Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Chronological Bible, Feb. 4-6 - the Tabernacle then, the Tabernacle now

Following some of the outward liturgical practices of the Egyptians, but not the theology, the people of Israel at God's command build and maintain for Him a Tabernacle - a word that literally means "dwelling place." No expense of time, treasure or talent is spared. God's tabernacle gets the best gold, the prettiest cloth, the coolest looking uniforms, all made by the most skillful hands. Interesting how the Torah says that God gifted people with the skill to work with cloth, metal, etc.. 

The purpose of the tabernacle - which contained a sanctuary (holy place) and was an early, transportable version of the three temples (Solomon, the Babylonian returnees, and Herod) - was to be literally God's House, a place where He would be present and could receive offerings. And so naturally it had to be holy. And beautiful. And well-kept. And treated with respect. And suitable for being carried across the landscape of the Middle East according to the will of Jehovah.

And so it was until Pentecost, when a new Temple was constructed. God would henceforth live in the bodies of His Body. He would live in us. "Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit." esus was ever ambivalent about the Temple, respecting it as God's House but saying it was just after all rocks and the Kingdom of God is within you. As prophesied, the temple of Herod was destroyed by the Romans, and the Jews slowly abandoned the priest in favor of the rabbi, the synagogue in favor of the temple. But even before the destruction of the Temple, Christians knew and experienced the thrilling new reality that their bodies had replaced the temple as the dwelling place of God. That's what it means to be "filled with the Spirit", a universal expectation for Christians but only an occasional experience for the prophets of the Old Covenant.

Here's what it means to me that the New Tabernacle is now sitting here at my table, typing these words: First, as the attending Levites were commanded, it must be treated with the strictest of holiness. Nothing unclean, no impure union with women or the idolatrous spirits that plague this world, may be permitted. His temple will be a house of prayer, not a den of thieves. Second, it must be well-cared for in a physical sense, quick to be moved wherever necessary, quick to be readied for God's service. The poles, pegs, ropes and sea cow hides need to be kept in good working order. Laziness and indifference in this mundane task is not acceptable. To accept His presence into this body is to accept the Levitical responsibility of holy, conscientious treatment of the things of God - which includes "my" body, which of course is not mine at all, but has been bought with a price. This is how I choose through grace to honor God with my body, His temple: I eat right, I exercise, I guard my heart and my eyes and I breathe spirituallly, exhaling sin through rebuke and confession and inhaling the Word by the Spirit's power through reading, prayer, listening and meditation.

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