For a tent was constructed, the first one, in which were the lampstand, the table, and the bread of the Presence; this is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a tent called the Holy of Holies.”
We’re campers. Not the kind who revel in sleeping on rocky ground at the height of mosquito season and the threat of torrential rain. Those people might be a little crazy.
We camp in a camper, with a bathroom and comfort foam on our mattresses. We have a refrigerator and air conditioning and, in the light of full disclosure, a flat-screen TV. But, it’s still camping.
Of all the trips we make in a year, our camping vacations are the family favorite. Sometimes we steal away for only a night, like we will this weekend. Once a year, we take a two-week trip to one of God’s magnificent creations: Niagara’s Falls, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and this summer, the Badlands of South Dakota.
For me, camping creates a place without pretense. Fashion is sweatpants and a T-shirt, hair pulled in a ponytail. Businessmen and factory workers play Bingo in the picnic shelter. Kids make campground friends before we’ve unhitched the trailer, free from schoolyard cliques and preconceptions.
I can remember the first time I heard in a sermon that the word tabernacle means tent. The priest preached about how we might think of God as pitching a tent with us, of the tabernacle as a place of encampment.
In the Bible, the tabernacle is the center of worship in Israel, a dwelling place for the divine presence. I can summon a picture of it in my mind, this Holy Place blessed by God with an inner sanctum that only the holiest of holy can enter – and even then, as this rest of the passage Hebrews shares, but once a year.
I can envision this type of tabernacle, but when I think of tabernacle as tent, I can feel it. I know what it smells and tastes like. I know the sounds of crickets and rocks landing in creeks; I see fingers of light reaching through the canopy of leaves. I think of God pitching a tent with us, meeting us in this unassuming place, stripped of (most) status and guard. I think of rambling conversations around the campfire and long, comfortable periods of silence broken only by the crackle of the flames.
I understand this tabernacle in intimate, deep ways. It brings me close to the divine, and perhaps that’s the real meaning beyond the word.
What do you envision when you hear the word tabernacle?
How does the idea of God “pitching a tent” with you resonate? How might you pitch your tent with God?