The attention in this section of Exodus turns from commandment to covenant to worship. God’s people were to follow his commandments and, in doing so, enter into a covenant relationship with God that would result in unbelievable blessings for his people.
With that foundation in place, God instructed Moses in the proper worship of God. Instructions in these next chapters discuss the ark of the covenant, the tabernacle, and the garments of the priests, among other things. This section extends from Exodus 25 to Exodus 31. It focuses on the worship of Israel.
Where do you experience the presence of God in your life? Is it in the church building or during a worship service? Is it while you are reading Scripture or walking the trails alone? Is it during your times of prayer?
The fundamental purpose of the tabernacle was to be a sign of God’s presence among the people. “And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.”
We call the main worship space at the church building the “sanctuary.” I suppose this is why. That particular room, in a certain way, is a sign to us of God’s presence. There’s a sacredness about it because it is the primary place where our church gathers to worship as a family of faith. This is the number one physical location on this planet where our church comes to be in the presence of God together. And because we are physical people on a physical planet living out our physical lives and looking forward to the physical resurrection, we have a special place in our hearts for our physical church sanctuary. (And this is why there’s a reluctance to allow the space to be used for other purposes – like yoga!)
It’s not that God only dwells in our church sanctuary while we worship, though. That is not true at all.
God’s presence is with each one of us. The apostle Paul said our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Further, Paul said the church as a group is also the place where the Holy Spirit dwells (1 Corinthians 3:16). So God’s presence is with each believer and within the church family. He dwells in our midst. We don’t build God a sanctuary. We are the sanctuary!
The idea of “dwelling” emerges from the life of Jesus, too. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Jesus very clearly IS God. This verse has very close ties to the idea of God’s dwelling with Israel in the tabernacle.
And so we see one of the main purposes of God in his creation is to dwell within it – specifically, to dwell with humanity, whom he made in his image.
What are we to do with this?
First, we ought to be aware of the presence of God in our lives as we move through the ordinary activities of our days. God is with us. He doesn’t abandon us in our difficulties. He wants to guide us through them. And so we ought to look to him, just as the Israelites would learn to look toward the tabernacle to hear from God.
Second, we really ought to tune our hearts toward God’s presence when we gather together to worship as a church. God is among us. What did Jesus say? “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20). And so we are in the presence of God as we gather together as a church. It is a holy moment, and our senses should be alert in that moment.