by Pastor David Groendyk
As was mentioned in the previous chapter, the tabernacle is the place where God was to dwell in the midst of Israel (25:8). After reading about some of the objects that would be within the tabernacle, our chapter today describes the construction of the building itself. Don’t get lost in the details though; remember the bigger picture. This building was God’s home with Israel.
If you’re a (very!) careful reader of Scripture, some of the descriptions of the building in this chapter might remind you of another location that we’ve read about—the garden of Eden. Cherubim (which are angelic beings) are woven into the curtains (vv. 1, 31). The last time cherubim were mentioned in Scripture was back in Genesis 3:24 when cherubim guarded the entrance to the garden of Eden. Now here they are again in Exodus 25–26. Notice also that there’s gold aplenty layering the tabernacle (vv. 6, 29, 32, 37) just as gold was plentiful in the land around Eden (Gen. 2:11–12). Finally, the lampstand (which was built to look like a flowering almond tree in Exodus 25:31–40) is placed inside the tabernacle just as the Tree of Life was planted in the middle of the garden (Gen. 2:9). To paraphrase the pastor/theologian/author Joel Beeke, God’s presence in the tabernacle was a return to Paradise for Israel. This was one tremendous building! God’s presence is Paradise for Christians today as well. There is nothing sweeter or more glorious than the fact that God dwells in and with every believer today (Matt. 28:20; Gal. 2:20; 1 Cor. 3:16). And although our outer selves may not look very impressive (just like the goat skin curtains on the outside of the tabernacle), what a sweet promise that we are being renewed inwardly through God’s indwelling Spirit (see 2 Cor. 4:16). How often do you think about the fact that God dwells in and with you? How ought God’s never-ending presence in us change the way we live?
Notice also the paradox of the tabernacle. Again, to paraphrase Joel Beeke, God’s glory was both present and hidden at the same time. All of the beautiful gold and royally-colored curtains were covered on the outside by goat skins (v. 7). Then there was the veil that separated the Most Holy Place where God would appear on the mercy seat from the rest of the tabernacle called the Holy Place. The Holy Place was an exclusive area; only priests could enter it. But the Most Holy Place was the most exclusive place. Only the one high priest could enter that area, and he could only do it once a year. So, while God was dwelling with his people, he was still separated from them. Because God is so holy, God cannot dwell with sinners (see Isa. 59:2). None of the regular Israelites were ever allowed to see the fullness of God’s glory. But do you remember what happened to this veil when Jesus was on the cross? It tore in two from top to bottom the moment Jesus died (Matt. 27:51). Jesus Christ literally opens the door to allow sinners to dwell with God and behold his glory. More than that, the New Testament calls Jesus himself the tabernacle—the infinite and eternal glory of God hidden in ordinary human flesh (John 1:14; 2:18–22). Do you want to see God’s glory? Do you wish to come to God for forgiveness and salvation? Look to Jesus! In him we see the fullness of the glory of God, and in him is the only way to the Father (John 14:6–9). As Christians today, we have such a clearer view of God’s glory and God’s salvation than the Old Testament Israelites. Meditate on that privilege today and praise God for it.