"And make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them..." Ex 25:8
The section of Terumah concerns itself with the construction of the sanctuary, a portable structure that the Israelites could pack up and carry with them from place to place. It consisted of three parts: the outside court which was enclosed by curtains hung on pillars which was oblong; the altar of sacrifice facing the entrance on the eastern side and the western court which was the sanctuary proper with the tabernacle. it was divided by a veil or hanging curtain into two chambers. The first or antechamber only the priests enterd. it held the Table, Candlestick and Altar of Incense. The inner chamber was called the Holy of Holies, containing the Ark of the Covenant. The High Priest entered it only once a year on the Day of Atonement. The materials from the external bounds of the sanctuary to inner increased in value with the inner court holding materials of great value and the embroidered priestly garments and jeweled ephod. (Ex 39). Moreover, the Tabernacle was placed in the heart of the camp with the tribes organized in flaks surrounding, the heart encased in a body.
"Make me a sanctuary that I may dwell within..." Does the One who created the heavens and earth, seas and skies need a sanctuary? Is there no greater canopy than the canopy of heaven, or pillars than those of mountains ? or basins than those of lakes and seas?
Yet the command invokes human activity. Do something to honor me. Use your hands, use your craftsmanship, your fine arts to praise me. But does God really need the artificiality of a building, regardless of how transitory it may be?
Who needs it? God or man?
The answer may be both. It is through the consecration of the work of our hands that we are able to honor God—through our daily jobs, the effort and polish that we put into our final products reflects on his divinity; but much more importantly, it is man who nees the gathering place, the place of worship.
The tabernacle can be a metaphor for our individual lives—the outside "walls" of the tabernacle were of the lowest quality, establishing the border between the profane and sacred precincts. Similarly, we present superficial appearances to society about us through our clothes and habits. Often the world only sees the outer garment of our lives and no deeper and sometimes there is no difference between that which we present as an appearance and our inner nature. The inner sanctuary is barren of any beauty or value. There is no lamp lit before the altar of God. It is a barren chamber.
The injunction though is to build. Building involves active participation: finding the materials, measuring and cutting, carving and moulding. It implies sweat and dirty labor. Building a sanctuary for God does not come through light labor. It comes with whacking the thumbs and getting splinters in the hands, and sweating under a hot sun while the skin gets roasted. God provides all the materials to build through nature. he gives each of us talents and abilities, but what we do with them is our responsibility. We can construct a tabernacle and leave the inner sanctuary barren, or we can be like the artisans and create beautiful things to adorn our inner nature. The craftsmen and artisans gave their best work, the fine lines, the expensive fabrics and embroidered clothes encrusted with jewels.
It begs a question—How do we build within ourselves? Do we give of gold, silver and bronze—do we dedicate all of our labor to honoring God, or only the worst or only the best? Do we use the materials provided and refine them to his glory?
And does this sanctuary stay within the heart of our lives in the middle of life's army?
Does God dwell with us?