God Says, “I Want to Meet with You.”

A sermon preached by
Dr. Peter James Flamming
Pastor, First Baptist Church of Richmond, Virginia
Sunday, September 24, 2000

Exodus 25, 29, 33

The Hebrew people have left bondage in Egypt.  They are headed for the Promised Land. God has been with them every step of the way. But now the miracles are behind them.  And the challenge of the dessert is upon them.  Exodus 25: 1 says,  “And the Lord said to Moses, tell the Israelites to bring me an offering.  And you are to receive the offering for me.” 

Then it talks about the offerings: the gold, the silver, the bronze, the purple, and the scarlet, all of the very precious wood.  And then in verse 8 it says:  “Then have them make a sanctuary for me and I will dwell among them.  Make this tabernacle and all it’s furnishings exactly like I will show you.”  Then follows a great deal of detail on what they are to do. 

If you will turn over to the 29th chapter and the 42nd verse:  “For the generations will see this burnt offering at the altar and it will be at the entrance to the tent of meeting before the Lord and there I will meet you and speak to you.  There, also, I will meet with the Israelites and the place will be consecrated by my glory.  And so I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar and you will consecrate the priests.” 

One more verse - the 33rd chapter, the 9th verse: “As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance while the Lord spoke with Moses.”  Verse 11 says:  “And the Lord would speak to Moses face to face as a man speaks with his friend.”

Five times in the Book of Exodus the Lord says I want to meet with you.

Incredible. This is the Creator who walked out on the edge of nothingness and with a word formed all of the worlds.  And he wants to meet with you.  This is the great divine engineer who put the planets in their orbits, made the stars in their courses and planned the heavens. 

I called one of our scientific types this week and asked how many galaxies there are.  “Well,” he said, “it’s kind of a wild guess at this point.  We keep learning there are more than we thought.” 

I said, “Give me a bare minimum.” 

“I think everybody would agree that there are at least a billion galaxies.” 

It isn’t as if this God has nothing better to do.  Each one of these galaxies with its suns, its moons, its planets, its stars, its black holes – and this God, this Creator, this Divine Engineer wants to meet with you!

Every year about this time we see the way the leaves turn into wonderfully beautiful colors.  It is as if heaven takes its pallet and spreads it over the hillsides and the mountains and the gardens and the roadsides.  This Divine Artist wants to meet with you.  And is there anything more beautiful than those words:  I want to meet with you. 

Martin Buber, one of the wisest people who lived in the last century – philosopher, believer, and theologian – wrote:  “All of life is meeting.”  He meant when two people get together and there is a flow of commonness among them and love is shared, something happens to both parties.  All of life is meeting.  God says I want to meet with you.

God said to Moses, “I Want to meet with you.”

He looked up from the little fire outside of his tent where the supper had been prepared.  The embers were beginning to glow with their satisfied mission accomplished.  The sparks going heavenward.  He heard some children giggling nearby.  He thought it was a gift to him personally.  He’d listened all day to complaining people and he thought to himself, “Listen, all the adults may complain but the children are all right and as long as the children are all right we’re in good shape.”

He looked at the sunset.  When he was in Midian he had missed those sunsets.  In the high mountains, the sun was shielded.  The shadows came but not the sunset.  But now in the dessert, as the sun began to go down from the horizon – that same sun which was so bright at noonday you could not look at it was suddenly aglow with red hues and orange and yellow and you could look full faced at it and say, “thank you, Lord.”

And he watched it slip beneath the horizon.  He walked to the edge of the camp.  Looked up into the stars that were beginning to be visible and he said, “Lord God I need to speak with you tonight.  I am tired.  I am tired of complaining people.  I am tired of not knowing where I am going.  I am tired of being sent out here and not having a plan.  You told me to lead these people to the Promised Land and I’m trying to do that but God I can’t do this by myself.” And this was Moses’ prayer.

He prayed again and he listened and nothing happened.  There was no word from heaven. There was no word from the stars.  There was no word from deep in his soul.  He was getting up to leave and brushed the sand off of his cloak when deep within he heard the word.  “I want to meet with you and I want to meet with my people and our first step is to build a tent of meeting.” 

“Lord, I don’t even know what a tent of meeting is.”

“Well a tent of meeting is a place set apart.  It’s like a sanctuary.  It’s like a tabernacle.” 

“Lord, I’ve never even seen one and you expect me to build one?  Besides where do you expect us to get the materials?  The last Home Depot I noticed was in Egypt.”

And the Lord said, “The people brought a whole lot more along than you thought they did.  We’ll take up an offering and we’ll ask them for their gold and their silver and their precious stones, for their linen.  We will ask them for precious wood and there will be enough.  Trust me. I have my people everywhere and they will give.  Trust me.”

Moses said, “What will I do with it?”

God said, “Moses, I’ll tell you.”

