.