These days we provide animal sanctuaries for certain species when their kind is on the brink of distinction. When the people of Israel were camping in the desert near Mount Sinai God asked for a sanctuary. He said (Exodus 25:8):
“Have the people of Israel built me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them.”
God wants to move in – not to be protected from distinction, but to be near us.
We know how a place changes when somebody else moves in – whether it’s a newborn or a college student, sharing the home with someone new changes the living space. This can be good or bad depending on whether the person moving in is good news or bad news. What happens when God moves in? To answer this question we need to take a closer look at the sanctuary as described in the Old Testament.
The design of the sanctuary is the Father’s love letter to His Son indicating that His Son’s sacrifice is highly appreciated. For this reason the sanctuary is full of imagery of God’s Son Jesus. It contains:
- Ark of the Covenant containing God’s law; Jesus said about Himself that He is the fulfillment God’s law.
- Mercy Seat; Jesus is the embodiment of God’s mercy, and He said about himself that He came to seek and save what is lost. (Matthew 9:13): “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
- The table for bread; Jesus said about Himself that He is the bread of life.
- The Golden Lamp stand; Jesus said about Himself that He is the light of the world.
- Incense, Olive Oil; incense always stands for prayer, and there was an olive grove in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus submitted to the Father’s will and prayed: “Thy will be done”
- Bronze Altar; Jesus sacrificed His life and was the first to rise from the dead.
- Tabernacle curtains and veils; the veil hiding the Ark is decorated with Cherubim and is a reminder of the garden entrance of Eden guarded by Cherubim. Adam and Eve were not allowed back into the Garden after they sinned; but after Jesus’ sacrificial death these same curtains ripped apart indicating that now there is access back into God’s presence.
The people of Israel were still on their way to the Promised Land when God asked them to build Him a sanctuary. And so the first building of the tabernacle (Hebrew: Tent of Meeting) happened in the desert. After everybody chipped in and donated the raw materials needed to start the building project, the craftsmen went to work. The construction period of the tent of meeting is a faint reminder of the days of creation. God’s Spirit hovered over the surface of the deep and created the building blocks of today’s reality, the reality we call universe – all of time and space and its contents. God’s construction period was interspersed with evenings and mornings. Evening gave way to morning; darkness gave way to light; indistinguishable monotony gave way to hustling and bustling creativity; death gave way to life.
God creates order before moving in. That’s what He does.
Each human being carries a precious sanctuary – the sanctuary of the heart that is – and God wants to move in; are we ready for a change of heart? If we accept Jesus’s sacrifice, our heart will become move-in ready; and when God’s Spirit moves into our heart He makes everything new.