We were made to be with God. God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. He led His people Israel through the wilderness and dwelt among them wherever they sojourned, and He dwelt with His people in the tabernacle and temple. The earthly tabernacle and temple of Israel and all of their furnishings served Israel by manifesting God’s presence through symbols, types, and shadows. They pointed to the day when God—who is a spirit, sovereign, triune, transcendent, infinite, eternal, immutable, self-existent, self-sufficient, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and full of mercy, love, and truth—would condescend to us to dwell with us, among us, and in us. This truth is encapsulated in the name Immanuel, one of the most beautiful and comforting names that God reveals to us about Himself. Isaiah prophesied to Israel that “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14). The eternal Word, the Son of God, became flesh and dwelt among us. God is with us, and He will never leave us nor forsake us.
God was not required to dwell with us, and God does not possess an inherent need to dwell with us, but because of His sovereign love and for His glory, He chose to dwell with us and in us.
The tabernacle and temple reveal not only that God would come in the flesh to dwell with us, but also that by His Spirit He would make His people the temple in whom He would dwell forever. We are now the temple of God by the regenerating, indwelling, cleansing work of the Holy Spirit. Paul writes that in Christ “the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (Eph. 2:21). The Spirit has made us a holy dwelling place for our holy Lord. We are the household of God, comprised of members from every tribe and nation, built on the foundation of the Apostles and prophets with Christ as the chief cornerstone. Peter, for whom the great temple at Jerusalem was a familiar sight, says “like living stones [we] are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).
God was not required to dwell with us, and God does not possess an inherent need to dwell with us, but because of His sovereign love and for His glory, He chose to dwell with us and in us. It is His pleasure that “the dwelling place of God is with man” (Rev. 21:3)—that we might know Him, love Him, enjoy Him, and glorify Him coram Deo, before His face, now and forever.
Dr. Burk Parsons is editor of Tabletalk magazine and serves as senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla. He is editor of Assured by God: Living in the Fullness of God’s Grace. He is on Twitter at @BurkParsons.