Church of the Living Word

Tabernacles and the Presence of God
By Jeremiah Gruenberg   September 30th, 2018

The Feast of Tabernacles commemorates Israel’s time in the wilderness, where no one was excluded from seeing the presence of the Lord. In the wilderness God was tangibly present: in the fire, the cloud, the manna, the water. The people had nothing except what God gave them. In the New Testament, Jesus was also an expression of God’s tangible presence. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt [tabernacled] among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth… For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace (John 1:14, 16). When Jesus was in the earth, the presence of the Father was there in Christ, taking care of everyone’s needs; Jesus fed the people and healed them. Jesus is an expression of God’s presence and a fulfillment of the Old Testament promise of the celebration of Tabernacles.

In the wilderness, only one person went directly into the presence of the Father, and only once a year. This changed with Christ. But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption (Heb 9:11-12). This passage is talking not about a sukkah like the Israelites dwelt in, but the Holy of Holies where God dwelt. Jesus went in to the holy place once for all. This thought continues in Heb 10:19: Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. In doing this, Jesus made a spiritual way for us to also dwell in the presence of God.

But do we really feel the confidence that is discussed here? Maybe today we are having a good day and we feel confident, but what about on a bad day? Is our confidence based on ourselves or on the perfect provision of Jesus Christ? Perhaps when we are aware of our sins we feel like we are not worthy of approaching God. However, it is when we have problems that we most need to go to Him, because He is the only true answer to every issue! Our confidence is in Him, so we draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.

The beautiful thing is that we can and should do this together. The picture of the children of Israel in the wilderness is a picture of a gigantic family following God together. Hebrews 10 seems to echo this connection between our close relationships with God and each other: Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near (Heb 10:23-25). It seems that the more we have of God, the more we need each other!

The promise of His presence is one of the main concepts behind the celebration of Tabernacles. We see this fulfillment in Revelation: And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them” (Rev 21:3). God is serious about dwelling with His people. This is the culmination of the age.

Anything that we think excludes us from the presence of God is a lie because it is not in alignment with God’s Word. In the wilderness, God said to all: “You are part of My family.” Each of those Israelites partook of the manna, the water from the rock, the cloud by day, regardless of whether they had been “good” or “bad”. In the Lord Jesus Christ no one is excluded from a life in God’s presence unless he withdraws from it. No matter what we are or what we have done, we can live in the presence of God all the time. But we have to initiate it and appropriate it. What do we do about it? Take Him up on His offer to be with Him. Draw near, with full assurance of faith. Lord, help us identify every thought that tells us we can’t stand in Your presence. In everything we turn to the Father.

Scriptures: John 1:14-16; Hebrews 9:11-12; 10:19-25; Revelation 21:3; (Matt 7:23)

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