Keyword:

Light from the Sidra

Terumah

Exodus 25:1-27:19. Haftarah. Isaiah 66

In the Timna National Park in Israel, there is a remarkable reconstruction of the Mishkan, the ancient Tabernacle or Tent of Meeting constructed under the supervision of Moses after Israel was liberated from slavery in Egypt. You can see a remarkable interactive panorama of the Mishkan at http://www.360cities.net/image/tabernacleholyplace#446.04,-27.13,109.6.

In his book The Jewish People and Jesus Christ, Jacob Jocz notes that “Judaism is founded on the premise that man is capable by virtue of his moral effort of approaching God. Hence, God's coming to man's aid not only becomes superfluous, but actually interferes with the progress of human development.” Attractive as that claim may appear, it ignores the concept of the absolute holiness of God, which is apparent in the construction and furnishing of the Mishkan.

God is in the midst of his people but they cannot approach him as they wish and when they wish. His people live in tents and he will live in a Tent among them but if they wish to approach him and have fellowship with him, it will have to be on his terms.

In Genesis 3, man was driven out of Gan Eden, the Garden of God, to the east, away from the presence of God. Cherubim guarded the way to God and to the tree of life. At that time God, God promised to undo the work of the serpent to restore mankind to fellowship with their creator. But the process would not be easy. It would involve fierce battle in order to crush the head of the serpent.

Prior to the God giving Moses the instructions for building the Tabernacle, Yahweh had fought a battle of cosmic proportions and crushed Pharaoh, the head of Egypt, and Egypt’s gods. He had redeemed Israel with the blood of the Passover lamb and now he was preparing a place where he would meet with his people.

The Mishkan was a reminder (but only a reminder) of Gan Eden. The Garden of Eden was an oasis of beauty in a vast wilderness; the Mishkan would be a place of beauty in the Sinai desert. Eden was the place where God met with man; the Mishkan would be the place of fellowship between Israel and their Maker. Man had been driven east from the Garden; he would enter the Tent of God from the east.

The Menorah which gave light inside the Tent was shaped like a seven-branched tree; a tree of light and a symbol of the tree of life in the garden. Although the cohanim could not eat of the tree of life and live forever, they could be sustained from day to day in the service of God by the bread of the presence, which was placed daily in the Tent on the gold table opposite the Menorah.

The gold, the tapestries inside the Tent, and the curtain that separated the holy place from the Holy of Holies, all served to remind the people and the priests of the holiness of Yahweh. Beautiful though the Mishkan was, God lived in glorious isolation as King of Israel on his gold throne in the thick darkness beyond the separating curtain. Whatever else Yahweh may be, he is holy and unapproachable except by the manner he decrees.

As will become clear, the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies once a year on Yom Kippur but he would have to approach with the blood of atonement. And we should not forget, either, that that the way of approach to God was by way of furniture laid out in the form of a cross. This floor plan was no coincidence. The Mishkan reminded the people of Eden but it pointed symbolically also to the great and final atonement that was yet to be accomplished after Israel had entered the land of promise.


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