I just worked my way through the book of Exodus recently and, to be honest, I had a hard time keeping my heart in it. Anyone who has read through the Old Testament can attest that at times it can get a little dry in certain books. Anyway, wanting to still glean something from the second half of Exodus, I asked one of my pastors if there was something that I can keep in mind as I read through the passages where God explicitly tells to Moses what should be used to make all things relating to the tent of meeting. Here were a few points that I took away from that discussion with him that have really given greater meaning to the book of Exodus and, more specifically, the meaning of the Tent of Meeting:
- When we read any book of the Bible, we should be keeping it in context of the grander scale of what God is doing. The theme running throughout the Bible is God's passion for His glory through the redemption of Man. Everything in the Scriptures serve this end of glorifying God.
- With that in mind, what do the seemingly tedious lists that God decrees to Moses over and over again regarding the tabernacle in Exodus 25-30 show us? They show us that God does not do things that are random or unbeknownst to Himself. They seem unbeknownst to us, but He has a plan. He is in control and knows all things. The tendency at this point is to make a principle that goes something like this: God has a specific plan for your life and He will work all things out for your good. While this is true, I think we are missing the greater principle. God knows it all. And while He makes plans for your life and my life as individuals, His passion is for His covenant community. His plan was never to redeem individuals to Himself, but Mankind to Himself. Do you see the perspective shift? We shouldn't begin with self-focused thinking when God declares that He has our good in mind. We should begin by viewing ourselves in light of the community we entered when Christ regenerated us. This slight perspective shift will begin to draw us away from individualistic thinking and bring us into how we should be operating as the Church--as a body of believers.
-Finally, and what I intend to be the bulk of this post, pertains to the greater meaning of the Tent of Meeting, or the Tabernacle. In Exodus 40:34, after the Tent of Meeting was completed as God had commanded, "the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle." Wow. Stop for a moment and grant me an attempt to feel what it was like as the nation of Israel to have the Lord to dwell among them. Up until this point, Israel has been communicating with God through Moses and away from their presence. Moses has very much been the intermediary between them and God, and to be sure, Moses continues to be the intermediary. But the difference now is that God is tangibly dwelling in a tent that they have made for him in the same camp that they sleep and eat in. I know I'm not doing this context it's full justice but this is unbelievable! God chose to come and dwell among His people. I would imagine that whenever an average Israelite were to walk by the Tent of Meeting or even see it, that would do something in them. I imagine that they would remember that God is there by the cloud that covered it by day, and fire that covered it by night (40:38). Of course, this doesn't mean they stop sinning, as we later see in the following books, but that's powerful. The Tabernacle became central to Israel and, fast forwarding hundreds of years for the sake of my point, leads to the building of the Temple in Jerusalem. "How does the Tabernacle and Temple factor in God's plan today?" The punch line to this is that the Tabernacle is no longer necessary. The Temple? No need. Because Paul tells us that we are the temple that houses the Spirit of God since Jesus has taken our sin to the grave. Now, by faith, we accept that Christ took our punishment so we don't have to, die to those sins daily, and put on the righteousness that Jesus gives as a free gift. In light of this we are new and 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17b says, "Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? ... For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple." Again, we can be sure that our bodies, individually, are God's temple as Paul clearly says later in 1 Corinthians 6:19. This is unbelievable as well. However, keeping with theme, the "you" in 3:16-17 is meant to be plural. We are viewed together, whoever recognizes Christ as their Lord. To conclude, we can see that God, by His ultimate plan of redemption, purposely established this Tent of Meeting in Exodus to be a shadow of how He will one day live in the body of believers. He has no need for a Holy Place, like in the Temple. He lives in His sons and daughters so that instead of communicating through an intermediary like Moses or a priest, Jesus is that intermediary that gives us direct access to the Father.
I hope this helps to give purpose to the book of Exodus where it can seem dull at times. The entire Bible has a meaning and greater purpose to show His glory that ultimately is fulfilled in the person of Jesus, the Christ, and His finished work on the cross.
My continued thanks to Pastor Andrew. You can check out some of his thoughts for yourself at his blog here.