(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)
The Tabernacle, the Sanctuary, and the Tent of Meeting
A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.
The Bible makes it clear that God’s mission for God’s people is about human beings, not about building buildings. That said, God also knows that buildings shape and affect the ways in which we human beings perceive and interact with God. Even in the desolate setting of the Sinai desert, God had Israel build the Tabernacle, a lovely symbol that God was with them.
1 Kings 8:1-13
King Solomon built a glorious Temple in God’s honor in Jerusalem. When the building was completed, the king led a solemn dedication, and commissioned the priests to bring into the Temple all of the sacred objects from the Tabernacle. God honored the newly built Temple by filling it with his glory.
Ezra 1:5-7, Haggai 1:1-8, Ezra 6:13-18
After almost 70 years of exile, the Persian king Cyrus allowed Israel to return to Jerusalem. With a firm “nudge” from God through the prophet Haggai, the once-complacent Israelites set out to rebuild God’s house in Jerusalem. It took nearly 20 years, through many challenges and opposition. But rebuilding God’s temple mattered to the Israelites, who persevered through the hardships to complete the work God called them to.
Jesus’ parents, understandably, experienced profound alarm when their 12-year-old son was missing. But when they found him, he didn’t seem alarmed, but seemed to be feeling quite at home in the Temple. Though he continued to respect and honor his earthly parents, he called the Temple “my Father’s house,” and said it was “necessary” for him to be there.
The adult Jesus was angered to see the Temple reduced to a device for moneymaking. (Note: Matthew, Mark and Luke all place this incident in the final week of Jesus’ life. John put it at the start of his story, probably because he saw in it a keynote of Jesus’ mission to restore true worship.) Jesus’ passion for a proper use of the Temple reminded his disciples of Psalm 69:9, a poem about passion for God’s house.
Acts 5:12-14, 1 Peter 2:1-10
The very first Christian community in Jerusalem, perhaps surprisingly, used the Temple as a worship and prayer center. Despite the tragedy of Jesus’ rejection and crucifixion, they still found it a good place to meet with God and one another. God worked through that building, and many others in history, as tools to transform human lives into the kind of spiritual temple Peter described.
To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.
Dear God, mold us into faithful followers. Guide us as we seek to live lives of mercy, grace and forgiveness. Renew our passion for you, with open hands and grateful and generous hearts toward others. Prepare us to offer our very best—for your sake. Amen.
CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)
Have you ever visited other churches and compared their various approaches to design and decoration? What seems fairly common and what seems somewhat unusual in their physical appearances? What aspects appeal most to you?
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY
NOTE: We encourage study groups to have several different Bible translations available for these readings. Reading aloud from the Common English Bible or The Message may help to clarify the meaning of some passages.
Read Exodus 25:1-9. God created all things in heaven and Earth, so why did he ask the people to donate things for the tabernacle, rather than providing them himself? Have you ever felt God asking you to do something similar? Was the tabernacle to be built for God or for the people? Can a “tabernacle” change the way the people relate to and interact with God? Do people tend to need physical symbols that God is with them, protecting them and providing for them?
Read 1 Kings 8:1-13. When the great Temple was completed, the sacred objects were transferred from the portable Tabernacle and the new Temple was dedicated. What does it mean to dedicate any building? What does it mean to dedicate a place of worship? God filled the Temple with his presence. Was this the only place in which God existed? Was God pleased with the Temple? Why? The Temple was ornate and expensive to build. Is that “proper” given all the needs in the world? Is that always required for a place of worship?
Read Ezra 1:5-7, Haggai 1:1-8, Ezra 6:13-18. The Babylonians invaded the Promised Land, destroyed the Temple and exiled the Israelites for decades. When that time ended, God called for the Temple to be rebuilt. Why did the rebuilding matter to the Israelites? Was this massive project the work of a single construction crew and a handful of rich donors, or did many others need to be involved? How did people get involved in the project? How can you build or rebuild a “temple” in which you spend time with God?
Read Luke 2:43-49. The young Jesus was quite at home in his Father’s house. Do you feel at home in your local church? Do you feel God’s presence there? Can you feel at home in other churches? What can you do to make your church feel even more “special”? Does it seem more special when you are there worshipping with others? What is it that seems to make our fellowship and worship together so powerful?
