Posts tagged ‘Tabernacle’

When God Won’t Meet With You

Credit: Wikimedia

The book of Exodus ends with a theological tragedy. Throughout the book, God has been powerfully present among His people – when He rescued them from Egypt by sending plagues on Egypt, when He went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, when He led them through the Red Sea, when He fed them manna from heaven, and when He gave them the Ten Commandments. On the heels of all this, God gives to Moses instructions on how to build the tabernacle, which is also called the Tent of Meeting. The purpose of the Tent of Meeting is explicit in its name – it is a place to meet with God. But when it is completed, something startling and unsettling occurs:

The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. (Exodus 40:34-35)

Upon its completion, the Tent of Meeting is immediately closed for, well, meeting. Moses cannot go into the tent. This is how the book of Exodus ends.

The book of Exodus, then, ends with a crisis. Israel’s sins – among which have been grumbling and idolatry – have separated her from God. God’s dream and desire that He “might dwell among them” (Exodus 29:46) seems lost.

But then, the book of Leviticus opens:

The Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting. (Leviticus 1:1)

Just when it seems like Israel has been cut off from God, He speaks. He reaches out. And what follows in Leviticus is a set of instructions on how Israel might interact with Him. God has not given up His hope of being with them:

I will put My dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be My people. (Leviticus 26:11-12)  

Have you ever felt cut off from God? Have you ever felt like you cannot dwell with Him or like He will not dwell with you? Have your prayers ever gone unanswered? Has God ever felt distant? Each time you feel like you’re stuck at the end of Exodus, Leviticus is waiting. God will speak. God will reach out. He wants to be with you. Don’t believe me? Just look at Jesus.

September 26, 2022 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

No Longer Shut Out

Credit: Wikimedia

At the end of the book of Exodus, Moses and Israel have just set up the tabernacle – the place where God dwells. But when Moses tries to enter it to be with God, something unsettling happens:

The cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. (Exodus 40:34-35)

Moses cannot enter to meet with God.

The Psalmist asks:

Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in His holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god. (Psalm 24:3-4)

The Israelites do not have clean hands or pure hearts. They are recalcitrant and rebellious. As Exodus 32 recounts for us, they have sworn by idols. They cannot stand in the Lord’s holy place because of their sin.

The book of Exodus, then, leaves its reader wondering if God’s people will ever be able to meet with God. Or, has God cut them off because of their sin?

John’s Gospel opens with this description of Jesus:

The Word became flesh and made His tabernacle among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

The Israelites were barred from standing in God’s holy place by His glory. Jesus comes to us as God’s holy place and freely shows us His glory. How? By grace and with truth. John 1 is the answer to Exodus 40. Despite our sin, we are not blocked from being with God, because God has chosen to be with us in Christ.

May 9, 2022 at 5:15 am 1 comment

The True Transfiguration Tabernacle

Credit: Dziana Hasanbekava / Pexels.com

If you look closely, you’ll begin to notice that the story of Christmas isn’t found only in Jesus’ birth, but all over His life.

In Mark 9, Jesus takes His three closest disciples – Peter, James, and John – up a mountain for a “spiritual retreat” of sorts. But while they are enjoying and reflecting on the sight of Israel from the summit, Jesus is transfigured:

His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. (Mark 9:3-4)

This was not a sight for which the disciples were prepared. But they knew they were in the midst of a transcendent moment. Peter responds in a way that, though it might sound strange to us – would have seemed perfectly logical and appropriate to him:

Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters – one for You, one for Moses and one for Elijah. (Mark 9:5)

Peter sees Jesus with Israel’s greatest lawgiver – Moses – and Israel’s greatest prophet – Elijah – and his response is to suggest a building project. What is Peter thinking?

The word translated as “shelters” is, in Greek, skene, which refers to a “tent.” The most famous skene in Israel’s history is introduced in Exodus 25 and 26 when God gives Moses instructions to build the tabernacle, which was the tent in which God dwelled. The tabernacle cast a long shadow over Israel’s history, especially when coupled with a mountain, because the pattern for the tabernacle came from God when He spoke to Moses from a mountain (Exodus 26:30) and this tabernacle eventually gave way to a more permanent structure in a temple, which was built on a mountain (Isaiah 2:3).

So, when Peter suggests building skenes for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah on a mountain, he senses he is part of a divine encounter just like Moses was. And when the divine shows up, tabernacles are in order.

But what Peter suggests never comes to pass. Instead:

A cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is My Son, whom I love. Listen to Him!” Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. (Mark 9:7-8)

It turns out that tabernacles were not needed for this divine encounter because there was already a tabernacle there.

And it’s this that takes us to Christmas.

In John’s version of the Christmas story, he speaks of Jesus as the divine Word, and says: “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us” (John 1:14). The Greek word behind the phrase “made His dwelling” is skene. When Christ was born, He was God’s tabernacle – His dwelling place – among us. Peter didn’t need to build some tabernacles on that mountain because Jesus was the tabernacle on that mountain.

