THE TABERNACLE

Where does God plan to dwell?


The first mention of God dwelling anywhere is in Exodus 24:16 "And the glory of the Lord abode upon Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days; and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud." The word abode is from the Hebrew word shakan (shaw-kan' Strong's #7931) meaning to reside or permanently stay and is translated dwell, abide, place, remain, inhabit, rest, etc.


Here we have the first mention of God dwelling someplace. Throughout the story of creation there is no mention of where God dwells. Now, we start to see His keen interest in His people Israel. We find that He is abiding on Mount Sinai and calls Moses up to visit with Him. While there the Lord starts to give instructions to Moses for the people of Israel in the form of The Ten Commandments. He also calls for the people to take up an offering to provide the materials for making a sanctuary. Exodus 25:8&9 "And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the furnishings thereof, even so shall ye make it." The word dwell is again "shakan" meaning that the Lord was going to reside with them in this new sanctuary. The word for tabernacle is mishkan (mish-kawn' Strong's #4908) and comes from shakan (Strong's #7931) means a residence specifically the Tabernacle.


Exodus 29:45&46 "And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God. And they shall know that I am their God, who brought them out of Egypt, that I may dwell among them: I am the Lord their God." The word among is "tavek" (taw'-vek Strong's #8432) meaning to sever and is translated midst, among, within, middle, in, etc. This shows that the Lord was going to live among the people of Israel, in the midst of them.


Exodus 40:34&35 "Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation because the cloud abode (Strong's #7931) thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle." Here we see the abiding or tabernacling (Young's Literal Translation) with the people of Israel over and in the Tabernacle. The glory of the Lord was so powerful that even the mighty man Moses could not enter into the Tabernacle. The Lord, Himself, had moved in to the midst of the people of Israel.


Num. 5:1-3 " And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, Command the children of Israel, that they put out of the camp every leper, and everyone that hath an issue, and whosoever is defiled by the dead. Both male and female shall ye put out, outside the camp shall ye put them; that they defile not their camps, in the midst whereof I dwell (Strong's #7931)." Now that the Lord has moved in - holiness must prevail. Anything that is unclean must stay outside the camp.


Num. 35:33&34 "Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it. Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell, for I, the Lord, dwell (Strong's #7931) among the Israelites." Now we find the standard of holiness has extended out from the camp to the whole land where the Israelites live. There is a Jewish book, which has a footnote for this verse stating "Because God dwells in the midst of Israel, therefore Israel and Israel's land must be undefiled by violence and unholiness. The idea of God's dwelling in the midst of Israel has been epitomized by the Rabbis in one word SHEKINAH, i.e. God's Indwelling Presence." This idea of the Lord indwelling the Israelites is a most awesome thought. The Lord begins with dwelling in the camp, then the land and then among the people. He is dwelling in the midst of the people. It wasn't just that we go up to the tabernacle to worship the Lord, but He was everywhere in our land. So we see the Lord stretching out, taking a people for Himself - redeeming the people and starting to bring them all back to Himself.


Joshua 18:1 "The whole assembly of the Israelites gathered at Shiloh and set up the Tent of the Meeting there. The country was brought under their control," Now we have the sanctuary and the Ark of the Covenant residing at Shiloh. The word Shiloh means, "place of rest".
There are a couple of references to Shiloh that do not tell us the whole story, but things did not stay wonderful there. Even though the tabernacle had been set-up there for many years, and the presence of the Lord had resided there for a long time, this did not guarantee a forever blessing. 1Samuel 2 talks of the sins of Eli the priest and his two sons Hophni and Phinehas. A man of God comes and pronounces judgement on Eli and his household.


Ps 78:56-64 "But they put God to the test and rebelled against the Most High; they did not keep his statutes. Like their fathers they were disloyal and faithless, as unreliable as a faulty bow. They angered him with their high places; they aroused his jealousy with their idols. When God heard them, he was very angry; he rejected Israel completely. He abandoned the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent he had set up among men. He sent the ark of his might into captivity, the splendour into the hands of the enemy. He gave his people over to the sword; he was very angry with his inheritance. Fire consumed their young men, and their maidens had no wedding song; their priests were put to the sword, and their widows could not weep."


So even though we enjoy the presence of the Lord and are His chosen does not imply that everything will always be wonderful. Our Lord is actively procuring a dwelling place for Himself. This work necessitates our removing of idols and other hindrances, which cause us to not worship the Lord with all our heart, mind, and strength.


Now we find David and Solomon on the scene of history.
1Kings 8:10-13 "When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple. Then Solomon said, "The Lord has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud; I have indeed built a magnificent temple for you, a place for you to dwell forever." A Jewish writing states, "The so-called Wailing Wall has remained for millions of Jews the most sacred memento of their national sanctities, a "Holy Place" from which the Shechinah has never departed." For the people of Israel, even today believe God's Indwelling presence resides at the Wailing Wall, one of the walls from the temple.


