Are we desperate for His presence? God has an assignment we cannot fulfill, a privilege we cannot forsake, a family we cannot forget, and we have a God we cannot fathom. In this message on Exodus 33 and 40, David Platt reminds us that the ultimate purpose of salvation is worship.
- We have an assignment we cannot fulfill.
- We have a privilege we cannot forsake.
- We have a family we cannot forget.
- We have a God we cannot fathom.
- The ultimate purpose of salvation is worship.
If you have a Bible, and I hope you do, let me invite you to open with me to Exodus 33. My plan for this message, originally, was to just preach an overview, basically, of the tabernacle from Exodus 25 to Exodus 40. A couple of years ago, we walked through Exodus 32 and Exodus 33 and Exodus 34, so I wasn’t going to revisit that, but this week, I became convinced, as I was studying and praying for our time together, that we needed to revisit, in particular, Exodus 33. It’s good because it totally fits in with the whole picture of the tabernacle in Exodus 25 through Exodus 40.
So, we’re going to look at two main texts: Exodus 33 and Exodus 40. Based on those two texts, I want to ask us, as a church, two questions this sermon. Not as individuals, but as a people, as a faith family. I want us to look at these two questions, and then I want us to have some time to respond to these two questions in prayer and in song and in surrender of our lives.
So, question number one is this: Are we desperate for His presence? As a church, as a faith family, are we desperate for His presence? We live in a day and age where we have created a whole host of means and methods for doing ministry and doing church that require little, if any, help at all from the Holy Spirit of God. It is very easy for us to carry on with a religious routine and do the drill and not be desperate for His living presence and the power of His Spirit, and that’s dangerous.
We have deceived ourselves thinking that with our numbers, with the presence of physical bodies in a room, that that automatically implies the existence of spiritual life in a people, and it’s not true. So, I want us to ask the question, “Do we really want a fullness of the presence of God in our midst?”
The Lord said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff–necked people.”
Skip down to verse 12. Moses replies to the Lord:
“See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”
And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Please show me your glory.”
This Chapter is a Chance to Pray for Understanding
Father, we pray that you would help us to consider the depth of these words. Help us to consider the danger of trying to move one step forward in our lives or as a church apart from the fullness of your presence. God, give us hearts that cry out from the depth of our being, “Show us your glory.” In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
You know the picture. God had brought His people out of Egypt. He led them through the Red Sea to the mountain where they’ve been worshiping Him. We saw this picture of how they were delivered by the blood of a lamb, and the covenant was confirmed with the blood. Then, with the blood of the covenant still fresh, in Exodus 32, they bow down, and they worship before a golden calf.
So, God comes to Moses in Exodus 33, and He says, “This land is the land I have promised to you. It is yours to take.” Then, He drops the bomb in verse 3, and He says, “But I will not go with you.” This is a promise of God without the presence of God. Would you take it? Let’s be careful how we answer. This is exactly the kind of Christianity we have created today. “Come to Christ and get stuff. Come to Christ, and you get forgiveness; you get heaven; you get your best life.” It’s blasphemy. You come to Christ to get God.
God is the one whom we need. He’s the one we want. All of these things flow from God, and you won’t go to heaven if you don’t want God. So, the picture that Israel is faced with is the promises of God without the presence of God, and Moses says, “No. We must have your presence with us.” Why? Why is he desperate for the presence of God, and why must we be desperate for the presence of God?
We Can’t Fufill Our Calling in Life Without God
Four reasons. Number one, because we have an assignment we cannot fulfill. Did you hear what Moses said in verses 12 and 13? “You say to me ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have not promised to go with me. You’ve said, ‘Take them.’” Moses is saying here, “God, there is discrepancy between what you have called me to do and the resources I have to accomplish that. What you have called me to do I cannot do, unless you show me your ways. I know you and follow you.”
