In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit’ (Ephesians 2:22 ESV).
In ‘The Pursuit of God’ (2013, p41) AW Tozer penned these words:
“The interior journey of the soul from the wilds of sin into the enjoyed Presence of God is beautifully illustrated in the Old Testament tabernacle”
It was the Tabernacle prayer model that ignited my journey to this lifelong pursuit of God. In Bible College, one of my lecturer had an old, tattered tabernacle model made of wood, leather and sand. Yet when he taught us about the children of Israel in the desert it became alive. Why, because he had been to Sinai and walked where the children walked. He taught with knowledge and could relate to where they had walked. For me this was a truly great learning. It started my on a deep and disciplined journey to discover and know Jesus more.
The tabernacle texts are a part of our redemptive history and it helped me understand its purpose, recognise its beauty, and make the necessary New Testament connections. It drew me closer to the living Lord.
I’ll again let AW Tozer paint the picture.
“The returning sinner first entered the outer court where he offered a blood sacrifice on the brazen altar and washed himself in the laver that stood near it. Then through a veil he passed into the holy place where no natural light could come, but the golden candlestick which spoke of Jesus the Light of the World threw its soft glow over all. There also was the shewbread to tell of Jesus, the Bread of Life, and the altar, of incense, a figure of unceasing prayer.
Though the worshipper had enjoyed so much, still he had not yet entered the Presence of God. Another veil separated from the Holy of Holies where above the mercy seat dwelt the very God Himself in awful and glorious manifestation.” ‘The Pursuit of God’ (2013, p41-42)
One of the most unique and incredible things about the God is revealed in His tabernacle. God wants to dwell with us or God wants to be in our midst. He wants a close relationship.
So how does an ancient tent in the wilderness of Sinai relate to my relationship with God?
The tabernacle taught me holiness. It was the place of God’s holy presence in our midst. ‘Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them’ (Exodus 25:8). The tabernacle teaches that God is holy; therefore, His people needed to be holy. Peter in his first epistle says the duty of every believer is to have God’s holiness affect them practically, ‘Be holy, because I am holy’ (1 Pet 1:16).
The tabernacle taught me that God is always near. It provided a tangible way for the people to relate to their God through sacrifice and prayer. God’s people were living in tents; and now Yahweh would dwell alongside them in one. As their only source, God was near to the Israelites, and He is also near to us today.
The tabernacle taught me about heaven. The Israelites had to leave their tent to draw near to the Lord. They would approach the curtain between the camp and the courtyard, then move into the courtyard itself. By doing this, he would move from earth to heaven. Much of what is written about the tabernacle points to us as people of God moving in position from distance to presence – outside to inside – inaccessibility to accessibility – removed to relationship.
The tabernacle taught me of Jesus coming to earth. The Israelites believed that a holy God would one day come and dwell in their midst to remove their sins. The Lord Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of that tabernacle, found in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us [tabernacled]. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14).
The Bible tells us that God’s purpose from the beginning has been to dwell—or tabernacle—in the midst of the people he has created. We have the same God, the God who said, “I will dwell in your midst,” and who tells us that we are the true tabernacle, the dwelling place of God (Ephesians. 2:22).