Dwelling Place

Torah Portion: Vayak'hel (Exodus 35:1-38:20) 
Gospel Reading: Ephesians 2:11-22
Commentary By: Matthew Day

But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day. (Deut 4:20 ESV)

When we think of the Gospel we typically think of personal salvation leading to personal obedience. Yeshua becomes my personal forgiveness, securing my personal ticket to heaven. While this is in a sense all true, I think the Gospel goes beyond that. Placing all the emphasis on personal salvation from sin is a bit like focusing on personal deliverance from Egypt. It's only one small part of a bigger plan. There is purpose in what God does, purpose bigger than any one of us individually.  

We see this bigger purpose begin to unfold in our Torah portion this week. God commanded back in Exodus 25, "Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst." God desired a dwelling place, to rest among His creation and glory in His people. Throughout those chapters, God gives the instructions for such a sanctuary, but it's not until the beginning of this Torah portion that the construction of the Tabernacle actually begins: "Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the LORD's contribution" (Exo. 35:5). 

One of the amazing things about the Tabernacle is that it is not just one man's work. It is the joint effort of all the people according to the plan of God. Every man and woman among Israel has a stake in the building of the sanctuary as each of them contribute a small piece of gold or silver or bronze or yarn or wood or oil or spices or precious stones. All of these things, most likely once individual pieces of jewelry, are melted down to become something bigger than the sum of them individually. This is the purpose for which God brought Israel out of Egypt--that they might become a people to Him, a dwelling place for His presence. 

It's on this foundation that Paul builds to develop an ecclesiology (theology of the church). It is on this foundation that Paul can say we are "joined together growing into a holy temple in the Lord. In Him…being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit" (Eph. 2:21-22). It's an awesome picture, each of us a block of wood or a piece of fabric or a nail in the construction of the Temple of God. Apart from each other, we are just a bunch of raw materials--a nail with no plank, skins and metals with no shape. Only together do we become the dwelling place that God desires, where true worship takes place. That's the picture from the Torah, but watch this come together in the New Testament. 

John says that the "Word became flesh and tabernacled among men" (John 1:14). This was God in clothes of skin, thus Yeshua could say, "Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up" speaking of His own body (John 2:19-21). He was the dwelling place of God, the one on whom He set His Name. It was this man who called to His disciples saying, "Take, eat; this is my body" and "Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the Covenant" (Matt. 26:26-28). He called us to partake of Him, and so become a part of Him just as those who partook of the construction of the Tabernacle became a part of the Dwelling Place of God. Apart from the root, we are nothing; but when we abide in Him, we become a part of Him and benefit from His life bearing much fruit (John 15:1-17). Thus, Paul can call us the body of Christ inhabited by one Spirit (1 Cor. 12:12-31), and that body is the Temple of God, His holy habitation (Eph. 2:19-22). Thus, we fulfill the purpose of creation. 

Yet, it doesn't end there. You see, under the law, only the circumcision could fully participate in the Temple (Exo 12:48, Eze. 44:9). Had we lived back in those times, we would have been lost among the pagan communities of the world, with no access to God, no access to the Torah, and no access to the hope of His promises. Those things would have seemed foreign to us. It is easy for us in the Messianic movement, children of the Christian tradition, to lose sight of the significance of this. God cannot be found unless He reveals Himself to us, and in ancient days He chose to reveal Himself to one people--Israel alone (Psalm 146:19-20). 

But, God desired that His house be called a house of prayer for all people (Isa. 56:7). It was only in these latter days that He sent His Son the Messiah to be a light to the nations (Isa. 49:6), and rescue those in the world from the captivity of sin. Through His flesh, He brought us near to God to become a part of His body, the Temple, thus breaking down the "barrier of hostility" (Eph. 2:14). Here was a dwelling place built together not under the law, but in faith (Rom. 4). Of course, we know that this does not nullify the law or the Temple or the priesthood--all of these things still carry significance and still belong to a Covenant that the Father will not break with His people Israel (Rom. 3:31; 9:4-5). But, God never intended to stop there. These are shadows pointing a greater reality, the reality of a people unified for God from every tribe, nation, and tongue to be a dwelling place for God Almighty. That is the reality that is in Messiah (Col. 2:17, Heb. 8:5-6). That is why in the New Earth, there will be no Temple, for the Lamb shall be the Temple (Rev. 21:22). In that day we will no longer worship on this mountain or that mountain, but in Spirit and Truth (John 4:21-26). In that day, the creation will finally come to that which God intended from the beginning (c.f. Exo. 19:5-6, Lev. 26:11-13): 

"Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." -- Revelation 21:3-4

This is the gospel. This is the good news.