Monday, June 13, 2011

Tabernacle for the Nations

My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. The nations also will know that I, the LORD, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore. (Ezekiel 37:27-28)
This is a promise God made to Israel in one of her darkest hours, when she was divided and taken into captivity because of her idolatry. There would be a return, a restoration, a rebirth. The past would be past and God would create a new relationship with her.
David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them. Then they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob My servant, where your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children’s children, forever; and My servant David shall be their prince forever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (Ezekiel 37:24-27)
“David” would be king over them. David was long dead by this time, but the reference here is to the Son of David, that is, the “Anointed One” God promised would reign on the throne over Israel. As David was literally a shepherd, so his descendent would also be a Shepherd over them. There would be a return to the land where they would dwell forever. God would make a new covenant with them, a covenant of peace — shalom, the wholeness that comes from God — and it would be eternal. God would establish His sanctuary, His holiness, among them. His tabernacle, His divine dwelling place, would be with them and they would be His holy people, set apart for His pleasure and purpose. They would enjoy special relationship with God, fellowship with the Divine.

This promise is fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah, the Son of David, who is called the Good Shepherd. He is the mediator of a new and better covenant, which is established on better promises (Hebrew 8:6). He is not only the High Priest of that covenant; He is the sacrifice upon which it was based. On the night before He was crucified, He blessed the bread of the Passover table and gave it to the disciples: “This is My body which is given for you.” Then He took the cup and said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:19-20).

Jesus is the tabernacle of God. He is the Word who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The Greek word for “dwelt” (skenoo) relates linguistically to the Hebrew word for “tabernacle” (mishkan). Literally, the Word became flesh and “tabernacled” among us (see The Shekinah Dwelling).

“The nations also will know that I, the LORD, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.” The promise was for Israel and the land God gave to Jacob, but this would be a witness to all the nations of the world that God has created a people on earth and dwells among them. Indeed, the promise was for the sake of the nations, for God created Israel to be not only a holy nation but also a “kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6). That is, they were to bring the blessing and promise of God to all the nations.

We find this fulfilled in the New Testament. Before He ascended to His throne at the right hand of the Father, Jesus came to the disciples and said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). It was not just for the land God gave to Jacob, for Abraham was heir to the whole world (Romans 4:13; the Greek word for “world” here is kosmos). And it was not just for ethnic Israel but all the nations were to be discipled and baptized and instructed.

However, this does not mean that the nations would receive the promise in addition to or apart from Israel — and certainly not instead of Israel. But, in Paul’s metaphor, they are grafted into the root stock of Israel, to be partakers of the blessing and promise of God as part of Israel (Romans 11:16-24).

So the tabernacle of God, Jesus the Messiah, comes to abide all over the world, in every nation. All who believe Him receive the promise and become part of the sanctuary, the holy people with whom God dwells. And all the nations will know.