Sermon on Exodus 40:34-38 – “Filling the Tabernacle”

Sermon for Sunday, February 27th, 2022 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)

Old Testament reading:

[Exo 40:34-38 ESV] 34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 35 And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 36 Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. 37 But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. 38 For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.

New Testament reading:

[Rev 15:5-8 ESV] 5 After this I looked, and the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven was opened, 6 and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests. 7 And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever, 8 and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.

Gospel reading:

[Luk 2:22-35 ESV] 22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” 33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”


And there ends the reading of the book of Exodus. From one perspective it has been a long time coming — we’ve been working through the Exodus since December 27, 2020. But from another perspective our ending in this book is rather sudden—we’re covering 5 whole chapters in this final sermon on the book. The reason I have chosen to move swiftly through these final chapters is that chapters 35 through are repetitious, repetitious. They repeat what has been said before in the Exodus, but now speak not of the plans gave gave the Israelites but the accomplishment, the fulfillment of those plans.

Previously in the Exodus, God gave instructions for how to make the Tabernacle and all that fills the tabernacle: the Ark of the Covenant, the table for showbread, the lamp stand, the altar of incense, the altar of burnt offering, the bronze basin, and the priestly garments. Now, in chapters 35 through 40 we find those instructions being carried out. The tabernacle is built and its surrounding courts, and all that fills the tabernacle is made by skilled artisans supplied with valuable materials donated from the people.

But the tabernacle is only really filled when its owner comes home, when God and his glory fills the tabernacle.

It would merely be a bunch of stuff if not for the Lord’s presence. Valuable stuff no doubt, but just lifeless material nonetheless. The importance of it all is to be a place where God resides dwelling among His people, that He is with them guiding them through the difficult terrain of the desert and the difficult terrain of life on this Earth.

The glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

This is the culmination of the book of Exodus. And a grand ending it is.

The glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

And this is an element of God’s greater plan of dwelling with his people. Not just the Israelites but all who believe. The tabernacle would in time give way to the temple, but God’s presence was ultimately seen and known in the person of Jesus Christ and then in all of those united with him, his Church, with the holy spirit dwelling within each one of us.

So I want to look at this passage in three parts:

I. The Piety of the People

II. A Pledge of Permanence


III. Perceiving the Prince of Life


I. The Piety of the People

In the completion of the plans, we see piety and obedience. The Israelites have done all that they were told to do, in the many details of construction that God gave them.

They gave of the (1), time, (2) their talent, and (3) their treasure.

As for time, the whole nation was at the mercy of Moses’s schedule. They had been waiting for him while he was up on the mountain. So the whole nation had patience, but then some of the people spent their time working on the temple.

And, this is important, they did not get paid!

This sets a good example and good principle for us: there are times where we are to work for the Lord … as a volunteer. Pro bono. Gratis. And for those who do not have much money, but want to help out, you can donate your time. Here at the church, for example, there are things to be done – cleaning, snow shoveling, raking leaves, etc. And there are plenty of charities and missions where you can volunteer. And, here is a tip for those who are highly introverted – one way that you can volunteer, giving your time, and not have too much interaction with people, is to go to the animal shelter and walk dogs. I did this once, on and off, for about 6 months in North Carolina. It was challenging, but there was much need.

The Israelites gave of their time and of their talents. Especially we see this in Oholiab and Bezalel who God “filled with the spirit of God with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in ever craft.” (Exodus 31:3-5)

But they could not do all the work along. So God said “Let every skillful craftsman among you come and make all that the Lord has commanded.” (Exodus 35:10)

We see here again, there is much good you can do in the world without donating money. You can donate your skills in helping others. You might need to be creative (no pun intended) to find an outlet for your creativity.

Then, finally, the people gave of their treasure.

While the Lord could have built the tabernacle himself, and instantaneously at that, he wanted the people to do it. He wanted them committed to the project, and ultimately committed to Him. And this commitment is proven out in that the donations to the building of the tabernacle were exactly that – donations, not taxes. Each one gave a contribution; whoever was of a generous heart.

But where did all the gold and silver and bronze come from? The people live in the desert, with no opportunity for mining or for trading with other nations. Rather, all of their treasure had come from the Egyptians whom they had plundered. All of their treasure was given to them by God.

