Some sections of the Bible may seem boring* to us. Have you ever tried to read though the book of Exodus? You probably stopped reading in chapter 25 when you hit the orders and measurements for the construction of the tabernacle (tent of meeting). About 15 chapters are devoted to the making of the tabernacle! This is very significant if you consider that just one verse is spent on the creation of the universe (Genesis 1:1). Obviously the tabernacle must be extremely important. What does it teach us?
1. God is present with his people
The tent symbolised God’s presence with his people, whom he had rescued from slavery. Once the tent was constructed, Ex 40v34 tells us, “then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” Whenever Israelites saw the tabernacle they were reminded that God was with them. The Israelites were also reminded that God is holy for they could not enter the tabernacle compound without a priest and an appropriate sacrifice. In the Most Holy Place stood the Ark of the Covenant which symbolised the very throne of God, where God is surrounded by the angels. The Most Holy Place was separated from the rest of the tabernacle and indeed, the rest of the world, by a heavy curtain, again symbolising the truth that God is awesomely holy and cannot be approached by sinful human beings. Only the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place once a year to atone for the sins of the people by the suitable sacrifice.
John, when introducing Jesus in his biography of Jesus, writes that “the Word (Jesus) became flesh (human) and tabernacled amongst us “and then John writes, “we have seen his (Jesus) glory, the glory of the One and Only”. The Tabernacle pictured God’s presence with his people, while Jesus fulfils what the tabernacle pictured and is God with us. Jesus is our high priest.
2. God is portable
The people travelled with the tabernacle and the tabernacle travelled with the people. God presence is not fixed to one point or building, God’s presence is moveable! God is with you at church, at work and at home, if you are part of his people. We don’t go to church to be in God’s presence. Jesus promised to be with us as we go into all the world.
3. God is precise
Moses, as project manager of the Tabernacle Compound, received very detailed instructions and the tabernacle was built very precisely. Loads of attention to detail. God was saying: This is my house and I get to say how its built, I get to say who gets in, I get to say how they get in and with which sacrifice. In other words, you can’t just approach any way you want to. Same today: You get to approach God his way or not at all. It’s Jesus or nothing. Not Mohammed or Krishna, or your good life or you new enlightened spirituality. It’s not even through the ancestors. If we want to meet with the true God, we need to follow Jesus.
4. God’s presence instils passion
In Exch. 35 & 36 Moses asks for contributions from the people to fund and provide raw materials for the tabernacle and its furnishings. The people are moved to give generously and give more than is needed or expected. Moses ends up having to tell the people to stop giving. God’s people were excited and passionate about doing what they could. God was dwelling now in their midst and they wanted to see his name honoured. God’s people gave passionately, generously, fervently, excitedly, zealously and excitedly. I don’t know how that applies to you. But think about it.
* The whole Bile is inspired and useful to correct, teach, train and rebuke. But we realise some parts are more inspiring to read than others.