God Enters the Tabernacle
“Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (v. 34).- Exodus 40:34–38
While on Mt. Sinai, Moses received the Ten Commandments (Ex. 19:1–20:21), various other regulations (20:22–23:19), and basic instructions for the invasion of Canaan (23:20–33). He was also given the blueprint for the tabernacle (24:15– 30:38), that portable sanctuary where God would dwell among His people until a more permanent house could be built in Jerusalem (1 Chron. 22). The tabernacle and its associated furniture and services are extremely important to both the Old and New Testaments, and we will explore their significance over the next few weeks.
In order to understand the purpose of the tabernacle, we need to go all the way back to the beginning of Genesis. We read in 3:8 that the Lord used to walk with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden during “the cool of the day,” signifying the close, intimate fellowship they enjoyed with the Creator before sin caused everything to fall apart. Having sinned, Adam and Eve were banished from Eden and the immediate presence of our holy God (vv. 22–24), and since that day the goal of salvation has been to restore that face-to-face communion between the Lord and His people. This is seen in the promises to the patriarchs where God promised not to leave Jacob until He accomplished what He said He would do (28:10–17).
The tabernacle was the vehicle through which God manifested His presence among Israel between Sinai and the construction of Solomon’s temple. Because it was constructed like a portable tent, the tabernacle could travel with the people into the Promised Land (Num. 1:47–53). During their journey, at those times when the Israelites stopped for a time, the tabernacle would be erected in the center of the nation’s camp and the people would see that the Lord dwelt among them (chap. 2).
Today’s passage records God’s entrance into the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34–38). No longer would He meet Israel at the top of Sinai but His presence would be visible in the midst of the camp. Now the people had a tent where they could meet the Creator.
Yet even though the tabernacle was a step forward for God’s people toward oneon- one communion with Him, it still did not go far enough. Sin had not yet been atoned for, and only a select few could enter into the tabernacle and enjoy the Lord’s glorious presence (Num. 1:51–53).
In Christ we have access to the holy place in heaven where we can commune with our Father. This can be a difficult reality to remember since we do not yet see Him face-to-face. But just as the tabernacle reminded Israel of God’s presence, so too can modern church architecture remind us that we have free access to the Lord. The cross, in particular, should cause us to recall the privilege of the intimacy we have with God through Christ Jesus.
Passages for Further Study
1 Chronicles 23:24–32