1Chronicles 23:25 Young's Literal Translation "for David said, "Jehovah, God of Israel, hath given rest to His people, and he doth tabernacle in Jerusalem unto the age;" What a wonderful statement to have the Jehovah tabernacling with His people and giving them rest. Is that not what we desire for ourselves for today?
But alas, things did not stay as beautiful as they seemed in the days of David. The whole chapter of Jeremiah 7: speaks volumes as to the situation where you have a Holy God living with an unrighteous people. Over and over the Lord had said that the people were to live holy lives because He was living in the land and He was holy. It was as if they were not even trying to live good lives, they were worshipping idols in the Lord's temple! It seems a lot to quote a whole chapter of scripture, but it is so relevant to today that it follows forwith:
Jer. 7:1 "This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord:
2 "Stand at the gate of the Lord's house and there proclaim this message: "'Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the Lord.
3 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place.
4 Do not trust in deceptive words and say, "This is the temple of the Lord!"
5 If you really change your ways and actions and deal with each other justly,
6 if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm,
7 then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever. (Young's Literal Translation says "From age even unto age.").
8 But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless. 9 Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury (and swear by false gods), burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known,
10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, "We are safe" - safe to do all these detestable things?
11 Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! Declares the Lord.
12 "'Go now to the place in Shiloh where I first made a dwelling for my Name, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of my people Israel.
13 While you were doing all these things, declares the Lord, I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you but you did not answer.
14 Therefore, what I did to Shiloh I will now do to the house that bears my Name, the temple you trust in, the place I gave to you and your fathers.
15 I will thrust you from my presence, just as I did all yours brothers, the people of Ephraim.
16 So do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you. 17 Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?
18 The children gather wood, the father lit the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes of bread to the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to provoke me to anger.
19 But am I the one they are provoking? Declares the Lord. Are they not rather harming themselves, to their own shame?
20 "'Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: My anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place, on man and beast, on the trees of the field and on the fruit of the ground, and it will burn and not be quenched.
21 "'This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go ahead add your burnt offerings to your other sacrifices and eat the meat yourselves!
22 For when I brought your forefathers out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you.
24 But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward. 25 From the time your forefathers left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets.
26 But they did not listen to me or pay attention. They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their forefathers.
27 When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you; when you call to them, they will not answer.
28 Therefore say to them, "This is the nation that has not obeyed the Lord its God or responded to correction. Truth has perished; it has vanished from their lips.
29 Cut-off your hair and throw it away; take up a lament on the barren heights, for the Lord has rejected and abandoned this generation that is under his wrath.
30 "'The people of Judah have done evil in my eyes, declares the Lord. They have set up their detestable idols in the house that bears my Name and have defiled it. 31 They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire - something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind.
32 So beware, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when people will no longer call it Topheth or the Valley of Ben Hinnon, but the Valley of Slaughter, for they will bury the dead in Topheth until there is no more room.
33 Then the carcasses of these people will become food for the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and there will be no one to frighten them away.
34 I will bring an end to the sounds of joy and gladness and to the voice of the bride and bridegroom in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem, for the land will be desolate.


Here we have an incredibly powerful lament from the Lord for his people. We hear Him bemoaning the fact that the people would rather follow after other gods. Verse 6 says walk after other Gods to your harm. By walking in unrighteous ways, they were hurting themselves. By choosing to not walk with the Lord, they were hurting themselves. Today for us, the message comes through loud and clear - the Lord wants to walk with us. He wants to enter into relationships with us on an individual basis. When we choose to walk away from the Lord we are hurting ourselves. The Lord's concern is partly because of His love for us and His jealousy but more important what I hear in these verses is His concern because we hurt ourselves. True Love. So often we get caught up with the religious routine that we forget the bottom line reasons why we do the things we do. I tend to think that this is partially the reason why the tribe of Judah stopped following after the Lord. When we get caught up in religion - the doing of it because it is a rule - we lose sight of the Love behind the rule. Sometimes we put our faith in the religious instead of the Lord behind the rules. The people of Jerusalem were trusting in their temple instead of the Lord. The temple was the Holy Place where God dwelled. As long as the Lord was there, what was there to worry about?
In Ezekiel 9 we find that the most terrible thing was about to happen, the Lord was about to stop dwelling in the temple, His presence was about to leave.  How could this happen? The people were doing what they thought the Lord wanted, they were observing his feasts and ordinances. Let's look at these verses:


