Why Do You Worship?

Explore the Bible Series

April 25, 2010

 

Background Passage: Exodus 25:1-31:18

Lesson Passage: Exodus 25:8-9; 17-22; 29:38-46

 

Introduction:

 

The worship wars have divided churches and fostered a “marketing” approach to church services, a trend I see as unhealthy for believers.  Many congregations, pressured by differing tastes in music and preaching styles, now target different age groups and personal preferences by providing separate worship services.  I hope, in time, congregations will rethink this practice.  Please “hear” me out on my reasoning.

 

For the first time in the Old Testament, our lesson passage outlines early revelation about the practicalities of religious worship, and we can glean a great deal of helpful principles to guide our worship.  As I read these chapters, these things issues seem clear.

 

1.      Worship does not center on the fickle tastes and preferences of the congregants; rather, it must focus on the glory and desires of God.  Modern churches, too often, give greater weight to the shifting sand of popular, fashionable sentiments than to the concerns of the Lord.  Indeed, the worship of God should demonstrate a timeless, eternal perspective that resists faddish trendiness.  Please don’t misunderstand my point.  I have no quarrel with contemporary expressions of the timeless principles of the faith; instead, what seems unwise is the constant pursuit of various fads in worship.

 

2.      Acceptable worship must focus on the Lord Jesus.  Read these passages from Exodus carefully.  At every turn the honest reader encounters symbols and foreshadowing of the glory of Christ.  Trendy worship, on the other hand, may actually detract from the Christocentric nature of the service.  Frankly, much worship today strikes me as performance, intended to draw attention to the performers.  It sends the message that worship exists to provide a forum for the talents of church members rather than exalt Jesus.  The Old Testament Tabernacle, it seems, had one central purpose—the glory of God’s means of forgiveness through sacrifice for sin.  Again, every tabernacle image points forward to Christ, and modern worship should direct attention back to the redemptive work of the Savior.    

 

3.      Worship, while certainly Christ-centered, also includes a corporate element, an element that demands the building of human relationships.  The Bible knows nothing of “lone wolf” religion. The Tabernacle was a tent of meeting, and its ceremonies called for the attentive participation of the congregation of God’s people.  The author of Hebrews encouraged his readers not to forsake the assembling of themselves together (See Hebrew 10:25), and similar sentiment underscores our lesson passage. I realize how profoundly disillusioned some people may become with the frailties and disappointments of corporate church life; nevertheless, Christians need one another.

 

Lesson Outline:

 

I.                   The Tabernacle and Its Furnishings (25:1-27:21)

A.    Contributions for Building the Tabernacle (25:1-9): The Book of Exodus provides extraordinary instructions for erecting the tabernacle, instructions that occur in Chapters 25-31, and then appear again, almost word for word, in Chapters 35-40.  The elaborate materials used in the construction, no doubt, came from the treasures bequeathed to Israel by their Egyptian oppressors (See Exodus 12:33-35). Each Hebrew, moved in his heart, was to give generously to the project.

B.     The Ark of the Covenant (25:10-22): Jehovah instructed Moses to construct an Ark (oblong chest) from acacia wood and overlay the wood with gold.  Cubits were measured by the length from a man’s elbow to the tips of the fingers; thus, we can only approximate the dimensions of the ark.  In addition, God told Moses to fashion a golden lid for the Ark, complete with images of two cherubim, shaped from pure gold.  On either side of the Ark the craftsmen were to place rings to hold poles for carrying the Ark.  At this point, the narrative does not fully disclose the contents of the Ark (the tables of the Law, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the container of manna), nor does it describe the future location of the Ark, in the Tabernacle (the Holy of Holies).  Later, Moses discovered that only the High Priest could approach the Ark, on the Day of Atonement (See Leviticus 16). 

C.     The Table of the Bread of Presence (25:23-30): The Table of Bread, like the Ark, was made of acacia wood overlaid with gold, and it also had rings for careful, easy transportation.  The priests arranged twelve large loaves of bread on this table, a supply that was replenished every Sabbath.

D.    The Lampstand (25:31-40 and 27:20-21): The craftsmen used about seventy-five pounds of gold to make the Lampstand.  According to the instructions, the menorah had a central shaft flanked by three branches on each side.  It seems that the Lord intended for the Lampstand to appear in the likeness of an almond tree.  Pure, beaten olive oil provided the fuel for the lighting of the Lampstand. This furnishing stood adjacent from the Table of Bread, in the Holy Place.  Our lesson passage does not provide a description of another article found in the Holy Place, the Altar of Incense, until Chapter 30.

