The Tabernacle

When I was a child, my family moved around quite a lot. I don’t think I went to any school more than two years. I was always leaving behind friends. For awhile, we went to the same church and that was cool because some of my cousins also attended that church. But then we moved away and once again I was leaving the familiar people for people who were strangers. I mean other than my family who were a completely different kind of strange. California, Washington (which included several moves within the state), Texas, and Montana. I would often ask God if I could have a friend who would move with me. I didn’t even consider the possibility of not moving. As an adult God gave me a best friend who does move where I move and vice versa. And what about God? In Moses’ day, the gods were land-locked in the sense that they remained in their own land. Marduck, the Babylonian god, pretty much stayed in Babylon. Baal, the Canaanite god was happy as a lark to remain in Canaan. And if you wanted to worship Ra, you would have to travel to Egypt thank you very much.

Exodus 26 is all about plans for the Tabernacle. I have a mental block against these kind of instructions. I am not a structural engineer and so I read about the framing of the Tabernacle and I have absolutely no mental picture to work with. We all have a problem here. The terms used in the instructions are no longer clear to us. I mean, they were probably crystal to the people who received them. But today, they are vague at best. So, even people who are structural engineers are making guesses. But as always with God’s word there are eternal truths here that shape us.

Apparently there were two curtains and two covers that were draped over a frame. The first curtain was made out of expensive material listed in chapter 25. Within this finely twisted and colorful linen skilled embroiders were to embroider cherubim. It is important that we understand that these cherubim were not cute, chubby, naked babies. Ezekiel describes them as four beasts who could move without turning. They are the guardians of the Garden after the Fall. We do not know what form they took in this elaborate curtain, but they were most likely awesomely holy beings. This curtain could only be seen from the inside since it was covered by a protective curtain made out of rain resistant goat’s hair. And then this curtain had a covering draped over it made out of rams’ skins and another covering made of sea-cows’ skins. This is most likely about two things: protection of the expensive elaborate curtain, and keeping all but those on the inside from seeing the first curtain. This is the Holy Place and only the priests serving in the Presence of Yahweh were allowed to witness the richness of the Tabernacle.

The frame was constructed out of Acacia wood and overlaid with gold. This would have made the inside curtain look like it was framed in gold. The construction seems to be all about portability. This intricate and sturdy structure could be taken down and packed up in a relatively short amount of time. The same could also be said of it being put back up. The word Tabernacle means “dwelling place”. The Presence of God being represented by the three articles – the Ark or Chest; the Table of the Presence; and the Menorah – is dwelling in this tent.

The Holy of Holies is divided by another luxurious curtain complete with awesomely holy cherubim. There is another curtain at the opening of the Holy Place which is expensive and colorful but sans cherubim. As you work your way outward the materials used are less lavish. The Tabernacle is the symbol of God traveling with them through the wilderness. This is important because all of the other gods were local gods. They didn’t travel with their people. The people were required to travel to their temples; to their region. But Yahweh travels with his people. The Tabernacle also speaks of the holiness of Yahweh. He may be willing to condescend to dwell in a tent to be with his people, but his holiness is not reduced one bit. He is too holy for just any person to waltz on in to his Presence. Only the priests are allowed to set eyes on the glory of his dwelling.

Our God is not bound by boundaries. He is not the God of the United States of America. He is Yahweh. He pitches his tent wherever he chooses. And these days, that is inside of you and I. Our God is willing to move with us; to travel wherever we travel. I might drive a couple of miles to gather together with fellow worshipers, but Yahweh is always with me and my life is a living sacrifice. Never alone! Peace!