There’s a discrepancy between what God is calling Moses to do and the resources Moses has to accomplish that. Do you ever feel that way? Parents, do you ever feel like what you have been called to do you can’t do? Wives, husbands, singles, and students do you ever feel this way? Everything in the Christian life is like this. It’s designed to be like this. There’s not one thing in the Christian life that God calls us to do that we with our own resources are able to do. Everything demands and requires His presence. We follow a Savior who said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” This flies right in the face of our American dream mentality that says, “Look at what you can accomplish with all of your resources. You put your best effort to the table and look what you can do.” It’s not gospel. Gospel slays what we can accomplish and says, “I want to live in a way that only God can accomplish what He is leading me to do, calling me to do.” This is the picture in our lives as individuals, as a church, and as a people.
I remember, a few years ago, thinking, “This church has so many wonderful people, gifted, talented people, and so many resources, and so much that God has given to this church. All that it has behind a global mission can shake the nations for the glory of God.” I realized very quickly that is a totally wrong–headed way to think. It’s not true because the reality is it doesn’t matter how gifted we are, how many talents or how much money or resources we have. The reality is apart from the power of the Holy Spirit of God, this church will do absolutely nothing to shake the nations for His glory. In fact, the converse is true. This church could have the least talented people, the least gifted people, and the least amount of resources, and that kind of church under the power of the Holy Spirit of God can shake the nations for His glory. Do we believe this? Do we believe that we can accomplish more as a church in the next month with the power of the Holy Spirit than we could in the next 100 years apart from His power?
Do we want Christ to be exalted in our homes? Do we want children that are flourishing to the glory of God, and marriages that are flourishing to the glory of God? Do we want our neighbors to come to Christ? Do we want to make a dent in the 4.5 billion lost people in this world, and the billion–plus people who haven’t even heard the name of Christ? Do we want these things? If so, then we must be desperate for His presence because what God has called every single one of us to do and us to do as a people is dependent upon His presence. We have an assignment we cannot fulfill.
Exodus Reminds Us That Have a Privilege We Cannot Forsake
Second, we have a privilege we cannot forsake. You hear the intimacy between Moses and God in the second part of verse 12. “You have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me your ways that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight.” It takes us back to verse 7. Now, this was before the tabernacle had been constructed. So, listen to this picture. Imagine this scene like it’s the first time you ever heard it. Imagine this.
[Now] Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it a tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tend of meeting, which was outside the camp.
Now, watch this in verse 8. Just imagine the scene.
Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.
Picture this: Moses starts walking toward the tent, and you and thousands upon thousands of others in the camp of Israelites rise up, and you go stand at the door at your tent, and you watch. All eyes are fixed on him as he walks in front of you and down to the tent. You watch him go into the tent, and a cloud comes and rests there, and all of the community of Israel stands in silent awe because there is a man who is meeting with God.
Now, we’re going to talk about this more in a moment, but we just can’t leave this one in the Old Testament. You know that we don’t gather together in our churches to watch one person go into a tent and meet with God. Brothers and sisters, you have access to God. You don’t just have access to Him. You don’t have to go into some tent. Brothers and sisters, you are the tent. What the Old Testament saints could only have longed for, and could not even imagine, you and I have the opportunity to experience on a moment–by–moment basis.
Oh, this is a privilege we cannot forsake. With this glorious privilege, how can we be so busy? How can I be so busy and neglect communion with God? Samuel Chadwick said that “One concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayer-less work, prayer-less studies or prayer-less religion. He laughs at our toil, he mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.” Jonathan Edwards said, “When God has something very great to accomplish for His church, it is His will that there should precede the extraordinary prayers of His people.” We cannot neglect the first component of this radical experiment to pray, to walk with God, and to cry out to God for His glory in all the world. We have a privilege we can’t forsake. We have a family we cannot forget.