The promise of this season is that God does not remain aloof from His creation or creatures. He comes to us. He sends the man, who as Matthew’s account of the Christmas story reminds us, is “Immanuel, which means ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:23). Of the many promises this season provides, perhaps the most precious is this:

We are never alone, for God has sent a tabernacle in Jesus.

December 6, 2021 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Stinky Sacrifices and Sweet Offerings

When God is giving Moses instructions for the tabernacle, one of the things He instructs him to build is an incense altar:

Make an altar of acacia wood for burning incense. Aaron must burn fragrant incense on the altar every morning when he tends the lamps. He must burn incense again when he lights the lamps at twilight so incense will burn regularly before the LORD for the generations to come. (Exodus 30:1, 7-8)

This incense altar served a couple of different purposes. On the one hand, it was used in worship. When the father of John the Baptist, Zechariah, famously receives word from the angel Gabriel that he will soon be a father, even though he is well past his child-rearing years, he is stationed at the altar of incense while “all the assembled worshipers were praying outside” (Luke 1:10). On the other hand, this altar served a much cruder purpose. With all the sacrifices that were made at the tabernacle and later at the temple, the fetor from the dead animals would have been overwhelming. The incense helped cover the stench of death.

The stench of death, as offensive as it may have been, was a reminder to the Israelites that sin came with a cost. As the apostle Paul explains: “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The question was: is there anything that can stem the stench of sin and death?

In Ephesians 5, Paul writes about a unique sacrifice:

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2)

Sacrifices were stinky! But when Christ gave Himself up as a sacrifice, it was “fragrant.” Why? Because Christ was both an “offering and sacrifice.” He was the sacrificial “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) as well as “an aroma that brings life” (2 Corinthians 2:16). He was slaughtered as a sacrifice and sweet-smelling like incense, all at the same time.

I’ve had more than one person tell me that life stinks right now. Nationally, culturally, and personally, we have our share of struggles thanks to sin. And yet, the fragrance of Christ can still overwhelm and overcome the sin of this world. This is the hope we have. And this is the message we are called to share:

Thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere. (2 Corinthians 2:14)

May we spread Christ’s aroma and make someone’s life sweeter with Him.

January 11, 2021 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Practicing Contentment in 2021

File:The Phillip Medhurst Picture Torah 498. Moses finishes building the tabernacle. Exodus cap 40 v 33. Mortier.jpg
Moses finishes building the tabernacle
Phillip Medhurst Collection of Bible Illustrations

As the Israelites wind their way through the wilderness on a trek to the Promised Land, they construct a tent of meeting. This is the place where Moses goes to meet directly with God. The tent is quite elaborate, containing yarns, fine linen, gold, silver, and bronze. Because a project of this magnitude is costly, Moses begins the project with a capital campaign of sorts where:

Everyone who was willing and whose heart moved them came and brought an offering to the LORD for the work on the tent of meeting. (Exodus 35:21)

By all accounts, the capital campaign proves to be wildly successful – so much so that they wind up raising far more than they need for the completion of the tent of meeting. As the workers are assembling the tent from what has been brought, they say to Moses:

“The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the LORD commanded to be done.” Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: “No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.” And so the people were restrained from bringing more, because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work. (Exodus 36:5-7)

The workers receive a windfall of gifts for their work on the tent of meeting. But what is really important is this: they recognize the windfall. They know they have more than enough.

It’s hard to recognize a windfall. We are too easily tempted, no matter how much we have, to always want more – and to believe we don’t yet have quite enough.

In Luke 3, John the Baptist preaches about the impending judgment of God. In response, the listening crowd asks:

“What should we do then?”John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely – be content with your pay.” (Luke 3:11-14)

To avoid God’s judgment, John calls the people to be content with what they have and not hoard more than they need.

As we head into 2021, a good resolution to make might be this:

I will practice contentment.

After all, as we reflect on 2020, it can be tempting to focus on all the things we didn’t get:

I didn’t get a raise because my company is struggling financially.

I didn’t get to keep my job because I got caught in a round of layoffs.

I didn’t get to spend time with my family over the holidays because of social distancing.

I didn’t get to go out to eat or go much of anywhere at all because so many places were closed.

I didn’t get more time with my loved one because COVID-19 took them.

All these things may be true – and some of them are downright devastating – but they’re still incomplete. Because at the same time there is much we are lacking, there is much we still have:

I still have a job even if I didn’t get the raise.

I still have the wherewithal to look for a job even if I lost my old one.

I still can see my family on Facetime even if I can’t be with them in person.

I still can order food in even if I can’t go out.

I still have loved ones who are with me and God now has a loved one who is with Him.

Statements of loss, with some practice, can turn into reflections of contentment.

No matter what this year may bring, of this much we can be sure: God will provide. And, more than likely, He will provide more than enough. Perhaps we should take some time to recognize that we might just be sitting on a windfall.

January 4, 2021 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


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