Exodus 39-40, Luke 1
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people. – Luke 1:68 ESV
The Tabernacle was completed and on the first day of the first month in the second year since their departure from Egypt, they erected it for the very first time. After many months of hard work and painstaking attention to detail, Moses and the people were able to see all the various pieces of the Tabernacle come together. They consecrated and anointed it so that it might be holy – set apart for God's use only. They cleansed and purified Aaron and his sons, then anointed and consecrated them as well, so that they might serve God as priests in His Tabernacle.
Then when all the work was done and the Tabernacle was complete, the glory of the Lord descended and took up residence. God confirmed the work with a visible sign of His presence. "Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled 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). What an incredible day that must have been. What an amazing sight to have witnessed. The visible glory of God descending in the form of a cloud and filling the Tabernacle. And His glory would rest above the Mercy Seat which sat on top of the Ark of the Covenant, in which were contained the Ten Commandments. "For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys" (Exodus 40:38 ESV). God was among them. His presence was visible to them.
What does this passage reveal about God?
God mercifully made Himself known to the people of Israel. He appeared in a form that allowed them to know He was among them, but was not His true essence. If God had appeared to them in all of His glory and revealed Himself to them as He truly is, they would have been destroyed. So the Tabernacle became symbolic of His holiness, majesty, glory and power. The cloud by day, hovering over the Tabernacle, and the fire by night glowing from within the inner recesses of the Tabernacle, became the representation of His presence among them.
"Finally God was dwelling among His people. His redemption of them was now complete. He had liberated them from bondage in Egypt (chs. 1-15) and adopted them as His special treasure (chs. 15-40). He had made a covenant with them and now blessed them with His presence. He would guide them from then on 'throughout all their journeys' (vv. 36, 38). The descent of God to take up residence in the midst of His people is therefore a fitting climax with which this book closes" (Dr. Thomas L. Constable, Notes on Exodus, Page 160).
What does this passage reveal about man?
While designed by God, the Tabernacle was a man-made structure. Without the presence of God it would remain nothing more than a man-made structure. In and of itself, it was beautiful, but incomplete without God's presence. It was His presence that assured their redemption was complete. Had God left them at any moment, they would have become just another people worshiping in just another building, but to a god who did not exist. Moses knew that God's presence was essential. Just a short time before this, he had prayed to God, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:15-16 ESV). Without God's presence, their sacrifices would be in vain. It was His presence hovering over the Mercy Seat that made forgiveness possible. Without God's help, man is incapable of coming into His presence. Without God's intervention, sin would permanently block man's access and keep him in a perpetual state of isolation and condemnation. But God showed up. He came down and appeared to men in a form they could comprehend and offered redemption on their behalf.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
Which is exactly what God has done for me. He sent His Son, born of a virgin, and in the form of a man. God took on human flesh and walked among us. He came in a form we could comprehend, but with the intention of providing us with redemption. By sending His Son as a man, God provided a way to pay the penalty due for our sin. He would offer His own Son as the sacrifice for the sins of man. His Son would do what no other man had been able to do – live a sinless life, in keeping with God's commands. He would become the spotless Lamb, the ultimate sacrifice for sins. John the Baptist, whose birth is described in Luke 1, would later say of Jesus, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 ESV).
Regarding this aspect of Jesus' earthly ministry, Paul tells us, "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace" (Ephesians 1:7 ESV). God sent His Son to dwell among us. "He is the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15 ESV). "No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father's heart. He has revealed God to us: (John 1:18 NLT). "He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Hebrews 1:3 ESV).
God's plan all along was to send His Son. The Tabernacle was temporary. It was a symbol of something far greater to come. And Luke describes the advent or coming of Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of the world. Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, at his son's birth, prophesied, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David" (Luke 1:68-69 ESV). He knew that his son was only the herald of someone far greater to come – the Messiah Himself. He prophesied that John would "give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace" (Luke 1:77-79 ESV).
I have received the knowledge of that salvation. I have been given access into God's presence by the sacrifice of His Son. I have been the recipient of God's love and mercy. "But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8 ESV). I have had the darkness of my life transformed by the Light of God, the Light of the world. And my redemption is complete.
Father, it is amazing to see the parallels between the Old and New Testaments and see how You have been working all throughout history, preparing mankind for Your redemption plan. You have mercifully revealed Yourself over the centuries in so many ways, but the greatest expression of Your reality is the gift of Your Son who not only made you visible, but made our restored relationship with You possible. Thank You. Amen