They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”. Hebrews 8, verse 5.
So, as I mentioned, we went to see “The Shack” last night. I don’t usually endorse things here, but I’ll endorse this movie. Go see it. It’s mostly true to the book and will spur you to think about your relationship with God. It’ll spur you on to think about how you perceive Him, and where He is in your life.
One of the things I liked most about it is how God comes to the main character, Mack, in a ramshackle old shack that was the scene of Mack’s worst nightmare. If you think about it, that’s what God does. He comes to us where we are and wants to live with us there. And when He does it, you quickly realize that anywhere you worship God becomes His tabernacle.
Now, “tabernacle”, as my friends Chad Bird and Will Kemp say, is actually a verb. To ‘tabernacle’ with someone means to dwell with them, to reside with them in this transient life. God gave Moses the plans to build His tabernacle tent here on earth as a representation of what His temple in heaven would look like. There are many reasons why God did this; let’s talk about them another time. For today’s talk, let’s zero in on just one.
God gave us His tabernacle to dwell with us. In our day, where we do that is almost moot. God wants to dwell with us, to tabernacle with us, everywhere. In your camping tent in the mountains (or in a Bedouin tent in Turkmenistan), in your church, fishing by a lake on Sunday morning, in your car driving the kids to practice: God wants to dwell with us wherever we are. In ancient days, pre-Christ (or BCE if you want to go all PC), God insisted Moses and the Israelites erect the tabernacle exactly according to specifications He provided. He did this for the Israelites’ benefit, not His own. He wanted them to focus on Him dwelling there in a way they could understand. That makes even more sense when you consider how most people in ancient Mesopotamia lived. Later, He specified a similar layout for His temple and for the same purpose: it wasn’t about the building. It was about God with us in the building.
Then came Jesus Christ, Immanuel (a name which means, quite literally, “God with us”). In Jesus, God was fully present and fully incarnate in every way. When the Disciples walked with Jesus, they walked with God in full. When you pray to Jesus, you pray to God in full. When Jesus comes again, He will be coming as completely God in every way. Once Jesus had accomplished His mission, He sent His Spirit to live within each one who believes. In this way, you and I became the tabernacle. God Almighty would dwell with us by dwelling within us. The Holy Trinity would be directly approachable and as close as your own thoughts. He did this so that we could willingly come to Him, not to compel or enslave us. It’s probably the most amazing thing in all of history.
And it’s one of the things I liked most about “The Shack.” They depicted the shack as a peaceful cabin by a lake. It was a place where Mack could relax, be himself, and let God heal him. Mack was stuck in the shack: he couldn’t get past the hurt and guilt that he found there. So God came to him, healed him, and promised to stay with him wherever he went. That’s not some movie plot: that’s the promise God makes to each one of us.
For further reading: Hebrews 5:1, 9:9
My Lord, I praise You for dwelling with me. My home is Your home; my life is Yours. Abide with me, thrive with me, strive with me, be alive in me.