OPEN: A couple of years ago, I visited a placed called “Colonial Williamsburg” in Virginia.
It’s a famous town which has restored buildings from the 1700’s. There are shops there, a couple of restaurants, the governor’s mansion… and there is an Episcopalian Church building – constructed in 1715 that still has regular worship services. It has a current membership of around 1600 people (though I don’t think they all show up for worship).
It’s called the Bruton Parish, and it is beautiful structure. On there are pews are plaques with the names of some the more famous people who attended there:
• George Washington
• James Madison
• Patrick Henry
• And Thomas Jefferson
But what caught my attention was how the sanctuary was laid out.
(we displayed a church diagram showing the cruciform shape of the sanctuary)
The pulpit was way up high - a good 10 feet off the main floor. The preacher has to climb a set of stairs to preach. And the pews had doors on the end that you could close.
But the most significant thing, to me, was that the seating was divided into 4 sections so that the aisles formed a cross.
The design was deliberate - it’s called a “cruciform” (or a cross) design.
It followed the pattern of many of the cathedrals in the Old World of Europe.
They intended to communicate that their faith was based on the cross by how their building was constructed.
APPLY: In previous sermons we’ve mentioned that the Tabernacle was a unique structure. And just as the sanctuary at Bruton Parish was deliberately designed to teach its people something, so also was the Tabernacle.
Hebrews 8:5 tells us that the Old Testament priests served “… at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: "See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain."
There were heavenly lessons God wanted to teach His people thru that earthly tabernacle.
One of the lessons God wanted to teach was one we learned in an earlier sermon:
God wanted to be in the midst of His people.
The Tabernacle was situated right in the middle of the Israelite encampment. When the Tabernacle was set up, the nation of Israel surrounded it. Three tribes set up their tents to the North, three to the South, three to the East, and three to the West.
And right in the middle of them all was God’s tent… His tabernacle.
But even when the people moved from place to place and the tabernacle had to be torn down and moved, EVEN THEN, God’s Tabernacle was the center of His people.
The procession looked like this:
Then the Gershonites with 2 wagons carrying the Curtains, Coverings, Hangings, etc.
Then the Merarites with 4 wagons carrying the Boards, Bars, Pillars, etc.
Followed by Kohathites bearing the Ark, the Table of Shewbread, the Lampstand, the Altar of Incense, the Altar of Sacrifice, and the Brazen Laver
And last of all, the tribes of:
God was always in the “midst” of His people.
And that was a good thing too, because they couldn’t have survived without Him.
ILLUS: Out in the desert with no food, no water and Moses has about 3 1/2 million people to take care of. It takes about 500 tons of food each day to feed that many. Today, that would require 2 freight trains, each a mile long to hold it all.
It would have taken 4000 tons of firewood each day to cook that food.
And the water! That many people would need about 3,000,000 gallons just for drinking water, and that doesn’t include baths or washing laundry!
Then the camping space. Every time they camped, it took an area 2/3’s the size of Rhode Island for them just to pitch their tents. (25 by 30 miles).
How could Moses do that?
How could he supply for so many people in the midst of an unforgiving desert?
Well, he didn’t have to… God did it.
When they needed food, God provided it.
Every day God gave His people a special bread called manna. And on the day before the Sabbath (when they weren’t allowed to work) He supplied a double portion.
And when they needed meat, Numbers 11:31 tells how God caused a wind to drive quail in from the sea. It brought them down all around the camp as far as a day’s walk in any direction.
When they needed water, God supplied it. At least 2 times Moses struck a rock and God caused water to come out.
And when they needed camping space: Well, the desert God led them to was a big place and there wasn‘t a lot of people competing camping spots.
God was in their midst, and He met their needs.
The Bible tells me that when I became a Christian
• When I believed that Jesus died for my sins
• Repented of my sins
• Confessed Him as my Lord and Master
• And was buried in the waters of baptism for the forgiveness of my sins...
When I become God’s child, God’s Spirit came to live inside of me.
He literally is within me and in my midst wherever I go. And because that is now true… that God is IN us… Paul declares: “… my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus...” Philippians 4:19
(at this point we showed a video of Tabernacle. You can find it at http://www.brighterhope.org/mediacenter/Media/sampler/3D%20Sanctuary%20Tour.mov)
When the Tabernacle was set up its very design was intended to teach deep truths.
Yes God was in the midst of His people, but He was separated from them because of their sin.
There was a fence… a gate, a door and a veil.
Each of these was an obstacle between God and Israel.
The only way God’s people could approach Him was by sacrifice.
The only way they could stay close was by continual cleansing.
The outer court represented judgment.
This is where the sacrifices took place.
This is where innocent animals died for the sins of men.
And the bronze that encased the Altar and the Brazen laver – that metal represented judgment
(If the movie had reached the door of the Tabernacle before I finished we paused the movie and then restarted as I began the next section)
But once a priest stepped inside the Tabernacle itself there wasn’t anything made of bronze.
