Memory Text: “And ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God, ye, and your sons, and your daughters, and your menservants, and your maidservants, and the Levite that is within your gates; forasmuch as he hath no part nor inheritance with you” (Deuteronomy 12:12).
Introduction: Joy and gladness are not only deep inward feelings, but they are also expressed in visible celebration when God’s people gather together. Speaking of the future church, Isaiah 60:15 says, “Whereas you have been forsaken and hated, so that no one went through you, I will make you an eternal excellence, a joy of many generations.” Apostle Paul advises us to “rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)
God desires us to rejoice, but He wants us to rejoice with purpose. And what great purpose can be there for rejoicing than before the Lord during worship! The Psalmist declared, “I was glad when they said, let us go to the house of the Lord.” Yes, David was glad to go to the ‘house’ of the Lord to praise and worship Him. He did that because he had a close and true relationship with the Lord. Worship comes from the heart and so it was for David. And for Israel, the centre of worship was the ancient Israelite sanctuary service. Let us dive into our study to learn the deeper worship experience!
“That I May Dwell Among Them”
In Exodus 25 Moses is shown the plan for the Tabernacle or Sanctuary. Why? So that God may ‘dwell among them’ Exodus 25:8 ‘And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.’ This plan was a pattern of the heavenly Sanctuary or Tabernacle, designed to reveal that Jesus Christ is our High Priest, our mediator, in the plan of salvation, Exodus 25:9 ‘According to all that I show thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.’
The God who delivered Israel was going to dwell among them and live in a dwelling that would be the center of all Israelite worship. It was not to be an ordinary place but to be a place worthy of His presence.
Willing Hearts –
I love the joke: Why did it take 10 boy scouts to help the little old lady across the street? You know: She didn’t want to go. The joke may make us grin – but it reminds us that people can be made to do the things even they’re not willing. So, what is a willing heart?
In Exodus 25: 2 and Exodus 35: 5, 21 it says, God said, “whoever is of a willing heart” and everyone “whose heart was stirred” responded.
A willing heart is a heart that is inclined to draw close to the Lord and submit to Him.
In Ruth 2:12 we have a story of a woman who approached God with a willing heart. She took the counsel of Naomi and stepped ahead in faith, and then left the results of her life in hands of a Sovereign God.
God instructed Moses to take an offering for the Lord, from all those who are giving with a ‘willing heart.’ This meant that God did not force anyone to come to Him nor offer anything forcefully. Their willingness to give revealed a sense of thanksgiving and gratefulness, says the author. They willingly gave material gifts, their time, their talents, and the work of their creative abilities: “All the women whose hearts stirred with wisdom . . .” (Exod. 35:26,); “everyone whose heart was stirred, to come and do the work” (Exod. 36:2, NKJV).
The Continual Burnt Offering-
The Sanctuary service provided an illustration of the way the sinner was to repent and atone for his sins. To bring to the sinner the consequences of his sin, the sinner placed his hands on the head of the animal and confessed his sins to God. He was then required to slay the sacrificial animal by his own hand, as an offering for his sin, and collect the blood of the animal. This emphasized to the sinner that his transgression of the law of God was no small matter, and that death was the inevitable result. The animal that was sacrificed (usually a lamb) was symbolic for Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, offered as a sacrifice in our place, so that we as sinners do not have to die for our sins.
As we read Exodus 25:1-9, we find that everything was spelled out in details. Every step of the sacrificial system and the worship was repeated – sometimes twice a day.
Question: Does that repetition seem like ritual? Do you think that is what God intends for us? What does “rejoicing before the Lord” sound like to you?
The daily offering of lambs, the “continual burnt offering” (vs. 42), was to teach the people their constant need of God and their dependence on Him for forgiveness and acceptance. The fire on the altar was to be kept burning day and night (Lev. 6:8–13). This fire could serve as a perpetual reminder of their need of a Savior. This was the main reason of these daily prayers and offerings that it would be a constant reminder of God’s presence to His people.
