Summary: We are each the temple of God. Explore parallels between the evolution of God’s tabernacle and the building of spiritual equity in the "starter home" of God’s Kingdom within us.
This past week I visited my hometown in Fairport, NY to see my family. One of the places that I wanted to see was my childhood home. My childhood home is rather modest. It’s a small ranch with just three tiny bedrooms, one bathroom, and contains only about nine hundred square feet of living space. The house was built in the 1950’s and was a “starter home” for our family. When we first moved in, the house was empty and in disrepair. The trees were overgrown, there was “jungle” in the back yard and all the rooms needed painting. I seem to remember that there were even mice in the basement. Later on, my parents moved into a much nicer, larger home using the equity they acquired in this house.
After I graduated from business school, our then small family (we only had two children at the time) purchased our first home. Like my parent’s home it was small and needed work. We had three tiny bedrooms, a small kitchen, and we put in a lot of sweat equity to fix up the house. Rooms were painted, the kitchen floor was ripped up, the bathroom was entirely redone, and the old roof was replaced. This too was our starter home.
Our “starter home” was important for my family, both growing up as a child, and for my own family as a parent. Here we established our family traditions and we learned to get along with one another. Owning a home meant that each family member needed to assume more responsibilities to maintain and improve the house. Starter homes are important because they teach young families about responsibility. Since starter homes are rather humble and are relatively utilitarian, they also give families a goal – to move on up and upgrade to either a larger home or the near perfect “dream house.” Savvy young couples understand that if they make some key improvements to their starter home they will be able to build equity that can be transferred to a new house when they upgrade. Building equity in a home, especially a “fixer-upper” takes time, money, labor, and sound judgment. Perhaps many of you have shared my experience.
By now, I’m sure that all of you understand the topic of my sermon. Today we’re going to talk about real estate: homes in particular. Our epistle reading from the Book of Hebrews 9:1-7 talks about a special home, it was God’s home under the Old Covenant. Now God’s home or tabernacle under the first covenant was special. How special was it? Well, if we look at our bibles we can see that just two chapters are devoted to the creation story, whereas some fifty chapters focus on His tabernacle.
The original tabernacle was constructed as temporary place of worship according to very specific plans passed on from God to Moses. In today’s epistle the main focus is on the temporary nature of the “earthly sanctuary,” which today is replaced by God’s heavenly sanctuary. The ancient tabernacle was a man-made copy of the heavenly sanctuary shown to Moses. The tabernacle had regulations that described the priest’s responsibilities and services and there were detailed instructions about its construction.
Here are some specifics about the tabernacle. First, it was portable and the Jews would carry the tabernacle as they traveled from place to place. Now, I’m not saying that God’s first home was a mobile home. It was a home that was mobile. I also want to make a clarification. God really didn’t live in the tabernacle. He really doesn’t live anywhere, however, the tabernacle served as His meeting place with His people. The tabernacle was a House of the Lord, just as we call our Cathedral a house of the Lord.
The tabernacle consisted of two rooms, the outer room and the Holy of Holies. It was largely constructed from skins and was the essence of impermanence. The courtyard contained a single gate and located in the outer court was a bronze altar and a bronze, washing basin. Also inside the outer room were a solid-gold lamp stand, a table, and the sacred bread called the Bread of the Presence. Veils covered the entrances to both the outer and inner holy places and a gold censer of incense stood before the entrance into the Holy of Holies.
Inside the Holy of Holies was the Ark of the Covenant. I’m sure that you remember the Ark of the Covenant from the movie, The Raiders of the Lost Ark. Three articles were kept in the Ark of the Covenant: a golden urn filled with manna as a reminder of God’s provision in the wilderness, Aaron’s rod which had budded, and the tablets containing the Ten Commandments. The ark was made of acacia wood overlaid with gold. Two gold cherubim angels were placed on the lid of the ark and they were to guard the presence of Jehovah. The lid that the angels overshadowed was called the mercy seat. God met man between the wings of the angels, on the mercy seat.