Israel’s first formal act of worship and thanksgiving is to donate the materials for the construction of a sanctuary – the Tabernacle.
It is truly amazing that the Creator of the universe should condescend to ‘live’ in a man-made structure. It isn’t that God needs a home; rather, the Tabernacle is a visual aid to bring home to us the reality of His presence and to teach us certain truths about how He is to be approached and worshipped. Every element in the Tabernacle’s construction conveys a spiritual truth; it is an earthly, material representation of spiritual realities (Hebrews 8:5). Because of this, every detail of its structure is of great importance, and it has to be made exactly to God’s specifications.
And so Israel is able to enjoy fellowship with their God and be His people. They will learn to pray to Him, to offer sacrifices to Him, to confess their sins, and to express their gratitude for what He has done for them. And they will learn that He is close to them; as they camp in the desert, He ‘camps’ with them, living alongside them and travelling with them in symbol as He will one day do in reality (John 1:14).
Just like the Israelites, we pray to God (I Thessalonians 5:17) and confess our sins (I John 1:9) on a regular basis. We even offer sacrifices – not animals, but praise, thanksgiving, and good deeds of all kinds (Hebrews 13:15,16). But worship is not just something that we do on a Sunday in a church service; we live our whole lives in God’s presence. One of the reasons that Jesus became Man was to share our earthly life – to be truly one of us – so that He knows from experience all the difficulties and temptations that we have to face (Hebrews 2:17,18). And He has not abandoned us. “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)