So when they give to the temple, they are merely given back to God what he has given to them.

The people have given of their time, their talent, and their treasure.

They have obeyed God. And this is His great desire.

Though the people have gone astray in the worshipping of the golden calf, among other incidents, God remembered his covenant and forgave them, now wanting obedience.

He doesn’t want them to focus on the past, with tears and tearing of clothing, but to focus on the present, obeying God.

Think of an unruly child. What does the parent want above all else? Whatever the child has done in the past, the parent wants the child in the future to have obedience. It is right that the child should have sorrow, but then is to come obedience.

And we, like the Israelites, and like unruly children, are to be sorrowful for our sins, but then we are to be obedient to God.

Here, the people did obey God, and the, only after all the work was done, “THEN” the cloud covered the tabernacle, and the glory of Jehovah filled the dwelling.

II. A Pledge of Permanence.

This coming of God into the tabernacle was a pledge of permanence. [REPEAT: a pledge of permanence]

In times past God had come to his chosen people. He spoke to Abraham, and to Isaac, and to Jacob.

But now he dwells with his people. Not just visiting them, but staying with them, permanently.

He will be with them forever. Through the desert and in the conquering of the promised land. For while many troubles are past (think of the escape from Egypt) there are many troubles ahead, with battles to come again the nations in Canaan.

The people most certainly need the permanent presence of God.

And we do as well.

I once spent a summer as a camp counselor at a Christian camp. And I heard that certain children had come to the Lord in previous years, which sounds great. But then I heard that they came to the Lord each summer, falling away immediately after camp, and coming again to the Lord the next summer. This was troubling indeed.

But adults are often the same. People care about the things of the Lord for a period but then fall away.

What we need is the permanence presence of God.

Fortunately his presence comes despite our sins.

The Lord rescues us from the domain of darkness and delivers us into the kingdom of His beloved Son.

This is a permanent transfer. And the promise of God with you is eternal and forever.

We must take heart because we have the promise, the pledge of God’s permanence. He always remembers His covenant.

The ultimate proof of this is that God sent Jesus Christ to dwell among man and to die for our sins. The book of Exodus, like all of the Bible, directs us to that central point.

III. Perceiving the Prince of Life

And so, throughout the book of Exodus we should perceive the prince of life. We should see Jesus Christ our Lord and savior.

In the King James Version in Acts 3:15 Jesus is called “the Prince of Life.” This is one of many titles I could have used to complete the alliteration. We could have equally said “perceiving the prophet,” or “perceiving the priest,” or “perceiving the perfecter of our faith.” In either case, the point is that we see Christ in the Exodus.

Jesus said in Luke 24:44 “Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.”

The whole Old Testament points to Christ. And here in Exodus — one of the books of Moses — there are many things pointing to Christ.

Like the Israelites, God would call His Son out of Egypt.

Like God speaking in the burning bush, Christ is the Word of God.

Like Moses, Christ is a prophet.

Like Moses, Christ is the deliverer of his people

Like Aaron, Christ is a priest.

Like the Passover lamb, the blood of Christ shields us from the wrath of God.

Like manna from heaven, Christ provides for us.

Like water from a rock, Christ is the living water necessary for life.

Like the dwelling of God in the tabernacle, Christ came to Earth to dwell among men.

Like the shining face of Moses, the glory of God shone in Jesus Christ at the transfiguration.

The Book of Exodus is a book about Jesus Christ, in types and shadows, fulfilled in the New Testament that we may perceive Him, the prince of life.


God was present with the Israelite and they perceived him in the cloud of the Lord which was on the tabernacle by day, and fire by night, in the SIGHT of all the house of Israel throughout their journeys.

The glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Glorifying the Lord has been the plan from the beginning. Remember Moses had asked Pharaoh to let the people go out into the desert that they may worship and give glory to God. Now, finally, after many hurdles and much trouble, that is being done.

The people perceive the Lord who is with them.

And we, being renewed in the Holy Spirit, no longer suppress God’s glory in our minds as unbelievers do, but we perceive God’s glory ever more clearly.

Let us know that God is with us throughout our journey. He guides us through all our days. He leads us, as we pray, away from temptation, and He delivers us from evil, out of Egypt and into his presence, for His glory.

He, the Lord, does this. Praise be to God.