God Dwells Among His People in the Tabernacle
Open Your Bible
Exodus 25:1-22, Exodus 26:31-35, Exodus 40:31-38, Numbers 10:33-36, Hebrews 8:1-5
BY Erin Davis
God provided a place for His people to draw near to Him.
We live in the shadowlands.
Consider the tabernacle, that place of awe and wonder described often in the Old Testament. From cherubim stitched into towering curtains to pillars overlaid with gold, the size and beauty of the tabernacle would have taken our breath away. Yet, inside all of that artistry and engineering was something (or Someone) even more spectacular: “They are to make a sanctuary for me so that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8).
Sit in that thought for a moment. Let your imagination try to wrap itself around the fact that the God who spoke the stars into being (Isaiah 40:26), the One who sits enthroned above the circle of the earth (v.22), and measures the waters of the earth in the hollow of His hand (v.12), chose to dwell in a tent built by human hands. What could speak to God’s love for us and to His desire to be in relationship with us more than this? But as spectacular as the tabernacle must have been and as breathtaking as it would have been to see the cloud of God’s presence descend (Exodus 40:34), it was only a shadow of a coming, greater reality.
Jesus did more than descend in a cloud. He wrapped Himself in human flesh and walked among the people He’d made. Through Jesus, man experienced fellowship with God undivided by poles and curtains. Yet even as we read about the Son of God walking and talking with man in the Gospels, we’re still just seeing shadows. God’s desire to dwell among the Israelites in the portable tabernacle and Christ’s willingness to take on flesh and live among mankind both point forward to the ultimate, full union of God and His people.
Jesus Christ is both the High Priest and sacrifice that we need: holy, innocent, undefiled. In order to be with us, He died “once and for all time when he offered himself” (Hebrews 7:27). Our High Priest’s work is finished, and now He sits “down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister of the sanctuary and the true tabernacle that was set up by the Lord and not man” (Hebrews 8:1–2).
Yes, the earthly tabernacle was eventually destroyed. And Christ’s human body became His glorified body before He ascended to the right hand of the Father, but those long shadows trace back and extend forward into a time when “night will be no more; people will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will give them light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:5). Everything we experience here on earth is merely a shadow of the greater, redeemed reality that is to come in the new heavens and the new earth. We can endure life in the shadows because we know a day is coming when we will fully dwell with Him, and He with us, forever.