By Mark Grace, CCCNZ Ambassador
"Hei tahunga tinana tenei e mau tonu ana i o koutou whakatupuranga, i te whatitoka o te tapenakara o te whakaminenga, i te aroaro o Ihowa, i te wahi e tutaki ai ahau ki a koutou, korero ai ki a koe."
“For the generations to come this burnt offering is to be made regularly at the entrance to the tent of meeting, before the Lord. There I will meet you and speak to you;"
"E faia lenei ma taulaga mu e le aunoa i o outou tupulaga amuli i le faitotoa o le fale fetafai o le faapotopotoga i luma o Ieova, o le mea tatou te fetaiai ai ma outou, ina ia ou tautala atu ia te oe i lea mea."
Up to two million Hebrew people have escaped slavery and are now camping in the desert. That's 600,000 fighting men. Up to 1.4 million women, children, and elderly.
Then a holy God comes to camp amongst this seething mass of sinful people.
God does not come to camp at a distance from them. He does not camp on the edge of them. God comes to dwell at the centre of them.
What’s striking from Exodus 25-31 and 35-40 is how intimately and intricately God is involved in making camp in establishing the tabernacle. His standards are exacting and his instructions are explicit.
The tabernacle is a portable sanctuary. It is established so God can meet with and speak to his people. It provides a way for people meet with God through a substitutionary sacrifice. It is a rectangular campsite, curtained off and measuring 46m x 23m.
Imagine walking into it...
You walk in from the outside. You notice the smell and the noise first. You notice the curtained walls. You walk through the only gate. From the gate you walk up to the bronze altar.
You see priests offering burnt sacrifices. Beyond the altar is a basin where again priests are cleansing themselves. Beyond that is a larger tent spilt into two.
The first is the Holy Place. The table of the bread of the Presence is here. The lampstand is here and the altar of incense. Then the Most Holy Place. Here the ark of the covenant rests.
A question of holiness
At the heart of God’s camp is a question: How can sinful, rebellious, imperfect people like you and I stand in the presence of a holy God?
How can God meet you? And how can you meet God?
Leviticus 1:1-6 shows us.
You bring a perfect animal to the altar. Likely expensive.
You put your hands on the head of the animal, symbolically the animal is becoming your substitute, a sacrifice in your place.
You slit the throat of the animal. Blood is spurting, the animal is recoiling.
The priest gathers the blood into a bowl and sprinkles it across the altar of atonement.
You skin the animal and cut it into pieces.
The priest will place the pieces of the sacrifice on the altar.
Your sacrifice is burned.
Every day, all day the altar at the entrance of tabernacle is a bloody mess. The noise, the wailing, the animal waste, the smoke and the stench. All of it is a reminder that God is holy and we are not. A substitutionary sacrifice needs to be made.
I am so profoundly grateful that Jesus is our tabernacle. As John says, "the Lord became flesh and made his dwelling among us"... he literally 'tabernacled' among us.
He is the place and person where we meet God.
He is the place and person where we hear God.
Skip Ryan writes:
"The tabernacle is for use in the wilderness: Matthew tells us 'Jesus is led up by the Spirit into the wilderness' (Matthew 4:1).
"The tabernacle is outwardly humble and unattractive: Isaiah tells us 'He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him'.
"The tabernacle is where God met people: Jesus says 'no one comes to the Father, but through me' (John 14:6).
"The tabernacle is a place of worship to God: John says of Jesus 'My Lord and My God' (John 20:28).
"Just as the tabernacle in the wilderness contained and displayed God’s glory (Exodus 40:34–35), even more do we behold 'the glory of God in the face of Christ' (2 Corinthians 4:6)".
Jesus is the full and final sacrifice.
I’m so incredibly grateful that Jesus is our full and final sacrifice. I’m so grateful he came to us. To dwell within us. We are right with God because of his sacrifice. Because of what he has accomplished.