Thursday, October 28, 2010

What do we Learn from the Tabernacle?

Whenever the Israelites camped in the wilderness, they would set the Tabernacle up first and then they would set their own camps up around the Tabernacle. That meant the tabernacle was in the center of the camp. This was how the kingdoms of those days and even the Assyrians and the Babylonians camped. When their king marched with them, his camp was always in the center. The symbol is very clear. The Israelites the one true God as their king and their God was one who dwelled with his people.

The tabernacle also symbolized that their God was holy and to be approached carefully. This is seen by the encampment. The Israelites could enter the courtyard to bring their sacrifices but only the Levite priests could enter the holy Place. While the Levite priests could enter the Holy Place, only the High Priest could enter the most Holy Place and even then once a year. Even the decorations and furnishings showed this. The courtyard frames had bronze supports but the tabernacle supports were silver. And even then, on entering the tabernacle, the furnishings were of gold not silver. The curtains to the courtyard were embroidered but did not have cherubim. The curtains at the entrance of the Holy Place had cherubim which were embroidered into them. But the curtains at the entrance of the Most Holy Place had cherubim not embroidered but woven into the cloth – the work of a master craftsman. It was symbolic of the majesty of their God who was pre-eminent above all things. But despite his majesty and holiness, God had chosen to bless the Israelites by dwelling among them. The location of the tabernacle, its structure and materials all symbolized this.

When we look at the Tabernacle as symbolic of God’s presence, obviously we can conclude that Jesus is our Tabernacle today. That is why in Matthew he is called Immanuel which means “God with us”. This is most clearly seen in John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” In English, it is not so clear. But the word translated as ‘made his dwelling’ comes from a root word that is translated as tabernacle. So v14 translates literally as “Jesus became human and tabernacled among us”. Moses’ Tabernacle pointed to this future, where God would dwell among man. Of course, today God lives in his people, the body of believers called his church.

What are the practical lessons for us to learn from. First God’s care is demonstrated in our day-to-day circumstances. Light, life and food all come from a sovereign God who lives in and among us. Our circumstances and daily blessings are not by chance or luck but God’s provision to us as an act of grace and mercy. Therefore, we need to look to God first. Our priority is to seek God first in all aspects of our lives.

The Tabernacle reminded the Israelites that God chose them. They did not choose him. Similarly, we too did not choose God. God chose us to be recipients of his love and grace. We are not to be proud and think we are one-up on non-believers like some Christians think. Instead, we should be humble before God and give him first priority in our lives.

Finally, the Tabernacle was seen as glorious holy and pure. The Israelites were to model themselves after their God by being holy and pure reflecting the glory of their God as symbolized by the Tabernacle. They had to learn which articles were clean or unclean, right or wrong, etc.

Similarly, the church, that is the body of Christ, must also be seen as holy and pure. The church is the dwelling place of God. It is not a voluntary association for the members to do as they see fit. The church is to be structured according to the will of its king, the Lord Jesus Christ. Many Christians don’t do that. Church to them is like a country club where their own wants come first. Jesus Christ lives in us and so our church, our homes and our families must reflect his beauty and glory.

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