According to Exodus 25:8, what was the purpose of the earthly sanctuary in the wilderness? What amazing truth does this teach us about God’s love for us?
In the Garden of Eden, sin had broken the face-to-face relationship between God and humanity. Sin forfeited our first parents’ unhindered communion with God. However, the Creator still desired to draw us to Himself and to enjoy a deep covenant relationship with fallen humanity, and He began this process right there in Eden. Centuries later, in saving Israel out of Egypt and establishing the sanctuary and the sacrificial system, God again took the initiative in bringing humanity back into His presence.
The sanctuary thus testifies of God’s unceasing desire to dwell among His people. This is God’s idea (Ps. 132:13-14). His ultimate goal is relationship, and the sanctuary was His chosen means to do it. The sanctuary is the tangible evidence of God’s presence with His people on earth.
From the description in Numbers 2, it is evident that the tabernacle was located in the center of the square encampment where, ordinarily in the ancient Near East, the king would place his tent. So, the tabernacle symbolizes that God is the King over Israel.
The Levites, meanwhile, placed their tents around the tabernacle (Num. 1:53), and the other tribes put theirs further around at a “distance” in groups of three (Num. 2:2). This illustrates in a tangible way both the nearness and the distance of God.
Another purpose of the sanctuary was to provide a location for a centralized, divinely ordained system of worship. Because God’s presence in the midst of the people was jeopardized by their impurities and moral failings, He provided a system of sacrifices and offerings through which unholy people could live and remain in the presence of a holy God.
So, in this context, the sanctuary revealed details regarding the plan of redemption, which included not only the sacrifices but the ministry of the priesthood, an integral part of the plan of redemption, as well.
With the sanctuary, the Creator of the universe, the One who made all that was made (see John 1:1–3), lowered Himself to dwell among homeless wanderers in the desert. How should this fact alone help us avoid harboring ethnic, class, or cultural prejudices against anyone?