In the Book of Exodus, we see the divine design of God’s plan for the tabernacle and how he used his people to build it. Not only was it a place for the people to meet with God, but it was a pattern that pointed to something still yet to come. According to the New Testament, God sent his Son to earth, God in the flesh, to “tabernacle” with us.
Here are some notes from a study on the tabernacle:
- Portable Place of Worship. Exodus 25-30 provide detailed instructions for the tabernacle; Exodus 36-40 tell about its construction. It was designed to be portable allowing the Israelites to meet with God even while they were on the move.
- The East Side. The entrance into the tabernacle was on the east side (Num. 3:38). Throughout Genesis, when the people strayed from God’s presence, they ventured east away from the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:24; 4:16; 11:2; 13:11; 29:1; 32:22). The tabernacle was meant to provide a way back!
- Voluntary. While God could expect commanded offerings, he always desires voluntary offerings (Ex. 25:1).
- Offerings. God desires offerings of worship from cheerful, willing hearts of worship (Ex. 25:1).
- Giving Back. These former slaves had exquisite materials (Ex. 25:3-7) to contribute to the tabernacle’s construction which had to come from the plunder of the Egyptians (Ex. 12:35-36). Every time we give to God, we are actually only giving back to God. There is nothing we can give God that he did not first give us.
- Sanctuary. “Sanctuary” (Ex. 25:8) means “holy place.” It was not set apart due to its impressive construction for God but by its glorious presence of God.
- To Himself. More than just rescuing the people from Egypt to the Promised Land, he wants to bring them to himself (Ex. 25:8).
- Dwell. God wants to dwell with us (Ex. 25:8)!
- Manifest Presence. While God is omnipresent and can be experienced anywhere, he also chooses to manifest his presence to God’s people in specific times and particular places (Ex. 25:8).
- Pattern. The earthly tabernacle was meant to follow a pattern (Ex. 25:9) of a heavenly tabernacle (Heb. 8:5; Rev. 21:16). It was meant to be a taste of heaven here on earth.
- Mini-Eden. The tabernacle served as a mini-Eden as it faced east, guarded by cherubims, and provided a place for the people to encounter the presence of God.
- God’s Work. The Spirit of God empowers more workers than just prophets and priests because all work can truly be done as God’s work (Ex. 36:1).
- Completion. Concerning the tabernacle, God expected that his own people would do the construction, they would complete what they started, they would be obedient concerning his instructions, and it would pass Moses’ inspection (Ex. 39:32-33).
- Centrality of the Tabernacle. The twelve tribes always encamped around the centrality of the tabernacle (Num. 2:2). This alignment was to serve as a physical reminder of a spiritual necessity.
- Blessed. Moses blessed the people as a result of their obedience (Ex. 39:43). When we work for God, we shouldn’t expect God’s blessing but we shouldn’t negate it either. No greater joy for a shepherd than to see his people be obedient to the LORD.
- Doing God’s Work God’s Way. Never overlook the importance of doing God’s work according to God’s instruction (Ex. 40:16, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 32).
- Tabernacled. When the Apostle John described Jesus’ incarnation, he used a word only once in his gospel – “tabernacled” (John 1:14). Jesus set up camp. He took up residence with us.
- Glory of God. Moses desired to see God’s glory (Ex. 33:18) even though he had talked with him as a friend (Ex. 33:11). Both are important. God allowed Moses to a partial view of his glory (Ex. 33:23) for when his glory filled the tabernacle, even Moses was unable to enter (Ex. 40:34-35).
- Removal of Glory. In order for the priests to perform their duties for the glory of God, God had to remove his glory so they could enter. The cloud ascended above the tabernacle as a reminder of God’s presence (Ex. 40:36-38).
- We Are God’s Temple. Never forget that we are now God’s temple (1 Cor. 3:16; 1 Cor. 6:19; Eph. 2:21-22) where the glory of God dwells.