God’s Presence is Always With Us
It’s very interesting when you get to verse 14, and God says to Moses, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” The “you” there is a singular, not a plural “you.” “Moses, I will go with you, and I will give you rest.” This is Moses’ chance. He can walk out of that tent, walk past all these grumbling, complaining people, and say, “God’s going with me, and you missed out,” but he doesn’t. He stays there, and he says in verse 15, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”
Moses stays in the tent, and he says, “No. We need your presence.” We see Moses showing us that this is a non–individualist thing, and I in no way want to take away from God’s grace toward each one of us on a personal level, but the reality is God is not just redeeming individuals in history. He is a redeeming a people for Himself in history, and we are part of a much greater picture. It’s why I’m asking the question, not “Are ‘you’ desperate for His presence, but are ‘we?’” Because this is about us as a community of faith and as a people. It’s not about this person over here or this person over here being desperate for His presence. It’s about a people, us, as a faith family, saying we want to know the fullness of the presence of God together, and we are interceding for one another. We are calling out for one another, with one another. We, as a people, are a display of your glory. Not just me or you or that person or this person, but together. We’re a community of faith. We are a family, and we cannot forget that.
We Have a God That We Cannot Fathom
Then, finally, we must be desperate for His presence because we have a God we cannot fathom. Verse 18 is absolutely startling. God answer’s Moses’ prayer in verse 17 and says, “This very thing you have spoken I will do. I will go with you.” To this point, I expect Moses to check out. “You’ve been bold, Moses. You’ve called out to God for His presence among a sinful people. You have received what you have asked for. Now, it’s time to move on and come back to the tent another day to dive into other things.” However, Moses stays there, and he says these words: “Please show me your glory.” Even those words, how bold is that? If anyone had seen the glory of God, it’s Moses, right? He saw a burning bush that talked to him. That’s sufficient, you would think. He was on the front line in every single one of these plagues and the front line when a sea splits in half. He has been on the front line leading the people after a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night.
In Exodus 19 and 20 when God reveals Himself as a consuming fire on the mountain, everybody has to stay away except for Moses. Moses gets to commune with God on the mountain. Moses has just been on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandants and the covenant. If anybody has seen the glory of God, Moses has. So, why would he say, “Please show me your glory”? Here’s why: When you taste of the glory of this God, you have an insatiable desire for more and more.
This is it. This is the picture we see all throughout Scripture. Men and women who longed for the glory of God, who sought the glory of God, who wrestled day and night in prayer because they wanted to behold His glory. So, the second question I want to ask us, and they’re related to one another, “Are we desperate for His presence?” Also, “Do we long, church, to see His glory? Do we desire, do we long for more than anything, more than everything in this world put together, do we want to see the glory of God, or are we content with our knowledge of God? Are we content with our experience of God?
Now, I want to be careful here because there’s no question that we are to be content. Philippians 4 says, “We are to be content.” This is a picture of that in Christ we have all that we need. At the same time, we also see in Philippines 3 right before this, and a picture of holy discontentment. Paul says, “I’m striving and pressing because I want to know Christ more, and I want to experience Christ more.” Do you? Do we? As a church, do we want to see and know the glory of God in greater depths? Do we want to see His glory poured out on us as a people in greater depths?
Exodus is About Longing and Revering the Glory of God
This is what the whole book of Exodus is about. The whole book of Exodus is about this picture of longing and knowing and recognizing and revering the glory of God. Go back to Exodus 3. We’ve seen this over and over again. I just want to remind us of it. Why did God deliver His people out of Egypt? What is the motivation here?
Listen to what He says at the very beginning when God reveals this picture to Moses through the burning bush. He says in Exodus 3:12, and you might underline it. We’re going to see the same phrase and same word in particular, over and over again. He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” It’s a word that is used in Scripture. Also in the Old Testament, it talked about worship. “You shall serve. You shall worship me on this mountain. I’m going to bring you out of Egypt to worship me on this mountain.”
