Exodus 25:8. 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.
In yesterday’s reading we looked at what happens when a holy God and an unholy people meet at a mountain. Today we will see the next step God takes in allowing us to meet with him in his holiness and his mercy – a tent.
Since the beginning of time God has wanted to live with us. His greatest desire is to be our God and for us to be his people. This is the plot line of all of scripture, and the goal of all history. God with us.
The Garden of Eden was God’s first attempt at sharing a dwelling with us. But as you know, rather than the presence of God being enough, we rejected God in favor of self-determination. But God never gave up on us. He’s determined to live among humanity. And so, here in Exodus, he wants his people to build him a tent to live in among them. A sanctuary. A tabernacle.
These two words can almost seem contrasting. Sanctuary means “holy place.” Tabernacle means “dwelling place.” Put them together and you have a holy dwelling for God. This special tent will allow God, in his holiness, to remain separate from the people, while in his love, to dwell among the people.
It’s a picture of God’s character. God is holy and merciful. God wants to be with us but he must remain holy. God will dwell with man in his tabernacle, but he will remain separate from man in his sanctuary. The people will meet God at the tent, but be separated from God at the same time.
What does this teach us? God’s tent shows us how much we need both his holiness and his mercy. There is no salvation without both. Sin is not destroyed without holiness, and we are not spared without mercy. Praise God that his holiness could not keep him from coming to us in mercy. And praise God that his coming to us in mercy would never degrade his holiness.
But this tent, this sanctuary-tabernacle in the wilderness is only a shadow of the greater revealing of God’s holiness and mercy – Jesus.
John 1:14. And the Word became flesh and dwelt [tented] among us…
Jesus was the living sanctuary of God. His life separated us from God’s wrath. Jesus did what only God could do. He obeyed alone. He suffered alone. He died alone. And, in taking our sin upon himself on the cross, he too was separated from the holy sanctuary of God. But not for long. Upon dying, his spirit entered the holy places of Heaven and presented his perfect life to God in our place. Praise God!
Jesus was also the living tabernacle of God. His life brought the life of God near to us. Jesus dwelt among us as one of us. He experienced all that we experience, felt all that we feel, desired all that we desire, and needed all that we need. He died among us sinners, in the place of us sinners. Then he brought his human life into the presence of God so that every person that trusts in him could also live forever in the presence of God.
Now, in Christ, we are the sanctuary of God. God’s holy place. Declared to be holy in Christ and empowered to live out Christ’s righteousness in the world. And at the same time, in Christ, we are the tabernacle of God. His dwelling place. His deep love, compassion, kindness, and grace displayed to the world in us, and received by the world through us.
“To live is Christ” makes you and me the sanctuary-tabernacle of God. The meeting place of holiness and mercy. Separate from the world in Christ’s holiness. Connected to the world in his mercy. God dwelling in the midst of humanity in us.
Do you see yourself as the holy sanctuary of God? The merciful tabernacle of God? If not why?
You in Christ
How does your union with Christ allow you to be balanced in your holiness and mercy?
Christ in you
How can you display both holiness and mercy today? Ask God to show you how.