Wednesday, August 12, 2009

God’s Holy Tent

Wilderness_Tabernacle_1 I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate to serve me as priests. I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.

Exodus 29:44-46

This summary from God at the conclusion of a lengthy description of sacrifices and consecrating ceremonies for Aaron and his sons is full of intent and meaning. God was going to make holy the work of human hands and lives of the men called into His service in the tabernacle in the wilderness. Humans would do the work and the volunteering. God would do the sanctifying. Both needed to happen for a satisfying relationship with God.

The results of such service were profound. The tent of meeting and the altar of sacrifice would be holy places because God’s presence dwelt there. The Aaronic priesthood would be set apart to unique service, called holy by God. Israel would gain access to God through the Levitical sacrifices. And the knowledge of God would be readily available at the tent of meeting. Israel would know God.

The self-disclosure of God to Israel in these ordinances is really quite amazing. We tend to focus on the detail of the Law and miss the big picture: a fire and a cloud covered the tabernacle and it was the holy locus of the presence of God. That was something entirely new on the face of the earth. And God was choosing to make Himself known this powerfully to an imperfect nation of people who would slip easily into sin throughout their history. Yet He had chosen Israel as a light to the world, and would use them to reach the world.

God has also powerfully chosen to display Himself today. Not in a tent, or in an altar, or in an elaborately garbed priesthood. He has chosen, through His Holy Spirit, to indwell each individual believer. Christians are each a place where God has pitched His tent. And though we are made of fallen clay, and we occasionally sin against Him, we are still all a peculiar people, a chosen priesthood to proclaim the uniqueness and glory of Christ to a world that God wants to change similarly one life at a time. This is a great, glorious calling!

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