Read John 2:13-21. Jesus felt passionately about the holiness of his Father’s house and chastised those who had abused it by allowing money-making to interfere with worship. Should worship be the primary purpose of your church? Must “pure worship” be the only allowable use of our sacred buildings? How can some other activities like youth activities and fellowship dinners enhance our faith experience? In what ways can you emulate Jesus’ passion for keeping God’s worship primary in all of your church’s activities?
Read Acts 5:12-14, 1 Peter 2:1-10. As a believer in the salvation offered by Jesus Christ, do you feel like a holy, chosen people, a “royal priesthood”? Does being in “God’s House” make you feel a bit more like that? Does fellowship with other believers make you feel more like that? In what ways might God be making you and all of us into a “living Temple”? Does God live in that Temple?
From last week: Did you reflect prayerfully on how you can discern and embrace God’s vision for your life and your church community? Did you do something to live out God’s plan (e.g. serving others, praying for those in need, telling others what Christ means to you, offering a special donation to God’s work, being especially thoughtful and kind, etc.)? Please share your experiences with the group.
FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT
From Pastor Adam Hamilton’s sermon, February 16, 2014:
I’d like to begin with a little history lesson. In the time of Jesus there were two distinct places Jews gathered to worship and grow in their faith: The Temple in Jerusalem and the synagogue in their local community. The temple was called BEIT YAHWEH, the House of the Lord. The synagogue was called, in Hebrew, BEIT KNESSETT—the house of the assembly.
Jews met weekly, and often daily, in their synagogue to pray, to study and discuss scripture, to fellowship with, and care for, one another. This was the house of the congregation and could be used for all kinds of events. But they would also regularly make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem and there they would enter the temple courts with thanksgiving and praise, and they would make their sacrifices to God, seek his pardon, seek God’s will, and honor God. This was the House of God.
Christian churches serve both roles; they are the House of the Lord and the House of the Congregation. We have fellowship halls, classrooms, foyers, and even to some degrees our worship spaces are about serving as the house of the congregation, providing for the functions of the synagogue. But we also build sanctuaries that serve the function of the Lord’s House.
Our future Vibe worship space will serve double duty as a fellowship hall—it will be the best of what a synagogue was in the time of Jesus—worship and gathering space. Our new sanctuary will also serve both purposes, but with a stronger emphasis on worship. Yet the fellowship and community building dimension is not lost. This is why in our new sanctuary we are bringing everyone as close together as possible, and creating smaller sections aimed at fostering a deeper sense of community….
Most churches today build functional spaces that serve as fine houses for the church. What is often forgotten is the idea that the church is also meant to be the House of the LORD. They build the synagogue but forget the sanctuary. Let’s look at what the Bible teaches about the sanctuary, the house of the LORD, and how that should shape our thinking about our permanent sanctuary.
In our scripture text God has just delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. They are now camped out at Mt. Sinai in the desert. God has just given Moses the Ten Commandments and many other laws to govern the people. It is here, before the Israelites begin their journey towards the Promised Land that God gives this command: “The Lord said to Moses: ‘Tell the Israelites to take for me an offering; from all whose hearts prompt them to give you shall receive the offering for me…And have them make me a sanctuary, so that I may dwell among them. In accordance with all that I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.’”
There are two words used here to describe this building God was commanding Moses to build. God said: “Have them make me a SANCTUARY.” Then God called this same building a TABERNACLE. This story is very important, as are these words. God commands the Israelites to build a building, a place, for worship. These words describe, in part, the purpose of this place.
Let’s consider the meaning of these two words. The word “sanctuary” is, in Hebrew, mikdash which means a sacred or holy place. The Jews considered this sanctuary, and later the temple, to be a thin space where heaven and earth meet. Its materials and design were meant to evoke mystery, reverence and awe. Later, when the temple was built as Israel’s first permanent sanctuary, it too was designed to inspire awe and wonder as the Israelites approached it, and all around it were symbols and signs of God’s glory.
