Scripture Reading: Exodus 38:1-31, Psalm 51:14-17, Hebrews 10:1-14
My husband and I like to joke that, from 2012 to 2015, we were exiled to the Midwest. In truth, we loved our time in two new states, but our hearts longed to be home in Nashville with our friends and family. But graduate school and a new job took us to Missouri and then Kentucky, and by the time we limped bleary-eyed and empty back to Nashville, by the grace of God and a few new opportunities, we were ready to set down permanent roots.
So we decided to build a house. It took months and a million decisions. (Do you have any idea how much grout is in your house? A lot. And we had to decide the colors of all of it.) But when we finally moved in, we knew we were home. We carefully chose each detail to create what is, to us, our ideal home. The kitchen floors are resilient hardwood, designed to handle two kiddos and a crazy cat. We chose carpet for the stairs so when we run up and down them a hundred times a day, we don’t risk a fall. Thoughtful, intentional, and reflective of our family’s particular brand of chaos—this is our home.
I have a tendency to skim over these pages in Exodus because I’m not sure all of these details really matter. Does knowing that the pots on the altar of the tabernacle were made of bronze really help me draw closer to God?
There are no wasted words in the Word of God; every detail reveals something glorious. Even when the details seem incredibly minor, they matter. There is a rich theology of the building of the tabernacle, and it is woven through these passages about bronze and gold and linen.
The writer of Exodus used the Hebrew word Mishkan, which means “tabernacle” or “dwelling place.” The tabernacle was not just a mobile house of worship where the Israelites could come to offer sacrifices to God; it was the literal dwelling place of the Lord among His people. And so, unlike the half-dozen different shades of grout for my new house, every detail of building the tabernacle really matters. Every detail reveals its holy purpose. Thoughtful, intentional, reflective of God’s glory and His promise to dwell among his people—the tabernacle was God’s home.
The Israelites built the tabernacle with bronze, silver, and gold. The outer areas were bronze, and the holy of holies (where God Himself dwells) was constructed of gold, the most precious of metals. God’s holiness was evident at every turn, drawing His people to Him.
Eventually, God would come to dwell with His people in flesh and bone. John 1 tells us that the Word would become flesh and tabernacle (dwell) among us (vv. 1-2)—a far more precious thing in His sight than even the most valuable metals and cloths.
From the garden of Eden to the tabernacle in the desert, from Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem to the flesh and blood of Jesus, from our modern sanctuaries to the promised new heaven and new earth—God’s desire to dwell among His people is clear. It is His heart’s desire. May it be ours as well.
Melanie Rainer is a bookworm from birth who makes her days writing, editing, and reading in Nashville, Tennessee. She has an M.A. in Theological Studies from Covenant Seminary, spends as much time as she can in the kitchen, and can’t wait until her two daughters are old enough to read Anne of Green Gables. She writes online at www.melanie-rainer.com.