Monday, March 10, 2014

On Earth as it is in Heaven

As we read through the Bible, there can sometimes come the moment where you ask why a particular portion is there, in that way, in that much detail. Take, for example, the book of Exodus. As the name suggests, this book is about the way out, the exodus of the children of Israel from their slavery in Egypt.

Having been saved by the basket in the bulrushes and sent through the burning bush encounter with the LORD, Moses delivers God’s message to Pharaoh. The first half of the book is exciting, dramatic, tense, as Pharaoh consistently refuses to ‘let my people go’. The plagues come along, leading up to the Passover and the escape from Egypt. Having crossed the Red Sea, the people of Israel encounter God at Mount Sinai, where they receive the Law.

It’s then that the action seems to dry up. Almost out of nowhere, comes the instruction to build the sanctuary tabernacle, beginning in chapter 25 and going on for several chapters. I’m not crafty in the slightest, so the details of rings and poles and calyxes and tassels and clasps and all the rest leave me bewildered and confuddled. Why do we suddenly go from dramatic rescue to what appears to be interior design for the tent of God?

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we ask that our Father’s kingdom will come and his will be done ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’ And this little phrase gives us a clue about what is happening here in Exodus. When Moses is constructing the meeting place between God and his people, he doesn’t just make it up as he goes along. He’s not given free rein to come up with it himself.

Rather, the LORD tells him in Exodus 25:9 ‘Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.’ We find the same reminder in 25:40, 26:30, 27:8. The tabernacle that Moses is building on earth is to be on earth as it is in heaven. We get a glimpse of what the heavenly reality is like, because as the writer to the Hebrews says of this very verse, the priests ‘serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things...’ (Heb 8:5).

But now Christ has entered the holy place - not the tabernacle on earth - but in heaven, ‘not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood securing an eternal redemption.’ (Heb 9:12). In this way, the writer to the Hebrews helps us tie together the dramatic escape from Egypt and the minute details of tabernacle furnishings - as pointing towards the finished salvation work of Christ, our Passover and Great High Priest.

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