Can you hear the hum of the voices? Voices giving instruction, asking questions, and offering encouragement. Voices alive with eagerness, excitement, and anticipation. Voices discussing this great thing they are undertaking.
Can you feel the energy? There are many people gathered together—purposefully gathered together. They are a busy people with important work to do. These are the people creating God’s holy Tabernacle and all that will be in it.
And yet weren’t these the same people who had only recently created and worshiped a god made from gold? The same people who, although they had seen God’s glory time and time again, wanted a god small enough for them to understand and even control. The same people God had said were “an unruly, stubborn people” whom He would destroy if He was among them for even a moment (Exod. 33:5). Yes, these were those same people, and, yes, thousands of their number had died as a result their disobedience.
The remaining Israelites were the same people, and yet they were a changed people. They had been through the purification of God’s judgment; they had mourned for their sins and sought forgiveness. The days of the golden idol were behind them.
This was no small task they were taking on, and this was no small God for whom they were working. This was the one true God, and His dwelling place must reflect His glory and magnificence. While it is easy for us to gloss over the measurements and instructions for this Tabernacle, God was specific in every detail of the construction. This Tabernacle was precisely, deliberately, carefully, and symbolically planned. This Tabernacle was to be a message not only to the Israelites but to the inhabitants of the lands through which they passed. Its splendor, when contrasted with the nomadic, only recently freed-from-slavery people who worshiped there, would send a message to all who came within sight of it.
In total obedience to all God had instructed, the Israelites completed their work. “And so at last the Tabernacle was finished. The Israelites had done everything just as the Lord had commanded Moses. The Lord now said to Moses, ‘Set up the Tabernacle on the first day of the new year’” (Exod. 39:32; 40:1-2).
The Tabernacle was beautiful, and it was meaningful, but it was an empty tent until God’s presence brought it to life. “Then the cloud covered the Tabernacle, and the glorious presence of the Lord filled it. Moses was no longer able to enter the Tabernacle because the cloud had settled down over it, and the Tabernacle was filled with the awesome glory of the Lord” (Exod. 40:34-35).
This is what they had labored for. In this Tabernacle, and near this Tabernacle, the “glorious presence” and “awesome glory” of the one true God could be sensed. This was the end result of their journey from a disobedient people practicing idol worship to a forgiven people committed to genuine worship of the Lord.
God’s awesome presence continues to dwell among groups of believers as they gather together to worship the Lord. More amazingly, God’s presence also now dwells within each individual believer through the Holy Spirit. May it be said of us that the “glorious presence” of God is evident in our lives as people draw near to us.
© 2010 Arlina Yates