Friday, March 4, 2016

Seeking a Homeland, Part 2

What the Old Testament Tabernacle may have looked like.

In retrospect I should have titled this series, “Seeking a Home,” not “Seeking a Homeland.”

I’ve slowly realized “home” can't be limited to a place, and it is not a “what,” it is a “Who.”

Let me back up a bit. The first post in this series can be found here. In essence, I wrote that as Christians we are pilgrims, passing through this life.

Abraham was given a new homeland but still chose to live as a nomad in it. Why? Because he sought a better city, “whose designer and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:10)

Beloved, as those chosen and loved by God, we are not to “settle” here in this world, on this earth. We have a much better, greater city, an eternal home, to look forward to, to set our sights on.

In the Bible we are described as strangers, exiles, foreigners, pilgrims, and stewards on this earth – all titles denoting we are not yet permanent residents, we have not yet reached “home.” So, when will we?

Can I be at “home” even before I pass through those heavenly gates?

Yes, I believe we can to a certain extent. Because home is not a what, home is a Who. Home has taken on flesh and is living and breathing.

From the beginning, God wanted His people to be at home with Him. He placed Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden – a physical space where they could enjoy intimate, unbroken fellowship with their Creator.

Expulsion from the garden residence came when Adam and Eve disbelieved and disobeyed God. The consequence was death – spiritual death – being cutting off from the Giver of their physical and spiritual life. 

From that moment, man experienced separation from the Divine, and the beginning of the search for its restoration.

Starting with Noah in Genesis 6 we see God calling people out – out of the sin-corrupted world and back to Himself. He continued the call with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and later the nation of Israel.  

You see, the newly-created world described in the beginning was good, in fact, it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). But then sin corrupted and marred the creation, man’s home. If man was to again enjoy intimacy with God, “home” could not be limited to a place, a piece of land on earth.

In Exodus 25 while the people are still in the wilderness, headed to the Promised Land, God gives them instructions for building a tabernacle.

“And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.” (Exodus 25:8)

The word “dwell” in this verse means to “abide,” “to settle down,” inferring God’s abiding presence, not a coming and a going.

Excuse me? Did you catch that? God, the Almighty, the Holy One, Creator of Heaven and Earth, asked for His people to make Him a temporary tent, a “sanctuary,” – so He could dwell among them?

When it was impossible for man to dwell with Him, God chose to dwell among men.

He had called His chosen people out of the world. And now He would choose to settle with them.

To think God desires to dwell among us, in the midst of an evil, corrupt, crooked, evil world – a Holy God settling among an unholy people. Doesn’t that just boggle your mind?

Why would He choose this? Why not remain in Heaven, in purity, in unblemished goodness and holiness? It’s one thing to walk with man in the perfect and “very good” garden, but why settle in the sin-ridden slums of earth?

Because God was not content with a distant, sin-affected relationship. Instead, He would bridge the gap between us and Himself at all costs.

“There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it (the tabernacle) shall be sanctified by My glory…I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.” (Exodus 29:43, 45-46)

(As a side note: You’ve heard of the “shekinah glory”? “Shekinah” is derived from a Hebrew word meaning “to settle, inhabit, or dwell.” God’s very glory was defined as a glory of abiding and dwelling.)

Though God dwelt among His people, not everyone was permitted to enter the sanctuary. Only those set apart as priests unto God could go there, and only the High Priest into the Holy of Holies. After elaborate purification rituals, they represented the people before God, for a time, until the unveiling of the new covenant, mediated by a perfect High Priest.

Man has ever been in pursuit of “home” – a place of satisfaction, fulfillment, and belonging. But just think, all along God has sought to make His home with us

To be continued…

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