TODAY’S READING: Exodus 25–27
God’s great desire is to dwell among humanity (Exo. 25:8). The purpose of the desert tabernacle was a resting place for Jehovah in the middle of His people. The imagery in Exodus of Jehovah living in the middle of His people, providing food and water for them, enjoying their company and deigning for them to enjoy His is rich indeed. It broadcasts what God wants and will affect for all peoples. His joyful self at the center, and all of life enriched as a result. God dwelt in the desert tabernacle. God became flesh and “tabernacled” with us. God will come again in glory that we may forever tabernacle with Him in all the delights of our permanent heavenly home.
It is fascinating that the ark (the presence of God in the midst of the tabernacle) was at once dangerous and comforting. Approach or touch the ark unworthy and die. Yet the ark was covered by the mercy seat, and it is from the mercy seat that God communes with us (vv. 21–22). It is terrifying to live in the reality that to approach the presence of God unworthy and without propitiation (i.e., His wrath appeased) is deadly. It is stupefying that the very same presence protects and embraces us. God’s presence is both shelter and shade. John Owen put it this way:
“Christ also is a shade giving comfort and shelter. He shelters us from outward wrath, and gives comfort for inner weariness… When the heat of God’s wrath is ready to scorch the soul, Christ shades the soul from its heat. Under the shadow of His wings we sit down quietly, safely, because we put our trust in him. And all this we do with great delight. Who can describe the joy of a soul safely sheltered from wrath by the covering of the righteousness of the Lord Jesus?… From the power of corruptions, the trouble of temptations, the distress of persecutions, there is in Christ, quiet, rest and peace.”
John Piper is right when he says that “missions exists because worship doesn’t.” Missions is a thing of earth, it will not exist in heaven, and God is the center of eternity, everlastingly beautiful. Chris Wright reminds us: “Once again we are driven back to see how important it is to ground our theology of mission (and our practice of it) in the mission of God and in our worshipping response to all God is and does. From that perspective, we are advocates for God before we are advocates for others.” Before we go to the nations, we go to the presence of God. Before we give out gospel glory, we feast on the gospel feasts ourselves. Our going to the nations is because we lost ourselves in the love of God, and wondrously smitten we advocate for Him to those starving for affection. We shout of the God of mercy to those who only know the God of wrath. The mercy seat still speaks, and that speech is through us.
Carl Braaten wrote, “God and not the church is the primary subject and source of mission. Advocacy is what the church is about, being God’s advocate in the world. The church must therefore begin its mission with doxology, otherwise everything peters out into social activism and aimless programs.” Thus we praise. The people of a glorious God encounter Him, cannot contain Him, and advocate for Him to the nations of the world. God tabernacles with us that the nations might tabernacle with Him.
 John Owen. Communion with God. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, R.K.J. Law, 1991. 42.
 Christopher J. H. Wright. The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2006. 45.
 Carl E. Braaten. “The Mission of the Gospel to the Nations.” Dialogue 30 (1991). 27.