Saturday, February 1, 2020

God's Dwelling with People

God created people in His own image, as a being fitted to be the dwelling place of the triune God and capable of enjoying fellowship with Him. By our fall into sin, we forfeited this indescribably wonderful privilege, however, and now, by nature, we find ourselves alienated from the life of God and walking in darkness (Isa. 9:2; Eph. 4:18; 1 John 1:6). Because God is infinitely and inflexibly holy, He can no longer dwell with people unless sin is put away (Pss. 5:4; 15:1–2; 101:7; 2 Cor. 6:16–18). In His infinite love and grace God therefore designed successive sanctuaries to serve as pictures of His saving presence in the world and of the way in which He could dwell and have fellowship with people in a manner consistent with His holy character.

In the Old Testament one such sanctuary was the tabernacle. The tabernacle served as a meeting place between God and sinful people, forming God’s ordained point of contact between heaven and earth. There, in that tent pitched in Israel’s camp, God took up His abode and indicated His desire to dwell in the midst of His people (Ex. 25:8, 22; 29:42–46). The tabernacle also functioned as a place of revelation, proclaiming the holiness and majesty of God and acting as a tangible reminder of the fact that sin brings separation from God and of the need for an atoning sacrifice to make reconciliation (Lev. 16; Isa. 59:2; Rom. 3:25). God cannot be approached on our terms but only on the basis of His revealed will (Ex. 25:40).

God gave the tabernacle a more established form when He commissioned the son of David to build the temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 6–8). God’s covenant with David linked God’s dwelling among the Israelites with the royal offspring of David such that God’s “house” or temple became inseparable from David’s “house” or dynasty (2 Sam. 7:4–17). God’s abiding presence with His people depended upon the faithfulness of the son of David to the Lord (1 Kings 9:1–9).

The tabernacle/temple, with the ordinances belonging to it, was thus a type or picture of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom God would become incarnate as the obedient son of David, and dwell—literally, “tabernacle”—with His people (John 1:14; 2:19–21). On account of the gracious provision of God in the person and work of His beloved Son, Christ Jesus is the only meeting place between the holy God and sinful man (John 14:6). In Christ, we have redemption through His blood and the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace (Eph. 1:7). He is the One who spans the gulf between deity and humanity so that through His blood we who were at one time far off might be brought near and enjoy fellowship with Him (Eph. 2:13, 18; 1 Peter 3:18).

The tabernacle/temple of the Old Testament is also a type of the church built by Christ (Matt. 16:18). In the New Testament God no longer dwells in buildings made with hands (1 Kings 8:27; Acts 7:48–50) but in His people as “God’s building” (1 Cor. 3:9, 16–17). The church is “the house of God” or the “habitation of God through the Spirit” where believers “offer up spiritual sacrifices” (Eph. 2:21–22; 1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Peter 2:5). As the tabernacle was consecrated by the glory of God and set apart as a holy place for the service of God, so believers in the New Testament, who are not their own but have been bought with a price, are to be consecrated and set apart for His use (Rom. 6:13; 1 Cor. 6:19–20).

The return of Christ will bring God’s ideal for the tabernacle/temple to its ultimate fulfillment (Rev. 7:15). God will dwell with His redeemed people in the open glory of the Lamb of God, and they will see His face (Rev. 21:3–4, 22–23; 22:3–5). Let us, therefore, seek and desire above all else that we may dwell in the house of the Lord forever, where we shall behold His beauty and be satisfied with His goodness (Pss. 23:6; 27:4; 65:4).