THE TABERNACLE – NR 1
THE WHITE CURTAIN
Scripture : Exodus 27: 9-15; Revelation 21: 3-6
There are chapters and passages in the Scriptures that makes you dead tired to read. For example where Moses is given instructions about what the tabernacle should look like and how it should be constructed. What has all these detailed descriptions have to do with MY spiritual life, one might ask.
But if it did not have any value, why would the Lord have had it taken up into His Word? Is there not perhaps a great message contained in it? The tabernacle was indeed a construction of which God himself was the architect. And Jesus said that the ENTIRE OT testifies/talks about HIM (Jesus) (John 5:39). Therefore the Tabernacle also testifies about Jesus. One can see Jesus in the tabernacle. One gets to know Jesus by looking at the tabernacle!
Why did God not leave the design and the contrivance of the detail of the tabernacle to Moses’s creative ability?
Because Hebrews 8 says that the tabernacle was an earthly depiction of a heavenly reality. God wants us to see something of the divine. And Moses could not devise that. With divine is meant God’s presence with and for His redeemed people. A presence that is OPEN in Christ, and is based on the blood of Christ (John1:14).
The Gospel message is contained in the design of the tabernacle. And God the Father is the architect and designer thereof.
The word “tabernacle“ means literally “to reside”. It means TENT. To “pitch a tent and live among others”.
In the Garden of Eden, God “tabernacled” with the first human couple. That indeed was the great purpose why He created humans. He wanted to DWELL (pitch tent) with them as their God. He created a bond/relation between Himself and man. HE created it, not man.
The Fall broke this bond and brought separation. But the great golden promise which runs like a refrain throughout the Bible is that God shall everlastingly reinstate the bond.
And here, while the nation Israel are moving through the desert, the Lord comes and makes this promise so concrete that He pitched a tent among them – in the form of the tabernacle which they could pack up and take with them as they travelled towards Canaan.
Later, when the Israelites were settled in Palestine, Solomon built the temple, which functioned exactly the same as the tabernacle.
We must not place the tabernacle/temple on the same level as the church building of today. The Lord does not live in buildings. The purpose of the tabernacle/temple was that it was an area where God made His work of salvation concrete, which would later be realised in Jesus – in front of their eyes. Therefore: After Jesus finally did come, the purpose of the temple became obsolete. Now the CHURCH of Christ is the temple/tabernacle – the place where dwelling-together is restored.
If one could look down from a hill, what would one see? Not the tabernacle itself, because it was covered with animal hides, therefore grey and insignificant like all the rest of the 1000s of tents of the Israelites.
What would have caught the eye: 50m x 25m surrounded by pure white. Wherever the nation of the Lord stopped over during their trek through the desert, they stayed in tents, but among the tents, was the tabernacle with its pure white curtain which radiated a message of HOPE.
Just think who were the ones staying in those tents. The Israelites with their lassitude, lack insight, querulous, self-interest, unclean thoughts, revolt. Who wants to dwell among such people? GOD DOES!! That is why the tabernacle was among the bad people.
The first thing that one would have seen from up on the hill, is the white curtain. A place of glory AMONG the 1000s of complaining, grumbling, moaning people. The white curtain radiates hope. HERE is a marked out piece of ground in the wide desert. The Lord wants to be among His people and not somewhere up in the high heavens. He comes down among the 1000s of grey tents. He marks out for Himself an area in the midst of struggling people.
Centuries later it happened exactly like that when He came to earth in Jesus Christ: John 1:1: The Word became flesh and came to dwell among us. God’s glory entered INTO our grey (tents)existence. That is the language of the white curtain. He comes and creates for Himself an area amongst insignificant people who deserves the fires of hell.
To only deliver them out of Egypt was not enough for Him. The Lord daily strains back to Paradise, where He and man dwelled together. There (in paradise) there was no piece of ground marked out for Himself. EVERYTHING was filled with His glorious presence. Never shall the living God rest until the good time of old is restored once again. Paradise must be restored!
And HERE it starts to come into being. A small patch of ground marked out AMONGST His people. In an area of 50m x 25m His glory comes to stand among the grey tents of His people. That was the real purpose of the deliverance out of Egypt. That is His purpose with man’s salvation out of lostness in sin: He wants to be WITH and remain with you for eternity – in a personal relationship.
That is why 1 Cor 3:16 says that the CHURCH – saved people – is the tabernacle of the Spirit. He is still marking out a space for Himself. Not a patch of ground, not a building, but His CHURCH who is present in the desert of the world.