So, we get to the next chapter, Exodus 4:22, and God tells Moses “You’re going to go to Pharaoh, and this is how he’s going to respond. Here’s what you need to say.” Look in 4:22. “You shall say to Pharaoh ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.”’” “Worship me. Let my people go.” Why? “So that they may serve and worship me.” So, that’s the picture. Pharaoh is not going to let them go. So go over to Exodus 7 and see what happens.
God sends plagues. Why does God bring these plagues to deliver His people? Why is He delivering them? Look at Exodus 7:16. “You shall say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you, saying, “Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness.”’” So, He sends a plague and turns the Nile into blood.
Then, you get to Exodus 8:1. Why frogs? Verse 1 says, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go into Pharaoh and say to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Let my people go, that they may serve me.’”’” That’s why the frogs. Verse 20 in the same chapter, God sends the flies. The Lord said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and present yourself to Pharaoh as he goes out into the water, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Let my people go, that they may serve me.”’” Keep going to Exodus 9:1. Why the livestock? “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go into Pharaoh and say to him, “Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, ‘Let my people go that they may serve me.’”’” Later in Exodus 9:13, why the hail? “Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, ‘Let my people go so that they may serve me.’” Exodus 10:3, why the locusts? It’s the same thing. “Let my people go, that they may serve me.”
It gets really interesting here. Pharaoh’s servants get in on the action. Listen to what they say in verse 7. “Pharaoh’s servants said to him, ‘How long should this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God.’” “Let them worship.” He doesn’t. He continues to refuse. Go down to Exodus 10:26. “Our livestock must also go with us; not a hoof should be left behind, for we must take of them to serve the Lord our God, and we do not know with what we must serve the Lord until we arrive there.” We’re going to serve.
Exodus Uses Paraoh as an Example of Resisting God’s Calling
Pharaoh resists over and over and over again until you get to Exodus 12:31. Finally, after the Passover, the deliverance of the people of God by the blood of the lamb. Listen to the purpose. Verse 31, “[Pharaoh] summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, ‘Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as you have said.’” Pharaoh learned all too late that you do not stand in the way of the worship of God. It’s the whole point.
God was delivering His people for what purpose? That they might serve and worship Him. What this is pointing us to today is the ultimate purpose of salvation is worship. God saves us for worship. God delivers us for worship. Do you know almost 50 times in these first 4 books of the Bible alone, we see the phrase, and you see it over and over again in your reading, either “you” or “they will know that I am the Lord.”
God is delivering His people for His glory. That’s the whole point of why, here at the end of Exodus, we have from Exodus 25 all the way to Exodus 40, the majority of the end of this portion of Exodus is all dealing with worship. It’s the tabernacle. It’s detail after detail that leaves you wondering why are all the details in here?
Now, this is the picture. We’re reading through the Old Testament, and we start to skim through some of those details, but the reality is God is prescribing how He is to be worshiped. It’s the point of why He’s delivered them out of captivity. Worship of God is important to God. God is God-centered. God exalts God, and the beauty of Exodus and the beauty of the gospel is how God exalts His great name. He exalts His great name through the redemption of His people. He exalts Himself by redeeming us, and the purpose of our redemption is worship.
Exodus 40 Explains the Tabernacle and Worship
So, we get to Exodus 40. Go there with me. God prescribes how the tabernacle is to look and how worship is to take place. After it is erected, this is the scene in verse 34:
The cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.
The glory of the Lord is dwelling in the middle of His people. It’s the tabernacle. Now, what I want us to do is I want us to take this picture that we have seen and read about in Exodus 25 through 40, this picture of the tabernacle, and I want us to look at this in more of a broader picture.
So, I want us to see this picture of the tabernacle in the context of where it is and where it lies in the planet of redemptive history here. So, think with me, first, about worship at creation. Go back with me in your minds to Genesis 1 and 2 and think about it. Where was the dwelling place of God? The Garden of Eden was where the glory of God dwelt. His glory in all of His fullness and His presence dwelt there in a perfect way. It was the perfect dwelling place of God, and Adam enjoyed His presence.
