Daily Thoughts from Exodus: The Tabernacling God

“Moreover, you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen and blue and purple and scarlet yarns; you shall make them with cherubim skillfully worked into them…

“You shall also make curtains of goats’ hair for a tent over the tabernacle; eleven curtains shall you make…

“You shall make fifty clasps of bronze, and put the clasps into the loops, and couple the tent together that it may be a single whole. And the part that remains of the curtains of the tent, the half curtain that remains, shall hang over the back of the tabernacle. And the extra that remains in the length of the curtains, the cubit on the one side, and the cubit on the other side, shall hang over the sides of the tabernacle, on this side and that side, to cover it. And you shall make for the tent a covering of tanned rams’ skins and a covering of goatskins on top.

“You shall make upright frames for the tabernacle of acacia wood…

“You shall make bars of acacia wood, five for the frames of the one side of the tabernacle, and five bars for the frames of the other side of the tabernacle, and five bars for the frames of the side of the tabernacle at the rear westward…

“And you shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. It shall be made with cherubim skillfully worked into it. And you shall hang it on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, with hooks of gold, on four bases of silver. And you shall hang the veil from the clasps, and bring the ark of the testimony in there within the veil. And the veil shall separate for you the Holy Place from the Most Holy. You shall put the mercy seat on the ark of the testimony in the Most Holy Place. And you shall set the table outside the veil, and the lampstand on the south side of the tabernacle opposite the table, and you shall put the table on the north side.

“You shall make a screen for the entrance of the tent, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, embroidered with needlework…” (Exodus 26, ESV)

Why a tent?  Israel had been formed as a nation from nomadic people, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob each being sheep herders who moved from place to place in Canaan to maintain their herds.  The tent conveyed at once home and the ability of home to move with you.  Israel was on the move from Egypt to Canaan and once in Canaan would have its various tribes moving through the land to conquer and occupy the portions assigned to them.  God would symbolically be “with” them the whole way.  He told Israel that in the future He would select a place as His center of worship (Deuteronomy 12) and we know that place He chose was Jerusalem.  The nomadic form would no longer be needed.

He creates within the tent two compartments, one when you immediately enter called the Holy Place, where the table with show bread on it is, and the golden lampstand, and the altar of incense, and then, with a veil separating it, the Most Holy Place (Hebrew says most by saying holy of holies, the holiest place).  Here resides the ark of the covenant where the blood is sprinkled on the atonement or mercy seat to atone for the sins of the nation.  No one but the priests get to see the inside of the tent or Tabernacle, though the Levites, who carry and take down and set up the Tabernacle will see its components as could anyone watching as the tent is disassembled.  But when it is functioning as a sanctuary it is hidden to obscure the glory of God.

There are ways in which God both hides and manifests Himself.  The tent itself is a manifestation of His presence among Israel, but the inner workings of His worship and atonement are hidden.  Everyone knows the truth about who God is (Romans 1:18-26) from what has been made but God doesn’t always demonstrate His power with miracles.  There is a fine line between compelling faith through power demonstrations and inviting faith.  God could open up the sky right now and force all who rebel against Him to acknowledge Him, however reluctantly, but that does not serve the greater purpose of wooing people’s hearts to acknowledge the greatest single fact of the universe that they already know but wish to run from.  Only God knows how to walk this line.

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