E.     The Tent of Meeting (26:1-37): The Tabernacle itself conveyed God’s presence with his people; yet, this divine presence did not foster irreverent familiarity. The people could approach Jehovah, but only on terms that he prescribed.  Ten curtains comprised the exterior of the tent, each made of the finest materials.  A goat hair covering sheltered the exterior of the tent.  An acacia wood frame, overlaid with gold, served as the “skeleton” of the Tabernacle. Thick veils, made of fine wool and linen (made from flax, common and highly valued in Egypt), separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. 

F.      The Bronze Altar (27:1-8): The altar of sacrifice rested outside the Holy Place, near the Bronze Laver (not mentioned until Exodus 30:17-21).  God told Moses to make this altar from acacia wood and bronze (an alloy of copper and tin).  Again, poles were attached, by rings, to aid in the transport of the altar. Here, the priests offered burnt sacrifices.

G.    The Court of the Tabernacle (27: 9-19): A large, enclosed court surrounded the Tabernacle, a court marked by finely made linen curtains supported by a superstructure constructed of bronze pillars and silver bindings.

 

II.                The Aaronic Priesthood (28:1-29:46): The priests served essential functions in Israel: guardians of the Tabernacle, instructors in the Law, presenters of sacrifices, and, at times, oracles of Jehovah.  Their elaborate, ornate garments reflected these important functions as they mediated for the people.

A.    The Priestly Garments (28:1-43)

1.      The ephod (28:1-14): After a brief introductory statement, the author of Exodus described the ephod, a woolen and linen garment worn by the High Priest.  Two shoulder straps supported the garment, and two onyx stones, engraved with the tribal names of Israel, rested over the priest’s chest. 

2.      The breastpiece of judgment (28:15-30): This garment, studded with gold and precious stones, contained twelve stones engraved with the names of the tribes of Israel.  Also, over Aaron’s heart, the breastpiece contained the Urim and Thummim, two stones that the priests apparently used to discern the will of God. 

3.      The robe of the ephod (28:31-35): This outer garment covered the ephod and breastpiece.  The tailors, at God’s direction, affixed golden bells to the garment so the people could discern the movements of the High Priest as he ministered in the Tabernacle. 

4.      The turban and coat of the High Priest (28:1-39): A plate of pure gold, denoting the holiness of the Lord, was affixed to the priest’s turban, and a linen coat and sash completed the priest’s attire.

5.      The garments of regular priests (28:40-43): Chapter 28 concludes with a brief description of the garments worn by priests other than Aaron.  It appears that these clothes were not as elaborate as those of the High Priest.

B.     The ordination of the priests (29:1-46): This chapter provides expansive details about the ordination of priests.  In the future, priests ordained new men to this ministry, but, since, no priesthood existed at Sinai, Moses consecrated these men.  The text describes a series of sacrifices and rites that attended this initial ordination. The rites were to be repeated for seven days.  Verses 38-46 outline the morning and evening sacrifices that punctuated the daily activities of the priests.

 

III.             Additional Instructions for Worship in the Tabernacle (30:1-31:18)

A.    The Alter of Incense (30:1-10): This altar, made of acacia wood and gold, held a fragrant incense that burned day and night.  Many Bible scholars have interpreted the symbolism as referring to the constant intercession of the Lord Jesus on behalf of his people.

B.     The census tax (30:11-16): The Hebrews, from time to time, took a census of the people, and each census was accompanied by a ransom of a half shekel.  The money from the census went to the financial support of the Tabernacle.

C.     The Bronze Basin (30:17-21): The Laver served as a reminder of the importance of moral purity in the worship of Jehovah.  The priests, as they approached their responsibilities, were required to wash their hands and feet as a symbol of ceremonial purity.

D.    The anointing oil and incense (30:22-38): God commanded Moses to make anointing oil from fragrant resins to consecrate the articles in the Tabernacle and the priests.  The Law forbids ordinary people from using this anointing oil.  Also, the Lord prescribed a “recipe” for the incense used in the Holy Place (vv. 34-38). Again, ordinary people were not allowed to use this incense.

E.     The consecration of craftsmen (31:1-11): the Lord left little to the imagination of the Israelites; indeed, God specially equipped even the craftsmen for constructing the Tabernacle and its furnishings, Oholiab and Bezalel. 

F.      The observance of the Sabbath (31:12-18): The Sabbath served as a token of the covenant, and God warned the Jews to keep the Sabbath holy as witness to future generations.  This section concludes with the claim that God wrote these commandments, on the stone tablets, with his own finger.