God’s desire to dwell with us

by Rev Jason Phua

Readings: Exodus 39:1-40:38; Psalms 31:19-24

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Exodus 40:33-38 “And he erected the court around the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the screen of the gate of the court. So Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.

The cloud that covered the tent of meeting was the same cloud that guided the people of Israel as they were led out of the land of Egypt. The cloud guided them visually to travel by day and the fire gave them light by night. It was also the same cloud where the glory of the Lord was made manifest as the people grumbled about the lack of food in the wilderness. Then, quails and manna were given to them. The cloud and fire were representations of God’s abiding presence with the people of Israel. It was as close to God as they can get.

Looking at it another way, it was also as close as God could get with the people; without them perishing in the light of His holiness. At that time, God could only come to His people through the meditation of cloud and fire. For if He were to reveal Himself fully to the people, they shall all be destroyed. As soon as the construction of the Tabernacle and all of its furnishings were completed; as soon as it was installed on the first day of the second year; God came to dwell with His people. God’s perfect holiness did not prevent the Holy One from wanting to be with His unholy and often rebellious creation.

In a way, the Tabernacle was the foreshadow of the work of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit to dwell in all who believe. The Tabernacle, and all that occurred afterwards, revealed God’s desire to dwell with us. So He is not a God who shout forth commandments or demanded obedience from afar. He is not a God who allow the world to run into complete chaos even after the Fall. He is a God who desires to dwell with His people so that we can thrive in His holy name. He is a God who desires to dwell with us not to control us; but in His mercy, grace, love and truth, guide us in our journey as those who believe in His Name.

In this day and age, we often talked about how we can draw near to God. Nothing wrong with such a perspective but perhaps we have not given as much attention to the other perspective. The other perspective that God first desire to draw near to us. He demonstrated this desire vividly by sending His only begotten Son; so that upon His death on the Cross, the veil in the temple that was fashioned from blue, purple and scarlet material was torn from top to bottom. The tearing of the veil signified the sufficiency of Jesus’ blood for the atonement of sins, it signified that from day forth, God will not dwell in temples made with hands, but in His people who purified themselves with the blood of Christ.

The desire of God to dwell with us is like the love of a parent to be with his or her children from the day they are born; or rather from the day they are in the mother’s womb. Even when the children have grown in good maturity and strength, parental care and love never seem to cease. Parents might not need to physically care for their children any longer, but spiritually they hold them deep in prayers and is always on the ready to advice, mentor and assist when in need. In quite similar ways, the desire of God to dwell with us is for the purpose of our holiness. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says that “this is the will of God: your sanctification”. Our holiness is not an idea to bind us to the commandments of God; rather our holiness is the gateway to live life in true freedom and joy. Being holy is not a burden to be had, but a breakthrough to desire; for it is the right way to live.

As a Christian for many years, I don’t think I can ever grow weary of the truth that God desires to dwell with us. It is still a truth that amazes me. However, apart from being amazed, the problem lies with what am I really doing with this truth.

If God desires to dwell with us, am I eager to dwell with Him also? Am I as passionate to grow in my walk with Him as He is guide and to hold?

I confess that this is not always the case. There are even times when I felt so self-empowered that God is but a distant ally.

Yet, we all know that it is only by the constant abiding in God and His Word, that we can behave and do things that are pleasing to Him. Then we can move when the cloud moves; and stay when the cloud settles upon the tent of meeting.

Lord our God, help me to be eager to dwell with you just as You have been in the beginning, so desired to dwell with us. Amen.


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