And if you read through Exodus you are going to find out that the tabernacle was put together in an immaculate, strategic plan.  Step by step, item by item, artifact by artifact, symbol by symbol, article by article, every part of it is just amazing to me.  I’m awed by it every time I read through it because every part of it is a witness, a kind of shining halo glow of an essential part of what it is to stay healthy spiritually.  Every part of it.  There is no waste. 

The other part that just awes me is the fact that the tabernacle became a picture of what Jesus Christ would do personally.  It was as if God took the tabernacle and all of its many different parts and just put them in one person, his Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ.  You see by the time Jesus got here the people had become completely preoccupied with the procedures and they’d forgotten God.  And so God sent his Son.  And in that Son, as Paul said later, are all the promises of God fulfilled.  He is our yes and he is our Amen.

Let’s trace it back.  If you want to know what Christ came to do, study the tabernacle.  And that’s what we are going to be doing in these coming weeks.  Taking one part at a time and looking at them and saying not only this is what happened back then but this is what happened in Jesus Christ the Lord and this is what happens inside of us because the pattern of God is consistent and it moves from one part to another part to another part.

“I want to meet with you…” – Where?

God said I want to meet with you but the first step we have a place to meet.  If somebody calls you during the day and says let’s get together I want to meet with you, what’s the first response you make?  Where are we going to meet?  The next response is, “when?”  Where and when. 

Now friends, I don’t have time for time today.  That’s another sermon. 

Let me look at place.  Where.  The tent of meeting.  Isn’t it interesting that when God begins, he doesn’t begin with a constitution? He doesn’t even begin with a set of policies.  He doesn’t begin with a bunch of prophets.  He doesn’t even begin with his Son and our Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ.  He begins with a place, a tent.  You see, you’ve got to have an address to put down roots anywhere.  If you don’t have an address you can’t put down roots.

The difference between most of you and street people is right here.  You have an address, they don’t.  You are responsible for that place you live in.  They aren’t responsible for anything.  Some, of course, are down on their luck and they will bounce and the first thing they will do is get an address. 

Our age has raised a whole lot of spiritual street people – drifters, people who want the spiritual warmth and glow but they don’t want to be responsible for anything. 

And the Lord Jesus comes to us and says, “I need you.  I want you.”

But it all begins when you decide to have an address.  An address where the Lord Christ says, “I’m here and here I will meet you.”

You are responsible for letting Christ change you.  I wonder sometimes if this isn’t an escape for those who are always against established religion. Because the number one qualification of the Gospel is if you follow Jesus, you’ve got to get ready to change.  Change attitudes, change habits, change behavior, being responsible for learning habits that nurture spiritual well being.  Being responsible for learning and growing.  Responsible for others along the way.  Responsible for witness.  Responsible for being a carrier of hope in a world that needs hope. 

Jesus Christ became the tabernacle

I have left the best for the last.  When Christ came he was called our Tabernacle. Every part of the tabernacle became part of who he was and what he does in behalf of us. 

As the tabernacle, for example, had an altar and on that altar they would sacrifice and forgiveness would happen.  Christ became our sacrificial gift so that no longer would we need to do that.  And we could openly and without any kind of embarrassment, with boldness and courage go to the Lord and say, “Lord I failed.  I made the wrong turn.  Forgive me.”  And the Scripture says he takes that and he throws that away and never remembers it anymore.

John 1:14:  “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  You know what that word “dwelt” is?  It’s the word for Tabernacle.  It’s been made into a verb.  “And the Word became flesh,” that’s Christ, “became flesh and tabernacled among us.”  The living, breathing hope for all of us. But it all begins with a single step of putting down roots somewhere and of making the first effort.

Did you see in the newspaper the story of one of our wonderful physician surgeons?   I remember when he came down that aisle and said, “I want my spiritual address to be right here.”  Some years ago he was in a skydiving accident. Wind sheer hit them right before they were to hit the ground and turned them up, and crashed them into the ground. 

He was in a coma for six weeks. He had broken bones all over his body.  Despairing for life, physicians and nurses tried their best just to help him survive.  And then came that day when they brought in a therapist and this man – athletic, muscular, competent, capable, could not move.  And the therapist started him out by trying to get him to roll from one side of the bed to the other.  What a meager beginning – but it was a beginning.  And eventually came the first step.  And after the first step the second step and of course the rest is history.

I want to ask you something.  Where are you putting down roots for your spiritual life? Aren’t you willing to take a first step?  Aren’t you willing to meet God and let him help you begin establishing home?  Spiritual home?  Home in Jesus Christ the Lord and home in a church somewhere with an address. 

Lord you’ve come to meet with us today.  And we have prepared our hearts to meet with you.  Now Lord Jesus, move within us.  Prompt us like the wind of the spirit. Let us know what you want us to do for the next step.

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