Summary: This sermon takes off on the Greek text of Revelation. In 7:15, we are told God will shelter them - the literal translation is "tabernacle them" - or "spread his tent over them." The sermon then explores God in a tent with his people in Exodus, comparing
Hillsborough Reformed Church at Millstone
April 29, 2007 Easter IV
“God in a Tent”
The Book of Revelation is a vision of the future, but a vision of the future with a purpose. The Book of Revelation was written to Christians suffering severe persecution at the hands of the Roman Empire early on in Christian history. All the fantastic apocalyptic visions and symbolism have to do with the Empire. They are code that ancient Christians and Jews would easily have understood. Though they are mysterious to us today, this kind of literature was widespread in the centuries just before Jesus and immediately following the time of Jesus.
The purpose of the Book of Revelation is to give strength to people who might well have to pay for their membership in the church with their lives. Revelation says, even if it costs you your life to be a follower of Jesus, persevere, for God will reward you in heaven.
Today we have as our reading one of the most important parts of this vision…the multitude of people from all nations – people who loved Jesus and died for him, praising God. And they say this about God: 15 For this reason they are before the throne of God,
and worship him day and night within his temple,
and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them,
nor any scorching heat;
God will shelter them. A note at the bottom of the page of my Bible said this about that part of the verse, that God will shelter them, “literally, God will spread his tabernacle over them.” (Ske – NO – say)
I was amazed.
What is the tabernacle doing in the last book of the Bible? We first read of the tabernacle during the wilderness wanderings of God’s people after God has Moses lead them out of slavery in Egypt. God instructs them to put up this place of worship – it is a tent – a large tent. God presence is in the tent. So it is also called the tent of meeting.
What the tabernacle boils down to is a portable church.
When the people of Israel move on, they take down the tent, and carry it with them to the next encampment then put it up again.
That makes sense, perhaps, for people wandering forty years in the desert. But at the end of history, when God establishes God’s kingdom in its fullness, God still has a tent?
And tell me, what kind of God lives in a tent anyway?
Do you remember staying in a tent as a kid, maybe in scouts?
Remember someone telling you – “Don’t touch the material of the tent or it will lose its rain-proofing?” Do you remember putting up a tent? Do you remember taking it down, rolling it up and carefully brushing the twigs and leaves and dirt off as you rolled it? The tent has to be clean when stored, or it would deteriorate. My kids always wanted a tent. We’d put the tent up in the backyard. We even got one of those neat little tents for toddlers that you put up in the family room.
Tents are temporary. So, what kind of a God lives in a tent?
You know, other god’s want to be worshiped in Temples. Temples of the finest marble…vast Temples that wow you and make you stare up in awe. Gilded Temples, Temples with jewels. Temples that say, this God is great!
But no, the God of the Jews wants to live in a tent. And at the end of time, it will be a tent again – “God will spread God’s tabernacle over you.”
Not only that, but God has even TURNED DOWN Temples! When David was king, he fought many wars to establish Israel’s kingdom. When he finally had the land powerful and secure, he said to himself, “Here I am living in a fine palace of cedar. But God is living in a tent! I will build a Temple for God out of the finest cedar!” But God has other ideas. God sends the prophet Nathan to Jesus…says this to David, Nathan, “Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle.(2 Sam. 7:5b,6)
In other words, God says to David, “Who asked you to build me a house?”
Then God goes on to tell David, GOD will build DAVID a house- that is, God will establish David’s dynasty – a descendant of David will always rule. And you knew that Jesus is a descendant of David.