December 8, 2023
Picture: The True Tabernacle
Exodus 25:8-9, 40:17-21, 34; John 1:14-18
Hundreds of years had passed since the sons of Jacob had packed everything they owned and headed to Egypt to escape a devastating famine. Initially they found safety beneath the wings of an unlikely ally in Egypt, but since Joseph had passed, goodwill was replaced with slave labor. For generations, it had been Pharaoh’s sheep they took to graze and Egyptian buildings they erected as they cobbled a scant existence out of the meager good graces of their slave masters. Perhaps the most glaring artifact of their misfortune was the absence of God, who for generations they had relied on. Living on the fumes of legend which was rapidly becoming lore they were strangers in a strange land slowly becoming institutionalized by their circumstances. But then God began to move. He had brought Moses before the Pharaoh and the result was inexplicable miracles and their extraordinary escape. But to what end? To die in the desert? To form a rival nation? Then, at the base of Mount Sinai, God articulates his intention. He was forming a Holy nation marked by the fact that His presence would dwell their midst.
And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it.
Exodus 25:8-9 (NKJV)
And it came to pass in the first month of the second year, on the first day of the month, that the tabernacle was raised up. So Moses raised up the tabernacle, fastened its sockets, set up its boards, put in its bars, and raised up its pillars. And he spread out the tent over the tabernacle and put the covering of the tent on top of it, as the Lord had commanded Moses. He took the Testimony and put it into the ark, inserted the poles through the rings of the ark, and put the mercy seat on top of the ark. And he brought the ark into the tabernacle, hung up the veil of the covering, and partitioned off the ark of the Testimony, as the Lord had commanded Moses.
Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
Exodus 40:34 (NKJV)
In a touching picture of grace, God chose to no longer watch from the outside. His presence would be the defining facet of this new nation simmering in the desert. God’s presence would be proof that He was WITH His people. They would need no idols, no forgeries of power to blindly cling to. They would have God himself in their midst. For the first time since the garden, God had tabernacled with man once again. But this was still only a whisper, a faint dispatch broadcast through eternity. In man’s darkest hour after 400 years of familiar silence, occupied by Rome and stripped of their national identity God would dwell with man again.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ”
And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.
John :14-18 (NKJV)
The word used for Dwell is the same word in the Greek translation of the Old Testament used for tabernacle. Jesus, the Son of God would tabernacle with man. But even more poignant is the fact that after Jesus finished His work the impact remained. Anyone who believes in Him becomes a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). So once again, the defining facet of God’s people is His presence, not just with, but IN them, turning them into citizens of heaven and people of grace and truth. At Christmas, we celebrate the fact that God truly is with us.