10 February 2008

Prepared to be a Sanctuary

In my studies during this special season, it has been amazing the number of times the Tabernacle has come up.

During the Exodus through Sinai—and for a few hundred years afterwards in Shiloh—the Tabernacle was God’s dwelling place among Israel.

It held the most sacred objects of the Exodus: the Ten Commandments and, for a time, a bowl of manna and Aaron’s flower-bedecked rod. Rising above its most holy place—at least during the Exodus—was a pillar of fire, demonstrating God’s mercy over His chosen people.

But my studies center on the New Testament these days. Aside from references to the Sanctuary in Hebrews, I hadn’t found the other 26 books to be full of the Holy of Holies…until these last few weeks.

One of the greatest resources I have found for my spiritual development has been the podcasts of Asbury Theological Seminary. For about 12 year now, I’ve been working on my “working man’s MA in theology,” reading a vast array of books on history and doing everything but learn Greek & Hebrew. Podcasts keep me up to date on the latest theological ideas, and I highly recommend these if you use iTunes.

The first place I found the sanctuary was in the beginning of the Book of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God…. The Word became Flesh and made his dwelling among us” (verses 1 & 14).

This chapter is full of the language of the Old Testament. If you really think about it, it could be a condensed version of the Old Testament, beginning with Genesis “In the beginning” and ending with Daniel, “You shall see the heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

To top it off, Asbury OT professor, Sandi Richter, proposed a better translation for verse 14. “The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us,” she said.

Wow. I have never heard of the verb, tabernacled, but it has quickly become one of my favorite words. I have never imagined Christ’s incarnate ministry as an act of tabernacling, but now I can’t stop praising him for it.

If “the Word tabernacles among us,” it brings to mind so many images from the Old Testament. A pillar of cloud protects and cools us by day—even as a pillar of fire lights our darkest nights. His law dwells within our hearts—just as Jeremiah had foreseen. The air smells of incense, and evidence of miracles—God’s feeding, His anointing—is all around.

Look at that last paragraph. I used the present tense, “tabernacles,” instead of the past tense “dwelt.” I guess that’s because I have read to the end of the book of John—and on into the next book, Acts, where Christ’s Spirit is unleashed so that He tabernacles among us to this very day.

The Tabernacle permeates the New Testament. That isn’t the only place it can be found. There is an even greater revelation that I don’t have space to describe here. I’m still studying, and I hope to have this most wonderful new truth ready for you to read later in the Lenten season.

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