In the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, the tabernacle was erected. . . So Moses finished the work. 34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 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 40:17, 33-34 ESV
After endless careful preparation, the tabernacle was complete. Expert workmanship. Excessive attention to detail. The highest quality materials. Donated and hired time and labor. Finally, everything was in place and the tabernacle was assembled, and God moved in.
Israel had some trying days in their not-so-distant future. Their faith was also relatively young as a nation, as individuals. They didn’t have centuries of recorded history verifying God’s plan for them as His people. Their most familiar context was slavery. God was reshaping their thinking. He was their God, and they were His people. He was present with them and would remain, faithful and sovereign.
And with the tabernacle in place, the sacrifice instruction begins. Sins, intentional and unintentional, by leaders or common people, individual or corporate, all demanded repentance and sacrifice. A new vocabulary methodically punctuates the next chapters.
Offering. Without blemish. Accepted. Atonement. Kill. Blood. Fire. Entrails. Burn. Pleasing aroma.
And the priest shall make atonement for him for the sin which he has committed, and he shall be forgiven.Leviticus 4:35 b ESV
The repeated refrain. For centuries, this practice of sacrifice will remain. Israel would repeat this ritual, pinning all their confidence on a future sacrifice that would once for all pay for their sins as their Messiah would hang on a cross, bloodied and bruised. While they wait, they are offered a reminder to hope, a visible promise of forgiveness. As the sacrifice assaults their senses — sticky blood, burning meat, priestly murmurs, splashing water — the messiness of their sin will again remind them of their need of a Savior, of the deep divide between them and God. He has taken up residence right there, and yet, he remains untouchable, distanced by sin.
Now, we look back. Gratitude swells as I picture the tabernacle and all God taught the Israelites through the very construction of it. His love, His plan, His foresight. He knew that I needed a Savior, just like Israel of old, and His plan solved that issue for everyone from Adam through the end of mankind. Just as the tabernacle had one gate, He provided one way. Just as He indwelt the tabernacle, He floods my heart and life through the miracle of Jesus Christ. Just as the lambs burned as a pleasing aroma, so our lives play out for His glory. Just as Israel knew atonement through a coming hope, so do we as we remember that hope fulfilled.
The Old Testament is not just an interesting story of past happenings (or an unexplained record of animal killing), but a more vivid lens to expose the vibrancy of our faith, the eternal intentionality of God the Father as He crafted our salvation.
Father God, thank you for leaving nothing to chance, for carefully, methodically explaining salvation, demonstrating our sin and your plan, and making a way for me to know you intimately. Thank you for the picture that the tabernacle gives us of you and your plan through the ages. Thank you for taking care of my messy sins once for all and offering at no cost to me the hope of heaven. May my life be a beautiful aroma to You. In Jesus name, amen.