It was all gold.
Gold was the metal of royalty. Of a King.
When Jesus was born, the Wisemen brought there gifts… the first was gold.
Jesus was born to be a King.
And the smell was different too.
Outside, there was the smell of sacrifice and death.
Inside there was smell of bread, and incense, and lamp oil. It smelled like “life.”
The Bible tells us that once we become Christians… we have an aroma too.
“… we are… the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life….” 2 Corinthians 2:15-16
For those who are under judgment we are the smell of death.
But for those who have surrendered their lives to Christ, who have come into God’s presence with us, we are the smell of life and hope.
Now, as we’ve said before (pause)
The bronze of the outer court represented judgment.
And the gold of the inner rooms of the tabernacle represented royalty.
But there’s a 3rd metal used in the tabernacle.
It wasn’t as obvious as the bronze and the gold because it wasn’t used in the furniture.
No, this metal held the tabernacle together.
And it formed the foundations of the posts that held up the fence of the outer court.
And it formed the foundation of the boards that shaped the walls of the tabernacle.
This metal was silver.
Silver was the metal that was commonly used for currency.
When you bought, or sold, or redeemed something in that culture, you’d most likely used silver.
When Jesus was betrayed, he was betrayed for 30 pieces of (silver).
And whereas bronze stood for judgment in the Tabernacle… and gold for royalty… silver was the metal of redemption. The tabernacle rested on this metal of redemption.
Numbers 18:16 tells us that when a first born son was “… a month old, you must redeem them at the redemption price set at five shekels of silver…”
God was telling His people that their relationship with Him was founded/based upon His redeeming them. And so also, our entire relationship with God rests on the price of redemption paid by Christ. But He didn’t purchase us with silver or gold… but with His own precious blood.
Now, the tabernacle was beautiful place of worship… on the inside.
Inside there were the bright colors of blue and purple.
The furniture was encased in gold plate.
And there was embroidery and the polished wood of the walls.
INSIDE, beauty was everywhere.
But on the OUTSIDE… it wasn’t all that pretty.
On the outside - all you’d see is the skins of badgers.
I’ve seen badgers, and they’re not that attractive an animal.
And they’re not that large. To make a covering large enough to go over the tabernacle would have required many skins, sewn together in something of a patchwork.
For all intents and purposes, the tabernacle appeared to be nothing more than a large black tent. It probably wasn’t really appealing to the eye.
But now, when the Temple was built in the days of Solomon - it was beautiful.
It was built on Mount Moriah… and it could be seen for miles away.
And it was an elegant structure of the best workmanship and gave the nation of Israel great reason for pride.
By contrast the tabernacle was pitched on level ground… and it wasn’t a thing of beauty.
But then, the tabernacle represented Jesus Christ, and Isaiah tells us He didn’t have earthly beauty. Isaiah 53:2 declares “... He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”
When Jesus walked among men, He wasn’t “high and mighty” - He walked on level ground with people He ministered to.
And people weren’t drawn to Him because He was attractive - they were drawn to Him because He loved them and cared for them, and ministered to their needs.
The last thing I want you to notice about the tabernacle was how it was laid out.
As you’ll notice from this picture… the layout of the tabernacle
began at the altar of sacrifice
goes to the brazen laver
then into the Holy Place with the Table of Shewbread/ Lampstand/Altar of incense
And lastly to the Ark of the Covenant
Every time the tabernacle was set up this was the arrangement of its furniture.
It never changed.
In the 600 years or so that Israel worshipped at this tabernacle, it was always the same.
In the earthly tabernacle, God taught an ultimate heavenly truth
(TabernacleCross2.jpg – it shows the cross shape of the furniture’s positions by superimposing a cross over the top)
In order to get to God – Mankind needed to go THRU the cross!
Colossians 1:19-20 tells us “… God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in (Jesus), and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”
CLOSE: In his book The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey notes that other world religions are known for their brightly painted images and gilded statues. At the center of Christianity, however, rests this cross - simple, stark and solitary.
“What possessed Christians,” ponders Yancey, “to seize upon this execution device as a symbol for faith? Why not do everything within our power to squelch the memory of the scandalous injustice? Why make it the centerpiece of the faith?”
Of all the symbols of hope and triumph, the cross is indeed the most ironic.
Paul put it this way: “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” I Corinthians 1:18.
But, of course, that had always been the plan of God.
Where some religions worship idols and glory in their statues God intended to build our relationship to Him around the constant reminder that our forgiveness was bought by an innocent sacrifice on a cruel cross, by a God who willingly paid the price to redeem us.
* I wish to acknowledge the substantial help Jerry Shirley’s sermons on this topic (found on Sermoncentral.com) were in my preparation of this sermon.
* If you’d like the graphics for this sermon, email me and I’ll do my best to supply them.