It’s interesting. The same word that is used in Genesis 2 when the Bible says, “God walked with Adam in the garden”, is the same word that is used in Leviticus to describe how God walked with His people in the tabernacle. The picture is Adam having uninterrupted enjoyment of the presence of God and uninterrupted communion with God in all of His glory. Adam enjoyed His presence, and creation reflected His glory. Without exception, everything reflected and radiated the glory of God.
Here in the garden, everything was worship. Everywhere was holy ground. All of creation was perfectly reflecting the glory of God. Now, we know that in Genesis 3, sin mars the whole picture, and everything changes. Man and woman and creation all change. We’ve read in the middle of sin’s entrance into the world, and, even there, there’s a promise of redemption. God promises to redeem a people for Himself, and we’ve read how God called out a people to Himself to be a display of His glory to all peoples with Abraham and his son Isaac and Jacob and Joseph all leading us. The picture of the Israelites in the beginning of Exodus and what God has done now through His people through Moses, is all leading them to worship, now, at Mount Sinai.
Now, I want to show you bookends on these first two books of the Bible. I want to show you parallels between the beginning of Genesis and the end of Exodus, particularly, when it comes to worship in creation and now worship at Mount Sinai.
Exodus 40 Shows Us that God’s Dwelling Place on Earth Changed
Here at the end of Exodus, where is the dwelling place of God? It’s not in Eden anymore. The dwelling place of God is the tabernacle. “Tabernacle” literally means “dwelling place.” I want to show you intentional similarities between God’s dwelling place in the tabernacle at the end of Exodus, and God’s dwelling place in Eden at the beginning of Genesis. Go to Exodus 25 with me, and let’s look at the start of this picture.
You remember back in Genesis 1 on each day of creation, the Bible says, “God said, ‘Let there be,’ and there was.” It’s all coming from the word of God. It’s all starting with the word of God. His creation is coming into being. “And God said,” is repeated over and over again. What I want you to see that, very intentionally here, in the construction and the instructions for the tabernacle over and over again, seven times to be exact, we see the same phrase now used with God’s covenant name: the “Lord,” “Yahweh.”
Look in 25:1. Just underline it. “The Lord said to Moses…” That was 25:1, and that was where this whole picture starts. Now, go to 30:11. Listen to this repetition. We’ve seen it once already. The second time, “The Lord said to Moses…” is in verse 11. In verse 17, it says, “The Lord said to Moses…” Also, in 30:22, “The Lord said to Moses…” In verse 34, “The Lord said…” Get over to 31:1, “The Lord said…” Then, 31:12, “The Lord said…” is there seven different times.
Now, after God had finished creation, and God had spoken creation into being, what did He do after He finished creation? He rested. He rested on the Sabbath. So, see, right after the seventh time, we see “The Lord said to Moses…” Now, look at 31:13: “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this shall be sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you. You shall keep the Sabbath, because it’s holy for you.’” There’s this intentional parallel that Scripture is giving us here.
This is more than just a place for God to dwell in the middle of the desert. This is a picture of Him saying, “My glory was made known in my creation. Despite sinful man, I am redeeming a people for myself. I am forming a new creation for myself, a place for my glory to dwell.” Even the very picture of the tabernacle and the dwelling of God in the middle of the tabernacle, in the Holy of Holies, His presence is enthroned, surrounded by two cherubim. Two cherubs were there. You enter the tabernacle from the east, and there the presence of God and the Holy of Holies are guarded by two cherubim. Do you remember what happened at the very end of Genesis 3 when man was cast out of the garden? The way into the garden was guarded by two cherubim coming from the east. The picture here is God saying, “I am going to dwell among my people.”
Again, not in the perfect way that we saw in Genesis 1 and 2, because the reality is this is a sinful people here. So, what happens is we see prescribed how Aaron is going to enter the presence of God. You know the picture of the tabernacle.
