Reading through the biblical account of the Tabernacle caused me to ponder a number of issues. I mean, to be honest, it can be quite boring trying to visualize while reading all of the details. I have difficulty placing all of the sockets, clasps, curtains and boards together into a coherent picture of what the Tent looked like. The initial preparations were extensive, but Israel also had to keep things going with many offerings and sacrifices. I’m glad my English Standard Version Study Bible has a picture and some helpful notes or I’d still be lost in the details.
It’s also difficult to see the relevance. Even if someone tells me that all of the parts and pieces, as well as the finished product and continuing handling instructions, represent some aspect of Jesus or His ministry, it still boggles the mind to try and see the connections. How does reading all of the details of the construction, transport and use of the Tabernacle apply to me today? Why are all of these somewhat tedious instructions included in the Word in the first place? I can see how the ministry of Jesus is represented, at least partially, but doesn’t having Jesus sort of make the Tabernacle unnecessary? So why include the details in the Bible? Was Moses bored and just kept writing because he had nothing else to do? Or maybe he wrote the instructions in case he died and the Tabernacle wasn’t finished?
A side thought was that I wonder if the inclusion of the instructions was for the future? What if Israel decided that instead of a Temple they could build a Tabernacle? A tent would be something portable they could set up easily and move if there was a problem with the building site for a temple.
As I pondered these issues it dawned on me before I completely zoned out that God was coming to live in Israel and the Tabernacle was one of the things they had to do to get ready. God is coming to live with us! How cool is that? For over 2,000 years at that time believers were separated from Him, wandering in the proverbial desert as the unbelievers built cities and kingdoms and seemed to have their way unendingly. Now He is reversing that separation and making a home within the nation of Israel. What excitement! What a monumental change! What a nerve-wracking event!
I know how my wife gets when we are expecting company. Everything must be cleaned and put in order. She makes me change my clothes and I have to put on my best jeans. If the company is really important I even have to shower. All the food is chosen with care with an eye towards what the guests might like. Any decorations are carefully assembled and placed or hung. Etiquette is reviewed and the children rehearsed in it. We want to make our company welcome and comfortable so they want to come and eventually come back.
So it is with the Tabernacle. God is coming to live with us! The people are getting ready for company and for a very special and unique company at that. Everything must be just so. Each item in the Tent needs special care and must be constructed with the utmost skill and talent given to the best craftsmen and finest artisans we have. Every stitch, every hammer blow, every forging, the tanning of all the skins and each and every thread simply has to be as beautiful and perfect as we can manage. So now when I read the instructions I don’t get a sense of an onerous God demanding slavery to useless details. I get a sense of the excitement we have when a special visitor is coming to our home.
Another connection to the Tabernacle popped into my head before I dozed off. You probably remember the verses where Jesus tells us that he is going to prepare a place for us. I wondered if perhaps He is as excited to prepare a place for us as we would be for Him.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1–3, ESV)
I don’t think He is building a tent, but still the idea is that He is also preparing for us to come and live with Him. Currently we are living in a tent (our body) that is not our permanent home. Living in a tent shows us that this place and our current circumstances are only temporary. The permanent home for believers is with God. When we are there we won’t be moving around like many of us do now.
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. (2 Corinthians 5:1–3, ESV)
In the meantime God lives with us in our tent. The blood of our Messiah, His only begotten Son, makes this possible. The sacrifice of the Lamb of God cleanses us so that God can come and live with us here and now. Jesus has made us clean. He has granted us forgiveness for sin and prepares a permanent home for us. He continues to forgive us our sins to maintain our relationship in this tent.
By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. (2 Timothy 1:14, ESV)
Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? (James 4:5, ESV)
Israel did not earn a right for God to dwell with them, He just granted it. It was His desire and only within His power that we be reconciled. We cannot earn any of His regard but He has given it to us anyway. This is what we call grace. So how do we prepare and keep this dwelling, knowing it is the residence of God? Do we take it all for granted? Do we presume on His graciousness, living out our own will? Or do we keep the preparations of our tabernacle going, finding and living His will? In view of the preparations for the Tabernacle, how do we regard the gift of God tearing the veil of the Holy of Holies and allowing unfettered access to His glory?
We can’t earn access to His presence; He just gave it to us. But we can make our dwelling holy by continually following His instructions for living. Like priests we can partake of the sacrifices as we consume the body and blood of the Messiah, which is every word He speaks. His Words are the showbread of life, and living them out we offer incense that is unlike any other.
God is living with us!