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The Tabernacle and the Temple

The Tabernacle and the Temple

EXODUS 25:1–9 / EPHESIANS 2:19–22

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. — John 1:14

Have you ever stood on the sidelines of a sporting event?

Whether you’re at a Little League game or in the stands at a collegiate or professional match, there is nothing like being in the environment of an exciting, competitive event.

Simply put, I’m in the season of life where all of my children want to try every single sport: winter, spring, summer and fall. Which basically tells you I’m a full-time theologian but also a full-time chauffeur. And when they are in the game, there’s no place I’d rather be than with them.

In the very opening pages of Genesis, we have a similar picture of God the Father’s desire to be with His children and walk with them in Eden. Before there was the temple or a church, Eden was the meeting place where people encountered the presence of God.

1. Pause for a moment to think about God’s physical presence in the Garden of Eden. What new insight or perspective on Genesis 1–3 comes to mind?

After the fall, God still longed to be near His people, but sin created a barrier. So God established systems and structures that would allow His presence to be near His beloved children, reminding them of His holiness and call for them to pursue holiness.

Let’s look at two structures God established to be near His people.

First, we have the tent of meeting, or the tabernacle.

The tent of meeting, also known as the tabernacle, was almost like a “mobile temple.” It was a portable housing for the Lord, revealing that God is not isolated to a specific geographic location and would journey with His people. Because the tabernacle was set in the middle of their camp, it was also a reminder of whose they were.

There was still the issue of a Holy God needing to cleanse the sins of the people. We see the beginning of a sacrificial system immediately following the disobedience of Adam and Eve, when an animal was killed to provide clothing (Genesis 3:21). Then, in Genesis 4, Cain and Abel offered a sacrifice to God. As the sacrificial system became more formalized, the tabernacle communicated the holiness of God and was a reminder to the people that their sins were costly and required a sacrifice through the shedding of an animal’s blood.

It’s here we see a glimpse of the coming Messiah, whose blood would cleanse the sins of the people perfectly and permanently.

2. Read Exodus 25:8 and Numbers 35:34. What does God promise to do?

Within the tabernacle we also find elements pointing to Jesus. In the Holy Place, there was the Bread of Presence (representing the fact that God would always be a provider for Israel) and the Altar of Incense (representing light). Inside of the Holy of Holies, there was also the Ark of the Covenant (representing the presence of God). These images point to Jesus. Jesus is the sacrificial Bread and the Light of the World. And we no longer need the Ark of the Covenant because Jesus came down to earth and we can experience His presence for ourselves.

After the tabernacle, the temple came next.

When the Israelites settled in the promised land they were in a position to build a permanent structure. King David desired to build a temple for God, but his son Solomon eventually constructed it (2 Samuel 7:1–15). Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 6) was the grandest expression of the presence or “withness” of God.

Yet the temple, even in all its glory and grandeur, would eventually be destroyed. But through these transitions, we can pause to remember what made these places so special and significant to begin with... the very presence and promise of God’s nearness.

The New Testament teaches there is no longer a need for a temple, because anyone who places their faith in Jesus actually becomes the new temple. This is Paul’s emphatic statement in Ephesians 2. Through Jesus, the people of God become the new temple of God where the Spirit of Christ both “dwells” in and “indwells” the believer.

3. Read Ephesians 2:19–22. What stands out to you in these verses after learning more about the purposes of the tabernacle and the temple?

Let’s return to the tabernacle for another connection to Jesus. The Hebrew word for tabernacle (mishkan) comes from the root of the Hebrew verb shakan, which means “to dwell” (Exodus 25:8). Later in the New Testament, John tells us Jesus came to “dwell” among us in John 1:14. The Greek word for “dwelled,” eskēnōsen, is related to the Greek word skēnē, which means a “tent.”

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. — John 1:14

John 1:14 tells us Jesus came and set up His tent, His place of dwelling, amongst humanity. Which in itself is mind-blowing, considering the sacredness surrounding the presence of God. Jesus is the fulfillment and tangible evidence of dwelling in John 1:14 that is originally rooted in these Old Testament passages.

Jesus is the “tent” God established. So what does this mean for us? There are two thoughts we want to leave you with as we close our first day of this study on presence this week:


4. Read Matthew 1:23. Who is Jesus referred to as?


5. Read 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17; 6:12–20; and 1 Peter 2:4–5. Jot down some takeaways that stand out to you as you reflect on being the new temple.

The presence of God came down through the miracle of Jesus and we are forever changed because of it. Friend, let’s continue to look for Jesus in Scripture in the rest of our final week together!

~ Joel

Excerpted with permission from 30 Days with Jesus by Lysa TerKeurst and Joel Muddamalle, copyright Lysa TerKeurst and Joel Muddamalle.

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Your Turn

We no longer have to enter a physical place to meet with God because Jesus came to be with us. We are the temple of God! How does that change your thinking about talking to God?