Now, we have to be careful here. Just a side note here. We’ve got a lot of details about the tabernacle between Exodus 25 and Exodus 40. We have the outer court and the holy place and then the Most Holy Place, also called the Holy of Holies. There are all kinds of details in there, and there are a lot of writings and a lot of studies that talk about, “Well, this little detail means this, and this little detail means this.” We have to be really careful, because we can easily drift into all kinds of fanciful interpretations of the tabernacle.
We could say, “Well, all right. This means this and this means that.” Well, that kind of makes sense, but then somebody else can say the same thing means something totally different. So, we have to be very careful. I’m not saying that those kind of studies are wrong, or that everything in them is wrong, but I would encourage us to stand on things that we know, on places where the Bible explicitly says, “This is what this means.” Or where a prophet later or the New Testament points back at the tabernacle and says, “This is what this means.” On those points, we can stand really strong. On other stuff, there’s conjecture out there.
There is Still Division Between God and His People
We begin to see in the outer court, holy place to Most Holy Place, and even with the glory of God dwelling in the middle of His people, the reality of separation is still there, isn’t it? Because only one can go into the Most Holy Place once a year. It’s the High Priest. Everyone else is still separate here, and Aaron, the High Priest, would enter in with clothing that reflects the glory and the beauty of God, with a turban on his head. It says on his forehead “Holy is the Lord.” The name of the Lord is inscribed on the turban, and the picture is of him entering the presence of God.
So, we see that Aaron entered His presence while Israel would follow His glory where the glory of God would dwell in this tabernacle. Whenever the cloud would rise and lead, then the people would follow. Whenever the cloud would stop, the people would stop. Could you just imagine that scene? Imagine wandering in the wilderness and beginning to think, “Is God even with us?” Then, to be able to look over and to see at night this fire radiating from the tabernacle, to be able to see the glory of the Lord. This cloud is resting over the tabernacle, and to know “Yes, Yahweh is with us, and Yahweh is leading us.” This is the beauty of the tabernacle, but it is a pattern. The word “pattern” is used over and over again. “Construct the tabernacle according to the pattern I give you, a pattern of something greater to come.”
This is where this broader picture really gets exciting, because we step back, and we see this wonderful, glorious, truly glorious picture in Exodus 25 through 40 in the tabernacle, and how it reflects creation itself. However, we, then, look forward, brothers and sisters, into the New Testament, and we see worship in the gospel. We realize in the gospel that the dwelling place of God is Jesus Christ Himself.
What does Colossians 1:19 say? “God was pleased to have all of his fullness dwell in him.” Hebrews 1:3 says, “The Son is the radiance of the glory of God.” The dwelling place of God: Jesus. Jesus embodied His presence. Do you want to see the glory of God? Look at Jesus. John introduces Jesus and says in 1:14, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Do you know what that word “dwelt” is there in John 1:14? It’s the same word that is used all throughout the Greek translation of the Old Testament for “tabernacle.” It’s the verb form of the noun “tabernacle.”
Jesus is the Walking Tabernacle
Literally, it’s John saying, “The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us,” which is why he says right after that “And we have seen his glory.” The glory of the Lord.Just think about that. Like, the High Priest would walk into the Holy of Holies and see the glory of God once a year. Now, that glory is tabernacling and walking on the streets of Jerusalem. He is the tabernacle. He is the place where the glory of God dwells. If you want to see the glory of God, look at Jesus. He was God in the flesh. Look at the glory of Christ. He’s the tabernacle. He is the temple.
