The book of Exodus can be divided into two parts, both of which lead unto the greater story. It follows directly on the heels of Genesis, where the book left off with the patriarchs. Exodus ends with the building of the Tabernacle and the glory of God filling it. We find in the latter part of Exodus that God desires to dwell in the midst of the people, and not necessarily within the Tabernacle. Thus, we can safely conclude that the Tabernacle was a foreshadowing of Jesus, when God would walk ‘in the midst’ of His people, and all should behold His glory.
In the larger narrative of Scripture, we see the first five books of Moses being quite explicit in their direction. God creates the world, sin enters, God establishes a plan of redemption through a ‘seed’ of the woman – eventually to be recognized as the people Israel. We then come unto Exodus where God delivers His people from Egypt to establish them in the land of Canaan, and God comes and dwells in the midst of His people as a sign to the nations. It is through Israel that nations must come in order to come to God. Leviticus establishes the worship at the Tabernacle, later the Temple. It is the progression from the Garden unto Zion. Leviticus is the restoration of the Garden of Eden, because it puts us again in right relationship with God. From Leviticus we progress toward Numbers, where we find the ‘wandering’ through the wilderness. Eventually we come unto Deuteronomy where God is now giving Israel the land, and thus we read the recapitulation of the covenant, and the consequences of obedience or disobedience.
Exodus is the book that leads us from bondage unto glory. It begins with the acknowledgement that there is a kingdom contrary to God. What has up to this point been elusive in definition is now defined as “Egypt”. In Genesis 10-11, we find the ‘great city’ (later to be designated as Babylon and Nineveh) at the plains of Shinar where the nations disobey the Lord’s command. Now this is personified in Egypt instead of Babel. Egypt is the nation of bondage. It is the place of slavery, whether physical or spiritual.
We see later the Apostle Peter using the language of coming out of darkness and into His marvelous light. Genesis 1 speaks of ‘evening and morning’, whereas we would expect ‘morning and evening’. The whole of Scripture is actually hinged upon the vertex of Exodus. God is the one who brings us out of darkness and into light, out of slavery and into freedom, out of shame and into glory. The first half of Exodus thus reveals to us the cosmic plan of God to bring us out from that place of bondage and oppression. God plagues the kingdom of darkness, for Egypt is only a parable and not literally to be taken as wicked inherently. The second half, once freedom is obtained, is devoted to the building of the Tabernacle and the glory of God manifesting upon the earth.
This second point is critical. Exodus does not leave us with some sort of sacerdotal system, but rather the glory of God. The same is true of Leviticus. While it is true that the Tabernacle represents an entire religious system that we’ve been set free from, it is not true that the Tabernacle itself was originally intended for that bondage. What was at the first glorious was eventually manipulated into something hideous. God originally gave the plans on the top of Mount Sinai ‘after the pattern’ that Moses saw. It is my belief that Moses actually went up into heaven itself, and not merely upon a mountain. Moses saw God, interacted with God, saw the throne room that John would later express in Revelation 4, and was given instructions on how to build the Tabernacle after the very splendor that he beheld.
When we read Exodus, our main objective is this: how do we, who are also patterned after the Exodus in our lives, go from being enslaved by the kingdom of darkness to freedom to building for God the very house that He shall dwell in to His glory being manifest upon the earth? Of course, part of this is eschatological. We won’t experience it until Jesus returns. However, part of it is very much practical to the here and now. We are jars of clay with hidden treasure within. We are the Temple of the Holy Spirit – not singularly, but plurally. We are knit together as yarn is woven into a beautiful scarf. We are built together as living stones, each one building up and supporting the others, while at the same time being built up and supported by those around us.
There is much that the Tabernacle can teach us in our day and age. Yet, it is one of the subjects most refused in modern Christendom. Sadly, our Christianity is based upon New Testament texts rather than the Old Testament. We have used the New Testament to supplant instead of supplement. With that in mind, I hope that I can restore some of the beauty of Exodus. I hope that I can go beyond Exodus and expound some of the magnanimity of our New Testaments. We’ve shot ourselves in the foot because we haven’t grappled with the Old Testament – especially those texts about laws and regulations.
I confess that the first half of Exodus is glorious, but my favorite is actually the latter half about measurements and trinkets. These things reflect realities in heaven, and therefore ought to be considered most carefully. Why is Moses told these bizarre measurements of ‘half cubits’ instead of the full cubit? It is almost as if there is another ‘half’ in heaven that is not complete without the earthly counterpart, nor the earthly complete without the heavenly. Therefore, let us cast off restraint in wrestling these texts. I also confess that I am not the scholar to engage these texts appropriately. However, I have sadly not found any other thorough examination.
Therefore I give this into your hands. I know there are flaws, but I know there are marvels. Wrestle with me as we both examine Exodus afresh.