God’s blessing requires obedience

Exodus 40:26-35 (NIV)

Moses placed the gold altar in the tent of meeting in front of the curtain and burned fragrant incense on it, as the LORD commanded him.
Then he put up the curtain at the entrance to the tabernacle. He set the altar of burnt offering near the entrance to the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, and offered on it burnt offerings and grain offerings, as the LORD commanded him.
He placed the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar and put water in it for washing, and Moses and Aaron and his sons used it to wash their hands and feet. They washed whenever they entered the tent of meeting or approached the altar, as the LORD commanded Moses.
Then Moses set up the courtyard around the tabernacle and altar and put up the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard. And so Moses finished the work.
Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.

Exodus is a story that started with persecuted slaves under the thumb of Pharaoh and ends with a free people under the guiding hand of The LORD their God.

The book ends with Gods glory filling the tabernacle, The LORD’s presence signified in the cloud covering the tent of meeting, daily guidance by the Lord, moving them on as they set out across the wilderness towards the promised land.

God has “activated” his promises to Abraham and moved his plan of salvation onwards. He has revealed himself to his people, rescued them and instructed them

Blessing follows Obedience

Before we get to the blessing the people  enjoyed, the presence of God they enjoyed, we see some very significant statements about the completion of the construction of the tabernacle. See v16-33

“as The LORD commanded him”

Time and time again we see this statement, punctuating each activity of Moses. Verse 16, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 32. It is as if the writer is trying to drive home this one thing above all others. How did Moses do everything? “As The LORD had commanded him”. Step by step he was doing things just the way that the LORD had commanded. 

It is such a contrast to the lackadaisical way that Israel had followed Gods commands… they had said “we will do everything the LORD commands” (24v3, 7) yet as we saw last week, within a month they had cast those commands to the winds.

Here at the end of the book we see Moses, the man of God, demonstrating real obedience to the commands of God – and as a result we see Gods glory rest upon the tabernacle, with such intensity that not even Moses  can enter.

Blessing follows obedience. As the scripture says in 1 Sam 15v22 “to obey is better than sacrifice”.

It’s that way in the Christian church, the Christian life too. Too often we see little of Gods power in our churches and in our own lives. Why? Because we are not obedient to the things that we know. 

Jesus has given us some clear instructions. Much of the New Testament is quite plain and the basic Christian teaching is easy to understand. 

Our problem, in most cases, is not one of ignorance it is one of obedience.

At work, a good leader or manager will give us responsibility to get a task done, but will leave us to choose the most appropriate means of meeting that end. God is a great manager, a great leader. Jesus has given us some clear overall directives which are good for all ages:

  • “go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”. 
  • “Love one another”. 
  • “Do this in remembrance of me”. 
  • “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength – and love your neighbour as yourselves”. 

He leaves us to choose the most appropriate way to follow his commands in our time and location and capabilities.

Gods Presence amongst them

In v34-35 we read that “the Glory of The LORD filled the tabernacle”. I don’t know how you imagine Gods glory? Perhaps as tremendous brightness? 

It is interesting to see the Hebrew word here, kabowd, which means splendour and also the idea of weight and heaviness. There is almost the sense that when Gods glory was present everyone was bowed down under the weight of it.

In v36-37 we see that when the cloud moved, they moved. When the cloud remained, they remained where they were. The people of Israel were guided entirely by the Lord with respect to when they moved and when they stopped. They did not debate the point, or make their own decisions and see if the cloud followed them… they waited to see the cloud move and then moved to follow.

In v38 we notice the little phrase “in the sight of all the house of Israel, during all their travels”. The people were setting off into the hostile wilderness, on the way to the promised land, a land “flowing with milk and honey”. And Gods presence was visible in the very centre of their camp, by day and by night. Can you picture the scene during the day, gathering the manna and as they straighten up and look towards the camp, there is a towering pillar of cloud reaching skywards. Or at night, as the children find it hard to go to sleep or the parents worry about the future, they look out of the front flaps of their tent and see a pillar of flame reaching up to the heavens. 

A tangible reminder of Gods presence with them in the difficult days to come.

The book of exodus ends on a note of tremendous promise.

This mirrors the situation of the Christian Church today. A community of people who have been saved by Gods power, chosen by him as he acts on his own initiative to save. We are heading for our promised land (which is heaven!) but we are not there yet. In the meantime we walk the “desert” of this world, with Jesus in our midst to guide us.

We don’t have a visible pillar of cloud, nor do we have a tabernacle and an ark made of gold and wood… but we have Jesus, one who is “greater than Moses”. Moses could not enter the tabernacle when the glory of the Lord rested upon it, even though the tabernacle is just a pale shadow of the glory of heavenly things. Jesus went right into the actual, real, holy of holies in heavenly places, entering the very glory of God as he made a sacrifice for our sins, once and for all.

We live in a world which might seem harder, since we don’t have physical objects to hang on to and look at… but in actual fact is far easier because Jesus, by his spirit, is always with us as he promised. No matter how alone or isolated we may become, NOTHING can separate us from Jesus and his loving presence.

We too, live in a time of tremendous promise… we are not yet at our true eternal home, but we are on the way!

An American pastor, Jerry Cook, tells the story of his open heart surgery. After he recovered, Jerry had a visit from a man who was fearfully facing the prospect of his own bypass surgery. ‘I want to see your scars,’ the man said shyly.

Jerry took off his shirt. The man gently traced with his finger the violet scar that ran vertically down Jerry’s chest.

The man went on, “The doctor says the most painful part of the operation will be the surgery on my legs. They’re going to take out veins from my calf to use in the heart bypass.

Looking up at Jerry, he asked, “Can I see your legs?’ Jerry rolled up his trousers. The man got on his knees. Without shame, he put his hands on Jerry’s legs, touching the scars with his finger. When he rose to his feet, there were tears in his eyes.

Thank you. Now I have hope.’

Seeing and touching the scars gave him hope for survival.

We remember the scars that Jesus bears because it reminds us of the cross. It reminds us of all that he has done to rescue us. We can have hope because of Jesus. 

In Conclusion

Blessing follows obedience

  • We follow Jesus’ commands to love God, love each other, remember him, and tell others. 
  • Who can tell what God can do through each of us? Amongst us today are leaders, evangelists, teachers, pastors, missionaries…
  • Eph 2v10 “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” 

God’s presence with them

  • Jesus is with us always, even to the end of the earth
  • We remember him in communion, in our songs, in our prayers, in our bible reading.