This week our Torah portion describes the instructions for building the Tabernacle. In Exodus 25:8 we read, “Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them. Notice that it is a ‘sanctuary’ or holy place that is to be built. That is the main idea. The directive is to build a holy place. However, it says that this holy place is not where God would dwell! God would dwell among the people! The word for ‘dwell’ refers to ‘dwelling like a nomad’. In other words, God would dwell among them as they move along in the wilderness. In fact, the word for ‘Tabernacle’ means a dwelling place that a nomad might live in temporarily as they travel. Neither the word ‘dwell’ nor ‘tabernacle’ refers to a permanent place. The ‘sanctuary’ refers to the entire complex which is a holy place. When the people would see it along with the furniture, fabric, and other materials, they would recognize that God was travelling with them. When they saw it, and the priests would minister in it, there was the sense of the presence of God. In other words, the Tabernacle in the wilderness was for the purpose of the people to have an experience of the presence of God.
According to Nahum Sarna, the sanctuary is not meant to be understood literally as God’s abode as are other such institutions in the pagan world. Rather, it functions to make perceptible and tangible the conception of God’s immanence, that is, of the indwelling of the Divine Presence in the camp of Israel, to which the people may orient their hearts and minds. The physical structure is a celestial model that was given by God to Moses. In a way, it served as the heavenly realm in the wilderness. May I suggest that the ‘structure’ was needed because of the inability of the people to truly commune directly with God. But God in His ‘chesed’, His ‘loyal love’ dwelt among the people. They could see the ‘holy dwelling place’ as well as the pillar of cloud and fire.
The book of Hebrews describes the dwelling place of Yeshua at the right hand of the father as the ‘heavenly tabernacle’ (see Hebrews 8:5; 9:11, 24). Today, we live with Him where He is located. As we read in Hebrews 10:19–22, we enter the holy place where He is through his death and subsequent resurrection in a new and living way. This means that we continue to journey through this life, but we have been transferred from the domain of darkness to the Kingdom of His beloved son (see Col 1:13; 3:1–3).
In the wilderness, God in His mercy dwelt among His people. In Yeshua, we dwell in the divine presence of God. We learn from all this that God has always desired to dwell among his people. In Yeshua, God has made a way for us to truly have that kind of life experience. No matter what may happen on the journey of this life, our divine place of residence never changes. May we nurture our relationship with God so that we always know where we live!
 Nahum M. Sarna, JPS Torah Commentary: Exodus (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society), 1991.
Image: Model of the Tabernacle in Timnah, by Jim Black on Pixabay