Today’s read in Exodus 36-40 finishes the Tabernacle set-up. The priestly garments are made according to God’s plan, ready for the ordination ceremony to come. Each piece of the Tabernacle itself, the curtains and poles and coverings which create the space, and the seven pieces of “furniture” are placed exactly according to God’s instructions. “And so Moses finished the work” (Exodus 40:33).
I love the sense of anticipation in these verses. I can just picture the people pressing in a little closer, the crowd gathering a little bigger moment by moment, as the structure takes place. The women are probably fussing to make sure the curtains hang just so. The men who shaped the bronze and gold furniture are giving each piece a last polish before it is carried inside the veil. Moses is directing. Aaron is amazed at the quality and beauty of the clothes he will wear as he offers sacrifices. There is a palpable excitement in the camp, as they realize they are seeing the very words of God given to Moses on the mountain come to life. This place of worship has come straight from the heart of God.
Finally, all is in place. Moses pulls the outer curtain closed and steps back. The camp grows silent, waiting. For a moment, all is still. Every eye is fixed on the beautiful Tabernacle. Suddenly a small child’s voice is heard: “Look! The cloud is moving!” Everyone’s attention is drawn toward the cloud of God’s presence that has led them into the wilderness. It has risen over the people and is moving toward the Tabernacle. The people know what this means, that God is on the move, and they grow silent in awe. The cloud moves majestically and intentionally. It stops over the Tabernacle, where the people assume it will stay. God is unapproachable. He does not draw near the people. But this time, something is different. The cloud descends and fills the Tabernacle with the glory of God.
I don’t know what the glory of God looks like, but I imagine it is brilliant. Whatever its appearance, Moses could not approach the tent of meeting. The very presence of God had come to the middle of the camp. I imagine that every person present fell to their face in worship, as they realized what God was saying.
“I am pleased with you.”
“I have come to dwell with you.”
What a glorious moment for the children of Israel! And what a beautiful picture of our salvation. Every detail of the Tabernacle has significance as a picture of the New Covenant that Jesus brought by His death, burial, and resurrection.
Throughout history, God will create more places where His presence will dwell. The Tabernacle will serve its purpose until King David desires a more permanent dwelling for God’s glory. Solomon will build it, but the Babylonians will destroy it in 586 BC. Ezra will lead the returning remnants to rebuild a lesser version, but one that God is pleased to inhabit with His presence. This one stood for more than 300 years until Herod replaced it, but it lasted only 80 years before Rome destroyed it as well.
Today, the Jewish people have no Temple. God’s glory instead inhabits those who put their faith in Him through Jesus Christ; we are the temple of the Holy Spirit – fleshly bodies inhabited by the glory of God. One day, however, there will be no need for a Temple. We will dwell in God’s presence, face-to-face, as He always intended.
Revelation 21:3 – And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.”
Oh what a glorious day that will be for us! The celebrations of the children of Israel will pale in comparison as we gather around God’s throne – the saints from all the ages – and worship God in His presence! It’s a day you don’t want to miss.
God wants to dwell with you, too.