Pastor’s Desk: The Tabernacle and Real Life


It’s coming towards the end of May and the temperature has dropped. This makes the normal grind of life all the more tiresome, especially when the warmth of bed is so inviting!

So it’s a great idea now to pause and reflect on how our Bible reading has been going, and in particular how the Bible Reading program has been going in your home? If you’ve kept it up, well done! You’ve now read through the Gospel of Luke, parts of Psalms, started Acts and finished Genesis and Exodus. Today is the final reading for the book of Exodus. And in our busy lives these closing chapters may appear to have little to no connection to our lives today – but that would be a grave misreading of this part of Scripture.

The Tabernacle was designed in part to allow Israel to perform its many ritual sacrifices. But the emphasis in Exodus is less on the ritual aspect and more on the design aspect of the Tabernacle. Ever wondered why? Take a closer look at the design elements and you’ll begin to notice some very interesting parallels.

Notice the Tabernacle is filled with Creation and Garden of Eden imagery. The (literally) ‘candle lights’ (Gen 1:14) are there in the Tabernacle (Ex 27:20), the Gold and Onyx in the riverbed (Gen 2:12) appear in the Priests’ garments (Ex 28), the Tree of Life (Gen 2:9) is represented by the golden lampstand (Ex 25:31-40), the Cherub placed at the entrance of the Garden (Gen 3:24) appear interwoven into the curtain separating the inner presence of God with the rest of the Tabernacle (Ex 26:31). Even the fact that the entrance of the Tabernacle faces East is a reminder that the Priest leaving the Tabernacle mimics Adam’s expulsion from the Garden (Gen 3:24, Ex 27:13).

The Tabernacle itself is also a reminder of God’s merciful presence, particularly after their woeful rebellion in Exodus 32. God persists in choosing to dwell among the people. The Tabernacle is therefore not only a reminder of his presence, but of his mercy in setting up provisions for Israel to come before him.

But notice that the Tabernacle imagery doesn’t just look back to Creation and the Garden of Eden. It also looks forward to the new Heavens and the new ‘Garden’ (Earth). In Revelation 21:18-20 we find similar stones to the Priestly garments adorning the walls of the City of God. In Revelation 21:16 the New City’s dimensions have the shape of a cube – not that the new Earth will be a cube and not a sphere, but to remind us of the other cubed shape in the Old Testament, the ‘Most Holy Place’ where God’s presence dwelt (therefore saying the New City is where God’s presence will be also!). The lampstand of the Tabernacle (Ex 25:31-40) echoing the Tree of Life is now in full view with the Tree in the middle of the New Earth.

What does this all mean and how does it help me get out of bed on these cold mornings? Well as we go through the motions of carrying on with life these chapters from Exodus encourage us to sustain our joy and focus: where God chose to dwell with Israel in a Tabernacle, Jesus, the ‘word become flesh’ dwelt (literally ‘tabernacled’) among us; and Jesus death tears the curtain separating the presence of God from the presence of man – there are no more Cherubim to ward us off. Israel had to enter a physical Tabernacle, a physical Temple, in order to worship God. Today our bodies are the Temple (cf 1 Cor 3:16) where God’s dwells. So while life continues to soldier on, isn’t it encouraging that God is not housed in a tent or building in some far away land? Rather He is always near, in fact, that’s his final promise: I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matt 28:29).

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