Wednesday, January 26, 2011

God With Us

I'm to the point in Exodus where God is instructing Moses on how he wants the Tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant made.  In all honesty, my brain starts to go fuzzy when cubits get mentioned.  Although, if I were an interior designer I would probably appreciate knowing how many rings and golden clasps it takes to properly close and secure a 28 cubit long curtain (50, if you're curious).  But joking aside, Exodus' discussion on the Tabernacle and the Ark is yet one more example of where what seems to be the focus of the story isn't really the focus.  Exodus seems to be talking about a tent and a fancy box, but what it is really talking about is the fact that God is going to be traveling with his people.

This may seem unimpressive to us, who as 21st century Christians already assume that, but to an ancient Hebrew this was a pretty big deal.  Gods didn't go with their people; people went to their Gods.  The ancient world had holy places: holy mountains, holy temples, holy trees, etc.  If a person wanted to be in the presence of the god or goddess, the person needed to find the place that god or goddess was and then go worship there.  On top of that, the ancient world was largely pantheistic.  In other words, the god or goddess and natural material were the same thing.  The god or goddess was the thing.  For example, when Moses saw the burning bush, a pantheistic Canaanite would have assumed the bush was a manifestation of the god.  The bush would have been god, not a god speaking from a bush.  That's why idols were so prevalent in the ancient world.  By making an image in the form of a god or goddess, that idol became the god or goddess.  I'm not sure how to make that idea clearer, but the point is the Hebrew God was a very different animal.  The Tabernacle was not God, it was God's tent, just like the tents the Hebrews were living in.  The Ark was not God, it was God's throne, the ultimate seat of justice, much like the throne Moses sat in when he judged over Israel.  The God of Moses, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was not a god merged with a place or thing, but a dynamic God who had chosen to travel with this people.  I would imagine from what the Hebrews were used to, that would have scared the bugeebees out of them.  At the same time, it would have been a life changing, world re-framing event.  The Holy One of Israel was in their midst.

Stopping point: Exodus 27

No comments:

Post a Comment