What happens in our reading (Exodus 19-28) had been a LONG time coming. Longer than the 430 years Israel had lived in Egypt (12:40-41). Longer than the time God first called Abraham.
Something big was about to happen.
Mount Sinai, a.k.a Horeb, has always been viewed as a special place for God to meet man. His people. It was here the Angel of Yahweh appeared in a burning bush to call Moses to deliver His people from bondage (3:2-6). And it was at this mountain Moses was to bring Israel to worship God (3:12). This was the driving force of the 10 signs/plagues (5:1, 3; 7:16; 8:1, 20, 27-28; 9:1, 14; 10:3, 7-8, 24-26).
Once the people passed through the saving waters of the Red Sea, they journeyed to Sinai. When they arrived we are given a very important date (19:1-2) – days 48 and 49 since their exodus from Egypt and Passover. This puts Moses’ mountain summit with Yahweh on the 50th day. This became known as the Day of Pentecost (Greek term for 50th). So what? If you pay close attention to this section your jaw will drop when you get to Acts 2. No time for that now.
The first order of business on the Mount, make a covenant with Israel (19-24). Here are some important highlights:
- Moses became the mediator between the Israel and the LORD (19:3).
- If the people keep the covenant’s terms they will be blessed (19:5-6).
- They agree and prepare to meet God at the foot of the mountain (19:7-19).
- The LORD came down (19:20), gave the people the 10 words (a.k.a. commandments) of His covenant (20:1-17) and additional instructions (20:22-23:1).
- The covenant was established (24:1-18) with blood sacrifice and a ceremonial meal shared with Moses, Aaron, his sons, 70 elders of Israel, and get this, Yahweh!
That is when things got really exciting – the building of the Tabernacle (25:1-31:18)! Everything has been moving toward this moment. Many will not see its significance, but that’s because our Western eyes only sees a big army tent with fancy furniture for the Jewish people. They saw Genesis 1-2.
The Tabernacle was a small step in restoring what was lost in the Fall. The Creator has come to dwell among His people (25:8). Don’t get me wrong, they are still fallen people. Yet, special measures were made for this holy God to dwell with His sinful people. Many people hate the Book of Leviticus, but all of these bloody, monotonous and detailed instructions were what made it possible for an unholy people to live among a holy God. It is the closest a people or nation has come since Adam and Eve were banished.
But the parallels between Creation and the Tabernacle are many:
- The Creation account is structured around 7 acts of creation and each are marked by the words, Then God said (Gen. 1:3, 6, 9, 14, 20, 24, 26). The instruction to build the Tabernacle is divided into 7 acts, each beginning with the LORD spoke to Moses.(Ex. 25:1; 30:11, 17, 22, 34; 31:1, 12). The Tabernacle is portrayed as a reconstruction of God’s good creation.
- The Garden of Eden contained gold and jewels (2:12). The Tabernacle was made with gold and jewels (Ex. 25:3, 7).
- The Garden of Eden was guarded by cherubim (Gen. 3:24), as was the Tabernacle (Ex. 25:18).
- At the close of creation God rested on the 7th (Sabbath) day (Gen. 2:1-3). The last instruction for the Tabernacle was to observe the Sabbath day (Ex. 31:12-18).
- In Creation, humanity was made in the image (pattern) of God (Gen. 1:26-27). The Tabernacle was made according to the pattern God had given Moses (Ex. 25:9).
This is all fascinating, but the Tabernacle had a much grander purpose – to reveal the coming Seed – Jesus Messiah. The One who will bring us into perfect fellowship with God and restore paradise lost (Rev. 21-22).
- Jesus is depicted as God’s moveable Tabernacle (Jn. 1:14).
- He is our High Priest (Heb. 3:1; 4:15-16) of a superior priesthood and a new and better covenant (Heb. 7-9).
- God’s covenant laws are written on our hearts (Heb. 8:10), not stones (II Cor. 3:7).
- No more bloody offerings, Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice (Heb. 9-10).
- Through the Israel’s Seed we approach the mercy seat/throne of God! The Messiah became our mediator and moves us from the east into the sacred space of the Holy of Holies – the very presence of Yahweh! (Heb. 4:14-16) We are not at the foot of God’s holy mountain. We are on the outside of the Tabernacle, just happy to be in the proximity of the Creator. We are brought into the Holy of Holies.
- God’s Spirit has created a new Tabernacle/Temple within us (I Cor. 3:16; 6:19)!
Does this not bring you to your knees? Can we go through the progression of these narratives without any emotion? Are we not in awe? Are we still asking questions like, “How much do I have to obey and still be saved?” Or make statements like, “I love God but I want to live my own life.” Only the hard of heart can come away from these narratives and be indifferent.
Let’s recap Israel’s story with our own:
- God saved us when we passed through the waters (baptism) – our greatest enemy was destroyed in the sea as we emerged on the other side no longer enslaved to sin and death (Rom. 6:4-14).
- We have been brought to His holy mountain where Jesus Christ is our mediator of the new covenant (Heb. 9:15).
- The meal of the new covenant is shared, not just with the elite like Moses, Aaron and the elders of Israel, but all of God’s children (Lk. 22:14-20). Do not miss the point: we share this covenant meal with one another and Christ!
- We have returned to a partial renewing of the Garden of Eden. God comes down and dwells/Tabernacles within us (I Cor. 3:16) as we march toward the Promised Land – the new and greater Eden (Rev. 21-22).
Can you see our story within the Exodus narratives? We are meant to draw off of these to add life to things we hold sacred – baptism, Communion, the Spirit, etc. Sit back and allow them to run through your mind, over and over, as you continue to peel back the layers of this incredible story.
*All Scripture quoted from the Holman Christian Standard Bible
*Blog resources: The Penteteuch as Narratives by John H. Sailhamer; Logos word studies.