God’s Dwelling Place

“Moreover, you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen and blue and purple and scarlet yarns; you shall make them with cherubim skillfully worked into them. The length of each curtain shall be twenty-eight cubits, and the breadth of each curtain four cubits; all the curtains shall be the same size. Five curtains shall be coupled to one another, and the other five curtains shall be coupled to one another. And you shall make loops of blue on the edge of the outermost curtain in the first set. Likewise you shall make loops on the edge of the outermost curtain in the second set. Fifty loops you shall make on the one curtain, and fifty loops you shall make on the edge of the curtain that is in the second set; the loops shall be opposite one another. And you shall make fifty clasps of gold, and couple the curtains one to the other with the clasps, so that the tabernacle may be a single whole.

“You shall also make curtains of goats’ hair for a tent over the tabernacle; eleven curtains shall you make. The length of each curtain shall be thirty cubits, and the breadth of each curtain four cubits. The eleven curtains shall be the same size. You shall couple five curtains by themselves, and six curtains by themselves, and the sixth curtain you shall double over at the front of the tent. 10 You shall make fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that is outermost in one set, and fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that is outermost in the second set.

11 “You shall make fifty clasps of bronze, and put the clasps into the loops, and couple the tent together that it may be a single whole. 12 And the part that remains of the curtains of the tent, the half curtain that remains, shall hang over the back of the tabernacle. 13 And the extra that remains in the length of the curtains, the cubit on the one side, and the cubit on the other side, shall hang over the sides of the tabernacle, on this side and that side, to cover it. 14 And you shall make for the tent a covering of tanned rams’ skins and a covering of goatskins on top.

15 “You shall make upright frames for the tabernacle of acacia wood. 16 Ten cubits shall be the length of a frame, and a cubit and a half the breadth of each frame. 17 There shall be two tenons in each frame, for fitting together. So shall you do for all the frames of the tabernacle. 18 You shall make the frames for the tabernacle: twenty frames for the south side; 19 and forty bases of silver you shall make under the twenty frames, two bases under one frame for its two tenons, and two bases under the next frame for its two tenons; 20 and for the second side of the tabernacle, on the north side twenty frames, 21 and their forty bases of silver, two bases under one frame, and two bases under the next frame. 22 And for the rear of the tabernacle westward you shall make six frames. 23 And you shall make two frames for corners of the tabernacle in the rear; 24 they shall be separate beneath, but joined at the top, at the first ring. Thus shall it be with both of them; they shall form the two corners. 25 And there shall be eight frames, with their bases of silver, sixteen bases; two bases under one frame, and two bases under another frame.

26 “You shall make bars of acacia wood, five for the frames of the one side of the tabernacle, 27 and five bars for the frames of the other side of the tabernacle, and five bars for the frames of the side of the tabernacle at the rear westward. 28 The middle bar, halfway up the frames, shall run from end to end. 29 You shall overlay the frames with gold and shall make their rings of gold for holders for the bars, and you shall overlay the bars with gold. 30 Then you shall erect the tabernacle according to the plan for it that you were shown on the mountain.

31 “And you shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. It shall be made with cherubim skillfully worked into it. 32 And you shall hang it on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, with hooks of gold, on four bases of silver. 33 And you shall hang the veil from the clasps, and bring the ark of the testimony in there within the veil. And the veil shall separate for you the Holy Place from the Most Holy. 34 You shall put the mercy seat on the ark of the testimony in the Most Holy Place. 35 And you shall set the table outside the veil, and the lampstand on the south side of the tabernacle opposite the table, and you shall put the table on the north side.

36 “You shall make a screen for the entrance of the tent, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, embroidered with needlework. 37 And you shall make for the screen five pillars of acacia, and overlay them with gold. Their hooks shall be of gold, and you shall cast five bases of bronze for them.” – Exodus 26:1-37 ESV

Having given Moses the plans for some of the key pieces of furniture that would occupy the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, God turned His attention to the design and construction of the Tabernacle itself. This inside-out perspective placed the emphasis on the inside of the Tabernacle, where God’s presence was meant to dwell. The Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat would be essential in assuring God’s continued presence among His people. The Bread of the Presence and the Golden Candlestick would each play important roles in maintaining the proper atmosphere of holiness so that God could dwell among His people.

The Tabernacle itself, while ornate and constructed of carefully crafted fabrics and precious metals, was nothing more than a glorified tent. Without God’s presence, it would have no worth or value. It would cease to be holy or sacred.

