Exodus 40: God's Dwelling

July 19, 2009 Series: Exodus

Topic: Old Testament Passage: Exodus 40:34–40:34

Exodus 40: God’s dwelling

July 17, 2009

Sam Ford


Things will change

The beginning of the Exodus story was shrouded in darkness.  Though God is seemingly silent, he is watching over and working through his enslaved people.  A good-looking baby boy, tossed into a basket out of desperation, beats all the odds.  A Hebrew, raised Egyptian, only to become a fugitive, and a shepherd probably thinking little about God’s mission and more about how to feed the kids, love his bride, and not lose his sheep in the hills of Midian.   Then God shows up, and by God’s grace, God’s power, God’s direction, transforms this lowly shepherd into a leader, directing him through a story not evenHollywoodcould write.  Then along with Moses, God calls others, gives others a sense of mission, empowers others to walk with Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Ben Hur, Joshua, Bezalel, Ohiliab, and a myriad of others who remain a mystery to us but not to God.


It reminds me of how we started here at Damascus Road.  We were never in slavery to Egypt, but we all have our stories of deliverance.  I’m no Moses; I’m not a fugitive raised in the private schools of a great kingdom, just a lowly English teacher who was trying to love his bride and feed his kids.  And God showed up one day and said go.  I argued too, I gave lists of reasons why this wasn’t what I was supposed to do, and I finally started to walk.  Then he brought others to walk with me.  Some you know, some remain nameless—but not to God.   And like the poor, whiny, and confused Israelites, God took us—through joys and hurts, telling us to walk in places where we couldn’t see the end.  And he shaped this group of ragamuffins into a core of leaders who by God’s grace, have been used to build a dwelling place for God calledDamascus Road.  What was nothing but ideas and dust became a living breathing body.


And at some point, Israelstopped viewing themselves as former slaves, incompetent workers, or lost worshippers.  At some point, they began to see and believe and live like they were children of God, created to be worshippers with a mission.  There were stages to this realization.  The first right before the 10th plague, the one that would all but guarantee Israel’s freedom:  Exodus 12.1 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you.   Then, as we read in chapter 40, a year to the day later, Moses raises the house that the craftsmen of God had constructed. Its tent, tabernacle, and furnishings were each works of art contributing to a larger masterpiece where God would dwell.  Chapter 40 represents another new chapter in their story, with new leaders, new ways of doing things, a new adventure.


We’re approaching a similar day, individually and corporately.  Individually, many of us need to embrace all that God is calling us to-- No excuses, not justifications as to why “not yet”, today.  Corporately, we must stop talking about being a church plant and begin to be a church.  But that means, we grow and we change, and things aren’t like they were before.  We must embrace our changing identity as God calls new people to join our family, new people to lead, new people to serve, new people to join our mission to proclaim the gospel wherever we go. Today is the beginning of a new chapter in the story of Damascus Road.


As you’ll see, God’s story never follows a tradition story arc, with a beginning, middle, and end.  Instead, the story has a beginning, middle, and a beginning again.  The end of Exodus is the beginning of so many stories as if we finish Exodus 40 and read “To be continued.”


Exodus 40.1-8 Command to Set up

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “On the first day of the first month you shall erect the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. 3 And you shall put in it the ark of the testimony, and you shall screen the ark with the veil. 4 And you shall bring in the table and arrange it, and you shall bring in the lampstand and set up its lamps. 5 And you shall put the golden altar for incense before the ark of the testimony, and set up the screen for the door of the tabernacle. 6 You shall set the altar of burnt offering before the door of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, 7 and place the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it. 8 And you shall set up the court all around, and hang up the screen for the gate of the court.


No flaws

After a year in the making the tabernacle was ready to be set up on the first day of the first month in the second year, just in time for the people to celebrate the first anniversary of their deliverance from Egypt.  This year they would celebrate Passover unlike they had in Egypt.  Earlier, in Exodus 39.43, Moses had examined all of the work to ensure that it had been designed and built in accordance to God’s building plans.  He inspected the furnishings, the utensils, the coverings, the priestly garments, the curtains, the rings, the poles, the bases for the poles, the courtyard walls, the veils, etc.  And he found all of it be exactly as the Lord commanded.  It would have been tempting to ensure excellence in SOME things, but he did not settle NOR did the workers.  One might think that the guys building the ark might find it easier to “work hard” for the Lord…what about the ring makers?  The pole guys?  The spoon shapers?  We’re going to skip ahead to verse 16 to see the actual set-up, then revisit verse 9-15 which are not fulfilled until Leviticus 8.  (SKIP AHEAD)


