In my last post, I discussed God’s heart-throbbing desire to dwell among us—within the cavern of every human heart and by design throughout the vast creation. We are the object of God’s deepest desire and longing; He desires us like a lover desires His beloved. The Exodus Tabernacle is a manifestation of God’s efforts to dwell with His beloved. Gloriously, God’s Presence came to dwell amid the Israelites, but they remained at arm’s length. This separation is clear, as the people stood outside while God’s Presence dwelt inside, behind a thick curtain. The reasons given for this separation between the divine and mortal men are our impurity and sin. This fragmentation is described as resulting from our damaged relationship with God. The Israelites made sacrifices to seek cleansing and forgiveness, which were necessary for them to interact with God, but it wasn’t a permanent solution. God promised a greater union with no separation, which would renew their hearts to know and love God perfectly, leading them to dwell in the place of promise, the beauty of creation restored.
Jesus’ actions to redeem the world are consistent with God’s yearning desire to dwell among us. Jesus brings forgiveness, transformation, and abundant life in the precise ways that God had described. Jesus provides cleansing, making our direct contact with God possible. The problem that fragments the world must be atoned for in the fullest sense. The tangible symbols of the Tabernacle anticipated this reality—the divine yet human Son who would bring about God’s dwelling among humanity—and that God would dwell inside the people, as one of them, so they might receive endless life in unseparated, loving unity. Jesus came to save us from our sins, not from an angry God who wants to destroy us. He informs us that He is preparing a place for us so that we can be together forever.
The Tabernacle is mainly a message about God’s desires and what He is doing for the world He loves. God cleanses the place of His dwelling, for He will not permit Himself or His creation to be defiled. The pattern was made exactly as God intended, revealing His plan to love and save us to the uttermost. This is clearly expressed in the single purpose given—God’s desire to dwell among us by His unfathomable grace (Exodus 25:8). The message isn’t a threat of judgment or a demand for confession, as we are already included in God’s invitation. It’s about staying in covenant relationship with a gracious God and how He is making a way for us to draw even nearer. God’s intimate and holy Presence in the midst of His people guarantees the fulfillment of His ultimate desire for intimate communion. The focus of redemption is on God’s passionate desire to create a people for Himself, not an organization of those who confess belief in doctrinal theories. God’s primary concern is not my personal salvation but the larger picture of what He is doing for the world and how His saving activity reveals the beauty of His unfathomable love. The message is ultimately about who God is, revealing His passionate desire to dwell among a receptive people who are renewed to replicate His beautiful love.
I feel that as Christians, we have lost this plot in so many ways. We have become so fixated on sin and guilt that we have forgotten the desire and depths of God’s love that cause us to cry out for His Presence. For too long, Christianity has been peddling the idea of a judgmental deity whose anger at human sin must be appeased to gain favor instead of presenting a loving God abounding in grace. Christians create their own burdens by focusing almost exclusively on individual sin and guilt instead of the greatest Lover of the universe who desires to commune with us. Far from reducing God’s saving work to retributive law through which courts can condemn or punish, the Tabernacle presents a relational God of inconceivable grace—a God who longs to redeem and make us whole, allowing us to draw near and join Him in intimate communion. When we begin to clearly understand how God fulfills His longing through His passionate and relentless pursuit of us, our doctrinal theories about enduring a demanding and exacting deity fall short.
What is largely missing today is a meaningful view of what God is doing. The mysterious images of sacrifice and atonement speak to this issue to mend the rift between God and humanity, allowing Him to dwell more fully among us. God’s rescue of the world is like an unfolding event that opens onto a fuller image of His incredible love as it emerges in human history. It clearly reveals who God really is and how we are to live in a world that remains broken. People today are concerned with the world’s suffering and injustice, and why God does not intervene to prevent it.
When we focus on our personal salvation, we typically fail to appreciate the important role of God’s overall purpose and to understand why we still await a future union with Him. There is a much bigger story behind what God has been doing to rebind creation and restore all things. In the Tabernacle, the angelic beings were woven into the curtains and stationed directly over the atoning place, where they watched the story of divine devotion and longing unfold—to which they can only gaze in awed approval and stunned silence. This cosmic picture of heaven and earth is important to our understanding of God’s saving actions. There’s a special revelation about God communicated through this storyline, but without recovering this lost message, which reveals the bigger picture of what God is doing, we will lack an answer that resonates in the hearts of others. Without knowing the backstory, the history of evil and suffering can be perplexing, even for angelic beings.
I believe God’s Tabernacle or Sanctuary, as an earthly copy of heavenly reality, provides meaningful answers that can address people’s perplexing questions to communicate the meaning of this world. The message that emerges is God’s longing desire to dwell amid His people and through them fill the world with His glory. God unconditionally rescues the world that He loves, desiring to use us in His redemptive process to expand His dwelling place. God designed the pattern through which He would dwell among His people, showing them His intense love for the world. Rather than starting from man’s need for salvation, a consequence of the larger picture, we must start with God’s passionate desire to take hold of His creation—God’s longing to call upon a people who will sanctify His name and character in this world. God’s deep desire for humanity expresses the purpose of our lives and the way God chooses to relate to our world. God aims to have a priestly people participating in His plan to draw creation back into the divine heart. God’s desire for us does not emerge from necessity or lack but from His overflowing and pure desire to commune with us. The world, however, remains broken and lacking, challenging God’s desire for created beings to fully participate in His love, requiring its cleansing as well.
What is unique about this cosmic story is that it helps explain what God is doing with our world. It provides us with the motivation for salvation and gives us something important to share with the world. All creation is restless to see the grand resolution and climax of God’s desires for humanity (Romans 8:18–28). God’s pursuing love for us is unfailingly steadfast and deeply passionate. When we reach the final chapter of the Father’s tale, we find that His name is written on the foreheads of all those who choose to love and serve Him, as they have come to know the truth about Him and now commune with Him face-to face (Revelation 22:4). The focus is God’s passionate desire to create a people for Himself, not an organization based on confessing belief in a doctrinal creed. God wants us to join in His grand desire to advance His kingdom. He longs for us to embrace His unfathomable love and to share His glorious desire and purpose with the world around us. It is a mistake to focus on our sin and guilt, seeing them as the main topics of the gospel; instead, we should immerse ourselves in the delight of God’s deepest longing for love and communion with us—indeed with all of creation. What a glorious and beautiful invitation into the divine communion we all yearn to join!
Craig Ashton Jr.