In the next chapter in John, John 2, Jesus says, “Destroy this temple, and I will rebuild it in three days.” They think He is talking about a physical temple. “You’re not going to destroy this temple and be able to rebuild it.” The reality is He’s talking about Himself because He is the place where you meet with God. You meet with God through Christ, which is why when He died on the cross, what happened to the temple? That curtain ripped in two. Can you imagine being the priest on that day? You’re standing there and all of a sudden you’re exposed, and the barrier between you and the glory of God is obliterated. Praise God. That’s exactly what Christ came to do. He is the tabernacle. He is the temple. As we talked about in the last sermon, this is the whole picture of the glory of Christ in Exodus. He is the lamb who takes away our sin by His blood and makes worship possible. However, he is not just the lamb, but He is the light.
Remember how the tabernacle was constructed? It was four layers thick. Imagine how dark it must have been underneath all that covering, which is why you have this light, this lamp stand, that is there to display light in the presence of God. You’ve got John, right before he says, “Jesus tabernacled among us,” he said, “In [Christ] was life, and that life was the light of men.” In John 8:12, “I am the light of the world.” The light of the presence of God has broken through the darkness in the person of Christ. He’s the lamb; He’s the light; He is the bread on the table.
Exodus 40 Reminds Us that God Provides for His People
Remember the table of presence and the bread there? In Exodus 25 through 40, we see that this is a picture of how God is providing for His people. He is committed to providing for the needs of His people and, at the same time, is fellowshiping with them. This is a symbolic picture with bread in the tabernacle. Jesus comes, and in John 6, He’s having a conversation with religious leaders about the manna in the desert, and God providing for His people. He says to them “I am the bread. I am the one who meets your needs, and I am the one who satisfies your soul. I am the one who makes it possible for you to have fellowship with God. I am the bread of life.” He is the bread on the table.
He is the blood on the mercy seat. We’re going to talk more about this in the next sermon, but suffice to say, at this point, that it is the blood of Christ, the blood on the mercy seat, and the tabernacle is pointing us toward His everlasting mercy that would come through His blood shed on the cross.
Christ is the tabernacle, the temple, the lamb, the light, the bread on the table, and the blood on the mercy seat. Think about it. When He came to earth, the disciples beheld His glory. That’s why, in those moments where the disciples realized who was standing in front of them, whether it was when He calmed the wind and the waves, or after He had risen from the dead, and Thomas fell on his face in John 20:28 and said, “My Lord and my God.” They realized standing in front of us is the glory of God dwelling among us.
Oh, see the wonder and the supremacy of your Savior, Jesus Christ. He is the dwelling place of God. Now, He ascends into heaven, so He leaves the earth. Does that mean that there is no longer a visible presence of God here? No. It’s not what that means because He ascends to heaven, and He calls a people to Himself, and they trust in Him. He pours out His presence. Now, with worship in the church, the dwelling place of God is us.
Brothers and sisters, you and I, when we place our faith in Christ, He puts His Spirit in us, and we become the dwelling place of God. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, “Do you not know brothers that you yourselves are God’s temple?” 1 Corinthians 6:19 says, “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit where the spirit and presence and glory of God dwells in you.”
We Possess the Prescence of God
We possess His presence. Oh, the wonder of this and the seriousness of it. Brothers and sisters, do not play with sin. Brothers, stop looking at that on the Internet. Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit of God. Brothers and sisters, watch what you fill your minds with, what you give your body to, and what comes out of your mouth. In the same way that a high priest would go into the Holy of Holies once a year in holy fear, help us God. Help us to realize what you have entrusted to us. Help us to guard your holiness and to realize the wonder and the seriousness of the fact we possess His presence.
We possess His presence, and the nations observe His glory. Oh, think about it. When the people of God would travel in the Old Testament together, and the glory of God was dwelling in the tabernacle in the middle of them, this was a demonstration to all the surrounding nations that the glory of God was with them. To know that He is not just tabernacling in one place, but He’s tabernacling in each of us, which means wherever we go in this city and among the nations, we are taking the glory of God to every corner of this globe. What a privilege, what a joy to think of it. This week, we will scatter, church; we will scatter throughout the city, and the glory of God will be on display in every home, in every neighborhood, and every workplace where we are represented. Guard His holiness and display His glory, and don’t stop here. Let’s go, and let’s saturate places that are filled with darkness that have not heard the gospel. Let’s take the glory of God there. Let’s show the glory of God to the ends of the earth.