The detailed descriptions of the intricately woven curtains and veils that would form the walls and doorways of the Tabernacle can be a tough read. They are extremely specific but lack enough detail to provide an accurate blueprint of the structure’s final form. When reading this chapter, there can be a temptation to fast-forward and skip over the seemingly unimportant architectural details it contains. But even these verses contain important insights into the glory of God and the significance this sanctuary would play in the lives of His people.

The construction of the Tabernacle would cost the Israelites dearly. It is estimated that as much as eight tons of gold, silver, and bronze was required to complete the Tabernacle. Then there was the huge volume of Acacia wood that had to be harvested and handcrafted to build its framework. The massive curtains made of twined linen and woven with blue, purple, and scarlet yarns, would have required countless hours to create. These beautiful curtains were 42 feet long and 6 feet high and had images of “cherubim skillfully worked into them” (Exodus 26:1 ESV). The time and skill it took to craft each one would have been monumental. And the number of goats and rams that had to be slaughtered to create the two layers of protective covering for the entire structure would have been staggering.

This was no ordinary tent. It was to be the house of God and the place where heaven would touch earth. Located in the middle of their camp, the Tabernacle would be the focal point of their community and the focus of their hope for the future. Its very design was intended to declare and display God’s glory. The precious metals and colorful fabrics were all meant to reflect the holiness of Yahweh. He was their King and He deserved a house that reflected His greatness.

While built to be portable, the Tabernacle also employed construction techniques that ensured its sturdiness. Nomadic-style tent construction usually incorporated a large canopy made of animal hide that was held up by a series of poles. Easy to assemble and take down, this style of tent construction accommodated the nomadic lifestyle. But the Tabernacle was meant to be more permanent in nature. So, God designed it with an interlocking framework that used tenon and mortise joints to guarantee its stability. Over this skeleton of wood, the four layers of fabric and animal skin were draped. In its final form, the Tabernacle would have stood out among all the ordinary tents of the Israelites. In the wilderness context, this central structure would have looked like a palace when compared to the dwelling places of the Israelites.

When crafting all the elements that would form the final structure of the Tabernacle, the Israelites would have known that they were involved in something significant. This was a community-wide effort that would result in a one-of-a-kind structure where their God would come and dwell among them. They would not have taken this assignment lightly. Every detail had to be right. There was no cutting of corners or alterations to the plans in order to save time or money. They put everything they had into the creation of this sanctuary for their God.

God had told Moses, “let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst” (Exodus 25:8 ESV). This incredible promise from God would not have escaped them. In their minds, God occupied a distant and unapproachable place called heaven. For this transcendent, all-powerful God to offer to dwell in their midst was not something they took lightly. And the design of the Tabernacle was meant to reflect the glory of heaven coming to earth. The images of the angelic cherubim, the regal colors of blue, purple, and scarlet, the shimmering gold, and the throne-like Mercy Seat; it was all meant to mirror the majesty of God’s home in heaven.

God was now making His home among men. This image of God dwelling among men appears in John’s Gospel when he speaks of the incarnation of Jesus.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14 ESV

The Greek word translated as “dwelt” is σκηνόω (skēnoō) and it literally means “to fix one’s tabernacle.” Jesus, the Son of God, left His place in heaven to take up residence among men on earth. For nearly 33 years, He “gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being” (Philippians 2:7 NLT).

Jesus, like His Heavenly Father, left the glory of heaven to enter into close fellowship with His people. God the Father took up residence in a tent made by human hands. Jesus, the Son, took up residence in a human body, a tent crafted by the hand of God. But notice how John states that “we have seen his glory.” The glory of God came to earth and dwelt among men. In describing the outward appearance of the Savior, Isaiah the prophet states, “There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him” (Isaiah 53:2 NLT). Jesus appeared like any other man. He occupied a normal-looking “tent” that had reflected no majesty or royal bearing. But He was “the visible image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15 NLT). And He came to make God known. 

In the same way, the Tabernacle was meant to make God known and visible. Every time they looked at the Tabernacle, they would be reminded of His presence and assured of His ever-present power in their midst. And, one day, God will come to dwell with mankind again. The Revelation of John reminds us there is a day coming when God will return to earth and take up residence once again among His people. He and His Son will tabernacle among us once again, and for eternity.

I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” – Revelations 21:2-3 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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