Israel didn't listen to Joseph, Moses, the law. And the tabernacle or temple? What was the tabernacle saying that wasn't being heard by the people? By the time of Stephen's day, it was a veil rent and shortly before, a few cleansings by Jesus and the threat of destruction. The temple was still testifying. Stephen said the temple was talking too, a "tabernacle of witness" (7:44). Moses made "it according to the fashion that he had seen" (7:44). "Fashion" is tupon, which is transliterated "type," but BDAG says it is "a mark made as the result of a blow or pressure," "embodiment of characteristics," and "technically design, pattern." All of this says language, like something that expresses a message.
God through the human author of Hebrews says in the first verse (1:1, 2):
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past. . . . Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.The tabernacle and temple were two such diverse manners by which God spoke. And God's people didn't hear, according to Stephen's assessment. Even when the greatest manner, His Son, spoke, they took the same tact. As much focus the leaders of Israel had on the temple, they disrespected it even as they eliminated its witness or testimony in its type of Christ. They disregarded this divers manner in which God spoke to them through its objective aesthetic meaning.
Stephen contrasts the Lord's tabernacle in 7:44 with the tabernacle of Moloch in 7:43. The two could be distinguished, and the Lord's was set apart by a pattern that was revealed in God's Word. The two, although both tents, were antithetical. God's tabernacle was a witness to God’s presence with His people, His gracious willingness to forgive as testified by the connected sacrificial system, and it foreshadowed the heavenly realities of Christianity as a type of Christ in His incarnation (John 1:14, Hebrews). Each piece of the tabernacle had layers of meaning to portray the Lord and His relationship with men. Moloch was a cheap knock-off, a reprobation that presented an entirely different message from which was borrowed later by Jeroboam in Israel's downward trajectory.
The nature of God receives characteristic expression in the arrangements of the tabernacle, the perfection and harmony of the character, the symmetry and proportion. God created within man, made in His image, the qualifications to enjoy these attributes. The harmony of the tabernacle design is shown in the balance of all its parts and in the choice of the materials employed. The three varieties of curtains and the three metals correspond to the three ascending degrees of sanctity: the court, the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies, all related to the proximity to Jehovah. So much more could be said about the mathematical precision of the rooms and the craft and coverings and furniture. The aesthetics of the tabernacle point to the perfection and character of God. Edmond de Pressensé writes on the temple of the Lord in the Pulpit Commentary:
This idea of consecration ran through the whole plan of the building. Without having recourse to a minute and fanciful symbolism, we see clearly that everything is so disposed as to convey the idea of the holiness of God. In the Centre Is the Altar of Sacrifice. The holy of holies, hidden from gaze by its impenetrable veil, strikes with awe the man of unclean heart and lips, who hears the seraphim cry from beneath their shadowing wings, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty!" (Isaiah 6:3.) The temple of holiness is not the temple of nature of colossal proportions, as in the East, nor is it the temple of aesthetic beauty, as in Greece. It is the dwelling place of Him who is invisible, and of purer eyes than to behold evil (Habakkuk 1:13.) Hence its peculiar character. It answers thus to the true condition of religious art, which never sacrifices the idea and sense of the Divine to mere form, but makes the form instinct with the Divine idea. Let us freely recognize the claims of religious art. The extreme Puritanism which thinks it honours God by a contemptuous disregard of the aesthetic, is scarcely less mistaken than the idolatrous materialism which makes beauty of form the primary consideration. It was not for nothing that God made the earth so fair, the sky so glorious; and it was under Divine inspiration that the temple of Jerusalem was reared in such magnificence and majesty as to strike all beholders. Only let us never forget to seek the Divine idea beneath the beauty of the form.The meaning to which I'm referring in the tabernacle and the temple of God are not communicated by means of words, but the message was still necessary for Israel to inculcate. Israel's resistance to the Holy Spirit was also contention with the declarations or articulations of the tabernacle, its testimony or witness.
God reveals to Moses in Exodus 28:40:
And for Aaron's sons thou shalt make coats, and thou shalt make for them girdles, and bonnets shalt thou make for them, for glory and for beauty.
Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.
God has created man to judge objective meaning through an aesthetic. God created men with imaginations able to read symbols -- words, pictures, gestures, sounds, and shapes --- and they point beyond themselves to a higher reality by which reality itself becomes meaningful for us. This is a reality made evident by the revelation of God in His Word and in the new nature God gives the regenerated man.
Man can, should, and must distinguish and make a distinction between what is holy and what is common or profane. When Paul writes both "be not conformed to this world" (Rom 12:2) and "think on these things . . . whatsoever things are lovely" (Philip 4:8), and Peter, "as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance" (1 Pet 1:14), they are teaching to examine, prove, and test and "hold fast that which is good" (1 Thess 5:21).
The religious leaders of Stephen's day had profaned the temple, while pretending to exalt it or God through it. This was a witness against them like the integration of popular culture into the church and the lives of professing saints of God. Theirs is the tabernacle of Moloch. Israel frequently fell into terrible idolatries because they accepted the symbols and the expressions of the cultures around them. God gave them the tabernacle of witness, but they preferred something nearer and dearer to their own personal taste, nothing so objective as was laid out in the Word of God. When they did so, their own God, the true God, was rejected in their imaginations, meanwhile their thinking that they continued accepting or receiving Him, so self-deceived. When Jesus came to them, they didn't even recognize Him as God because they had already so turned away from God in their imaginations.
When I look at the ugliness, the trash, the silliness, the coarseness, the superficiality, and the disrespect accepted by professing believers today, it reflects a reality in their soul. They have a form of godliness only as defined by their own pleasure. There is a base pride about knowledge, doubting the truth but with almost absolute certainty about personal opinion, that embraces what pleases self and counts it as sacred. Their feelings from their sensuous experiences they deem as authentic just because they themselves have felt them. Acceptance is a prism of their lust. This is the worship of the creature above the Creator.
What's the problem? First, someone needs to admit a need. To do that, he also must listen to someone else, who sees the problem. Very few people take correction well, but millennials are notorious for not wanting any judgment, only acceptance, a recipe for disaster. They surround themselves with those who will accept them how they are.
Second, the source could be unbelief, someone who doesn't know the Lord Jesus Christ at all, but it's at least someone who is feeding at the hog trough of this world. The influence comes from two primary places. First, the focus is on self, the regular attention on what he wants, looking at everything from his own point of view, guided by his own desires and with hardly a braking system to impede his personal taste. Second, he sees and hears, like Lot in Sodom (2 Pet 2:8), the trashy sights and sounds of television, movies, the internet, and popular music, forming a distorted imagination and salving, searing, or desensitizing his conscience, today such profanity as Game of Thrones, foul language, lewd or insipid lyrics, and nudity. He slurps up the culture with the world running down his chin. With such alliances as preconditions, he can't interpret the world to which to apply scripture.
The vulgarity of passions reveals an internal emptiness very often masked by incessant noise and useless chatter, bouncing from one cheap encounter or activity to the next. It is the mindless fish swimming in the dragnet, not considering the shortness of its days (cf. Mt 13:47-50). I see this in countless millennials today, yearning for a "like" but forsaking the mercies of God, some of whom I love very much, and I think of the warning of James in James 5:1, "weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you," and then of the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 1:9, "Turn to God from idols to serve the living and true God."