Christ became flesh and ‘tabernacled’ among us
My wife and I pastor a group of young adults at our church, affectionately known as “Pulse.” It is our prayer that the very heartbeat of God, the lifeblood of Jesus Christ, flows through this group of wonderful young adults who are sold out for Jesus.
Pulse meets for Bible study and prayer each Friday night at our home, and for book study at Starbucks (before worship at our church) each Sunday morning. (Thank you to Starbucks for hosting our book study in its conference room and selling us such wonderful coffee to wake up to!)
Currently we are studying the Old Testament books of Genesis and Exodus. The goal of our Bible study is to see how Christ is depicted “between the lines” (and sometimes very directly) throughout the Old Testament. This week I am preparing a study in Exodus 25:1-22, where God instructs Moses in the construction of the Tabernacle. I never before realized what an amazing metaphor the Tabernacle is for Jesus.
What is a “tabernacle?” Basically it is a tent, a mobile meeting place between God and people. Here is the passage in Exodus 25 …
¹The Lord said to Moses, ²“Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give. ³These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze; 4blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; 5ram skins dyed red and another type of durable leather; acacia wood; 6olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; 7and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece.
8“Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. 9Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.
10“Have them make an ark of acacia wood—two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. ¹¹Overlay it with pure gold, both inside and out, and make a gold molding around it. ¹²Cast four gold rings for it and fasten them to its four feet, with two rings on one side and two rings on the other. ¹³Then make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 14Insert the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry it. 15The poles are to remain in the rings of this ark; they are not to be removed. 16Then put in the ark the tablets of the covenant law, which I will give you.
17“Make an atonement cover of pure gold—two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide. 18And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. 19Make one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; make the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at the two ends. 20The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking toward the cover. ²¹Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the tablets of the covenant law that I will give you. ²²There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the covenant law, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites.
Here are some things that God is teaching us through this passage:
1) God blesses us as we respond to the Holy Spirit moving in our hearts, and give cheerfully (verses 2-7). God doesn’t expect magnificent gifts, except from those who have the capacity to give them. Some can give gold, others goat hair. The key is to give cheerfully and extravagantly of whatever He has blessed us with. (Jesus praised the impoverished widow for giving two small coins … all she had.)
2) Jesus can be seen in the Tabernacle itself. John 1:14 says, “The Word (Jesus) was made flesh and dwelt among us.” The Greek word for “dwelt” is literally “tabernacled” in Hebrew. The epistle to the Hebrews, chapters 8-10, also speaks at length at how Christ our Great High Priest can be seen in the Tabernacle.
3) The Tabernacle was very plain on the outside (covered with animal skins), but beautiful and precious on the inside (gold, fine tapestries, precious stones … and the very shekinah glory of God). Isaiah 53 tells us that, externally, Jesus had “no beauty that we desired from Him.” He was plain in appearance. But internally His was the very glory of the Most High God, which attracted even rough fishermen who lay down their nets to follow Him at His simple command.
4) The Tabernacle was a temporary, mobile representation of a more permanent, heavenly reality. Hebrews speaks at length about this. Likewise, Jesus was a temporary manifestation of the reality of God in our midst. He walked among us for 33 short years, and didn’t stay in any one place very long. In fact, He said, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” He was essentially “homeless” during much of his public ministry, moving from town to town to preach.
5) The purpose of the Tabernacle, according to verse 8, was so God could “dwell with men.” One of the names of Jesus, Immanuel, means “God with us.” Christ was God, dwelling among men.
6) The Tabernacle created a way for God to meet with (connect with, fellowship with) men … above the mercy seat, where the blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled, once each year by the High Priest. The Hebrews epistle says Christ was our perfect High Priest, who “lives to make intercession for us.” There is “one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ.” He whose blood was shed for forgiveness of our sins is our connection to God.
7) We see clearly that the Ark itself is also a metaphor throughout Scripture for Christ, God’s salvation provided for us. It contained God’s Law (Jesus was the one perfect keeper of the Law) and the evidence of God’s provision and life within (the jar of manna, and Aaron’s rod budded). God’s presence met with man (the high priest, once each year) above the Mercy Seat (the lid of the Ark, whereupon the blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled. Christ’s sacrifice, once and for all, created a situation where God now sees us as the righteousness of Christ, and paved the way for us to have permanent access to the Holy of Holies (God’s presence). Remember the Temple veil, torn asunder from top to bottom when Christ died on the Cross?
Carved golden angels were at both ends of the Mercy Seat, looking inward upon the blood of the sacrifice. Likewise, after Jesus was resurrected, two angels stood, one at the head and one at the foot, of the bloodstained slab where His body had lain, sacrificed for us.
What a glorious, beautiful picture of the Son of God, who existed in eternity with God (as God), then because of God’s love for us was “made flesh” and “dwelt among us!”