1 Then I heard him call out in a loud voice, "Bring the guards of the city here, each with a weapon in his hand."
2 And I saw six men coming from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each with a deadly weapon in his hand. With them was a man clothed in linen who had a writing kit at his side. They came in and stood beside the bronze altar.
3 Now the glory of the God of Israel went up from above the cherubim, where it had been, and moved to the threshold of the temple. Then the Lord called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side
4 and said to him, "Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it."
5 As I listened, he said to the others, "Follow him through the city and kill without showing pity or compassion.
6 Slaughter old men, young men, and maidens, women and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark. Begin at my sanctuary." So they began with the elders who were in front of the temple.
7 Then he said to them, "Defile the temple and fill the courts with the slain. Go." So they went out and began killing throughout the city.
8 While they were killing and I was left alone, I fell facedown, crying out, "Ah, Sovereign Lord! Are you going to destroy the entire remnant of Israel in this outpouring of your wrath on Jerusalem?
9 He answered me, "The sin of the house of Israel is exceedingly great; the land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of injustice. They say the Lord has forsaken the land; the Lord does not see."
10 So, I will not look on them with pity or spare them, but I will bring down on their heads what they have done."
11 Then the man in linen with the writing kit at his side brought back word saying, "I have done as you commanded."
Ezekiel 24:21 says "Say to the house of Israel, 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am about to desecrate my sanctuary - the stronghold in which you take pride, the delight of your eyes, the object of your affection...."


The unthinkable, first at Shiloh and now at Jerusalem. There is something within me that finds it very hard to believe that the Lord would forsake His temple. Somehow my religious nature finds it hard to believe that our Loving God would desert His temple. Are not our temples sacred places of worship? The churches we have built to His Name and glory - are they not Holy? Do we not meet with God there? No, He would not desert His church! Where is God going to dwell? He has left the tabernacle and the temple!
As we follow history, we find that the temple was destroyed by the Babylonians and rebuilt by Zerubbabel in the books of Ezra, Haggai and Zechariah.


Zechariah 2:10&11 "Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you, " declares the Lord. Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you." The word dwell is the same word used earlier as Strong's #7931, but in the Scohfield Bible there is a margin note "Same Hebrew word as Shekinah". We use the word Shekinah to mean the glory of the Lord's presence, His present glorious presence. To sit in the Lord's cloud is a most awesome experience. Once I was present when the Lord visited in a cloud. This was a most awesome experience, and one which words cannot describe. We had a small prayer meeting at the pastor's house. After a period of deliverance, a cloud physically came into the living room. I do not know what the others experienced, but I'll describe what happened to me. I was sitting on the floor and this wonderful peace settled over me. I had a contentment I cannot describe. I was at pure peace, there was a consciousness that the Lord was there and that everything was absolutely all right. There was nothing that could disrupt the feeling of being in His arms. If an atom bomb went off, it wouldn't have mattered. I was in the bosom of the Lord and everything was absolutely okay. After awhile, I became aware that it was hard to see the other people in the room. It was as though there was a cloud in the middle of the living room. This should have been alarming, but there was so much peace and such a strong consciousness of Jesus, that there was no way that any fear could be present. I became oblivious to fact that others were there. All I was aware of was being in the presence of the Lord Jesus. After awhile, we all started to become conscious of each other in the living room. It was like the cloud started to lift and we could be aware of each other again. As the cloud slowly departed one of the people present could not talk in English. All she could do was talk in tongues. The pastor seemed to be able to communicate with her by talking in tongues. After awhile she asked me a question in tongues. My mind did not understand what she said, but my spirit wanted to respond and so I talked to her in tongues. She seemed to understand my answer, even though I sure didn't. I did not understand what was going on, but in the Spirit it felt good. Finally she returned to use of English and the cloud fully departed. After the Lord had left we did not talk much; we savoured the time with the Lord in our hearts. Tothis day, I still do not know how long the experience lasted as far as time was concerned. We totally forgot all about time. The Sheckinah glory of the Lord visited. When it says in scripture that the priests could not stand to minister - I know what that is like! When the cloud comes all you want to do is sit and bask in the presence of Jesus. All work stops. There is nothing you can do to impress Him. The knowledge that He knows you inside out and still loves you, overpowers you to the place where you only want to sit at His feet and marvel at His goodness. The peace that passes all understanding permeates your whole being and all you want to do is stay in His presence. When the Shekinah glory comes, all fleshly work stops!


Let's have a look at Isaiah 66:1&2 "This is what the Lord says, "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting-place be? Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?" declares the Lord. "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word."   Here the Lord is saying that the emphasis is not on outward worship. The Lord looks at the heart. He is and has been seeking to develop relationships with His people. He does not want them going through routines. He does not want us to become legalized to the point that we actually persecute those who are led by His Spirit. We find time and time again that the Lord sends His messengers to His people in a fashion that does not conform to the religious standards of the day. This nonconformity caused the death of many of the prophets and even Jesus Himself was killed because He did not conform to the religious leader's standards of what a righteous person should be like on the outside. The Lord is not interested in our sacrifices for Him; but in our heart relationship with Him.