Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Dwelling Place of God

DAY 33

Morning Reading - Exodus 29-30
Evening Reading - 22:1-22

This morning I am catching up on my reading and my blogging! As we continue our reading of the book of Exodus, it is important to observe that there are three major sections of the book:

Section 1 - The Exodus from Egypt
Section 2 - The Covenant at Mount Sinai / The Giving of the Law
Section 3 - Instructions for the Building of the Tabernacle

We are currently reading about the detailed instructions given to Moses regarding the construction of the tabernacle tent and the elaborate furniture that would be placed inside. In order understand the purpose of the tabernacle, it might be helpful to review the overall history of God's relationship with his people, paritcularly how God has chosen to dwell among his people. (Here I will attempt to summarize thousands of years of salvation history in a few paragraphs....wish me luck!)

The Garden of Eden and the Fall
We know that God created humanity in his image and that we were created to be in relationship with God. We are told that Adam and Eve "walked with God" in the garden and were intimately connected to their creator. However, due to their disobedience, Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden and, therefore, their intimate fellowship with God was broken. The "fall" also resulted in fractured human relationships as well as turmoil within the created order. After the "fall" a significant theological quandry developed: How can a holy God dwell in the midst of a sinful and disobedient people?

The Tabernacle Tent
In God's great love and tender mercy, he instructed Moses and the people of Israel to construct a "tent of meeting" or a "tabernacle." This "tent of meeting" would serve as the gathering place for the people where they would offer sacrifices to God and be reminded of the covenant they had made. God would dwell in the midst of his people; however, there remained a veil of separation. God's presence would only dwell in the Most Holy Place (the "Holy of Holies") and only the High Priest would have access to God's presence on behalf of the people. The tabernacle tent was portable, since the people of Israel were still on their journey through the Sinai wilderness.

Solomon's Temple
After several hundred years, the people of Israel were established in the Promised Land and were under the leadership of the great King David. God instructed David to build a house, a permanant dwelling place for God's presence. Although David was given the detailed plans for the Temple, it was David's son, Solomon, who would ultimately facilitate the contruction of the great Temple in the city of Jerusalem. The Temple was essentially a permanant version of the tabernacle that had been used during the exodus from Egypt.

Unfortunately, the people of Israel did not remain faithful to their covenant with God and, despite the warnings of a succession of prophets, the people turned from God to the worship of idols. In the year 586 BC, the city of Jerusalem was attacked by the Babylonian army and the Temple was destroyed. After years in exile, the people returned to Jerusalem and, under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, rebuilt the Temple (this temple is creatively referred to as the Second Temple). King Herod significantly expanded the Temple just prior to the time of Jesus.  

Jesus as the New Temple
Finally, Jesus comes on the scene! No longer is the presence of God confined to the inner sanctuary of the Temple, but God has become flesh "and dwells among us." After his death on the cross, the curtain, or veil, in the Temple was torn apart, which dramatically signified the abolishment of the spiritual division between God and his people. Through Christ, we now have access to the very throne of grace! Moreover, we are described by Peter as "living stones," which are being built into a "living Temple" for the Lord.

New Creation
Although we have been reconciled to God through Christ and we now have full access to his presence, there is a consumation of God's new creation that is yet to come. The book of Revelation describes a new creation, in which God and humanity will dwell together. This is our future hope, the hope of resurrection and a  life lived in the fullness of God's presence and glory.

I know this was a long post, but it important that we able to place our biblical reading within the context of the grand narrative of God's plan of salvation, through which we are restored, renewed, and reconciled to God.


  1. Thanks for providing some context. It helps to get me through an otherwise dull few chapters. One question: after reading about adorning the priests, I was wondering if any of the current vestments correspond to what was described in Exodus?

  2. Not really...there is some evidence that the earliest Christians (pre-Constantine) may have used some form of priestly garment similar to what is described in Exodus. However, the current liturgical vestments have there roots in the secular dress of the Greco-Roman world. After the "conversion" of Constantine many ritualistic elements found there way into the life of the church, including processions with banners, vestments, incense, and choirs.

  3. I, too, had the same question as Joe and was grateful for the overview set up for me to visually see the outline as we continue on our journey through the Bible.

    BTW the priest must have been some STRONG men to wear those garments. The vestments sound very heavy to me. It also seems hard to believe that these people wondering through the desert would have all these items. Not my vision of necessary 'pilgrim' gear.