**Exodus 40.16-33 **Setting up the Tabernacle “As the Lord Commanded”

16 This Moses did; according to all that the Lord commanded him, so he did. 17 In the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, the tabernacle was erected. 18 Moses erected the tabernacle. He laid its bases, and set up its frames, and put in its poles, and raised up its pillars. 19 And he spread the tent over the tabernacle and put the covering of the tent over it, as the Lord had commanded Moses. 20 He took the testimony and put it into the ark, and put the poles on the ark and set the mercy seat above on the ark. 21 And he brought the ark into the tabernacle and set up the veil of the screen, and screened the ark of the testimony, as the Lord had commanded Moses. 22 He put the table in the tent of meeting, on the north side of the tabernacle, outside the veil, 23 and arranged the bread on it before the Lord, as the Lord had commanded Moses. 24 He put the lampstand in the tent of meeting, opposite the table on the south side of the tabernacle, 25 and set up the lamps before the Lord, as the Lord had commanded Moses. 26 He put the golden altar in the tent of meeting before the veil, 27 and burned fragrant incense on it, as the Lord had commanded Moses. 28 He put in place the screen for the door of the tabernacle. 29 And he set the altar of burnt offering at the entrance of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, and offered on it the burnt offering and the grain offering, as the Lord had commanded Moses. 30 He set the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it for washing, 31 with which Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet. 32 When they went into the tent of meeting, and when they approached the altar, they washed, as the Lord commanded Moses. 33 And he erected the court around the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the screen of the gate of the court. So Moses finished the work.


As the Lord had Commanded

It is doubtful that Moses put together the tent himself but it is set up under his direction.  We could easily dismiss this passage simply as necessary narrative—to get to the “real meat.”  You’ll notice that in verses 16-33, Moses is said to have done exactly as God commanded seven times.  And the same phrase is used of Moses 15 times since Exodus 34.   Most likely, Moses had taken copious notes to ensure that the construction of the tabernacle was exactly how God had dictated it on Mt. Sinai.  And the WORDS of God that Moses recorded were authoritative, necessary, clear, and sufficient for the people to follow.  This wasn’t the time or opportunity for the people to get independently “creative” with their interpretations or applications.  There were no “metaphors” or other figurative devices here…the WORD of GOD was simple.  When Psalms 1 says:  Blessed is the man ; who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,  nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;  but his delight is in the law of the Lord,  and on his law he meditates day and night. The implication is that God’s commands are clear enough to walk in, to stand in, to sit in, to delight in, and to meditate on. 


Why so much confusion?

Why so much confusion then about what God wants?  Why so much disagreement justified by such statements as “that’s your interpretation?”  One word, SIN.   We want the Scriptures to say what we want them to say.  That sin manifests itself out in different ways, leave things out, add things in, twist things


Jesus said that the commands/law of God can be summed up in two things, 1st to Love God and the 2nd to love others.   We struggle doing both.  Some love the Lord to the point where their love turns into some sort of perverted moralism.   The savor the moral commands of God, emphasize the discipline of the Lord, as they deny the grace that saved them.   They ignore or reinterpret the commands of God to love there neighbor, to love the sinner, to love the enemy. 


Then there are those who love their neighbor but it’s not a Godly love.  They ignore Gods moral commands, refusing to draw lines, often compromising who they are not necessarily by sinning, but by there silence.  They emphasize grace over and above the hard truth of, fearing that to do so might “turn people off” who, incidentally, have never been on.


How careful are we?

The question we must all consider, is how careful we are about do ALL that the Lord commands—as individuals AND as a church.  We must use the materials to build that God has instructed us to useWe must build as God directs us to build.  We must use what we build to glorify God in the way he has commanded us to.  To go against God’s commands, change his commands, ignore God’s commands, to go outside his design or to build our lives even in ways that WORK but are not BIBLICAL—is sin. 


How committed are we to doing all that God’ commands?  Are we willing to allow God commands to govern our intellect?  To govern our emotions?  To govern our actions, thoughts, and words?  And does this happened naturally?  Am I willing to love those whom I do not like?  Am I willing to help those who cannot help me?  Am I willing to speak the truth when it is not popular?  Am I willing to live a life under the Lordship of Jesus in ALL things as the majority of the people (world/church) live for themselves?  


Exodus 40.9-15 – Future Consecration

In returning to verse 9, we see that God gave additional instructions after setting up the tabernacle. 9 “Then you shall take the anointing oil and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it, and consecrate it and all its furniture, so that it may become holy. 10 You shall also anoint the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and consecrate the altar, so that the altar may become most holy. 11 You shall also anoint the basin and its stand, and consecrate it. 12 Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and shall wash them with water 13 and put on Aaron the holy garments. And you shall anoint him and consecrate him, that he may serve me as priest. 14 You shall bring his sons also and put coats on them, 15 and anoint them, as you anointed their father, that they may serve me as priests. And their anointing shall admit them to a perpetual priesthood throughout their generations.”

The Anointing

Moses was instructed to consecrate every part of the tabernacle.  Exodus 30 gives instructions on making particular type of oil to be used for the purposes of consecration.  Specifically, Moses is instructed to anoint or smear oil on the various parts of the tabernacle and eventually the priests themselves.  Though these things are not holy in themselves, God makes them holy by setting them apart for his use in this way. 


Many Christian teachers today, some found on Christian Comedy Central also known as TBN, recklessly use the concept of “anointing” in ways that are not biblical.  People will claim they have or that others posses a “special anointing” giving their words authority OR the ability to work miracles.  Some will even say they received “double portions” of anointing or that the anointing is transmitted from one person to another through laying on of hands, slaying of the Spirit, or other strange bodily phenomena.  Quite simply, God does not command or instruct anywhere in the Old Testament or the new that this is the case.  This is a prime example where men have taken a command of God and used it to their own benefit, to satisfy their own desires, or for some other self-glorifying purpose.  Again, it goes back to being governed by God’s Word. 


