Scripture Reading: Exodus 26:1-37, Genesis 3:24, Hebrews 9:6-14
Why does Exodus include the building blueprints for a tent?
This is a question worth asking, because the “tabernacle”—a portable tent that would serve as God’s dwelling place—seems like only an artifact of history. Thousands of years later, we no longer need a tabernacle or temple in order to connect with God. Instead, God has come near to each and every one of us. Through Christ, we have unlimited access to Him.
So, why does Scripture include these instructions, which may seem a bit obsolete?
While it might be tempting to skim over this passage as a relic of a bygone era, we would miss something important if we did. The truth is, Exodus does not simply contain the blueprint of a historical artifact; it contains the blueprint of history.
Within the instructions for building the tabernacle, we discover tiny clues pointing to God’s plan for humankind, a plan for redemption. One of the clues that foreshadows this unfolding is the inclusion of “cherubim” in the design. The curtains were to depict images of these heavenly beings, who had made only one other appearance in the Old Testament: the garden of Eden. In Genesis 3:24, “cherubim” were stationed outside the garden to prevent people from ever re-entering it.
The garden of Eden was the last time in history when God and humans dwelt together. Because of sin, that intimacy and fellowship was disrupted. But God had a plan to repair it, and the tabernacle was a part of that plan. By including cherubim in His design for the tabernacle, God was hinting in a particular direction. He was, in short, reversing the fall. He was restoring our broken relationship, and allowing us to enter His presence once again.
In his writings on the tabernacle, theologian N.T. Wright refers to this as a “signpost.” The tabernacle was pointing to the temple, and the temple was pointing to Jesus, who would eventually “tabernacle” among us (John 1:14). In other words, the tabernacle was a foretaste of “God come near,” and a foreshadowing of God’s restoration of creation.
All of that is tucked into these seemingly obscure instructions for the tabernacle. They belong to the great arc of redemption, which God had only begun to unveil. All along, God was orchestrating a cosmic reversal to overcome the consequences of our sin, and He left all sorts of bread crumbs along the way.
Woven into these instructions was a plan to save the world, but the instructions tell us something else too. They tell us about God’s character. The God of the tabernacle is a sovereign God, a faithful God, a God of resurrection, who is working all things together for His will (Romans 8:28). He is a God who wrote redemption into the seemingly mundane details and instructions for the building of the tabernacle, and we can trust He is doing the same in our lives today.
Sharon Hodde Miller is a writer, speaker, pastor’s wife, mom, and she holds a PhD on women and calling. She blogs at SheWorships.com, and is the author of Free of Me: Why Life Is Better When It’s Not about You.