Passage: Exodus 25-27
Speaker: Mitch Kim
Series: Coming Home – A Journey Through Exodus
A Tent In The Wilderness
After a thrilling rescue from slavery in Egypt, the book of Exodus ends with a tent in the wilderness. That feels a bit anti-climactic to end with a little camping trip. Yet this tent is not any tent; this tent is the tabernacle of God’s presence. And God’s presence changes everything. Today we are in a bit of a wilderness with this shelter-in-place; we are not living life as we are used to! But God loves to transform our wildernesses to become places of distinct encounter with Him, and this shelter-in-place is no different. Shaken from our comfort zone, we see and hear Him more clearly. The concluding chapters of Exodus are an extensive invitation to the people of God to His presence. In chapters 25–27 detail God’s command to “let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst” (Exod 25:8). Why? God speaks (ark of the covenant) to sustain us (table for bread) and shine through us (golden lampstand), and He provides a sacrifice for us (bronze altar).
First, God speaks (ark of the covenant; Exod 25:22) After extensive commands about making the ark of the covenant, God says “There I will meet with you, and …I will speak with you” (25:22). In the very presence of God, God would meet his people and speak. God’s people are a people who are addressed by God. He loves to bring us into the wilderness to speak to us, to address us, because we are a people who are transformed by that address. From the cherubim in the midst of the ark of the covenant, the high priest would enter the holy of holies to hear God speak. He is speaking above the ark of the testimony, representing the Word of God given to His people.
And God speaks to sustain us (table of bread; Exod 25:29–30). The second object detailed is a table for bread, where the bread of the presence is set on the table before him regularly and dishes for incense are set out. This bread of God’s presence reminds us of His sustaining power; just as God fed his people manna in the wilderness, so he sustains us in the wilderness. God’s presence is not just a “spiritual” presence; it is physical, actual, real bread. There is something dissatisfying about disembodied presence; have you ever felt extra exhausted after a Zoom meeting? We are embodied people who are satisfied by physical sustenance. God does not just meet our “spiritual” and internal needs; He provides real physical food to satisfy and sustain his people. And He will sustain us through this, even as our prayers go up before Him!
God not only speaks to sustain us but also to shine through us (lampstand; Exod 25:31–33). This is a stylized tree of life; the lamp stands are in the shape of a tree, pointing to the tree of life that was in the garden of Eden. God’s light shines upon his people from his presence and shines through the people, and that light would never go out (cf Exod 27:20–21). And as the courts outside represent the world around us, we need to have His light shining on and through us. The hope of the world is not us in the midst of this darkness; it is the light of God’s presence shining on and through us.
Yet what happens when we sin? God still provides a sacrifice for us (bronze altar; Exod 27:1–8). Notice that the bronze altar is placed also in the holy place so that sacrifices can be offered. In a few chapters we will see the reality of sin that comes from the people of God. How can God’s presence shine on a sinful people without destroying them? God provides a sacrifice — offered on the bronze altar. That sacrifice points forward to the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ who was given to take away the sins of the world. And this sacrifice we remember each month as we come to the Table for communion.
So what? Let us come to the Table for communion. For we need God’s presence in this season more than anything else. His presence sustains us in our weariness and exhaustion. His presence shines through us in the darkness of the world around us. Therefore we need God’s presence. So come to the table at this time.