what are you building?
When we look at the big picture of the story of Moses’ life, many of us are much more familiar with his first job than with his second. The recognizable stories of the burning bush, the ten plagues, crossing the Red Sea and Mount Sinai are well–known. “I am sending you…to bring my people out of Egypt,” God says. (Ex. 3:10)
There’s tremendous vulnerability and risk in these stories. There’s also inspiration and heroism. We identify with Moses, either through his failures or with his clear and present purpose, or both. The injustices of slavery, oppression, and persecution motivate us. Whatever the reasons, we are very familiar with this part of Moses’ life.
Many of us are less familiar with what happens next. This is where we lose a little interest in the story. It doesn’t have the tension and the conflict that the wandering in the desert has. It doesn’t have the action and suspense of the wilderness battles. It doesn’t have the ups and downs (mostly downs) of the stubborn generation struggling with their faith identity.
It’s here in this part of Moses’ life that he gets his second job. In Exodus 25:8, God says, “…make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among [you.]” Moses was to build a house for God.
Fifteen chapters in Exodus, beginning with 25, are about the Tabernacle. Every detail is covered, from the wood of the ark to the color of the curtains to the height of the table, to the number of loops in the curtain, to the kind of oil they are to burn in the lamps. The arrangement of every element in relation to every other element is painstakingly specific.
To me, it reads with about the same excitement as the instruction manual for your car. It has all the captivating power of an interior design show from 1987. If there is a Bible–reading plan meant to cure insomniacs, it probably starts with some of these Scriptures.
Yet it’s remarkably important to Israel’s identity as the original Holiness people. It’s deeply relevant to their understanding and to their experience of God and His participation in their lives.
Moses’ job wasn’t to lead them out of Egypt and leave them somewhere. It wasn’t to free them from slavery and let them work it out on their own. Moses’ job was to build a house for God.
We’re not talking about building a structure with four portable walls and a place for each person to stand. The tabernacle wasn’t ever meant to be a space that would confine or contain God. It was always meant to be the place where we met with Him. It’s a place of community, of gathering together, and of encountering one another and the Almighty all at once. It was never about the space. The Tabernacle was built and taken down many times. It was always about His place as central, as prime, as the first and the highest and the best in our lives.
Moses built a house for God. It can’t be done while we’re still enslaved. It can’t be done in bondage. It can’t be done on our terms or by our standards. Building a house for God can only be done in obedience and faithfulness. It has to start in the wilderness and it has to be worth doing while you’re there.
It took the rest of Moses’ life to build the Tabernacle. It was a process never intended to be accomplished overnight or in an instant. So it must be with each of us.
We step out of slavery, redeemed. We step out of the chains of our past and of sin into freedom, bought with a price. We carry that freedom towards a land of abundance and lavish blessing, so long as we listen well, walk right, and seek Him.
And we begin building a house for God. Or we begin building a house for something, or someone else.
What are you building?
by Chris Stoker