Heaven on Earth
Tent camping is not the most comfortable experience in the world. The ground is hard, the breeze is cold, the facilities are far away, and the noises are incessant, amplified, and unbearably annoying. I cannot recount a single time in my life where I walked away from a night in a tent feeling well rested and ready to go. Tents are some of the most undignified living quarters on planet earth.
During this time of year, we often take time to reflect on Jesus and the manger. We picture him surrounded by animals and resting in a feed trough. It was certainly no place fit for the birth of a king, but at least, it was a permanent, standing structure. The Israelites in the wilderness did not even have that much, and for them, there was no reprieve from tent camping. For forty years, day in and day out they set up their tents and only to tear them back down again as they traced aimlessly through the wilderness. Yet, God was there with them.
“The LORD said to Moses. . .‘Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.’”
Exodus 25:8 ESV
The word dwell here has a special meaning that is often missed when viewed solely through the lens of the English language. It means much more than to just be in our presence, but literally ‘to pitch His tent with us.’ God so desired to make Himself approachable and available to man at any time that He lived in a tent just as they did in the middle of the wilderness. The dictionary definition of the word tabernacle is a tent or a hut. The Lord of All Creation, the Judge of Nations, the Great I Am tent camped for forty years right along with them. (In fact, He remained in that tent for over 400 years after the Israelites arrived in the Promised Land.) He went before them in as a pillar of fire, behind them releasing the Red Sea on to Pharaoh and his armies, and with them in a tent.
But that is not all. We see that, in creation, God goes behind us, simultaneously knitting together the entirety 0f the universe and every single compound, molecule, and atom that makes up us, and He did all of this before the foundation of the world was set. He ordained the very steps we would take. He recorded our rising ups and our laying downs all before the first star was called into existence. “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.” (Acts 17:26 NIV)
We know that God is going before us; on into eternity to prepare a place for us to dwell with Him (John 14:3) and to prepare a place for Him to dwell with us. Revelation chapter 21 verse three gives us a promise, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them…’ (NASB) One day God will pitch His tent with us again on the face of the earth, just like He did with the Israelites in the wilderness, and Christ Himself will be that tent: “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:22 ESV)
In the meantime, God not only dwells with us, but He dwells in us. When we accept Christ, the Spirit of God Himself indwells us, and we become His tabernacle here on earth, which is why Paul said, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19b ESV) But even beyond that, 1 Corinthians 6:17 informs us that, “whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit” (NIV). So we become one with Christ down to the deepest core of our beings—right here and right now. We do not have to wait until we reach the other side of heaven to celebrate our perfect and final union with Christ. Yes, the grand wedding banquet is still to come, but we can reap the fruits of the marriage now as we live out our lives as the “righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
As the tabernacle of God among men, we serve as a contact point between heaven and earth. Physical and spiritual. God and man. We are meant to function as a place where the world can come to find the very presence of their Maker, and where the Maker can then reach out to touch the world. That is why the Bible calls us to be holy, to be loving, to be true, because it is through those channels of holiness, truth, and love, that God speaks to a broken world and gently calls it to Himself. We are meant to be a refuge of peace, unstained by the worry and anxiety that rules this world so that a weary and war-torn people might come to us and find the rest that is only found in the presence of Christ.
So often, we fail in that mission. We are called to be “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light,” (1 Peter 2:9 NIV) yet, we much more frequently resemble the fearful, anxiety-burdened world we are called to separated out from. What sort of message does that send to the people around us? When we, who claim to have the “Comforter” living within us, have bitten our fingernails down to the nub, are watching our hair fall out before our very eyes, and have ulcers the size of baseballs. (John 14:16)
Peace is a quality that sticks out in this world, and it is one this world desperately needs. Now I am not saying that we need to put up a facade that says everything is perfect in our lives, and we have nothing to worry about. Rather, we need to take time to find and experience the supernatural, heavenly peace that comes from God alone. We must reflect on the fact that our futures are secure because of the work of Christ. That God is watching over us, orchestrating every circumstance and situation for our good and His glory. That we do, in fact, have the Comforter working in us and through us to reach a broken world.
So take time to rest in that peace that completely eclipses all the worries and strife this world throws our way and then be God’s tent among the people. Breathe peace when everything else breathes anxiety and invite them into the presence of the living, breathing God on earth.
As always, with the love of Christ,
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.“
John 14:27 ESV