From Exodus 25-40
Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Exodus 40: 34-35
I begin with this verse because it has to be one of my favorites in all of the Old Testament. It is so pregnant with meaning, that, after 15 Chapters of precise instruction on how God’s chosen people needed to go about constructing a tabernacle for him to dwell in while they traversed the desert for 40 years.
God’s presence in this place, in very human terms, is like walking into a freshly prepared hotel room and just sitting, taking it all in: the meaning of resting, abiding, relaxing in a place that has been prepared just for you. And here, God is so happy, so delighted to be among his people, making his cloud as a sign to them, years before they will hear the words, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) Here He is showing his people in no uncertain terms, a) how much He loves them b) how His own heart’s desire has always been, ever since the garden, yearning to be among us.
It’s just heart-stopping.
So what does that mean for us, I mean, what do instructions about a sacrificial altar, a bronze basin in which the priests washed their hands and an altar of incense have to do with us today? More than anything else, I believe that it shows our need for a Holy God and prepared hearts. It shows that without the sacrifice of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins. We must remember, that the tabernacle didn’t operate on bank hours, so to speak, the golden lampstand was always lit, there was always oil in it, there were always sacrifices being made. This was a 24/7 operation. A precise, detailed, careful day and night act.
How do we prepare our hearts for this dwelling of a holy God? What does it mean for a perfect Father to dwell among a people of unclean lips, hearts, hands? What does it mean to set up a sanctuary to our God?
1) We must recognize our sinfulness, our need for a sacrificial lamb and a way for us to cleanse our hands before entering into his Holy presence, it says in I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
2) The importance of presenting a holy vessel to God–What kinds of things are our hearts and minds fixed on? Well, I can tell you the things they should be fixed on: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Philippians 4:9
3) What we do is important to God–Please, do not mistake this last point as a statement that there is a way for us to earn our way to heaven. Scripture says that all our righteous works are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). But I see it more like this: God was very meticulous in how he presented his laws to Moses and therefore to his people (He is even more detailed about these laws in the book of Leviticus). These were not the 10 guidelines, but the 10 commandments and Jesus, before the Jewish teachers of the day, Jesus blew it all out of the water when he said this in response to the Pharisee’s question, “Teacher, which is the greatest command in all the Law?” Jesus replied, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Jesus, we are sinners in need of a holy God, nothing we do or say will ever earn our way into your presence and yet, you are there, always waiting, knocking, always steady. Help us to accept your gift of grace so that you can dwell among us.