The Tabernacle: The Habitation of God
In our last article, we noted that there was both a historical and typical purpose to the Tabernacle. Typically it functions as a 'shadow of heavenly things' (Heb 8:5) and 'the good things to come’ (Heb 10:1). This theme will be the purpose of the rest of this series, but for now, we are interested in its historical purpose, a 'figure for the time then present' (Heb 9:9).
We have seen that no ancient Israelite would have turned up at the gate of the tabernacle and wondered what purpose it was serving. Moses had received explicit instruction from God: 'Let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them' (Ex 25:8-9, KJV). They were assured by God that the intention of this tent was that He might dwell with His people. What grace! That God should deign to stoop to be with His people!
But in fulfilling this purpose the tabernacle was actually just the next instalment of God's great plan for the ages–His habitation with mankind. Ever since the Garden of Eden, the purpose of the Almighty is that He might be with His creature man. In fact, it could be contended that the very purpose of creation itself, was that God might have a people for Himself, with whom He might enjoy fellowship. Following the debacle in the Garden, the Lord God came down to commune with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. What He found was the disastrous aftermath of rebellion, but Moses, as he narrates the scene, makes a very interesting statement: 'And Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God' (Gen 3:8, KJV). The introduction of the idea of 'presence' is most interesting. It would appear that God made habit of meeting with Adam and Eve, and it was from this appointment that they sought to absent themselves. Thus, historically, the Tabernacle was a continuation of the dwelling place of God.
Towards the end of the history of the tabernacle, David installed it as a permanent feature at Shiloh, and sought the mind of God about making Him a fixed house. But God rejected his request because of his sin. This privilege passed to his son Solomon, and so he set about the task with great gusto and creativity, declaring in his prayer at its dedication; 'Will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?' (1 Ki 8:27). Solomon was overwhelmed by a sense of his own inadequacy and amazement at the fact that God was indeed choosing again to continue His dwelling place with man.
But you might ask the question, ‘so much for Eden, the tent and the Temple, where is God dwelling now? All of these are long gone, surely the plan is in tatters?’ Believers of this age have a three-fold privilege: first, God is dwelling in the universal church: ‘the building fitly framed...unto an holy temple in the Lord...an habitation of God through the Spirit’ (Eph 2:21-22). Next He dwells in the local church: 'ye are the temple of the living God' (2 Co 6:16). Last, He dwells in each and every believer: 'Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?' (1 Cor 6:19). God has taken a three-fold residence among His people.
And what of the future? Ezekiel's temple will feature in the Millennium, and in eternity, the New Jerusalem will be 'the tabernacle of God...with men...He will dwell with them (Rev 21:3). As John pondered that vision that day he exclaimed, 'I saw no temple therein...the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it' (Rev 21:22). What a glorious scene! In heaven there will be no need for a temple, for Christ Himself will be the Temple, which brings us to our final point.
The commencement of His habitation with men was at Creation in Eden; the consummation is in the New Jerusalem; but the climax of God's presence is described by John; 'The Word was made flesh and dwelt (tabernacled) among us' (John 1:14). As was promised at His brith: 'Emmanuel…God with us' (Ma 1:23).
As we go to remember Him again today, call to mind that the One who we worship and adore is none less than 'God manifest in the flesh’ and thus God’s habitation with mankind.