When Heaven Came Down (Exodus 40:1-38)

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I would concur with many who identify the kingdom of God as the theme of Scripture. From Genesis to Revelation the plotline is, as Goldsworthy once said, “God’s people, in God’s place, under God’s rule.” Another way of saying that is that the Bible is the revelation of God reconciling the world to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:17-20). And as God reconciles man to Himself, the result is that, increasingly, heaven comes down to earth. Each book of the Bible is a chapter in this long story; a story that one day will experience the happy ending of this heavenly glory of God covering the earth as the waters now cover the seas. Of course, the story is that of Jesus Christ; He is always the main character.

In the book of Exodus we see the clearest revelation of this thus far in the story—particularly with the construction and the erection of the tabernacle.

After some 15 chapters describing the tabernacle, it was now finally time to set it up. And when it went up the glory of God came down.

It has been noted by many that whereas Moses wrote one chapter to describe the story of God’s creation of the universe, he devoted fifteen chapters to record the story of the construction of the tabernacle. It must therefore be a very important structure. And indeed it was. Henry observes, “God, who gave only six days to the work of creation, employed forty days in giving instructions that the tabernacle might be made. For that in which the representation of the world of grace was manifested, was by far the more wondrous work.”1

This was a work of “re-creation.” Stephen Dray observes that “the original purpose for the world was [in the tabernacle] to be displayed.”2 Motyer adds that it showed “how the divine presence lost by Adam and Eve was restored in the indwelling Lord.”3

The tabernacle typified God’s place—“heaven on earth.” And God’s people were to experience His presence in this place. But they could only do so if they obeyed His rules: They must “do all that the Lord commanded.” As we reach the fortieth chapter we see that this indeed was the case. And the result was that heaven came down and glory filled the sanctuary.

As we reach the final chapter in Exodus we have a preview of what it will one day be like as the glory of God descends upon the erected tabernacle. Again, the tabernacle was God’s designed and prescribed means for Him to dwell with His people. It was absolutely necessary for the extension of His kingdom. The presence of the tabernacle is what made any place God’s place for His people. And as I indicated earlier, it was His means for heaven to come to earth. It was a kingdom-extending structure.

The Lord prescribed the tabernacle as the means for Him to dwell with His people in a “safe” way. This nation, which He had graciously chosen as the vehicle for His glory, was to so live before others that they would be impressed with God. And the tabernacle was an important means to this end. The surrounding nations had religious temples but they were all empty. Nonexistent gods cannot inhabit anyone or anything. But the tabernacle, of which Israel was the steward, housed, as it were, almighty God. We must understand that “the presence of the glory of God in the camp of Israel was not a luxury; it was a necessity. It identified Israel as the people of God.”4

Again, the tabernacle prefigured the ultimate coming of heaven to earth through the incarnation. It is for this reason that John wrote, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

The word that John used for “dwelt” is, literally, “tabernacled.” And so, as we read about the tabernacle in the older covenant, we are being prepared for the arrival of the actual Tabernacle of the new covenant.

Since the tabernacle pictured Christ we know that it also pictured the new covenant church, which is often identified in the New Testament as the temple of God (cf. John 2:19-23 with 1 Corinthians 3:5-17; 1 Peter 2:4-9; Ephesians 2:19-22). This is why this (sometimes arduous) study of the tabernacle is so important for the new covenant church. It illustrates for us—as it instructs us—regarding God’s purpose for His temple, the church of the living God. As I trust we will see, God purposes to use His church as a vehicle for the display of His glory throughout all the earth.

Just as it was Israel’s responsibility, at God’s command, to bring this piece of heaven into the wider world, to be a light to the nations, so it is the new covenant church’s responsibility to labour towards the goal of the entire world becoming the sanctuary of God. They failed in this. We, the church, will be victorious in this.

As we conclude our study of the book of Exodus I trust that we will see that, if we listen up and raise up, we will be blessed as we look up and see Him who is high and lifted up. Such a vision will motivate to pack up and go up and attempt great things for God. May we leave our study convinced that God uses the church (and therefore the local church) as a means for heaven to come down and for glory to fill the earth.

We Must Listen Up

We have been witnesses of God graciously redeeming His burdened and afflicted people from Egypt, and then prescribing (or literally inscribing) rules for them to obey. They were promised reward for obedience (19:3-6). And, of course, the greatest reward was that God would reside with them. And hence, for much of the past 15 chapters, God had provided for them a tabernacle in which He would dwell. Everything had been made and all that is left was for the house to be erected before it would be inhabited by God. That is the scene we see before us.

