By Ben W. Curtis
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Tracy City
God’s heart is to dwell with His people. The storyline of the Bible starts with God creating man and woman and placing them in a garden. Adam and Eve had perfect fellowship with God and they walked with Him in the cool of the evening. But sin broke that fellowship and they were cast out of the garden. From Genesis 3 to Revelation 22, the Bible is the story of how God restores that relationship. When we last left the Israelites, they were at Sinai where they received the law. God descended on top of the mountain, engulfing it with smoke, thunder, and fire. The people were forbidden to come near. But now, God is saying something different: “Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst” (Exodus 25:8). He redeemed Israel out of bondage in order that He might dwell with them.
Just before the Exodus, God told the children of Israel to ask the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry (Exodus 11:2). He did this so that the Israelites would have gold and silver to give for the construction of the tabernacle. In Exodus 25:1-6 we learn that the people gave freely as God moved on their hearts. We must always remember that we give to God out of what God has already given to us. There was such an abundance of resources that Moses eventually had to restrain the people from giving (Exodus 36:6). We haven’t had to do that yet at our church.
On the outside, it wasn’t much to look at. But on the inside, it was a beautiful tent designed by God Himself and built by skillful, Spirit-filled craftsmen (Exodus 36:1-6). You might ask: Why a tent? Wouldn’t it have been better if God just erected a building of stone? First, God was identifying with His people. The presence of God in a tent shows His sympathy and compassion for His nation of tent-dwellers. Second, a tent is moveable allowing His presence to go with them (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5). Third, the tabernacle and the temple were only temporary reflections of the true temple of heaven. The Sinai covenant itself has now been replaced by something better (Hebrews 9:11-12). The promises of the prophets both before and after the exile were that God would again restore them to perfect fellowship (Ezekiel 37:27; Zechariah 2:10).
The greatest question of all is this: How can a Holy God dwell with sinful people like us? His very throne in the Holy of Holies contained tablets with His righteous law written on them. It was called the ark of the testimony because it testified of sin and disobedience. Mercy could be found at the mercy seat only through the blood of a sacrifice being poured over it. Just as the tabernacle was outwardly unimpressive, Jesus came in a very simple, unattractive way (Isaiah 53:2). His divine majesty was veiled beneath the tent of His human flesh. God “tabernacled” among men in Jesus Christ, the true dwelling place of God (John 1:14). And all who desire peace and perfect fellowship with God must come through Him (John 14:6). Those who respond to the gospel are indwelt by His Spirit and become part of the temple He is building (I Peter 2:4-5; Ephesians 2:17-22). The ultimate and final dwelling place of God will far surpass any garden or tabernacle (Revelation 21:1-4). So, let’s long for that day and live for that day!