Imagine you are planning to build a new home for yourself – not one someone else built but one you are designing. I’ve never done this, but my architect father did, and I know he put years of thought into the design, then many hours of drafting into the written plans, then months of oversight into the construction. He cared deeply about it. This building was not only his home but also the culmination of a dream and a personal statement about himself.
“Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.” Exodus 25:8-9
Looking back from the beginning of Genesis until this point in Exodus, God has visited a few men at specific times. He came to see Noah to instruct him on building the ark. He spoke with Abraham and promised that he would have countless children. Then he manifested himself to all the Hebrew people as he came down in fire on the top of Mt. Sinai. But now God draws up plans for a permanent home among his people. It will be a sanctuary, a sacred place, and he cares about it deeply.
You can get lost in all the details as you read about the very specific design of the sanctuary, but here are a few points to remember:
- God wants to dwell with you permanently, not just drop in from time to time.
- There are degrees of relationship with him. It isn’t just all or none. He wants you to get closer and closer, but there are things you must do before you can before you can know him fully (and so his sanctuary has outer and inner courts and a holiest of holy places).
- God wants to provide forgiveness through this sacred place (and so there is a mercy seat where God comes down to forgive sins).
- God wants to give light to your path through his words (lampstand) and spiritual food to sustain you (the bread of the presence, one day revealed to be Jesus, the bread of life).
God’s plans for a sanctuary were temporary in one sense. They called for a tent, called the tabernacle, that would move with the people as they traveled through the wilderness. Later the tent was replaced by a temple, again of God’s design. Even the temple was temporary, destroyed once by Babylon in 586 BC, rebuilt and then destroyed again in 70 AD by the Romans. The ultimate design of the tent and temple was meant to point us to Jesus, whose life and body were that holy place where God dwelt fully. As Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Now believers, who have received the Holy Spirit, are God’s holy place:
You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. I Peter 2:5
As for me, I’m encouraged to know that God cares so deeply, in such detail, about all the versions of his home for me.
For further detail about the tabernacle, read this blog.