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “On the first day of the first month you shall set up the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. You shall put in it the ark of the Testimony, and partition off the ark with the veil. You shall bring in the table and arrange the things that are to be set in order on it; and you shall bring in the lampstand and light its lamps. You shall also set the altar of gold for the incense before the ark of the Testimony, and put up the screen for the door of the tabernacle. Then you shall set the altar of the burnt offering before the door of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. And you shall set the laver between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar, and put water in it. You shall set up the court all around, and hang up the screen at the court gate. And you shall take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it; and you shall hallow it and all its utensils, and it shall be holy. You shall anoint the altar of the burnt offering and all its utensils, and consecrate the altar. The altar shall be most holy. And you shall anoint the laver and its base, and consecrate it. Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the door of the tabernacle of meeting and wash them with water. You shall put the holy garments on Aaron, and anoint him and consecrate him, that he may minister to Me as priest. And you shall bring his sons and clothe them with tunics. You shall anoint them, as you anointed their father, that they may minister to Me as priests; for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations.” Thus Moses did; according to all that the LORD had commanded him, so he did.

(Exodus 40:1-16)

When you consider who God is and who the Israelites were (sinners like you and me) it becomes quite evident why the details of the manufacture and construction of the tabernacle were so minute. Everything had to be just right if the holy and righteous God would be at home in it. After all, since He dwells in the heavens, in a very real way the tabernacle needed to be heaven on earth. It is for this reason that we find repeatedly phrases such as “all that the LORD had commanded” and “he did . . . as the Lord commanded.” In fact, in this last chapter, such terminology appears eight times.

In this chapter we read of the erection of the tabernacle under the primary responsibility of the mediator, Moses. He was accountable for making sure that all went according to plan. Therefore it was very important that the mediator of the people listen up before he went about setting up the tabernacle. If God would dwell with the people in the midst of the nations toward which they were headed, then everything had to be set up according to plan. It is for this reason that, in these first 16 verses, God instructed Moses once again exactly how to pitch His tent. If one piece was out of place, if one piece was missing, then the whole structure would effectively collapse with respect to its purpose.

What took place here was something of a New Year’s celebration. The Lord spoke to Moses (there are a total of twenty times in which it is said that the Lord “spoke” in Exodus, and in 17 of these He spoke only to Moses) and told him that “on the first day of the first month you shall set up the tabernacle of the tent of meeting.” It is to be noted throughout this chapter that Moses was singled out as the one responsible for the setting up of the Tabernacle. Though, quite obviously, he would not do the physical work alone, he was responsible to oversee it. The mediator was preparing a place for God to dwell with man. Hang on to that thought!

Note that, because God was so concerned about every detail, He did not merely say, “You shall set up the tabernacle of meeting” and leave it to Moses as to where he thought the various pieces should go. No, God gave specific instructions to which Moses was to pay heed. There was too much riding on this project to be left to the whims of men. Everything was to be in its place. When God moved in He wanted the furniture exactly where He specified. He would not give opportunity to shift things around. Unlike many (particularly wives, it seems!) the Lord was sure where every piece of furniture looked the best and fit the best! God would only dwell with man according to His terms.

God began with instructions regarding the placement of the ark and then moved from there outward. Of course, since the ark symbolised the throne of God, this made perfect sense. Everything else, in a sense, served this piece of furniture from where God’s glory would emanate.

God then instructed Moses regarding where to place the furniture, the door to the sanctuary, the altar of burnt offering, the laver and the courtyard itself (vv. 3-8). Once Moses had set all up, he was to anoint it with the holy (sanctifying) oil (vv. 9-11). After this was done then Moses was to bring Aaron and his sons (who would serve as priests) to the door of the sanctuary, and after washing them at the laver they were to be dressed in their priestly garments and then, like the rest of the tabernacle, to be anointed (vv. 12-15).

Verse 16 serves as a summary statement (for the whole chapter) as it anticipates Moses’ obedience. He did “according to all that the LORD had commanded him, so he did.” What follows is proof of this statement. The mediator perfectly obeyed the instructions and so God indeed was able to dwell with sinful man.

Before moving on we should pause and learn from this that God is concerned about the details of His house. If He will be glorified among the nations then we need to listen up to how He wants things to be.

The breadth of our ministry depends on the depth of our ministry. And this in turn is determined by how well we listen to God’s instructions concerning how to worship and serve Him. Those whom we send out will largely reproduce what they have learned and seen and been exposed to.

