The emancipated Israelites had marched out of Egypt in the middle of the month of Abib, the first month of the Jewish calendar (Exodus 12:6; 13:4). After camping at Mount Sinai for almost a year, the Lord commanded them to celebrate New Year’s Day by erecting the newly constructed Tabernacle for the first time.
“The Lord spoke to Moses: ‘You are to set up the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, on the first day of the first month. Put the ark of the testimony there and screen off the ark with the curtain. Then bring in the table and lay out its arrangement; also bring in the lampstand and set up its lamps. Place the gold altar for incense in front of the ark of the testimony. Put up the screen for the entrance to the tabernacle. Position the altar of burnt offering in front of the entrance to the tabernacle, the tent of meeting. Place the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it. Assemble the surrounding courtyard and hang the screen for the gate of the courtyard’ ” (Exodus 40:1–8).
Can you imagine their awe and wonder as the Nation watched the Tabernacle’s pieces being set in place for the very first time? They had given offerings. They had assisted the craftsmen. They had watched and waited. But they had never seen God’s Tabernacle. Nobody had.
A daddy explained to his excited children, “This is where God’s Spirit will live among His chosen people!” A grandfather, on bended knee, looked into the eyes of a grandson: “Our sins will be atoned at that big Brazen Altar. A lamb will die so that we can live!” Another exclaimed, “God’s Spirit will tabernacle among us! He’ll camp-out in a tent, just like us!”
When the task was completed, “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” (Exodus 40:34–35).
Many years later, Solomon was charged with building the Temple. At the dedication ceremony, “when Solomon finished praying, fire descended from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. The priests were not able to enter the Lord’s temple because the glory of the Lord filled the temple of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 7:1–2). In the Tabernacle, and later, in the Temple, God’s presence dwelt with His people.
In the New Testament, Jesus came to dwell in a human-shaped tent or tabernacle. At the incarnation of Jesus, “the Word became flesh and dwelt* among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The word “dwelt” can be translated “in a tent,” or “He tabernacled.”
In the Revelation, the Apostle John “heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling* is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God” (Revelation 21:3). Again, the word “dwell” can be translated “tent, or tabernacle.”
God desires to tabernacle, to pitch His tent and dwell with His people. In fact, the Apostle Paul proclaimed, “Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). Every born-again believer is God’s tabernacle, His dwelling place.
After the Tabernacle was erected in the Wilderness, “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 Tabernacle was God’s dwelling among His people. He never left them… He led the Way … all the Way to the Land of Promise!