I like to think that God created this world for the same reasons a husband and wife choose to have children. Since “God is love,” He made us out of desire, placing us at the front and center of His concern. Not content to love without us, God wanted us for unceasing love and communion. Indeed, our basic human needs include loving and being loved. Though we cannot fully explain it, we all hunger for connection and a sense of belonging. We all desire intimacy. It is fundamental to who we are. This is why relationships touch us so deeply and why nothing hurts as much as losing love. Perhaps we feel this deep yearning for love because we are made to seek God, who likewise yearns for us. Such desirous love can only be satisfied by being joined in a deeply meaningful relationship. God desires that we draw close, allowing Him to dwell with us, but we give this up for lesser loves. By estranging ourselves from an infinite God and His infinite love, we’ve lost the most important love of all.
This love is expressed in the Tabernacle in Exodus, where God makes His passionate purpose and yearning desire satisfyingly clear (Exodus 25:8; 29:45–46). Within the Tabernacle’s holist chamber, we find God’s heart pulsating with infinite love—emanating vibrant intensity and escalating desire. We find the Presence of the divine residing between the extended wings of two angelic beings adorning the ark, embracing each other with the passion of lovers (Exodus 25:20; Talmud, Yoma 54 a–b). The intertwined pair holds the sacred light of God’s eternal love, which continually draws each closer to the other. Flanking the atoning cover, they guard the precious life poured out to make us whole again. This is the place from which the marvelous revelation of God’s desirous love emanates. This is the place where heaven and earth touch in exquisite beauty, where God’s glory rests, ever pointing to its consummation. It is the place that highlights God’s undying love and commitment to humanity.
Although God’s indwelling Presence remains magnificently powerful, naturally recoiling from our sin, God gently reaches out from behind the inner curtain with intense longing for the spontaneous desire of others. He earnestly and tenderly calls us near with the intent to embrace us. We all carry a faint recollection of Adam and Eve encountering God while hiding in their alienation, their fears rising in the wake of their misperception and sin (Genesis 3:8–10). If we listen carefully, however, we may hear God’s voice calling yet again in an earnest desire to reunite with us and to share His eternal love and life. There is no need to be afraid. He does not keep us from His Presence but urges us near, even ushering us into His arms.
This divine longing for intimacy should rekindle our confidence and desire to share in the endless life of love God offers us, but it won’t as long as we remain focused on the wrongs we’ve committed, which prompts us to fear God’s knowledge of our misdeeds and the consequences we might suffer. Such insecurity opens us to frustration over our inadequacies and to doubts about being forgiven, an anxiety that only builds as we near the final evaluation of our lives, causing us to lose all confidence and become fearful. Such a focus sets conditions for God’s desire for us, implying that if we meet the terms, we will know whether He really loves and accepts us.
The Tabernacle narrative is the centerpiece of God’s longing desire. Its clarity, however, does not come from the framework of sin and justice but from God’s purpose and desire to be near us. He comes to us, desiring to gather us in His life-giving embrace. He comes to us with His self-giving love to satisfy our deepest longings for relationship and significance. He comes all the way down to where we are, experiencing our sin and death, to arouse our love and longing for Him. As we are drawn into His Presence, we begin to experience the warm embrace of the Redeemer, not the stern face of a judge (Deuteronomy 1:31; Hosea 11:3). God’s unexpected yet earnest desire to dwell amid us and to offer us intimate access is indicated by His instruction to build the tent of meeting (Exodus 25:8; 29:45). First and foremost, the Tabernacle depicts God as a lover stirred by passionate longing for His betrothed. He is passionate not only about His beloved but about the purpose He has created for them. God desires to be intimately close to His people, offering them a high calling to encourage them to draw near and become His special and eternal possession.
The main point is that God created us and the space we occupy to fulfill His ultimate desire to dwell among us. God cares deeply about us and His purposes on earth. He longs to dwell with us. Once we truly open our hearts to understand God’s character, I am certain we will respond to His self-giving love because we’ll no longer want to remain as we are. God left a detailed picture of His unfailing love; it’s described as the undeviating desire of His beating heart—a love that can never be extinguished. God loved the Israelites so much that He personally dwelt within their midst. God dwelt in the person of Jesus and promises to dwell in our midst “because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5, NKJV). God’s relentless desire for nearness is a powerful and enduring message that pulls mankind back into intimate fellowship.
The divine longing for renewed love and human participation should fuel our desire and passion for God’s Person and Presence. We were created for unspoiled love and intimacy. The promise of God’s fulfillment—His beautiful glory shining in unending power—signifies what God wants to do with the world (Exodus 40:34–35). Our destiny is not the stuff of fairy tales but the uncovering of God’s longing desire—the sacred union of heavenly matrimony. God’s dwelling will be with humanity, and the cosmos will be His Tabernacle (Revelation 21:3).
Craig Ashton Jr.