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Sunday, December 11, 2016

December 11: Jesus Tabernacled Among Us

"Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it." - Exodus 25:8-9, ESV

And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us; and we [actually] saw His glory (His honor, His majesty), such glory as an only begotten son receives from his father, full of grace (favor, loving-kindness) and truth. - John 1:14, AMPC

"Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lordfilled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle." - Exodus 40:34-35, ESV


Jesus Tabernacled Among Us:
Seeing Christmas in the Tent of Worship


What's the most centrally important thing in your house? What does it say about your family's values and priorities?

After God led the Israelites out of Egypt, delivering them from the hand of their Egyptian masters, He chose to dwell in their midst and to continue to lead them. But God cannot simply dwell in the midst of a sinful people. God wanted to show them who He was, what He was like and how they might approach Him properly in worship. So He gave Moses instructions for building a Tabernacle, a tent for meeting with God and worshiping Him. 

Model of the tabernacle, as seen in Israel, Timna Park
The tabernacle God described to Moses was a perfect demonstration of God's holiness, humanity's sinfulness, the need for atonement and the right approach to worship. The most centrally important thing in the Tabernacle was the Ark of the Covenant, the chest which held the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone. This chest was placed behind thick curtains in the Most Holy Place (or Holy of Holies). On top of the ark was the mercy seat, made of pure gold and flanked by two cherubim. The ark represented the presence of God. Only the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place, the direct presence of the Ark of the Covenant, and only on the Day of Atonement, when he sprinkled blood on the mercy seat.

The Ten Commandments inside the ark were a replacement. Moses had broken the original tablets when he came down from Mount Sinai to find the people engaged in idolatry and immorality. The restored law represented God's perfect holy standard. It cannot be compromised, and yet because we are guilty of violating that law, we must approach God on the basis of mercy and not merit. We need God's forgiveness, which must be secured by the shedding of blood. The anointed High Priest must be the one to present the blood to cover the mercy seat, allowing God's people to approach.

So far, this is an interesting history lesson in Old Testament worship practices, but what does this have to do with Christmas or Jesus? Everything! But before we get to that, let's step outside of the Holy of Holies.

Inside the Sanctuary, the Tabernacle itself, was a table holding bread, a lamp stand holding seven candles and an incense burner. The bread was holy, for priests only. The incense represented the prayers of the people and had to be made according to the right formula or it was rejected by God (see Nadab and Abihu).

Outside of the Tabernacle in the courtyard, a large altar and a basin of water stood. The altar was for the offerings of the people. The basin was for priests to wash before entering the Tabernacle. This altar allowed all of the people of God to learn that they cannot approach God without a sacrifice to atone for their sins. The basin taught them that God requires clean hands from those who would approach Him. By using this Tabernacle for worship as God prescribed, the people learned about sin, sacrifice, cleansing, prayer and more. Ultimately, they were being given a large, interactive picture of Jesus and His saving work.

In John 1:14, we're told that when Jesus came to earth, He "pitched His tent" or "tabernacled" among us and that we beheld His glory. It's no coincidence that the glory cloud of God's presence came down and filled the Tabernacle when it was dedicated. God was telling His people, "Pay attention here. This will show you how to approach Me and ultimately point you to the way I will manifest My glory to you." 

When Jesus tabernacled among us, He was the Messiah - the anointed One. One office He holds as Messiah is that of our Great High Priest. Jesus is uniquely the only priest who is also the sacrifice. He offered up Himself on the altar of the cross. He entered into the true Holy of Holies in heaven to offer up His blood before God's mercy seat to atone for our sin. He also came as the bread of life and the light of the world, to bring the nourishment for our souls and the illumination pictured in the table of bread and the lampstand. 

Jesus us everything we need to approach God and have fellowship with Him. In fact, His atoning work makes us priests who can enter into God's presence and eat and receive illumination and offer up pleasing prayers to God. Will you approach God through the tabernacle of Jesus this Christmas? He is the only way for us to approach God.

Lord Jesus, thank You for leaving heaven and coming to earth to redeem us. Thank You for being in Yourself the way for us to approach God. You are the true and eternal tabernacle. This Christmas season, let us enter into You by faith. Amen.   

The Tabernacle is just another picture of Jesus as Emmanuel, God with Us:

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