9th Sunday in Trinity: Exodus 27-28: Lessons: Ex. 28:1-30, 1 Pet. 2:1-12, Jn. 17:20-26
We continue to work through the book of Exodus this morning and the instructions for building the tabernacle and establishing faithful worship there. Today we look particularly at God’s determination to share His glory and beauty with His people.
The instructions for the tabernacle work their way from the inside out. So we began with the Ark (Ex. 25:10-22), worked our way out into the Holy Place (Ex. 25:23-40), and then considered the coverings and curtains of the tent enclosing the Holy Place and Most Holy Place (Ex. 26:1-26). In our text, we move outward to the bronze altar just outside the entrance to the Holy Place (Ex. 27:1-8) and then continue with the construction of the fence enclosing the Courtyard (Ex. 27:9-19). Given the overall movement outward, it seems strange to revert to instructions for the lampstand (Ex. 27:20-21), but what follows are instructions for the garments of the priests (Ex. 28) and their ordination (Ex. 29). The lampstand is tended by the priests (Ex. 28:21), and more importantly, the lampstand symbolizes the priests who are anointed with oil (Ex. 29:7, 21).
There are intricate instructions for the garments of the priests, but we should specifically note several things: First, the garments are for “glory and beauty” (Ex. 28:2, 40), and here we have the first mention of “gifted artisans” who are filled with the “spirit of wisdom” (Ex. 28:3, cf. 28:6, 15). Secondly, notice that the garments match the rest of the tabernacle (Ex. 28:5-6, 8, 15, 23-24, 26-27, 31, compare with 25:12, 26, 26:1, 31, 36). In other words, the priest is an embodied, walking tabernacle. But the symbolism goes the other way too: the tabernacle represents a human: she has sides that are literally “ribs” (Ex. 25:12,14, 26:20, 26, 27, 35, 27:7), and she is covered in “skins” (Ex. 25:5, 26:14, cf. Gen. 3:21, 27:16). Literally, each curtain is referred to as a “woman/wife” (Ex. 26:3, 5, 6, 17). The “tenons” that hold the boards together are “hands” (Ex. 26:17, 19).
But this leads to a final point about the priest’s uniform: it represents Israel. The onyx stones on the shoulders bear the names of the sons of Israel (Ex. 28:9-12), and the breastplate likewise is covered in precious stones engraved with the names of the sons of Israel (Ex. 28:21, 29-30). Even the priest’s turban is meant to represent the children of Israel before the Lord (Ex. 28:38). But not only is God intent on having Israel come near into His presence, the overarching picture is that God is intent on coming near and dwelling within them. Israel is the bride of Yahweh.
Glory & Beauty
Salvation is always a call to embrace the glory and beauty that God intends for this world, for your life. Repentance is always choosing light instead of darkness, joy instead of sorrow. When obedience or repentance becomes difficult, we should remember the goodness of God. Taste and see that the Lord is good. And the center of this is forgiveness, the blood sprinkled on the ark of our lives.
And as we taste the goodness of God, we should want to beautify our lives, our worship, our city. Christians are beautifiers because they have been beautified. Christians are glorifiers because they have been glorified. They know what it’s like to take a slum and turn it into glorious city. They know what it’s like to take a ghetto and turn it into a garden. God loves turning ugly things into beautiful things and so should we, and we want our new building to match that value. Knowing Jesus should be attractive, lovely, glorious because we are His bride (Eph. 5:26-27). But our priorities should continue to match God’s, working from the inside out (Pr. 31:30, 1 Pet. 3:3-4).
Real Glory & Beauty
We’ve said previously that God spends so much time on the details of the tabernacle because He loves Israel that much. He is a faithful husband who cares for His bride. This is why adornment matters. This is why we make a point to decorate what we can in our current location, and we want to beautify and glorify our future worship space.
Some err by saying it doesn’t really matter: God only cares about the inside. But this doesn’t match the instructions God gave Israel and misses God’s great plan to renew and glorify all things (e.g. Rom. 8, Rev. 21).
Others err by trying to make outward beauty compensate for an empty heart. This was the error of the Pharisees who were white washed tombs full of rotting corpses, cups shiny on the outside while full of filth on the inside (Mt. 23:25-27). But this always produces a fake glory, a fake beauty. And the end of this kind of hypocrisy is homosexuality: it’s an attempt to make your own glory, your own beauty apart from God’s blessing (Rom. 1:22-27).
Finally others want to take all their aesthetic cues from the Egyptians. While we don’t need to be paranoid about using the same light switches as the pagans, we should self-consciously refuse to imitate God-haters. If the God-haters worship their gods and perform their rituals in the nightclubs, why would we want our worship space to mimic that?
But the same thing applies to your homes, clothing choices, hairstyles, etc. Just as there is no inspired blue print for modern church buildings, there is no inspired dress code for modern Christians. But you are temples of the Spirit, so flee all sexual immorality, put away envy, deceit, hypocrisy (1 Cor. 6:18-20, 1 Pet. 2:1). We want to adorn all that we do as the beloved, special, treasured people of God (1 Pet. 2:9-10).