Is it not wonderful to think: Within this secular city – in which we live – with its multitude of people, the Lord has marked out for Himself an area where His presence dwells: This congregation. Not the church building. But people who personally know His salvation in Christ, and who gather here around His Word and sacraments every week.
The white curtain points towards something more though: (sounds almost as if it cancels the foregoing).
It points to the holiness of God which creates distance between Him and sinners. The white curtain creates separation. 2,5m high. In the tabernacle dwells a holy God. The sinner cannot simply rush into His presence. He is surrounded by a curtain of holiness. A definite NO to everything unclean, dirty and sinful.
The white curtain says something of the powerlessness of fallen humanity trying to get into God’s presence by itself. Continuously the human runs him/herself up against the holiness of God and starts searching for an entrance.
You see: on the one side, the white curtain draws the Israelite to the tabernacle like a magnet. But on reaching it, the curtain forms a high obstacle. It is impossible to cross over the curtain as if it does not exist.
The message is clear: On the one hand: The holy God is living among His saved people – who do not deserve it.
On the other hand: There is a particular way He created in which a sinner may approach Him. Not in just any old way! Not carelessly. Not entitled. There is only one door/opening through which man could enter. On the eastern side: one opening 10m wide! The widest door imaginable.
In that, we see the generous hospitality of God. No iron gate with locks. He does not make it difficult to enter. But He also does not give just anyone the right to enter any which way. He gives only one door. But it is a wide door.
Sometimes one sees that some people are so aware of their sinfulness and the holiness of God, that they doubt whether there truly is a door. Lifelong doubt and insecurity.
Or they imagine that the door is so narrow that almost no one can enter – only the most pious. Because did Jesus not say small is the gate and narrow the road (Matt 7:13). Like the eye of a needle.
How can the tabernacle door be 10 meters wide if Jesus said that the gate to eternal life is SMALL? If it is so small, then it must be a difficult business to enter! It is a complicated matter to be saved. Because NARROW is the gate. Well, a small thin camel might still get through the eye of a needle, but how can one get yourself so thin?
The entire misunderstanding is that we cannot grasp that Jesus is HIMSELF the door. The 10-metre wide door of the tabernacle is Christ Jesus himself. It is written for all to see in John 10:9 and John 14:6.
There is not a door to the Door!
We think we have to go through a door to get to the Door, Jesus. And that first door is very narrow. It takes struggle and effort and spiritual self-improvement to be able to pass through and THEN hopefully, you will get to Jesus who is the actual Door.
NO!!! There is not a door to the Door. Only Jesus HIMSELF is the 10-metre wide-open door! Only Him. There is not more than one door to God. Only Jesus Christ. As with Noah’s ark which also had only one door. And the tabernacle also. And the temple.
But then why does Jesus say that the gate is narrow, while it is indeed so wide? How can such a wide gate be narrow?
Because the gate, Jesus, is so wide and open, people do not enter, because they can’t believe it, and try to cut open their doors.
We think that there must be a catch somewhere: surely the door cannot be so wide and open. God’s hospitality can’t be so generous. Then we rather cut open small little doors through which we try to worm until the perspiration runs. Can you see?
The wide door is narrow because we find it difficult to believe that it is wide. Unbelief is the problem. It is so extremely difficult for us as self-sufficient people to go through the wide door because we do not want to accept God’s free grace. We want to deserve entrance for OURSELVES! We WANT to struggle to get in. We want to worry and fret and lay awake at night. And we do not want to surrender our sin and bow down to Jesus’s will for our life. This heart inside of me that resists so strongly, is the cause for the wide gate to become narrow. My own heart makes a narrow gate of it.
We also do not want to accept that there is only one door (Jesus). We first do an ages long study of Islam, Buddhism, New Age, Sects, Philosophies, Da Vinci Code, Judas gospel to see if there is not POSSIBLY another door of which the church did not tell us.
And in that way, we waste immeasurably amounts of energy and time and strength – while the only true door – JESUS CHRIST, is standing WIDE open. We could’ve just walked through and found rest!
To walk through means to start TRUSTING that Jesus’s sacrifice is your only salvation. Only His sacrifice.
Can the door still be wider than 10 meters?
Yes, it can!! In Revelation 21 we see the new earth. The final great eternal tabernacle/paradise. The final fulfilment of the great desire of the heart of God. Verse 22: No temple. No little patch of ground. The entire new earth is His dwelling place. No white curtain with one wide entrance. The entire new Jerusalem is OPEN in every direction. A curtain is unnecessary. A door is unnecessary.
And know this: Whoever NOW ALREADY have entered with Jesus as the door by the grace of the Lord, SHALL be in the new earth!
Translated by Marthie Wilson