Chapters 25-40 of Exodus record, in great detail, all the requirements and furnishings of the tabernacle. This detail, and the fact that God commanded it to be set up exactly as He instructed (25:40; 26:30; 27:8), tell us that there is something very special about this portable worship center. While there is a lot we could say about furniture spacing and placement and even campsite assignments, I’d like to keep this article focused on the bigger picture.
This structure will become the symbol of God's earthly presence. The gospel writer, John, makes an undeniable connection to this symbol in John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling (literally, tabernacled) among us.” I think Exodus 25-40 offers us three things. First, it is the first clear hint of the coming incarnation. Second, it is a strong statement of God's desire to dwell in our presence and our need to have His presence with us (it is what we were made for). And finally, this, along with the laws that will follow, is a sobering reminder of what it takes for sinful humans to draw near to a holy God and hints at the price God Himself will one day pay on our behalf. I’ll focus on the second point for the rest of this article.
God’s desire is to be among us; our need is to be with God. With God’s desire and our need in mind, consider the conversation in chapter 33. God says, "I will send an angel before you.... But I will not go with you" (33:2-3). The people respond to this news with grief and God tells them that "I will decide what to do with you" (33:5). Moses, then, goes "face to face" with God and says, "If your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.... What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?" (33:15-16). God then says that he will do what Moses asks.
I am struck by something here. God wants us to have His presence, we need His presence and God's presence is the thing that sets them (and us) apart from the rest of the world. If this is so key to our lives, why don’t we want it more?
Here is a thought: God desires to be with His people and God's people desperately need to be with their God. It was that way in the Garden of Eden and it is that way even today. It is interesting to me to see how even though Moses was "face to face" with God, he still wanted more of God (read the rest of chapter 33). At the same time the people had a knowledge of God—they had seen His power and knew of His holiness—yet they wanted other things outside of God, too. Moses knew God and wanted more of Him; the people knew of God and pursued things other than God. What does this say to our generation, those who have the promised Holy Spirit indwelling them, making them the place where God dwells (1 Corinthians 3:16)?
My thoughts were challenged last week as I considered what Jesus did for me and how easily I get distracted from Him. There are so many great things this world and our country have to offer. From the newest tech to a comfortable life, I am daily prompted by my culture and tempted by my heart to desire things that serve to either mute God’s voice or distance Him in my heart. Psalm 73:25-26 comes to mind here.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
The extent of God’s pursuit of me is seen in the incarnation, crucifixion resurrection and ascension. How far will I go in my pursuit of God? What in heaven or earth rivals my desire for Him?
Before the message of Holy Week gets drowned out in the din of daily needs, now would be a good time to find five minutes (maybe on Saturday) to read Psalm 73:25-26 slowly several times as a prayer to the Lord. Ask Him to show you the things that may be standing in the way of making this prayer fully true for you.
God’s desire is to be with us; our need is to be with God. Moses knew God and wanted more of Him. The people knew of God and wanted more of the world. We carry God’s Spirit in us so that He never leaves us. Speak, Lord, your servants are listening.
Sharing the journey together,