All of that leading to worship in the new creation where the dwelling place of God will be one: heaven. Now, turn with me to Revelation 21. You have got to see this. Revelation 21:1 starts talking about a new heaven and a new earth, but then the description begins to talk about a city. The city really looks like a temple or tabernacle, and it’s intentional. Look at it with me, Revelation 21:1:
[Then] I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”
The dwelling place of God.
What’s interesting is we do not see a city with a temple in it. Instead, look over in verse 22 of the same chapter, “[And] I saw no temple in the city.” Now, just pause right there. That’s huge. From this point in Exodus 25, all throughout the history of God’s people, worship life is centered around the temple. At the center of Jerusalem was a temple. The glory of God dwelt, and John says, “Heaven doesn’t have a temple.” Why not? Because “its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.” In other words, you don’t go to a certain place in heaven to experience the glory of God. The dwelling of God is there period. What is described here in Revelation 21 and 22 is, really, not even just the temple. It’s a picture of the innermost place, the Holy of Holies.
Do you remember back in Exodus 25 through 40 where we saw the Holy of Holies described as a square? You get to Revelation 21:16, and it says, “The city lies four square, its length the same as its width.” You remember, the only part of the temple that was pure and totally gold was the Holy of Holies, that innermost place. In it was the Ark of the Covenant, the chest, urn, the poles, and the cherubim. All of these things were made out of gold.
Look at Verse 18: “The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, clear as glass.” You don’t see any kind of lamp stand in heaven. There is no need for a lamp stand there. Look down at verse 23: “The city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” Christ Himself, His very presence, is light. Think of it. All this picture is Scripture telling us, “This is the place where the glory of God dwells in all it’s fullness.” Now, remember, with the tabernacle, Aaron went into the presence. The High Priest was the only one who would go into the presence, but now, instead of the High Priest going into the presence of God with particular clothes and with something on his forehead that said the name of the Lord, you see in Revelation 19 and Revelation 21 described us as dressed in pure white. Look at 22:4: “They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.”
The picture is, you and I are priests with intimate access to the glory of God for all of eternity. His name and His holiness is inscribed on our foreheads and our lives, and we will see His face. Did you catch that? We will see His face. We’re going to see the glory of the Lord. This will make you want to die in a really healthy way, doesn’t it? Die is gain, brothers and sisters. It’s gain. It’s glorious, unimaginable, unfathomable gain. Christ has conquered sin and death. He has shown us the glory of God in person, put His Spirit in us and given us a promise that this redemption will be a reality for us.
Oh, this is worship. We will delight in His presence in a place where all creation will be filled with His glory. Yes! Yes! Yes! Don’t start putting things away. Just a second, because I want to speak to us as point blank as possible. This is the glorious reality for those who trust in the Lamb. At the end of Revelation 20, we see the dreadful reality for those who do not trust in the Lamb. It says, “They will be thrown into the lake of fire forever.”
Come aside, men and women, please. Students, come aside from the trifling stuff in this world and see this eternal truth. Christ has died on a cross and risen from the grave that you might know God, that you might walk with God, and enjoy God for all eternity. So, if you have not yet trusted in Christ, I urge you to do that now. Turn from yourself, turn from your sin and trust in Christ.
Do not waver another moment. Do not live in pride or in pleasures in stuff of this world. Turn and trust in Him, and when you do, brothers and sisters, then seek His glory. Seek after Him and long for more and more of Him, because you know there’s coming a day when you’re going to see Him in all His fullness. So, do not be content now to be complacent before your God. Let’s be a people, church, who are desperate for more and more of His fullness among us, and a people who long day after day and week after week to see and behold and know His glory.