Before King Solomon built a proper temple, the nation of Israel wandered through the desert, worshiping in a tent. But not just any tent – it was, perhaps, the most beautiful and remarkable tent that has ever been constructed by man. It was built without power tools, according to the instructions God gave Moses, and it included a frame of carved acacia wood overlaid with gold, curtains of finely woven linen in intricate designs, utensils of pure gold inlaid with gemstones, and even a water-proof covering of dugong hides. (This probably means it was much more beautiful inside than out, fitting to the point I want to make.) It was large enough for hundreds of people to worship in its enclosures and yet portable enough to be carried by hand. You can read about it in Exodus 36-40. The Israelites transported this tent through the desert on their wilderness wanderings, setting it up as their central hub when they camped and watching in awe as the visible Spirit of God settled upon it. At all times it was kept according to the rules God established for its purity as His dwelling place. The cost of such a thing would be practically incalculable today, pointing to the great value it had in the sight of God and all His people. It must have been a strange scene, this beautiful, costly, intricate, holy structure being moved around a barren wasteland with the Spirit of God hovering around and within it.
It is, perhaps, even stranger to realize that we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (2 Cor. 6:16, NIV) To belong to the Kingdom of God is always to be a stranger in this fallen world, to wander far from home, following the Spirit’s lead. It also means that you and are the beautiful, costly, intricate, holy home which God has determined to keep in this wilderness. He has constructed your frame and equipped your hands according to His design. Your purity is His purity. Wherever you move, He lives. And if a tent made of perishable materials could be the most treasured heart of God’s interaction with the world, then you are precious beyond measure in His sight.
When the nation of Israel was fully established in the Promised Land, their tent of worship was superseded by an even more glorious temple building. And so it is with us. Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. (2 Cor. 5:1, NIV) We long to know that eternal home, but until that day, do not forget the incredible beauty, purpose and value you have in this world by virtue of being the tabernacle of God.
This post was a collaborative effort with many thanks to Dawn Bradley.