God is definitely in the construction industry. He is putting together a house, a dwelling place, a temple – for Himself, among people.
God’s desire to dwell, be found, in the midst of people whom He created in His own image and likeness is nothing new. After all, that was the reason for their creation – to commune with Him and with one another. In Genesis 3:8 we find “the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day,” – a beautiful picture of God’s unhindered coexistence with man.
In Exodus 25 God expressly requests for a place to dwell in among the people He had chosen for Himself, the people He had entered a covenant with – to be their God and they to be His people. Exodus 25:8 And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. It was out of this intense desire God had to dwell among His people that He ordered the construction of that first ever tabernacle – simply to dwell amongst His own. Immediately after the covenant is confirmed by the agreement of both parties and sealed with the blood of the sacrifice, God initiates the construction of the tabernacle (sanctuary) that would facilitate His abode among His people. It was His longing and desire.
The erection of this first tabernacle had its roots in God’s desire to dwell among His own.
But in order for Him to reside among His own, there were special requirements that needed to be met and the design of the tabernacle did exactly that. These special requirements arose as a result of God’s nature – to be precise, His holiness. Over and over again throughout Scriptures we find mention of God’s majestic holiness – Exodus 15:11, Isaiah 6:3; that He is light and that there is no darkness or evil in Him – 1 John 1:5, 1 Tim 6:16. God’s perfect holiness would never allow Him to come in contact or enter into association with sin – even by proxy. On the other hand, mankind as a race had fallen, having succumbed to sin in the garden of Eden, and even those who He had chosen as His people were not immune from it. He could not dwell freely and without hindrance among people because of His holiness. The reason Adam and Eve initially enjoyed unhindered communion with God was because of their initial, sinless state. Once they had fallen, it was no possible to maintain that level of fellowship as sin had caused separation between them and God.
God needed to maintain that separation from sin while at the same time stay close to His people with whom He had entered into a covenantal relationship. As their God He desired to be in their midst, among them and not distant from them. So to circumvent any connection with sin or man in his sinful state, God presented Moses with the architectural design and blueprint of His dwelling place after the heavenly prototype together with an elaborate system of worship to (at least temporarily) facilitate cleansing from sin. Moses was strictly warned by the Lord not to deviate from the original design received for the construction of the sanctuary but remain loyal to it.
The sanctuary was to be built out of materials that the people themselves would donate and by the hands of those God had endowed with special skills and talents. The list of items required were listed by God in Exodus 25:3-7 while the rest of the chapter and the ensuing 5 chapters are crammed with details of the construction. Bezaliel was singled out and gifted by God “with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship,” (Ex 31:3) in constructing the the various parts of the sanctuary. Alongside him God appointed Oholiab and gifted all able men with the ability to make all that God had commanded Moses in the original design. (Ex 31:6)
Fast forward a few thousand years and God’s longing and desire to be in the midst of His people had not waned at all.
God had always desired a relationship, a connection with those whom He created in His likeness. In Christ He finally made a way for that to happen to His heart’s content. In Christ, God has made connecting with Him a universal possibility. The way God approached and facilitated this matter of dwelling among His people might have changed but His desire did not. Only this time it was by way of the new covenant He had established through His son which is far superior than the old. What was lacking in the old covenant God fully provided for in the new by implementing His original plan of sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.
Galatians 4:4 – 5
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
We see God doing the same thing again under the new covenant – building himself a temple, a tabernacle, a dwelling place among His own people. This time however, it is made out of living stones, people who have put their trust in His Son for their justification and sanctification and pledged submission to His Lordship. The foundation of this house stands firm on the retrospective eyewitness account of the holy apostles of Christ and the prophetic messianic pronouncements of the OT prophets with Christ Himself at the centre of it all. Having carefully laid the foundations for this house, God is now erecting the rest of the building – out of people. People are His chosen “building bricks”. It is amongst people God has always desired to and dwelt. It is these people God is now using to build a dwelling place for Himself. People are the building blocks of that sanctuary God is seeking to dwell in. And precisely herein lies the biggest challenge of all in this task of building people together – it requires their willing participation and active engagement.
Where His people’s willingness and engagement are not forthcoming, the building work stalls. And humans are, by nature, fickle creatures.
Still, God is working towards a dwelling place for Himself by building together those who are in Christ (both Jew and gentile) by His Spirit. Ephesians 2:22
In him YOU also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.