Unification Sermons and Talks
by Reverend Joy Pople
Wilderness Lesson 4: Worship
Exodus 25-40, Leviticus 1-16
God wanted the people to make a place where He could live among them. While Moses was on the mountain God gave him detailed plans for building a tabernacle to put in the middle of the camp.
While they were traveling in the wilderness, the Israelites lived in tents that could be easily moved from one camp to another. When they reached Canaan they would build a temple for worshipping God, but on their journey to Canaan their place of worship would be a tabernacle with curtains hung on poles and a top made from skins and cloth. It could be taken apart and carried with them when they moved their camp.
God showed Moses the pattern for building every part of the tabernacle and preparing the priests' clothing. Many things would be needed for the tabernacle. God told Moses: "Tell the people to bring Me offerings of precious stones and metals, fine fabric and animal skins, wood, oil and spices. Receive the offering of every person whose heart prompts him to give." When Moses told the people about the plan, they cheerfully offered the best of everything to build a place where they could worship God.
God chose Bezaleel from the tribe of Judah and filled him the with His Spirit. God gave him the knowledge and ability to create works of art in gold, silver, bronze, precious stones, and wood. God chose Oholiab from the tribe of Dan to help Bezaleel. God gave them the wisdom of artists and the heart of teachers, and they taught the people how to carve, engrave, weave, and embroider all kinds of beautiful things. Every morning the Israelites brought gifts to the workmen.
People whose hearts were stirred came to help create God's house. Working together, the people made everything for the tabernacle. Women wove bright-colored linen cloth for inside the tabernacle and strong cloth out of goats' hair to protect the outside. Everything was made according to the pattern which God showed Moses.
The tabernacle had two rooms separated by a curtain. The first faced the courtyard and was called the "holy place." Behind it was the "most holy place."
The most holy place contained only one thing: the ark of the covenant. The ark was a box or chest covered with gold inside and outside. On the lid was the "mercy seat." God's presence covered the mercy seat like a cloud. There were two golden angels, called cherubim, one at each end of the mercy seat. Inside the ark were the Ten Commandments written on stone. No one was allowed to touch the ark. Four rings were fastened to the ark, and when the tabernacle was moved, priests put poles through the rings and carried the ark on their shoulders.
Everything in the holy place was made of gold or covered with gold. On the walls hung beautiful colored cloth. Here there were three pieces of furniture: a table on which were placed twelve loaves of bread (each loaf representing one tribe's offering to God), a candlestick with seven branches, and a small altar for burning incense.
Curtains were hung all around the tabernacle to make a courtyard. In front of the entrance was a great altar for making burnt offerings. Before going to the altar, the priests washed their hands and feet.
God chose Aaron to be the high priest, and God gave him the most important work in the tabernacle. God chose Aaron's sons to be priests also. God told Moses how to teach the Israelites to lead a holy life and make offerings to God.
God chose the tribe of Levi to help Aaron and his sons in the work of the tabernacle. The Levites were the ones who stood by Moses after the people worshipped the golden calf. They represented the first-born son that each family was supposed to dedicate to God after God spared them from death in Egypt. The Levites were divided into three groups: one camped on the north side, one on the south side, and one on the west side of the tabernacle. Moses and Aaron pitched their tents on the east side, in front of the tabernacle door.
When the tabernacle was ready to be dedicated, God told Moses to call the people to gather around its door. Moses anointed everything in the tabernacle with oil to dedicate it to God. In front of everyone Moses washed Aaron and his sons, anointed them with oil, and dressed them in beautiful priestly robes.
Then Aaron placed a lamb on the great altar as a sacrifice for the sins of the people. Aaron did not light any fire on the altar; instead, God sent fire to burn up the lamb. When the people saw this, they shouted for joy and fell on their faces. They knew that God accepted their offering.
The cloud of God's presence came to rest above the tabernacle, and God filled it with his glory. At night the cloud burned like fire. When the people saw this, they knew that God was living among them.
In the past, Moses climbed the mountain to talk with God; now he went to the tabernacle. People used to make their own altars and offer sacrifices to ask God to forgive their sins; now Moses told the people: "Prepare your offering and bring it to the priests. They will offer your sacrifice at the altar, and God will accept it and forgive your sins."
People brought animal offerings when they wanted to dedicate themselves to God, to repent for their sins against God, or to show how sorry they were for hurting another person. To thank God for His goodness and love, people brought animal or grain offerings.
Only the high priest was allowed to enter the most holy place, and he could enter it only once a year, on the Day of Atonement. Before he could enter the most holy place, the high priest bathed himself and put on a special tunic. Then he made offerings, first for his own sins and then for the sins of his family and the sins of all the people.
Every morning and evening, the priests offered sacrifices for the people's sins. Every day at sunrise they placed fresh wood on the grate of the altar. They burned incense every morning and evening and kept the lamp bowls filled with fresh oil. When the tabernacle was moved from one place to another, the priests carried the burning coals from the altar in a covered pan. God had lit this fire, and they never let it go out.
God told Aaron to say the following special prayer for the people:
"The Lord bless you
and keep you;
The Lord make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
The Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace."
Joy Pople (firstname.lastname@example.org) wrote this Bible story from the standpoint of the Divine Principle.
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