What does it say?
These three chapters begin the instructions to Moses for the construction of the tabernacle, the movable tent that will symbolize God’s presence for generations. The objects in the tabernacle follow the pattern God gives Moses on Mt. Sinai, as well as the various curtains and ingenious system of bars and sockets undergirding the tabernacle, enabling it to float on the shifting desert sands. The final words of this passage (27:20-21) command the nation to keep the lamp in the tabernacle burning always.
The symbolism of these various elements is explained in the Book of Hebrews and elsewhere. For the moment, however, simply focus on observing and familiarizing yourself with the various parts and structure instead of trying to figure it all out. The more you read, the more you will understand.
What does it mean?
Observe that the tabernacle is constructed by the free-will offering of God’s people, consistent with our divine partnership in the mission – our faithful obedience to his will. The tabernacle begins with the ark (box) of the covenant symbolizing the very presence of God, and is covered by a lid of atonement (mercy seat). The description begins with God and works outward toward the people. The altar of burnt sacrifice dominates the outer court. The only approach to God is through blood sacrifices, picturing what Jesus Christ did in our place.
The literally translation of John 1:14 is that God’s Word tabernacled (was made flesh) among us. That thought should guide us in this reading. All of this physically represents Christ’s redemptive work for the human race. Today, as followers of Jesus, we are God’s physical presence on earth.
The design of the tabernacle is to be mobile. The objects within have provision to be carried. God’s mission has always involved more going than sitting. The light in the tabernacle was to burn perpetually, just as our light is to shine always in the darkness.
How will I respond?
God does not send his people off on a mission; his presence goes before us and with us (Mat 28:18-20). With all this focus on visually presenting God’s presence and the story of redemption, how is God’s presence visible in my life more than mere words? What is one visible, tangible way that God can be seen through my life today?