Ellen White echoes a similar thought saying, “We all need to keep the subject of the sanctuary in mind. God forbid that the clatter of words coming from human lips should lessen the belief of our people in the truth that there is a sanctuary in heaven, and that a pattern of this sanctuary was once built on this earth. God desires His people to become familiar with this pattern, keeping ever before their minds the heavenly sanctuary, where God is all and in all. We must keep our minds braced by prayer and a study of God’s Word, that we may grasp these truths.”-E. G. White Letter 233, 1904.
Further she writes, “God never intended the daily offering of a lamb to be simply a ritual or routine act. It was to be a time of “intense interest to the worshipers,” a time of preparation for worship, in silent prayer and “with earnest heart searching and confession of sin.” Their faith was to grasp the promises of a Savior to come, the true Lamb of God who would spill His blood for the sins of the whole world (see Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 353).
Paul also emphasized that true worship must always flow from a forgiven, cleansed, and sanctified heart that delights (rejoices) in obeying the One who has made it all possible. “Therefore, I urge you brethren . . . to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Rom. 12:1, NASB).
Paul is talking about the attitude of worship and not merely a ritual.
Communion with God –
Immediately after crossing the Red Sea and rejoicing over their escape from Egyptian bondage, God began to speak to them about the construction of a sanctuary. (Exodus 15:17) God told them that He wanted to dwell among them.
The Hebrew word suggests that God wanted to sit down and dwell among them to commune with them. “And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel” (Exod. 25:22).
Question: What was God trying to gain by doing this?
By doing this, God promised the people not just His presence but even promised to communicate with His people, to talk to them, to guide them in the ways that they should go.
The word tabernacle seems to have an almost sacred meaning. It is an Old English word translated from the Hebrew mishkan which means simply “a dwelling place.” Our word tabernacle is derived from the Latin tabernaculum which literally means a tent.
A tent was necessary as God’s dwelling place during the exodus because it had to be moved all the time. During the wilderness wanderings, the tent-sanctuary was always set up in the middle of the camp. It was supposed to be the center of all of their activities. But, they continued to use that tent for hundreds of years after they were safely in the land of Canaan.
Rejoicing Before the Lord
When the building of the tabernacle was completed, Moses examined the work of all the builders, according to the directions God had given him, and so they had done it. And Moses blessed them. The people had gathered around the Sanctuary to look upon this great tent of the Lord. As they were contemplating, the pillar of cloud came upon the sanctuary and surrounded it. “And the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” “There were no loud demonstrations of rejoicing. A solemn awe rested upon all. But the gladness of their hearts welled up in tears of joy, and they murmured low, earnest words of gratitude that God had condescended to abide with them. Ellen White ‘Christ in His Sanctuary’ p. 13.
Thus began Israelites’ experience of worship. At the same time, we must not come away with the idea that Israelite worship was cold, sterile, and formal, says the author. The Lord had set very strict guidelines on what was to be done, but these guidelines were not ends in themselves. Rather, they were means to an end, and the end was that His people would be a holy, joyful, and faithful covenant nation that would teach the world about the true God (Exod. 19:6, Deut. 4:5–7, Zech. 8:23).
Question: What lesson do we learn from the Israelites worship experience and the Sanctuary services?
- The sanctuary was to be a place of meeting between God and the children of Israel. And so is the church for us today.
- The main message of the sacrificial system was to teach them that sin is very serious and leads to death. It requires sacrifice and that the ultimate sacrifice was the sacrifice of Christ. He suffered and died, but then He rose again!
- We can also learn from the sanctuary model, is that all true worship, which should lead to rejoicing, must do so in the context of biblical truth.
- God gave the Israelites very clear, strict, and formal instructions regarding the construction of the sanctuary and its ministry and services, all of which were meant to teach them the truths of Salvation, Redemption, mediation, and judgment. And yet, at the same time, they were to rejoice before the Lord in their worship. This theme appears over and over again. It should be clear, then, that one can be very strong in biblical teaching and at the same time have a joyous worship experience. After all, if the truths of Salvation, Redemption, mediation, and judgment are not worth rejoicing over, what is?
May our worship experience be of rejoicing before the Lord for He dwells within our hearts!
God Bless You!!!