It really is true, as I trust we will see, that how we “do church” affects the wider display and subsequent dynamic of God’s gospel glory. Paul understood this principle and wrote of it to the Corinthians. While giving instructions concerning orderly worship, the apostle wrote,

Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.

(1 Corinthians 14:23-25)

Notice that: As worship was conducted God’s way, it would be evident to outsiders that the church enjoyed God’s presence. As we labour for the glory of God, let us do so prepared to listen up as God speaks so that our house will be used to display and spread the glory of God to those around us and to the nations.

We Must Raise Up

In vv. 17-33 we learn that some assembly was required. “The erection of the tabernacle was the culmination of everything that God had been working for since he first brought his people out of Egypt.”5

And it came to pass in the first month of the second year, on the first day of the month, that the tabernacle was raised up. So Moses raised up the tabernacle, fastened its sockets, set up its boards, put in its bars, and raised up its pillars. And he spread out the tent over the tabernacle and put the covering of the tent on top of it, as the LORD had commanded Moses. He took the Testimony and put it into the ark, inserted the poles through the rings of the ark, and put the mercy seat on top of the ark. And he brought the ark into the tabernacle, hung up the veil of the covering, and partitioned off the ark of the Testimony, as the LORD had commanded Moses. He put the table in the tabernacle of meeting, on the north side of the tabernacle, outside the veil; and he set the bread in order upon it before the LORD, as the LORD had commanded Moses. He put the lampstand in the tabernacle of meeting, across from the table, on the south side of the tabernacle; and he lit the lamps before the LORD, as the LORD had commanded Moses. He put the gold altar in the tabernacle of meeting in front of the veil; and he burned sweet incense on it, as the LORD had commanded Moses. He hung up the screen at the door of the tabernacle. And he put the altar of burnt offering before the door of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, and offered upon it the burnt offering and the grain offering, as the LORD had commanded Moses. He set the laver between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar, and put water there for washing; and Moses, Aaron, and his sons would wash their hands and their feet with water from it. Whenever they went into the tabernacle of meeting, and when they came near the altar, they washed, as the LORD had commanded Moses. And he raised up the court all around the tabernacle and the altar, and hung up the screen of the court gate. So Moses finished the work.

(Exodus 40:17-33)

As New Year’s Day approached there was excitement everywhere! What a celebration the children of Israel would have! On that appointed day Moses and the people went to work. These verses record the actual erecting of the tabernacle. The tabernacle was finally raised up.

Once again great attention is paid to detail in this description, and seven times we read the refrain, “as the LORD had commanded Moses.” This aspect of the tabernacle story cannot be overemphasised. God prescribed exactly how it was that He wanted His House designed and He prescribed exactly how He was to be worshipped. No deviation was allowed. Moses, as the writer to the Hebrews tells us, was faithful in building this house (Hebrews 3:1-6).

It is interesting that, according to the book of Numbers, the Levites were assigned duties from the Lord for specific duties with reference to the dismantling, transport and erection of the tabernacle. But this was only revealed to Moses in the second month of the second year, a full month after the events of Exodus 40. In other words, when the tabernacle was set up (as recorded here) it would seem that all the church was involved in it, with Moses giving the oversight. And it is also clear that there were some aspects of the setting up of the tabernacle which were exclusively Moses’ responsibility. But, in essence, this celebratory construction was a family affair.

I would imagine that, as the people worked together setting up the tabernacle, there was a buzz in the air. There would have been a lot of hustle and bustle as they laboured together as the church on the church. This was a glorious work day.

Boards were put in place, and secured in their sockets. The pillars of the sanctuary were joined together with the gold-covered acacia rods. The various coverings and curtains were put in place and perhaps little children were having a blast hiding under them. With each step of the erecting of the building I would think that the people were a bit mesmerised by the beauty of each piece. And no doubt there was an appropriate sense of satisfaction as each noted that their contribution was pleasing to the Lord as it was made up and raised up according to His plan.

Once again, as in v. 2, v. 17 records that the tabernacle was to be erected on the first day of the first month, but here we have the added statement, “of the second year.” You may recall that this New Year’s Day for the Jews was commensurate with the Passover (12:1-2ff). On this night, one year earlier, the Lord had done an amazing work of judgement and mercy. It was a severe mercy as the firstborn all died—all, that is, except of those families that had applied the blood of the lamb. Those households who took God’s Word seriously, killed a lamb, applied its blood to the door frame and stayed indoors and appropriated the sacrificial lamb in a meal, were spared the otherwise deserved judgement of God. In His wrath, God remembered mercy.

