How To Tackle: The Tabernacle
If you’re like me, there are certain parts of the Bible you’re a little bit hazy on... the bits you'd feel nervous explaining to a friend. I used to feel like that about today’s section in Exodus: it’s complex, dense, and talks a lot about this thing called the Tabernacle. But - I have come to absolutely LOVE this bit of the Bible, and I hope my thoughts this morning might give you an insight into why God included it (because He did, deliberately). Here’s to instilling a life-long appreciation of the Tabernacle in y'all! L x
We're diving in at the end of Exodus, where God is making a Covenant agreement (an eternal promise) with the Israelites. I want to make sure we’re clear of the big picture before we jump in, so let's get a bit of background:
- The Israelites were created as God’s chosen people, to exist in relationship with Him.
- Because of God’s holiness, the Israelites had to make sure everything was absolutely perfect and immaculate before they could meet with Him – both physically and morally.
- The Israelites failed on both accounts, and so God requires an offering from them.
So here we are, in Chapter 25:2-8, and God is describing the offering He requires:
The Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering [...] Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.”
It sounds simple. The instructions are laid out – and all the Israelites have to do is get cracking. Unfortunately, the brief is a long one. So long in fact, that it takes up the next 6 chapters! The detail gets down to the priests’ outfit choices and the poses of the decorative cherubs. Imagine being the Chief Architect – what a nightmare!
But why is this bit of the Bible important for us today?
The reason the instructions are so complex is because the tabernacle is to be a place for God to dwell(Chapter 25:8). It’s a sanctuary, a place where God can be accessed by His people.
This is God’s space, His home. God has a great purpose for the Tabernacle: to show us that we are saved to know that He is our God – and that He is holy, glorious and ‘other’:
“For the generations to come, […] 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. Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God.
They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.” (Chapter 29:42-46)
Now let’s zoom out again to the message of the Old Testament, and the message of the Bible as a whole. One common theme throughout is the message this:
God promises to be with us.
This is interesting: in a world where we crave so deeply to be connected all the time (can we wait alone for even 30 seconds without automatically pulling our phone out?) – God promises to fill that gap, to always be with us.
God says to us: I will be WITH you. Do not fear – I will be with you. When we crave that connection – He will be with us. We see this message all through Deuteronomy, Joshua, Isaiah and more – it’s sprinkled across the Bible as a sign of God’s faithfulness and His commitment to us as His people:
“I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.” (Leviticus 26:12)
"So you will be my people, and I will be your God." Jeremiah 30:23
God gives us permanent access.
And this is where we find ourselves in this passage: God is dwelling with the Israelites, having carried them out of slavery and walked with them, guiding them.
And guess what – this message becomes even richer when we look to God’s Big Plan for saving the world through Jesus. Remember, the Tabernacle is a symbol of God giving us permanent access to Himself?
This becomes amazingly clear when we see the arrival of Jesus as a baby – the Word becoming flesh, expanding the tabernacle and DWELLING amongst people! (John 1:14). And remember the name Jesus is given – Emmanuel: meaning God with us! Isn’t the Bible incredible?! Mind. Blown.
And finally, when Jesus returns to Heaven, we are given the ultimate access to God – the Holy Spirit dwelling IN us. No longer do we have to try hard like the Israelites to reach perfection: God has come to US. He has made a way to give us access.
No longer do we need the tabernacle and the temple, because Jesus made a way for us. And now, “we are the temple of the living God.” (2 Corinthians 6:16).
And so we have it – the Tabernacle. The measurements are still daunting. The detail is still meticulous. But remember the reason behind it: the holiness of our God and the greatness of His desire to dwell with His people, despite our imperfections.
I hope the symbolism of the Tabernacle will always give you hope and assurance in a God who longs to dwell with you every day of your life.
Lucy graduated from Durham (the best) in June 2015, and got married to James (also the best) in June 2016. Having grown up in Cambridge, she is now adjusting to life in the Big City of London and works in Marketing, while overseeing the day-to-day running of More Precious!