“And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” (Ex.25:8)
But Solomon said:
“The heaven of heavens cannot contain You” (2Chron.2:6; 6:18).
“God has measured heaven with a span (v.12), “…the nations are but a drop in the bucket and are dust (v.15), “…and are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless” (v.17).
In Psalm8:3,4: David says,
“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him?, And the son of man that you visit him?”
And yet God tells Moses to build Him a sanctuary so He can dwell in?A structure that was only 30 cubits (45 ft.) long, 10 cubits (15 ft.) wide and high. And yet in His amazing love, God planned Himself a house like those in which his people were living.
He was willing to be among them in the tent!—AMAZING!
The word “sanctuary” means “holy place.”As the ground had become holy because of the presence of God in the burning bush (Exodus 3:5) so the sanctuary would be holy because of the presence of God that overshadowed the structure and dwelled in its symbols. Even though God’s true dwelling place is beyond the heavens, He desired a structure that would represent His holy presence among His people.
God never said He was going to live in the tabernacle in the sense that He was restricted to a geographical spot. He did say, however, that He would dwell between the cherubim. Israel was a theocracy and Jehovah was the King. Israel was to be ruled by God. The tabernacle was to be the place where man meets God. That I may dwell is related to the Hebrew verb from which we derive the word Shekinah, which designates the radiance, glory, and presence of God dwelling among His people.
The tabernacle was a portable sanctuary—a holy place for worshipping God-created in the desert in response to the demand for mobility. It symbolized God’s presence with His people, and was a place where His will was communicated.
At this time the people of Israel were journeyed from Egypt through the wilderness toward the Promised Land, and they were living in tents, so the tabernacle was also a tent. It was designed so that it could easily be dismantled when the Israelites moved their camp and reassembled at the next halting place. The tabernacle was completed on the first day of the first Jewish month (Abib, March-April) in the second year after the exodus from Egypt.
The Pentateuch records 5 different names for the tabernacle:
1) “sanctuary,” denoting a sacred place or set apart, i.e., holy, place;
2)”tent,” denoting a temporary or collapsible dwelling;
3) “tabernacle,” from “to dwell,” denoting the place of God’s presence;
4) “tabernacle of the congregation, or meeting”; and
5)”tabernacle of the testimony”
This tabernacle sat in the center of the Israelite wilderness camp. The camp was divided with the various tribes on each side of the tabernacle. The huge tribe of Judah numbering 186,400 men was the biggest, and faced the door on the east. The smallest tribe of Ephraim, Manasseh and Benjamin had 108,100 and faced the west. On the south was the encampment of Rueben, Simeon and Gad, under the standard of Reuben, numbering 151,450 men. To the north was Dan, accompanied by Asher and Naphtali, making another 157,600 men.
Consequently, the camp itself formed a giant cross with the tabernacle at the center.
Passing through the gate of the court, we are at once confronted with the first and the largest piece of furniture—the bronze altar. Behind that was the bronze laver (the washing basin for the priests). The next item in the courtyard was the tent. Inside the tent, on the left side, was the golden lampstand. On the right side was the golden table of the bread of the Presence. In the center, in front of the veil was the golden altar of incense. Behind the veil was the Holy of Holies where the ark of the covenant and mercy-seat was kept. The seven pieces of furniture in the tabernacle were literally laid out in the shape of a cross. As a person walked through the gate and stood before the bronze altar of sacrifice, he would literally be standing, as it were, at the foot of the cross.
Though it is true that God “dwells not in temples made with hands”(Acts7:48) the miracle of the virgin birth made it possible for the Lord Jesus to dwell among men (John 1:14).
It is not accidental that the word “dwelt” in this text is literally translated “tabernacled.” Now we see who have accepted Christ actually have the Lord dwelling in us, in our earthly bodies—which are called “tents,” or “tabernacles” (2 Corithians 5:1, Galatians 2:20, Colossians 1:27). The dwelling place of Christ is also in the heavenly sanctuary where He makes intercession for the saints. The tabernacle of Moses’ day was a remarkable picture of both the high priestly work of Christ here on earth and His eternal work in the heavens.