My 5-year stint in New York City had a rhythm of its own. Even grocery shopping was unique. Instead of weekly suburban drives to load up my cart, I made daily walks to local shops, only buying what I could carry home. One market, called Garden of Eden, enticed me every time I walked by its beautiful outdoor produce stands. The neat rows of apples, nectarines, peppers, and plums begged me to take a bite, to taste Eden.
Eden was where heaven touched earth, where God dwelt and communed with His people. The nation of Israel yearned for a taste of Eden. God delivered them from slavery, but would He continue leading them in pillars of cloud and fire as He had when they fled Egypt (Exodus 13:22)? Would God remain faithful when they failed to be faithful to Him? (Remember the golden calf fiasco in Exodus 32.) After a year of wilderness living, Moses completed construction of a special dwelling in the center of the nation. It was an elaborate tabernacle inside of a tent. The people hoped it would be a sacred space, where heaven would touch earth, where God would remain with His people.
On the first anniversary of their deliverance, the people held their breath. The tabernacle was set up and anointed; the priests were prepared, all was made ready and right for God. But would He move in? The book of Exodus culminates at this moment.
Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
Yes! The glory of God—His presence, essence, wonder, and weight – moved in and encamped with His people. Israel got a taste of Eden. When the cloud lifted, they would break camp and follow. When it settled, they would remain (Exodus 40:38). The tabernacle was a temple on the move according to God’s will. And the people followed.
Don’t we all want a taste of Eden? We long for God’s presence in the center of our lives and communities. If only we had a divine cloud and fire to follow. But we do! God recreated this “move-in day event” after Jesus rose from the dead. Again, God arrived through wind and fire. And this time, He encamped even closer to His people.
Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven….They saw tongues like flames of fire that separated and rested on each one of them. Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…
Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection made the way for God to not only dwell among His people, but to dwell within them through the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ made us ready and right, and God moved in. We, along with all believers across time and place, are His temple on the move. God’s home is His people.
God filling His tabernacle foreshadows Him filling our hearts. Heaven touches earth as God dwells within us. “Taste and see that the LORD is good” (Psalm 34:8).