Through the centuries churches building sanctuaries sought to capture this by the use of light, and vaulted ceilings, and arches, and candles and stained glass and sometimes nature that were meant to usher people into the presence of God. The longest continuously used church in the world, The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, was first built in 327, and today’s structure was built in 565, being used continuously for the last 1,450 years. It has natural light, a high vaulted ceiling, and the building tells the story of the birth of Christ. There is something about it that leads to silence, and to mystery and awe. A sanctuary is a thin space, a holy place, a sacred place.
Let’s consider the second term used in this passage to describe the place God instructed Moses to build: it was called the Tabernacle. The Hebrew word for Tabernacle (mishkawn) means dwelling place or house. Listen once more to God’s command to Moses in Exodus: “Make me a sanctuary, so that I may dwell among them.” God, whose glory fills the cosmos, had a house on earth built for him. Did God need this? Of course not—God doesn’t need a house. So why did God ask Moses to build him a house? Because his house, the tabernacle, would be a visible reminder that God was with his people, in their midst….
In the same way our new sanctuary will serve as a tabernacle, a house of God, a visible reminder that God is in our midst, in this community, so that as you drive by, by day or by night, and you see this building it is meant to be for you a reminder, and for your friends a visible witness that God is, and that God may be found here in his house.
There was one last name given to the portable sanctuary that God instructed Moses to build. It was called the Tent of Meeting. In Hebrew the word for meeting (Mo-ed) carried with it the idea of a designated place that God had set apart for his people to come to meet with him, to offer their praise, make their petitions, ask for his forgiveness and enquire of his will.
Sacrifices, offerings, prayers, songs of praise all happened there. And people encountered God as they came to his tent. In the same way our new sanctuary is meant to be our “tent of meeting” where we will come to offer praise, sacrifices, to receive healing and forgiveness and direction for our lives.
For more detailed information about Resurrection’s 10,000 Reasons campaign, please visit future.cor.org. To view Pastor Hamilton’s sermon in its entirety, including much detailed information we do not have space for here, visit http://www.cor.org/sermons.
Solomon’s Temple – Interesting Facts
Note: Facts concerning Solomon’s Temple are reportedly difficult to verify historically due to the timeframe and the ravages of the recurring occupation of the area by the armies of Babylon, Persia, Rome, etc.
Solomon’s Temple may not have actually been the first temple which housed the Ark of the Covenant, since there was a house of Yahweh, also called a temple, at Shiloh (northern kingdom).
David wanted to build the Temple but was forbidden by God.
David gave Solomon the architectural design for the temple.
David accumulated many of the treasures and building materials for the building of the temple.
Solomon began construction of the Temple 490 years after Israel came out of Egypt.
The Temple site was located on Mount Moriah where Abraham had offered Isaac.
The temple was built of great stones, cedar beams and boards overlaid with gold.
The construction took 7 years, completed about 1,000 BCE.
At the dedication, Solomon offered; 220,000 oxen, 120,000 sheep, a 14 day feast was held.
The temple was built by: 30,000 Israelites, 150,000 Canaanites, Phoenician artists and Craftsmen from Tyre.
Furniture: Golden Altar of Incense, 10 Large golden candlesticks, 10 Tables, Bronze altar, 30 feet by 15 feet, and
The Brazen Laver (called a “sea”), 15 feet in diameter, 8 feet deep, and sat on 12 bronze oxen.
Included: Several tons of gold, silver, bronze and precious stones.
Cost in today’s dollars is virtually incalculable, but are estimated at in excess of $174 billion.
Duration: Lasted nearly 400 years until its destruction by the invading Babylonians in about 586 BCE.
It was replaced in about 515 BCE, and enlarged by Herod, so that the Temple in Jesus’ day was about the same size.
Herod’s Temple was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70.
The Islamic Dome of the Rock mosque is located on the temple mount.
According to some Islamic scholars, though not all, the mosque is on the spot from which Prophet Muhammad ascended to Heaven accompanied by the angel Gabriel.
Source: Various, including Holman Bible Dictionary
This week prayerfully reflect on how worship is a gift, not a difficult duty. Remember that worship can and should take place during the week as well as on the weekend. Consider ways in which you can worship God every day, capping the week off by being able to worship freely with your fellow believers. Next week, share your experiences with the group.