And so it would appear that almost a year had passed since their exodus from Egypt. Obviously the timing is very significant. The setting up of the tabernacle was to be an anniversary celebration of their salvation. And truly they had much to celebrate!

After some 400 years in Egypt, the majority of those years being enslaved under cruel tyranny, the Lord delivered them. They left Egypt under the protection of God, with provision from God emboldened by the promises of God. But with the construction of the tabernacle they had the glorious blessing of God’s presence (see Exodus 29:44-46).

Is there a relevant point of connection with the new covenant church? I believe there is.

We too have the privilege of raising up the dwelling place of God by the establishment of local churches. Whereas under the old covenant there was a sense in which God limited His presence to one nation—and one particular location in that nation—under the new covenant there are multiple tabernacles, temples, sanctuaries or houses where God dwells; namely local churches.

We are to plant local churches in accordance with God’s prescribed instructions under the leadership of our Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ is the one who builds His church and, to be frank, He does not need our help. And yet what a blessing to be used!

Planting a biblical, Christ-produced church is, of course, a gospel miracle. But if we follow the Lord’s prescriptions—empowered by the Spirit—we can indeed experience the raising of local churches in which God’s presence will dwell. In fact, as we will see later, God expects us to fill the earth with such. God expects for us to so pray and to labour that heaven will come down and gospel glory will permeate every part of the earth. God desires that all the earth become His sanctuary. And one day it will be! As the Lord said, “Truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord” (Numbers 14:21; cf. Habakkuk 2:14).

We Must Look Up

Consider the incredible record of vv. 34-35: “Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.”

I want you to walk through this scene with me. The word “anticipation” comes to mind. “The only thing missing was the one thing that everyone was waiting to see: the glorious presence of God. This was not something that Moses could set in place. With the right instructions, he could put the tabernacle together, but only God could fill it with glory.”6

The frame of the tent of meeting had been set up and the curtaining had been placed over it, but the glory of God had not yet come down. Moses placed the testimony in the ark and set it in place, along with the mercy seat, and yet the glory did not come down. The veil was hung to divide the holy place from the most holy place. The glory did not come down. Moses set the table with its utensils on the north side. Here the bread would be laid. But the glory did not come down. Next Moses set up the lampstand and lit each of the seven bowls. The sanctuary was brightened, but not yet glorious. Moses then set up the gold altar and lit the incense. The brightened sanctuary was now filled with a wonderful aroma and but not yet filled with glory. Would God show?

Moses then placed the cloth door at the entrance and went outside to set up the remaining furniture. The altar of sacrifice was put in place—and was inaugurated with its first sacrifices—but still the glory did not descend. The laver was set up for the priesthood, and the priests in fact were washed and clothed for service. But the glory did not come down. Then everything about the sanctuary, including the laver, the altar of sacrifice and the priestly garments were anointed. Everyone waited with a growing sense of anticipation. Would God now presence Himself? Not yet.

But finally, the last instruction was obeyed and the wall around the courtyard was set up. The poles were put in place and the cloth partitioning hung. The last stake was driven into the ground and the last guy rope attached. And then it happened. Heaven came down and glory filled the sanctuary!

The people were no doubt ecstatic. Or were they? It is said that fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Rather than sentimental superficiality they responded with fear and trembling as they were humbled before the presence of the Lord. And I say this because even Moses himself was not able to enter because of this glorious glory cloud. Does that not strike you as a bit strange? After all, the whole purpose of this tabernacle was precisely so that the children of Israel could and would experience God’s presence (29:44-46), but now that His presence had descended, they could not draw near!

There was a very good reason for this. God was teaching them that the only way to have His presence is by grace. And that goes even for a man like Moses. The only way that anyone can approach and appropriate the presence of God is by a blood-shedding sacrifice. Yes, even Moses!

This is why the book of Exodus in a sense does not really end here in chapter 40. For the book of Exodus to be complete requires the book of Leviticus (which is also why we will proceed to an exposition of that book!). When we concluded our study in Genesis we could not very well leave the children of Israel in Egypt, and so we studied their deliverance in Exodus. Even so now we cannot leave them outside the presence of God and so we need to study how they gained access through the Levitical sacrifices.

