THE TABERNACLE IN THE WILDERNESS
Dick Proenneke moved to the wilderness of Alaska and there he spent the next thirty years living alone in the wilderness. He only visited the lower forty-eight states every several years but soon returned back to the wilderness. He filmed his life and they made two “Alone in the Wilderness” films that Dick filmed of himself and which documented his life in Alaska. He had great carpentry skills which served him well in building his living quarters.
This man lived a most Spartan like existence. He had no electricity and no company and during the winter the temperature would dip to 30 below zero. He seemed to do fine and did not get lonely like most of us would. But he had built a wonderful little cabin that kept him warm and safe from wild animals.
In the Old testament the Lord instructed His people to build a tabernacle in the wilderness as they journeyed from Egypt to the promised land. It was a place where worship was done and when they pitched their personal tents the Tabernacle was in the center of the camp. And when they moved they could see a pillar of smoke during the day over the Tabernacle and a pillar of fire at night. The Tabernacle was more than a place for ceremony. It was their very life.
The word “tabernacle” can mean a place. It can also be a verb which means “to dwell with”. The Old Testament Tabernacle was not only a place, but it was where God dwelt among His people. It was a very special and sacred place and presence.
In the Old Testament God tabernacled with His people. In the New Testament God tabernacles in His people. Yes, we are the tabernacle of God where God Himself in the Person of the Holy Spirit dwells. It is a miracle of redemption as well as a great mystery. And we who are the followers of Jesus dwell in the wilderness we call “the world”. When we say the world we do not just mean the physical earth. No, we mean a place that loves and operates with fallen systems and on where the demonic spirits of antichrist are actively seeking to steal, kill, and destroy the souls of men. When a sinner believes on the Lord Jesus and is born again he immediately becomes a citizen of God’s kingdom and this present world becomes his enemy. Yes, that saint is now the planting of the Lord and is sent to live and share the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ which is the same gospel that brought him to faith as well.
But what used to be a place of excitement and enjoyment suddenly becomes a vast wilderness. What just a short time ago drew his utter attention and provided him with self elevation and a vast array of things that helped him feel a real sense of belonging now seems very alien to his spirit. This feeling only grows over time and with each deeper step in his discipleship the world feels more and more like a wilderness. The things which used to attract him now repulse him. It is a tangible phenomenon and those of us who have and continue to experience it can testify to its power and reality.
But while we begin to feel increasingly alienated from this world and all that is in it we simultaneously begin to feel a tangible sense of God’s presence within us. God has come to dwell within us at the very moment we believed on Christ, but now we begin to sense His presence and fellowship within that presence. Through learning of His Word and prayer and obedience we are ushered by the Spirit into that sacred place where only committed believers can know. We realize what it means to be the tabernacle of God, and we also know what it means for God to tabernacle within us. We experience the New Testament version of the Tabernacle in the wilderness.
Let me encourage all my brothers and sisters in Jesus. Hold fast to Christ and all His truth. Do not be moved by what you see happening in the wilderness. And as you see professing followers of Jesus loving and playing in this wilderness, just keep looking to Jesus. You have a tabernacle not made with hands and God is with you and in you. Did you hear what I just said? God, the Creator of the Universe and the Redeemer of our souls, is with us and in us. What a glorious mystery! Halleluiah to His matchless name! The Lamb has triumphed and in that victory we have shared. All you need is Christ and He dwells within you. This wilderness is not our home and it was where we played in our spiritual death but now we have been given life everlasting and our eyes have been opened and what used to excite us is now our enemy.
Please do not assign this to some ethereal fantasy. This is the eternal reality for the believer. This is the faith bought with His blood. We are not just followers of Jesus but we are His incandescent tabernacles who walk as lighted pilgrims inside this dark and foreboding wilderness. How can we convey to an unbeliever the glory that dwells and manifests itself within us? He is ever with us, but sometimes He takes hold of our entire beings and we are undone and overcome with a glory and a presence this world can never know. And as we look out at this wilderness we know we look through a portal from within a divine tabernacle.
Hyperbole? There are no words that can fully express what He means to us and what has happened to our lives. Oh the unspeakable glory of knowing and walking with Jesus. The people of the wilderness wonder how we find joy and even if we have lost our minds. Yes! We have lost our minds and we now have His mind! Can you not remember when you did not know Him? I can remember vividly the days when I loved the wilderness. It was my life and I wallowed in any and all sins. It was killing me although I was already dead.
But after the Spirit opened my heart and I was born again I entered a divine process in which that same Spirit began to strip me not only of certain sins, but also of desires and attitudes and the impulses and thoughts of my heart. Little by little my new man came forth as I crucified the old man and instead of living my own life I now allowed Jesus to live His through me.
Gal.2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
And if we give the deserved meditation on that verse we should realize this very fact: What could allure a dead man? What does the world have to offer a corpse? And if it is indeed Jesus living through us, and if we know that He is THE Creator of all there is, then what could ever tempt Him, especially coming from this vile wilderness? Oh the answer is obvious and full of unspeakable glory. Nothing! He who reigns from the emerald throne in all His majesty cannot be moved by anything man can do. And if you feel some lust for something here on earth it is you and not Him. But if you retreat into the shadow of His everlasting wings than you are eternally content with serving and worshiping your Redeemer.
And in all this as you live in the midst of a wilderness you can bask in the warmth of His redeeming presence. If you could fly above the atmosphere and look back you would see the earth as a whole. And covering this planet is a vast and consuming wilderness. It is spiritually dead and spiritually dark. But if you could see with the eyes of the Spirit you would see millions of lights glowing among the darkness. Tabernacles of God’s presence spotted around the world. There are tabernacles in Darfur, and in Nigeria, and in Russia, and in Brazil, and in Haiti and in France and in South Korea and in Iran and in China and in places only the Spirit knows.
And we also who seem to have and know so much must humble ourselves and join our hearts with our brothers and sisters around the world and realize that not only are we family, and not only are we kindred tabernacles, but collectively we are the body of Jesus Christ. Selah.