Summary: Sermon uses the layout of the Tabernacle to draw instruction on how to draw near to God.
How to Draw Near to God (II)
A couple of weeks ago we talked about drawing near to God. James 4:8 tells us to do that: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you....” I’m glad that verse is a promise as well as a command. God promises to draw near to us if we will draw near to Him. It’s not that our drawing near to God causes Him to draw near to us. We certainly don’t earn God’s presence by anything we do. But—by our choices which produce action, we demonstrate our receptivity to God’s presence; we demonstrate our desire for His presence.
Two weeks ago we identified 3 dynamics of God’s presence.
First, God is omnipresent—so in one sense God is with everybody. Ps 139:7-8
“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.”
Secondly, God dwells in every Christian. Rom 8:9 “... Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” That’s another sense in which God is present with people.
Today, I am not referring to either of those. James is talking to Christians when He says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you....” James is talking about a nearness to God that Christians need to pursue.
Week before last we shared three practical steps for drawing near to God.
(1) Prepare your heart to seek God. We saw places in Scripture where people did that. We explored the Hebrew word, kuwn, in those passages. And discovered two connotations of the word—make a firm decision to do it and make preparations to do it. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you....”
(2) We talked about the need to make it a priority if it’s ever going to happen. The only things we have time to do in life are our priorities. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you....” Only those who make that a priority ever really do it.
(3) Take a step in the right direction. It doesn’t even have to be a giant step. But to draw near to something there has to be some movement. So we ended that time together personally identifying a step we would take. Did you take that step? If so, I’ve got good news. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you....”
That message was about how to draw near to God. Most of us already know we need to draw near to God. The question is: how? This morning we want to come at that question in a different way. God has revealed how to draw near to Him in His word. He wants us near to Him. That’s what salvation is all about.
Today we want to receive instruction from the layout of the Tabernacle as to how to draw near to God. After their deliverance from Egypt, God began showing His people how to worship Him. This is particularly evident at Mt. Sinai in Exodus 19. There God gave them the Ten Commandments. Most of us remember seeing that depicted in the movie by that name. There are lightening and thunder and Charlton Heston who played Moses, comes walking back down the mountain with the tablets in his hands. Israel is sinning with the golden calf and Moses throws the tablets of the Ten Commandments and breaks them. Later Moses goes back up and gets a second set of the Ten Commandments from God. How many remember that story? What else did God give Moses on that mountain besides the Ten Commandments and the more detailed laws that went with them? He showed Moses the Tabernacle that was to be built to accommodate their worship. The construction of that Tabernacle was instructive for drawing near to God. And it is instructive for us as well.
Look with me at the layout of the tabernacle. The temple followed the same pattern.(A picture of the the tabernacle layout was shown on the overhead screen).
James 4:8 “Draw near to God....” What’s going on in James’ mind as he says that? As a good Jew he is seeing the Tabernacle. He is aware of the Holy of Holies where God dwells. The book of James is one of the most Jewish books in the New Testament. The Jews had hundreds of years for this pattern of coming to God to be burned into their minds. First there was the Tabernacle during the early years of the nation’s history. Then there was Solomon’s temple built after the same pattern. James and his brother, Jesus, had worshipped in the temple standing in his days known as Herod’s temple (because King Herod had provided funds toward its construction). The author of the book of James had participated in this pattern of worship there in Jerusalem.