Building a house of worship

Exodus 25:1 – 9.

Recently I spoke about how we should always come to worship, come to church, or indeed every time we spend time with Jesus, with an expectation that God wants to be powerfully present with us.  One of the reasons I’m so confident of this, is because God has provided us with a template for how we are to come to worship, not religiously, but confidently that God is there and longing to touch our lives in a powerfully meaningful way.

When I was growing up, my parents decided to have an extension put onto our family home.  I remember playing the trenches as soon as the workmen had left after digging them, it was such a great place for a cubby, that is until they were filled with concrete.

And then it came time to build the walls of our new family room.  Brick walls go up pretty quickly, and so every day I’d come home from school anticipating the progress that had been made.  The longest wall ran along the side fence and this wall had gone up early and it really seemed like a great step had been made when it was up an in place.  So when I came home from school one day to find that wall had been removed, I was quite perplexed and more than a little disappointed.  What had happened?  Why had they pulled the wall down?  Why were we going backwards not forwards? 

It turned out that the builders had got the measurements wrong, and the wall had been built, ever so slightly at the wrong angle and so it was something like 2 cm’s out of place.  So it needed to come down and be re-positioned in the right place.

When they pulled the wall down they only took it down to a row of bricks just above the ground.  So small was the mistake that the bricks could comfortably go on top of this without making the wall unstable.  But what has resulted is one row of bricks, just above the foundation – that sticks out as a testimony of what happens when you don’t follow the plans just right.

Building a place for God to dwell

Exodus 25 is the start of a very detailed plan for the building of the tabernacle, the portable house of worship that the Israelites would take with them as they made their way to the Promised Land, and then for many years through the times of the judges, and even the reigns of King Saul and King David.

In this passage, Moses has gone up on the mountain, and while he is there, God gives him the plans for the tabernacle, the house of worship.  But it is more than that, it is the place where God’s Glory will reside among His people.

From this story we learn important factors and principles that are vital if we are going to see this happen. 

Worship – stirred to give willingly and abundantly

When Moses came down the mountain to join the people, he didn’t carry a tent that God had packaged up for him, not even in an Ikea flatpack.  He had the plans, the blue print, and it was going to be through the gifts of the people, freely and willingly offered, that this place of God’s dwelling would be possible. And it was also going to take those who were gifted to willingly give of their ‘God given’ talents to build this tabernacle. 

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering. (Exodus 34:1-2)

Later, when Moses takes this command and opportunity to the people he expands on it by saying:

All who are gifted artisans among you shall come and make all that the Lord has commanded:  (Exodus 35:10)

And look how the people responded:

Then everyone came whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and they brought the Lord’s offering for the work of the tabernacle of meeting, for all its service, and for the holy garments. They came, both men and women, as many as had a willing heart.  (Exodus 35:21 – 22)

Eventually Moses has to tell people to stop giving because they had more than enough.  The Spirit had stirred the people who had responded by giving abundantly.

God’s dwelling place among His people came about through the gifts and God given talents of His people willingly and extravagantly given.

And this is exactly the same today.  We come to church with a hunger to experience God’s presence, His glory among us, and our actions and attitude will either help this happen or they will hinder it.  And now we are seeing how this is worked out practically.

God’s glory happens when His people are stirred with spirits that are willing to serve and to give.  That might be as people give of their time and talent to welcome, and clean, and prepare all the various aspects of the service.  It might be to help with the administration and running of the church family.  It might be as people lead small groups and clusters, or Children’s ministry.

And so I would like to lovingly challenge you with a question that is really relevant and very important.  Are you giving to God to see His glory present among us?  Are you doing so willingly and extravagantly?  Are you giving the minimum, just enough, are you giving abundantly. 

When you come to worship, when we stand and lift our voices and hearts in praise, are you giving abundantly and extravagantly?  I’m not saying we are all extraverts.  Some will lift their hands, some might even love to dance, and so long as they are not doing so to draw attention to themselves, I’d say that’s ok with me.  But when we come to worship, when we come to give, even if it is giving time to run Kid’s church, or serve in the kitchen.  Let us do it with a loving, willing heart stirred by The Spirit to desire God’s presence. Jesus’ glory among us.

Worship is ordered

One final thing to note before we finish this morning.  Sometimes you might hear people say that they need worship that was unplanned, it should be spontaneous where we just let The Holy Spirit act.  All that sounds great, but it seems contrary to Scripture because what we read here is God’s careful and ordered plan for worship.

What happened if the Israelites didn’t follow the plan?  When two of Aaron’s sons, who had been taught and knew better decided not to follow God’s plan and order but do it their own way.  They paid dearly for their rebellion and the people were taught a valuable lesson.

God is a God of order. When talking about worship meetings, the Apostle Paul writes:  “Let all things be done decently and in order.”

Just because we plan a service – doesn’t mean that The Holy Spirit isn’t in control, in fact I’d suggest the opposite is true.  We know God is present among us when things happen that only God can do.  This is one of them.  So often different people will bring different aspects to a service and things will happen that are not coordinate, but they work together to emphasise a point that The Spirit wants us to hear.  The worship leader will say something, or a prayer will be given, or something in the Communion talk, or something in the Sermon, and they emphasise a point and demonstrate that The Holy Spirit has been active in the preparation.

And of course, just because things are planned, it doesn’t mean we won’t be, or shouldn’t be sensitive to changes as the Spirit leads.

Our God went to great lengths, and into incredible detail to describe for us what to do for His presence, His glory to be experienced among us.  We don’t need a temple or a tabernacle.  But the principles are just the same, that the Spirit will stir in our hearts to come to worship, to give our gifts, to serve in our giftedness and to do all things willingly, lovingly, extravagantly and orderly.

A question to ponder

Let me leave you with a question to think and pray about. What gift do you bring to this house of worship?  God has invited you to come and experience and bask in His presence, His glory. He has invited you to contribute to that, by bringing your gifts and by surrendering your God given gifts and talents.  So I invite you to pray and consider: What is The Holy Spirit stirring in your heart to give?  How is The Holy Spirit stirring you to serve?  Then, for the glory of Jesus Christ and the benefit of the Body of Christ, the Church, will you give?  Will you serve? Will you do so willingly and extravagantly?

If you would like to know how you can bring your gifts and serve in our church, visit our Next Steps page where you will find some teaching to look at and a place where you can indicate your desire to serve with us in building a place where God’s presence will dwell richly among us and forever touch people’s lives.