Exodus 25:8-9. 8 And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. 9 Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.
God wants to live with us. This has been his heart’s desire from the beginning. Literally. This is what scripture tells us over and over. God made us so that he could share his life and love with us. We blew it in the Garden and rejected his life and his love. But God never gave up on us. He wants to be our God. He wants us to be his people. And here in Exodus, he wants us to build him a tent to live in.
These are two interesting words. Sanctuary means “holy place.” Tabernacle means “dwelling place.” Yes, God wants to live with his people, but the only way to do this and keep us alive is to also be separate from his people. This Tabernacle-Sanctuary that the Hebrews will build for God will allow God to be among them yet separate from them.
In the Garden God was among Adam and Eve and nothing separated them. Until they rejected God. Now sin keeps all humanity separated from him. We must be made holy before entering the presence of God. And so here’s the question that the rest of Exodus, the rest of the Torah, and really the rest of God’s redemptive plan will answer for us – how can we live with God?
The answer is the Tabernacle-Sanctuary.
First there must be a sanctuary, a holy place. A place that protects us from God. When God landed on the top of Mount Sinai he told the people not to come near or touch his mountain or else they would die. And so God constructed a sanctuary that would keep his glory contained. Layers of separation will protect us. The outer court. The Holy Place. The Most Holy Place. And only one man, from one family, in one tribe would be able to enter God’s inner sanctuary one day a year. And never without the blood sprinkling.
But this tent that will be built for God is not just a sanctuary separating God and man, it is a tabernacle joining God and man. Like the Garden before it, the tabernacle brought heavenly realities to earth. It is where God and man meet. Without the tabernacle God cannot fulfill his desire to share his glory with us. Without the tabernacle mankind cannot fulfill their destiny to image and worship God in that glory. The tabernacle allows us to serve before God as priests. The tabernacle is how God and man live face to face, Coram Deo – our entire purpose for living.
All of this is a picture of God himself.
God wants to live with us but he will never compromise his own holiness to get what he wants. God will dwell with man in his tabernacle, but he will remain separate from man in his sanctuary. Praise God that his holiness could not keep him from coming to us. And praise God that his coming to us would never degrade his holiness. Why? Because we need both. We need God’s holiness and we need his mercy. Take either away, and life is not worth living because God is not worth worshiping.
But beyond this holiness and mercy MUST co-exist. There simply is not one without the other. They are not opposite moods of God’s psyche. They are complimentary character traits of a perfect God. Salvation is only possible if God is both holy and merciful. Praise God his perfect holiness and mercy met in his Tabernacle-Sanctuary. And praise God his perfect holiness and mercy met in the living Tabernacle-Sanctuary of Jesus Christ.
Jesus was the tabernacle of God. For 30+ years God was one of us. He brought God near to us to live among us. He dwelt with us as us. He experienced humanity’s need for grace and faithfully shared God’s grace with all.
But Jesus was also the sanctuary of God. For 30+ years he also kept us separated from God. He obeyed alone. He suffered alone. He died alone. He had to do what only God could do. Only he was in God. And God was only in him. Jesus alone was holy.
But this was not God’s final plan. Through his death, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus has shared his life with us. So here’s the good news: In our union with Christ we are the Tabernacle-Sanctuary of God. What God had the Hebrews build in the desert was just a shadow of what God is building in us his church.
We are the sanctuary of God. God’s holy place. Counted as holy in Christ and now called to live Christ’s holy life unto God. This means being separate from the world. Different. Unique. Counter-cultural. An uncompromising light of righteousness and justice in this dark world.
2 Corinthians 6:14-16. 14 For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God.
And we are the tabernacle of God. We are his “dwelling place” in man and with humanity. His love, compassion, and mercy are displayed in us and by us.
1 John 4:12. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
“To live is Christ” makes you and me the Tabernacle-Sanctuary of God. The meeting place of mercy and holiness. Separate from the world and yet completely inviting of the world to come and experience the grace and truth that comes from the indwelling life of Christ.