Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. …And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.”
When we refer to a “dwelling place for God,” we don’t mean that He was confined there, as we are in living in our houses. In his dedication for the Temple many years later, Solomon put it like this in 2 Chronicles 6:18, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heavens of heaven cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!”
Yet God said He would “dwell among them.” The tabernacle was where He manifested His presence in a very limited manner. Only a very few men ever experienced it. But that’s where God was to be found.
Israel never fully understood the blessing she had been given in this building and access. She never really fully understood her relationship to the God who dwelt in this building. Toward the end of his life, Moses put it like this, “You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt… – the great trials which your eyes have seen, the signs, and those great wonders. Yet the LORD has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day,” Deuteronomy 29:4.
In Deuteronomy 5:29, in response to the people’s assertion, “All that the LORD has said, we will do,” cf. v. 27, God said, “O that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments, that it might be will with them and their children forever!”
Indeed, before Moses was down from the mountain, Israel was carousing in a drunken orgy. There is never a single indication in the OT that Israel would ever truly obey the LORD. There would be some, yes, who knew and followed the LORD, but the majority – not so much. It won’t be until the return of our Lord, whom Israel crucified when He was here the first time, that things will change and Israel will finally understand. In Zechariah 12:10, God foretold of a time when, He said, “I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.”
In the Old Testament, Israel had a national relationship with God. This was symbolized by the tabernacle, then later by the Temple. This did not mean, however, that any particular Israelite had a personal relationship with God. Some did, of course, but as a nation, for the most part, they went their own way and did their own thing. There were times of great national revival, but there were more times of national apostasy.
As I was considering how to develop this post further, it occurred to me what season is coming upon us. Christmas is just around the corner. Ads have already been on TV for several weeks already, as well as Christmas “specials” and programs. Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph have made their annual appearances. Yet, there is no more understanding about what this season is supposed to be about than there was with Israel and the tabernacle:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, John 1:1, 14, emphasis added.
I’ve seen a lot about Christmas already, but not a single thing about Christ. Yet it’s supposed to celebrate His birth.
Perhaps not one in a 1000 really stops to consider who this little baby was.
That little Babe, “asleep in the manger,” was eternal God, who created the heavens and the earth, created, counted, numbered and named all the stars and keeps them going in their appointed rounds, keeps the earth and all that is on it in orbit, and under whose control is the very breath of each and every one of us, Daniel 5:22. That little Babe, who was the Creator of this planet, breathed its air, drank its water, walked on its dusty pathways.
Like Belshazzar, we have not glorified that One.
This babe, God wrapped in human flesh.
I know I’ve mentioned this before, but have you ever stopped to think that Jesus is the only historical figure who never grows up? And, yes, I know there are those who deny He ever existed. But even if He were only a fable – and He IS NOT! – even if He were, He would be thought of as an adult.
This babe did grow up! But He didn’t grow up to popularity and prestige. He grew up to be condemned and killed because He didn’t fit the popular concept of who He was supposed to be and what He was supposed to do.
He came to die.
God wrapped in human flesh – on a Cross!
I don’t think I’ve ever seen it, but scenes of the manger ought to have the shadow of a Cross superimposed on them.
He came to do for Israel what she could never do for herself – pay for sin. He came to do what the tabernacle only pictured.
And He came to do that for you and me, as well.
We’ll have more to say about this in other posts, but for now, consider this babe. Is He your Savior? Have you believed on Him for eternal life? If not, even now, may you receive the gift of God – eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, John 3:15.