God is a brilliant author, a master storyteller, a gifted movie director. His story sticks to simple and powerful themes, with added layers of meaning that crescendo to an eternal grand finale. One of these powerful themes that we were able to experience yesterday was this truth: God Is WITH Us!
There is a neat organization called The Tabernacle Experience. They have created a life-size replica of the original tabernacle and courtyard, and it travels around the country so that people can see what it was like. We walked through it with our kids and another family, and we experienced the sights, sounds, and smells of that long ago time. We saw the fire on the altar, the wash basin, the candles, the bread, the incense, and last of all, the Ark of the Covenant in the Most Holy Place. It was a wonderful reminder of a chapter in God’s perfect story, especially right after the Day of Atonement. It was awe-inspiring to imagine that God met with His people in that tent, so long ago. But to fully understand the story of God With Us, we have to start at the beginning.
Chapter 1 – The Garden
Like every story, this story started In The Beginning. When God made Adam and Eve, God was with them. Literally. In every sense of the word. He walked and talked with them. That is something we have seen on coloring pages in Sunday School forever so perhaps it isn’t surprising, but I think it should be. God was WITH them! The fact that THE GOD of the universe chose to be with His creation is breathtaking!
But, as you know, sin came in and caused a separation. Oh, God was still with Adam and Eve, but it was not the same “with them” as before. As if to drive the point home even more clearly, God placed an angel with a flaming sword to guard the garden where the ultimate fellowship and man’s rejection of that fellowship had taken place. God was still with his people, some more than others, but God longed to restore the fellowship that He had enjoyed with Adam and Eve. Something had to be done.
Many years later, God spoke to a disgraced prince-turned-shepherd named Moses. God told him that the great I AM would lead the Israelites home. To reassure Moses, God said “I will be with you.” (Exodu 3:11-14)
I sincerely doubt that Moses understood just what this meant- the burning bush was awesome, but it was nothing like the mountain top experience to come! And this is where it gets good! God showed Himself to be active and powerful. He even showed the people that He would be with Moses. But He was not content to stay separated from the rest of His people. And so we come to Chapter 2.
Chapter 2 – The Tabernacle
God told the people to build a tent for Him – a home where He would live. But not live, exactly…it was more like “camp.” After all, God created the universe and He cannot be contained by all of the galaxies, let alone a little tent on one of its planets. But God promised on that day that when they built Him a Holy Place, He would come down and be there with them. God was WITH them again! There are many ways to describe the tabernacle – a Sanctuary, a Tent of Meeting, a Holy place. But no matter what you called it, it was a visible, physical reminder that God Was There. (Exodus 25:8)
I don’t have time to tell you the details of the rest of the story today, but here is the summary:
Chapter 3: The Temple
Solomon builds the temple, and the Tabernacle and its contents is placed there. God is WITH Israel. Every citizen could gather at the temple to be WITH God! (1 Kings 8:1-11)
Chapter 4: The Man
Emmanuel! God with us! Jesus came down and took on the body of a human. Literally, 100% WITH us! Amazing!
Chapter 5: The Spirit
Pentecost! The Counselor and Comforter is here! Jesus had gone to heaven, and He left the Holy Spirit to be inside of us! Not only WITH us, but IN us too! Incredible!
Chapter 6: Heaven!
For all of eternity we will be WITH God. In His holy presence. All the time. Without interruption. I have no idea how that will work, but I know it will be awesome. I mean, the Tabernacle was great, the temple was better, Jesus was even better, and the Holy Spirit is better yet, but Heaven will be better than all of them combined!
Lessons From the Tabernacle
So, on this day, keep in mind the fact that God chose us. And not only did He choose us, but He chose to be WITH us! When He led the Israelites out of slavery He gave them the best gift of all – His Presence. If they ever doubted or feared, all they had to do was look toward the center of the camp. There He was! God was camped with them! That was special, but it pales in comparison to His Presence inside of us. Now I am His tent. My heart is His Most Holy Place. I have no reason to fear, and every reason to do what is right. What an amazing gift, what an amazing story, and what an amazing God!
Good songs to drive the point home:
- Chris Tomlin: And if our God is for us, then who can ever stop us?!? And if our God is with us, then what can stand against!?!?!!?
- MercyMe: Emmanuel, God with Us
The Altar and the Tabernacle
My Photo of the Tabernacle
The Golden Lampstand
The Ark of the Covenant