NASHVILLE (BP) — This weekly Bible study appears in Baptist Press in a partnership with LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Through its Leadership and Adult Publishing team, LifeWay publishes Sunday School curricula and additional resources for all age groups.
This week’s Bible study is adapted from The Gospel Project curriculum.
Bible Passages: Exodus 25:1-9; 39:32-43; 40:34-38
Discussion Questions: How would God’s presence filling the tabernacle have affected your understanding of God’s character; of His greatness? What does God’s presence among the Israelites teach you about His desire to dwell among you and your fellow Christians? Consider yourself as a mini-tabernacle. In what ways do you see God’s glory in your life? Is there any visible or sensory evidence of God’s presence in and through you? Why or why not?
Food for Thought:
God filled the tabernacle with His presence. He had manifested His presence earlier to the Israelites through a pillar of cloud. A cloud was visible over the temporary tent of meeting outside the Israelite camp, where Moses and the Lord talked (Exodus 13:21; 33:7-11). But now something new and fantastic happened. God visibly showed up in the heart of the camp above the tabernacle, the newly constructed tent of meeting, as Exodus 40:34-35 indicates: “The cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses was unable to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud rested on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.”
Twice in these verses “the glory of the LORD” is emphasized. The term translated “glory” carried ideas of both “weightiness” and “brightness.” With reference to the God of Israel, glory referred to the overwhelming manifestation of His presence.
Thus, Moses had a continuing desire to see God’s glory (Exodus 33:18), even after conversing with God “face to face” in the tent outside the camp, “just as a man speaks with his friend” (Exodus 33:11). In response to this request, God gave Moses a partial display of His glory — “you will see My back, but My face will not be seen” (Exodus 33:23; see Exodus 33:19-34:8). Yet in Exodus 40, with God’s glory filling the tabernacle, even Moses was unable to enter.
Ultimately, the brilliance subsided so that the priests could fulfill their responsibilities inside the tent of meeting. The cloud, however, remained above the tabernacle as permanent evidence of God’s presence in the Israelite camp. The entire Book of Exodus concludes with this summary: “The Israelites set out whenever the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle throughout all the stages of their journey. If the cloud was not taken up, they did not set out until the day it was taken up. For the cloud of the LORD was over the tabernacle by day, and there was a fire inside the cloud by night, visible to the entire house of Israel throughout all the stages of their journey” (Exodus 40:36-38).
The entire tabernacle section of Exodus, but particularly these concluding verses, proves conclusively that God wanted to be with His people, and He wanted them to know that He was with them. The same is true today. The greatest evidence of this truth is the incarnation; God Himself took on human form.
In Israel’s history, the portable tabernacle was eventually followed by the permanent temple, both understood as the earthly dwelling place of the Lord. In fact, throughout the ancient world, a “temple” was a god’s house. Israel’s temple never had a physical image of God as pagan temples did, but nevertheless functioned as the place, the sanctuary, where the Lord’s holy presence was manifested.
The apostle Paul took up this language to remind early Christians, and us, that we are indwelt by God’s Spirit. Therefore, we are God’s temple and so we manifest His presence to others in the world: “Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).
In conclusion, consider the following ways in which Scripture helps us think about the concept of tabernacle as the dwelling place of God among His people:
— The garden of Eden was a tabernacle where God manifested Himself to Adam and Eve;
— The tent in the wilderness was a tabernacle where God demonstrated Himself to Israel;
— Jesus was (and is) the preeminent tabernacle, where God displayed Himself in fullness to humanity;
— Believers today are a tabernacle that manifests God’s presence in the present age;
— The New Jerusalem will be the tabernacle where God is forever present to His people.
The Gospel Project
The Gospel Project is a Christ-centered curriculum that examines the grand narrative of Scripture and how the Gospel transforms the lives of those it touches. Through a three-year study plan, participants are immersed in the Gospel through stories, theological concepts, and calls to missions from Genesis to Revelation. Separate study plans for kids and students/adults ensure the proper focus and depth. The Gospel Project is designed to unify an entire church under a single Christ-centered curriculum. More information, free samples, and The Gospel Project blog can be found at gospelproject.com.
Other ongoing Bible study options for all ages offered by LifeWay can be found at LifeWay.com/SundaySchool.