Note the opening words of Leviticus, which form an invitation to Moses, and to the children of Israel, into God’s presence. “Now the LORD called to Moses, and spoke to him from the tabernacle of meeting, saying, . . . ‘When any one of your brings an offering to the Lord . . . .” Only by grace could they enter, only by grace could they stand; not by their human endeavour but by the blood of the lambs.

I am sure that you can see the parallel. For us, the only way by which we can enter the presence of God is by the blood of the Lamb. God’s glory is so majestic, so awe-full, so weighty, so dangerous, that we need to be protected. And the blood of God’s Son is that protection (see 1 John 4:10).

There is an interesting parallel here to what Moses experienced at the burning bush. There, you will remember, though the bush burned it was not consumed. God protected it. And the same was true with the tabernacle. When the fire of God’s Shekinah fell, the tabernacle was not destroyed. Why? Because it had been anointed! Henry observes, “The Shekinah now made an awful entrance into the tabernacle. . . . But, as before, the bush was not consumed, so now, the curtains were not even singed by this fire; for to those that have received the anointing, the terrible majesty of God is not destroying.”7

Where do we look to see the glory of God? “The glory in the tabernacle was the climax of Exodus, but not the climax of redemption. It was only the first glimmerings of the glory that God had prepared for us in Jesus Christ.”8 After all, the fullness of God dwells in Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:19; cf. John 1:14).

We find an interesting parallel to the Exodus account in Luke 9:28-32, which records the transfiguration of Jesus Christ. Luke writes,

Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening. And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

(Luke 9:28-32)

The word used here for “decease” (in the context of the crucifixion) is the Greek word for “exodus.” Jesus’ crucifixion is therefore described here in terms of an exodus. The entire Exodus record—as is true of all Scripture—pointed to the Lord Jesus Christ.

By way of application let me emphasise the need to look for the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. And to the degree that we see His glory, to that degree we will listen up and raise up the church motivated by that glory.

Have you been anointed? Do you have the Spirit of Christ? If so, then you have nothing to fear. However if you are not born of the Spirit—if you have not repented of your sins and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ—then you have every reason to fear.

Is it not a perplexing anomaly that the children of Israel had the visible presence of God in their midst and yet they behaved the way that they did? There was not a day that went by when they could not look towards the tabernacle and see that the God of glory was present with them. They could see the cloud of God’s glory hovering over the tabernacle in the daytime and the pillar of Shekinah fire at night. The sovereign Lord of history was graciously and uniquely dwelling among these people. Such an experience, one would think, would make a difference in how they lived. And yet sadly, as we know from their own records, it did not. They saw the cloud and lived in a fog; they beheld the light and they lived like they were in the dark. In fact, they seemed to be blinded by the light.

I think that we can all relate to this in some way. And yet we have even less excuse than they did. We have the Spirit of God indwelling us. We don’t need to go to a physical location to experience God’s dwelling with us for as Paul tells us that the Spirit of God dwells within us (1 Corinthians 6:19). And yet we too often live in a fog. We cease to appreciate that heaven came down and glory filled our souls.

The result is inconsistent living.

Think about the revelation that was given to Peter about a week prior to the transfiguration. When asked by Jesus whom people were saying that He was, and then being asked point blank whom Peter thought that He was, he replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Again, consider those words. Peter was acknowledging that the man standing before him was the God-Man, God incarnate, God in the flesh. That is astounding. Would not such a realisation (revelation) have an overwhelming effect on you? We would assume so. And yet only a few short verses later Peter began to rebuke the Lord and correct His theology of the cross! But before we are too critical of him we should examine the telephone pole protruding from our own eye socket!

We too have been exposed to the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ and yet, like Peter, all too often this seemingly has little effect upon us. We either become accustomed to the presence of His glory or we become oblivious to it. In other words, the weight of God’s glory seemingly becomes weightless to us.

It is because of this that believers can be brought to tears during a worship service when contemplating the depth of God’s mercies to us and then thirty minutes later find themselves being harsh towards a family member because of some minor failure on their part.

It is because of such a ‘fog’ in the midst of a glory cloud that believers can read their Bible and then an hour later find themselves viewing pornography on the internet.

Such a spiritual fog is the reason that believers can read about God being their refuge and ever present help, and read Jesus’ words that, if the Father cares for sparrows then he will care for His children, and yet shortly afterwards find themselves worrying, even to the point of panic attacks. “The Israelites . . . were about to embark into the wilderness, where there was little comfort, little food and little water. Yet, God was with them, and how greatly he would supply all their needs!”9

And it is also because of such a fog in the midst of glory that believers can behave so selfishly when it comes to spreading the gospel of that glory to others.

