Did you hear about the brawl this past week in Bethlehem? It happened at the Church of the Nativity, the traditional place of Jesus’ birth. The church shared by various branches of Christianity, each of which controls and jealously guards a part of the holy site.
The brawl apparently began when Greek Orthodox priests set up ladders to clean the walls and ceilings of their part of the church after the Christmas Day celebrations.
Armenian priests claimed that the ladders encroached on their portion of the church, which led the two sects to exchange angry words which quickly turned to blows.
Witnesses said that the robed and bearded priests scuffled for more than an hour using fists, brooms and iron rods as weapons.
Photographers who came to document the annual cleaning ceremony instead recorded the entire event.
Five priests were lightly injured in the melee, which was eventually broken up by a dozen unarmed Palestinian policemen. Two of the policemen were hurt in ending the brawl.
Victor Batarseh, the Mayor of Bethlehem, said that he has had to intervene in the past to ensure that the cleaning of the Church happened in an orderly fashion. “As usual the cleaning of the church after Christmas is a cause of problems,” he said.
It is not the first time that a ladder has led to fisticuffs among priests in the Holy Land. In the courtyard of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in Jerusalem’s Old City, a ladder still stands as a reminder for all priests to watch their tempers.
One hundred years ago, the ladder was erected by a priest attempting to repair damage done during an earthquake. Another sect accused the priest of trespassing and a fight broke out.
When the dust settled, the priests decided to leave the ladder as a reminder to the future keepers of the Church to solve their disputes in a more Christian fashion.
My goodness, those priests sound like a crowd of Baptists! They couldn’t work together, each guarded his own territory, and the cause of Christ ended up with egg on its face among the nations.
Today we are going to see an opposite example of working together to complete the task of constructing the Tabernacle and the blessing the Lord gave to their work.
The people of Israel have been at Mount Sinai for nine or ten months. They have been through a lot from the time Moses went up on the mountain, the Golden Calf, the reestablishment of the covenant and offerings for the Tabernacle, the tent for worshiping God. They had brought so much to build the Tabernacle, that they had to stop contributions so they could finish building it.
The Tabernacle was finished on the first day of the first month of the second year (one year after leaving Egypt), making it ready for the first Passover celebration in the Wilderness (see Numbers 9:5). Passover would be a commemoration, a celebration of their leaving Egypt and God’s presence in the midst of His people.
Today we arrive at the passage where the people complete the work and the Lord fills the Tabernacle.
Pray and Read: Exodus 39:32-43; 40:34-38
Key Truth: Moses wrote Exodus 39:32-43; 40:34-38 to teach Israel that work completed according to the Lord’s command will have His blessing and presence.
Key Application: Today I want to show you from the end of Exodus that God blesses those who are obedience to Him, and He never leaves them.
- Israel finished well (Exodus 39:32-42; 40:33b)
- Moses blessed the work (Exodus 39:43)
- The Cloud filled the work (Exodus 40:34-35)
- The Cloud led the work (Exodus 40:36-38)
Exposition: Note well,
- ISRAEL FINISHED WELL (EXODUS 39:32-42)
a. Israel Completed The Work on the Tabernacle.
b. They didn’t just finish. They finished well. Verse 42 says they did all the work “just as the Lord commanded Moses.” This phrase is used again in v. 43 and seven times in 40:16-33.
c. APPLICATION: We are not called just to finish, but to finish well. Not just on religious work, but in every work the Lord gives us. Paul says in Ephesians 6:7-8, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does.” Colossians 3:23 says something similar: Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
d. So how are you doing on finishing well? Or are you just glad to get finished? How did it go this past year? How much did you finish well with your employer? With your employees? With your teachers? With your students? With your spouse? With your children? With your older family members? With your grandchildren? What have you put off this year that you need to finish well in the coming year?
2. MOSES BLESSED THE WORK (EXODUS 39:43).
a. The Tabernacle was finished on the first day of the first month of the second year (one year after leaving Egypt), making it ready for the first Passover celebration in the Wilderness. “And so Moses finished the work” (40:33) points to end of creation (Genesis 2:20) when the Lord finished His work.
b. The phrase “just as the LORD had commanded Moses” (39:43) is repeated seven times in 40:16-33.
c. Let’s enjoy one of these rare moments wherein the Israelites actually were fully obedient.
d. ILLUSTRATION: Moses reminds us of God’s inspection of His work in creation and how He called it good and blessed it (Genesis 1:20-31).
e. APPLICATION: What has gone on in your life this past year on which the Lord has placed His finger and led with His direction? Did you follow “just as the LORD commanded”? In the new year, let me encourage you to start or continue just that.
3. THE CLOUD FILLED THE WORK (EXODUS 40:34-35)
a. Moses could not enter. That also happened in 1 Kings 8:10ff. Hebrews 9:8-12
· The Holy Spirit descended and breathed life into Adam.
· The Holy Spirit descended and filled the Tabernacle, consecrating it.
· The Holy Spirit descended and filled the Temple at its dedication, consecrating it (1 Kings 8:10ff).
· The Holy Spirit descended and breathed life into the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37.
· The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus Christ and filled Him at His Baptism (Luke 3:22; 4:1).
· The Holy Spirit descended and filled the believers at Pentecost.
· When you and I receive Jesus Christ as our Lord, the Holy Spirit descends and fills us, consecrating us to His work.
· That is why Paul says that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.
· That is why he also says the church body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
· That is why Paul to be constantly filled with the Holy Spirit.
d. APPLICATION: When is the last time you asked the Holy Spirit to fill you for His work through you? If you have offered yourself to Him, shouldn’t you be constantly filled with the Presence of Jesus Christ? Let me encourage you to ask the Lord regularly for a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit for power, for discernment and wisdom, for God’s will to be worked out in your life.
4. THE CLOUD LED THE WORK (EXODUS 40:36-38)
a. A major theme in Exodus is the constant presence of God among His people (Exodus 25:8; 29:45). Here it comes to a triumphant conclusion. Numbers 9:15-23:
c. Isaiah 9:6-7 and the NT calls Jesus Emmanuel, “God with us,” and in the Great Commission to all Christians, Jesus promises to “be with us always, even unto the end of the age” (Matt 28:20). In Revelation 21:3 we read, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them,” in a direct link to this passage.
d. ILLUSTRATION: The famous printed prayer of Saint Patrick says well what the presence of Christ with us means. A stanza of the Breastplate of Saint Patrick reads thus: “Christ be with me, Christ within me; / Christ behind me, Christ before me; / Christ beside me, Christ to win me; / Christ to comfort and restore me;/ Christ beneath me, Christ above me; / Christ in Quiet, Christ in danger; / Christ in hearts of all that love me; / Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.”
e. APPLICATION: How well did you follow the cloud this year? Has anything happened to you this year that encourages you to follow the cloud better in the coming year? Have you ever followed the cloud? Let me encourage you this year to seek to follow the Lord Jesus Christ more closely than you ever have.