Setting apart for God

As he sets this Tabernacle apart for the glory of a Holy God, Moses makes a promise that it will NOT be used for the glory of men.  And as Moses does this, he initiates a shift in Israel’s identity.  Though he doesn’t actually do this until Leviticus, when he does, Moses begins a new chapter in the life of Israel.   They will not be the small nomadic wanderers being led by one man.  The Levites will begin to assume the responsibility for mediating the relationship between God and men.  Things will change.  And as Moses consecrates the tabernacle, he guarantees that his personal relationship andIsrael’s relationship with God has changed.  Though Moses experienced a revelation of God’s glory onMt.Sinai and in the tent, that role would not be transferred to Aaron and his sons.  Moses would never again step into the Tabernacle as he had before.  Though God would speak to him, his role is changing. 


We are going to experience changes. Often times we want to blame the changes on the whims of men.  What about the commands of God?  Throughout history we see that, though God and his truth do not change, many things do including his church, how they worship, when, where, and who leads them in doing this.  The Lord knows that I look different as a Christian than I did when I was younger—and the same goes with the church.  God will prune us as people and as a church which, at times is ugly, sometimes it is even painful, but it is always fruitful.  Moses cannot, nor can we, rest in a “that’s the way we’ve always done it mentality.”  The key is to ensure that our leaders are in fact following God’s commands in those changes as they are led and taught by the Holy Spirit within them. 


Exodus 40.34-38 – The glory and dwelling of God

34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 36 Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. 37 But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. 38 For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house ofIsrael throughout all their journeys.


The Filling of the Tabernacle

Finally, after a year of travels, God fulfills his intent to dwell with the people.  The cloud, symbolic of the Lord’s presence, the cloud that had led them out of Egypt, the cloud that had settled on Sinai, the cloud that had filled the temporary tent outside the camp only on occasions, now comes and fills the tabernacle.  God’s dwelling here is not a new thing; it is in fact a theme that has been carried out since the early moments of creation. 


The Filling of US

It is easy to read this and dismiss it as an experience intended for Israelonly.  But everything is a shadow of God’s future redemption that comes through Jesus.  God has had many homes or dwellings, all of which brought his presence closer and closer to us.  Universe - Since the beginning of creation, God has been a builder of homes.  He built the entire universe like a house and filled it all.  – Garden Then God planted a garden as a special dwelling where God met with Adam and Eve.  They enjoyed communion and intimacy together and many of the symbols of the tabernacle point us back to the garden.  Israel  Then, as the redemptive story unfolded, God built this tabernacle through Moses and later Solomon’s temple are special dwellings of God.  After their construction and dedication, the cloud of glory descends on them to signify God taking up His Abode.  And as God dwelled in the midst of the camp outside the promise land, and later in the land itself, the people of God corporately became a dwelling place of God. 


All Points to Jesus

Christ himself is the ultimate dwelling of God with human beings.  Matthew 1.23 says that Chris is called “Immanuel”, which means, “God with us.”  John 1.14 says that the word was made flesh and dwelt among us, using the word dwelling to allude to the tabernacle.  Church And after 30 years of dwelling with the people, like a house among others, he shows himself to be the savior sent on mission to reconcile men to God—to return once again to the intimacy of the garden where we lived in God’s presence.  And as he breathes his last on the cross, the curtain of separation is torn in two, God calls and gathers his people into a new dwelling called the church.  Hebrews 3.1-6  Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, 2 who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. 3 For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. 4 (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) 5 Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6 but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope


We are his house

We are God’s House.  Scripture declares more than once that our bodies are temple’s of God’s spirit, houses of his dwelling presence.   In many ways, we are that tabernacle, possessing God’s glory in a spiritual and REAL way, anointed by God’s spirit who lives in us.  1John 2.24-27  24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.

26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in hi


We live in the presence of God.  While we can never be physically out of the presence of God, we often live our lives as if He is not really there. We bring profane things into our tabernacle, we use our tabernacle for all kinds of self-glorifying thoughts, words, and actions—when it was built to be a place of purity, a place of worship, a place of sacrifice.  1Peter 2.5 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ If we are the temple, than we must declare the glory of God in all the details of our life. If we are the temple, then God must be at the center of everything we do. If we are the temple, than our lives are about His glory, not ours.  It is what we were made for.


Worship is the submission of all of our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness, nourishment of mind by His truth, purifying of imagination by His beauty, opening of the heart to His love, and submission of will to His purpose. And all this gathered up in adoration is the greatest of human expressions of which we are capable.

–        William Temple



It’s never too late to consecrate today—to dedicate yourself today.  Start a new chapter today.


More in Exodus

July 12, 2009

Exodus 37-39: God's House

July 5, 2009

Exodus 35-36: God's Builders

June 28, 2009

Exodus 28-29: God's Priest