We Must Pack Up and Go Up

The book of Exodus ends with a clear indication that God’s presence, though localised, was not to be domesticated. That is, the children of Israel were to realise that God would go with them on their journeys but that in fact they would journey.

Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the LORD was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.

(Exodus 40:36-38)

Cole notes,

The book ends with the fulfilment of the promise of Exodus 29:45. YHWH is living among His people: the theology of the presence of God has become the fact of His presence. . . . The book ends with a confident look ahead. The God who lives among His people is the God who will lead and guide to Canaan, in fulfilment of His promise to the patriarchs. To speak of a journey is to look for an arrival: He who has begun a work of salvation for Israel will complete it: that is at once the hope and the confidence of the people of God, as they move forward from Sinai, and therefore it is our hope too.10

Though they were currently at Sinai, they would not be permanently there. You see, the glorious presence of God that they were experiencing was to become the experience of others as well. And therefore when they detected that God was moving on by the moving of the glory cloud, they were to get up, pack up and go up to wherever He led them.

There are a couple of observations that we need to make as we bring our study to a close.

When God desired to move the nation of Israel He did so very clearly. He did so, according to this text, in the daytime. He never moved them by moving the pillar of fire (therefore at night time) but rather moved them in broad daylight as indicated by a moving pillar of cloud. In other words, they never had to worry about whether it was the will of God for them to pack up and to go up to the glory of God. And the same is true for you and me.

We have the Word of our Lord who has made it abundantly clear that we are to go up from our “Jerusalem” to the nations. It is the will of God that we go for His glory. Begin at home. Begin at your workplace. Look for opportunities beyond. The Lord will make it clear. He has made His will known that He desires the nations to be glad through His gospel. Pay attention to His command and His call will become clear. Ask the Lord, “Why not me?”

Second, we can take comfort from these verses that, as Yahweh was present with His people through their journeys, so will He be present with us in His new covenant temple (cf. Revelation 21:1-3). As we listen up, and obediently raise our eyes, we are to look up and be encouraged to pack up and go up knowing that He goes up with us! Jesus promises us that He will be with us wherever that takes place.

Someone has well said that the grace of God will not take you where it cannot keep you. So let us get up and go up so that His church will be raised up for God’s glory.

One day you will be called up to give an account of how you lived for Christ. You will give an account for how you responded when, by God’s grace, Heaven came down and glory filled your soul. Oh that we will have the joy of hearing, “Well done!” because we lived as though we saved for the glory of God.

Pink notes with insight, “Thus, in the closing chapter of this book of redemption we behold the full and perfect accomplishment of God’s purpose of grace. Notwithstanding man’s failure, not withstanding Israel’s sin of the golden calf, not withstanding the broken tables of stone; in the end, grace superabounded over sin, and all the counsels of God were made good by the typical mediator.”11 But of course, this typical mediator pointed to Christ who was both the Mediator and the Tabernacle! In the words of Matthew Henry, “But what Moses could not do, in that he was weak through the flesh, our Lord Jesus has done, whom God caused to draw near and approach, and who, as the Forerunner, is for us entered.”12

In every way the Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled these requirements. He listened up, raised up, and looked up; and it all began with His packing up and coming down. In Jesus, heaven came down and glory filled our souls!

Jesus listened up and packed up and went down. He was raised up so that we could look up. Heaven came down and glory filled our souls. And because of this we desire to pack up and to go up so that He will be lifted up for all to see. When we do so then God in His perfect time will ensure that heaven comes down and glory fills this universe.

Show 12 footnotes

  1. Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, 3 vols. (Nashville: Royal Publishers, 1979), 1:229.
  2. Alec Motyer, The Message of Exodus: The Bible Speaks Today  (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 2005), 325.
  3. Motyer, The Message of Exodus, 325.
  4. Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Delivered: Finding Freedom by Following God (Colorado Springs: Cook Communications, 1998), 172-73.
  5. Philip Graham Ryken, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2005), 1156.
  6. Ryken, Exodus, 1159.
  7. Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, 1:228.
  8. Ryken, Exodus, 1161.
  9. John D. Currid, Study Commentary on Exodus, 2 vols. (Darlington: Evangelical Press, 2001), 2:371.
  10. R. Alan Cole, Exodus: Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Leicester, Inter-Varsity Press, 1973), 239.
  11. A. W. Pink, Gleanings in Exodus (Chicago: Moody Press, 1981), 378.
  12. Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, 1:228.