The Reading: Exodus 25:1-9
“… a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst” (v.8) RSV
People through the ages have always needed a place where they can focus their attention on God. Our passages over the following week describe the first time that the Hebrew people are to have such a place. At the time they were in the Wilderness and were a people on the move. They had no fixed abode and so needed a sanctuary that they could up sticks and take with them.
This Tabernacle would last them for hundreds of years, not only through the forty years in the Wilderness, but through all the times of the Judges and on through kings Saul and David. Thus the Tabernacle was first constructed round about 1280BC. King Solomon built the first Temple round about 950BC. This was destroyed by the Babylonians and was only reconstructed (a smaller version) when the Exiles returned, say 500BC. Finally this was rebuilt and enlarged by Herod starting about 20BC.
This special place was there to represent the presence of God. When Solomon prayed at the dedication of his temple he quoted the words God had spoken: “My name shall be there” (1 Kings 8:29). By this he meant that God was everywhere – “Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27). God could not, and would not, be limited to a building. However, people needed a place to focus their attentions and to stimulate their faith in the presence of God.
Jesus however indicated that the time would come when ‘place’ would be secondary to the real presence of God in a believer and in his people. This is what he told the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:21-23). Paul likewise said “you are God’s temple and … God’s Spirit dwells in you” (1 Corinthians 3:16). In other words the presence of God is with us wherever we are: in prison, in a city, in a slum, in the garden or in a church.
Thank you for your promise, O God, that you are always with me, and will never leave me. Amen.
1 Where does the Psalmist find God?
2 What place was especially holy for Moses?